Never before reprinted in the UK, 2000AD and Treasury of British Comics publisher Rebellion will publish a complete collection of Johnny Future next year, a stunning superhero strip that appeared in 1960s comic Fantastic, featuring art by the late Luis Bermejo.
“Johnny Future”, written by Alf Wallace, has been described as one of the most memorable British strips of the 1960s. Debuting in the very first issue of Fantastic, rubbing shoulders with reprints of US superhero comics, “The Missing Link” became “Johnny Future” after 15 issues and ran for a total of 51 episodes, the only originated strip in the 40-page comic.
Rebellion’s Senior Graphic Novels Editor Keith Richardson indicated in an interview with downthetubes earlier this year that he was keen to get the story back into print.
“Luis Bermejo is surely one of the finest comic artists to ever grace the medium,” he enthused. “In Fantastic, his work sat alongside Jack Kirby’s and Steve Ditko’s and surpassed them both.”
Published in 1967 and 1968, Johnny Future’s origin springs from Bull Belson’s hunt in deep African jungle for a creature known to natives as the Link — the missing step between ape and man in human evolution. Captured, the creature is brought to England, where he breaks loose. Striking out across country, the Link hides for the night at a top secret research station, little knowing that an experiment to produce a new form of nuclear energy is underway… and out of control!
Professor Richard Allen’s assistant has his own ideas about this energy source. An agent of a foreign power, he knocks out the professor and leaves, fast, before the rising radiation levels cause the nuclear-testing machine to reach critical mass.
Bathed in radiation, the Link begins to evolve at unbelievable speed until, lying unconscious before the machine, is a man of superhuman intelligence and animal strength… a man who will become known to the world as Johnny Future.
“If that all sounds a bit strange, it was, and the quirky, unpredictable nature of those strips published by Odhams is what made them appealing,” notes comic creator and archivist Lew Stringer. “The artwork by Luis Bermejo is stunning, and the strip became a firm favourite of those of us who read it back then (including Alan Moore). I know for a fact that the news of this collection will be warmly received by many, and I’m sure the book will delight new readers too.”
Running to 208 pages, the collection reprints all 51 episodes and a scarce one-off 14-page story from the pages of Fantastic Annual.
Longtime downthetubes readers will recall Steve Holland planned a collection of this strip way back in 2009, but this and other Fleetway projects from Bear Alley Books stalled for unexpected contractual reasons. Planned as two volumes, these books would have featured covers by feature covers by Garry Leach and Una Fricker, the team behind the cover for Titan Books’ The Spider: King of Crooks collection.
“Johnny Future” writer Alfred ‘Alf’ Wallace was the managing editor of Odhams in the late 1960s and one of the three man team (the others being Bob Bartholomew and Albert Cosser) responsible for the Odhams Power Comics line which included Smash!, Pow!, Wham!, Fantastic and Terrific. He was instrumental in the line’s early success, working closely with artist Leo Baxendale and others on the project.
Spanish comic artist and editor Luis Bermejo Rojo (frequently credited as Luis Bermejo or, simply, Bermejo), who died in 2015, is perhaps best known for his work on titles such as Creepy for Warren Publishing. His work for British comics included strips such as “Heros the Spartan” for Eagle (taking over from Frank Bellamy), and “Johnny Future” for Fantastic in the 1960s – but who also drew for titles as diverse as Boys’ World, Girl’s Crystal, Tina, Tarzan Weekly and the private eye stories “John Steel” for Thriller Picture Library.
He was also notable for his war stories for Fleetway’s Battle and War Picture Libraries, and strips such as “Phantom Force Five” for Buster.