Killing Time, a classic.
Killing Time, a classic.
“The Iscariot”! Interior art from “Killing Time” demonstrating the sort of breath-taking splash-page spectacle that Chris would come to be known for
Breath-taking and weird.
The Comics Journal has a superb piece on Indigo Prime, you’ll want to read this:
I figure it’d only be right to abuse my position here for the purposes of announcing my personal favorite superhero issue #1 from this mighty year of myriad relaunches.
I am of course referring to Indigo Prime: Everything and More, from writer John Smith and artist Edmund Bagwell, a 24-page story split into six-page bits over the course of one month’s time with the venerable UK action comics weekly forum 2000 AD, Progs 1750-53. And while I realize that I just covered Judge Dredd Megazine last month, it would be a terrible shame to let petty temporal concerns stand in the way of a twenty-years-later revival of Smith’s Indigo Prime concept, a means for its writer to cannily sew some identity from the patched fabric of freelance thrills-for-hire: the same knitty straightjacket cozied around each and every one of those New 52 and most of the damned corporate remainder.
Indigo Prime operatives again appeared in Smith’s 2008 2KAD serial Dead Eyes, plucking out the protagonist for their own present revival in Everything and More. I’ve made this all sound a bit complicated, but Smith has a new mission for the new Indigo Prime – it’s now been visualized as a formal science hero super-team series, not unlike the kind of sci-fi show you’d see on television (naturally, characters profess on-page to having never heard of that aberrational obscurity Doctor Who). Inevitably, this is also to say it mimics the big beats of contemporary action comics, close as they tend to play it to Hollywood simulacra; gone are the crawly textures of Mike Hadley or Chris Weston, replaced by Bagwell’s sparkling clean take on future shock psychedelia, smartly costumed in slightly muted digital color. Rarely a segment goes by without some double-page gape at high technology or grand destruction, accompanied by a potential best-ever apportioning of Smith’s playful, purple narrative captions and non-stop technical speak. It’s a real hundred-ideas-per-minute kind of comic, whisking the reader through a dozen or so characters presented just intriguingly enough in media res to suggest their personal histories, as well as the shared history of Indigo Prime, which the newcomer might be forgiven for thinking is actually detailed in some clump of back-issues, though it’s really all a matter of imagination.
I love this kind of stuff, and Smith does it incredibly well here; one would be tempted to say he’s outdone the likes of Grant Morrison at their own game, if Smith’s outlook weren’t so comparatively sinister. No, Smith is a bit closer to Peter Milligan, currently trying to say something about relaunches himself from his Red Lanterns perch in the middle of the DC explosion. But while that particular book is tethered to the Geoff Johns family of superhero action titles, Indigo Prime looks to the big picture: the implications of high-stakes action storytelling that can’t help but kick off with the detailed destruction of millions of human lives as a means of turning us on to the dangerous life of science heroes. Semi-protagonist Danny Redman — who, remember, has been plucked out of an entirely different comic — spends much of the comic’s space flipping out and committing suicide in reaction to the sights he sees, only to be re-built yet again by his supportive, controlling science team. The story of his evolution to hooting inter-chronological hero — as much as Smith is willing to slow down to observe, at least — is marked by tactical memory blockage and a general willingness on everyone’s part to emphasize the big, big, BIG picture over the petty moralities of basic human survival on the micro scale of, say, humanity going extinct in one timeline, or laying dead in another.
Angry fluorescent beanbags on the rampage in ‘New Model Phoord’, Pt 2, Prog 1198.
Tharg’s Terror Tales is essentially British publisher 2000 AD’s version of the classic anthology horror comics like Creepy and Eerie. 2000 AD is best known for post-apocalyptic comics like Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. Because of that, and because of the quasi-si-fisscene on the cover, I was expecting some sort of futuristic comedy horror set in roughly the same universe. I was wrong.
The eponymous Tharg the Mighty is only the alien horror host, and the stories inside are pure weird fiction joy. There is a little tongue-in-cheekiness, but that is all in the true-to-style asides by the horror host. The comic is split into two stories; Necronauts and A Love Like Blood, and a few bonus backup stories.
Necronauts teams up Houdini, Doyle, Lovecraft, and Fort. While that seems like pure genre fan fiction, Houdini actually did personally know both Doyle and Lovecraft. Only the Charles Fort connection is tenuous. And instead of some hokey team-up, writer Gordon Rennie plays it straight and fits the encounter into their real lives to make it plausible. Houdini stays too long in one of his escapes and bridges the gap to the world of death, where he finds something horrible. Doyle, in one of his séances, learns of the threat to Houdini, and together they gather Fort and Lovecraft to do battle with the monsters. Houdini plans to go again into the void, and Lovecraft will serve as his guide through the Dreaming realms he knows so well.
The story is just insanely cool. As a fan of Doyle and Lovecraft and a former subscriber to Fortean Times, this story was just a treat.
A Love Like Blood is such a clichéd story I didn’t think anyone could write it again and keep me interested. But John Smith managed to spin the Romeo and Juliet as Vampire/Werewolf loves trope with enough new twists that I was fascinated. The young couple on the run was my favorite park of the story, as hatred of their love was enough to unite the thousand-year feud between the vampire and werewolf clans. I have to say the ending was a bit weak, but otherwise this was a real solid yarn.
As a bonus, there are a few short stories at the end that are riffs on old ’50s cautionary tales like Reefer Madness, or the terrors of the hippie and metal sub-cultures. But now the reefer madness causes cannibalism, and Woodstock is loud enough to wake the dead — literally. These stories ranged from a few pages to a few panels, but all of them were clever and good for a laugh.
Tharg’s Terror Tales is a little light Hallowe’en reading for US earthlets - available now!
Necronauts is a fast-paced horror adventure tale wherein Gordon Rennie (Caballistics, Inc., Glimmer Rats, Missionary Man, Necronauts, Storming Heaven,…) casts the Victorian celebrities in rather smart roles; typecasting them but also adding to their characters. Houdini is as brash as ever but feels himself faced with the ultimate elopement… death. Charles Fort is cast into a Dirty Harry role. Conan Doyle a Pinkerton-ish action hero and Lovecraft an impressionable man trying to triumph over his own weaknesses. The reader isn’t given too much time to over think the proceedings - Rennie keeps the script tight stacking threat upon threat in the name of ever present, nameless horrors.
Frazer Irving has plenty of opportunities to showcase his distinctive art style with the abstract horrors provided. Illustrated in black and white, Irving experiments with cross hatching, geometric patterns, gradients and subtle computer effects to get the most out of a threat that is basically abstruse and inconspicuous. Coupled with his character designs which are all spot on and dynamic, it makes Necronauts an excellent read.
A Love Like Blood sees a vampire prince and a reckless female werewolf fall in love, despite the fact that their tribes are engaged in an age-old war. Does love still conquer all when fangs are involved?
More straightforward than we are used to reading from the always thrilling John Smith (Devlin Waugh, Firekind, Holocaust 12, Indigo Prime, Pussyfoot 5, Revere, Slaughterbowl and Tyranny Rex), this story substitutes the Capulets for werewolves and the Montagues for vampires. By adding to the excessive horror and focusing on a timeless feud, Smith still manages to get the most out of the story though. Both clans are mired in myth and history with the vampire clan, especially, outing themselves as an ancient monstrosity; to quote the demon vampire king Sarkasso “2000 Years ago I licked the blood from the foot of the Christ and so began the Sangreal bloodline.” The forbidden lovers trying to outrun a doomed fate provides a good character arc and Smith pulls it all together in the final pages. Irving appropriately drowns the pages in blood, revelling in the visceral horror. His colour work excels with high contrast shadow work adapting the hues to the the mood of the scene.
Tharg’s Terror Tales Presents Necronauts & A Love Like Blood submerges you in outstanding horrific moments of unmitigated evil with the best of Tharg’s immoral tales. Frazer Irving once again re-establishes his position as a superstar artist while Gordon Rennie and John Smith display twisted narratives to read by the fireplace, tucked under a blanket with all the lights dimmed. Just make sure you left that shotgun at your good side with the cartridges loaded.
If you need more convincing over to Molch-R the PR droid for the hard sell:
The ultimate hoodie horror - welcome to Cradlegrave
The Ravenglade Estate is ‘broken Britain’ as its worse.
Plagued by ASBO-wielding gangs, boarded-up shops stinking with human despair, scattered with piles of rubbish from a month-long binmen strike – this is the Daily Mail’s worst nightmare.
But there are far worse things lurking on Ravenglade Estate…
Cradlegrave is the ultimate urban horror from the extraordinary mind of writer John Smith and the pen of artist Edmund Bagwell.
After serving eight months in a Young Offenders Institute, Shane Holt returns home during a long, hot summer to find that there is something lurking behind the locked doors and the security shutters – something far more rotten than petty drug dealing and larceny.
With an introduction from the master of the genre, Ramsey Campbell, Cradlegrave is a classic-in-waiting for modern horror – evil invading not from outside, but from within the mundane, hopeless world of a British ‘sink estate’.
Here is the final cover, yes that is the Ramsey Campbell writing the introduction:
We all agree, but president of what? There are clearly strange forces at work in his head so… President of Primary Schools’ curriculum? That’d work for me, the public may disagree, but that is the public for you.
US earthlets - get a FREE downloadable preview of the forthcoming Tharg’s Terror Tales graphic novel, including work by Gordon Rennie, John Smith and Frazer Irving! Out in October
More help getting into Indigo Prime, this time from the House of Tharg itself, with free comics to read (with some damn fine Chris Weston art too):
“I’m sorry, I thought you knew … God’s dead.”
New to Indigo Prime? Get your FREE history lesson here…
Prog 1750 hits newsstands in the UK today, with the glorious return of John Smith’s time-twisting technicians Indigo Prime to 2000 AD.
Best remembered for the stunning Killing Time storyline in Progs 735-744, Indigo Prime are the temporal trouble-shooters who keep the multiverse ticking along nicely, dealing with the mess left behind by time travellers, meddlers and monsters. The organisation’s Seamsters repair time breaches, its Sceneshifters repair space and the Imagineers … well … they do weird things. John Smith’s arch Seamsters, Winwood and Cord were last seen when they made a surprise appearance at the end of Dead Eyes in 2008 – heralding the beginning of the new Indigo Prime serial.
For those readers who are new to Indigo Prime, Tharg the Merciful has put together the one-shot story from Prog 678 from 1990, which includes a tour of IP’s nerve centre and a handy organisational chart – giving the uninitiated the chance to calibrate their thrill receptors before embarking upon Smith and Bagwell’s mind-blitz through the multiverse.
Welcome to Indigo Prime, earthlets, please proceed to the induction area …