In Review: The 10,000 Disasters of Dort

Review by Andrew Darlington

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Cover

“It’s just one disaster after another…”

Ratta, the Dictator of Dort, threatens to inflict his ten-thousand disasters upon the peoples of Earth, making the planet ripe for his own doomed race’s take-over, yet he only actually delivers but ten of them. Nevertheless, each disaster he unleashes would, in earlier comic strip days, have sufficed for an entire serial in its own right. So there’s no hint of short-changing here.

When this series launched in Lion, the weekly comic had been a market-leading adventure title since its launch in 1952, swallowing up rival titles along the way, including Sun, The Champion and even the mighty Eagle itself. But by 1968 the public pulse was quickening, attention-spans were already shortening, and plotlines were accelerating to meet the changing demands of comic-strip consumers. The old leisurely pace of narration would no longer suffice. Thrills and new crises must be relentless if the story was to hold reader’s attention.

As a scriptwriter, Mike Butterworth was already a seasoned campaigner, having started out writing Western strips and historical tales for the Amalgamated Press comic Sun including “Max Bravo: The Happy Hussar”, and devising the first year of exploits for long-running space-hero, “Jet-Ace Logan”, for its companion title, Comet, before moving over to Ranger for his most acclaimed creation, the unique “The Rise & Fall Of The Trigan Empire” which has subsequently been republished in the form of a series of highly-collectible hardback volumes.

For “The 10,000 Disasters Of Dort” which opens in the Lion cover dated 18th May 1968, the action operates on a global scale, but introduces reliably British scientist Professor Mike Dauntless to confront and thwart the alien’s dastardly schemes. It was headlined “Starts Today! A Super New Story of the World Of The Future!” – well, it was 18th March 2000, which still lay in their future on the date of publication, when the familiar New York skyline collapses into a “tangle of destruction” and RMS Royalty, the Last of the Great Atlantic liners, folds up like a child’s paper-boat and sinks into the sea.

This concept, a supervillain with the secret technology that enables him to translate “the atomic particles of steel” into a “rubber-like substance”, could have provided a satisfying long-running serial in itself. But simultaneously a tower of light appears on a hillcrest near Moscow, in the still-intact Soviet Union, to reveal the gigantic figure of the true alien culprit.

Luis Bermejo was a Spanish artist who illustrated the 1962 “Mann Of Battle” strip for Eagle, while working as part of the Bardon Arts agency in Valencia, where José Ortiz also had his easel. Ortiz would, much later, graduate to “The Tower King” and “The Thirteenth Floor” (originally in Scream!) for the relaunched Eagle of the 1980s, then “Rogue Trooper” for 2000AD. Their representation of Ratta, Dictator of Dort, shows him as reptilian, green, with hugely pointed ears, a suitably evil presence to strike terror into the hearts of watching humans. Before sending a plague of plants to tear Paris apart, Ratta reveals that his own planet is on course to collide with its sun in fifty years’ time, so the population must migrate to another home-world. And Earth is an eminently suitable candidate, once it has been cleared of its present occupants. Hence the “disasters”.

Lion cover dated 1st June 1968 - The 10,000 Disasters of Dort

The invasion of giant plants is a theme that had already been recycled in previous comics, including a “Dan Dare” story, and a “Captain Condor” serial. Yet now the Eiffel Tower snaps beneath the weight of the unearthly weed and the “French capital was choked with the tendrils of destruction!” The devastation is dramatically illustrated on the cover of Lion, dated 1st June 1968, priced at just 7d. Sent to investigate, Mike Dauntless gets caught up with a gang of looters, and rescues an orphanage boy called Gaston, who becomes his assistant.

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Sample

Back in his lab, Mike learns that the “infernal weed” can be killed by depriving it of oxygen, just as the third disaster strikes, in Australia, as animals grow to immense predatory size. After his plane is attacked by a monster eagle, the team witness a fight between a giant ape and an overgrown leopard, only to escape a pack of horse-sized wolves, until Mike and Gaston experiment on a huge fly in order to find an antidote.

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Sample

After that, the disasters come at a relentless pace. There’s an amusing sequence based around the old English idea of “everything stops for tea”, less relevant in today’s time of the water-cooler moment than it was then, as two retired colonels in Cheltenham down their cups of tea, then launch an unprovoked attack on each other. As similar outbreaks of violence erupt across the country. The spread of Starbucks and Costas would have thwarted that disaster!

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Sample

Then Dort passes a lethal beam-weapon into the hands of the Jamali, lawless warriors of the desert. Then, electricity fails… “the lights went out all over the world!” and “an icy wind circled the Earth”, causing temperatures to slump below zero, Rome lay under a mantle of ice, there were stranded ships imprisoned in the frozen English Channel, and resultantfamine. Then an army of ants in a “surging black flood” inundates from Bavaria across Europe. Ant Wars was also a theme that had been, and would be, used as a plot in its own right, not as simply one incident in a story arc.

As his name suggests, Mike Dauntless conforms to the established template of heroic dedication to such an extent that Dort eventually determines to investigate the adversary responsible for thwarting his dastardly schemes, taking the colour cover of the 7th September 1968 dated issue, “Meet The Sinister Creature From Another Planet!”

Lion cover dated 7th September 1968 - The 10,000 Disasters of Dort

Their confrontation results in a chess duel that ends the sixth and seventh disasters. While the outer space scenes are well-executed, Ratta gazing upon his evil handiwork from his long-range optical observatory, the orbital dogfight that destroys Ratta’s artificial second sun, and the opening panel “through the trackless wastes of space sped the giant craft bearing the advance guard of Dort warriors to their new home…”, with a fleet of saucers zeroing in towards the defenceless globe of Earth.

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Sample
The 10,000 Disasters of Dort - Sample

The final disaster, devolving humans into beasts, seems decisive, as shown on the cover of the 16th November dated issue, with Dort saucers descending to scatter what appear to be stone-age humans. Yet there were two alternate story endings! The original serial ended in the issue of Lion, cover dated 23rd November 1968, in which Dort scientists discover an error in their calculations, meaning that their planet will no longer collide with their sun, and the invasion is called off. An enraged Dort lunges at Dauntless – only to miss and plunge to his death from a cliff-edge.

Lion Cover Dated 16th November  1968 - The 10,000 Disasters of Dort

The story was later reprinted in an abbreviated form from 22nd December 1973 to 4th May 1974, with two hasty tack-on instalments, executed by an unidentified artist, in which the Dort invasion instead falls foul of the common cold germ, in The War Of The Worlds HG Wells tradition.

Both endings are included in the wonderful Rebellion: Treasury Of British Comics single-volume edition, featuring a cover by Staz Johnson, as well as a one-off “Disaster’ – ‘Plague Of Locusts”, that originally appeared in the Lion Annual 1970. Unrelated to the original serial, with Dauntless a more gadget-assisted hero, the giant artificial locusts attacking London and destroying the GPO Tower, are radio-controlled by a sinister mastermind, operating from a control room in a closed-downtube station.

This collection also includes a “Do You Believe In Flying Saucers?” text-feature from Lion Annual 1971, chronicling Close Encounters with UFOs from the well-documented 1948 Captain Thomas F Mantell incident through to George Adamski’s fantastical revelations. As a further bonus, there’s a teaser extract from Lion’s “The Spider vs The Exterminator” another of Rebellion’s reprint collections.

So, maybe there’s not the full 10,000 disaster-quota, but there’s no hint of short-changing here either!

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort by Mike Butterworth, Luis Bermejo and Josè Ortiz (known creators) | Rebellion Books | ISBN 978-1786189493 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

The 10,000 Disasters of Dort © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Collections, British Comics - Current British Publishers, Comics, Features, Reviews

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