Tag Archives: Roy Preston

FS 57: BEIGE PRIME

18 Nov

PROG: 135 – Time Trap

Script: Roy Preston (as P. Wildbeest)

Art: John Cooper

Letters: P. Bensberg

Plot: Johnnie Collins plays with his toy metal frog while his mother prepares a special meal for his father’s return from work. However when Jim Collins returns home he curtly informs his wife that his project with The Time Monitoring Department means he will have to go straight to his study and continue working. As Chrissie Collins explains to young Johnnie why his father has come and gone so quickly she breaks into tears and is comforted by her son. Johnnie, with his toy frog, march to his father’s home lab as Jim Collins is about to start another time machine test. His father angrily shouts at him and smacks ‘Mister Frog’ from his hands. Jim then finishes working on the control desk and moves to enter the time machine capsule. Convinced he can stop the machine, Johnnie moves to the desk to reverse his father’s settings.

Shock: Johnnie’s well-intended meddling firstly places his father in an infinite loop and then accidentally break the controls. Jim Collins is trapped in the time machine in his basement, free to be seen by his family all day, every day.

Thoughts: The final Future Shock before a year and a half absence from the Prog is an unsatisfying meld of various established tropes. Mechanical problems with time machines have been seen several times and John Cooper has been the ‘go to’ artist for Shocks involving small children twice before. However a key element of the script’s failure to engage is that this time the child isn’t a cipher the reader can identify with. Whereas previous stories with children have had stroppy, defiant, independent kids, here Johnnie Collins is a wimpy mewlling child carrying around ‘Mister Frog’ much like Linus does a blanket. It seems unlikely any reader who thrills in the action of Dredd or has picked out a favourite ABC Warrior is going to have much time for Johnnie Collins. An additional problem is that the shock itself, in terms of the fate of Jim Collins, isn’t really well explained. Is Jim trapped in a ground-hog day scenario? Is he in stasis while the world grows old around him? Why is there a smiling image of Chrissie and Johnnie on the screen? Regardless of how negligent a parent and partner he had been, wouldn’t they be upset that he is trapped? Can’t the damage be undone by fixing the damaged box? With three pages there was more than enough room to have set up a clearer fate for Jim’s comeuppance but the strip is too busy showing weeping gal and Johnnie in their emotional distress. Cooper’s art is of its usual excellent standard, Chrissie Collins being a particularly pretty young mum and Johnnie as wide-eyed as it is possible for an innocent child to be. However three pages of talking heads and one panel of violence against a child is pretty hard to make interesting.

Shock’d?: The cause of the shock, the well-intended meddling of an upset child, is a novel one but the actual execution is neither clear nor visually very interesting. A more central problem is that Time Machine Shocks only end a limited number of ways and this one is particularly obvious and not very engaging.

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FS 40: DIVINE REPETITION?

12 Sep

PROG: 83 – The Mote In God’s Eye

Script: Roy Preston

Art: Puchades & Martinez

Letters: Tom Frame

Plot: Valkahar is a dying planet and its advanced warrior inhabitants have targeted Earth for invasion. Scoffing at Earth’s primitive technology, that has only just facilitated Moon-landings, they launch their warp-enabled battleships confident they can handle any defences Earth can muster. Upon landing they are confused by the vast barren plains, absent life or any of the seas and mountains their scientists had predicted. Then a vast flood of rushes towards them..

Shock: The waters destroy them and they cruse mankind for having the technological ability to use vast oceans as weapons. Meantime a small boy wipes a tear from his eye, which had formed due to the tiny Valkahar space fleet crashing into his pupil. The invasion force had miscalculated the size of the earth and were ‘no bigger than an insect compared to man‘; the flood that had drowned them were his tears.

Thoughts: Editorial Droid Roy Preston steps up to scripting duties, after a brief turn on MACH 1, with the first of 3 stand-alone shorts he would write for 2000AD. Preston, who along with Nick Landau and Kevin O’Neil kept 2000AD running while editor Kelvin Gosnell was overseeing the launch of Starlord, appears, at most, to have been a part-time author with his credits appearing sporadically at 2000AD and Eagle. The story itself is a poor rehash of FS 2‘s ‘problem of scale’ and is decidedly inferior when contrasted with that earlier story. This tale, written from the perspective of the invasion force, offers no conflict, no action and no tension, whereas its predecessor is packed full of those qualities as the ‘invaded’ rush to deal with the news of the alien’s arrival. Here there is a very dull looking humanoid invasion force blasting off, one spaceship exterior shot and a lot of talking heads discussing their ‘superiority’ before a flood despatches them in a single panel. The story certainly isn’t aided by very uninspired clean-lined artwork from Puchades & Martinez , agency artists who clearly weren’t lobbying too hard for a regular appointment. The Shock, as with its immediate successor and FS 21, does mark one of the rarer occasions when the stories featured central characters of the same age as the then target readership so gains some credit for that. That factor aside the tale is derivative, somewhat incoherent – scientists looking for habitable planets managing to miss that this one is thousands of times bigger than their own – and worst of all, dull.

Shock’d?: The Shock scores kudos for being an ‘over-the-page’ reveal’ but instantly loses it for being about dull looking protagonists the reader has no engagement with and for being the rehash of an existing Shock. A new reader may find it exciting that an ordinary kid destroys an alien fleet but a loyal fan would, unlike the child hero,  have ‘seen it coming’