Category Archives: Wildcat

WiLDCAT #10: MAGNETiC MADNESS

This review was due on 25th February, click here to find out about the delay. More catch-ups to come this week.

It is with a lump in my throat that I picked up this latest issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s superlative Wildcat comic from 1989. My initial reaction was thinking it was great to have an Ian Kennedy cover again to kick off proceedings, only to be reminded how just very recently we lost the great man himself. A giant in the comics industry, his artwork always astounded me as a kid and no less so now. His work features on many covers on the blog in the Ring Raiders, Super Naturals and of course Wildcat series.

Barrie brought Ian on to design the Wildcat craft and the characters who would lead humanity down to the surface of the planet, and the Wildcat Holiday Special would show some of his original designs. Released on 27th May 1989 you can look out for that review (which will definitely include Ian’s designs) on that date this year, and check out his gorgeous full-colour, hand-painted introductory strip for the Ring Raiders Mini-Comic given away free with Eagle.

A talent who worked right up to the end, Ian was 89 when he passed and will be missed by a legion of fans across the world. You can read an obituary for Ian on Rebellion‘s Treasury of British Comics website here.

Ian drew the very first episode of Turbo Jones but ever since #2 he’s been in the more than capable hands of Vanyo, and after some darker episodes we’re back into the realm of far-out dinosaur and spacecraft action. But not before Barrie writes in one more shocking scene, in which the Burroids being sacrificed to the Arglons‘ god are given a chance to escape. But only six of them. Swooping down on Robo‘s new pal, Turbo obviously wants to save who he can, but we end up with desperate soldiers clambering for position, some falling back to their inevitable death.

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news, so to see it in a children’s comic is all the more shocking, which makes for excellent reading and shows how Wildcat never talked down to us kids. It threw surprising scenes like this at us and we lapped them up. Advertised at the time as a comic for the younger siblings of 2000AD readers, it’s no wonder in the years since I’ve read of people discovering Wildcat and wishing the “younger” label hadn’t put them off at the time.

Commandeering a shuttle craft to take after the one allegedly on the way to hijack the Wildcat, Turbo and Robo find themselves back in space when they discover the real intentions of the Arglons. It’s actually a robotic crew sent on a suicide mission to blow up the entire spacecraft and end humanity! But with the robots confused over whether to defend themselves against Turbo or attack the Wildcat first, we’re left wondering who’ll make the first move.

With the stakes being raised so high it feels like we’re on our way towards a climax for this first adventure of Turbo’s, but I don’t remember it coming to a conclusion by the time of the comic’s cancellation. So maybe for any other comic this could be the beginning of a grand finale, but for Barrie it was just another episode!

Joe Alien is still stuck down the slimy hole leading to the home of the giant slug creatures that saved him and his men from the killer vegetation. (There’s a sentence!) Fortunately, Joe’s original assessment of these slugs being friendly appears to have been correct. These Dargonlites, so superbly designed and drawn by Ron Smith are vegetarian enemies of the plants and in a funny moment they tell Joe all the slime was produced to break their fall, and they thought the humans would find it pleasing!

Joe’s brain pack has been placed securely back on to his head but it appears some of the slime got in. This makes it malfunction and he starts to go crazy again, extended limbs flailing everywhere, even bopping the slugs on their heads as if he’s playing a giant, slimy piano. His legs spring him into the air and he ends up in one of their mouths, much to the surprise and disgust of the alien slug, producing this funny panel below on the left.

This doesn’t exactly build bonds and as you can see the cliffhanger is even more shocking than Turbo’s. Affronted at Joe’s indiscretions one of the slugs pushes a long, thorny sting out of its rear end and electrifies the slime, sending our team into twists of agonising pain. For the life of me I don’t know why I can’t remember more of this strip because it’s just so much fun.

These being the only colour pages helps of course, with Ron’s art and colour palette leaping off the page. His designs and a real kinetic energy make Joe’s pages (split over two different sections of the comic) hugely exciting and it seems every single chapter is introducing brand new elements and twists to what was already a highly original (and way out there) story. It’s absolutely perfect children’s sci-fi and I’m not ashamed to say at 44 years-of-age it’s making me feel like a kid all over again. I love it!

Kitten Magee and her team finally make it to Hoboan City, despite Hobos‘ various attempts at offing them over the last few issues. Placed aboard floating transports they’re flown over the metropolis while he boasts about his people’s accomplishments. Only when they enter a great council chamber and he formally announces his entrance with, “I, Hobos the Murderous, return” to the other members does the penny finally drop all the way for the humans.

A magnet on the ceiling relieves them of their weapons and when their transports flip to toss them down a trap door below, Kitten’s robotic pet Crud ends up flying off in the opposite direction. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the comical moments for Crud in recent issues. They’re never overdone and at all other times he’s been a real help to the team and a proper character in his own right, so these moments are genuinely funny when they happen.

All pretence is gone and as the team are flung out into the open air they’re captured in giant nets and shown the Hoboan version of fishing, where electrical shocks are used to torture the aquatic life in their city’s pools. The cliffhanger has the women being tossed towards the water and their ultimate fate. I have to say I’m glad to see the story leave the jungle after a few monster-of-the-week episodes, although I’ll admit last issue’s was a highlight of the whole story so far. Hopefully we can start finding out more about the history of Hobos’ people and this part of the planet, but if not it all makes for some daft fun anyway!

On the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages (letters pages to you and me) the answer to this reader’s question stood out. When asked about possible character profiles in future issues the answer mentions the Holiday Special and an Annual. Unfortunately, the twelfth issue would be the last before the comic merged into Eagle but it’s interesting to know even at this stage the fate of the comic may not have been known. The Annual didn’t materialise of course, but a Winter Special did, the contents of which I always thought was intended to be in an Annual originally. Perhaps this was the case.

On to our shrunken Loner now and while David Pugh‘s art is always the highlight of an issue, again I feel the story doesn’t really know where it’s going. In this chapter Loner has been attacked by an alien creature that’s clinging to his face, but before he can shoot it with Babe another creature attacks his arm. He’s able to free himself using a rock, hitting the creatures with it and they just pop open, no blood or guts visible. This asks questions, obviously. Then a larger version appears, leaps on one of the smaller ones and begins to eat it, then another larger one appears and does the same to that one… like a vicious family of cannibalistic Russian dolls.

I’m intrigued by these creatures. Their designs are wonderful, they’re somehow hollow and this apparently never-ending cycle fascinates me, but just like the wonderful spider and ants they’re forgotten about when Loner makes his escape. He then spots the floating blob that shrunk him to this size in the first place, but before he can get to it a horse-like alien is taking a drink from the river and doesn’t spot the tiny man who ends up in its mouth, about to be swallowed. Maybe as a child I loved the endless stream of dangers he faced as he tried to return to normal, but now I’m craving more story.

As you can see with those creatures the action is imaginative and exciting but over the course of the first seven issues we had all this plus a proper plot for Loner to sink his teeth into. Now instead it’s like he’s just stumbling from one danger to another, which is all the more frustrating when some of those dangers have real potential to be a main story element. Maybe I’m being harsh, after all it was aimed for a much younger me who may have loved it just as much as the earlier stories, but I can’t help but feel the comic has spoiled me up to this point, and proven time and again it can produce dynamic, interesting and deep stories to match David’s incredible artwork, leaving the current story feeling somewhat lacking.

The complete tale this issue simply gets ‘The Wildcat Complete‘ as its banner but at the top of every page artist Joan Boix has written “Earth 2” so that’s the actual title. This correlates with the front cover, which would have us believe a planet called Earth 2 has killer robots on it. (Quick note: This was six years before the short-lived TV series of the same name.) But the planet the landing parties are exploring is called Targon-5 (not actually named in the strips, it was named as part of the free gift with #1 and mentioned in its Next Issue promo), so what’s this all about? Colour me intrigued.

It kicks off with more Space Madness infecting humans aboard the ship, something which has been a problem since #2. Aboard a cramped tin can in deep space, unable to leave and far from their home (which blew up!), some people’s minds just can’t cope and they go loopy. Here we have someone jettison themselves out an airlock where their body explodes in the vacuum, and the equivalent of space fire fighters called the ‘Emergency Squad’ start emergencies! But Doctor Jedd Gruber thinks he has a solution, a vast holographic simulation of life back on our long lost planet.

Soon, across the whole ship people are being given tokens to allow them two hours a week inside the simulation and at first it appears to be working. Reports come in that people’s madness is being properly managed, some have recovered completely and many sane people are visiting it as a preventative measure. But of course this is the Wildcat Complete story so we know it all has to go horribly wrong.

Two individuals hold up the doctor at gunpoint and destroy his robotic assistant, demanding to be let into ‘Earth 2’ (as it’s become known due to how realistic it is) and to have the doors locked after them. The doctor tries to explain none of it is real and asks what they’re going to eat, but consumed with Space Madness they’ve become addicted to Earth 2. They call the doctor stupid (“blitz-brain”); they’re going to eat the berries on the beautiful bushes and fruits from the trees! Fearing for his life the doc has no option but to close them in. Looking on from outside he summons the security droids.

I love those last words, how it was so realistic it ended up going the same way as the actual planet. It’s definitely one of the better anthology tales (they’ve all been very good) and Joan’s art is a superb fit, their depiction of the space madness is just perfect. This is one of the most interesting aspects of this series of stories. While they’re all individual, there are some themes that pop up now and again, with this sickness being the most prevalent and one which I’m sure would’ve played a huge part in the ongoing saga of the Wildcat if the comic had carried on.

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues?

The ending reminded me I’ve been remiss with my Wildcat Death Toll of late. In the Christmas issue not one person died (suitably enough) and since then I haven’t picked the count back up again. So, with three dead in this story alone, and all six human characters killed off in last issue’s Complete, where do we stand? Going back and adding up all the deaths from all strips, in all issues, with only several hundred humans left alive in the universe editor Barrie and his team have seen off 32 already! (Plus the wonderful Gliz alien character.)

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues? Who knows. But for now I close another superb issue and with only two regular ones to go I await with bated breath what’s in store for the remainder of humanity. Our penultimate fortnightly review will be on the blog from Friday 11th March 2020. Just before we finish here though, as I turned the final page (after the Next Issue promo below) I was transported right back to 1989 with this Weetabix advert. I remember collecting those very cars. Even though there was nothing particularly different about them from the other toys I had, the fact you had to collect tokens and send away for them made them feel exotic and rare! Did you remember these?

WiLDCAT #9: ALFRED HiTCHCOCK iN SPACE

While we’ve already seen Turbo Jones as a captive of The Great Ark, the latest Wildcat cover still gets the heart to pumping after last issue’s darker turn of events for the lead character. Now he’s going to be pulled in front of the living skulls and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next. He was ordered to take the Arglons’ army and use his battle tactics against his friends and I don’t think these creatures are going to take no for an answer. But it looks like I’m going to have to wait just a little longer to find out because first up is Kitten Magee.

From the very first panel I’m somewhat captivated because the huge beast they’re up against appears to have a transparent stomach! Inside we see the skeletal remains of animals broken down by the acidic digestive juices swirling about. With Doc and Cassandra in either hand Kitten and the remainder of her team try to shock it into dropping them by firing near it, but this just angers the beast and next thing we know Aurora appears to have met her fate! I’ll admit when this happened I was shocked, I thought they’d killed her off! Until I turned the page that is.

You can’t get much more original action than dangling by a wire inside a monster’s stomach! Outside, the team are at a loss as to what to do, but in the end a bat-like creature they’d captured for Doc to examine breaks free and it seems it and the beast are natural enemies. With its teeth crushed after trying to chow down on Crud it attacks the beast’s neck with its claws while Crud bites at its feet, much to Kitten’s chastising. But it works and it falls over, unconscious.

The final page of this chapter begins with a bit of comic relief as we get Aurora’s speech balloon coming from within the giant jaws, which are locked tight. Not wishing to harm the animal now they can escape, they lament not having any choice but to place small explosives on its teeth to free their friend. What imagination there is on show here! Wildcat has proven several times already how original it can be and if any one strip could be held aloft to prove that, it’d be this chapter of Kitten’s story. Straight after, artist José Ortiz treats us to this issue’s pin up of the manipulative Hobos, and despite his horrid appearance it’s still beautifully rendered in a different style than José’s previous posters.

From vicious monsters with see-through bellies back we go to killer vegetation, only this time there’s a giant slug for Joe Alien to deal with too! (Really, where else would you get this kind of fun?) Ron Smith‘s art truly excels here, like when the approaching trees suddenly stop and Joe starts to pick up words within his head, a telepathic message telling him their execution squad are on the way. There’s little to no hope left. Surrounded on all sides Joe tells his men they have no option but to try and fight their way out.

Suddenly all the trees start disappearing into the ground; one after the other they’re violently pulled down and then it starts to open up. Just when you think things couldn’t get any more out there after the Kitten story, up pops a ginormous slug-type creature, no eyes but all teeth! It moves about in a large circle before disappearing back down the hole, only for its heads to pop back up for a few seconds and then disappear again. Believing it to be a signal that it wants them to follow it, Joe leads his men down the slime covered sides of the giant hole.

I love the look of the slug, with its big mouth full of teeth, seemingly grinning at them. Has it just saved them from certain death? Is it really leading them to salvation? Or have they just gotten themselves into bigger problems? It’s not long before they lose their footing and slide all the way to the bottom, landing in a huge puddle of mucus, Joe’s brain dislodging as they do so. Again.

Yep, this is the cliffhanger. Where they find themselves would’ve been enough in my opinion. Leave the brain falling off until next time, it’s exciting enough and in fact having this happen yet again takes away from the originality and excitement of this episode somewhat. The ‘Next Issue’ page highlights this strip and it looks like the looney version of Joe has gone and flung himself into the slug’s mouth. There’s still no indication he’ll be eaten though, or that the slug is an enemy, so we’ll wait and see. Cliffhanger aside, it’s been a rollicking ride.

Loner‘s shrinking may have seemed like a silly idea to begin with but on the very first page here we can see it’s suddenly being taken a lot more seriously, when the owner of the giant web he got tangled in comes home to feed. The opening image was shown as the Next Issue picture previously, so go and check that out if you’d like a sense of how things kick off for our mercenary friend.

He’s surely done for but at the last moment unlikely saviours appear in the shape of the two-headed ants he escaped. They attack the giant (well, normal sized really) spider, climbing all over its body and chewing on its legs, eyes and basically anything else they can get their mandibles into. The spider isn’t going to let them interrupt dinner though and as you can see its doing its own fair share of killing, taking out three of the ants in this one gruesome panel alone.

This issue it’s basically a big monster movie, or rather a small person monster movie. Loner escapes from the webbing as the spider loses its grip, then kills one of the ants with Babe (his specially modified gun) before it can eat him too. Clearly, they aren’t the saviours after all, the spider was just in the way. They were still out for revenge after he killed one of their kind in #8. Escaping outside, Loner rests up on top of a flower for the night, before being rudely awakened by a benign animal simply eating breakfast.

After this he walks about wondering what to do and spots an even smaller insect than he. He takes comfort in this for a few seconds before it jumps in the air, lets out a shriek and wraps itself around his neck. To Be Continued. Loner is still my favourite character in the comic but his story is beginning to feel a little disjointed, like the writer doesn’t really know where to take it next, after the excellent opening tale. I’ll be disappointed if it’s just going to be a matter of a series of bugs attacking him. The spider/ants had real potential but already they’ve been left behind and another random insect provides the cliffhanger. I’ll wait and see, but with some trepidation.

Moving on to our lead character and cover star now, Turbo Jones. As Robo arrives over the city a carnival is starting below in the city of the warrior Arglons. During this, their enemies are sacrificed to their god by tossing them into a flaming pit and Turbo is in line for such an end if he doesn’t lead their almost-defeated army back against his friends, the Burroids. Below, you can see two Arglons leave their post, thinking the border guards are just overreacting. It’s nice that the characters painted somewhat as cartoony soldiers/henchmen of the Great Ark are being given individual personalities now. Although they’re tossed in the pit later in the chapter for their actions here!

Turbo is taken to the council where they demand his answer, with Robo hidden in the background watching the proceedings. Turbo spots him but ignores him, not wishing to give away his friend’s position. It’s all setting itself up to have Turbo agree to their demands and for Robo to think he’s turned traitor in a clichéd misunderstanding. But this is Wildcat and it takes a surprising turn when Turbo is told they have the ship itself locked in their sights, ready to launch their troops and arrest all on board. This is why he’s letting them lead him to the council.

But seeing Robo shows him he has a chance to escape, so instead Turbo makes a run for it, hoping Robo has a way out. But his treachery is the last straw and the Great Ark orders that the people of the Wildcat are no longer to be made prisoners of war, they are to be destroyed. Now this is how you do an exciting, shocking cliffhanger that still feels like a natural evolution part of the story.

It should really go without saying by now how Vanyo brings the goods with Turbo every single time, but with last issue and this one they’ve done such an amazing job in altering the tone of their drawing to suit the darker elements of the story. I love how the Ark is a bigger part of the tale now and they feel like a real threat. It’s also a story that’s very organically shifted from one scenario to another. While the Loner strip has made quite a jarring transition, Turbo’s is evolving and telling different stories within the same scenario.

His strip is definitely my favourite here. Something I’ve noticed in reading the comic in real time is how my favourite shifts from issue to issue. From memory I thought Loner would be the top strip every issue but they’ve all really taken their fair share of the accolade. This isn’t to take away from Loner of course, it’s just that the others have really excelled far beyond expectations, and my expectations were high! It’s a comic which continues to surprise every fortnight.

Chirpers is our Wildcat Complete this issue and it begins with a man feverishly writing at a (retro style) computer about things tapping at the walls, trying to get in. We begin by thinking it’s someone on board the Wildcat who has gone space crazy. This follows the revelation on the letters page that the Wildcat is only a quarter-of-a-mile long. I had always assumed it was much bigger than that, especially with some of the interiors we’ve seen. I thought this was far too small for nearly 1000 people but then I remembered Babylon 5 had a quarter-of-a-million people on board and was five miles long. So really, Wildcat is a bit roomy.

They strip skin and flesh down to the bone in seconds and the Wildcat death toll continues to rise once more

But I digress. This is why I erroneously thought this man, called Grucker, was talking about things trying to get through the walls. But there’s more to it. Once again the fact the exploration teams have been out of contact since they landed is brought up, but now the crew are doing something about it. They launch a fifth expedition team who land in an exotic jungle and of course they immediately lose their communications (a radiation storm centuries before). But it’s a paradise so they don’t care, they change into skimpier clothing and make friends with little friendly birds they nickname Chirpers.

That is, all except for one of the team. Grucker is busy taking soil and plant samples and the others ridicule him for taking things too seriously. They believe the Wildcat will realise what’s happened and send a rescue team down to pick them up and in the meantime they should treat it like a holiday. But Grucker is adamant they’re on a scientific research mission. For the others the only things that aren’t completely idyllic are the predatory birds that appear every now and again to feed on their cute little friends.

The group leader finally decides to help their little buddies out, against all of Grucker’s protestations. He is of course right, they don’t know anything about the balance of nature here but it all falls on deaf ears. The predators look big and scary, their little bird pals are small and cute, so the decision is made. The results are disastrous. Very quickly over the next two weeks the skies fill with more and more of the Chirpers until suddenly they start to swarm and attack. Like a more vicious version of Hitchcock‘s The Birds, they strip skin and flesh down to the bone in seconds and the Wildcat death toll continues to rise once more.

So in the end it wasn’t a crazy old man going space crazy in the cramped conditions of the Wildcat, threatening to go to the ship’s ammunitions store and cause goodness knows what havoc. It was Grucker, the only sensible person in the entire team, trapped in their shed-like compound writing a diary for anyone who would find his body, knowing he was about to die. In fact the last panel is just his skeleton, with a few Chirpers happily sitting on top. It’s a rather grim ending and I love it. That’s also a clever bit of misdirection at the start. The comic has portrayed people like that before so I instantly assumed I knew where it was going. How wrong I was and how happy I was to be wrong.

Another issue under our belt and it’s been a belter! While three of the four serials concentrated more on action and were plot-lite, their originality and fun more than made up for that. Turbo and The Chirpers then brought a great, story-driven climax to the comic, so I’m really glad the running order was changed about again, with a double dose of great writing after all the action. It’s such a strong comic and it has a confidence in itself that would you think it was going to run and run. We may be nearing the end of that run but there’s a lot still to enjoy.

The review of the tenth issue of Wildcat will be here from Friday 25th February 2022.

WiLDCAT #8: THE MORE THiNGS CHANGE…

Ron Smith kicks off this issue of Wildcat with his fun Joe Alien cover and I have no idea what’s going on here. Joe’s story has centred around killer plants but it appears there’s more to the region he’s found himself in. I’ll get to that below. Inside, everyone has shifted back to their original places after editor Barrie Tomlinson shook things up a bit last time out, so first up is Turbo Jones and we pick up the story with the Arglon leaders having captured him and demanding he lead their army to victory against his friends.

I have to say this issue’s Turbo chapter is by far the best yet. That’s not to take anything away from the previous seven instalments, but this one takes a somewhat dark turn which I love. It contains some genuine shocks and a very surprising turn of events for one set of evil characters. Robo also really comes to the fore here. As the Arglons believe Turbo has defected they assume Robo is a traitor too and capture him. Their leader The Brain demands he tell them where Turbo is (Robo doesn’t know, he had a system shutdown during the whole debacle) and he’s taken away to be tortured.

For a comic marketed towards a younger demographic than Fleetway‘s other action titles this is really quite dark. Transformers got away with quite severe violence because the characters were robots, it simply wouldn’t have if the characters had been human. Along the same lines, here we see Robo being tortured in very specific ways relating to his robotic parts. Even so, it’s quite heart-wrenching because Robo has been such a loveable character so far. The final panel, when they callously suggest throwing his apparently dead body on the rubbish heap is the darkest the whole comic has got so far, which is a shock to read in the usually safe, action-orientated Turbo Jones story.

I love it!

In the end Robo’s back-up battery was overlooked and he’s able to use it to recharge himself and get back on his feet. He commandeers one of the flying dinosaurs and takes off to find Turbo after overhearing some Arglons saying he’d defected to the other side. He knows it isn’t true and heads off to find out what’s going on. As we check in on Turbo himself we find him tied up in a prison cell and we get something of a revelation about the grand council and The Great Ark!

Up to this point we’ve only seen the council behind their lofty pulpits, armour shoulder plating giving the impression they had full skeletal bodies. The mechanics inside their mouths hinted they were more than just decomposing bodies. I’d thought maybe they weren’t alive, that they were controlled by someone else behind the scenes but it appears I couldn’t have been more wrong. Suddenly we see one confronting Turbo and they’re just a skull and spine, yet appear to be alive! This is a much creepier revelation. They’re even the star of the pin-up. What a fantastic chapter in this story and a brilliant start to this issue.

Ron Smith‘s cover star Joe Alien is up next and his five pages are taken up with his team’s escape from their predicament last time and not much else. But that’s okay. Every issue of Wildcat is perfectly balanced. Each of the four serials can have chapters which are more character focussed, or which develop the plot or further mysteries in the overall story, or concentrate on some action instead. This means we’re guaranteed to get at least one example of these elements across each issue, bringing depth to the action every fortnight.

As the trees tighten their grip on Joe and encircle his men, he uses his extendable limbs to reach through the thorns and grab one of the lasers, killing the plant that has him captive. We then get this amusing panel (below left) showing him helping his men to escape, before they spot commotion in the distance where a giant caterpillar is being attacked by the trees. They pick it up and throw it to the side as they chase down the landing party, but then Joe has an idea. Still a few miles from their shuttle craft they climb on board the giant insect and throughout this increasingly dangerous situation Joe can’t help but be enthralled by it all.

In the end the caterpillar starts to chew down on the attacking trees and the team take their leave, now much closer to their landing site. But when they get there the shuttle is missing. Of course it is! Escaping death from plant life, a crazy human god and from atop a giant caterpillar obviously wasn’t enough. The story continues next issue, but for now this was a fun diversion and the perfect accompaniment to the darker Turbo story.

Kitten Magee and her team are still being led by Hobos but surely what happens this time will finally make them realise what’s really going on. Leading them to a cave where he claims they can take shelter from the dangerous animals in the swamp, they find the ground covered in bones, stripped bare by some savage beast. Hobos claims the creature was killed long ago and the team just accept that! However, Doc takes a closer look at a skull as the others gather wood and thinks to herself it couldn’t have been there for more than a few days. She doesn’t get to air her suspicions before things kick off.

The rest of the team follow, lasers ready and are attacked by a swarm of bats which are easily fended off before the creature reveals itself iil the final panel. Thing is, the cliffhanger image was already used as the Next Issue promo last time, so the big reveal isn’t new. This is a bit disappointing because the whole strip has been leading to something monstrous by artist José Ortiz but we’ve already seen it. However, what I did really enjoy was Crud, Kitten’s little robotic pet. After being absent in the previous chapter for some reason he’s really making up for it here as a true member of the team. As you can see above and below he even gets some genuinely funny comedy moments.

A whole new chapter in Loner‘s adventure on the surface of the planet begins and it takes a turn for the truly bizarre. Finally leaving the underground world he’s been trapped in since the first issue, he finds himself in the jungle, still unable to contact the Wildcat. Frustrated, he goes to kick what looks like a random round object on the ground but it squeals in pain, floats up into the air, expands and surrounds Loner, trapping him inside what looks like a giant jelly. Still able to breathe, he tries to reason with whatever this creature is and apologise. At this point something happens that I have no recollection of from reading this as a kid.

That shrinking panel is expertly drawn by David Pugh and while we don’t get to find anything out about the strange transforming blob as it floats off leaving our hero stranded, there’s a wonderful sense of scale to the final panel on this page. Indeed, in the hands of another artist this might have come across as a somewhat silly outcome for the strip which was, up to this point, the most serious. But instead of roaming into 60s Doctor Who or Land of the Giants territory, David’s art adds a real feeling of isolation and danger.

It does remind me of a certain film though, especially when Loner comes up against this two-headed ant below. But such is the forward-thinking nature of Wildcat, Honey I Shrunk the Kids wasn’t even released until later the same year. Of course, other previous small-people-in-giant-surroundings will have had similar battles before, but for the target audience this was most likely their first such experience.

As an adult it’s initially a bit of a shift for the Loner strip but nevertheless it’s a fun outing with some great imagery of the world around him. But it appears the fun will soon be taking a decidedly darker tone, back to more of what we had before. Suddenly surround by three giant ants who have just watched Loner kill their buddy, he tries to make a run for it and ends up caught in a huge spider’s web. But it’s the Next Issue page that really shows us where we’re headed.

Now that is a monster worthy of David Pugh’s art and a suitable foe for my favourite character! I feel like we’ve been misdirected into believing the strip was taking a lighter approach, only for us to be hit with this image. What a bluff! What an issue the next one is going to be too, what with the Turbo strip’s revelations and tone and this to look forward to as well now. But we’re not quite finished with issue eight yet. The Wildcat Complete tale has a strong message and, while it’s a coincidence, a question on the letters page sets it up for us.

Kathleen probably wrote in while reading those first few issues. As I said at the time, the comic started off with some brilliant misdirection (Wildcat was good at this). As the stories developed, what Kathleen had witnessed would be turned on its head, teaching us all not to judge a creature (or indeed anyone) by their looks alone. Aliens advertised as hideous monsters became allies, scary ones were shown to be simply defending themselves, and often humans were the worst culprits of the horrors to be found in deep space, especially in the complete stories. This issue is no exception.

Just when you think the human race can’t disappoint us any further

Gliz, drawn by Joan Boix, tells the tale of an alien worker on board the Wildcat. With a lizard-like face and two extra arms resembling tentacles he’s the butt of constant jokes from his small-minded work colleagues in the scientific research department, where he works as a cleaner. You’d think scientists would know better. Their constant bullying, just because he’s different, makes him uncontrollably nervous, which results in him being rather accident prone. Of course, when accidents happen the humans only see these as proof that they were right about him all along, even though it’s their fault.

He’s a sympathetic character and quite lovable straight away. His wish to make friends, to fit in with the humans and be the best he can be is endearing. Only one human by the name of Grenzel gives him the chance to be himself and open up about the treatment he receives. But Grenzel’s mother doesn’t take kindly to her son mingling with an alien and in a rather shocking scene punches her son to teach him a bigoted, racist lesson. No pun intended, but it’s quite the hard-hitting start to a story in a children’s comic and I like how it doesn’t hold back. His mum threatens him with a beating from his father and as a result Grenzel ignores Gliz the next day at work.

Depressed more than ever, Gliz jumps at the chance to show his abilities on a dangerous mission to one of the planet’s moons after the pilot becomes ill and Gliz is the only one left who knows how to fly the shuttle. Once there, the crew are set upon by space pirates and the humans immediately try to use Gliz as a bargaining tool. The pirates crash-landed and need to get off the moon, but upon finding out only Gliz can fly the humans’ cowardly plan backfires. Deemed unnecessary, they’re all killed.

On the final page Gliz realises the pirates are going to hijack the Wildcat and kill everyone on board. Setting the controls to self-destruct he consoles himself that at least he’ll die a hero and be redeemed in the eyes of the people he just wanted to be close to. But just when you think the human race couldn’t disappoint us any further the story finishes on this note below.

It’s a real downer to end the issue on and I salute Barrie and his team in doing so. Unfortunately it’s a tale that could be told today and still be just as relevant. Today, we’d probably have the ancient ancestors of those scientists attacking the comic on Twitter for it, but that would just prove its point. It’s a powerful end to what has been a surprising issue of this fantastic comic. But surely questions would have to be asked of Turbo’s selection process. Several hundred of our best and brightest and these xenophobes still get to partake in taking humans to the stars?

Darker stories, surprising twists, fun adventures and a message I can really get behind. I’d say this has been the best issue of Wildcat yet. How can it improve on this? All I know is I’m sure it’ll manage to. Somehow. We’ll find out when the next review hits the blog on Friday 11th February 2022.