PROG: 32-33: EXCURSION
Script: Peter Harris
Art: Horacio Lalia (as panacomics)
Letters: Jack Potter (pg. 1-2) Peter Knight (pg 3-4)
Plot: Abner and Charlie enjoy the views as Pompeii is engulfed in lava, escaping the doomed citizen at the last-minute via a tractor beam that takes them back to the shuttle of ‘trans time’ a company the specialises in time-travel holidays. They then plump for watching a witch-trial in medieval England but, finding the proceedings a bit dull, decided to use the tractor beam to levitate above the crowd and ‘play the witch’.
Shock: As they taunt the Witch-finder General their beams fail and Charlie and Abner plummet to earth, to be seized and burnt at the stake. As they die their comms device from the holiday company apologies for the technical failure and promises it will be remedied in the hour.
Thoughts: The first example of a Future Shock failing in terms of its own internal logic – the holiday company offers time travel and then, when there is a technical error resulting in the death of their clients, it should be obvious the company can just go back to before the accident and avoid the problem. Time travel is, of course, prone to this sort of problem in narrative determinism and sometimes it has to be indulged but here, when there is little else to hang the story on and not enough room to say why the company can’t deal with the deaths this way, it becomes an over-bearing problem. The story is both more of a Terror Tale (Charlie and Abner’s fates are pretty grisly) and a Time Twister before these titles were used in 2000AD. As a Future Shock concept it’s simply not very good. Horacio Lalia produces one or two fine panels but much of the work lacks the quality he brought to A Promised Land! in the previous issue and the inking, along with the credit to ‘panacomics’ would suggest he wasn’t the sole artist working on the visuals. Peter Harris’ concept may not have been up to much but he nails the casual speech of the slobbish Abner and Charlie (‘not us sucker, we’re movin’ on’) and gives some fun names during the witch-trials (Seth Wormtree, Goody Twynham). There is a real efficiency in his writing to be commended; in 16 panels he goes from the destruction of Pompeii to a meeting with the Time Travel company to the confrontation of the witch-trials and its fiery outcome.
Shock’d? There is no real shock to speak of as the reader immediately thinks that time-travel would save our callous protagonists but as an early Terror Tale it makes good reading with three burnings at the stake and Pompeii destroyed in a short four pages. There is talk of a money-back guarantee littered throughout the script which is clearly meant to have more import than it actually does. Nobody is shocked if a consumer warranty isn’t up to much, are they?
PROG: 31 – A PROMISED LAND!
Art: Horacio Lalia
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: On an over-crowded future earth the authorities announce they are giving away free tickets to a new paradise planet. Jed Orville, thoroughly sick of earth, beats his way to the front of the queue, having learnt from his thuggish friends that is how they got their tickets and having seen the rich buy their way on to the flight passenger manifest. Two weeks later Orville and his pals are on their way to paradise.
Shock: The ship beams down the passengers to ‘a frozen hell’ where they will have to learn to cooperate or die. Everyone on the flight was a bully or a cheat just like Jed.
Thoughts: A Promised Land, with its dystopian world view, nasty central characters, highly individual dynamic art and thoroughly mean conclusion could probably claim to be the first Future Shock to represent the elements 2000AD was to become famous for. Jed Orville is an excellently unpleasant lead and his dialogue if full of great phrases, ‘Man, am I sick o’ dis place‘, which instantly lifts the story away from the more Golden Era’ Sci-Fi of previous Shocks. Lalia’s artwork is simply wonderful with scores of detail on the poor saps around Jed – women and babies get pushed out-of-the-way, brides cry about their misfortune and brutish men with muscles or money parade around with smug contentment. There is a slight continuity error whereby Jed’s friends claim to be booked on a flight ‘tomorrow‘ but end up on the plane with him ‘two weeks later‘ but that’s forgivable.. maybe Virgin ran the flights. Listed as ‘unknown’ it seems likely that Peter Harris is on scripting duties as Jed’s dialogue is strongly reminiscent of that of the time travellers in the Future Shock he is credited for in the very next issue. The characters in both strips share a 70’s American street vernacular written with an ear for the phrasing and slang of the times. Whoever the author of A Promised Land! is they deserves praise for a classic Future Shock.
Shock’d? Not overly as just how mean everyone on the flight is has been blatantly telegraphed; however the joy in the script and art is the meanness of all the characters and their eventual fate – especially as they are teleported right beside a very hungry looking sabre-toothed tiger-creature.
PROG 26: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Script: Steve Moore
Art: Horacio Lalia
Letters: Jack Potter
Plot: An Atlantic Trawler is out catching fish when it’s inhabitants are teleported aboard an alien UFO
Shock : Just as the fishermen had viewed the fish as ‘brain food’ so to the aliens view the captain and his crew; munching down on them like tasty fish.
Thoughts: Steve Moore follows up the first ever Future Shock with this second tale the very next prog, managing to be even less shocking and far more of a Terror Tale before its time. The story is notable for presenting both the twist (human fishermen are in turn alien ‘brain food’ as fish are to us) and the biggest dramatic moment – the abduction of the crew – on the first page. Everything plays out from there in a very straight forward fashion. Lalia, a key artist on the companion title Starlord, gives good squid-like aliens but is guilty of being a bit dull on the teleporters – which look exactly like they come from the Starship Enterprise. The most shocking thing about the tale is that it is one-and done in 10 panels – 2000AD as efficient as ever in telling a story.
Shock’d? Seeing as the twist and the enemy are both flagged from the off the whole story runs a very predictable course. The impact of the ‘terror’ ending is also diminished by being restricted to a half-page which hinders its visual impact.