PROG: 97 – DEAR MUM
Script: John Richardson
Art: John Richardson
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: A humanoid writes home to his mother after 5,000 years of ‘exile’ on a planet after having committed the first murder in a society that had discovered everlasting life. He recounts how he managed to make a primitive shelter, hunt wild animals for food and eventually build himself a large impregnable structure high on a hill. He tells her not to worry, his 20,000 year sentence will pass, meantime he has had a nap…
Shock: ..and is heading down to ‘the village‘ for a ‘bite to eat‘. Our mysterious correspondent is none other than Dracula.
Thoughts: John Richardson becomes the second person to fulfill both scripting and drawing duties (Kevin O’Neil, FS 11, Prog 35) in this rather abrupt odd tale of Dracula’s back-story. The third Shock to feature vampires (FS 9, Prog 34; FS 30, Prog 60) the story is played straight and with the vampire looking at the reader in with a menacing salivating contemplation. The strip has several problems – obviously the society who had discovered ‘eternal life‘ had not encountered stakes, sunlight or garlic bread and there is a strange panel showing a stone hut that Dracula had constructed, obviously a tomb-reference, which is made from slabs of stone far too large for a single person, or presumably vampire, to lift. However despite the disjuncted nature of the ending the art is effective and polished, again very much in the traditional boys comics mold, and the idea of Dracula writing to his alien mother has a certain charm. Some impact is undoubtedly lost by the reveal panel being merely a quarter page panel and very static; a large image of Dracula chomping down on the locals would have given the story some dramatic impact. The most striking aspect of the strip is that, despite the context of Dracula coming from a foreign planet, through a combination of art style and topic the strip doesn’t feel like a 2000AD story.
Shock’d?: The only shock Richardson intended was the fun final panel of the fanged Count eyeing up the readers and, despite the space limits of it being on a half-page, it is nicely done. From a story-telling point of view, with the exception of the tomb image, absolutely anything could have gone before that final panel.
PROG: 34 FANGS
Script: Chris Lowder
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Letters: John Aldrich
Plot: The crew of the star-cruiser ‘Ajex’ flee back to their craft as they come under attack from winged blood-sucking aliens. Crew member Rimmer is bitten but survives however when the craft blasts out of orbit he transforms into a vampire. The rest of the crew deploy increasingly powerful weapons to stop him but it is in vain, finally he has only the cook in the galley to dispatch before the ship is his…
Shock: Cook has watched ‘antique 20th Century movies‘ and knows to defeat Rimmer with garlic powder. With the fiend dead Tharg reminds readers that the only ways to kill a vampire are stake through the heart, exposure to sunlight or drenching in garlic.
Thoughts: Looking at Fangs it appears likely it became the first ‘slapstick’ Future Shock due to the decisions of its artist, the legendary 2000AD stalwart Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra uses a similar style to his work on Bob The Galactic Bum; the faces are weather-beaten with ruddy noses and elongated rubbery appearances as well as being, like much of his earlier work, heavier inked. The result is uniquely Ezquerra but in a more pronounced comedic way; crew member Rimmer becomes a highly camp Count Dracula and the rest of the crew become exaggerated cast-offs from Scooby-Doo. It all works to marvelous effect and makes a corny story story into a fun comic strip, whose denouement is clear the minute the vampire declares he’s off to kill the chief. However the pacing, exposition and dialogue from 2000AD utility man Chris Lowder (Invasion, Dan Dare,(2000AD) Ro-Busters, Victor Drago (Starlord) & Blackjack (Action)) can all be read completely straight-faced. The ending may be a bit farcical but then 2000AD was aimed squarely at kids at this juncture and they would see it as far less risible as a dramatic ending. Hand the script to a Dom Reardon or Leigh Gallagher and you would have a perfectly good horror story. Lowder was a seasoned vet at writing comics and his efficiency shows in a great 7 panel sequence where ‘Dracula’ is zapped 3 times with increasingly deadly weapons before finishing off his aggressors. His writing, along with Ezquerra’s dynamic figure-work, helps to pack a lot of action into a three and a half page comic. If Lowder was intentionally playing this for laughs then its even more to his credit that he wrote it so ‘straight’.
Shock’d? That they still cook with garlic powder in the future? A bit. That they don’t have their own vampire movies but have to rely on ‘antiques’ for the way to defeat the vampiric foe? Absolutely. But as the story pure slapstick there is no real ‘shock’ per se.