The painterly image above was one of four generated in about a minute by Midjourney, an artificial intelligence that creates images based on prompts you give it. You can find Midjourney on Discord and put it to work for free at discord.gg/midjourney or start out at Midjourney.com. The prompt for the image above was “/imagine mars will send no more”, the title of this blog.
Below is a variation on the prompt “/imagine calico cats become space pirates and conquer the moon in the future”. It looks to me like a vintage science-fiction book cover, but painted on drugs.
If I had known about Midjourney a month ago, I probably would have used it for cover art to Permanent Crescent. The only drawback is that copyright doesn’t seem applicable to A.I.-generated imagery, at least according to this month’s article in The Register, which features Midjourney’s founder.
Below is a result of the prompt “/imagine alien dragonfly attacks a space colony”. Truly trippy!
I’d never used Discord before today, but I’ve been curious about trying A.I. Art platforms and saw some amazing Midjourney renders this week on Reddit. You can get about 25 renders before needing to pay for a Midjourney subscription, and you are basically producing them in an open chat room. On the one hand, that’s a little annoying because there are dozens of people using the robot all at once, so it is hard to keep track of your images while new messages are entering the chat every couple of seconds. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see what everyone else is conjuring with the robot. (A paid subscription allows you to invite the robot to your own chat room so you can work with it one-on-one.)
My renders for “/imagine giant space wasps attacking people on an asteroid” looked cool but not at all like wasps. However, I was impressed with the results for “/imagine telepathic space octopuses controlling the brains of dinosaurs“!
I used up all the images from my free trial, but I will return to play more with Midjourney. Below is a gallery of the stuff it made for me today in about an hour based on the five prompts I’ve shared with you.
Note that these are “upscaled” versions. The first thing Midjourney does is make a set of four low-resolution images, which you can then instruct it to “upscale” individually to get more detail and greater resolution, or you can tell it to create “variations” of any of the originals (which can also then be upscaled). You also have an option to “upscale to the max”, which means even higher resolution.
This beauty was purchased on eBay and scanned by reader Demeted Derek, who kindly agreed to let me share some pages with you. Derek first contacted Mars Will Send No Moreback in 2018 nearly six years after I shared the original four issues of the Walt Disney Black Hole comic published by Whitman. Issue four is extremely rare because, as far as I can tell, it was recalled.
Issues five and six were printed by a German company as part of the series Das Schwarze Loch. From what little information I can find, it seems the original art was hand-lettered in English, but the German edition replaced that with typed German. Below is an example page of the original art, followed by the full-color German version.
Shout out to user bellerules on the CGCComics board for posting, in 2010, the two original pages he purchased, one of which is featured above. Shout out to user HugoDeVries for starting that forum thread in 2009 with information about the German issues.
As Hugo explained, all the issues of the German series were double-length, combining pairs of the English issues into one. That’s why you see “Heft 3” on the cover shown above: “Issue 3”.
Heft 1 combined issues 1 and 2—the full movie adaptation that was also printed as the single-volume trade paperback I read a million times as a kid. Heft 2 combined issues 3 and 4, and Heft 3 combines the two unreleased and final issues (5 and 6). You can tell the final issue is intended as a true conclusion to the series—even if, like me, you don’t speak German.
Let’s have a look.
The first story is called Retter des Universums, or Savior of the Universe. (Thank you, Google Translate.) I have no idea what is happening most of the time. But after a tour to see an alien sloth, a glowing crystal, and a gnarly old woman who is really intense about her scroll collection, we go for a ride on space unicorns!
Suddenly, a robot battle breaks out—and what a time to be wearing a toga and sandals.
Then things get really sinister. An elderly dude explains what horrible mischief our old enemy Reinhardt is up to. Reinhardt was the evil space captain who died in the movie, but here he is again, causing trouble. He excels at looking like a raging psycho while his robots do bad things to people.
The next story is Reinhardts Rückkehr, or Reinhardt’s Return. It opens with a ton of discussion, but then we get another unicorn ride.
The equestrian journey ends with Kate meeting a random robot in a space coffin. Why is he the world’s saddest robot? I assume it has something to with Reinhardt being a jerk to him. Who knows?
Our heroes do what anyone would do in that situation. They visit Reinhardt to give him a scroll.
It seems like a nice gift to me, but Reinhardt is livid about the scroll. There’s just no pleasing some people! He captures our heroes and makes them watch while he verbally abuses old people in the middle of their Shakespeare performance.
Alright, I admit it. I am just making up what I think the plot might be. I warned you I don’t speak German! The following panel from one of the original English pages suggests that our heroes were not captured by Reinhardt but invited him to the alien toga party. Close enough.
Here’s the coolest part. Max, the big red robot, freaks out and destroys Reinhardt—who also turns out to be a robot!
Off with his head! Another robot battle breaks out, and things get pretty intense.
In the end, our heroes bust up all the evil robots, get on their old ship, and peacefully sail through another black hole. Their intended destination is their original home planet — but wouldn’t it be fun if they ended up someplace even weirder?
And there you have it! If you want physical copies of this German edition, you probably need to go to eBay for them. I have never seen them listed anywhere else. A big Thank You to Derek for sharing this rare treasure and completing a quest that began so many years ago. You are truly Das Retter des Universums!
Steak is an independently published comic from the UK that explores the personal and political ramifications of traveling back in time to hunt dinosaurs for their meat. Author and educator Will Conway reports that when he started out, he had not heard of the Flesh series from 2000 AD, and that Steak is an entirely different beast. While Flesh sprung from the violent imagination of Pat Mills and focused on brutal chaos in a prehistoric setting, Steak delves into more psychological dimensions of the dino-hunting enterprise. But there’s plenty of Cretaceous carnage, too!
The main character, Benjamin Buckland, comes up with the idea while recovering from a brain injury, and he and his scientific partner Roger Dukowicz conceive the means of time travel after eating “a rare cactus”—presumably peyote. If that sounds like a mentally unhinged way to start a business, then it should come as no surprise that by the second issue, Buckland’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic. It doesn’t help that his more even-keeled partner gets abducted, and a shadowy organization is spying on him.
As a self-proclaimed “zoophage” who gets a thrill from eating exotic animals, Buckland asserts that his main goal is to eat dinosaurs. He pays for his hobby by opening restaurants and doing licensing deals to expand the market for his Mesozoic meat. This leads to hilarious narration about how different dinosaur species taste, several gory yet coldly factual pages about how to butcher them like cattle, and pun-filled products such as “Apattiesaurus” burgers and “Psit-taco-saurus” food trucks. Dukowicz sports T-shirts with dinosaur-themed pop-culture references such as “Iguanodon Corleone”.
But with corporations trying to steal his technology for profit, and militaries trying to obtain it for a pre-emptive advantage in warfare, Buckland is beset from all sides. How it will all play out remains, at the time of this writing, a mystery. Issue number three of this five-issue series is currently in production, so now would be a good time to subscribe and see what happens next.
Marc Olivent’s artwork is a lot of fun, especially in the scenes of dinosaur hunting and how they go horribly wrong. The dinosaurs are impressive and energetic, whether they are chomping someone’s head or stampeding off a cliff. The narrative structure is creative, jumping around a bit in time in the first issue without much guidance as to when things take place other than intentionally vague captions like “Now then” and “Meanwhile”. It works well for a time-travel story, and piecing together the puzzle is part of the pleasure.
Steak considers the ethics of killing animals that died off millions of years ago. Are they endangered species because they are now extinct or, as one character puts it, is it “morally okay” because “They were already dead before they were already dead, I guess?” And when members of a hunting party get killed by dinos, the lawyers struggle with the question of how to handle someone dying millions of years before they were born. But these philosophical conundrums don’t bog down the narrative, which remains fast-paced and lively, and lets you draw your own conclusions.
So far, the series has avoided the complications of potentially altering the future by killing animals in the past, an idea most famously explored in Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder. But who knows? Maybe we will get there eventually, because Steak is a smart, funny, and exciting romp that serves up a unique and unpredictable take on a classic concept.
Collector’s Guide: You can order print copies at the Steak website, and subscribe to updates about upcoming issues. Currently the first two issues are available for Kindle in the USA and in the UK.
The Second Omnibus collects and updates volumes 7-10, plus two all-new stories, previously unpublished interviews, scenes, drawings, a mini-comic, and more!
In the aftermath of the disaster that nearly wiped out civilization on Ceres, a hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat get set to throw the greatest birthday party of a lifetime—until alien death rains down from the sky!
Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew, including the hard-rocking Psycho 78s and the teenage Dumpster Kittens, as they rage against the forces of law and order, struggle to control the future of the Asteroid Belt, and confront the total destruction of their beloved home on Vesta 4. Some will live, many more will die, and nothing in the Belt will ever be the same!
In fifteen episodes of relentless anarchy, sci-fi madness, and violent revolution, the pirate crew comes face-to-face with betrayal, annihilation, telepathic octopuses, evil space lizards, cybernetic murder wasps, game-changing technologies, objects of unlimited power, and much, much more! Strap on your battle armor and get ready to rock, because the asteroid-mining frontier is no place for the faint-hearted.
What readers are saying about the series:
“A violent, feel-good space romp. An irreverent, rocking series.”
“A lot of guns and bloody battles. Fast-paced and full of action.”
“Anarchy, asteroids, and rock music abound. A great read.”
“The swashbuckling spirit and generous—but murderous!—hearts of Mags and her cohort are endearing and engaging.”
Back in 2017, in the first few months of my writers workshop, I received feedback from a science-fiction writer I respect and admire. As you might already know, many of the first thirty episodes of the Meteor Mags stories take place from 2027 to 2030. The feedback I got was that science-fiction stories should be set at least forty years into the future.
I think the idea was that this buffer of time gives some plausibility to the development of “futuristic” technologies. It might be a decent rule of thumb for aspiring SF writers. But futurism isn’t a central concept or concern in Mags’ stories, and as a lifelong reader of comic books, I could list dozens if not hundreds of sci-fi stories set in the present or the distant past.
I won’t belabor the point but merely offer an example: The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra was published from 2012 to 2015, but that absolutely insane sci-fi epic was set in the 1940s through the 1960s.
You can probably think of many more comic-book examples, such as the 1980s Watchmen series set in an alternate 1980s universe. Or you can go back to early prose classics from H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley. Any fan of steampunk can come up with science-fiction tales set in the Victorian era, and any Ray Bradbury fan knows that many once-futuristic dates in The Martian Chronicles have long since come and gone.
Science fiction’s future is old news.
The Meteor Mags stories take place in a solar system that shares many aspects of ours but is clearly different. One of the more obvious clues is how asteroids are named with their number after their name: Our “4 Vesta” is Mags’ “Vesta 4”. Call it an alternate universe, an alternate timeline, a Marvel What If scenario, or, for you Robert Heinlein geeks, a “ficton”. I don’t care. It’s just where Mags lives, and while it sometimes offers a commentary on or satire of our solar system, it’s unique unto itself.
In terms of satire, a few examples come to mind. The Musical Freedoms Act of 2019 is an obvious satire of the “Religious Freedom” laws that recently plagued the United States. In Jam Room, Mags mentions that Ted Nugent ran for President in 2020 but was assassinated. In Hunted to Extinction, Mags concludes a parody of gratuitous female shower scenes in SF movies with a comment about the Alien franchise.
Her solar system and ours have a few things in common, but they also have many differences.
In terms of divergent timelines, the divergences go back at least a few hundred years in the backstories about how Mags’ ancestors affected the golden age of Atlantic pirates in the 1700s and the economic landscape of Europe in the 1800s. Some of those events have been specifically mentioned in the text, some have been implied or alluded to, and some remain in my massive pile of notes for unwritten historical tales.
The history of space exploration and asteroid mining were influenced by Mags’ presence in her solar system, especially in terms of her contributions to localized gravity control. I do not expect that humans in our reality will have a lunar base established in 2023 nor be mining asteroids on a massive scale a few years later. We certainly will not be colonizing Mars and building major metropolises there in our current decade. These “futuristic” concepts overlap our timeline and are a direct consequence of the existence of Mags and her illustrious and unusually long-lived maternal ancestors.
A futuristic approach to science fiction is based on the idea that readers expect a story that is set in the future of their personal reality where scientific and technologic advancements have materialized. It’s a place where our dreams and aspirations about tech have come true. It’s a fantasy about where our species is headed. We might be headed toward utopia or dystopia, but these are somewhat distant futures that science fiction speculates about; hence the term “speculative fiction”.
That isn’t my approach at all. My approach is to consider myself as being Mags’ biographer. That position gives me not just the future to play with, but the past. The events relevant to her life include—as Carl Sagan liked to say—”billions and billions” of years, from the earliest days of her solar system to the heat death of her universe.
Even that timespan and location is too limited. I’ve already published a story about Patches that suggests the end of the universe is not the end for Mags and Patches, and I have notes for a story where Mags gets a glimpse of every possible alternate universe where she existed.
So, we’re way beyond guidelines to set these stories at some arbitrary number of years in our future. They don’t take place there. They take place in the infinite playground of my imagination.
The series has always—first and foremost—been about the characters and their friendships through the insane adventures they encounter. The science-fiction aspects are far less important to me than that emotional core. My intent is not to make fantasies about future technology seem plausible. I only want each story to be fun—fun for me to write, fun for my characters to live though, and fun for the readers who might consider the adventures of a hell-raising, shotgun-wielding, piano-playing, feline maniac with an odd assortment of space pets to be a nice break from the drudgery of everyday life.
As I’ve said before: This isn’t science fiction. It’s rock’n’roll wearing science-fiction clothes. Feel free to take yours off and join the party.
Every now and then, I read a tragic story that breaks my heart, but no comic-book adventure has ever broken me so relentlessly as We3. A friend who isn’t really into comic books got into Grant Morrison thanks to the live-action show Happy—based on the four-issue series of the same name published by Image—so I’ve been digging into the Morrison archives. Along the way, I realized I’d never read what many people consider to be one of Morrison’s best works, if not the best. We3 is an action-packed story brought to life by Morrison’s long-time artistic collaborator Frank Quitely, and though I’ve enjoyed Quitely’s artwork for years, he outdid his own genius on We3. Before we delve into the book, let me just say that this story features one of my all-time favorite things: a cat who absolutely kicks ass.
The cat’s given name is Tinker, but she is only referred to in the story as “2”. Tinker is part of a team of three normal animals who have been surgically altered and had their brains messed with so they can become killing machines encased in high-tech armor to perform military missions and assassinations instead of having human soldiers do the job. Joining Tinker in this horrifying experiment are the dog Bandit—referred to as “1”, and the only one of the three to re-discover his real name in the story—and a rabbit named Pirate (“3”) because of a black spot over one eye.
Each of these animals was someone’s beloved pet before the story began. Instead of telling the reader this fact through flashbacks or exposition, the creative team shows it much more powerfully with “lost pet” flyers on the covers of each issue. When you realize what has been done to these hapless animals, the covers hit like a punch to the gut.
When the higher-ups decide that these lost and kidnapped animals need to be killed—decommissioned, per orders—the three of them escape their containment facility and run away. Their combat modifications and training make them dangerous to society, so the military pursues them. One of the many tragic aspects of this story is that the trio doesn’t mean to be dangerous murder machines. These animals were forced against their will to become horrors in the service of the same humans who want to put them down.
Nowhere is this more strongly portrayed than through Bandit’s canine emotional crises. Bandit truly wants to be a good dog. He wants to protect his beloved animal allies in We3 and also help humans, but he is forced into situations where his combat programming takes over and he kills humans. In the aftermath of the killings, his simple, mournful repetition of “Bad dog” hits home more powerfully than pages of dialogue or narrative captions could ever do.
Tinker does not share the dog’s remorse. She thinks the whole thing stinks. When Bandit tries to save a human body to convince himself he is a good dog, Tinker bluntly tells him the man is dead. As the two animals fade into the horizon while arguing, the panels reveal the human is annihilated from the waist down. In a combination of graphic images and minimal, broken dialogue, Morrison and Quitely set up the tension between the cat’s no-nonsense and apparently correct assessment of the situation with the dog’s potentially delusional idealism.
Each animal’s cybernetically enhanced speech pattern says volumes about them. On the first read, I had trouble understanding their speech, but it all became clear to me upon the second reading. Bandit the dog is haunted by regret over what he has been made to do, and he struggles to lead his “pack” in a volatile and untenable situation. Pirate the rabbit is the most simple-minded of the trio, only speaking in one-word sentences, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering a heart-wrenching reminder to his comrades that they are friends and are all in this together. Sadly, Pirate’s speech degrades into mere electronic noise after he suffers an injury.
Cat-lover that I am, I especially enjoyed Tinker’s dialogue. Her feline disdain for just about everything is expressed through the word “Stink”, rendered as “ST!NK” or, when she is really angry, “!SSST!!!NKK!” Compared to the peaceful rabbit and optimistic dog, Tinker appears to be the least bothered by all the killing. She seems at times to revel in it. Tinker is also the group’s cynic who doesn’t believe the trio will ever find a home, because “home” no longer exists for any of them—a point of contention that leads to an argument with Bandit.
And what is home? What does “home” mean to Bandit after all the awful things the team has endured? To the dog, home is a simple concept. “Home is run no more.” Home is a place where these involuntary machines of war can find peace and rest, and that is Bandit’s hope for We3. But as the story progresses, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that Tinker is right, that home and peace will be forever denied these unfortunate animals because of what’s been done to them—and what of their lives and identities have been stolen from them.
Quitely employs many innovative and dramatic approaches to action. A video by Strip Panel Naked does a good job of analyzing the groundbreaking visuals in this story, so check that out. Regarding the page where Tinker hacks and slashes her way through a series of panels filled with her enemies, I am reminded of what Scott McCloud taught in his book Understanding Comics, where he asserts that part of the magic of comics is what happens—but is not shown—between the panels, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks. Quitely gives us two-dimensional panels rendered in 3-D with Tinker in action, demonstrating how the cat is a fast-moving agent of destruction. While Tinker’s opponents exist entirely within the panels, she flashes like lightning through the spaces between them.
Go, Tinker! As Bandit says in a dramatic moment, “Gud 2! 1 Protect!”
Quitely also does amazing things with panels-within-panels to show a sequence of fast-paced actions in a slow-motion strobe effect, and he often employs elements of the scene’s environment to create panel-like divisions, such as rendering trees in all black to create dividing lines, or using the metal structure of a bridge to divide a series of movements across that bridge.
For a few pages, Quitely captures the narrative in an insane number of more than one hundred tiny panels to show footage from multiple security cameras in the containment facility—only to present a spectacular release from all that claustrophobic tension by finishing with a two-page double splash where our heroes burst into the night.
We3 has been collected in paperback, hardcover, and a second hardcover “deluxe” edition with ten new pages of story. But I recommend you read We3 either in digital format or in the original stapled comic-book format so you can see all the amazing two-page spreads without any part of them disappearing into the gutter of a bound book. Like I said in my recent review of the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil, it is a rare and beautiful thing to see a comic book story where script, art, and overall design are perfectly married for maximum narrative and emotional effect. We3 is one of those perfect unions.
Collector’s Guide: It’s hard to find the original three-issue printing, but you can easily find a reasonably priced collected paperback on Amazon. Current prices on the deluxe hardcover are ridiculous. Instead, I suggest getting the $10 digital edition so you can fully appreciate the two-page spreads.
Patience is my favorite work by Daniel Clowes. It tells a relatively (for Clowes) straight-forward yet suspenseful science-fiction tale. Having deconstructed the superhero genre in his previous work, The Death-Ray, which was a pastiche of multiple comic-strip conventions, Clowes gave us Patience in a more traditional narrative style. Despite that, this book subverted my expectations many times, and I love that about it.
The story begins with the quiet slice-of-life drama you might expect if you’ve read Clowes’ Ghost World or Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve. Humdrum everyman characters encounter mostly typical problems while filled with a persistent existential malaise. I usually find stories about average people to be quite tedious. Real life is average enough for me, thanks. So, I began to wonder what all the hype was with Patience, because there are about twenty pages of this stuff before the story really kicks off.
But after an unexpected tragedy, the story shifts tone and becomes a mystery, and I began to wonder just what kind of book I was reading. Then the story jumps into the year 2029, which has been one of my favorite years for science-fiction tales since the first Terminator movie came out, and the tone radically shifts again. About forty pages in, our humdrum everyman has undergone a dramatic emotional change as he sets eyes on the catalyst for the rest of the tale.
Okay, now we’re into exciting territory! A force of nature! But the problem for the protagonist is that despite his delusions of grandeur, he is still a bumbling, incompetent lunkhead. Full of raging desire to set the world straight by exacting his revenge, he only makes more of a mess of everything. His bungling ineptitude reminds me of the 2007 film Timecrimes which, if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend watching without reading about it or seeing the trailer first.
The visual style of this book feels like an homage to the brightly colored pulp comic books of a bygone age, the kind of books Clowes also paid tribute to in David Boring, which included excerpts from an imaginary superhero comic about The Yellow Streak. But there’s one convention he repeatedly messes with: He places all or most of many speech balloons outside the panel borders, cutting off their edges so the dialogue is incomplete. The result is a sense that the dialogue is less important than the protagonist’s relentless interior monologue as he narrates the story in captions which are never cut off.
Throughout the adventure, the hero becomes increasingly deranged, experiencing wild moods swings and psychedelic visions. These are shown in a style that feels more like the trippy underground comix of the 1970s than their pulp predecessors.
While Patience employed some common science-fiction tropes, it excelled at keeping me guessing about what would come next and how it would all play out. Several times I thought I might have it all figured out, only to be proven wrong. And that’s the fun. With all the plot twists and turns, gradual character reveals, and the tonal and stylistic shifts, Patience kept me riveted to the page.
This is the second time a book published by DC Comics has broken the rules and earned a place in my indie short box. This time, it’s Metalzoic by the legendary team of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill, and there’s not much about it you can call “mainstream”. Metalzoic takes place in a future where the Earth is ruled by intelligent, mechanical beasts patterned after modern and prehistoric animals — and boy, do they love to fight!
Yes, you just witnessed a brutal showdown between a gorilla with a saw blade on his head, and a lion with a chainsaw for a tongue and metal skis for feet. Do I really need to say anything about the story’s plot, or is that cool enough for you? Two of my favorite pages show a shark attacking a caravan of wooly mammoths during a trek across the ice.
It’s like some sort of psychotic nature special! I can almost hear David Attenborough narrating it for a BBC documentary.
O’Neill always delivers wonderfully twisted artwork, but he pulls out all the stops to illustrate Metalzoic‘s endless mecha-menagerie.
The story is interesting, especially since the main character — the saw-blade gorilla — is a brutal, amoral hell-raiser whose brawn and ferocity might be the only thing standing between the Earth and total destruction.
And just look at him go!
When all this takes place and how it came to be are slowly revealed throughout the story. We don’t get a clear timeline until about 50 pages in. It might have been helpful to see a historic summary earlier in the story, so here it is.
If you’re like me, and you wish Godzilla movies would cut out most of the human-related nonsense and just show more monster fights, then this 64-page epic adventure is the book for you!
Collector’s Guide:Metalzoic; DC Comics Graphic Novel #6, 1986. Though it’s often out of stock at MyComicShop, you can usually find it on Amazon for between $15 and $30.
Bowman produced these beautifully painted trading cards beginning in 1951: Jets, Rockets, and Spacemen! The “jets” cards merely showed normal airplanes with informative text on the back, but the rest of the series told a story about a fantastic space adventure, with each card as a chapter.
Tomb of the Triceratops takes you on a dinosaur dig where researchers and a group of young students uncover a realm where dinosaurs are still alive. The boys selected to go on this archaeological expedition risk their lives to free a triceratops from the clutches of its brutal, otherworldly tormentors.
And that’s just the beginning.
Author Michael Ajax seasons the story with plenty of dino facts that will surely please any dino-maniac. Between the action scenes, the characters are just as likely to discuss the biology of a Stygimoloch as they are their interpersonal conflicts. The people in this story are passionate about dinosaurs, and that makes it especially fun for those of us who share that enthusiasm.
Though action-packed, Tomb of the Triceratops keeps its language and violence in the “family-friendly” range. Even as an adult reader, I was pulled into the nightmarish struggle of the captive triceratops, but the level of detail and word choice did not venture into overly graphic territory. If you thought Jurassic Park and Rex Riders were fun, this is a good addition to your bookshelf.
The boy heroes of the story casually banter with each other, keep secrets from the adults, and have an unforgettable adventure in this first novel by Michael Ajax. Discover the mysteries inside the Tomb of the Triceratops in paperback or for just 99 cents in Kindle.
In a future threatened by disease outbreaks, immunity will become a valuable commodity. 318 explores the horrifying plight of those born with a special immunity and imprisoned as dehumanized test subjects to be studied. This short story introduced me to Kalquist’s work and quickly drew me in. With crisp, clear language, it elicits an emotional connection to the suffering of the main character, known by her number 318.
Kalquist takes you right into the action and then fills in the backstory with dialogue and character memories. In the process, you become invested in the dystopic world she has created and what fate will befall her characters in Kalquist’s longer Fractured Era story Defective, to be released this Fall. With sympathetic characters and a frighteningly believable near-future threatened by disease epidemics, the 318 short story is one of the best short sci-fi works to come across my review desk in the last couple of years.
For years, we passed up UK science-fiction hero Dan Dare because of his terrible name. Big mistake! But, some scans of his early adventures in 2000AD really floored us. Fantastic space art full of raging aliens cranks the awesome-meter into the red. Dan Dare has the interesting points-of-view and dramatic panel layouts chock-full of action that typify the 2000AD classics.
If you know of a collected edition that features these 2000AD tales, we would love to hear from you. We can’t find one! Many artists and writers, including Pat Mills, Dave Gibbons, and Massimo Bellardinelli worked on Dan at 2000AD. We will share with you a few of the scans we found from these late 1970s stories.
A more vintage take on Dan Dare “The Pilot of the Future” awaits readers in a series of Titan Books reprints collecting early Frank Hampson tales in the 1950s and 60s. Readers wanting a more contemporary take on Dan might enjoy the Dan Dare by Garth Ennis Omnibus, Ennis being well-known for his work on Preacher, The Boys, and Punisher.
Many before us have sung the praises of the Len Wein and Berni Wrightson stories that kick off the first volume of Swamp Thing stories. Have you seen the first issue of Swamp Thing? We might be in the minority, but the first chunk of issues where Swamp Thing takes on some pretty generic monsters seem like merelyt a warm-up for further greatness.
Even the Batman crossover in #7 fails to get our engines revved. But then: issue #8 comes along. Swamp Thing encounters a demon in a cave on the outskirts of a small town, giving us a dark visual feast that brings the series to life for us. The Lurker in Tunnel 13 may be the first of the early tales that hints at what Swamp Thing would later become in the 1980s –the first appearance of Arcane notwithstanding. It’s cosmic, satanic, horrific, and sports one of our favorite Wrightson covers.
Wein and Wrightson also present a great story about a stranded alien trying to repair his ship and return to the stars. Making this freakish beast sympathetic and compassionate reminds us that monsters and heroes come in many forms.
Before leaving the book, Wein & Wrightson deliver the consummately creepy Man Who Would Not Die, the first return of Arcane from the hell where he deserves to stay. The confrontation between Arcane and Swampy in a graveyard may be our favorite artistic moment of Wrightson’s legendary contributions.
Nestor Redondo steps into Wrightson’s shoes without missing a beat, working with Len Wein on three issues before David Michelinie takes the reins. We have some other images of Nestor Redondo’s Swamp Thing art if you’d like to check them out.
Michelinie and Redondo seem to lose steam towards the end of their contribution, and what happens next is a bit of a disappointment. The creative team changes, and the book loses much of its horror appeal quickly. Readers must have felt the same way at the time, as Swamp Thing would soon be cancelled. Swamp Thing’s gambit to revert to a normal Alec Holland once again just doesn’t work for us, and it’s been more or less ignored in subsequent Swampy stories.
The end of the volume is a bit of a mess, but the early stories have definite high points. We sold our collection of VG+/FN issues — almost a complete run — on eBay. But a few of them we would be happy to collect and read again. You can get many of the early Wein/Wrightson issues in Roots of the Swamp Thing reprints.
Having owned both the reprints and the originals, we prefer the originals. Though the printing and color is more crisp and clean and bright in the reprints, the vintage horror vibe feels much more authentic with a well-worn copy from the early 1970s, the smell of tanned comic book paper, and the distinctive original covers.
Jim Starlin’s single-page origin of god and his short origin of death originally appeared in the first issue of the 1974 series Star Reach. Star Reach Productions published its own Greatest Hits in 1979. In 1984, Eclipse reprinted six issues of highlights from the series as Star Reach Classics. We recommend it for fans of classic 70s science fiction. It’s in stock far more often than the original issues, and Eclipse printed it on high-quality paper, a really nice production. You can get most of them for just a couple dollars a piece.
Starlin gives us some of his finest 70s illustration, artistically superior to his more famous work on Captain Marvel, and on par with his best Warlock stories. If you enjoy these, you will enjoy Starlin’s Darklon the Mystic from that same era. Diversions of the Groovy Kind hosts some pages from Warren’s Eerie magazine where you can read part of Darklon in black and white. Or, you can drop a dollar on a back issue by Pacific Comics that reprints the complete Darklon story in color.
In the early days of Mars Will Send No More, we ran a series of daily splash panels from many of Jack Kirby’s masterpieces. Captain Victory proved very popular, perhaps because not many readers have seen this underrated series near the end of Kirby’s career.
As Kirby continued what seems now like a life-long struggle for creative control, he released Captain Victory through Pacific Comics. But in 1981, well before the Internet or even specialty comic shops had taken root in America, most readers of Marvel and DC never even heard of Captain Victory. What Kirby lost in widespread promotion, however, he made up for in unrestrained outrageousness and endless gallons of Kirby Krackle.
We think you will agree the over-the-top awesomeness of Jack Kirby’s comic book style rarely looked better than in these eye-popping splash panels. And so, in celebration of sharing three years of comic book awesomeness with you here on Mars, please behold the splendor of Captain Victory.
Damn it, these issues are hard to find in print! John Byrne worked on four issues of Charlton’s short-lived science-fiction series: Space 1999. You don’t find too many of them in the back issue bins.
Archaia Press recently published new Space 1999 material by Gary Morrow, who also turned in some great black-and-white artwork for the original 1970s Space 1999 Magazine. John Byrne’s issues, however, remain something of a rarity.
We suspect that once you see the pages, you will understand why. Nicola Cuti’s storytelling got us way more involved in the space drama than we expected. Byrne’s art rocks at the level of his classic X-men and Alpha Flight stories that garnered him far more fame not long after this brief stint. Our sole complaint: this outer-space adventure tale did NOT run for 50 or 60 issues! What a great team Cuti and Byrne make here. Enjoy!
Collector’s Guide: From Space 1999 #3-6; Charlton, 1975. John Byrne art, Nicola Cuti story.
John Byrne fans may also want to collect Space 1999 Magazine #4 produced by Charlton at the same time. Byrne worked on the fourth issue only.
Painted in bright, primary acrylics with chrome enamel highlights, it has a protective high-gloss varnish. Behold the Awesomizer measures 16x20x1 inches, with the artwork extending uninterrupted over the edges of the canvas.
Inspiration for this work of comic book-themed pop art comes from comics legend Jack Kirby, whose style practically defined Marvel Comics art of the 60s and 70s. Best known for co-creating Captain America, the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, the Eternals, OMAC, and the DC classics of his own Fourth World series, Kirby published Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers near the end of his career.
Behold the Awesomizer pays tribute to Kirby and to the sense of cosmic wonder found in science-fiction comic books. As the powerful hand emerges from a whirlpool of rippling energy, a metallic eye shoots beams of light into the krackling vastness of outer space. Kirby Krackle coalesces around the hand as beams of light radiate from its fingertips. Inside it all, a great cosmic brain thinks thoughts that only you can determine.
Painted in bright acrylics with a high-gloss varnish finish, it shines like a metal robot should! It measures 10×10 inches, with gold, red, black, and tan colors. Inspiration for this work of pop art comes from the Tomy toy robot in the 1970s.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell a good idea from a bad idea. Let’s say you had a totally evil tyrannosaurus that died in the Cretaceous but was brought back to life through cloning. Then, after being set loose by atomic weapons, he killed and maimed his way through the future before vanishing into the wild. As a scientist, at what point do you think it would be a good idea to drink that tyrannosaur’s blood?
Satanus first appeared in the Judge Dredd storyline The Cursed Earth. You can find that in the Cursed Earth TPB. But, be warned that due to being sued by fast food fast chains from America, the publishers of 2000 AD did not include four chapters of the 25-episode story (episodes 11-12 and 17-18.) So, go pawn some family heirlooms, and you can pick up the original Cursed Earth stories in 2000 AD, #61-85.
Satanus also appeared in a story gorgeously illustrated by Colin Macneil called Satanus Unchained in 2000 AD #1241-1246. Satanus fans will also enjoy Judge Dredd #7, which reprints the Satanus chapters of Cursed Earth with a cool Brian Bolland cover.
If you like Satanus, check out our gallery of Flesh from 2000 AD, featuring the mother of Satanus, Old One Eye.