Fudge and the Mikromen was the 25th tale in Ken Reid’s Fudge the Elf saga. The 408-panel, 136-strip story ran in The Manchester Evening News from August 17th, 1959 till January 23rd, 1960. The Cold War was in full swing at the time; the possibility of an all-out nuclear conflict was very real – and not just in people’s minds. Ken Reid was very hung up on the Cold War. Always worried about Russia, he followed the news religiously all the time. Fudge and the Mikromen was a product of his worries, and a reflection of the fears that many people experienced at that time.
It started like this:
The crumpets are disappearing beneath Speck’s bed. The two elves investigate, and find a mysterious mechanism:
The glass sphere rises up and a loud voice from the inside tells them they are looking at planet Mikros II. The voice invites Fudge and Speck to visit the planet and observe the manner of living of its people. An invisible Mikro-ray shrinks the two friends to microscopic size, and they are transported to the inside of the planet by means of a flying mechanism used by the aliens to cut the elves’ crumpets into small pieces – it turns out the inhabitants of Mikros II commandeered the crumpets to save themselves from famine due to failed harvest.
En route to the planet, the voice tells them a few things about Mikros II:
Upon arrival, they are greeted by a local who is appointed their courier during the visit. His name is Mikroman 163, but his friends call him Mike:
Mike tells them more about Mikros II:
The tour takes them to the rural counties where rain can be ordered from central computer to water the crops; they also visit a dairy farm with no cows:
The most important thing that Fudge and Speck learn from Mike is that the planet is ruled by Ion – a vast complicated machine, an electronic brain incapable of error:
The happy tour ends abruptly as Grimm, the evil ruler of Mikro II's sister planet Mikro I, launches an attack on the defenseless peaceful planet and issues
an ultimatum – surrender within 24 hours, or their next rocket will carry the
power of total destruction.
The destruction of the mighty electronic brain that rules and guides Mikromen in everything, sends Mike into panic, but Fudge refuses to believe that the planet is incapable of fending for itself:
The three friends rush to see the Central Control Committee:
It turns out Mikromen do have a special powerful bomb, to be employed should they ever be attacked from outer space. Trouble is, the weapon is sealed up in level X:
Realising that unless they retrieve the bomb, Mikro II must either surrender, or be totally destroyed, Fudge and Speck immediately volunteer, and Mike, embarrassed, joins them.
Access to Level X is through the Central
Reform Centre where criminals are purged of sin by the Mentalfilter, before their
evil thought-matter is siphoned to Level X. Fudge and Speck witness the effect of the machine:
Mentalfilter operator warns them against descending to Level X but soon realises that they are determined to do that no matter what, so he gives them some essential protective gear:
The party descends into the gloomy depths of Level X overflown with giant fungus growths. The trio struggle with urges to turn violent on each other as the evil thoughts extracted from thousands of criminal minds try to re-establish themselves in their heads, until they finally come across the missile:
Evil thoughts pool resources for their last collective effort:
Mike’s unprotected brain is overwhelmed and
he turns against his two companions:
Mike knocks himself out as he falls on his head, and evil thoughts can’t influence a mind that is blacked out. Fudge and Speck take Mike and the bomb back to the upper level where the Mikroman is immediately processed by Mentalfilter and becomes his normal self again:
The war of nerves begins as the two planets exchange threats:
Grimm, the evil ruler of Mikro I, finds out
that his opponents posses a deadly weapon that will destroy his planet, but
dismisses the news as bluff.
It looks like both tiny sister planets are now doomed:
There’s still hope that the two rockets
will collide and explode midway between Mikros I and Mikros II, but alas...
... Then something happens and both bombs explode in outer space before reaching their targets:
Filled with blind rage at the failure to destroy Mikros II, Grimm rushes to launch another deadly missile but its scaffolding fails and the bomb crushes the evil ruler:
On Mikros II, humanoids are scratching their
heads as they try to figure out what caused the two bombs to explode and prevent
the catastrophe, when they hear the familiar voice of Ion from the
Ion carries on, scolding the inhabitants of both planets. War minister Rath makes a claim to power as Grimm’s successor, but the people of Mikros I demand to be ruled by Ion:
Mike gets a space taxi and transports his
elfin companions from Mikros II (which had been hovering at the ceiling of
Speck’s bedroom all the time) to Speck’s dressing table, where Mikro-rays
transform Fudge and Speck back to their normal proportions, and the story comes to a happy ending:
I think Fudge and the Mikromen was a powerful story, especially considering its Cold War context. Ken had a free hand writing his Fudge tales, and if this one is to be construed as his views on the future, it seems he had little faith in human reason and wisdom, and believed that artificial intelligence was humankind’s only chance…
If you haven't bought THE POWER PACK OF KEN REID, the collection is available on eBay or from my e-shop here: https://www.kazoop-comics-shop.com/