Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks, by Alan Moore et al

Future Shocks cvr

Alan Moore is well known for graphic novels such as V for Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen and others, but he honed his skills working for the science fiction comic 2000 AD and this volume collects his writing for that publication from 1980 to 1983.  The bulk comprises the strip ‘Tharg’s Future-Shocks’, a series hosted by the genial Tharg who spins yarns that are often very funny and with a twist.  Also included are a number of other writing projects Moore undertook for 2000 AD, chief among them the ‘Time Twisters’ series.

The stories were written for teens but are full of social commentary, some of it ambiguous and not always politically correct.  The most notable of these is the opening entry, ‘Grawks Bearing Gifts’, about an alien race arriving on earth and eventually taking it over, perhaps expressing Moore’s view of the perils of mass migration of people who are friendly but prioritise their own culture, have their own agenda, and enjoy healthy fertility levels.

There are other dark cautionary tales, such as one about ‘Timothy Tate, a child too vile to contemplate’ and another charting ‘The Lethal Laziness of Lobelia Loam’, both of whom meet a bad end (one likes to think that a generation of 2000 AD readers ate moderately and kept their rooms tidy as a result).  Others too are macabre, such as the one about a man who loses everything trying in vain to build a time machine, and then it seems he has managed it, except we learn at the end he has drowned himself and what he sees as a time machine is his life flashing before his eyes.

Some are gloriously silly: the Superman origin narrative gets a twist when baby N-ree is shot through space from the planet Klakton by his father R-thur because R-thur thinks some sort of apocalypse is coming, but it then doesn’t, leaving his wife L-sie furious with him.  Unfortunately N-ree arrives in the vicinity of Earth in 1983 instead of 1939 because of a space-time warp on the way, and by accident causes a nuclear war which destroys the planet that is to be his home.  Oops.

The futility of war is depicted in ‘The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde!’ in which an aggressive race of warriors heads off into space to conquer territory for the hell of it, with killing, burning and pillaging their sole raison d’être.  They, and then their descendants, carry on and on trying to find races to exterminate, but eventually discover that space is circular and a flabby degenerate race they destroy is their own, the planet they despoil the one their ancestors left behind.  It’s a lesson that what goes around comes around.

Stories can be profound, such as Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day’, in which the good doctor invents a time machine and repeatedly sends objects back to change the timeline, but thinks that he has had no effect on the present.  He briefly entertains the notion that if the past was altered then memories would alter as well so that the changes would not be noticed in the present, but he dismisses it.  Only the reader can see from frame to frame, by the way Dibworthy dresses and from the items in his room, how altering the past has affected the present, and not for the better.  Dibworthy himself remains oblivious to the effect he is having.  All this is related in an economical two-and-a-half pages.

Another fine story, ‘The Reversible Man’, in which a man lives his life backwards from death to conception, may have been inspired by F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or (more likely)  Phiip K Dick’s 1967 novel Counter-Clock World.  The best creation in the book though has to be Abelard Snazz, an irrepressible ‘mutant supermind’ (‘he’s a genius’) with a two-story brain, and four eyes to go with them, whose brilliant ideas invariably go wrong and get him into endless scrapes.

Some references have dated, and probably wouldn’t have travelled well at the time.  A good example is the story of two astronauts in deep space who find a wall at the end of the universe with enormous writing on it which, when they finally decipher it, turns out to say “Big George Rules, O.K?”, which I took to be a reference to the composer best known for writing the theme tune for Have I Got News For You?, though I wonder how well known he was in the early 1980s.  Even if Moore had some other Big George in mind, it feels a rather weak pay-off to an intriguing premise.

Taken as a whole, however, the stories are inventive and enjoyable, even when you have a good idea what is coming.  Moore is well supported by his artists who generally make the most of the limitations of black-and-white, though some contributions have a cluttered look.  Reading this knowing what Moore went on to do, it is not difficult to see how he achieved the status he now enjoys.  Having said which, it would have been nice if he had contributed an introduction or commentary to give some background to these strips, and how he sees them in relation to what he did afterwards.

 

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