PROG: 89 – CHILDS PLAY
Script: Mike Cruden
Art: Trevor Goring
Letters: Steve Potter
Plot: Johnny and his parents are out on a day-trip and he has completed a circular ‘building’ with his ‘building bricks’. As his mother rests by a large stone formation his father demands he hurry up so they can get off home. Johnny is pleased with his effort which his parents praise as ‘unusual’ and ‘imaginative’.
Shock: Johnny’s imagination will continue to attract interest years in the future as he has constructed none other than Stonehenge
Thoughts: A real disappointment of a Future Shock from two talents who had previously produced excellent tales. Cruden’s story is a less interesting re-hash of FS 11 with building bricks / Stonehenge replacing The Moon / Billiard Ball as the object of ‘the problem of scale’ scenario. Cruden’s strip, which once again places a young subject the age of the readership at the core of the tale, has a tough time of convincing that the stones of Stonehenge were once ‘building bricks’. The family are shown in 60s/70s clothing so large lumps of stone seem a curious childs toy for such an ‘advanced’ civilization. However while the script is barely re-fried seconds the art really jars and ensures this is a story to be forgotten. Trevor Goring’s final appearance on art chores in a Future Shock is a real let down, the various family members all appear static and light-boxed from photo-reference; the mother in particular straight from a 70’s Freemans catalogue. Even more frustrating their positions relative to each other continually changes from panel to panel in contrast to the flow indicated by their dialogue. A final oddity is that in one panel the mother seems pressed, in fashion-faux ecstasy, up against a giant rock face.. therefore one that is presumably 100s of miles higher than the tiny ‘Stonehenge’ being built at her feet. Strangely his granite mountain doesn’t appear to have survived to 1978’s Salisbury Plain while some tiny ‘building blocks’ have. Given how excellent his other two strips were the art here must have been down to some external factor such as time pressure or toying with a new technique. Those wishing to see just how good a 2000AD artist Trevor Goring could have been should look to his previous two Future Shocks.
Shock’d?: Cruden’s regular focusing on characters of the same profile as the reader may have engaged the then readership with the story and delighted with the ‘shock’ but to a contemporary audience the whole family are dull, lacking character and frankly boring. That the son builds Stonehenge is mildly amusing at best but, like the whole of the strip, poorly executed compared to both FS 11 and it’s subsequent third rehash (Dominoes / Stonehenge) in Prog 371’s The Domino Theory.
PROG: 51 – GALACTIC GARBAGE
Script: Richard Burton
Art: Trevor Goring
Letters: Tony Jacob
Plot: Arthur Upshot operates as a salvage merchant in near earth orbit, collecting what little there is of value and ‘shooting’ waste off into space. He finds a unrecognisable probe lodged amongst his waste and, regarding it worthless, fires it away. Arthur is unaware that the probe was leading an advanced alien invasion fleet to earth – the probe was fed sufficient data for the aliens to locate earth and their fleet is fast on its tail.
Shock: The probe, and the following fleet, plunge into the sun, where Arthur has been disposing of all his worthless waste.
Thoughts: Hey, its famous editorial droid, and future Tharg, Richard Burton in his only credited script for 2000AD. While doubtless his re-write pencil featured heavy on many scripts over his long tenure at the Command Module this was the only time his name was to appear on a script. Galactic Garbage isn’t a bad effort however it does need some indulgence both logically and in terms of storytelling. The script has a strange device of showing that the Alien’s homeworld is notified of the fleet’s destruction before it occurs in the Shock, with the event , following the probe into the sun, being the shock reveal of the strip. In terms of storytelling it just about gets away with it, logically it is hard to believe an invasion fleet would ignore the technological signals coming from an inhabited planet and head into a sun. Had the strip had them warp into the probes position then that would have been a device to excuse it but there isn’t any sort of explanation; they simply ‘follow’ the probe blindly. The script also calls the aliens ‘very alien’ but they do seem to be wearing WWI gas-masks and Roman helmets so maybe the script’s description could have been a bit more ‘alien’. However it is well paced and the excellently titled ‘Arthur Upshot’ is nicely portrayed as frustrated and hard-done-by so he’s an unlikely saviour of earth. Trevor Goring again does a fantastic job on the art with beautiful space-craft and several wonderful close-ups of Arthur’s resigned facial features. The script certainly could have been tighter but Goring’s superior art places this firmly in the pantheon of excellent early Future Shocks.
Shock’d? The space fleet plunging into the sun is pretty obvious given we’ve been told the fleet is destroyed and we’ve seen Arthur fire off the probe so it’s not much of a shock but what mystery there is by the time the reader turns to the final single panel page is still nicely enough played. The sun is at least different to the fleet being eaten by a small dog.
PROG: 40: SPACE PROSPECTOR
Script: Martin Lock
Art: Trevor Goring
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: Space Miners Harlan Smith and Jerry pilot their craft through the asteroid belts looking for rocks with suitable mineral content. They bemoan the lack of money and the elder warns the newer man that he has heard tales of ‘strange monsters, snakes and birds’ more dangerous to miners than any ‘claim-jumpers’. The young man scoffs at such as the products of going space-crazy from too many years in the business. Finally they come across a more promising looking asteroid and blast it with the ships laser to yield its mineral deposits
Shock: The lasers crack open not an asteroid but an egg and the prospectors are faced with a huge Pterodactix Cosmotis space bird that squawks ‘mother’ to their ship.
Thoughts: A real hidden curio of a Future Shock, Space Prospectors marks the appearance of two British creators who were to have enduring careers in the field but who never really made an impact in 2000AD. A fact that is all the more curious by just how solid this 2 page shock is. Writer Lock was to go on to found Harrier Comics – a short-lived but prolific UK imprint notable for the Bolland associated character ‘Redfox’ and the début of Eddie Campbell’s ‘Bacchus’ as well as further writing in 90’s erotic comics. An editor of considerable experience this tale showed how Lock had a flair for naturalistic language whereas previous Shocks had tended towards expository utterances to drive the tale along or, in the case of jive-talking Peter Harris’ characters, fun dialogue to flesh out character. Such a technique is a marked change in the tone of Future Shocks and gives the Shock a feeling more akin to a foreshadow of Warrior comics, Alan Moore and more sophisticated story-telling in 2000AD itself. This feeling is undoubtedly compounded by the neat atmospheric work of Trevor Goring, a man who may well claim to be the most successful 2000AD artist the fan base has no memory of. Goring clocked up around 60 pages of artwork for 2000AD, the bulk of which was on Dan Dare with Gary Leach, but would go on to work for Marvel, Dark Horse as well as storyboard artist for films such as Watchmen and X-men 2.However even a seasoned vet of 2000AD would be hard pushed to identify where he worked for the comic. There is no surprise he had a successful career; this strip is beautifully drawn with a similarity to the ink-heavy earlier style of Steve Dillon. The final monster is a bit under-whelming but that is a minor point especially as he carries off the more challenging task of keeping interesting two pages of talking heads via using varying angles and a very readable but dynamic page breakdown. At two pages this is too slight to call it a classic but it certainly is a very classy Future Shock.
Shock’d? The real shock is that the piece ends so quickly. Lock’s naturalistic characters have a certain languid effect making for an anticipation of a much longer strip; however they find and ‘crack’ the space egg in two panels and all is done. The half-page splash of the Space Bird does detract from the shock as it is immediately too visible when the reader should be still on the panels setting up its appearance but with two pages there was obviously limited room for manoeuvre. However it’s not a bad shock, the space creatures are nicely foreshadowed in the dialogue and you don’t immediately assume the asteroid is an egg, largely because you expect this tale has more than 2 pages to run.