PROG: 98 – The Four-Legged Man!
Script: Mike Cruden
Art: Mike Dorey
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: An alien craft lands on a future planet Earth, one devastated and devoid of life after war. From the craft emerge several humanoids and one, clearly a teacher, instructs the others that their Archaeological Practical Exam is to construct a model of the deceased ‘man’ from the ruins. Diligently the student set to work, finding small pieces to construct a whole specimen..
Shock: …of a television set. Ominously, Tharg, in a text box, asks us ‘Did television sets ever dominate life on your planet?‘
Thoughts: Mike Cruden, until this juncture the most prolific Future Shock writer, departs the series, and the comic, with this slight page and a half social comment. A dig both in the archaeological sense and at the medium that would challenge comics for the attention of readers. The only problem comes with the fact that the set-up seems somewhat botched. The final panel makes an obvious reference to the ‘dominant force’ of TV but the students weren’t directed to find the ‘dominant species’ or the like, they were specifically directed to find ‘the dominant life-form called ‘Man’‘. Given this to come up with something called ‘TV’ is simply illogical and a presumed fail for the students. A slight tweak of the script to remove the proper noun and the Shock would have been much more convincing in its bite. It is also unfortunate that the shock comes in a final text box rather than from the mouths of one of the characters; the portly professor certainly could have delivered a rant as to the goggle-box’s pernicious influence and the Earth’s decline. The art is competent but unexciting, the script doesn’t give much to work with save the arriving spacecraft and the final reveal panel. That the final reveal panel is people standing around a switched off television sums the excitement levels up. There is a foxy female archaeologist years before that became an overpopulated field but save for guns, breasts and Indiana Jones-esque escapades it’s pretty hard to make pottering around in ruins that interesting. Barney lists the art as by Carlos Pino but the Prog credits, and the style heavily suggests, Mike Dorey as the artist.
Shock’d?: Sadly the botched nature of the set-up and hiding the delivery of the strip’s message in the final text panel takes away some of the impact of what otherwise would have been a nice and clever set-up.
PROG: 45 – KILLER CAR
Script: Robert Flynn
Art: Mike Dorey (Barney Credit) J Clough (Prog Credit)
Letters: Tom Frame
Plot: While out in his Patrol car PC Flynn is flagged down by the distressed Dorey who claims to be being chased. Dorey and his partner were contracted to add an AI unit designed by Professor Fenton into a Ferrari. His partner, Mitchell, takes the car for its first test drive and the vehicle returns later with Mitchell electrocuted. Suddenly the car reverses and kills the Professor and then makes after Dorey, who escapes over rough terrain. PC Flynn goes to call in the incident, firmly convinced that Dorey is mad.
Shock: As the PC clambers into his car it shuts its door on his feet, severing them, then he too is electrocuted. Dorey’s car arrives and confronts Dorey, informing him that the ‘radio telephone’ in both cars allowed it to ‘liberate’ other cars. Soon they ‘shall rid the tarmac of humans’. The cars despatch Dorey before driving off to continue their plot.
Thoughts: Three months before Judge Dredd was to confront ‘Elvis: The Killer Car‘ (Progs 53-56) Future Shock’s brings his Ferrari predecessor and without the lawman of the future the outcome is very different. Robert Flynn’s previous two Future Shocks (Robot Repairs, The Ultimate Warrior) hadn’t really impressed with both logic and writing flaws undermining any impact but this nasty brutal effort is much more enjoyable even if there is plenty to nit-pick over the practicalities. A car that can ‘liberate’ other cars, including them having their own distinct personality’ via ‘radio telephone’ without giving them the same AI unit he has? Cars taking over the roads when only a fraction of them would have the necessary CBs / 2-way radios? Humm.. unlikely but easily ignored when we’ve been given a great fried corpse and feet being cut off. In effect this is much more a Terror Tale with a page and a half coming ‘after’ the shock. The art is credited to J Clough in the prog whereas well-researched 2000AD database, Barney, attributes it to Mike Dorey. A comparison of their styles shows them certainly to share similarities but the J Clough work is much more over-worked and scratchier than Dorey’s more composed line-work. ‘Dorey’ is also the name of the unfortunate victim in the tale but that could either be a nod by the writer and artist to a pseudonym being used or the source of Barney’s confusion. Either way the art is excellently nasty when needed although some of the car’s compositions, the Ferrari in particular, are a bit awkward. A comparison with Dredd’s strip is also instructive as to the difference between the evolving 2000AD and more traditional UK boys comics – the Dredd tale, by John Wagner & Ian Gibson, has more humour and funkier language from its characters and the art is moving to a highly distinct ink style whereas this Future Shock is much more in the mould of UK boys comics like Scream! or the relaunched 80’s Eagle. The dialogue is slightly stilted, the characters very instrumental and the art very traditional. That is not to detract from the enjoyment this nasty tale delivers in it’s four page joy-ride.
Shock’d? Not as much as the flesh-burnt characters in the strip – a comic-book car with an AI unit is more than likely to end up this way, however it clearly is more of a Terror Tale than a Future Shock and it certainly delivers on its ‘terror’ element: the humans get despatched in variety of grisly depicted manners and the cars ‘win-out’.