Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Buck Rogers in the Workers’ Paradise

The Look-In Picture Strip Archive is a splendid enterprise aimed at collecting the comic strips that appeared in the so-called “Junior TV Times” in the 1970s and 1980s. Look-In was a mix of strips and articles, the former mostly based on TV series that appealed to boys (though I do remember a strip based on Follyfoot Farm), the latter being generally about pop groups who appealed to what we would now call “tween” girls.

Some of the comic strips were in black and white, but others were full-colour, printed on good quality paper in the photogravure tradition of Eagle, TV21 and Countdown. Look-In would be the last comic produced this way until new technology drastically reduced printing costs.

The Look-In Picture Strip Archive contains prime comics work by John M Burns, Mike Noble, Arthur Ranson, Martin Asbury and Jim Baikie. So far it only covers examples from Sapphire & Steel, Space:1999, The Tomorrow People and Terrahawks, but the archive now has a complete run of Look-In’s adapatation of the TV version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Given that there were only two pages a week to play with, the stories, by Angus P Allan, were inevitably crude and the characterisation perfunctory, but in this case that was a good match with the TV show. The art, by Asbury, Ransom and Noble, was mouth-watering. Here is a sample page by Ransom (as ever, click to enlarge). The archive pages are bigger, being 300 dpi scans.

One thing always struck me about the TV series. It was fairly clear that the Earth of the 25th century was a totalitarian state. It was ruled by an oligarchic council of computers. Press blackouts of emergencies were commonplace. Food was provided by a food directorate, energy by an energy directorate. All trade had to pass through a strictly policed narrow corridor through the planet’s force field. We saw no independent economic or political activity on Earth. Buck had no job – he turned down employment by the defense directorate – but he still had an apartment, clothes, food and a robot servant, so either there was a generous welfare state or, more likely, senior apparatchiks like Wilma and Dr Huer could work the system to provide for their toy-boy.

And what did Buck do? He tried to teach people to boogie and play table tennis, albeit not at the same time. Wouldn’t Jim Kirk have overthrown this society in, oh, about 45 minutes?

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