Tag Archives: Ian Kennedy

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?

SUPER NATURALS #5: FESTiVE FRiGHTS

Super Naturals and Wildcat may have been released a year apart but they shared more than their editor, their fifth issues were also their festive specials. I’m a huge fan of Christmas but even I would’ve forgiven the Super Naturals team for not going overboard since the comic had just begun, however editor Barrie Tomlinson made sure it was a special treat with festive themes in four of the five strips, as well as an additional one-page strip, decorative trimmings around the letters page, a Christmassy poster and that fun Ian Kennedy cover of the Ghost Finder and its crew.

The issue is dated Boxing Day but would’ve been released early, arriving into eager young hands a few days before Christmas Day which, given the cover and the contents would’ve made for a wonderful treat. I just can’t help but feel happy when reading a seasonal issue of a favourite comic and this is one of the very best examples. Ghost stories always go down well at this time of year too, so surely this is a comic that can’t fail to entertain. Let’s see.

I was surprised when I picked up this issue because the glossy paper had gone, replaced with the same matte-finish stock all other Fleetway comics had at the time. But that doesn’t take away from any of the enjoyment in our first story, The Legend of the Super Naturals drawn by Dave D’Antiquis, which quite literally heads off in a different direction. The battle in New Orleans comes to its conclusion but not before Eagle Eye‘s predicament raises some interesting questions.

He’s injured when fired upon by an Air Force jet while transformed into the eagle, but when he changes back to his humanoid form he’s healed and the bullets pass straight through him. The healing part has already been established in the comic, he’s already dead after all, and they can’t actually kill each other never mind us having a shot at it. But it appears they don’t turn into mystical versions of their animal totems, they must actually turn into real, solid animals, capable of being killed. It certainly adds another dimension to the set up and one I hope is explored more. For now, he’s rescued by Spooks before Skull decides to take his team across the Atlantic (the trucks can fly) to England to destroy the mythical Excalibur and show them evil now rules. Told you it was heading off in a different direction for the new year!

In Ghostlings, drawn by Anthony Williams, we get confirmation it is indeed set on Earth in the far future where humans have regressed and now live in fear underground, calling themselves Guardians of the Underworld (so our self-importance hasn’t diminished then). What they live in fear of are the Surface Stompers, the dinosaur-like creatures we’ve seen already and the Crevice-Crawlers which are giant, intelligent, talking insect-like beings that prey on the humans for food. Spooks is rescued by these future humans when he becomes trapped amongst rocks after being pushed over a cliff by Weird Wolf. I’ll assume it’s his clothing that’s stuck, not him, seeing as how he’s a ghost and all.

We can finally put to rest the myth that The Doll was produced for another comic

While trapped his supernatural powers are able to recognise the time of year on this future Earth as Christmas and he reminisces about when he was alive centuries earlier. When he’s rescued he discovers the humans have a Christmas tree in their caves, although they don’t recognise the name, only that it’s a tradition they follow despite the meaning being lost centuries ago. The story ends with a cliffhanger for Weird Wolf as he encounters the beasts above ground. There’s also mention of a Rock-Ruler, so there’s definitely more scenario building to come. While Christmas feels a bit forced into this one, it’s still as interesting as last issue and shows the potential for Super Naturals stories to really go anywhere.

Moving on and hopefully the setting can finally put to rest the myth that The Doll was produced for another comic (just published within the pages of Super Naturals). I’ve known this all along but some online refuse to accept such a quality horror strip was intended for a licenced toy comic. In this seasonal issue the strip jumps forward a little, the ground is covered in snow as the police pull the body of the dead homeless man from the skip outside the Marshal’s home, while an evil figure watches from the roof, where clearly it’s been gleefully watching for a while as it’s covered in a thick layer of snow.

After Simon saves his foster dad from a falling roof slate (I wonder how that happened), noticing how his younger brother David didn’t even flinch when it fell, the story skips forward to Christmas Day. Peace has descended upon the house. It’s clear the doll’s presence hasn’t been felt in a while and David is glum as the family open gifts from each other. This doesn’t go unnoticed and the Marshals try hard to cheer him up, even giving him a brand new ventriloquist’s dummy! A window smashes at this exact moment and it’s assumed vandals threw something from outside, but Simon isn’t so sure.

The glass is all on the outside, meaning it was broken from inside the house. But how? A game of hide and seek brings the answers out into the open but first I do love a certain panel here. First, look at the one above on the right where Simon is convinced the doll was responsible but he can’t see anywhere for it to hide. Of course the readers’ eyes are drawn to the Santa Claus ornament on the side table, but it’s the next panel which I’m sure stuck in the minds of all those young readers, as Simon turns to leave.

Artist Francesc Masi is just superb at conveying real threat from what is essentially a toy. Again, the suspense is palpable in this chapter. What on the surface might’ve looked like a diversion from the main story to placate the Christmas issue is anything but. A game of hide and seek in the house builds tension with Simon hiding in dark, cramped places, hearing noises but then just discovering other family members in there with him. Meanwhile foster father Frank sneaks about the house looking for everyone when he comes across the new dummy torn to pieces, then hears a terrible scream as the doll swings down from a curtain, the arm of the new toy in its mouth, hurling himself at Frank as the chapter closes.

While it’s only a toy arm full of foam padding, the meaning is clear; the doll has ‘killed’ its replacement and now intends to take revenge on the person responsible for its purchase. In the final panel there’s the usual caption asking readers to send in their ideas for what could happen next, any printed on the letters page earning their senders a crisp five pound note. Perhaps this was included to balance out any shock from the last panels? Instead of the children having a murderous cliffhanger in their minds, instead they’d be thinking of what they would have happen next? It’s a good idea and no other strip does this.

A wonderful, colourful poster by Sandy James brings a rare piece of relief and happiness for the good Ghostlings, but not so much for their evil counterparts who are strung up and used as decorations on the Super Naturals Christmas tree. After that there’s a festively decorated double-page spread of letters before we move on to the The Scary Cat Challenge and the second in the series based on an idea sent in by a reader. This time it was Clive Sheppard of Lincoln who got two Christmas gifts of a £10 prize and the pleasure of seeing his imagination brought to life in his favourite comic.

Finding an empty box among their Christmas presents, an unnamed family decides it must have been wrapped up by accident and placed underneath the tree. No one owns up to the error and they simply decide to ignore it and go about celebrating the rest of Christmas Day. However, while they’re eating breakfast in the next room a mist rises out of the empty, unwrapped box and slowly takes on a ghostly shape.

Obviously surprised to find a strange old man in their living room the father of the house goes to ring the police, but the rest of the family implore him not to. Looking dishevelled and hungry, they don’t have the heart to turn him out on this particular day of the year, instead inviting him to stay for Christmas dinner. He remains mysterious about where he came from but this doesn’t appear to put the kind-hearted family off and soon they’re all gathered around the table. After dinner they realise they forgot the crackers and this is when the visitor reveals he isn’t any old homeless person.

From the cracker pulled by dad spills thousand of pounds in notes, from mum’s comes handful after handful of diamonds. When the children pull theirs a magical dust fills the room. “The stuff dreams are made of” explains the old man as he takes their hands and they begin to fly, visiting the moon, the pyramids, undersea reefs, the Himalayas and then flying back home sitting on the back of Concorde.

The family are awestruck and want to thank him but he insists he was the one who needed to thank them; they gave a stranger a warm place to be on Christmas Day, opening their home and their hearts and sharing their food. One of the young boys asks what would’ve happened if their dad had called the police and he shows them an illusion of all their worldly belongings disappearing and the whole family ageing far beyond their years. As he cancels the illusion he leaves their house and looks out through the page to the readers and wonders aloud who he could be visiting the next year.

The message is clear to the impressionable youth and is one that’s just as important in the world we now find ourselves in: Be kind. While it does centre around material possessions it’s actually a nice little metaphor for Christmas itself and taking that spirit of giving with you everywhere, and not just once a year. So not a scary tale but a nice addition to this particular issue before we head on to the new serial drawn by Alan Langford, which I was very pleasantly surprised to see starting off with possibly the most Christmassy of Christmas opening pages possible.

Last time the excellent Mount of Athos came to an end and I’ve tentatively waited to see what the team would replace it with.  Thankfully keeping Alan on to draw it, The Curse starts off with this gorgeous page of a festive Victorian London. The title at the top stands in stark contrast with the artwork which wouldn’t look out of place on a greetings card. But turn the page and into this Dickensian scene crashes Skull, Burnheart and Scary Cat on the Bat Bopper.

This opening chapter is all about setting the scene and it does a wonderful job. It feels like Alan has really got to grips with these characters and having a great time drawing their creepy adventures. In the end, as they make their way up the Thames we find out Skull and his cronies are in search of the Tomb of Britannicus, the last resting place for a savage barbarian sorcerer, who if released is said to bring evil never seen before upon the world who entombed him. But first there’s the obligatory chase as Lionheart and his heroes give chase.

As you can see the evil Super Naturals have caused destruction and terror in no time at all, though the strip does manage to squeeze in some comedy. For example, at one point the horse on the first page bolts, the family inside thrown from their carriage as it crashes and their Christmas supplies are strewn everywhere, including their turkey which Burnheart can’t resist roasting with this flame power as he speeds past it!


“London, 1972. Under a drift of gentle snow, the city glows with all the festivity of Christmas Eve!”

The Curse

While I have no idea what Spooks is on about when he says he’s going so fast he’s almost overtaking himself (that just makes no sense whatsoever) I do enjoy how the humans are just as terrified of them and how they’re stopped by Skull taking out an enter house. Great action, gorgeous visuals and a real festive ghost story feel to it all. Wonderful stuff and already a worthy follow-up to the Mount of Athos, which is no small feat.

One final thing before I wrap up this review. You remember how our comics had little coupons to cut out and give to our newsagents, or small reminders to place our orders so we never missed out on an issue? Well, Super Naturals decided to do something a little different (in keeping with the comic as a whole) and gave us a full-page strip. While it doesn’t actually say anything about placing a regular order it kind of works in that regard and really would’ve make a wonderful advert to have appeared in other Fleetway comics at the time.

It’s actually the first in a series of small stories which would all fall under the banner A Ghostling Tale, each hosted by a different character. Another nice little addition to the comic.

So that’s it for now. This has been a blast from beginning to end. Having the Christmas vibe throughout was a surprise and an absolute delight, but then again maybe I shouldn’t have expect anything less from Barrie Tomlinson! Issues like this reaffirm the whole concept of this site. If I’d just binged on this series earlier in the year it wouldn’t have been as special as reading this now at Christmastime, it’s been evermore enjoyable reading it in real time. The next review will be here on Sunday 9th January 2022 and it would appear there’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year.

WiLDCAT #4: TREE-RIFIC FUN

I love this Ian Kennedy cover based on the Wildcat Complete tale inside. We’ve had deaths in pretty much every part of the anthology series so far, but this shows us there’s a ferocious animal-like killer on board, running rampant amongst the last several hundred humans in existence. The claustrophobic horror of being in that situation is perfectly captured here with this work of art by the incredible talent that is Ian.

This issue we’ve got man vs dinosaur, alien vs murderous plants, woman vs robotic tribesmen, man vs crazed newt and spacecraft vs Mr Hyde. So a busy issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s creation then. We start off as always with Turbo Jones and the first page is no less thrilling than that cover. Turbo has decided he’s going to tame the untameable Terrosauron and over the course of the first couple of pages the huge beast underestimates the tiny opponent time and again. Using his small weapons in clever ways, Turbo manages to outsmart his opponent and soon he has his steed of choice.

The ‘Next Issue’ promo last time was just an image of The Great Ark, leader of the Arglons. It appears they were just one of a handful of animated corpses. A row of skeletal beings led by The Ark itself bark orders at their minions, killing one of their top military leaders for their apparent failure. Some close up angles of this council (like the one used for the promo a fortnight ago) show what look like mechanics behind their jaws. Could it be they’re all dead? Is this all going to lead to a Wizard of Oz moment later in the series? That’s my guess at the moment although I’ve no recollection of the story beyond this point.

From here the story cleverly flips back and forth between Turbo training the Burroid army and the Arglons using giant mantis-like creatures to dig a tunnel right underneath their enemy, straight to their capital city. There are no captions to explain the back and forth between the two scenes, which to be honest I’d have expected in any comic of mine from back then. But writer Barrie and artist Vanyo credit the kids reading with the intelligence to not need their hands held.

The cliffhanger sees giant cracks appear in the roads of the city and it feels like it’s all building up to an epic climax. It isn’t though. Each character’s story is one ongoing saga rather than being split up into smaller individual tales. So if they’d spent a year on this planet each character would’ve had a 26-part epic, which was an original way to go about things! The tension is building however and by the end of these five pages it’s palpable.

The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage.

Our pinup jumps from the back cover to page seven and this issue it’s my favourite character, Loner and his new found friends the little fuzzballs. Reading the black and white strip I (for some reason) made the assumption these little balls of fur were a sandy colour but here David Pugh has decided that’s not the case. More from Loner in a bit.

On to Joe Alien now, who we last saw stuck up a tree. Well, it’s a lot more dramatic than that. The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage. Joe’s dislodged brain pack is in the hands of his teammates so he’s completely incapable of helping himself. But what about that rather horrific cliffhanger? It’s washed away with a quick douse in a nearby pool of water which luckily (as stated by one of the team) seems pretty normal for once. That is, until some form of seaweed starts to crawl out of the water and wrap itself around their limbs. It seems danger really is lurking everywhere.

Easily able to break free, they’re still at a loss over how to rescue Joe, precariously help high up in the air. To me, it looks like this tree could be planning on using Joe to communicate but maybe that’s the wrong assumption on my part, because his team obviously don’t agree. Their solution? Blow it up, of course.

As you can see it makes a piercing scream as it comes crashing down, so the silent killers from previous issues aren’t quite so silent after all. With his brain pack clicked back into place, Joe has had enough and orders them all to quickly retreat back to their shuttle and return to the Wildcat. This is no place for them to plant their feet (boom) and put roots down (boom, boom) but on their way back they hear another cry, this time a cry for help from deep within a hole in the ground.

What they see down the pit is a two-headed alien covered in bright blue feathers. Speaking our language (able to translate other tongues quickly explained as an ability of his race), Joe and his team set about freeing him from the roots that appear to have trapped him. I’ll admit alarm bells went off for me the second I saw this and it slowly dawns on the team all is not as it seems.

A line of huge trees marches up to surround them, seemingly to make a final stand but suddenly stop. Forming a wide circle around the landing party they just stand there, unmoving. The final panel shows our team looking out at the killer jungle, knowing something is wrong but they can’t quite put their fingers on it, while we the readers see the alien is but a suit and it’s being quietly ripped open. Inside are a few plants playing the part!

This must mean they’re able to communicate properly (beyond painful screams) as they were able to impersonate this fictional alien creature and, maybe more importantly, decipher our language. Does this mean I was right when I guessed it looked like the tree earlier was attempting to use Joe to communicate? Out of all the strips so far this feels the most alien (suitably enough given its name) and this is in no small part thanks to the highly original artwork of Ron Smith.

I don’t quite know what to make of the Kitten Magee strip this issue. It begins with Kitten receiving the life dust from her robotic pet Crud via something beneath her collar. Whether it’s a device, an injection or an opening in her skin isn’t clear in the shadowy forest and I’m guessing it’s been left deliberately ambiguous by artist José Ortiz at this point, so hopefully a future issue will clarify.

So the tribes from previous episodes to whom Kitten proved herself by fighting their leader are now attacking her team, and to begin with we think it’s some form of mind control by the fat men hovering above. But when Kitten returns to rescue her teammates one of the aliens is blasted open and it’s revealed they are actually robots. At this point I had to remind myself this was the 80s, because having fully organic beings revealed as being robots on the inside is a cliché I’ve grown very tired of over the years. But this was written a few decades ago so I have to remember that context. But why would the fat men (one of whom gets the name ‘Hobos‘ this issue) go to all the bother of creating them?

When the innards are revealed all of the other machines stop, as if awaiting instructions. At this point Hobos is spotted and Bonnie tries to take out his hovercraft device with her sniper rifle. Fleeing, he flicks a switch and the tribesmen take to the air, their laser eyes firing upon the women while others take suicidal bombing runs! Where on Earth (well, not-Earth) did all of this come from?

At the time I can imagine I would’ve been thrilled with this sudden change to the situation, but now I found it a bit clunky. But that’s more the fault of the passing of time rather than the comic itself. So who is Hobos? Did his race create these robots? Or maybe they are sentient machines that have been hacked, which would be more original. Perhaps there’ll be some answers next time, although I’ve a feeling I’ll be left waiting for a while longer.


“I still have to go back upstairs and finish off that overgrown newt!”

Loner

There are a couple of interesting nuggets of story information in the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages in response to readers’ letters. One asks how many people are on board since the terms “hundreds” and “over a thousand” have both been used by now and in reply we’re told that it was meant to be around 500 (in the preview it was over 700) but it became clear after leaving Earth an enormous amount of stowaways got on board. No wonder Barrie isn’t concerned about killing so many people off, there are more than we thought! Interestingly, we’re told that, coupled with the animal and plant life, these stowaways have given Wildcat a total weight load far in excess of its original specifications. Will this be a plot point we’ll return to?

Begging for the hallucinations inside his mind to stop, Loner agrees to the terms of the villainous lizard to track down the beast that poses a threat to him. Making his way into the depths of the caverns with the furry little ball creatures in tow, Loner wonders inwardly how he’s going to be successful when all he has is his six-shooter. A voice echoes in his mind, “We can help you” and he’s surprised to find that outside of the overgrown newt’s telepathic range these little critters can talk to him, and are intelligent.

Their backstory is that they were the pets of the people who once lived on the continent, content and happy with their existence and loved by their owners. But the people soon became obsessed with creating bigger and more destructive weaponry, their wars became deadlier and soon they had wiped themselves off the face of the planet, their pets hiding out in this underground world. What’s more, underneath the fur their flesh is poisonous, sending anybody stupid enough to eat them completely crazy, hence our giant lizard friend’s state of mind. (This is a much better development than the humanoid robots.)

They lead Loner to a cave full of the weaponry they gathered and hid away from any visitors after the last war. More than enough to see off the beast and free them all from the lizard but there’s a catch. The people of this continent had built weapons controlled by mental power alone, so in order to stand a chance Loner will have to undergo a transformation or the weapons will destroy his mind. As you can read above he isn’t keen but the furballs don’t give him any choice in the matter.

We’re left with this image of him screaming in agony as a warning rings out, “At the end, you will consider yourself quite monstrous!” I couldn’t remember anything about this but one look at the Next Issue promo at the back of this issue (further below) brought it all back. What I’ve particularly liked is see a slight softening of Loner as he begins to bond with the little creatures.

Boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche.

Every five-page chapter of this strip takes a big step forward in developing the story and when something this fun to read is all wrapped up in superlative David Pugh artwork it’s no wonder this was my favourite part of the comic. It’s hard to believe we’re only 20 pages in! I think of that thick trade paperback graphic novel collecting the entire Loner saga together and I can only imagine what will happen in all of those pages! I’ll be finding out the slow way.

I mentioned a fortnight ago how 11 people had already died in the pages of the comic and, although we now know there are more on board than originally thought, the Wildcat Complete on which the cover is based is called Death on Wildcat so I’m assuming the trend is going to continue. But first things first, has that picture of the Wildcat craft been pasted on top of the scene? It certainly looks that way. It could be because it looks like a special technique was used to draw the planet and its rings. It’s a lovely effect and then the spacecraft could have been drawn separately and placed on top. Works for me!

The artist hasn’t been confirmed but I believe it to be Enrique Alcatena‘s work, returning for the first time since the premiere issue’s ghosty story, this time with a Dr Jekyll and Mr Vampire Werewolf tale. The Duty Commander, John Anderson is getting a bit cocky with the fact no crime has been reported on board for weeks. (Obviously some time has passed since the last issue.) Now convinced Wildcat is a safe ship with a complete lack of lawlessness, his statement is predictably followed by an alarm.

The Chief of Security barely has a moment to explain how boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche before they’re alerted to a murder on board. It’s a simple tale with obvious clues for the chief to follow and soon enough he’s tracked it down to Dr Timothy Lee who had been conducting experiments on animals back on Earth with the hope of creating an army of controllable killers. With Earth evacuated and all the animals accounted for he had continued his experiments on himself.

The most interesting bits for me are the emphasis on just how fragile the peace is on the ship and the fact there are aliens already on board. They work alongside us, are part of the crew and are helping us navigate the galaxy in search of a new home. With the comic set in 2250 it’s not beyond the realm of believability that we’d have made contact with some races, although this is the first we’ve seen anything of them, when they’re the target of a crazed, bigoted killer.

Wildcat death toll: 14

That’s us for the first of three issues this festive season. The next is the Christmas one itself with a strange cover I clearly remember from the 80s. When you see it you’ll understand why it’s so memorable. How about a Christmas pudding wrapped around a spaceship? Think I’m joking? You’ll see.

Just to finish off this issue is the advertisement on the back page. Sharing these contemporary adverts is part of the fun of this site. This is the first time Wildcat has included one in its pages and it’s for a favourite childhood cereal (which I admit is still bought from time to time today).

The special Christmas edition of Wildcat will be reviewed right here on Friday 17th December 2021.