Monday, 15 February 2010

Ken Hunter's The Year of Bedlam ........The Beezer 1961

What a cracking fun page layout.
the fairground is out of control!!!!
From the Beezer 1961.

I was alway taught make every page different to each other. This page is very different!

It was the Year of the Robotguns. It was the Year of the Robotwrecker. It was the Year of the Robotrain, the Robotcar, the Robotown - it was the year of the Robotmine. And when all the Robots ran amok, it was the Year of Bedlam..."

As a sequel to The Jellymen, The Year of Bedlam was more than a bit peculiar. The basic story was set in a futuristic Britain where fantastic robot machines directed by electronic brains had taken over all manual work, leaving the human population free to enjoy lives of untroubled leisure (believe it or not that really was the way we saw the future back in the 1960s!). Unfortunately a freak electrical storm caused all these mechanical wonders to go out of control, and the series followed 'Potassium' Roberts (now Sir William Roberts) and his young ally Jock McLaren as they trekked from Scotland to London through a Britain "crumbling under the onslaught of machines gone mad."

During the course of their journey they encountered a range of ingenious creations that had each turned against their masters in unpredictable ways (though I don't think they developed personalities of any kind). The scene below shows the machines of Unit 14 which had been designed to build new railway lines through any terrain - until they went haywire and started laying tracks over rooftops and through people's houses!

In some ways this theme of 'Man vs. Robot' had a great deal in common with later strips like Russ Manning's Magnus Robot Fighter, as well as Sam Slade and Ro-Busters from 2000AD - and the sense of wonder evoked by all the super-machines is also surprisingly reminiscent of the format of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds which regularly introduced some fresh technological wonder every week, just in time for it to go disasterously wrong.

The odd thing about all of this is that there's never any attempt to explain how Britain could have suddenly experienced a hundred years of scientific progress while the lead character has barely aged at all! I suspect the real answer is that 'Potassium' Roberts was simply shoehorned into a series that had originally been intended to be set in the future, all in an optimistic attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The Jellymen; in reality it could just as easily have featured any 'scientist hero'.

Although The Year of Bedlam started out in colour on the centre pages it was quickly relegated to a single page printed in blue & black as pride of place was given instead to a new series called The Heroes of Paradise Road - a feature that I'm in complete agreement with Kashgar in rating as one of the best war stories ever to appear in comic strip form (possibly only ever equalled by Charley's War!).

But, of course, that's another story....

- Phil Rushton

The last image is from Phil...taken from the comicsuk forum..
Thanka to Phil for his thoughts on this strip..

1 comment:

Supertone said...

Sometimes Isee to stumble on just what makes life worth living!
I started reading the Beezer just at the end of the Jellymen story but was bowled over by the Year of Bedlam. I was particularly impressed by the robot car used by Prof Roberts in the first strip. Strange how this autodrive idea is only being seriously considered as a reality now! Although I too was puzzled as to how such scientific progress had materialized overnight (and then gone horribly wrong) I was so mesmerised by fantastic machinery, I just dwelt on the action.