PROG: 85: POACHER
Script: Barry Clements
Art: Jesus Redondo
Letters: Jill Raphaeline
Plot: John Pritchard, a countryside ne’er-do-well poacher, is making his way through the forest when he is astounded to observe a UFO land and two multi-limbed creatures emerge. Not realizing they are being observed the aliens take human form and walk off towards the town, confirming to the departing craft they will report back in twenty-four hours. Pritchard realises he can’t report this without giving away the fact he was trespassing and so decides to observe the aliens before deciding what further action to take. He maintains a vigil as the they visit and photograph a pub, port and Zoo. Confused, Pritchard finally decides to tell the authorities and leads the police to the landing site in time for the rendezvous.
Shock: The Aliens stay hidden and wait out the humans until Pritchard is arrested by an exasperated and disbelieving Police for his confessed poaching and trespassing. Finally they can board their returned craft in secrecy and when they do they look at their photographs and decide that Earth is a nice place for a holiday but a bit boring to live on.
Thoughts: Prog 85 has a few unique claims. Mick McMahon’s ‘The Cursed Earth Will Not Break Me‘ Dredd cover is in that select group of classic covers paid homage to by a later prog (Prog 1657′s Shakara Cover by Henry Flint). It contains the first credit given to a female contributor, Jill Raphaeline from this Shock, and it was the first to contain two Future Shocks in the same prog. It is also rare in that both stories are listed as Future Shocks rather than using another banner, such as Time Twisters, or just forgoing a banner and having a stand alone short strip, such as Prog 245′s ‘SuperBean‘ which appears alongside an Alan Moore Future Shock and a ‘Abelard Snazz’ strip which had, of course, graduated from a Future Shock to its own short irregular eponymous series. However back in 1978 2000AD has few such branding qualms and the readers are given two Shocks for their groats.
The first of two Barry Clements’ Shocks for 2000AD, Poacher is a lackluster affair saved only by being the Future Shock debut of one of the finest Spanish artists to grace the pages of the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest’, Jesus Redondo. The script is plodding and reaches a conclusion it foreshadows in the first half page as the un-engaging moronic Pritchard gets his comeuppance. The Alien’s sight-seeing is, as demanded by the strip, rather dull. Setting the story in rural UK may have fired the reader’s imaginations that Aliens could be amongst them, but a more dramatic environment than the Ambridge duck pond may have given the story some dynamic. Given very little to work with Redondo does a top-notch job; Pritchard is fully fleshed out, including a great pair of flares, and the drawings of the various venues visited by the Aliens are packed full of detail. Known for his turn on Nemesis BK II, as well as The Mind of Wolfie Smith and Return to Armageddon, Redondo’s true star turn for 2000AD is the vast number of Future Shocks and other one-offs he has contributed. Indeed he rightly returned to the Prog in 2011 for a beautiful four-page Terror Tale with line-work every bit as detailed and sumptuous as it was in 1978. This might not have been the best story to kick off a thirty year association with 2000AD ‘s one-offs but it certainly is the birth of a beautiful thing.
Shock’d?: A shock would have been for Pritchard to devise some cunning way to escape the law and expose the Aliens, sadly that is not even attempted. The shock, that the Aliens are sight-seeing, doesn’t amount to much because there is never any menace in their words or deeds. A short line about ‘walking undetected‘ and ‘reporting back‘ is not enough to substantiate that anything is going on beyond taking photographs of zebras. The ‘shock’ appears about as thrilling as the Alien’s own conclusions about Earth.