By Leo Healy
Scavengers #1 (also called Spellbinders featuring Scavengers #13 in some regions) was a comic dedicated to reprinting stories from UK sci-fi anthology 2000AD for the US market, published by Quality Comics in late 1987. These 2000AD reprints were Quality’s only output, they had a decent range of titles from Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper to Time Twisters, which reprinted some of 2000AD‘s one-off Future Shock stories, all logical and sensible choices for a company reprinting 2000AD strips.
For some fantastic reason with this new title Scavengers, the editors at Quality decided to throw logic out of the window and start a whole series with the theme of DINOSAURS. Thankfully they were not short of material, as early 2000AD offered a wide array of stories where monsters maimed and devoured hapless humans in a variety of gory and horrific ways.
The foremost of these was Flesh, the lead strip in Scavengers, an early gem from the House of Tharg, drawn by Ramon Sola. A future Earth has farmed all animals to extinction and has run out of meat, so they send cowboys 65 million years back in time to hunt dinosaurs for food.
This is 2000AD co-creator Pat Mills at his schlocky, in-your-face best, and every page screams at you with blood, gore and enormous dialogue balloons, with such quotable gems as “GOTTA SQUEEZE THE LIFE OUT OF THE BRUTE – BEFORE IT STABS ME WITH ITS BEAK!” and the immortal classic (sadly not present in this issue) “NO! PLEASE LET ME DROWN BEFORE THE GIANT SCORPIONS GET TO ME!”. This first instalment also introduces the giant robot which minces up the dinosaurs into meat to be sent back to the 23rd Century, the gloriously named FLESHDOZER.
As a back-up strip we have the first half of ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Ringo’, a Dredd story in which Irrawaddy Skinner, a sleazy P.T Barnham type brings a parade of dinosaurs (the titular foursome) into Mega-City One. Skinner treats the animals badly and his well-meaning robot assistant sets them free, inadvertently unleashing a herd of bloodthirsty dinosaurs onto the city who, unsurprisingly, also start eating everyone in sight.
Wonderfully, the viciousness of the strips in Scavengers also extends to the Editorial column, in which the editors of this new series, having recently taken over from British comic mogul Dez Skinn’s editorial team, proceed to savage their predecessors’ “shaky history”, promising readers “To bring the books up to the level they deserved, the paper would have to [be] upgraded, as would the printing and the graphics.” Oooof.
The unwavering commitment to throwaway shlockiness is what fascinates me about Scavengers. There’s something charming about publishing an entire series just about giant lizards maiming helpless bystanders. Later issues would expand the concept slightly to feature strips starring monsters other than just dinosaurs, including Shako (which Tegan O’Neil has covered on this site), and Ant Wars (which shouldn’t need any explanation at all), but it’s this first issue, with the core concept at its purest, where its mad, gory star shines the brightest.
Scavengers #1 “Flesh”
Written by Pat Mills
Pencilled by Ramon Sola
Lettered by Bill Nuttall
Leo Healy has written comics for the now sadly defunct FutureQuake Press, last year he made a computer game (play it for free here if you like) and his prose short story debut will hopefully be published by Obverse Books later this year. Follow him on Twitter here!
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