Collected digitally for the first time!
CREATIVE TEAM: Garth Ennis (w) Philip Bond, Jon Beeston, Roger Langridge (a) Kid Robson, Steve Potter (l)
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
By 1990, and if you want to be specific prog number 700, the cult British comic 2000AD had begun a subtle but significant move away from a traditional (if the iconic 2000AD could ever really be called ‘traditional’) weekly Sci-Fi comic to one which dallied with pop-culture and irreverent British humour.
The comic had just completed what, to me at least, was the most engaging and thrilling two years of its existence. But it was clearly restless and ready for change, or at least its editor was. In those two short years, major characters Johnny Alpha and Rogue Trooper were both killed off and their most popular and iconic character, Judge Dredd, had been mauled beyond recognition. It was almost as if the comic was purposefully forcing itself to try new characters, genres and storylines.
With this change in the offing, prog 700 is significant in the history of the comic because it saw not just one but two ‘comical’ stories publish in the same prog; Hewligan’s Haircut, written by the brilliant Peter Milligan and drawn by Jamie Hewlett, who later went on to work with Blur frontman Damon Albarn on Gorillaz, and Garth Ennis’ Time Flies. Whilst 2000AD had run light-hearted strips in the past, to my knowledge anyway I don’t believe two had run concurrently before in, as they like to call it, Tharg’s Mighty Organ.
The shift towards irreverent comic strip stories, inspired by British stereotypes and mass-media tabloid quackery, would become a staple for the comic over the next ten years, as it morphed into an edgier ‘Cool Britannia’ publication to sit alongside lads’ mags and the NME. The change did not serve the comic well and it took future publisher Rebellion, who bought the comic in the year 2000 (oh, the irony), to shift the comic back to serving thrill-seeking horror, action and sci-fi seeking geeks their weekly slice of fun without so much of the irrelevance.
However, these early soirees with openly humorous stories were extremely popular and good fun, as Time Flies shows.
Created by Garth Ennis and illustrated by the wonderful Philip Bond, Time Flies concerns the misadventures of a World War II-era fighter pilot, Squadron Leader Bertie Sharp, recruited by future Time Investigation Team female agent Trace Bullet (T.I.T. for short (yep, the lad culture signs were there from early on)), to recapture kidnapped Nazi Herman Goering and so resolve a flaw in the time-continua.
The infamous Nazi has been captured by time-travelling pirate Captain Whitewash and his treacherous sidekick Cutty O’Sark, requiring Bertie, Trace, scientist Dr Oddsocks, plus pop stars Prat and Puke Gloss, a parody of boy band Bros, to go after them in a time-travelling JCB. (You are reading this right).
In a story that doesn’t try to be anything other than zany and fun, the heroes (quite literally) go to hell and back before the final showdown.
With the follow-up, Tempus Fugitive, the main antagonists are on the trail of the protagonists in a full-colour reunion, rather let down because of Bond’s replacement by Jon Beeston and Roger Langridge towards the end of the series.
Time Flies and its more confident feeling sibling are diverting slices of fun that don’t try to be anything more than that. Writer Ennis has called the series ‘crap’, which I actually think is rather unfair to it, if you don’t put it alongside Ennis’ meatier works, such as The Boys, Hellrazer or Preacher.
Some of the humour might be of its time, the plot undemanding and the final payoff rather underwhelming, but the visuals, especially from Bond, are terrific. As a run along piece of comic book humour, it’s a fun few hours spent in an alternative universe to Dr Who. And, as the title suggests, when you’re deep within the heart of this story, time really does fly.
In the midst of an air raid over Nazi Germany in World War II, Squadron Leader Bertie Sharp is given a new mission by time-travelling agent Trace Bullet; to locate Hermann Goring, who has been kidnapped by time pirates, and take him back to 1945 before millions die in the resulting time disruption. As Bertie and Trace set off in their time travelling JCB, their interdimensional adventures take them to heaven, hell, and beyond…
You can buy Time Flies from the 2000AD Webshop
You can download the 2000AD App HERE
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk