Saturday, April 23, 2016

Interlude: the ShockCount

Part 1: the Writers
I don't know who created all these logos, but let's go ahead and credit:
Jan Shepheard; Kevin O'Neill; Robin Smith; Steve Cook; Graham Rolfe; Pye Parr
One of the great joys of 2000AD is the Future Shock. Sure, as often as not they fall short in the ‘shock’ department, and while that may be the point of them as a story item, it’s not the whole point of them as thrills within the comic. These little slices of fun fulfil multiple functions:

  1. Telling a self-contained story. In an anthology comic, that’s often a singular and precious thing.
  2. Exploring Sci-Fi concepts that aren’t covered in the longer stories.
  3. Being a testing ground for new writers and artists (and, to a lesser extent, new characters)
  4. Giving a glimmer of hope to wannabe writers and artists that they might have a slot in an actual mainstream comic.
  5. Giving the same wannabees the belief, occasionally, that they might be able to do a better job than the published examples.
  6. OK, I’ll concede that in an ideal world, a Future Shock should also provide a twist ending that you didn’t see coming, or at least some sort of punchline that elicits a wry grin. Over the entire history of the comic, I’d say this happens about 30-50% of the time. Probably much higher than that if you haven’t read much SF/genre fiction.

The Sci-Fi bit of this is the one that has the most freedom to change. Hence, in his boundless wisdom, Tharg has adapted the name of his one-off wonders to suit all sorts of stories.

For the sake of this statistical exercise, I am considering:

Tharg’s Future Shocks (of course)
Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales (Future Shocks about robots)
Time Twisters (Future Shocks about time travel)
Tharg’s Terror Tales (Future Shocks with a horror vibe)
Tharg’s Dragon Tales (Future Shocks about dragons. I think we can all see why this didn’t work.)
Tales from Beyond Science (Future Shocks that push the weirdness and were narrated by a tweedy Professor. Alan McKenzie’s intro to the collected edition is hilarious, by the way.)
Vector 13 (Future Shocks that could have been pitched as episodes of the X-Files. Also with a very specific narration style. While the narration style was a bit verbose and repetitive, this long-running series deserves more love.)
Pulp Sci-Fi (Future Shocks with a deep space / far future type theme, and theoretically less nedd for a twist ending)
Past Imperfect (Future Shocks about a world where history happened a little differently from our own)
Future Shorts (1 or 2 page Future Shocks; you know, like Future Shocks in the old days.)
Tharg’s Alien Invasions (1 page Future Shocks about alien invasions.)
Tharg’s 3rillers (Future Shocks with 3 episodes. This might feel like cheating, as they clearly break rule number 1. However, a fair number of Future Shocks down the years have broken the same rule, and since 3rillers so clearly fulfil rules 2-5, I think they count.)
Tales of Telguuth (Future Shocks set on a fantasy world of warlocks and warriors). These were exclusively written by Steve Moore, so these maybe shouldn’t count. But they do fit all the criteria set above, except for the writers bit (new artists, of course, loved the series. Especially the more sword ‘n sorcery oriented inksmiths.)

Add a dash of Rian Hughes to the logo-creation credits, too
Some moral equivalents were very 2000AD specific.

I’m also counting these stories:

Tales from Mega-City 1 (Future Shocks set in the world of Mega-City 1). This covers a bunch of one-offs from the Judge Dredd Megazine, too.
Judge Edwina’s Strange Cases (Terror Tale-y Future Shocks set in the world of Mega-City 1)
Tales from the Black Museum (narrated Terror Tale-y Future Shocks set in the world of Mega-City 1 that, for some reason, have been consistently excellent.)
Tales from the Dog House (Future Shocks set in the world of Strontium Dog)
Whatever happened to…? (Dreddworld follow-up stories for long-lost characters)
What if? (Alterative tales from the wider world of 2000AD)

Things I’m not counting:
-there have also been many one, two, or three part stories that ran under their own name, but are Future Shocks of one stripe or another. Barney lists them under ‘One-offs’. I am counting a lot of these (Hyper-Historic Headbang; Candy and the Catchman, Psi Testers - to name some famous examples) Somewhat arbitrarily, I’m drawing the line at stories trailed by Tharg and run as if they were exciting new series, e.g. Go Machine and Tribal Memories. Perhaps this is unfair. My blog, my rules.

A Terror Tale before its time. This one counts!

This one counts, too. No extra points for alliteration.

Under my inconsistent rules, this one doesn't count.

Also not counted:
Droid Life – yes, each episode it self contained, but it’s all the work of one man.
Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales – as above.
Downlode Tales - these could have been 'Future Shocks set in the world of Sinister/Dexter'. But they weren't. It was just what that strip was called for a while, for in-story reasons.
I’m also not including the Small Press slot from the Megazine of a few years ago. Mostly on the grounds that very few contributors would have a count above 1, but also because these stories were pointedly designed to be published elsewhere, and came to the Megazine as a second run.

So, that out of the way, who has written the most Future Shocks, then?

Readers will be entirely unsurprised to learn the surname. Moore. The first name depends on whether or not it’s fair to count ‘Tales of Telguuth’ from a writing point of view, since no other writer was involved (presumably a deliberate decision). Anyway, since Steve Moore was the originator of the Future Shock, I think it’s right and proper his name should be up top. I don’t think Alan would begrudge him.

Art by Dave Kendall
Here’s the full list of script-droids who have had 10 or more one-off Future Shock-y type stories published, across the full range of Progs, Megs, Annuals, Specials etc. With thanks, as ever to Barney.

The original Titan collection
Art by Kevin O'Neill
Steve Moore                69 (or 33, sans Telguuth)
Alan Moore                  46
Alan Hebden                42
Peter Milligan               30
Gordon Rennie             25
Dan Abnett                   24
Alan Grant                    24
Arthur Wyatt                22
John Smith                    21
Chris Lowder               20
Kek-W                        20
Alec Worley                 20
TC Eglington                19
David Baillie                 19
Oleh Stepaniuk*           17

Al Ewing                      16
Alan McKenzie            16
Kelvin Gosnell              16
Grant Morrison             16
The original Titan collection
Art by Kevin O'Neill
Hilary Robinson            16
Si Spurrier                    16

Peter Hogan                 14
Gary Rice                     14
Eddie Robson               14
Mark Millar                  13
John Tomlinson             12
John Wagner                 11
Stewart Edwards          11
Nick Abadzis               10
Robbie Morrison          10

I should specify that each person gets a count of 1 for each episode, regardless of length (there are plenty of 1-page Future Shocks out there!). This does mean 3riller writers get 3 for a single story, but you, know, they’ve earned it.

I have no commentary to add, save that I was surprised how much the old and new are mixed in together. It seems people have and always will have to write a lot of these bastard-hard stories if they want to become tomorrow’s super stars!

More on Future Shocks:
There's a blog! It's very thorough and always delightful!
Sadly, Future Shock'd hasn't been updated in a couple of years, after bravely working through every single Future Shock in order - up til Prog 166 before the hiatus, at any rate. 

You can't buy this one - it was a subscriber exclusive
Art by Grant Perkins and Jamie Roberts
You can buy some collected editions, too:
Alan Moore

And this one, too.
Art by Grant Perkins and Jamie Roberts
Personal favourite:
Slashman, Kowlaski and Rat
Fittingly, written by Future Shock creator and ShockCount topper Steve Moore
Art by Mike White. How high will he score on the art count??

* Tharg’s hardest-grafting script droid never to get even a two-part series.

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