- Camelot 3000
- Original publication date: 1982-1985
- Trade paperback published: 1988
- DC Comics & Warner Books
- Co-created/Written by Mike W. Barr
- Co-created/Illustrated by Brian Bolland
- Colors by Tatjana Wood
- Letters by John Constanza
- Embellished by Bruce D. Patterson & Terry Austin
- Continuing the stories begun by Sir Thomas Mallory
The prophets claimed that King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table would rise once more to defend England during its time of greatest peril.
However, the prophets never foresaw an alien invasion… or the strange forms the Knights would take…
Happy Holidays, Pullbox readers (all five or six of you)! Welcome to the first in what we hope will be an ongoing feature here at the ‘Box, wherein we take you into our individual nerd caves and feature a comic right out of our own personal collections. The idea is to take a throwback book that’s near and dear to our hearts, maybe open it up to a new audience, and to share a little of what made us life long comic readers in the first place.
So let’s take a look at the shelf and see what we’ve got…
As a kid, I was a nut for all things Arthurian… I watched Excalibur every chance I could, wore out a VHS copy, and generally drove my Mom nuts (love ya, ma). I even tried watching Camelot when it came on television, and boy was I confused at all the singing. Now, for whatever reason, I totally missed this in its original 12 issue run, but snatched it up from my local comic shop when I saw the trade in ’88.
This book had it all… nothing was off the table or soft served, and to be honest it was a little ahead of its time. Basically, the story is that Arthur’s tomb is uncovered, and the Once & Future King is awakened as the planet Earth is in the middle of a full alien invasion. Arthur is confused at the changes he sees, but when it comes down to it, whatever form the enemies of England may take, they’re gonna be in for a whuppin’.
With the King of all Britain once again up and around, of course he’s going to want his Knights by his side. Here’s where things get a little more interesting. While Arthur is as he’s always been, the Knights of the Round Table have all been dead for centuries. However, with a little magical help (thanks, Merlin), their ancient souls are united with their reincarnated modern day selves. Evil doesn’t stand a chance.
Some of the Knights are much as Arthur remembers them. Some of them are decidedly not. The loyal Percival has been transformed into a hulking slave to the alien invaders. Gallahad is a futuristic Japanese samurai. But out of them all, Tristan’s transformation was the most shocking… and if we’re being honest Mike Barr and Brian Bolland took a pretty bold step for the times in their treatment of the bold Knight.
When all is said and done, this wasn’t a story where any part of the old legends were downplayed or simplified. It was what made this book a personal favorite of mine for years, and that’s due in no small part to Mike W. Barr (with more writing credits than could be listed, but among them Batman: Son of the Demon), . He dove headfirst into Sir Thomas Mallory’s tale of adventure, romance, & betrayal, mining it for all it was worth. Bringing Arthur and company into a futuristic setting, battling alien invaders, did nothing to mute the drama. In fact the modern setting only added to the impact of Arthur’s dilemma. He was still very much steeped in the Age of Chivalry but had to change his perceptions in order to fulfill his purpose. Barr gave all of the characters a chance to shine- or fall- and tackled their individual demons without flinching or bowing to societal sensibilities of the 80’s.
Not to be outdone, Brian Bolland (2000 A.D. & Batman: the Killing Joke, among many, many other credits) gave the world of Camelot 3000 a visual style and appeal that would still stand among the very best of the industry. He took the potentially disastrous concept of medieval knights fighting aliens with laser swords, and made it awesome! Every page in this book is beautifully done, from the insane action to the quieter and more introspective moments.
This is a book that holds up. Seriously… after sitting here typing this article up, I’m probably going to read it again. This is one of the books that opened me up to reading comics that were about more than superheroes, and it reignited a desire in me to go back to the classics and read the old stories again. I would urge anyone of any age and/or inclination to give this title a serious look. It will always hold a place of honor on my shelf…