Three “Star Scans” from Ron Smith featuring JDs equipment (fnar). Published in 1995, Progs 995, 997 and 998
Three “Star Scans” from Ron Smith featuring JDs equipment (fnar). Published in 1995, Progs 995, 997 and 998
Part 1 can be found here :
Sometimes, something’s should really be left to rest. Perhaps Sam is one.
Sam was resurrected for prog 723 2000ad’s first all colour prog’. Wagner, Grant and Gibson had been replaced by upcoming Scottish firebrand (and now international comic superstar) Mark Millar, art was supplied by Jose Casanovas. Millar’s Sam was young, rejuvenated (literally) and back in the city, previous continuity was “overlooked”. 2000ad was rebooting a few of its classic characters and strips around this period, notably “Strontium Dogs”. Largely, these reboots didn’t work and Robo Hunter was no exception.
Both Millar and his one time mentor Grant Morrison (now famed for their enmity) didn’t “get” the classic 200ad characters. Their interpretation of Dredd, Millar’s solo (?) “Robo Hunter” and “Rogue Trooper” are characterised by cliched 80’s action flick dialogue, extreme violence, hackneyed villains and plots that define the term “simplistic”. A bit of a shame really, I really like their other stuff. Interviewed for “Thrillpower Overload”, John Wagner said that after he saw the strip in the comic he requested editorial not publish any new stories, but to no avail, whilst Alan Grant offers this assessment:
“My objection arose when I saw the abomination produced. It was early in Mark’s career, so I guess he should get the benefit of the doubt – but that doesn’t stop it being a pile of crap”.
Millar led Sam on an extended arc that ended back on Verdus. He brought Cutie back, made her Mrs. Slade and turned her into a murderess. The strip wasn’t a success. A new writer will always bring their spin on a character, but this was throwing the baby out with the bath water. Millar replaces the wit and verve of the Grant, Wagner and Gibson stories with crude jokes, clumsy nods to contemporary culture (which has become his stock in trade) and poor attempts at parody. The strip lost it’s elements of farce and all of its subtlety. The only salve for the third degree burns that Millar’s run inflicted on the strip is by some rather spiffy art from Casanovas (and Jnr) and the underrated Anthony Williams.
After the end of “Return to Verdus” arc, Ron Smith and Simon Jacob (who was born to draw robots) took over for a few strips, Millar moved onto other things and Sam was put out to pasture again.
Next to pull Sam out of retirement were script droid and former editorial droid Peter Hogan with design ‘bot Rian Hughes who brought his distinctive retro style to the art. Hogan and Hughes’s was a bit more like the classic Wagner/Grant / Gibson run, but heavy on the twee and bland. Hogan’s characterisation of Sam dispensed with the world weary cynicism, satire and became gentler. Hughes’s retro pastel coloured art lends itself to quirky or dialogue heavy strips (“Dare” is brilliant and I recommend his “Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s collection”), but not to action. In the new creative teams debut on the strip Sam was drawn with an inane grin and wearing his cap sideways like some chav hanging around the local offie on a summer evening . The humour became less barbed, the strip more akin to a strip for under 12s rather than a sophisticated science fiction/fantasy comic.
Hughes tightened up on his interpretation of Sam, but to no avail. Simon Jacob steps in for a few strips, but Sam was put back on the shelf.
A few years later Alan Grant and Ian Gibson returned to the strip and dust off Sam, or rather his head did. The next Robo Hunter run starred Samantha Slade, Sam’s granddaughter was trying her way in the family business, guided by the preserved head of Grandpa. Samantha was sassy, sexy and even occasionally funny (helped out by some fantastic art from Gibson). Hoagy and Stogie returned to help out Grandpa’s girl, but Sam was relegated to supporting character.
Fun though it was, this was pretty lightweight and clearly didn’t set the world alight. Gibson left before the strip ended didn’t finish the last strip, leaving perennial pinchhitter penciller Anthony Williams to complete it.
The latest resurrection was slipped in with little fanfare in the Sci Fi Special. Alec Worley has got a better grip on the character and the humour better than Hogan or Millar, the wacky humour and satire are present in equal measures. Marc Simmons provides a clutch of easter eggs and references to past creators and runs and most importantly he draws great robots, pretty important in a strip that revolves around them echoing but not slavishly copying Gibson.
Not a classic, but a good start for any revival, it’s certainly better than the last few revivals.
It’s been a long time since any of Sam’s adventures have been essential. As much as I love reading Sam, perhaps he should retire permanently. I’ve ranted about this before:
Perhaps Worley and Simmons can do what other teams haven’t been able to do and return Sam to greatness. I’d be happy to be proved wrong.
“Verdus” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“Day of The Droids” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“The Filby Case” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 1)
“Football Crazy” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 2)
“The Killing of Kidd” (Found in the Robo Hunter Droid Files volume 2)
E bay is a vile temptress.
My current obsession is to fill the gaps in my collection of 2000ad specials, and annuals.
Annual s were always quite cool, a traditional Christmas treat. My brothers and I would get a selection of annuals for the festivities. Most of the time they were the DC Thompson fare, “Victor” , ”Beano” , the occasional “Valiant“ and “Battle” were in there from Fleetway. I had to specifically ask for the 2000ad annual, I don’t think Mum and Dad were too keen on some of the content.
2000ad annuals were no different from the rest on the market. A motley collection of reprint from the prog’ or its siblings (both ancient and modern); some vaguely relevant articles and the occasional new strip. Nice hardback covers sandwiching filler strips and text that wouldn’t have made the weekly, though they had the odd gem.
For Christmas 1984’s offering we have a spiffy Dave Gibbons cover (with Lionel Richie being used as the model for Johnny A judging by the hamster cheeks) and true to form, some great, and quite frankly not so great, content.
Kicking things off: Staccato (another of Wagner & Grant’s pseudonyms) and Ian Gibson’s “Robo Hunter”. Sam’s away and Hoagy minds the office, taking a call from a punter who needs to disable his rampant robo dog which is preventing him moving house. ‘Course this isn’t true, but it’s easy to have a battle of wits with an unarmed robot. Predictably it all goes badly wrong. Gibson’s art is great as usual, and Toby from Halo Jones has a pre fame cameo role. A well worn joke, but lots of fun with some fabulous Ian Gibson art.
“Anderson” stars in an early solo tale “The Haunting”, again with a “Staccato” writing credit , art by Kim Raymond . A cit‘ is possessed by a demon he released whilst working at the Museum of Antiquities. Cass’ has the task of fishing him out. Very much in the filler category. Raymond’s art is perfunctory; clear storytelling, but not dynamic, not a good fit for 2000ad. He works for Disney now dont’cha know?
In digging through old thrills, we hit the first reprint seam. “Bonjo From Beyond The Stars” by Kev’ O’Neill. 2000ad’s attempts at humour strips are a bit hit and miss, for every “DR & Quinch”, you get a “Captain Klep”, or “Bonjo”. It’s Kev’ and I can excuse him anything, but this just isn’t funny. It is interesting in that it shows O’Neill’s IPC humour roots.
“Invasion” written by Chris Lowder and the brilliant Ian Kennedy. Silk and Savage team up with the French resistance to destroy the channel tunnel (which at the time of publication still fictional). Lowder’s script is action packed, silly and nonsensical, but loads of fun. Volgs get offed , loads’ve “shoota” action and cockney geezer “ness”. Ian Kennedy is fantastic, clean, shiny lines, fantastic for “Dan Dare” but not gritty enough for Bill. Mike Dorey is more “Invasion’s” speed.
Next : an early Gibson “Dredd” with an early “John Wagner” script credit. Co Starring Giant, Dredd investigates the substitution of juves with robots in a case of industrial espionage. Very early Dredd and highlights how much the character had developed in the 7 years since the debut of the character, also it shows how far Gibson had come when you compare the art with that of “Robo Hunter”.
Finally breaking the through the reprint, some original content. The first of two Alan Moore strips is “Rogue Trooper : First of the Few” drawn by Jesus Redondo. Redondo is not known for his war art, and you can kind of see why. Again, a great artist, but not a good fit. Our hero stumbles across an old soldier in rags, Moore’s tale making the logical assumption that Rogue and buddies were not the first GIs. With an anti war and political subtext, this is a bit more sophisticated than the usual “Rogue Trooper” fare. Not great, and certainly not something you would hold up as one of Moore’s classics, but good stuff, but doesn’t fit easily into the original Rogue Trooper’s canon.
After the brief respite from old thrills, we’re back to reprint. This time it’s a few episodes of the original run of “Flesh”, and Earl Reagan’s first meeting with Claw Carver. Written by R.E. Wright and drawn by Sola, gory, gritty, and he draws great dinosaurs. This has the grindhouse “ b” movie feel that the revival is striving for, but which gets lost amongst the conflicting moralising, bombardment of ideas and illogical plot development. You can’t help but look at Joe & Reagan’s relationship in a different light after current developments; it’s gone all “Brokeback Mountain” (“Brokeback Cretaceous?”)
A rather humdrum, though occasionally blackly funny Dredd sees Joe coming up against an escaped exhibit from the alien zoo that is hiding out in a cit’s apartment. Scripted yet again by “Staccato” and drawn by a very stiff looking Robin Smith, antiseptic colours, unimaginative character design and all. He is a great layout artist (as backed up by the article on covers in the annual), editor and designer, but his strip art was never great.
For me the highlight of the package comes next “A Day In The Death Of Torquemada” which allows Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill to go completely off it on their greatest creation. 4 pages of O’Neill’s bizarre and outlandish designs and characters, there is little story to speak of, but who cares?
A beautifully drawn but slight “Future Shock” (yep – reprint) follows, written by Jack Adrian and drawn by Brian Bolland.
Moore’s second strip a “Ro Busters” tale, with art by Joe Eckers, and winner of “who gave this guy a job?” 1984. A rival to Quartz’s disaster squad threatens to steal their limelight and more importantly their profit. Possibly (ahem)based upon a certain puppet show from the 60s’s whose family name rhymes with “Stacey”; “Storm Eagles Are Go” is a fun little tale, unessential and with a very unsophisticated and “unMoore” punchline . If Moore thinks “DR & Quinch” was bad, what does he think of this?
Yet more reprint! But you rarely go wrong with Wagner, Grant & Ron Smith’s Daily Star “Judge Dredd”.
Interspersed amongst the stories, are a plethora of crosswords, profiles on 2000ad villains and articles of how the prog’ is put together.
Droid profile pages, including script ‘bot Alan Moore, letter droid Frame and what they would no doubt call “media” droids today Spex, DJ1 and D Mil. A 3 page intro’ into Ace Trucking Co – please, please no one revive this, only Belardinelli could draw it.
Editor droid Burt interviews Billy Dee Williams “Lando Calrissian” from the original Star Wars trilogy and in quick succession, articles (or really a 4 page advert) on micro computers. Finally the Moore droid (and now professional curmudgeon and offence taker) returns with a short (for him anyway) article on the creative process behind undervalued 2000ad gem “Skizz”.
The bargain basement feel of the package is exemplified by the text Strontium Dog story that rounds it off, spot illustrations by Robin Smith.
If you haven’t got any of the reprint, then it may be worth hunting down and it’s definitely one for the nostalgic Squaxx. Personally I’d buy it purely for “Nemesis” if I didn’t have a dozen copies of that story already, but as you can probably guess, my ratio of money to sense is arse backwards.