Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Caterer

 I have to admit that despite considering myself pretty well-read, I hadn't heard of Jeff Lint before I read Steve Aylett's excellent biography, Lint. Since then, I've read everything by or about Lint I can get my hands on. Many of the novels remain out of print and hard to get hold of: the translated Welsh edition of Doomed & Confident is Lint novel that remains  print, and the strange effect that some covers of early Lint editions have on modern computer screens has hampered their distribution through ebay and amazon sellers, and many charity shops refuse to accept them on the basis that they are “full of eels”.

For this reason, I am very happy to see the recent reprint of issue three of The Caterer, the comic Lint created for Pearl comics in the 70s.

These comics are a holy grail for the Lint fan, showing Lint's polemical social conscience in full command of his titanic acts of imagination. An elderly SF writer who knew Lint once told me at a con that Lint couldn't eat at all while he was writing The Caterer and if he did happen to inadvertently eat a biscuit (say) while working on the script, the whole script would have to be scrapped. He usually kept a plate of biscuits nearby, in fact, as he that the bad writing and an appetite for biscuits were some how related.

The plot of The Caterer is well-known to Lint fans, and follows in many ways the ill-fated TV pilot of 1979. It differs most markedly in the introduction of a wise-cracking robot voiced by Mel Blanc, shifting the setting to the 25th century and in changing Marsden's name to Buck Rogers, but these are the sorts compromises Lint had to make to get his vision on screen. Despite this surface differences, both the comic and the TV show offer a shocking expose of the philosophical underpinnings of technocratic society, so forceful that the producers of the show (now retitled Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) abandoned the Earth-bound setting of the first series and the comic, and sent Marsden (Rogers) into space.
Gil Gerard as Jack Marsden (re-named "Buck Rogers") and Erin Grer as Carol (re-named "Wilma Dearing")

It was inevitable that nervous network heads would opt for this safe option rather than attempt to recreate the now legendary issue 9. Documents reproduced in the fanzine Lint Lock show that Universal was in discussions with Disney, which was experiencing a slump as the cynical seventies turned away from wholesome fare. Apparently, they were considering killing off the entire rosta of Disney characters and starting from scratch with a new cast of punk-influenced properties designed by Robert Crumb. Sadly, this was never to be, and so the show went to space, including that episode with the blue dwarf, that one was pretty cool.

This character was not featured in the comic but was pretty cool.

It's pretty interesting to think how entertainment might have been different if Disney had adopted Lint. Perhaps there would be a “The Caterer” themed ride at Disneyland, allowing joyous throngs of children to machine gun, machete and immolate the much-loved Disney icons? Perhaps an expensive CGI movie in crystal clear 3D or even a plush huggable Marsden to sooth the dreams of sleeping children.

Alas, we will never know. Instead, Jeff Lint continued his decline into obscurity and The Caterer/Buck Rogers was cancelled. We have the comics, though, in which we can see Lint's anarchic sense of justice and penchant for random acts of manic violence reflected in all their glory in the The Caterer.

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