In my last post I talked about prog slogs, and how much I love them. A prog slog is where you read a swath of comic books based on some criteria best known to yourself. Usually it means rereading issues of a British sci-fi comic book called 2000ad, collected in the 70s during the prog slogger’s childhood years. Now I’ve decided to do a prog slog of my own, but initially a very limited one. Instead of reading thousands of issues of 2000ad, I’m starting with a few issues of the lesser-known and much more short-lived comic book called Star Lord.
I’m going to go from the first issue of Star Lord and attempt to read the entire run of 22 comics, which is a very achievable goal I think. Then, if I enjoy the experience, I’ll move on to 2000ad. I will join the much better known comic at prog 86, when it merged with Star Lord. Theoretically I could continue to read from there for thousands of issues because 2000ad is still going today, thirty or forty years later, but let’s stick to just the 22 issues of Star Lord for now.
The first issue of Star Lord can be found on the Internet, so anyone can read it, even if you weren’t an obsessive comic book collector back in the late 70s. The cover is painted, which is often a good thing, but this one is not great. It looks like fan art done in the style of Frank Frazzetta. Let’s not dwell on that, but instead open the comic book and take a look at the first strip.
The first story is Planet of the Damned. One of the obsessions of the 70s, was the Bermuda Triangle, perhaps because of Charlie Berlitz’s book, Bermuda Triangle, which was published in 1969 and sold more than twenty million copies. Whatever the reason, the Bermuda Triangle in the 1970s was a pop-cultural phenomenon. This story takes this mystery as a jumping off point, and then runs with it. The strip makes the claim that lost ships and planes might have somehow punctured the Earth’s time-space continuum and ended up on another planet. It then shows the characters’ adventures on the new planet, the Planet of the Damned.
The art is by an artists named Horacio Lalia, and it is old-school but evocative. This first instalment in this issue includes an airliner crashing, like the setup to the series Lost, but in a much more inhospitable landscape than a Hawaiian island. After the crash, one of the first characters introduced is a science fiction author named Hackmann. He writes books about Captain Cosmo, who has the catchphrase, Solarific. As a sci-fi author myself all his made me smile. The real hero, however, is a muscular young man in a furry loincloth called Flint. I found the first instalment of this story hugely enjoyable and I’m looking forward to reading more in the next issue.
Next up we have TimeQuake, which is about a group of ‘Time Control’ agents with a base in Earth’s dinosaur-infested prehistory. Their job is to police the timelines to ensure that time criminals don’t screw up history, and that the alien Droon don’t use history as a beachhead from which to attack Earth. This story didn’t grab me at the time, and I was also underwhelmed on rereading the first episode all these years later.
But after TimeQuake we have a much more impressive strip. This is the world’s first glimpse of Johny Alpha, a brooding hero who will go on to make many more appearances in British comics. He is a mutant bounty hunter with an array of imaginative gadgets and weapons. The strip itself is called Strontium Dog and the art is by Carlos Ezquerra, and it is great. Just look at the beautifully delicate hatching in the shadows. Carlos Ezquerra started his career in Spain, drawing westerns and war stories for Spanish publishers but he was headhunted to work in the new UK in 1974. It’s a very organic future that Jonny inhabits, thanks to Ezquerra’s art, and I loved it from the get go.
Next we have Ro-Busters, my favourite then and still my favourite today. The strip is set in a world where intelligent robots are ubiquitous and treated with contempt by humans. Ro-Busters is a commercial rescue organisation run by Mr. 10 Per Cent, so called because the other 90% of him is robotic. He uses robots to carry out perilous rescue missions because no-one cares if they live or die. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein, the two main characters, are hugely courageous but after each successful mission they are usually greeted with indifference by the authorities.
It is drawn by Carlos Pino, who had been drawing comic books since the 1950s. His art is only adequate, but thankfully the ideas and designs in the story are eye catching despite the staid art. The much more modern, and very talent artist, Kevin O’Neill provided the initial designs for Ro-Busters, and they are lovely. He didn’t do any drawing on the series until later, after its move to 2000 AD, which is when the art on Ro-Busters really becomes detailed, imaginativa and amazing.
This first issue has been a lot of fun to read and stands up pretty well, even after all this time. I am very much looking forward to reading issue two.
Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy)
The fist sci-fi book I ever wrote, and stil the one that sells the best, is Galaxy Dog. It is the first book in the Dark Galaxy series and it is a story of adventure, spaceships, and rebellion across a galactic empire. A small group of friends, one woman, one man, and one robot incite a revolt and take on the might of the Tarazet Deep Space Navy. They find an immensely powerful alien spaceship so, even though the rebellion is extremely outnumbered, they still stand a chance. Galaxy Dog combines the action of military sci-fi with the heart of space opera. There are robots, aliens, space battles, and all the good things that make sci-fi so enjoyable. Galaxy Dog is available from Amazon right now, so just click the Amazon link and download a copy.