Gimmick or Good? – Cyberspace 3000 #1
In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the glow-in-the-dark cover to 1993’s Cyberspace 3000 #1.
Cyberspace 3000 #1 (published July 1993) – script by Gary Russell; art by Steve Tappin and Michael Eve. Cover by Liam Sharp and Andy Lanning
Thanks to the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, Marvel’s cosmic-verse is in the midst of another popularity revival. As such, I thought it would be fun to dust the mothballs off this deep cut of a comic, the debut issue of Cyberspace 3000, a short-lived science fiction series published under the Marvel UK imprint. To commemorate the first issue of the series, the Liam Sharp and Andy Lanning cover received the glow-in-the-dark treatment.
But what about inside the comic?
Despite the fact that Cyberspace 3000 is unapologetically inspired by Star Trek (the book’s editor, Michael Bennett says as much in the first issue’s letters section), the series also shares a lot in common with the original Gene Colan/Arnold Drake Guardians of the Galaxy. Both series are set in space in the 31st century, and the featured heroes are at odds with the reptilian alien race, the Badoon. In later issues of the series, the characters even refer to Guardians’ nemesis Michael Korvac.
But while these two universes may overlap on the periphery, there’s definitely something overwhelmingly uninspiring about Cyberspace 3000, which might help explain why the series only lasted eight issues, while Guardians, despite being aided by a major cast overhaul in the late 2000s, is still alive and kicking today.
As far as first issues go, the book’s creators, Gary Russell, Steve Tappin and Michael Eve, don’t give the readers very much to latch on to in terms of introducing interesting or relateable characters. Instead, the book seems very intent on sending up some classic sci fi tropes. The comic even opens with a reference to space being “the final frontier.” All that’s missing is William Shatner and/or Leonard Nimoy.
Cyberspace 3000 #1 kicks off with an attack on a spaceship, the Sol III. In the spirit of the 2099 universe, which was introduced by Marvel around the same time as Cyberspace’s debut, the ship’s captain, Jennifer Cabre-Rios, uses unique slang (exclaiming “what the cruk” rather than 2099’s “what the shock”). But after that, the character is mostly devoid of any personality.
Throughout the story, the reader is led to believe that the attack on the Sol III is quite dire and consequential, but the cast of characters is mostly depicted just sitting around in control rooms, unemotionally giving and receiving instructions from each other. Not exactly what one would describe as being pulse pounding.
The book shows some semblance of a pulse when it introduces the token diminutive quirky character, Doctor S’Rell, who says such unusual things as “smoke me a kipper.” However, even S’Rell falls victim to the book’s overall pulpiness, when he cracks a joke about beatniks – a line that feels extraordinarily dated and out of nowhere even by 1993 standards.
In an instance of false advertising, Galactus, who is featured fairly prominently on the front cover, only shows up for very last page of the comic. Granted, this wouldn’t be the first or last time a comic book cover didn’t accurately depict the action on the inside, but there’s just something every so slightly cynical about marketing a brand new book around one of Marvel’s most popular cosmic characters, and then barely delivering him in the story. In that regard, Galactus is as much of a gimmick as the glow-in-the-dark treatment.
Cyberspace 3000 #1’s artwork is pretty rough. Like other 90s books, the pencils and inks are very sketchy and unrefined, which for some may come across as being “edgy,” but others see it as looking rushed and unsophisticated. Then there’s the standard hodgepodge of disproportionate anatomy and muscles existing where they probably shouldn’t. In his one page appearance, Galactus’s arms suffer from “T Rex syndrome” while his chest looks broad enough to be its own planet (which he can then devour).
It feels a little cheap to beat up on a book that has otherwise been forgotten about and has no real legacy to speak of within the industry other than the fact that future Guardians/Nova writer Andy Lanning contributed artwork for the cover. There are plenty of other books that sold hundreds of thousands of copies (or more) during the peak of the 90s boom that warrant hindsight ire more than Cyberspace 3000. All the same, this comic provides very little for me even attempt to justify it as a forgotten gem.