Friday, 24 October 2014

1984: MR. T in BE SOMEBODY...OR BE SOMEBODY'S FOOL (VIDEO)


Here is a Public Service Announcement:

At the height of his eighties powers, THE A-TEAM's MR. T teamed with another part of the mighty Universal empire (MCA Home Video) for this 50-odd minute motivational piece intended to keep the kids of America on the straight-and-narrow.  

BE SOMEBODY... OR BE SOMEBODY'S FOOL. 

1990: ROBOCOP 2 MOVIE ADAPTATION (Marvel Comics)



Hot on the heels of their reissue (see previous post) of the adaptation of the first (now in colour!) movie, Marvel USA issued this adaptation of the (mixed-bag) sequel, ROBOCOP 2 (of course) in the same prestige/ bookshelf format.  It collected together the three-issue run of the regular-format comic written by Alan Grant (adapting Frank Miller's story). 

This was published in August 1990.  There was no MARVEL UK edition. 

1994: COMIC WORLD REPORTS THE MARVEL UK GENESIS MASSACRE



From COMIC WORLD MAGAZINE issue 25 (March 1994): the moment MARVEL UK's 'Genesis Implosion' became the 'Genesis Massacre', the complete closure of the US-focused operation.

The cuts of late 1993 hadn't boded well for the Annex of Ideas, stalling a lot of upcoming UK-Verse projects (and closing some existing titles and the entire FRONTIER imprint) in an attempt to avert the glut of new material flooding into a collapsing market (presumably calculated, at least in part, by which of the imminent releases had still managed to generate reasonable orders from retailers and distributors) but this was total wipe-out.

All of the 'parked' projects (many of which had several issues already completed and more partially-completed and work-in-progress) were officially scrapped and any title that had managed to escape the implosion was also cancelled.  

To get a sense of how bad things were at the end:  According to Capital Distributors (long-gone in the great distributor shake-up of the nineties - thanks Marvel - but big at the time and publisher of their own version of PREVIEWS in the form of ADVANCE COMICS), retailer orders for the 16th, and final, issue of DEATH'S HEAD II were down to 7,400 copies.  A far cry from the 105,900 they had moved of the first issue in late 1992.  CYBERSPACE 3000, another last survivor, had seen 55,400 copies of its first issue shifted through Capital but, eight months later, that figure had plummeted to 4,350 for the finale. 

It's worth noting that, in today's much reduced industry, numbers like this probably aren't exceptional.  And, of course, Capital wasn't the only distributor handling M-UK product so these are far from final figures.  And they have to be seen in the context of an over-expanded business which was going through some very drastic right-sizing.  Sales were down across the board although, as many of the M-UK books were seen as peripheral to the main Marvel offering, they were more vulnerable to readers and retailers trimming their sails. 

The few survivors of the massacre were: 
CLANDESTINE which had initially been slated for January '94 and eventually appeared, under the auspices of Marvel New York later in the year.  
DOCTOR WHO: AGE OF CHAOS had been placed on indefinite hiatus in the Implosion but, although plans for a four-issue US run died here, it did surface in the summer of 1994 as a one-shot magazine-format special in the UK.  Work was still ongoing when the US version was abandoned and, as a result, yet-to-be-drawn splash pages were dropped.  To date, it has never been reprinted. 
WILD ANGELS was to have been a four-parter for a January '94 premiere (House Ads appeared in other M-UK books) and eventually surfaced, presumably because Pino Rinaldi supplied the art, as a black and white digest compilation courtesy of Panini's Italian division. 

A lot of seemingly commercially still viable work was also lost in Marvel's haste to draw a line under the whole experience.  The LOOSE CANNONS four-parter had already generated a fair amount of heat in the fan press and looked like a potential winner (if not in its original format, possibly in book form).  The DEATH'S HEAD II/ PUNISHER combo, scheduled for 1994, probably sounds more juicy now than it did at the time considering how frequently both characters popped-up in every conceivable crossover and cameo.  Nevertheless, it might have started DHII's rehabilitation and integration into the US-verse.  A lot of the other books, from creative teams that latterly became big industry names, seem greater losses in retrospect than they did at the time (which is not, of course, to underestimate the sense of disappointment and sense of loss (and loss of income) of anyone who has toiled on a creative project only to discover it would never see the light of day). 

The UK-verse was left in the care of Marvel New York but, frankly, they didn't seem to notice.  The collapsing industry, and Marvel's over-extended financial obligations, were a sufficient distraction for staff (those that survived the regular restructurings and rounds of redundancy) to prevent anyone (until this year) taking a punt on a roster of failed characters.  

Marvel also had their 2099 future-universe to play with.  Launched in 1992, it was more commercially viable because it feature possible-future (so, like the M-UK books, it had no real impact on Marvel's main universe) versions of bankable characters.  It still petered out in 1998.  

Marvel acquired the MALIBU ULTRAVERSE in late 1994 (the official reason, to snap-up Malibu's state-of-the-art coloring technology, was a smokescreen to hide the real reason: DC were about to pounce on the very busy upstart and Marvel's owners were concerned that a sale would cost them their position as numero uno in the industry, vital for keeping the share price inflated) and promptly tried to integrate the characters into the Marvel line.  Plenty of crossovers followed but Marvel eventually ran the whole thing into the ground... and (for various legal and financial reasons) hasn't touched the characters since. 

1990: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DEATH'S HEAD Trade Paperback (Marvel UK)


This 1990 compilation of strips from the original 10-issue run of DEATH'S HEAD has been superseded in recent years by the more comprehensive Panini volumes but, for many years, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DEATH'S HEAD trade paperback, published by MARVEL UK, was the best way to catch-up with those Freelance Peacekeeping adventures.   

THE INCOMPLETE DEATH'S HEAD, Marvel's 1993 12-issue limited series, also reprinted the 1988-89 series along with some of his other appearances on both sides of the Atlantic and a new wrap-around story, featuring his successor, linking the reprints together.  

Thursday, 23 October 2014

1990: ROBOCOP MOVIE ADAPTATION REPRINT (Marvel)


Marvel USA re-released their adaptation of the first ROBOCOP movie, in the run-up to the sequel, in July 1990.

The previous edition had been a low-fi black & white magazine one-shot (which was also released across the Atlantic as a MARVEL UK special) but, for this edition, the Bullpen made it a premium item by colouring the material and issuing as a Prestige/ Bookshelf/ 'Dark Knight' format square-bound premium item.

The adaptation of the sequel, which also appeared as a limited series, was issued in the same format a month-or-so later. 

1993: COMIC WORLD REPORTS THE INDUSTRY CRASH





This is how the British magazine COMIC WORLD reported the industry crash in late 1993.  This issue would have gone on sale around November that year.  

Included in the coverage is MARVEL UK's 'Genesis Implosion", the first stage in the two-part sequence of events that led to the closure of the entire US-focused line... and the mothballing of all the characters created for it.  

The management's spin on the decision is an interesting bit of PR... suggesting that the numerous projects placed on hiatus needed further 'quality control' work.  Presumably this was part of the British Bullpen's push to emphasize quality over their previous dash-for-growth.  

A couple of months later, CW was reporting the 'Genesis Massacre'.  

1974: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES Launch Ads (Marvel UK)


It was forty years ago this week...  Here are some MARVEL UK House Ads for their two October 1974 new weeklies: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

1984: THE A-TEAM TV COMIC Advert (Polystyle)


Apparently not even the persuasive power of the Big Man himself could save the long-floundering TV COMIC... but at least he tried.

The British perennial (launched in 1951... predating ITV by some four years) had looked unloved since the previous decade but publisher Polystyle had attempted to breath some new life into a tired looking product by snapping-up the rights to Universal shows like TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY and THE A-TEAM.  

Ironically, this full-page prompt (which adorned the back page of 1984's THUNDERBIRDS special) probably stayed on the shelves longer than TV COMIC itself did.  The last issue (1,697) appeared in newsagents in June 1984... and copies of the Special presumably remained on sale into September or later.  

Mister T and co. quickly gravitated to their more obvious home... the pages of LOOK-IN (ITV, of course, enjoyed considerable success with the show so it seems surprising that ITV Publications ever allowed the license to go elsewhere) which didn't stop MARVEL UK churning out two specials (in 1985 and 1986) reprinting the US adaptation of the show. 

Polystyle bounced back, ever so briefly, with BEEB the following January.  Their new weekly tried (and failed) to transplant the LOOK-IN formula to the Corporation's stable of shows and presenters.  Not even the powers of David Icke and the improbable combination of Gary Glitter and Roland off Grange Hill could make that one fly...

1992: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Issue 2 (Phoenix)

 

After MARVEL UK fumbled the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION ball by misjudging the market with their fortnightly/ monthly, Phoenix stepped in with this compilation of DC reprints in late 1992.

I don't know much about Phoenix (who may, or may not, have evolved out of the Trident operation that had been repackaging Dark House material, apparently with some success, like THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS) and I'm not sure how long this venture ran for.  Although, for some reason, I seem to think this title was surprisingly (considering the TV show was still airing in the UK) short-lived.

There was also a contemporary magazine, FINAL FRONTIER, that started out reprinting articles from the US editions of STARLOG but eventually settled down to running lots of photos (and adverts for merchandise sold via mail order by the publisher... possibly the real motivation for keeping the title going) and sketchy articles and making it clear that Paramount had nothing to do with the venture.

There was another comic-based title, focused on Classic Trek, that once again drew from the DC run of the license.  

The reprints in this second issue (if I have the first... I don't have it to hand) hail from the third DC TNG Annual (The Broken Moon), The Modala Imperative mini-series (which combined classic and TNG in a not-possible-on-screen adventure) and another outing (M-UK had already used it) of the opening installment of the DC limited series, created before the show had aired (and, at times, it shows). 

1974: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES Launch (Marvel UK)


Regular reader Colin Jones (Hi Colin... and thanks!) tipped me off yesterday that it was 40 years ago this very week that MARVEL UK launched these two iconic new weeklies: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES.  

Not only are these both stonking reads but they were also landmark issues for the Annex of Ideas:

  • These were the fourth and fifth (following THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL, SPIDER-MAN and THE AVENGERS) weeklies launched in the UK.
  • They were the first of the British weeklies to feature contemporary, made-the-same-decade, strips as the main attraction.  THE AVENGERS weekly had already, riding the martial arts craze, included Masters of Kung Fu and and Iron Fist.  The tight turnaround between the two sides of the operation created scheduling problems later (hello Apeslayer!).
  • Both of them were a departure from Marvel's usual super-powered stable.  Marvel UK's next experiment, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, in March 1975, didn't fare so well. 
  • POTA was the first time that Marvel had adapted a screen property.  The POTA TV show (which mustered more enthusiasm in the UK and other international markets than it did on CBS in the States) premiered around the same time and, although Marvel didn't have the strip rights, they could benefit from the free marketing.  
  • Horror was also something new for the Annex of Ideas.  The black & white format, and larger pages, actually benefited the strips and gave them a Hammer noir atmosphere.  Surprisingly, the contents didn't seem to ever generate any negative publicity in the British press.  Something that, maybe, IPC's nervous management should have noted when they got cold feet over SCREAM a decade later.  
  • This was the first time that British Marvel had launched two new titles simultaneously and, as such, marked a significant expansion for the small operation. 
  • For the record, DRACULA LIVES clocked up a run of 87 issues before merging with its stable (coffin?) mate.  POTA eventually ran for 123 issues before folding into THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL (allowing Marvel to burn-off the last of the licensed strips). 
  • DRACULA LIVES, without benefit of a merger, became DRACULA LIVES FEATURING THE LEGION OF MONSTERS from issue 60 with, MWOM style, the interlopers given prominent billing on the masthead. 
I've covered POTA in several previous posts (including cover galleries and the "missing" prelude to ESCAPE FROM THE POTA) and I've always planned to do more with DL once I've unboxed my collection from storage.

This is also an appropriate place to mention that Titan Books have a new hardback overview of the whole saga in shops now (not to be confused with their excellent art book devoted to the two recent revivals).  I've not had a chance to study the text in detail (so much scanning... so little time) but it looks a highly agreeable addition to anyone's bookshelves and, probably, the most significant new tome on the saga (except for the excellent SIMEON SCROLLS fanzine and the two Hasslein volumes) since the 2001 book boom.  
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