1989: The Science Service

The Science Service (1989) by Rian Hughes and John Freeman.

So this is the format Acme was talking about in Stormwatcher: The pages have slightly-smaller-than-standard-comic-size, but there’s a hardback cover and a cloth effect binding, and it’s 32 pages, and it’s in duotone. And printed in Belgium. Was this format a thing in Belgium at some point? The only other thing I can recall that reminds me of this physically is Gary Panter’s Invasion of the Elvis Zombies. And the indicia there doesn’t say where it’s printed.

Anyway, this book doesn’t have the logo of either of its publishers on the cover. Instead it says “Atomic Comics”, which is an imprint of its British publisher Acme, but it’s “released” by Eclipse Comics, which I take to mean that they coughed up the money to pay the printer? Or perhaps just sent the solicitation to the US distributors?

Hughes draws in a punky UK angular style influenced by Franco-Belgian “clear line” artists: Everything is retro-futuristic and nicely two-dimensional

The dialogue is a bit more difficult to determine what’s going on with. “Sticky wicket” and “play the white man” seems to be hinting at that this is imagined as a sci-fi story written in the 50s, but then nothing else really seems to carry that idea through.

Which is a common thing: Nothing’s really makes much sense in this environment. The plot is about some rubber face technology that must be stopped, and for some reason the tv presenter is a person with a wolf head. The action is choppy as hell; there’s no flow to the dialogues or scene changes. In addition, I thought that “Danny Raye”…

… and “Danny Rae” was a plot element of some sort, but they just misspelled it the first time?

So the adopted daughter of this guy was hanging out with this guy’s friend? Why? Or is he just talking about his adopted daughter’s friend, who dud like to imitate heroes (using masks), but he’s dead now, so that’s what he’s getting at? But if he knows he’s dead, why does he say “I should leave this stuff to Danny Rae”?

In short: While the artwork’s nice, the story is undigested twaddle. There are no deeper meanings to anything; it’s just so badly constructed that the brain starts making up connections where none exist.

And it ends with some grandstanding that, from the logic of the book, can’t possibly have any significant effect on anything.

It all feels a bit pointless.

It’s a very nice format physically, but perhaps people back then weren’t that excited to pay 3x more than a normal comic book for the same contents. Comics readers used to be really cheap.

Hm… This page claims that this book was the last in the Atomium 58 series, which was published in France? And the book does have that logo… and Magic Strip is mentioned… So is this a reprint? This page mentions it being printed by the published Magic Strip, so I guess so?

This story was allegedly included in a recent collection of Hughes work in the UK.

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