THARG'S FUTURE SHOCKS
While 2000 AD’s staple stories or ‘Thrills’ – like Judge Dredd or Strontium Dog – run into several episodes, Future Shocks are one-off, twist-in-the-tale sci-fi stories in the tradition of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and they were hosted in the early days by 2000 AD’s belligerent alien editor Tharg the Mighty.
A Future Shock is the sort of narrative mousetrap designed to lure you into the furthest reaches of an idea and bite you in the behind on the last page with a twist straight out of the Roald Dahl/O Henry playbook.
Since they first appeared in issue (or ‘Prog’) 25 of 2000 AD, Tharg’s Future Shocks soon sub-divided into genre variants like Tharg’s Terror Tales (horror), Past Imperfect (alternative histories), and Time Twisters (time travel).
It’s via these routes that new writers traditionally come to work for 2000 AD and that was certainly the case with me. I spent months and months firing story after story into the slush pile, soaking up rejections like the Terminator soaked up bullets. I actually blogged about this gruelling yet valuable experience: My Future Shock Hell: How I Broke Into 2000 AD (And What I Learned While Doing It).
So, here’s a detailed bibliography of my published Future Shocks, Terror Tales, et al, including my entry in the three-episode series Tharg’s 3rillers.
TERROR TALES: POISON
One-shot, with art by Ben Willsher and letters by Ellie De Ville, in 2000 AD # 1649, August 2009
There’s a new drug on the London party scene and it’s bigger than Botox. Fashion journalist Joanna Higgins investigates this rejuvenating miracle…
TERROR TALES: SEEING THINGS
One-shot, with art by Steve Yeowell and letters by Ellie De Ville, in 2000 AD #1662, November 2009
Ever since the disappearance of her young daughter, Kalpita Patel has been seeing things: hallucinations, voices, or perhaps clues to her daughter’s whereabouts…
The original twist ending for this story was a lot nastier. So nasty in fact that the editor asked me to rework it. By the way, Seeing Things is based on a real-life phenomenon called ‘Pareidolia’, which means the perceiving of significant patterns, images or sounds within random stimuli (shapes in the clouds, Our Lady on a slice of toast, Satanic lyrics on Justin Bieber albums played backwards, stuff like that).
TERROR TALES: LOST PROPERTY
One-shot, with art by Warren Pleece and letters by Ellie De Ville, in 2000 AD #1665, December 2009
Jamie works in the Lost Property department of the London Underground where he returns treasured objects to the restless dead, thus releasing them from their earthly bonds. Seeing ghosts on the underground is nothing new to Jamie until he meets a phantom that wants something more desperately than any ghost he’s ever encountered…
If I had to pick favourites, this would definitely be one of them. Warren’s storytelling and his evocation of a mundane world infused with dread and weirdness (so vital to a ghost story) is what really carries this tale for me. (Plus, I really dig that he snuck the Lost Ark onto page three, panel three…) 2000 AD editor Matt Smith actually came up with the poignant idea of the ghosts searching for objects that would allow them to move on. My wife came up with the ending.
TERROR TALES: KITSUNELAND
One-shot, with art by Mark Harrison and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1784, May 2012
Two British backpackers sneak into an abandoned theme park on the outskirts of Tokyo where a sinister presence awaits.
TERROR TALES: DONE DEAL
One-shot, with art by Tom Foster and letters by Ellie De Ville, in 2000 AD #1886, June 2014
Two siblings, their dying mother, and the wrong solution...
THARG'S 3RILLERS: SIX BROTHERS
Three episodes, with art by Michael Dowling and letters by Annie Parkhouse, in 2000 AD #1743-45, July-August 2011.
North London; the present. Three professional thieves – the Haralambous brothers – successfully break into a vault unaware that it is armed with a sinister security system that causes each brother to be followed home by a shadowy presence…
PAST IMPERFECT: ANTIQUUS PHANTASMA
One-shot, with art by Warren Pleece and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1631, April 2009.
When a dangerous phantom escapes the British Ghost Museum, dandy ghosthunter Doctor Spartacus Dandridge is summoned to get it back. In this alternate vision of Edwardian Britain, captured ghosts are regarded as priceless antiques; the more infamous the deceased the more valuable they become. Can Doctor Dandridge recapture the errant spectre before he causes the carnage required to increase his own value…?
Dandridge returned to 2000 AD the following year in his
own series. I’d like to say ‘by popular demand’, but it was probably more to do with me nagging the editor…
FUTURE SHOCKS: A TERRIBLE HUNT
One-shot, with art by P.J. Holden and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1560, October 2007
Billionaire bloodsports enthusiast Sir Iain Zaroff is terminally ill, and has arranged to undertake a final hunt before he dies. And, yes, his prey is human (hence the allusion to the 1932 movie The Most Dangerous Game, aka The Hounds Of Zaroff. Oh, and that title refers to a very rude bit of dialogue in Withnail & I. Yeah, I’m one of those geeky writers who can’t help adding this sort of thing for their own amusement.)…
My second commission for 2000 AD, but my first to be published, this one waited patiently in the slush pile and underwent several major rewrites that brought it within a hair’s breadth of commission (my eternal thanks to then-submissions editor Mr David Leach). Then David moved on and the script tumbled back into the depths of the slush pile (my screams of frustration were heard across the multiverse). Once I’d done a bit more work for Tharg, I got to resubmit the script.
FUTURE SHOCKS: ADVENTURES IN THE WAR TRADE
One-shot, with art by Staz Johnson and letters by Annie Parkhouse, in 2000 AD #1574, February 2008.
Bombastic ‘war director’ Cameron Vargner has successfully pitched his latest project: an invasion of the alien planet Hoojib IV. But someone has sabotaged the shoot…
FUTURE SHOCKS: ROGUE ELEMENTS
One-shot, with art by Nick Dyer and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1597, July 2008.
Private Investigator Dick Toogood is hired by a distraught widow to investigate the death of her husband. He uncovers a conspiracy involving the city's robot population…
FUTURE SHOCKS: LORD OF THE FANBOYS
One-shot, with art by Anthony Williams and Rob Taylor,
and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1672, February
A freak accident occurs aboard a space station hosting Earth’s most popular fantasy convention. The surviving conventioneers quickly turn feral and capture visiting actress Megan Woolf, star of the forthcoming Dragonwind movie. The studio send in the only person who can possibly rescue her from the rabid fans: Kevin D’Vaal, the reluctant creator of the entire Dragonwind franchise…
One of the artists, Anthony Williams, gleefully informed me that he based the look of Kevin D’Vaal on bestselling SF/fantasy author Dan Abnett, with whom Anthony collaborates on the 2000 AD series Sinister Dexter.
FUTURE SHOCKS: FAST HEARTS
One-shot, with art by Nick Dyer and letters by Ellie De Ville, in 2000 AD #1673, February 2010.
Nero Dimes, owner of the biggest, most high-tech casino in Nu Vegas, boasts that his joint is ‘hustle-proof’. However, Nero didn’t bank on genius gambler Traci Keene…
FUTURE SHOCKS: MyHEAVEN®
One-shot, with art by Inaki Miranda, colours by Eva De La Cruz and letters by Simon Bowland, in 2000 AD #1710, November 2010.
MyHeaven® is the program into which the richest people on earth download themselves when they die. Fancy spending your afterlife amid the clouds? Frolicking through the Elysian Fields? Rocking out in Valhalla? No problem. However, MyHeaven® CEO Anuba Crum actually stole her successful business from her programmer sister, Felicia. When Anuba is killed, Felicia breaks into her sister’s afterlife to steal back the code to the entire program…
TIME TWISTERS: CHRONO-CABBIE
One-shot, with art by Neil Roberts and letters by Annie Parkhouse, in 2000 AD #1678, March 2010
The Shamans of London secretly traverse the city’s chrono-streams. But whose job is it to ferry them about? A busy ‘chrono-cabbie’ regales us with a tale of one of his more unusual fares…
The idea for this came out of an interview I read about a group of British cab drivers. The story also benefits from succulent painted artwork by renowned Games Workshop cover artist Neil Roberts, who added more time travel in-jokes than I could possibly have thought up for myself. Keep an eye out on page one, panel five (as the cabbie whizzes through 1888 [the year of the Jack the Ripper murders]) to see just how far some comic book writers will go to do their research…
Banner art by Brett Ewins