Is it 2021? What happened to the murderous road race that was to take place in 2020 across the North American continent? Luke looks into what could have been.
Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, Kevin O’Neill, Trevor Goring, Dan Schafer and Digital Chameleon
Published by Roger Corman’s Cosmic Comics
Review by Luke Williams
This mid 90s curio is from Roger Corman’s Cosmic Comics, for those not in the know, Roger Corman was famous for his schlocky B-Move films. Mr, C was responsible for the infamous David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone film Death Race 2000 (remade with Jason Staham in 2008, the original spawning a sequel in 2017 Death Race 2050) based on a 1956 story called “The Racer”, it is the film that spawned this short lived series.
Cosmic Comics had a little line going there for a while based ona series of Corman’s film properties including Bram Stoker’s The Rats (Jerry prosser Francisco Solano Lopez and Val Mayerik), Little Shop of Horrors (JR. Williams, Gene Fama & Dean Rohrer) and Rock N’ Roll High School (Bob Fingerman & Shane Oakley)
As far as Death Race 2020 goes, there are connections to 2000AD. The 1975 film provided some inspiration for the design of Judge Dredd and clearest is that this is written by “Uncle” Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, and drawn, at least initially, by Kevin “God “(my objective assessment) O’Neill.
For moi, this was the appeal of the comic. I remember getting issue 1 of this and not bothering afterward, but in one of my regular bouts of impetuousness and inexplicable desires to just buy comics, I picked them all up as a job lot from that digital temptress, E-Bay.
Anyway to get back to the point, this is a sequel to the 1975 film. For those not in the know, Death Race 2000 was set in a dystopian authoritarian future where the most popular sporting event is a road race across America where competitors drivers score points by leave a bloody wake of pedestrians in their dash for victory. Different types of pedestrian score different points, kids different to the elderly for example.
If like me you’ve never seen the film, you don’t need to have to read this. This isn’t deep and meaningful by any stretch of the imagination. At the end of Death Race 2000, Frankenstein (played by David Carradine) won what became the last race. In the 20 years that followed, he becomes President of the United Provinces of America, roaming the land in the presidential transport “Roadforce 1”.
Frankenstein has become increasingly unpopular since banning the race and even he has to suppress the genetic urge to drive and slaughter. This doesn’t mean there aren’t races, illegal races are held all the time, and it as we join the story that President Frankenstein is under increasing pressure to legalize the hugely popular but bloody sport.
This is Mills, Skinner and O’Neill in severe bad taste mode, redolent of Marshal Law for obvious reasons, there are the usual targets from Mills & Skinner, authority, religion, etc, with some extreme cartoon violence, grotesquely exaggerated characters, death scenes and fantastical machinery supplied by O’Neill in the first 3 issues. All three creators are clearly having fun here, but O’Neill in particular is in his element. Mills and Skinner’s script is peppered with bad jokes, puns and quite leery and prurient dialogue.
Sadly, King Kev’s contribution is cut short and after issue 3 supplies only two more covers. British comics vet’ Trevor Goring (bit of “Rogue Trooper” and storyboard artist on some crazily big films https://www.trevorgoringart.com/) teams with Dan Schafer on inks to draw the back end of the series, issues 4-8.
To say that it doesn’t have the impact that O’Neill’s work had would be charitable. The occasional clunkiness of Mills & Skinners scripts was hidden by Kev’s mayhem. Goring and Schafer’s more pedestrian (ahem) linework unbalances what was a perfect match in outrageous and deliciously poor taste comics scripting and art.
The story suffers and it limps rather than roars across the finish line, though that may also be due to unplanned cancellation. Goring’s work here is certainly not representative of the art on his website.
Each issue has a wealth of back matter. Apart from letters pages, there are articles on the original film and doubling down on the tastlessness , is the one page “Celebrity Car Crash”. It’s here that a series of “alternative” comic artists, such as Dave Cooper, Shane Oakley and Bob Fingerman take a page to show how some of the rich and/or famous met their automotive end . If you can get it cheap, it’s worth picking up, if only for the first 3 issues.
As apocalyptic future’s set in the 2020’s are concerned, it’s more interesting than what happened in reality