2000 AD - issue 15
This issue has abominable snowmen on the cover, which is so great because the abominable snowman (along with the Sasquatch) is a quintessential 1970s monster. Seeing a Yeti immediately makes me keen to read the comic book, although, on the other hand, it also makes me worried because British comics of this period are not known for their cultural sensitivity, and a trip to Tibet probably gives them more opportunity than they need to exhibit a little casual racism. Let's take a deep breath, open this comic book up, and see what we get.
By the way, I write a lot about classic 2000 AD because reading it was a very formative experience for me. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site, and there are a lot.
The first strip in this issue is Invasion starring Bill Savage, who is depicted here as a snarling weasel of a man. This is exactly how I like to imagine him. He is a bitter and stupid man, but cunning, very much not your usual square-jawed hero. In this issue Savage’s team get captured because they fall for that old trick depicted in The Great Escape. In The Great Escape, a character called McDonald reflexively responds "Thank you", in English, to an English phrase spoken by a German soldier, which is what gets him caught. The same escapee who, while drilling the others, had hammered on the point that reflexes like that would get you killed. In the comic Savage and his mate react unthinkingly to English while pretending to be Volgan rather than German.
In The Great Escape the character is captured but in Invasion Savage instead takes on the entire enemy base in a frontal assault. It's just him and his shotgun, but the enemy are unable to stop him. It's hilarious and dumb, and enjoyable.
In fact it is beyond dumb, it indulges in a willful lack of sense that makes it almost abstract. Bill blows up a nuclear power station using a truck full of acid, then jumps into the Atlantic to avoid the blast. Then his team wait a grand total of seven seconds to see if he is going to resurface, before leaving him to his fate. It's just so bonkers, all of it. Even so, Bill Savage's fourth-wall-breaking soliloquy at the end is still somehow moving, in an animal and mindless way. It gets right to some level below the civilized brain, where we are all like Bill Savage.
A Message from the Author
I write sci-fi novels that belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog:
What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.
The entire series is available to buy from Amazon.
Next up is Flesh, possibly one of my favorite comic book concepts, ever. It combines time travel, dinosaurs, cowboys, and - you won't believe it but it's true - a preachy environmental message about over-exploiting food reserves. This episode starts with a closeup of a t-Rex that is leading its pack on an attack, where the target is a bunch of terrified cowboys. Great stuff. There is a particularly grim and inspired scene where two cowboys try to escape a pack of deinonychus in an electric buggy.
They don't make it. Instead, somehow, the dinos end up driving the car, and using it to break into a building full of terrified humans. This strip is so bloodthirsty this week it would have gotten a very restrictive age rating if it was a movie. The art is not up to 2000 AD's usual standard, unfortunately, but its rough charm works well for this violent and edgy episode of Flesh.
Harlem Heroes is the third story, and it is a bit too much like an ordinary sports story for me at the moment. The last panel has a lurking cyborg, ready to take revenge on the Heroes, and so things could well get more interesting next issue. Let’s hope so.
Dan Dare still seems to be considered the star of the comic book at this early voyage, with a double page spread of color given to him, to mark him out among all the other black and white strips in the comic book. It's pulpy and fun, with a lightsaber included, in a nod to the movie that inspired the entire comic book, though of course nobody calls it a lightsaber.
There is an interesting ending, where the Mekon has trouble remembering Dare, and the comic shows how he looked in his 50s iteration, compared to his new 70s look to help explain the Mekon's confusion. It’s very meta for a British mass-market comic book of the 1970s.
Next comes M.A.C.H.1 and, like Invasion, this strip is never knowingly less than bonkers. This issue we jump straight into the action in a blizzard, in the desolate mountain kingdom of Bepal. My computer auto corrected Bepal to Nepal as I type it, so even its lowly, machine intelligence can guess the real location of this story.
There is some stuff about locals being too superstitious to talk to Westerners, but it is surprisingly lacking in racism other than that. I beathed a huge sigh of relief, I’m all too familiar with the awful things that are sometimes to be found in back issues of this ancient comic book. It is also quite specific about the scientific evidence for the existence of Yetis, which must have seemed quite compelling at the time. It mentions the famous Yeti footprint photographed by Eric Shipton in 1950. Apparently modern science has worked out that this was the ‘double’ footprint of a bear, but back then the only explanation anyone could think of was Yetis.
In 2017, Daniel C. Taylor published a comprehensive analysis of the century-long Yeti literature, giving added evidence to the (Ursus thibetanus) explanation building on the initial Barun Valley discoveries. Importantly, this book under the Oxford University imprint gave a meticulous explanation for the iconic Yeti footprint photographed by Eric Shipton in 1950, also the 1972 Cronin-McNeely print, as well all other unexplained Yeti footprints. To complete this explanation, Taylor also located a never-before published photograph in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society, taken in 1950 by Eric Shipton, that included scratches that are clearly bear nail marks.
The story ends with a predictable trope, where the big bad is done in by his own monster. Predictable and comforting, but also quite nuts in a nicely 1970s way.
It's a great story, and the art is a nice mix of styles. It is Vardas, mixed with McMahon mixed with Ezquerra, and just a joy to behold. The actual penmanship this weak is by McMahon, I wager, but his influences are so strong from other artists who have worked on this story that it is hard to tell.
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