PROG: 95 – Brain Drain
Script: Steve Moore
Art: Ron Tiner
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: At some length Tharg considers the reasons why so many humans disappear each year before introducing the tale of Arnold Quigley-Jones, a contented government astrophysicist with a young family and evident happiness at his lot. Unbeknownst to him he is being watched by two shady men, who proceed to zap him with a strange green ray, although he remains blissfully unaware of the fact. Days later, as if programmed, he proceeds to a rendezvous point and boards a UFO. Taken to a mother-ship it is explained to him that he is being invited to join a collection of the Galaxy’s greatest minds. Quigley-Jones readily agrees and consents to an operation to make sure he can endure the rigors of space travel.
Shock: Quigley-Jones comes around from the procedure to find his brain has been transplanted into the cumbersome body of a robot-janitor. The aliens muse that the most intelligent of humans is only fit for menial duties aboard their spaceship.
Thoughts: Steve Moore, the author of the very first Future Shock, returns to scripting duties and raises the bar with a Robo-Hunter type gag spread out over four pages. A joke about humans only being fit for menial labour, wrapped in an alien abduction mystery and encased in Tharg’s meta-musings about the various reasons so many humans go missing each year. The tale throws men-in-black, comedy dogs, faux Reggie Perrin workplace bonhomie and an almost happy ending into the mix before mocking our hapless hero and the entire human race. Moore is ably assisted by Ron Tiner whose style has radically altered from his debut. Gone are the square-jaws and heavy inks, in are comedy robots, overly-energetic domestic pets and a lovely detailed but light cross-hatching style. Quigley-Jones’ final robo-form is pure Ian Gibson and Tiner really understands the whole fun Moore is having with the ludicrously named astrophysicist and his fate. Tiner’s style subtly morphs as the script demands, the Men-In-Black are very noir-ish, the abduction 50s Sci-fi in style and the comedy shock drawn with a Emberton-Gibson feathery looseness. Also of note is that Tharg has graduated from his usual Banner-Heading role and last Future Shock’s mid-episode dialogue captions to make a full appearance in three introductory panel. It may seem an odd place for Old Green Bonce to appear but the gravitas is part of Moore’s juxataposing the serious element with the evental comedy pay-off and subverting the expectations of the reader. Reprinted only the once this Shock is well worth a re-read and is an early example of nailing the 2000AD humour and the perspective that pervades so many of the comic’s classic tales.
Shock’d?: Absolutely. Moore wraps up his evident goal, a joke on how dumb humans are, in so many layers and curve-balls that the demeaning status of Quigley-Jones comes from no-where and yet is consistent with all that has gone before. It’s impact is reinforced by the excellent artwork which indicates Tiner had the makings of a perfect funny robots artist. Of course the sharp readers will have noted that with a pooch prone to making extensive comedy sound-effects and a name like Quigley-Jones the tale was never going to end up well for our slightly smug protagonist.