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Comic Book / Tharg's Future Shocks

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Tharg's Future Shocks is a collection of short comics in the anthology magazine 2000 AD hosted by the Galaxy's Greatest Comic alien editor Tharg. Various writers have contributed to this series, including Alan Moore.

Since there is (usually) no continuity from comic to comic, the subjects differ wildly, but all with a sci-fi bent, and typically ending on a Karmic Twist Ending or Cruel Twist Ending.

There have been a few spin-offs, including Tharg's Terror Tales, covering horror.

This comic provides examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: A pair of art thieves visit a gallery to find the most valuable piece to steal. They settle on a weird painting that is contained behind very thick bars. They saw through the bars to get at it, but instantly disappear. The next morning the curator takes a new group of tourists through the exposition, explaining that the painting is actually alive and the bars are not meant to protect the painting from people, but to protect people from the painting. The thieves are seen being tortured in Hell inside the painting.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After the extremely stupid protagonist of Benny's Tale gets an intelligence-enhancing treatment.
    Benny: I can construct algorithms! I can name every planet in the known Universe! I can count to twenty!
  • Ascended Extra: A couple of stories, such as Survival Geeks and Ulysses Sweet: Maniac For Hire, started out as one-offs from this strip.
  • Big Little Man: One of Alan Moore's "Future Shocks" features alien nomads in search of "The Chariot of the Gods". When their leader insists that they've found it, they wait for the Chariot to descend to the ground from above them... and then they all get crushed by Neil Armstrong as he makes his first step on the Moon.
  • Born Lucky: Jeremy Chance is a man who has the best luck in the world, but always at the expense of someone else. In fact, it turns out that his mere presence actually creates all sorts of disasters so that he can miraculously survive them (for instance, someone shoving him out of the way for a seat and immediately getting killed by falling debris from a spontaneously collapsed roof). It's decided to blast him off into space, where Jeremy's ship goes through a time portal that appeared for no other reason than to have Jerry avoid a collision with another spacecraft. The end twist is that Jeremy was thrust back in time and became the center of Halley's comet, which has been causing disasters as it got ever closer to Earth. After crashing into the planet and wiping out all life, Jeremy's sleeping body is perfectly unharmed.
  • Brown Note: One story written by Alan Moore gave a spin on the alien parasite, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type tale by suggesting that an alien life form could even be as abstract as an idea. One such "idea" takes over the mind of a person once he/she is told the "idea" by someone already possessed by it.
  • Captain Space, Defender of Earth!: A strip penned by Alan Moore centered around Rocket Redglare—"Golden-Haired Guardian of the Galaxy, Steel-Eyed Sentinel of the Spaceways, and Enemy of Evil Extra-Terrestrials." He's been living out his life as a washed-up retiree, ever since he defeated his Meng the Merciless -styled arch enemy.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: A computer technician is dumbfounded by a computer error that simply does not make sense, as he's already checked everything several times. He then starts to wonder if things only work because we believe they do, and conversely, if things stop working if we stop believing in them. Reality proceeds to fall apart as he begins to question the laws of nature, such as gravity.
  • The Con: In Alan Moore's "Grawks Bearing Gifts", the Grawks are alien (and stereotypically Australian) tourists, who have people lining up to play this con on them, until they reveal that under Galactic Law all these sales are valid, and they now own the planet.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Future Shocks sometimes end with these twists, although the Karmic Twist Ending is more common. Some of the more interesting ones include:
  • Expendable Alternate Universe:
    • When scientists accidentally tear a hole through spacetime leading to an alternate Earth during weapons testing for the army, a General Ripper decides to test their new missiles against the other dimension so they can steal their resources, declaring that their own reality is the only one that matters. Someone investigates and finds out that the portal didn't lead to an alternate universe, but their own dimension 60 hours in the future.
    • One story had entire wars played out in this way. A scientist worked out a way to create reality bubbles where wars are fought between expendable clone troops while the actual instigators of the war sit and watch over drinks. Unfortunately, the company that invested in the technology abuses said scientist and he betrays them to a group of mercenaries who are stroppy over their livelihoods being put at risk over the tech, so the mercs destroy the reality bubbles and renegotiate the terms of their contracts to go back to fighting conventional wars again.
  • Flock of Wolves: In one of Alan Moore's stories, a werewolf is loose on a spaceship and plans to feast on all the unsuspecting humans within. Naturally, every person on the vessel turns out to be a werewolf, to their consternation. It's implied that Earth came up with this as a means of getting rid of all the supernatural beings in their midst; the passengers shown boarding another ship at the end are all plainly vampires in Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The story about the alien idea that possesses people ends with the narrator on the point of telling the idea to the reader before Tharg steps in and stops the story.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Red Moon concentrates on a man stranded alone on a world after his wife and daughter were killed fighting against a race of what he refers to as "Piranha Dogs". When he's rescued, it transpires that because the Piranha Dogs' flesh is toxic, he ate his family instead and kills the rescue crew. He intends to lure more ships to he can keep killing crews for food.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: One of Alan Moore's "Future Shocks" features alien nomads in search of "The Chariot of the Gods". When their leader insists that they've found it, they wait for the Chariot to descend to the ground from above them... and then they all get crushed by Neil Armstrong as he makes his first step on the Moon.
  • Humans Are Warriors: During a massive space battle between mankind and an alien race, a Cosmic Entity intervenes to see which race is worthy of survival, pitting the human general against the alien general. The human general wins after using his smarts to defeat the physically superior alien, but then the Cosmic Entity proceeds to wipe out the human fleet since they have proved themselves to be the most warlike of the two species and the universe would be better off without them.
  • Human Disguise: Holiday Of A Lifetime is centred around an alien being who is looking to go on holiday, but can only get the budget package on short notice, which turns out to be life as a human. It briefly skips through his life, with his marriage being noted as being a "holiday romance". Eventually after he "dies", we still see the alien's thought bubbles noting that it's time to go home and, after he's been cremated, complaining that he can't find his return ticket.
  • Human Popsicle: A scientist who is made into a laughing stock by his jealous rival decides to prove his naysayers wrong by inventing cryogenic suspension, then putting himself to sleep for twenty years. It turns out that during this time people tore down his laboratorium and put an apartment building on top of it, so he's forced to go into suspension again, waking up after another forty years when the building is gone. When he tries to claim credit for inventing cryogenic suspension, he's told that it was invented fifty-five years ago—by his rival.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: Ulysses Sweet is hired by a group of human workers who have lost their jobs to robots so that he'll wipe out their opposition. However, the humans turn on each other after they realize that they'll now have to do all the unpleasant and difficult jobs that humans either don't want or don't know how to do anymore. Also, Ulysses was a mole for the robots, who hired him to get rid of those pesky humans.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Future Shocks typically ended with such a twist. If the main character is warmongering, bigoted, greedy, etc., you can be sure that something will come back to bite them by the end. One of the best, by Alan Moore, goes like this: A werewolf on a virtually eternal space flight to an off-world colony looking forward to feasting on everybody else on board whenever the spaceship passes a lunar body finding out the hard way that every passenger and crew member on the vessel is also a werewolf and was hoping to do the same thing (and Earth's space command post happy to know that they've finally figured out a way to get rid of all of the planet's werewolves).
  • Literal Split Personality: A writer who imagines himself as various different personas as he writes various series, goes to a doctor as he is experiencing Writer's Block. The doctor takes him to a machine that will allow the various personalities to be given their own bodies. However, after this the writer still can't think of any new stories as his other personas all type away at their own, so he creates a new one.
  • Mutagenic Food:
    • In one comic set in the future humans hunt down ugly-looking snot aliens who mysteriously reproduce en masse by eating their eggs. Which naturally turns out to be the very thing that turns others into new aliens.
    • Optimal had a race of aliens sell Optimals to Earth to combat its food crisis. Optimals essentially can be programmed to be anything needed for any purpose. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to random mutations that start affecting first the humans that eat them and then changing the very fabric of reality itself, mutating the far future depicted in the strip into early 21st Century London.
  • Psycho for Hire: Ulyssess Sweet, Maniac for Hire! It even says so on his business card. People who hire him tend to regret it (if they survive the encounter at all), as he's a Heroic Comedic Sociopath committed to the idea that There'sNoKillLikeOverkill.
  • Robot War: Three humans are the last survivors involved in such a war against an unstoppable robotic enemy. They all end up dying in a suicide mission to bomb a robot spaceport, but the twist is that all the "humans" were robots made to look like humans, and the "robots" were humans in metal suits.
  • Scars are Forever: An old man tells someone that he used to be the most famous gladiator in the galaxy before he was finally defeated by another champion, who left a visible scar on his face. He then had his scar removed and his memory sold off to a company so people can experience his life. The man he was talking to turns out to have a huge scar over his head, as a true gladiator would never remove it.
  • Spin-Off: Tharg's Terror Tales is the horror equivalent, Time Twisters specifically focus on Time Travel and Past Imperfect is for Alternate History stories. Future Shorts are single-page stories, while Tharg's 3rillers are three partners. Technically, Vector 13 and Tales From The Black Museum count as well with the latter also being a Judge Dredd spinoff.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Lampshaded in the following exchange from one the stories, written by Alan Moore, about a school that teaches its students how to be a proper villain.
    Mr. Dreadspawn: Now you have the hero in your power at last. What do you do, Doctor Devastation?
    Doctor Devastation: Uhh... Shoot him?
  • Straw Vegetarian: Parodied by the "Vegetable Liberation Front", who raid grocery stores to free 'enslaved vegetables'. They only eat edible rocks, because eating fruit or vegetables is wrong. One guy notes that they might get a bad rep with the "Mineral Liberation Front", but his partner says that doesn't matter because most of them have already died of starvation.
  • Stupid Crooks: One of the Future Shocks featured two would-be art thieves with the "experienced" one teaching the novice that whatever paintings are the most heavily guarded area, logically, the most valuable ones. They get really greedy when they see one that's immensely guarded and it turns out that that painting is a living entity that eats whatever comes near it; the security measures were supposed to keep the painting away from people -- not the other way around.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: One strip had a man in a bar telling his life story to a stranger. The teller told of how he was a loving husband and father whose family were abducted by a warlord, and so he took revenge by entering the warlord's services as a blacksmith and making shoddy weapons, then running off on the eve of a major battle. The panels show that he was actually a cruel miser whose wife ran away, taking her kids with her. He beat his son to death, and the weapons he made were of substandard quality due to incompetence rather than design. The strip ends with him lying in an alley in a pool of blood, the stranger standing over him with a knife.
  • Uplifted Animal: A bunch of scientists tries to increase the intellect of apes so that they can be used as manual labor. It looks like it didn't work until one of the apes slips up and reveals that they have been Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Jeremy Chance is a literal example. He's Born Lucky, but his luck always happens at the expense of someone else, so fortune will contrive all sorts of disasters so that he can miraculously survive them. After humanity shoots him off into space, he goes through a time portal and becomes Halley's Comet, which eventually destroys life on Earth.
  • We Have Become Complacent: One of Alan Moore's "Future Shocks" is about a legion of soldiers sent into space by their home planet's emperor after all their enemies there have been defeated. Their mission is to travel through space in a straight line and destroy everything in their path until they reach the end of the universe. After over a billion years, the soldiers find a planet up ahead that once had the reputation of a great empire but has since become "soft and flabby." They decide to lay waste to it and later discover that it was their own homeworld, because the universe is curved and circular.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: In the future humans hunt down alien reptiles that look like bowls of mucus. One guy eats as many of their eggs as possible to wipe out those ugly aliens. It turns out that they have a very interesting method of reproduction when he starts to melt.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: In a story, an American actor sees a vision of his death: Being hit on the street by a characteristic yellow New York taxi cab. In an effort to avoid this fate, the actor moves to Great Britain and manages to continue his successful acting career there. Sometime later he's acting in a movie which takes place in New York but is filmed locally, so the studio has built a reproduction of a New York street, and the production also involves a yellow taxi cab. I'm sure you can guess what happens next.

Tharg's Terror Tales provides examples of:

  • Daddy's Little Villain: In Tharg's Terror Tales, one short strip is about a goth chick who leads a bunch of vampire fans to the Creepy Cemetery so her vampire father can eat them. Tharg commends their family values.
  • The Grim Reaper: Parodied in one strip. A young woman takes the bus one stormy night to discover that the driver is, in fact, Death himself. However, the bus trip to Hell is actually patrolled by supernatural police and Death is only one traffic stop away from losing his license. The woman is able to blackmail him into granting her immortality in exchange for covering for him when he's pulled over for speeding.
  • Only You Can Repopulate My Race: One of the one-shot comics in Tharg's Terror Tales features a young man who, after being too frisky with his girlfriend and driving home afterward, is beamed up by hawt aliens who want to mate with him. He eagerly agrees, only for them to morph back into their Starfish Aliens forms to rape him to death with their tentacle suckers.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Played for laughs in Tharg's Terror Tales stories. Smoking weed will turn you and your friends into zombies, being a horndog will make Starfish Aliens rape you to death, going to a rock concert will result in monster cops cracking down on everyone, etc.

Time Twisters provides examples of:

  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act / Stupid Jetpack Hitler:
    • One Time Twisters (Basically a Future Shock involving time travel) had Allied assassins go back to Hitler's birth to assassinate him. Hitler uses Mental Time Travel to take control of his own infant self and kill the assassins, saving his own life in several different alternate realities. However, it comes back to bite him in the ass when his baby self's personality takes him over, leading him to make increasingly idiotic decisions and leads to his eventual suicide.
    • Another had the Nazis building a time machine at the end of the war with the intention of going back to prevent Hitler's more disastrous strategic blunders. In desperation to escape, he and Eva Braun use the machine to try and escape from the attacking Allies, but it's only calibrated for one person. The pair of them are transported to prehistoric times, where they are the first humans.
  • Merlin Sickness: One of Alan Moore's Time Twisters strips was about a man aging backward: he started lying in the street undying of a heart attack, got better, he started a job and got demoted until he was the teaboy, his kids moved into his house and finally vanished (would have been more unpleasant for their mother), split up with his wife, moved home, went to school to forget things... Bonus points for a dramatic birth.
  • People Zoo: In a story, alien visitors from the far future reconstruct humans (who have long ago wiped themselves out) to use as zoo exhibits.
  • Time Police: The protagonists of Alan Moore's Chrono-Cops, who are tasked with stopping people from killing or marrying their own grandparents, making money from the Compound-Interest Time Travel Gambit, and so on.

Alternative Title(s): Thargs Terror Tales, Time Twisters, Future Shorts, Past Imperfect