Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cult Classic Comics: FREAKWAVE! Pt. 2


Continuing on from the previous post is our look at Freakwave, the post-apocalyptic surf-scavenger epic by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. After concluding the first Freakwave story for Pacific Comics, the next episode of the saga would go on to appear in Eclipse Comics' Strange Days.

It's never really been mentioned as to why Milligan and McCarthy switched publishers, but this time around it appears they had full control of their work creatively, as the Strange Days issues featured stories exclusively by Milligan/McCarthy. The three main stories in Strange Days were Freakwave, Johnny Nemo (written by Milligan with art by Brett Ewins) and Paradax (Milligan/McCarthy).

The series kicked off with a literal "bang" with this image by McCarthy, which was there to warn readers that the content within Strange Days was intended to be viewed in a certain light - deeper meanings would lie underneath the surface of the stories.


The new Freakwave story introduced many new characters, including the giant floating heads which act as ships which can fly above and below water. The ships all have interesting and wild designs, such as the three-eyed J.F.K, the yawning Mad Hatter, and a Zombie Football head. The detail of these ships is impressive, and you can only imagine what kind of visuals they may have provided if the Freakwave movie came to fruition.


The floating heads take center stage this time around, as the Drifter tries to make sense of all he had been through previously with the demented crew of the Red Herring. There is Captain Learning of the three-eyed J.F.K. head, who is the ringmaster of a band of circus-freaks with a bounty on a mutant who is a descendant of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and James Joyce.

That mutant is Captain Cracking of the Mad Hatter head, which is manned by his powder-puff entourage of lunatics. A third head, the Zombie Football, is manned by none other than Captain Roaring, who is planning a new attack to take over the head of three-eyed J.F.K. It only gets crazier from there, as the Drifter winds up on a derelict church perched on a World War II submarine, manned by the strange and mysterious Ol' Man Drivel.

And thus Freakwave part 2 begins...you can enlarge the images in a new window for a better reading experience. Enjoy!


The ending of this story comes abruptly, as it appears to end with this cliffhanger of Captain Roaring taking out the Mad Hatter and unleashing the Fallen Caps. My guess is that McCarthy was told the series was being cancelled mid-stride, and did not have time to finish the story properly. It appears that way as the last two pages of Freakwave features some very unusual artwork to tie up the story.


The Freakwave saga ends with the Drifter dying and becoming the new Messiah, with the hopes that he can defeat the maniacal tirades of Captain Roaring. It's a shame the series had to come to an end, but McCarthy suggested in interviews that Strange Days just didn't take off as intended, which is bewildering. Maybe the publishers are to blame, but in any case what we end up with is a Cult Classic comic for the ages. Maybe one day we will see a collected Freakwave Hardcover, reprinted with new and original artwork. Now that would be a treat.

Milligan and McCarthy both have gone on to bigger and better things. Both continued to work together on stuff like Vertigo's updated version of Ditko's Shade The Changing Man among many, many others. Catch up on the amazing artwork of Brendan McCarthy by checking out his website here: http://www.brendanmccarthy.co.uk/

2 comments:

I'm so gratefull to be finally able to read the whole of this insane tour de force. I only chanced on the last part in Vanguard and the first issue of Strange Days by accident, though I am saddened this insane romp never got a proper conclusion.

Maybe if they'd pitched Freakwave as an ongoing series it could have survived ? They were at the right place at the wrong time I wager, if Vertigo was around in the 80's it could have been successfull.

Then again Milligan's "Minx" went the way of the Dodo after only 8 issues, admittedly with a memorable reality unraveling sort of ending. I had a lot of hopes for it when I saw it in an issue of Preacher years back and only many moons later actually found out how utterly terrible it's reception was by the buying public. I do very much believe the ending Milligan did, while pretty great for something written under the pressure of cancellation, was not the original plan. You can clearly see the entire two personality aspect of the series just disappearing completely in the finale.

You gotta wonder, is the reason Morrison succeeded in selling his drug induced insanity to the comic buying public that he used existing characters like Animal Man and Doom Patrol instead of new ones ?

Either way, great to have this finally at your fingertips, the psychedelic art alone is to die for.

It has been far too long. Thanks!

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