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Dollar Bin Discoveries: Dystopian Sci-Fi Edition

Mike: [00:00:00] We can never travel to Texas now.

We insulted the barbecue.

Jessika: Oh, I would never do that. Mike, you're alone in that Texas. If you're listening, that's only Mike.

Mike: Welcome to Tencent takes the show where we discovered the Comics are actually people, one issue at a time. My name is Mike Thompson, and I am joined by my co-host, the soylent saucier herself, Jessika Frazer

Jessika: Oh my God. That's a terrifying notion. , am I 2d? Please don't tell me I'm 2d.

Mike: How are you doing?

Jessika: I'm, I'm good. How are you?

Mike: I'm good.

Jessika: Excellent.

Mike: If you are new to the show, [00:01:00] our main episodes drop every other week and provide in-depth looks into interesting moments in comic books and how they tie into pop culture and history. But today is one of our dollar bin discovery mini episodes that we do in between those deep dives, we spend a lot of time rooting through dollar bins of local shops looking for interesting stuff.

And while a lot of the issues we find are fun and weird, there may not be enough for us to do a deep dive on at the moment. We always reserve the right to change our mind later and come back. Each of these episodes features both of us talking about one random issue that we came across in the dollar bins and discussing what it is, what goes on inside it, and why it's interesting.

Basically, these are many episodes that are meant to provide you with some weekly content. In between are more in depth discussions about the weirder and more interesting moments in Comics history. So we are actually changing the format a little bit where instead of just coming to the table with random issues, we are picking a theme for each mini episode so that we have something vaguely similar to talk about.

Jessika: You know, tie everything together a little bit with a nice little bow of [00:02:00] some sort.

Mike: Yeah. So tonight's theme is dystopian science fiction. So, uh, Jessika, what are you bringing to the table tonight?

Jessika: So I have brought in Mars issue number three titled Transformer by Mark Wheatley and Mark Hempel.

That would be Mark with a K first and Mark with a C. Second. I just need to note that.

Mike: Hmm.

Jessika: Edited by Mike Gold, published by First Comics, and this was in March of 1984.

Mike: Oh, okay. It's a First Comics book. Interesting.

Jessika: It is fact.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: So we start off with Morgana and a tall egg-shaped silver robot that has the inscription, mt dash forty eight, twenty four, twelve C, whom they call TZ, I [00:03:00] guess. And it also has Morganna's face on it,

Mike: Okay.

Jessika: I, you know, it's number three. I don't know what's what that's about. So that's something I just had to jump into.

Mike: is it like an ongoing series or is it an anthology?

Jessika: it, it's an ongoing cuz it definitely like jumped into like a storyline for sure. So they run into another creature who seems to be like half cat and it's a person like with very cat-like features and hair and a tail, but you know, completely naked because she has fur if you can imagine.

Mike: Weird.

Jessika: Yes, yes.

So her name is Fawn and she doesn't seem to be the brightest character in the story, which lovely right. Any who. Morgana has just awoken from a 10,000 year nap, I guess

Mike: Like you do, you know,

Jessika: issues, you know, but she's irritated to find that in, you know, the 10,000 years in that time, a city has been built in her neck of the woods, heaven forbid.

[00:04:00] So she goes to the city to figure out who dared, I guess, build a city in 10,000 years. I need to reiterate, that's a long ass time. Girl stuff's gonna happen. So they get a guide to go under the city cuz they need to break in, you know, and it's a character that they are familiar with named Milos. So I assume he got introduced earlier in in the issues.

So he leads them underground. We get backstory on some of the drama from prior issues, namely that Morgana had been left by her companions because they were told she was helpless and that the life support bot. Said she was paralyzed again. So I guess she has a problem with being paralyzed and they thought her life support was damaged while fixing her.

So Morgana is beat. She's tired even though she just woke up from a 10,000 year nap. So she goes back to sleep and she dreams that she is being [00:05:00] sacrificed. Her mind is being given to give life to the city that had been erected. And then Morgana is awoken only to have difficulty breathing. A windstorm had picked up and made it difficult for her to catch her breath.

So she's carried away by once she collapses due to lack of oxygen and passes out, you know, this is the eighties, you know everyone's, every woman's frail.

Mike: Yeah. Well, yes.

Jessika: yes. So the wind dies down, they stumble into a chamber, filled with figures wearing robes, and they're clearly performing a ritual. And it turns out that the trusted Milos is offering Morgana's mind to breathe life into the new city. So TZ and Fawn figure out that Morgana is being affected by Milos. They try to outrun him, but Milos does some fancy spell work and starts commanding an army of really intense aliens to try to get Morgana's body. Creepy, very creepy. [00:06:00] Meanwhile, in Morgana's mind, the forces are trying to take over her consciousness to get her to become one with the city.

And she starts affecting the city, like her breathing is taking on the wind. Her heart is pumping and could be felt in the city walls, and she feels trapped. Her mind is the city. So TZ and Fawn are still fighting to get her out with TZ, sacrificing herself to fight off the aliens, pushing Morgana into Fawn's care who drags her out of the city.

When it looks like TZ is about to make it out to the other side of the bridge and outside of the city. TZ falls and the bridge collapses. Morgana is jarred awake, yelling, no, I don't want to be the city. And then asks Fawn where Milos and TZ are. We end with Fawn's sad face and then walking away with the facade of the city in the background. So that. So there was a secondary [00:07:00] eight page long story afterwards that was called Black Flame the , heli Quinn Ride.

And it followed a completely different story with an absolutely different vibe, uh, that it was also unfamiliar with, but it involved a dude, Black Flame surprise, who I heavily suspect is supposed to be half demon.

Mike: Okay,

Jessika: Or person who turns into a demon went upset. I, I don't know. Either way, he's saving this little girl from her parents who have swapped with literal demons and he's like, sorry, kid, your parents are gone, but like, we'll get you somewhere safe. But like he gets upset thinking about how the demon parents were treating her.

So he slips and turns into a demonn form for a second. So anyway, a lady demon poison ivy knockoff complete with bright red hair and toxic green bodysuit only somewhat covering her skin

Mike: so you just said with bright red hair, so was this a, was this a full color comic?

Jessika: It was,

Mike: Okay. I don't know why, I just kind of assumed that it was gonna be a black and white, since it was a, [00:08:00] an indie book from the mid 80.

Jessika: yeah. No, it was, uh, It was color, it was full color and like vibrant, bright colors as well.

Mike: All right.

Jessika: so she's trying to track down the little girl, so it's like an explosive race to get her to a safe house, which he does, but just barely the end.

Mike: Hmm.

Jessika: It was pretty wild, like totally different vibe.

So I'm just going to be discussing the main comic, because that's my prerogative

It was an interesting comic. I, I will try to go back and see if I can find the first couple of issues. Cause I, I'm so curious. I wanna know more about this, the backstory and the characters.

The writing was fun. I enjoyed that. It was like a complete story, start to finish. Like, I didn't know who all the characters were or some of the little pieces, but it didn't matter for the resolution of the story. So, yeah, it was, it, I still felt very connected and satisfied with the story regardless of that. The art was fun. It was [00:09:00] like very playful, colorful. Like I said, the aliens were like shades of pink and orange. The city was bright yellow and the caves had like these shades of purple. So yeah, it was, it was really interesting. I'll check it out.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds really cool.

Jessika: Yeah. Well, what about you

Uhoh? The laughter.

Mike: no, I'm just, I'm laughing because I also chose an indie book from the eighties.

Jessika: Nice.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: We really are on theme

Mike: right. Yeah. So I went with New York: Year Zero from Eclipse Comics, and this was published by Eclipse in August, 1988, when they were still in Forestville. The story is by Ricardo Barreiro, who was an Argentine writer whose comics were mainly published in Spanish, Italian, and Dutch. But this appears to be one of his few English language Comics. The art is by Juan Zanotto. It was lettered by Wayne [00:10:00] Truman and edited by Leticia Glozer and what's really interesting is that this was apparently part of a project where Eclipse was republishing foreign language Comics for an American audience.

And the Spanish language version of this comic was originally published in 1984 as Nueva York Año Cero.

I should note that this is a black and white indie comic. So it, reminds me a lot of like the 2000 Ad stuff that was coming out. , and we'll talk about that in a little bit.

But this comic begins in the jungles of Venus, where we see a battalion from Earth trudging their way through a steamy jungle swamp. We're told via an unnamed narrator that the army is making a, in quote, strategic withdrawal, which is really an evacuation from the planet because the war against the Venuzians turned out to be the exact opposite of the cakewalk that was promised by high command.

earth superior technology doesn't actually work that well because fungus grows all over metal in seconds. And that's something that we see in action when a Venusian fighter [00:11:00] blazes down on the military group and the soldier's anti-aircraft guns jam. So as a result, they lose a number of people and vehicles to the gunship, and then the officer in charge orders them to head towards the undergrowth where they can take cover, only it turns out the shore of the swamp was trapped and so they lose even more people to the mines. And then a thick fog ends up saving the survivors because Venusian ships don't have infrared vision. So the patrol limps on until it arrives at a military base where they're hoping to get onto a transport home to Earth.

However, they're told that they need to fall back and camp out at these unprotected coordinates because there are only enough undamaged transports to get everyone that are currently in the base off planet. And as a result, like more transports are incoming, but it'll be another 24 hours and the patrol will be sitting ducks at their campsite.

So they're, you know, understandably upset because they're basically being told to wait and probably die. that said, they begrudgingly follow the chain of command and head out again. And then the narrator lingers and he abandons [00:12:00] his squad when they're not looking. And he knocks out the guy who turned them away and steals his uniform

Jessika: Damn.

Mike: Yeah, the, the breathing mask that everyone has to wear on this planet hides his face. So that like, you know, kind of helps him sell the disguise. And then he is able to get on a transport ship just as his old unit attacks the base. But they're blown to smithereens by mines that have been set up to help ward off the Venusians.

so our narrator manages to make it home to New York, New York in the year of our Lord, 2015

Jessika: Okay, , tell me about like seven years, eight years ago. Please tell

Mike: yeah, yeah. New York, eight years ago was a very dystopian, overcrowded city.

Jessika: Okay. Check.

Mike: Yeah. That we see that the Statue of Liberty no longer has ahead, the World Trade Center. the Twin Towers are still around and, and there are also mega structures like every.

it's serving some Mega City One vibes.

Jessika: Okay.

Mike: yeah. And then the soldier goes through his discharge process revealing, his name is Brian [00:13:00] Chester. We find out his military contract had a withholding clause where he had to reimburse the military for fuel costs of transport.

So he only has $16 after a year's service, and he's not allowed to take this. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's one of those things where I'm like, oh, this feels a little more accurate than it should be

Jessika: Yeah, it does. Yeah, it does.

Mike: He's also not allowed to take his firearm or his military bio stimulator with him into the city. And then there's this moment of dialogue that's actually, it's just heartbreaking. He's sitting there and he is, Pleading with the people who are taking all this stuff away from him. And he says, I've got no house, no relatives nor friends in New York.

I don't even know where I'll sleep tonight. The city is a jungle. At least let me keep the gun.

Jessika: Yeah. Goddamn.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: That feels way too real.

Mike: it's brutal man. like, it's, it's impressive. And then they uh, they still turn 'em out and then they also take his boots, but they do offer him a pair of practical shoes for the low, low price of $7 and 50 cents.

Jessika: [00:14:00] I, yeah, that sounds incredibly real. I, I hate everything. I hate everything. And our society sucks.

This comic got a lot right.

Mike: yeah. Right. And then the quartermaster who, like, there's some queer coating with the quartermaster cuz he keeps on calling him Darling and he's got like, kind of this pencil mustache and all that.

Jessika: Okay.

Mike: but the quartermaster takes pity on him and he gifts Brian a brand new bulletproof vest.

And with that, Brian goes out into the city, we're told that New York is the capital of the city, of the five states that still comprise the United States. Yeah. 30 million people live there now. hunger and unemployment are rampant.

Jessika: Yes.

Mike: and the city is a super metropolis now

Jessika: Fact. No, he's right.

Mike: yeah.

And then as Brian's walking down the street, a sniper in an apartment window starts randomly shooting at pedestrians. And Brian takes cover while the police roll up. And that's where it ends.

Jessika: That sounds like I, not to be [00:15:00] dramatic, but like that feels incredibly real.

I hate that. I hate that. How Right. They were about that. And here's the thing, like, you know, they sat there and they were like, how bad can we make this? Like, nobody was like, what do we actually think it's gonna look like in 2015?

They were like, what's the worst case scenario that we can think of? And then some,

Mike: You know, it's one of those things where it feels, it feels a little bit like Robocop, where when you're watching Robocop and they're talking about the privatization of, like all these emergency services and everything, you're like, this was supposed to be like highbrow parody and, and it's like, mm ooh, this is a little more uncomfortably real than I was expecting.

Jessika: really making a statement now.

Mike: yeah, but I gotta say, I, I really liked this actually. Barreiro's story. It's economically written, but it fills us in on everything we need to know while keeping the general pace just kind of whipping along. There were a couple of individual moments that I really loved with the [00:16:00] dialogue too.

Like that one that I just told you about.

Jessika: yeah.

Mike: Zanotto's art is just gorgeous too. It reminds me a lot of Carlos Esquerra's art for 2000 ad like, cuz you know, he did Judge Dredd and the Stainless Steel Rat. It has that really cool mashup of sci-fi technology with chunky and grimy aesthetics. I'm not sure if the comic was originally in color, but this version is all in black and white and it's great.

Like it's very stark and I never felt confused by the action and the panels they all feel really cinematic and how the shots are framed. There are a total of four issues in the series and I managed to get the second one, so I'm really excited to, to read that and see how the story goes too.

Jessika: Very cool.

Mike: Yeah, this was, I mean, it's, it's pretty bleak but it's also really fun. Like I was surprised. So,

Jessika: That was exciting.

Mike: well I think that's it for tonight. So we will be back next week with another [00:17:00] full deep dive into something. I don't know what we're recording these pretty far in advance at this point, so we'll see.

But, uh, until then, we'll see you in the stacks.

Thanks for listening to Tencent Takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.

Jessika: This episode was hosted by Jessika Frazer and Mike Thompson, written by Mike Thompson and Jessika Frazer, and edited by Jessika Frazer and Mike Thompson. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emerson Johnson of Bay Area Sound. Our credits and transition music is Pursuit of Life by Evan McDonald and was purchased with a standard license from Premium Beat.

Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who's at

Mike: If you'd like to get in touch with us, ask us questions, or tell us about how we got something wrong, please head over to Tencent or shoot an email to Tencent takes You can also find us on Twitter for now. The official podcast account is Tencenttakes all one word.

Jessika is Jessikawitha, and Jessika is spelled with a K. And [00:18:00] Mike is Vansau, v a n s a u. We're also on Hive, Mastodon Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. The complete list is in the show notes.

Jessika: If you'd like to support us, please be sure to download rate and review wherever you listen

Mike: Stay safe out there.

Jessika: and support your local comic shop.


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