Tag Archives: José Ortiz

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.

WiLDCAT #3: MiND GAMES

Who else remembers the short-lived toy line and cartoon Dino-Riders? It may not have been a coincidence that they launched the same year as Wildcat, but since they never had their own comic in the UK (and not until a year later in the US) I’m going to go with coincidence. The cover certainly ticked all the boxes for me at that age and inside the action picked up a gear in many of the strips, the death toll continued to climb and there’s some art in here so good it’s stayed in the recesses of my memory all these decades.

No recap page this time, instead we’re straight into the Turbo Jones strip, drawn by cover artist Vanyo. The Brain rather callously believes his people, the Burroids, are all cowards as he fills in Turbo on their situation. I’d say they’re more peace lovers than cowards. There’s a big disconnect between them and their leader, never mind the fact their leader is a giant brain! Why is that? Is there more to this relationship? I seem to recall there’s more to their enemy the Arglons too, that nothing is as simple as good versus evil here. In fact, I think that goes for all the serials in Wildcat.

Turbo really becomes the action hero he’s promised to be since the preview issue, with everything from laser-edged gloves to laser binoculars at his disposal. His companion Robo is also quite the strategist and not the coward he makes himself out to be when it counts. He improvises and uses the alien tech that imprisoned them initially against his attackers. They make quite the team and their camaraderie and trust in each other is very naturally written, surprisingly. I’m glad to see their bickering in previous issues is just part of their relationship, a part of their banter.

One of the Arglons is captured, but when he doesn’t give up any information during questioning a Burroid casually vaporises him, explaining it’s just what happens to enemies. Wait, aren’t they inherently peace loving? Is this The Brian’s influence? Either way, Turbo instantly has him arrested and begins to take command of their armies as requested by the mysterious leader. Choosing two seconds-in-command they set out to tame local dinosaurs to match those of their enemy.

I do like the way the character is developing beyond the single-minded Dredd-type he was to begin with, and this is only the third issue. The story is genuinely interesting, it feels like there’s a lot more than meets the eye with everything in this strip and that I shouldn’t assume anything about anyone. Brilliant stuff. When I think back to Wildcat I remembered the other strips more, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how great this has been this issue.

A quick commercial break before we move on and I wonder what 2000AD editor Tharg the Mighty would make of the tagline used by one of Wildcat creator/editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s other comics in the advert for its annual? Given how they were both published by Fleetway I’m guessing Tharg didn’t say very much.

Our only colour strip, Joe Alien now finds himself in the very capable hands of a new artist, namely Ron Smith who drew the pin up in the last issue. Taking over from Massimo Belardinelli is no small feat and Ron’s style is completely different. At first I approached this with trepidation. I had loved Massimo’s work in the first two issues, particularly his furry man-eating plants. But I needn’t have had any concern.

Ron brings a fresh new style to the comic, reminding me very much of early Geoff Senior from Marvel UK‘s The Transformers. The clean, sharp visuals are a perfect match for this most alien of alien characters and the nightmarish jungle he and his team are trapped in. In fact I’d even go so far as to say the plants look even more menacing and the action more dramatic. This isn’t to take away from Massimo’s work of course, but after reading this latest chapter I think Ron is an even more suitable artist for this story.

The resolution to last issue’s literal cliffhanger sees Joe using his telescopic legs to cushion his fall, the plant which caused it falling down on top of him, knocking him to the ground where the impact on his head causes his external brain pack to disconnect. As explained in the first issue and kind of given away in last issue’s promo, this turns him into a gibbering loony, to put it politely. His race were so obsessed with obtaining more knowledge they had to manufacture artificial brains for themselves, regardless of the risks! I love both these panels above, the exciting landing and the funny craziness.

Joe disappears into the jungle and his team are left to fend for themselves while trying to track him down. As well as having a new artist the writing seems to make a bit of a shift here too. No longer are his men simply unnamed team members used as fodder for the alien plant life. Here, some are finally given names and they’re written as individual characters, complimented by more distinctive looks. Instead of lining up to die they actually rescue each other and they function and coordinate as a proper military team.

The chapter ends with Joe captured by a gigantic tree and his men come under attack by what they initially think are harmless little spiky orbs. But these soon open up to reveal little pollen balls which float on the air and begin attaching themselves to the men. Ron’s art is superb here. We can sense the tiny little barbs piercing the skin of these men and the sense of pain is palpable. The Joe Alien strip has certainly stepped up a gear!

Moving on to Kitten Magee and after she uses laser bracelets (our future selves really love their weaponised jewellery) to escape from death by boulder, defeating the tribe’s leader has her welcomed with open arms by the rest. Having proven herself, she and her team take to eating and celebrating with the locals while the two fat men on their hovering platforms look on. But what they view as a “scientific experiment” between Kitten and her pet robot Crud is much more foreboding.

Kitten’s life dust was first mentioned right back in the preview issue, but this is the first we’ve seen the harrowing effects it’s meant to prevent. I was quite surprised at just how old she looks here (even Crud describes it as “severe ageing”) and artist José Ortiz brings a lovely atmosphere to this nighttime scene in the middle of the jungle. While she’s sneaked away to get her drug, the fat men flick a switch on some kind of mind control device and the tribe begins to attack the rest of the team. Overwhelmed, and with Kitten nowhere near, it doesn’t look well as the chapter ends.

But for me the plot point I’m most eagerly wanting to see picked up next time is the whole life dust situation. While the questions of what happens if Kitten doesn’t take it regularly is answered here, I find myself asking even more. Does this mean Kitten is actually a lot older than she appears? Or is it the result of an illness, or a previous encounter with an enemy? Does the dust only keep her looking younger or does it work on her physiology? What long-term effects does it have on her, and what effects has it already had? Colour me highly intrigued.

The letters pages have town names for the first time, so it looks like Barrie has started to receive contributions from readers. As with all of his titles it’s not a simple case of letters, instead there are drawings, ideas, jokes, questions and designs. One such design is for a digging machine to take the exploration teams from one area to another on the planet while avoiding the dangers on the surface. What I love about this is the honesty in the review of what the young reader has sent in. Marked down for originality and weapons, but with good scores for design and suitability, I like the way Barrie (I would assume) explains clarification is needed on oxygen supply.

It shows how his comics never talked down to their audiences. We never felt patronised by the answers, never treated as little kids. The same could be said of comics such as Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters which would often give sarcastic replies to honest queries. It wasn’t just a simple wish to see our letters or drawings in print, we wanted to see what our comics would say to us! In this case, maybe if Wildcat had lasted a long time we’d have seen more complex designs being sent in as the kids read the feedback from previous issues.

Next up is Loner and given how good the previous three strips have been this issue I was really looking forward to seeing how he would step things up this issue. A quick look at the artwork below will answer that! Our former mercenary meets the lizard who has been tracking his every thought and first of all I was surprised he’s only about twice the size of a human, but this is simply because of that incredible final page artist David Pugh treated us to last time. Things begin here with Loner seeing him for the first time and we get this dramatic reveal through his eyes.

Take a closer look at that first photo and you’ll see the beast isn’t sitting on a chair but on his tail. A nice touch. He doesn’t get named yet but we do find out about his race the Bellari and their history of travelling from world to world to control the minds of whole species. Just for the craic they’d turn populations of whole planets into slaves until they got bored and moved on, leaving behind a galaxy of worlds having to rebuild from the destruction wrought for their entertainment.

But this particular Bellari crash landed on the same planet the Wildcat found, falling through into the same underground labyrinth as Loner. With no way out he took control of the furballs, a task he found far too easy and which kept him entertained for about five minutes. I laughed at the panel above on the right, where he wonders at the miracle of him not going insane, with his wide eyes, his drooling and his finger stuck up his nose. David is an incredible artist and this is a rare moment of humour in the Loner strip, but the highlight is another full page image which deserves to be studied.

Studied it was, both back in 1988 and today. Just look at that design. I was in awe of David’s work. At this point my comics reading had included the many styles within the pages of OiNK, the simplistic but sweet drawings in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and the fun, quirky strips in The Real Ghostbusters. I’d never seen anything like this before in comics though.

All the serials have really upped their game this issue and it’s hard for me to pick a favourite anymore.

The beast wants Loner to hunt down a ravenous snake-type monster that he can’t control because its brain is too simplistic, working on instinct and hunger alone, so it’s a big threat. Loner knows he has no choice and agrees but makes the mistake of thinking otherwise. Since the Bellari is reading his mind he knows Loner plans to trick him and suddenly our hero finds himself in another place and time, three of his enemies firing upon him as the episode ends.

It’s clearly a trick of the mind but still, I remember that snake but can’t remember anything else about this story, and the developments this issue have been genuinely interesting. But then again, even if the story was plodding along David’s art would still have propelled it to another level! While Loner was always my favourite as a kid, the three other serials have really upped their game this issue and it would be hard for me to pick a favourite anymore.

After the wonderful art of Loner’s strip is a rather basic Next Issue promo page. Last issue there was a lot more information in half the space. While I’m sure the Great Ark in the Turbo Jones strip will be of great importance, with so much going on in all of the strips this feels too simplistic, almost like it was a last minute addition. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to really hype the next issue of what was still a new comic trying to build its regular readership.


“Diet is unnecessary! Death stops all eating!

The Invaders!

Our final strip, the next Wildcat Complete is called The Invaders! and it’s a particularly bleak one this time. An asteroid is making its way around the planet and the Wildcat is directly in its path. Strangely, instead of simply manoeuvring out of its way (we saw its pilots in control in #1) a team are sent to plant explosives on its surface, a whole decade before that became the plot of what seemed like an endless supply of disaster movies.

No reason is given as to why this was the solution, why the Wildcat couldn’t be moved, which is strange. Anyway, a group of scientists go with them to collect samples and upon their return some of the rocks appear to possess members of the team.

At the end of the story we find out this used to be a prison asteroid, with murderous alien beings imprisoned in rocks on its surface. Now freed and with a huge and powerful spaceship at their disposal they set about making plans to take control, casually killing off all who get in their way. Not that any of the people they kill are a threat. They even see off a garbage disposal man by unceremoniously dumping him out of the airlock. This does prompt a bit of morbid humour when someone on board sees it out of the corner of their eye, thinks the exploding body is a star and makes a wish!

The garbage disposal would be used to get rid of the bodies they’d accumulate, they kill a weapon designer to steal his prototypes, a chef by testing a mass poison out on him first and one of the other scientists who knows the truth. All of this takes our death toll up to 11 in only three issues. I wonder what number we’ll get to by the time these stories are over?

Their mission is to ultimately make their way to the ship’s bridge and use it to get back home and take revenge on their planet. The Wildcat’s crew end up using robots to stun the human bodies instead of simply killing them, fully aware the scientists are innocent in all of this and simply possessed. I liked this solution. It shows the comic won’t be taking the easy way out in its stories, even when it’s a one-off and needs to wrap everything up in only six pages.

Dark humour and plenty of shocking deaths are expertly combined into the script here. It reminds me a little of The Doll from Super Naturals, which is another of Barrie’s comics. The artist who brought all of this glorious death and destruction to our young eyes was Joan Boix (The Phantom, Warrior, Eagle), a name I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of until reading this and seeing his signature, something which was a very rare thing in action comics of the time. With this level of quality I’m glad he did.

The back page pin up rounds things off with some light relief as Robo takes centre stage. So another issue and another hugely enjoyable read. I don’t want to come across as fawning in these reviews, but there’s no other way to write these; this really is a wonderful, quality comic in every way. All of the stories are really opening up, our characters (both main and secondary) are developing nicely and if I didn’t know how long the comic would last I’d say things feel set for a long, epic run.

Issue four will be here in just two weeks on Friday 3rd December 2021 and it really can’t come soon enough (and not just because my tree will be up).

WiLDCAT #2: STiCKiNG AROUND

We all know the risks of buying classic comics on eBay and that’s why I always check either in the description or with a message to the seller that all the pages are included and intact. This was listed as being in mint condition and it really is, but what the seller failed to mention was that it also came complete with its free gift. In fact two copies of the gift. To go along with that lovely depiction of the Wildcat spaceship by Ian Kennedy are stickers also drawn by the man himself.

These were to be attached to the free poster that came with the previous issue, which I haven’t been able to acquire yet, but even on their own they’re a cool gift. None of the aliens (at least in these stickers, there were more given away with the first few issues) relate to any of the stories inside, so this was simply a case of Ian’s imagination running wild. I think you’ll agree his they’re great and very typical of his work. Brilliant stuff.

With this being only the second issue there’s another recap page to kick things off with for new readers who missed out on the preview and issue one, although the comic does ask them why they missed it! The page itself feels a bit like an 80s tabloid layout which is a nice touch, giving the headline news of the story an immediacy I’m sure was appreciated at the time.

After this it’s on to the second part of Turbo Jones‘ story and unfortunately it looks like Ian is no longer the artist for the leader of the daring planetary expedition.

But you needn’t fear because in his place the regular artist goes by the name Vanyo (Death Wish, Storm Force, Ghost Squad), which was actually the pseudonym used by two Spanish brothers, Vicente Vano Ibarra and Eduardo Vano Ibarra. I asked Barrie if he remembers which brother drew Turbo but because they worked through an agency he was never sure which one was contributing which art to his comics. However, on their work he did say, “I do know they kept up a very high standard of artwork and I am a great fan of their work.” I think we can all agree on that.

Their line work brings dramatic facial expressions to Turbo that really humanise him, and adds a real solid feel to the ground-shaking action throughout. In this part of the story we find out the aliens who captured Turbo last issue are called the Burroids and they want to be a peaceful race. Their war with the savage Arglons however has been raging for so long now they were instantly suspicious of these new human aliens. Their leader is a giant brain suspended in a large glass dome, who tells Turbo of the history of their races, the war and of the planet itself.

A radiation storm, not unlike that which Turbo predicted for Earth (coincidence?) struck the planet a millennia ago. The resultant conditions upon the world resulted in all species developing a lung deformation and the inability to survive for any length of time above ground level. This rules out air travel and with giant monsters and raging seas stopping travel across the oceans each continent was thus cut off from their neighbours. It also explains the interference in communications prevalent in all of the strips.

This is the perfect set up for the comic. Each continent evolved across a million years separate from all others, meaning each of our landing parties (and our strips) can discover completely different environments and inhabitants, and are all cut off from simply calling for help, meaning they must explore. It’s quite an ingenious idea by Wildcat‘s creator and editor Barrie Tomlinson. It’s like having lots of different planets to explore all at once.

The Brain explains the two races signed an anti-nuclear treaty to ensure their war wouldn’t destroy the planet or negatively impact those on other continents. But the Burroids are still losing and need a new military leader. Guess who they want? That’s the set up to Turbo’s initial story arc complete and it’s an original one. Let’s see how it develops.

The scenes of murder and mayhem feel like they’re drawn with real relish.

Joe Alien is up next and his team aren’t really having the best of days. Confirming contact with the Wildcat is being disrupted, I like the fact this only happens after Turbo’s strip has given us readers the explanation why (Loner was cut off last time but we figured it was just the area he was in). It’s just one way in which each strip feels connected to the larger story, which was the whole point of the comic in the first place.

The bad luck continues as he loses another team member, all the while taking shelter from their stalker among the thick vegetation, unable to work out that this is actually the source of their woes. Joe himself keeps sensing danger all around them but continues to be just as confused as his men. When they see something move in the shadows they open fire and hear a scream but find no body. It was the tree that screamed, unbeknownst to them.

I know I’m making a bit of an assumption here but the scenes of murder and mayhem feel like they’re drawn with real relish, like artist Massimo Belardinelli is really enjoying drawing this strip with its weird and wacky antagonists. I do hope that was the case, as it’s such gruesome fun so far. A real classic gem.

We return to Kitten Magee next, drawn by José Ortiz, and she finally meets some of the locals. First they befriend a cute little furry eight-legged creature, only for it to be eaten on the very next page by flying blobs with big teeth. Her team fire back to scare them off, Kitten stopping her team from killing them, pointing out this is just nature’s way and their lives aren’t in danger. This is a nice moment because after the action of last issue it could’ve been easy to make these characters trigger-happy. Instead, the readers were given all-out action in issue one to draw them in but now things are settling a little more and proper exploration and research is beginning.

There’s quite a funny moment here when two of the team members are talking about when the next attack will come. They draw the conclusion it’ll be a while because their initial actions probably scared off the animals, when this happens.

The two-headed, three-mouthed tiger and its dinner disappear as quickly as they appeared, not even noticing the humans, making for nothing more than a fun piece of comic timing. The laughs soon stop when a tribe of multi-eyed men walk out of the shadows, not flinching when warning shots are fired in an attempt to halt their advance. Cassandra wants to fire directly upon them, based solely on how scary they look, but she’s told by Kitten she’s assumed incorrectly. The tribe are instead conveying a message through a form of sign language.

They wish for their leader to fight Kitten, who they’ve observed as the leader of this strange new female tribe. Accepting the challenge, it doesn’t go her way but despite the cliffhanger of a giant rock held over her head, ready to crush her, she tells her team they can’t interfere if this is the custom of the local people. With what seems like an endless array of weaponised jewellery, we’ll have to wait 14 days to see which one she pulls out of the bag (figuratively speaking) to get herself out of this one.

The art here is suitably creepy or suitably action packed when it’s called for. José’s use of dark shadows and scratchy lines is a great contrast to the glorious full-colour assault on the eyes that is Joe’s strip. In fact, I think Kitten’s really benefits from being in this place in the line-up right after Massimo’s work. The sudden change almost forces us to read this differently. The contrast is striking and helps the story convey the darker tone it wants to get across.

There are then two pages of reader’s letters and drawings, although most likely not by actual readers of the comic yet (I explained where these came from last time). One of the alien designs stands out, although not for the reason you might think. Take a look at ‘The Mighty Mouth Monster’ by Paul Ramsey. The second I saw it I recognised it from the myriad of marketing images for The Real Ghostbusters, a franchise which had only just launched in the UK (complete with its own comic) at the beginning of the same year. Here’s the image in Wildcat alongside one of the TV tie-in novels. Notice anything similar?

The question about the destruction of our home planet being different to that predicted by Turbo is raised here as well, answered with the hope that six pages will be devoted to explaining it in a future issue. Intriguing, although I do know from speaking with Barrie that this story was never developed in the comic’s short life. What a shame.

On to my favourite strip now and former mercenary Loner uses his modified six-shooter Babe to fire flares into the air, scaring off the cute-but-deadly little furballs from last issue’s cliffhanger. Loner was created by editor Barrie Tomlinson and written by both him and his son, James Nicholas (Johnny Red, Storm Force, Ring Raiders) and I think you can tell they were having a blast with the scripts here. As he tries to run for his life, Loner jumps into the water but there are floating versions of the little balls of fluff. Then on higher ground he gets attacked by cute and cuddly looking bat versions!

It doesn’t descend into farce but it’s still quite comical without ever losing its edge or drama. Quite the feat considering how they look. What I particularly like is how he recognises himself as the intruder. He laments having to use his gun to scare them and he refuses to open fire. Again, Wildcat lured its younger readers in with the action but is now showing them there’s more to being a hero than fighting. Constantly getting stung, becoming weaker and weaker he’s unaware of a pair of lizard eyes watching his every move and reading his every thought, or that this creature is controlling the furballs with his mind.

When Loner comes up against a wall of the little creatures the image makes the reader stop and take notice! It’s a great looking page; the wall of electrified death is the background, the panels leading up to that moment on top. I especially like the perfectly aligned little row of eyes between the two groups of panels. But nothing could’ve prepared the young version of me for what was on the next page.

Wow. This is the creature that’s been in control this whole time and would you just look at this page! The detail here is quite remarkable. I love the little details such as the scars, the veins, the shading giving real weight to the figure and that hand in particular. When you have an artist of the calibre of David Pugh drawing something like this it’s almost criminal to know the likes of 2000AD told its readers Wildcat was for their little brothers or sisters. Well, it was their loss and those of us who bought Wildcat were treated to the very best!

Across the page, under those adverts for stamp collecting that seemed to appear in every comic throughout the 80s is the Next Issue panel. At the end of Joe’s strip he used his telescopic limbs to grab hold of a small plant high up on a cliff, trying to look down and see who was attacking them. But the plant started to unravel its roots from the rocks and Joe realised it’s been the plants all along and they’re more alive than he bargained for. His realisation came too late though as it ended with him plummeting to the ground. Below you can see what happens next.

The second Wildcat Complete is called Space Madness and readers of classic 2000AD might feel right at home with this one. Although not 100% confirmed, my usual sources of help in identifying artists believe this issue’s story was drawn by Jesús Redondo (Dan Dare, M.A.C.H. 1, Nemesis the Warlock). It all kicks off with a DJ at the ship’s radio station being murdered by a robot while he’s still broadcasting to the last several hundred human beings in existence. As his death is played out live one of his listeners suffers the exact same fate in her room somewhere else on board.

Their untimely deaths make the front page of The Wildcat Express newspaper, which now feels somewhat quaint for being set in the far future (there are even horoscopes despite them being in deep space), but I always enjoy seeing how the future was predicted in stories from our youth. Anyway, I digress. Panic hits the Wildcat, which is understandable given the fact there appears to be a serial killer among them when there really aren’t that many people left, and they’re all trapped inside an orbiting tin can.

As the killings continue you begin to realise each one could be a major blow to the mission. For example a professor is carrying out experiments into the thoughts and feelings of plants in an attempt to understand them. I could see that being of particular use to Joe! Remember, as stated in the preview issue everybody was handpicked by Turbo and his team to be the best of the human race and here the story is just picking them off one by one.


“Mad Newspaper Boss Responsible For Wildcat Murders”

Newspaper headline

In the end, a witness to a fourth murder identifies the culprits as printing robots, leading security to the editor of the paper whose sales were failing because everything was so peaceful on board. It wasn’t exactly a hard case to solve but that’s not the point. The editor is diagnosed with Space Madness, “a kind of insanity triggered off by dwelling too long on the fact that Earth is destroyed and we’re in an unknown galaxy”. Apparently it’s happening across the ship.

It sounds similar to ‘Future Shock’ from the earliest 2000ADs, although here it makes a lot more sense. (It always confused me why people in the future would diagnose others as being unable to cope with living in the future. It’s not the future to them!) It would’ve been interesting to have this expanded upon, maybe it spreading across Wildcat could’ve been the basis for future stories. The fact the doc’s experiments could’ve related to Joe’s story is also interesting. Perhaps if the comic had lasted longer we’d have seen plot points from the strips develop, crossing over into others since they’re all part of one bigger story after all. We’ll never know.

The back page pin up is Joe Alien this time and it’s drawn by the hugely talented Ron Smith (Transformers, The Dandy, Harlem Heroes) and I’m happy to say there’ll be more by Ron in future issues. With all the danger inside, it’s nice to see Joe taking a moment to do some alien meditation surrounded by his new, erm, friends.

Just one thing I’d like to add before I sign off. During The Wildcat Complete I reiterated the point about how so few people were actually saved from the cataclysm. This hasn’t stopped Barrie and his writers from killing off plenty of them so far though! Between Joe Alien and the Wildcat Complete stories so far we’ve lost seven of our last survivors already and we’re only two issues in. I think I’ll have to keep tabs on this, just for fun.

Already showing confidence in its scenario and where it wants to take us, this second issue has been a joy to read from beginning to end. If it were in the hands of anyone other than Barrie this is the kind of solid quality we wouldn’t expect until much later in the run, so we really are off to a flying start! Come on back on Friday 19th November 2021 to see where he takes us next.