NTS #3 – Ticker Blood

New Talent Showcase #3 (Ticker Blood)
“Ticker Blood Rides Again”
Writer – Brian Jacobs
Art – Geof Isherwood
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Robin Keuneke
Edits – Marv Wolfman & Ernie Colon

What’s this… yesterday a Sword & Sorcery story, and now a Western?!  Better watch out, lest I find myself becoming a “well-rounded” comics enthusiast!

Let’s do it!

Our story takes place in Arizona, 1892… so, quite a while before the Class of 2064‘s World War III decimates the state.  We’re at a prison in the middle of nowhere, where a Lieutenant (there’s that difficult to spell word again) Bo Tucker has strict orders to retrieve a man who had been serving a sentence for multiple murders.  A man, named Ticker Blood.  So… with all the names in the world, and we’ve got a Tucker and a Ticker… really?  Now, about Ticker… he’s quite the mess.  He’s haunted by nightmares, screams, and laughter.  In fact, when Lt. Bo comes for him, he isn’t 100% sure whether or not it’s the “real life”, or just another dream.

Together, they mount steed and begin their long trek back to the Fort.  Tucker won’t tell Ticker why he’d come for him… mostly due to the fact that he isn’t entirely sure.  He repeatedly tells our man that he’s just “doing his duty”.  Blood laughs, revealing that just “doing his duty” is what got him into the mess he’s been in for a decade.

Nearly a week passes before the T’s arrive at the Fort.  Ticker is deposited at the Nurse’s station for a once-over.  The Doc insists he have his shackles removed before she proceeds with the examination.  He’s sat on a bed… and, the sound of children playing outside that really throws him for a loop.  With this, he leaps up, thanks the Doc for her kindness, and rushes outside.

Ticker heads toward the Sheriff’s station, and overhears the reason why he’d been freed.  Ya see, there’s a bit of a “problem” a town or two over… something having to do with creatures.  Blood bursts into the station, and reveals that this is the exact situation he found himself in ten-years prior.  Ya see, he and his men entered a town… which had been taken over by creatures.  In fact, Tucker’s own men transformed as well!  He continues to explain that the only reason he’d been spared was… he ran.  He ran into the desert, then snuck back in after nightfall, and set the whole dang town on fire.

The Sheriff apologizes for not believing Ticker Blood all dem years ago… then dispatches T & T off to investigate the “problem”.  As our men enter the town, they are approached by a “cute little girl”.  Tucker rides toward her, and Ticker’s all “not so fast, kemo sabe”.  Just then… the kid yanks her own head off, revealing a mess of tentacles and suckers that latch onto Lt. Bo!

Before he knows it, Ticker is surrounded by tentacle-heads!  He throws himself through a Gun Shop window and engages in an hours-long firefight.  Lucky thing that Gun Shop was there, no?  The story ends with Ticker victorious… but, once again finds himself surrounded by authorities.  Are his troubles behind him… or have they just begun?

This was pretty cool!  I really wasn’t expecting this to veer into the horror-realm.  Thought this was going to be a straightforward (and dull) western romp!

Ticker’s tale is a tragic one… imprisoned under false pretenses, haunted by the terrible things he had been forced to do.  It’s just a really great foundation for an empathetic character.  I also appreciate how we’re kind of walking the line between reality and insanity throughout.

Early on, Ticker’s unsure whether or not this is even real… which, kind of just felt like an attempt at playing off his fragile mental state.  However, the deeper we get into the story, the more the reader might find themselves questioning it themselves.  The ending here is quite striking.  Ticker has “slaughtered” yet another town, including (assumedly) his own ally.  Was this real?  Was it another tortured flashback?  Did Ticker ever actually leave his cell in this story?  What would be the best ending?  This is really good.

Let’s meet our New Talents!  Brian Jacobs… uhh, wrote this?  The only thing that comes up anywhere online (including the DC Wikia) is a character with the name from some Zenescope book.  According to Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964-2004 (McFarland & Company, 2013) he contributed to Creepy #130 (August, 1981).

Across the table sits a far more familiar name, Geof Isherwood.  He would go on to have a prolific career in comics, with runs on Suicide Squad for DC, and Doctor Strange, Conan, and The ‘Nam (among others) for Marvel.  It isn’t often that these New Talents actually have recognizable names, so it’s always a treat when they do!

Overall, this was a good one… and, just like with By Ancient Agreement, a story I never would have read if not for this project!  Good stuff!

Tomorrow: The Senses-Shattering Conclusion of Forever Amber!

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