Wednesday, 31 July 2013


BULLDOG BULLETINS was a late-entry Bullpen Bulletins style page of behind-the-scenes and hype that appeared in the US GENESIS '92 books just before the Marvel UK line imploded.

It's notable for plugging several current or upcoming titles that were overtaken by events and never appeared.  Amongst those AWOL: MOTORMOUTH & KILLPOWER: TATAU (which was probably the same as the second volume of Motormouth & Killpower announced elsewhere and solicited in MARVEL AGE MAGAZINE 129), RED MIST 20/20 (a crossover event that would have appeared in 'ROIDRAGE, DEATH DUTY and BLOODRUSH... except they were all cancelled at the last minute) and TIME STRYKE (of which I know nothing).  CLANDESTINE - Marvel UK's great hope - did eventually appear... albeit from the New York office.

I assume Bryan Hitch's profile piece was compiled entirely in jest.

This appeared in US format M-UK comics cover-dated November 1993.

See here and here for more on the US-format line... including several abandoned books.



Although - initially - Marvel UK's British fortnightly OVERKILL omitted half the pages from the GENESIS 92 strips it serialised (to slice out the superheroes to give it more of a 2000AD vibe), it did feature exclusive background features (unseen stateside) to the sub-universe.

The four-part (a total of sixteen pages) guide to MyS-TECH CENTRAL (HQ of the big-bad of the M-UK line) appeared in OVERKILL 22-25.  As far as I know, this has never been seen by readers outside the UK before.

This centre spread, and supporting feature, appeared in OVERKILL 22 (cover-dated 12 February 1993).



Early April 1986 also saw the second issue of Tharg's glossy (and pricy!) Role Playing/ Fighting Fantasy-inspired spin-off DICEMAN hit newsagents.

IPC made the most of their size and synergy to give it the biggest plug possible (short of spending money externally) by devoting the four centre-pages of EAGLE (and - presumably - other weeklies, although I've not checked) to an extended plug for the second "special".

This appeared in the issue cover-dated 5 April 1986.


Another week... and another month of EAGLE covers dredged-up from the STARLOGGED vaults.

This time we're back to April 1986: when Daniel Dare met Dan Dare and IPC pocketed the dosh of another toy manufacturer with the launch of a LINKETS tie-in promotional strip.  I think - at this point - we can safely say Marvel UK were still snapping-up the a-list licenses.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Just a heads-up that those mighty fine purveyors of cult TV and film NETWORK are having a 40% OFF EVERYTHING SUMMER SALE for the next couple of days.

It's worth taking time to really browse their website as it's packed full of obscure TV from decades past, including 100s of things that you never dreamed you would ever see again.

And - because its Network - they actually care about what they're releasing and many - but by no means all - come with nice extras.

A lot of their releases are very - ahem - niche so they often never surface in (the few remaining) HMV's so, just because you've never seen it on the shelves, don't assume that long-lost favourite HASN'T been released.

They also do exclusive soundtrack CDs and some lovely blu ray releases.

Fans of the ITC action series will find themselves in TV heaven.

I've ordered from them plenty of times in the past and their service is always excellent.  I've placed a couple of different orders this time around and - although I've not received them yet (give them time!) - they did seem to confirm shipping very fast.

Their website is here.

Happy shopping - but be quick!

1988: ALF ISSUE 1 (Marvel UK)

Here's a pop-culture icon that's fallen on hard times (for some reason, I always think of him as America's Roland Rat): ALF (Alien Life Form).

Star of primetime (in an undemanding sitcom that ITV aired - early on Saturday evenings I think - in the UK) and a Saturday morning animated series (which I'm sure turned up somewhere in the UK, although I don't ever remember seeing it myself), the wisecracking, cat-chasing alien from Melmac was - briefly - huge.

No surprise then that Marvel New York would acquire the comic book rights.  At its peak, I think they were churning out titles and spin-offs based on both screen versions which gave the Annex of Ideas plenty of material to reprint.

I have no idea how long this monthly ran for but it merged with THE MARVEL BUMPER COMIC from issue 28.  In fairness, readers would have been hard-pressed to spot the difference as the ALFster had been moonlighting in the Bumper Comic from the beginning.

He retained cover billing for the rest of the run, which ended with the 31st issue.  See here for more on THE BUMPER COMIC.


This is a mighty Marvel UK obscurity pitched at a younger audience: SPIDER-MAN'S PLAYTIME FUN-BOOK WINTER SPECIAL, published in 1981.

It combines puzzle pages (presumably from the American book... the name of which briefly escapes me) with reprints from SPIDEY SUPER STORIES.  As such, it could be seen as being a prototype for the later incarnations of SPIDER-MAN'S own weekly (see posts previous) in 1985.

The "Amazing Friends" reference is interesting: the TV show debuted on NBC in the autumn of 1981... but didn't reach British screens, courtesy of the BBC, for another two years.


This wraps-up yesterday's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA post taken from the 1988 fanzine/ magazine (it sits somewhere on the cusp) GALACTIC JOURNAL.

Monday, 29 July 2013


Here's the next instalment of RETURN OF THE JEDI's CYRIL from issue 84, 26 January 1985.


I don't mind telling you, this copy of the first issue of weighty US fanzine (bordering on pro-zine) GALACTIC JOURNAL was one of the most -if not THE most - important fanzines I ever bought.

When BBC TWO started rerunning BATTLESTAR GALACTICA around this time (its first outing since ITV first aired the show in the early 1980s... and its first networked slot in the UK) I was fairly scornful at first... but I also made sure that i never missed an episode in its Wednesday at 6 slot.  By the time the run had reached War of the Gods (skipping Saga of a Star World, The Living Legend and Fire in Space along the way) I was hooked.

But - pre-internet - there were very few sources of hard-and-fast information out there.  I wasn't even sure how many seasons (note: I'd automatically assumed it had run for at least a few years.  Oops) it had originally aired.  I did sign-up to join Britain's THE THIRTEENTH TRIBE (see here for a partial newsletter cover gallery) but - and I think this was a fundamental flaw with the club - it didn't produce a "Bluffer's Guide" type fact sheet for new members.  They just assumed you knew... and I didn't.

So - imagine that woohoo moment when I found a copy of this fanzine on a dealers table at the old Westminster Comic Mart at Westminster Methodist Hall.  I can't remember how much I paid for it (budgets were tight in those days) but I devoured the lengthy Battlestar piece... and never regretted the purchase.

The author, Steven Simak, revisited the Galactica universe for several similar articles which appeared over the next decade-or-so.  The lengthy pieces, which appeared in NOT ON THIS EARTH and SCI-FI UNIVERSE (I think), went over some of the same ground but were significantly different enough t not feel like a straight rehash.  Steven: let me take this moment to salute you for writing about the show I grew to love when no-one else was.  Thanks.

The article is a long one so I've decided to post it over two parts.

The rest of the issue is devoted to an equally lengthy overview of the first episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's inaugural season.  It hadn't reached British TV at this point (although, I may have seen the rental release of Encounter at Farpoint) so any writing on the show was welcome but - thanks to the official Starlog magazine (later reprinted in Marvel UK's indifferent STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION comic) - it was already starting to feel familiar.

I have no idea what happened to GALACTIC JOURNAL.  I've never seen another copy of this issue... or any subsequent issues again.




MYS-TECH was the hitherto unknown secret organisation that underpinned the Marvel UK GENESIS 92 sub-universe and appeared in many of the strips.

Unless the new 2014 limited series (see previous posts) drastically rewrites the legend, they're still likely to be key players.


SPLAT is one of those British comics which have been forgotten by history.  I remember it at the time but it never seems to be mentioned anywhere.

Launched in February 1985, it was basically an extended compilation of US newspaper strips with no other editorial material.  These were almost all of a humorous ilk with the exception of (for me) the main attraction: vintage FLASH GORDON (Sunday?) strips printed as a four-page centre-spread pull-out.

I'd long since lost the issues I'd bought at the time and I'd started to think that I'd imagined the whole thing.  Then I found this copy of the first issue - with the free gift still intact - at a London comic book store.

One weird thing is that although it's competently assembled, there's no hint of any publisher information.  It does - very much - remind me the of the (long-defunct) comics section that was included with copies of the MAIL ON SUNDAY when it started and I wonder whether this was an unofficial spin-off, packaged by whoever produced the Sunday insert.  Does anyone have any ideas?

This appeared weekly for a while and I know I got a few more issues simply for the centre-spread strip.  I guess I either got bored - or Splat was cancelled suddenly - as I didn't stick around for long.

The title was a popular one in the mid-eighties apparently.  Prior to this appearing, Marvel UK had announced (in the pages of SPIDER-MAN) plans for a new comic which would have been headlined by GREMLINS (the only confirmed strip).  That never appeared and I have no idea whether this was a coincidence or whether the mysterious publisher of THIS Splat was trying to piggyback any industry marketing M-UK had already conducted.  There was also a Thames TV children's magazine programme, the decidedly less long-lived successor to MAGPIE, airing as part of the CITV afternoon block around the same time.  Again, maybe both publishers thought they could make the most of the association.

Friday, 26 July 2013


Another page of CYRIL's misadventures, from Marvel UK's RETURN OF THE JEDI 83 (19 January 1983).


It came to this...

I mentioned, in my last post, that Marvel UK's increasingly desperate looking Spider-man weekly, in its final guise as (shudder) SPIDEY COMIC, maximised the free ZOIDS toy promotion insert (which also appeared in copies of RETURN OF THE JEDI and SECRET WARS that week) by also reusing the artwork as the cover!

Yup, really!  They used a free toy-funded promotion as their cover design.  Was this a sneaky way of testing whether the Zoids created a sales bounce (god knows, the floundering weekly certainly needed it) whilst M-UK firmed-up plans for adding a regular Zoids strip to Secret Wars?  Or was this just a cash-strapped has-been scrimping on the cost of designing a new cover?  Hmmm.

Spidey Comic closed at the end of the year after 666 issues.  I can't imagine why.


Today's despatch from the MARVEL UK time distortion involves their other giant robots: ZOIDS.

The Tomy-created toys first appeared across the Marvel weeklies and monthlies in January 1985 in a four-page insert in SPIDER-MAN 620, INDIANA JONES MONTHLY 5 and RETURN OF THE JEDI 84.  By bizarre luck, I acquired a back issue of INDIANA JONES with the original Marvel paperwork still attached (it must have been - at some point - a Marvel file copy) and I posted that here.

All concerned obviously deemed it a success as the experiment was repeated, with a second three-page self-contained story (the fourth page was always a guide to the toys) in September, by which time there had been several changes to the line.  MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS had launched, the (gasping) Spider-man weekly was now labouring under the name SPIDEY COMIC and Indy's monthly had closed.  The second insert appeared in SECRET WARS 12, SPIDEY COMIC 653 (where, in a further sign of desperation and curtailed budgets, panels were also used as the issue's cover) and RETURN OF THE JEDI 117.

Both of the one-shots focused on the mysterious being known as the Namer, an alien dweller of the planet Zoidstar whose main purpose, other than to wander the desert-like surface in a morose fashion, seemed to be to name the various giant warring mechanical creatures who roamed the surface.

The basic premise of the Zoids is that they were giant alien war machines, controlled by android pilots, which were divided into two opposing forces: the Blue (good) and Red (bad) factions.  They then spent their days blowing each other to kingdom-come in a holdover from an ancient war.

Presumably everyone was pleased with the two pilot instalments, and Marvel were keen to have an advertiser-funded strip on the books, as a regular feature was added to the pages of SECRET WARS from the 19th issue (9 November 1985).  The debut coincided with the beginning of the new 24-page, full-colour format (a standard for the weeklies, beginning with THE GET ALONG GANG, during this period).

To broaden the format of the strip, and create characters that readers might actually care about, the first episode introduced the surviving crew and convicts from a prison ship that, following a collision, is space-wrecked on the surface.  The Namer quickly turns up to befriend them and bring them up-to-speed on the mechanical creations they encounter.

After a limited run (issues 19-26) through to the end of the year (all reprinted in the first COLLECTED COMICS, below), Marvel put the strip on hiatus whilst it prepared its new home: the rebooted SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS, launched in March '86.

As the only UK-originated strip in an otherwise all-reprint title, the Zoids strip was the star attraction throughout the weekly's year-long run.  So much so that M-UK hatched plans to launch a Zoids solo monthly in the US format.  With the strip moving on again, Marvel announced that Spidey would be unable to support a title by himself (!) and, for the first time since 1972, Marvel's corporate mascot didn't have a regular slot in a British title.  That situation - incredibly - remained until the launch of THE COMPLETE SPIDER-MAN in late 1990.

Unfortunately, for reasons not entirely clear (licensing problems?  a sudden drop in sales?  retailer resistance?  a lack of interest from the States?), the new launch was abandoned at the last minute (although that didn't entirely end Marvel's association with the warrior machines).

The ZOIDS COLLECTED COMICS, in addition to allowing Marvel to run the same strips again to double their bang-for-their-buck, initially allowed SM&Z readers to catch-up with the story so far by compiling the SW instalments into one issue.  Three more specials followed, drawing on material from the early issues of SM&Z.  Unfortunately, the demise of the planned monthly also killed the CC after the fourth edition, leaving the bulk of the strips (including some penned by Grant Morrison) only available in back issues of the weekly.

The strip, which had a rotating creative team, is well worth seeking out as it becomes much more creative than its thin premise would suggest.  In retrospect, its obvious that the creative team were liberally borrowing ideas from a number of certificate 18 movies (ALIENS and THE TERMINATOR spring immediately to mind) and reworking them for an audience that would be largely unaware of the source material.

These are, to date (and - lets be honest - I doubt that will ever change), the only reprints of the strip on either side of the Atlantic.  Which is a great shame.

M-UK also published a rather nice ZOIDS ANNUAL around this time.  I've also seen, in ebay, a second volume (which appears to reuse the cover from SM&Z 21).  It sold for a crazy high amount but - frankly - I'm a little dubious of its authenticity.  I've never seen it plugged in the comics nor mentioned anywhere else on line or in print.  Buyer beware... unless you know otherwise!


JULY 1986


APRIL 1987

Thursday, 25 July 2013


At first glance, the above headline only has an impact on collectors of current US-published DOCTOR WHO material but - actually - it goes deeper than that.

IDW is a US comic book publisher which, thanks to a number of major licenses (including STAR TREK, 2000AD characters and the Hasbro toy properties) and a strong raft of original (or revived) properties, that has been publishing DOCTOR WHO comics (including a notable TREK crossover) for the past few years.

However, because Panini already has the UK license (not to mention the BBC's own DOCTOR WHO ADVENTURES for the kids), unless you frequent the right sort of comic book store (or buy the trade paperbacks on Amazon), you're likely to be none-the-wiser.  It's been a mystery to me for a while why Panini haven't licensed the reprint rights, combined them with their own WHO back catalogue (dating back to Marvel UK's DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY in 1979 and - possibly - earlier as I think Marvel UK, in the nineties, acquired the rights to various older strips dating back to the sixties) and issued one of their COLLECTORS' EDITION titles.

Anyhow, it was announced last week that IDW was loosing the license from the end of this year.  Quite why - and who made the decision to terminate - is still something of a mystery.  One of IDW's sidelines has been to reissue much of the Marvel UK back catalogue, newly coloured, in regular comics and an assortment of book forms (not to be confused - and this could be confusing - with the long-running line of A4-sized Panini collections).  These will presumably end - or reboot in some way - when the license ends.  Which is a shame because, although not essential if you have the Panini editions (unless you want to see the strips in colour) or - for that matter - any of the previous reprints of the The Iron Legion, the collections were rather nice.

Where will the license go next?  At the time of writing, no-one seems sure although there seems to be several interested parties.  It seems unlikely that the license, and the chance to partner with the BBC on a global property, will stay dormant for long.

One of the names in the frame is TITAN COMICS, a newly-spawned spin-off from the books and magazines publisher (and owner of some of the FORBIDDEN PLANET chain, which means they normal sell new Titan books at a discount).  Securing the license would certainly be a boost but - an associated rumour - is that they also want to add DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE to their media tie-in magazine line (which currently includes STAR WARS, STAR TREK, SUPERNATURAL and one-shot tie-ins to ONCE UPON A TIME and GRIM) either through a transfer of the license or by buying it from Panini.  I find the idea slightly scary.

Titan's magazines are fine (I bought the latest STAR WARS one only yesterday) but they don't really have the depth, or passion, of DWM.  Of course, if they do the deal, there's nothing to say the whole DWM team wont transfer and business-as-usual continue.  But it doesn't bode well.

Titan tested the waters, and (I suspect) tried to build bridges with BBC Worldwide, by publishing a TORCHWOOD MAGAZINE (and some spin-off annuals and US-format comics) but - as fans will atest - it often seemed a pretty desperate affair.  It was clear that the editors had no clear idea how to fill the pages (admittedly, TW gave them a lot less to work with) and it frequently looked as desperate as Marvel UK's own BLAKE'S SEVEN MONTHLY.

Titan also tend to only stick with a property whilst its hot.  Their archive is packed full of titles that shuttered as soon as the show began to cool (SMALLVILLE, STARGATE, XENA, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, FARSCAPE etc. etc.) which - although WHO shows no obvious sign of waning - isn't great for the long-term.

Finally, I think Panini deserve kudos for sticking with WHO through thick-and-thin.  Unlike Titan's track record, they kept DWM going (and continued to bankroll the regular comic strip) throughout the wilderness years (and didn't drop the license when they took over the M-UK operation - and shuttered the rest of the magazine line) and it would be a shame to see the license snatched away from them now.

I suspect Titan have looked at the WHO license before and - this time - with the chance to publish the magazine AND comics (as well as - potentially - books) there chances are surely better.

False alarm?  Entirely possible.  Maybe Panini will snaffle up the comics license themselves (possibly in partnership with Marvel) although that's not one of the rumours doing the rounds online.  Maybe another publisher will enter the picture.  Maybe the BBC don't actually want to see WHO comics (although that would seem a bit counter-intuitive, even for the Beeb).


This is another oddity from the MARVEL UK vaults: an A4 hardback compilation of the first parts of THE PUNISHER five-part US limited series published in late 1985/ early 1986 (all with 1986 cover dates).

Despite being labelled as "Book One", I've never seen a second edition... leaving the storyline unresolved (fortunately Marvel have reprinted it plenty of other times, including in the early issues of Marvel UK's own Punisher weekly).

The format was the same as the COMPLETE WORKS (something of a misnomer as they weren't complete at all) reprints of THE TRANSFORMERS, THE GET ALONG GANG and THE CARE BEARS.

The book was published in February 1987 and clearly aimed at the North American, as well as home, market.


Here's another instalment of CYRIL: THE ADVENTURES OF AN EDITOR DROID, as always, from RETURN OF THE JEDI weekly (Issue 82, 12 January 1985).

Will he be part of the REVOLUTIONARY WAR? 

1980: HULK MAGAZINE TV COVER (Marvel Comics)

This is a great TV-inspired cover (by Joe Jusko) that caught my eye when I saw it displayed in a London comic book store.

It's from HULK (formally THE RAMPAGING HULK) issue 24 (December 1980).  Predictably, it also contained an article on the TV show (which *may* have been recycled somewhere by Marvel UK, probably (if anywhere) in an issue of RAMPAGE) which I've also posted.

The editorial to this issue is interesting.  Ralph Macchio (nope, not that one) explains that - to keep the magazine viable - they've had to abandon the colour interiors on the main strip (but retain them for the back-up strip).  That's honesty you have to admire.

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