Iâ€™ve fallen a bit out of the Sci-Fi reading habit, and now that the holidays are over, I can finally kick back in my comfy captainâ€™s chair and engage.
Camelot 3000 caught my eye for two reasons: It is illustrated by the great Brian Bolland (The Killing Joke), and it involves King Arthur in the Year 3000. The only way my interest could have been more piqued is if DC Comics had titled the collection â€œKing Arthur in Space!â€
In the Year 3000, bloodthirsty reptilian aliens invade Earth seeking world domination. Upon fleeing said scaly alien invaders, young protagonist Tom stumbles into a cave and uncovers King Arthurâ€™s tomb, which contains a surprisingly spry King Arthur. Understandably bewildered by all that lies before him, Arthur makes short work of a few little green men and teams up with Tom to cleave a path to salvation.
In his introduction, writer Mike W. Barr admits to overwriting the early third or so of this storyâ€”every characterâ€™s motive is plainly spelled out in thought bubbles and hefty dialogue balloons. Yet, therein lies the fun of Camelot 3000: Itâ€™s written with all the excitement of a kid conning his babysitter into staying up past his bedtime. Early on, when a television crew catches wind of Arthur, an eager journalist pushes a microphone in front of the Son of Pendragon, and the response is classic midnight movie madness: â€œWhy would I converse with one who sticks a sausage in my face? Away with you!â€ And then Arthur ceremoniously pulls the sword from the stone.
The twelve-issue series began in the early 1980s, when comics were first sold exclusively through direct trade comic shops rather than convenience store spinners, and as a result, it could skirt the comics code and flirt with adult themes (watch for a transgendered knight, several risquÃ© love scenes, and Morgan LeFayâ€™s surprisingly grotesque secret). Eventually, Barr settles down and characters grow less verbose, and Bollandâ€™s clean and rich artwork is given greater breathing room. Nowadays, Bolland usually does his own inking as well as pencils, but for Camelot 3000â€™s deadlines, DC brought aboard talented inkers Terry Austin, Dick Giordano, and Bruce Patterson [per Jeff's note below] to finesse. There isnâ€™t much subtlety here, but just as Arthur is resurrected, so too are his knights and loves, including Lancelot and Guinevere. Even in the 31st Century, history repeats itself, and Arthur is aware of his eventual betrayal from the start. He also takes down a spaceship with a swipe from Excalibur.
This new â€œDeluxe Editionâ€ is slightly oversized and contains character designs, sketches, unused covers, and more (I was especially impressed by the fine packaging underneath the eye-catching dust jacket). Camelot 3000 is a late-night space opera that makes it all too easy to stay up past my bedtime.