PROG: 53 – ON THE RUN
Script: Robert Flynn
Art: Brett Ewins
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: Robert McKinnon is a famous Hollywood star but one troubled by his horoscope; McKinnon cannot make any decisions without consulting the stars. On hearing of a computer that can predict the future he is granted a trial of the machine and it shows him being knocked down by a car on 5th Avenue. McKinnon reasons that if he leaves the USA he cannot be bound by the computer’s projections so he flees to a career in the UK. Back at work on the other side of the pond McKinnon feels assured he has made the right decision. Suddenly he sees a large studio light about to fall on a group of staff.
Shock: McKinnon runs to warn the people and in his haste is knocked down by the car seen in the projections. He hadn’t realised the studio set was of 5th Avenue.
Thoughts: Robert Flynn’s penultimate outing for 2000AD is an above par effort although not of the quality of Prog 45’s Killer Car. The strip is fairly decompressed by 2000AD‘s standards, with McKinnon’s agent Jeff getting 5 panels to help exposition whereas his role is highly peripheral. Noticeably McKinnon is a rather bland character, there is no attempt to paint him as a Hollywood ‘prima-donna’ or outright jerk, his job is simply a form to allow him to be snagged by the shock. This renders the tale rather un-engaging. Brett Ewin’s first solo art duties aren’t that impressive although the odd panel is nicely inked. The difference between his solo work and that with long-time collaborator Jim McCarthy is noticeable at this early juncture with his own inking lacking McCarthy’s feathery style. His contribution doesn’t add much to the Shock which would probably have benefited from an artist more suited to traditional horror comics.
Shock’d?: The whole shock runs rather flat and the fatal accident takes place on page 3 with the reveal of the set being 5th avenue on page 4, by which point only the dimmest of readers won’t have seen what is coming. Perhaps with a different artist it would have worked better as a ‘you can’t escape fate’ type of Terror Tale.
PROG: 50 – The Guardian
Script: Mike Cruden
Art: John Cooper
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: It is the 21st Century and a small boy wants to go outside his house, his father agrees provided he is accompanied by the large ‘Guardian’ robot. The robot, with long flexible arms, constantly refuses to let the boy engage in youthful japes, such as climbing an old tree, citing ‘Negative! High Danger Factor!‘ The Droid does agree to go through the old abandoned town on the basis that the mutant inhabitants only come out at night and that he is programmed to keep the boy within reach at all times. As they walk through the deserted sector the ground gives way and boy and robot crash into an underground passage. The boy starts to make his way up to the opening he has fallen through.
Shock: The long flexible arms of The Guardian refuse to let the boy out of his reach. With the immobile robot stranded on the mine floor the boy will never be allowed to reach the surface, and in the dark mutant eyes twinkle…
Thoughts: Mike Cruden, in the first of eight Future Shocks he would write for the Prog, delivers a Terror Tale before its time. The simple concept, that a trapped robot programmed never to let the child out of its proximity thus traps the child, is well executed and, importantly for what was still a kids comic, aimed directly at the reader. There is no name given to the child nor his father, in essence this is ‘every’ child, at least ‘every’ reader, and his simple wants for fun, climbing a tree, are the same as the readership. Up until this point Future Shocks had exclusively featured adult protagonists so Cruden deserves a lot of credit for thinking to connect with his audience. John Cooper, in his second shock in three issues, draws his usual 50’s Sci-Fi styling and a wonderfully grumpy thwarted kid who scowls his way through the entire strip. Every panel features his petulant unhappiness until, in out final view of him, his face is one of sheer terror and fixed with a look that ensures that, regardless of the reader’s age, there is a timeless pleasure in this bleak ending.
Shock’d? There is no real shock in the tale, just a fantastically terrifying conclusion that must have kept more than one squaxx up at night.
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’.