Shako – comic strip

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“This is no cute and cuddly polar bear. He’s a blizzard of white hot horror, the terror of the frozen wastes, he is SHAKO – and he is death!”

Shako was a horror comic strip published in legendary British weekly 2000 AD for sixteen issues in 1977.

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While 2000 AD was (and is) primarily science fiction based, it would occasionally venture into the world of horror, usually in single-run strips – that is, stories that have a beginning, middle and end over a period of continuing episodes, rather than a continuing character. Shako was one such story, written by Judge Dredd creators Pat Mills and John Wagner, and illustrated by Ramon Sola, Juan Arancio, Dodderio and Lopez Vera.

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The story of a killer polar bear who swallows a container of germ weaponry after a plane crash, the strip was short on plot or character development, but high on gory mayhem as the CIA, represented by Jake Falmuth – or “Foulmouth” – and assisted by Inuit guide Buck Dollar, try to capture the bear, who has developed a taste for human flesh and a hatred for people, before the Soviets get hold of him.

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The strip ran from prog 20 to prog 36, and would later have a prequel story, White Fury, which apeared in the 1987 2000 AD Annual. It had the feel of a leftover from 2000 AD predecessor, the notorious Action!, and in many ways is an imitation of that comic’s Jaws rip-off, Hook Jaw, with the bear replacing the shark. It was also very much in the tradition of the ‘nature strikes back’ horror that was popular at the time.

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Like many of these single-run strips, Shako didn’t develop much of a following amongst the readership at the time, but over the years it has developed a reputation as one of the most outrageous of the early 2000 AD stories, with its mix of the ludicrous and the gory violence, which frequently saw Shako biting heads off – remember, this was a comic aimed at kids!

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The strip was republished in reprint magazine 2000 AD Extreme in 2006, and in December 2012, the whole Shako run – including White Fury – was compiled in book format.

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