(1989 (2005 reprint)) Alan Moore & Jim Baikie, 2000AD, £7.99, trdpbk, 104 pp, ISBN 1-840-23450-4
This is the long-overdue 2005 reprint of the 1989 graphic collection/novel which is in turn of 2000AD's 1983 classic strip Skizz: has it really been over two decades! I say 'classic strip' because this really is 2000AD delivering excellent SF and also because Skizz returned after a number of years for two more adventures (1992 and 1994/5) that actually represent a continuation (and marked development) of this first tale.
Skizz is actually interpreter Zhcchz of the Tau-Ceti Imperium and he is not afraid. Of course us Earthlets find it easier to call him 'Skizz'. And no, he is not afraid. Why should he be? He is from a super-advanced, star-stepping civilization. The only problem right now is that his spaceship has just crashed on a primitive planet and, given that there is a primitive proto civilization there it, the spaceship, decides to prevent cultural contamination by blowing itself, and Skizz, up! During the countdown Skizz pleads with it and so the ship reluctantly allows Skizz to leave the ship but without any (culture-contaminating) technology. The ship then blows up.
Skizz is not afraid.
He is brown, space-suitedly terrified!
Alone, he is fourteen and a half miles from Burmy-gam (Birmingham, England) and not feeling well. Eventually he meets Roxanne having hidden in her garden shed. In addition, unfortunately for Skizz, someone else has an inkling of Skizz presence on Earth as his craft was detected coming down. Government hands-dirty man, Van Owen, is on the trail.
Skizz is a great, gritty story that soundly countered Spielberg's sugary film E.T which came out just before the original strip was published but, importantly, after much of the strip was drawn. As artist Baikie notes, they (he and writer Moore) knew that E.T. was in the offing and had hoped to beat him to publication/screening. "You know millionaires, though; Spielberg had more people helping him and he got there first. Ah well, at least our alien was different." Also this meant that it was possible to include a mention of E.T in addition to the shed parody and one other scene. "Loz, what's happening? This isn't what happened in the end of that film, is it?" "I.. I.. dunno... I walked out halfway through the bit with the bicycles." Nonetheless, be reassured, Skizz has a decidedly dark edge, even if it has many - 'flippi nek' - humorous moments and some lovely throw-away lines. When they drive through Spaghetti Junction (the M1 / M6 motorway exchange) Skizz says, "we have abstract sculptures of similar size and complexity." The story also comes complete with a Yosser Hughes, 'gissa job' type, character (from the 1982 Thatcher depression TV play Boys From The Black Stuff) and a racist father. That Van Owen is a white South African adds to the mix. However non-Brits may find the phonetically-written accents (Birmingham, cockney and S. African) a little (only a little) difficult to follow but not impede understanding. (Skizz has a bigger problem as do readers of Banks' Feersum Endjinn to give you an idea.)
The black and white artwork is by the Scottish comics artist Jim Baikie. Baikie is of course well known in older Brit SF comic circles for drawing the Star Trek strip in Joe 90 before the TV series took off in the UK, as well as occasional Dan Dare strips in the resurrected Eagle comic in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he drew a few Judge Dredd stories for 2000AD. Alan Moore is naturally well known for other 2000AD classic strips: Halo Jones and DR & Quinch not to mention the superhero, ground-breaking graphic novel Watchmen and more recently the Tom Strong stories and The Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. All of which, if you have not already, should encourage you to seriously subscribe to either 2000AD or perhaps a better bet, for those a little older at heart, the Judge Dredd Megazine: a monthly from the same people which features a number of non-Dredd SF strips. This last is especially recommended for North American book SF fans some of whom may think that SF in comics today is largely to do with stock DC and Marvel characters and plots. Check Skizz out and then if motivated get either 2000AD or the Megazine and you'll see what I mean. Go on, treat yourself.
By sheer coincidence (or is it just knowledge of the good stuff) Skizz gets a mention in the 2000AD entry of the new Essential SF: A Concise Guide which itself makes a grand birthday or Christmas present for that friend of yours who is just starting out to explore the genre and needs to identify principle features of its landscape. Actually, as you might end up keeping it, best get two copies at the same time and save on postage and packing - the nice people at Porcupine are normally quite good about that sort of thing.
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