Friday, 9 October 2015


From March 1987: the first of the British STAR TREK paperbacks published by Titathre  Books: CHAIN OF ATTACK, by Gene DeWeese,

As the number top-left suggests, this was the first of the Pocket Books Trek novels to be reprinted in the UK by Titan Books.

Titan was the house that DREDD built thanks to the succession of 2000AD albums, and the Eagle Comics line, reprinting already paid for strips from "the galaxy's greatest comic".

By the second half of the Eighties, the publisher (part of the group which also owned Titan Distributors and Forbidden Planet) was obviously looking to expand (and hedge its bets) by signing up to publish UK editions of DC and Trek books. 

The benefit to Brits is that this gave the UK editions far better distribution than the old imports. Suddenly it was possible to find British editions in WH Smith as well as the specialty book stores supplied by Titan.

The Pocket Books deal also allowed Titan to publish new editions of large format books such as the seminal MISTER SCOTT'S GUIDE TO THE ENTERPRISE. 

Titan didn't following the numbering and release sequence of the American run. This was actually the 32nd book in the stateside run of paperbacks. 

Titan eventually lost the license in favour of simply shipping US editions into the UK but the association continues today via the official magazine.

I've not read the book (I found it recently it a second-hand bookstore and bought it for its start-of-the-run significance) but its noticable that the artist has muddle TV uniforms (and a TV-aged cast) with the then current (and always the best) movie Enterprise.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


From 1996: the DOCTOR WHO MOVIE SPECIAL, published by Panini to coincide with the premiere of the long-awaited, but short-lived, return.

This glossy one-shot (which wasn't as pink as my scan suggests... Sometimes my scanner does strange things when confronted with certain colour combinations) hit the shelves just as the movie hit the screens. Intended as a primer/ refresher for all things WHO, it caused some disquiet amongst regular readers of DWM who feared it heralded a similar "dumbing down"/ reaching out to the mainstream for the main mag if the movie had been a success and spawned a series.

Such is the way of TV, once the green light was given to shoot the movie (a complicated co-production between BBC TV, BBC WORLDWIDE, UNIVERSAL TV and the FOX network) then things moved fast and the  DWM team found themselves racing to cover the story and have everything ready for the impending airdates on both sides of the Atlantic.

The movie was, broadly, a creative success (and WHO had definitely never looked so good) and certainly not the Hoff-tastic train wreck fandom had long been predicting.

Ratings in the UK, bolstered by plentiful hype and TV listings magazine covers, were great but the reception across the Atlantic was more mooted, killing hopes of either new movies or a new series. The BBC, unable to bankroll a series alone (and still impregnated with a corporate mentality that the show was rather " naff" put the franchise back on the back burner.

As a result, DWM also returned to a business-as-usual approach, devoting its energies to revisiting the past and looking to the present and future being portrayed in the burgeoning audio and print lines. For many readers, it was the magazine's golden age.

Other quick-to-the-shops merchandise pegged directly to the movie included a VHS tape (which was delayed to accommodate last-minute cuts for violence), novelization, script book and postcard book. An excellent "making of" book followed later, a must-read for anyone interested in the movie's complicated, and fraught, journey to the screen.

Sylvester McCoy, returning to the show for his swansong, also recorded an excellent video diary of his time in Vancouver which formed the basis of a fan-made documentary release.

DWM eventually did spawn the sort of easy-access spin-off that this Special piloted. The US-focused DOCTOR WHO INSIDER (borrowing some of  the title from their STAR WARS stablemate) contained a similar mix of material that seemed intended to reach out to American readers unfamiliar with the back story of the series who may have found the regular magazine too inaccessible. It didn't last long.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


From July 1993: The comics premiere of STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE, courtesy of a floppy inserted premium bagged with the first issue of HERO ILLUSTRATED.

Not only was this the first comic (although its more of a tease) based on the new TREK TV show (and one that turned out, after a duff start, to be a franchise highpoint) but it was also the first Trek comic published by young contender Malibu Comics... And also the first time that Paramount's (no doubt very busy) merchandising department had split the license.

DC Comics (owned by rival media conglomerate Warner Communications) already (with the occasional hiccup) published books based on the two existing branches of the show so it was a natural assumption they would flex to accommodate this one. But the studio decided to make things interesting... And put DC on notice.

Apparently Paramount were so smitten with the Malibu operation that when it hoisted the "for sale" sign as the market sagged, the studio considered buying it and using it as a starter for its own publishing venture. Paramount passed and, after DC started showing a little too much interest (a consolidation that would push Marvel out of the coveted 'biggest beast' slot, vital for maintaining the floundering share price and stock market credibility) Marvel's owners swooped. 

That purchased open channels between Marvel and Hollywood and led to Marvel launching the Paramount Comics line which was essentially a vehicle for pulling all the Trek licenses back under one banner (and expanded the line to unprecedented size) but also allowed Marvel to publish low profile tie-ins with other Paramount franchises (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), also rans (CONEHEADS) and semi-obscure animated shows. 

The deal eventually floundered when sales of the TREK line failed to justify the cost of the license, a situation exhaserbated by the financial woes that also saw Malibu wither and die.

Under Marvel ownership, plans were also hatched to publish the Stan Lee created EXCELSIOR COMICS line and even a line of soft core adult titles (a rival to the lucrative PENTHOUSE COMIX offering) under the PLAYBOY banner. Neither materialised. 

HERO ILLUSTRATED was the highest profile of the WIZARD contender titles which, unfortunately, spelt the end of the previous generation of comics magazines like COMICS INTERVIEW and AMAZING HEROES. It went toe-to-toe with its rival with an all but identical formula and battled for readers with exclusive covers, trading cards and these PREMIERE EDITION inserts.

The collapse of the hype fuelled collectors market ended the need for two near identical offerings and HI shuttered after some two years.

Ashcan editions were a long-standing tradition of US publishing to secure ownership of a particular idea or title by printing a small number of copies purely to register ownership ahead of a full launch. They were not intended to be seen by the public. This type of teaser, often promoted (of course) as a "hot collectable" borrowed the name, and the smaller dimensions and page count, but weren't Ashcan Editions in the true sense. 

Monday, 5 October 2015


From October 1987: A competition to win copies of the two very hard-to-find ACTION FORCE storybooks, published under the Marvel Books banner, by MARVEL UK: OPERATION RAGING RIVER and OPERATION STAR FLIGHT.

I didn't see either of these back-in-the-day (probably because I wasn't visiting the children's book department anymore) and I've never seen copies since. That probably makes them amongst the rarer M-UK publications... Albeit non-comics ones.

I've always assumed that these are rebadged versions of similar books, published by the US branch of Marvel Books (which did licensed tie-ins in a big way) as a G.I. JOE tie-in. Although I have no idea whether that is true. The left-hand "tea towel" version of Cobra Commander certainly looks more like something that would come from the States (Palitoy ignored that version of CC altogether when they held the UK license). 

There is, of course, no writer or artists credits here. It remains to be seen if the books themselves were credited.

Many people, including myself, hold the original Baron Ironblood era of AF in high regard but there's no doubt that Hasbro were able to leverage that previous success and the weight of the G.I. Joe franchise (Marvel strips, the animated show, the reworked TV adverts) to really reinvigorate the line. 

Unfortunately, the Marvel weekly only had a few more months to live and it shuttered, making way for the transatlantic monthly, early in the new year. 

Friday, 2 October 2015


From 1991: Starlog celebrates its most durable crowd pleaser/ puller (and the reason it was launched to begin with) with a 25th anniversary salute to the STAR TREK franchise.

Its scary to think this typically uncritical (well, it was licensed by the studio), photo-centric, overview was on sale 24 years ago. Time has certainly warped past fast.

The slapped together cover boasts a silver ink finish so typical of the era.

I imagine we can expect the fiftieth anniversary reprise next year, probably from Titan Magazines. And possibly without the premium ink. They already have their traditional "best of" bookazine on the schedules for the end of this year (along with the annual STAR WARS edition and new compilations of mold material from the defunct BUFFY and X-FILES magazines). 

1978: SF COLOR POSTER BOOK Issue 2 (Starlog)

From 1978: Another early Starlog spin-off... The SF COLOR POSTER BOOK TV AND MOTION PICTURE SCIENCE FICTION. Phew.

Its not really a book at all. Its just another Poster Mag, albeit packed with Star Age goodies. Especially if you're a fan of Larson's screen jumping SF epics. 

It's very much a preview piece teasing upcoming productions... Which left the editors somewhat short of visual references and hard facts. Fortunately for them, Poster Mags are seldom a vehicle for heavy detail. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

1984: DOCTOR WHO (USA) Issue 1 (Marvel Comics)

From October 1984: the first issue of the ongoing American DOCTOR WHO comic book, reprinting Marvel UK material from the weekly (and, lately, the monthly).

Marvel New York had already taken some tentative steps in this direction with a four issue run of reprints (ironically reprinted by Marvel UK in 1985) in the dying days of MARVEL PREMIERE. However, the niche appeal of the little PBS import made it an unlikely candidate for an ongoing US series. Although Dez Skinn  had always prepared for the possibility by structuring the UK installments so that two could run back-to-back in any US format edition. 

Two factors changed the landscape mid-decade: WHO was at the peak of its US appeal (post 2005 not withstanding) and the boom in the Direct Sales market made a niche title (especially one with low origination costs) more viable. 

The strips needed to be coloured for the US edition so Marvel pushed the boat out for a premium Baxter Paper package which allowed better (albeit unsubtle) printing and also, no doubt, allowed for higher margins compared with traditional low-end books selling at half the price (but in greater numbers).

To Marvel's credit, they didn't try and move the title too far from its origins and there was never the serious prospect of a STAR TREK/ X-MEN style crossover (heck, even TRANSFORMERS chased sales by spinning in SPIDER-MAN) in the hopes of luring in a more mainstream Marvel audience. They even hired Dave Gibbons to supply a run of stunning new covers (some of which were recycled for IDW's run of Marvel reprints) to accompany his earlier work. 

The monthly ran for 23 issues before quietly fading. The decision to terminate may have been down to the need to renew the US license for another year at this point, although the UK magazine continued strong. By the time it was cancelled, the reprints had moved onto the Peter Davison era and, had the title continued, it would have hit the point where it had exhausted the finite British inventory (a reversal of the usual trans Atlantic situation faced by the two Bullpens).

I picked this edition up from a dealer a few months ago for around £2. I already have a copy somewhere in storage but, at that price, there seemed no harm in adding a second to the top of the stack. What neither I nor the dealer realised was that Dave Gibbons had, at some point, signed the splash page. A nice bonus. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


From 1991: the original DEATH'S HEAD crosses the Atlantic for a rare US appearance in the pages of THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK 24.

Appearances by Marvel UKverse characters (except, of course, it didn't exist when this appeared) outside their own books are so rare that its often easy to overlook them because you just assume they don't exist to begin with.

This has a higher profile than most because it was included in the DH Panini trade paperback collections.

The She-Hulk, somewhat of a second tier title, was by this point in the care of Brits Simon Furman and Bryan Hitch, a dream team combo of DH collaborators that made the guest shot possible. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to convince incoming British Bullpen boss Paul Neary to relaunch the Freelance Peace Keeper in a new limited series, pitched at the States, and he scrapped the project in favour of DEATH'S HEAD II and the start of the UKverse the following year. 

There was, except for the much more recent trade paperback, no contemporary UK edition but it was reprinted in the hard-to-find final issue (12) of THE INCOMPLETE DEATH'S HEAD in late 1993/ early 1994: one of the final titles to emerge before the Genesis Massacre shredded the UK line. 


From 1995: The British edition (DC published the American printing as part of its ill-fated licensing deal to publish new JD comics stateside) of the JUDGE DREDD MOVIE ADAPTATION.

This was a one-shot spin-off from the 2000AD group and appeared alongside movie-themed editions of the regular runs and opportunist reboots of the two ongoing archive compilation mags.

I don't think its a bad little movie, despite its obvious flaws, and was a reasonable attempt at bringing the JD universe to the big screen. The adaptation, in turn, does a good job of bringing the movie back to comics.

The movie version of JD also appeared in the new LAWMAN OF THE FUTURE fortnightly and a one-shot.

Monday, 28 September 2015


From March 1985: A V: THE SERIES interview with Lane (Nathan Bates) Smith from ENTERPRISE INCIDENTS. 

Smith was a venerable TV and movie trouper, often cast as unsavory or unscrupulous business or political leaders (indeed, I was watching the original RED DAWN over the weekend and there he was as the town mayor... also an untrustworthy collaborator name of Bates. It's easy to believe the movie influenced the thinking of the weekly series, especially episodes like The Wildcats). His others great genre TV contribution, playing somewhat against type, was as Daily Planet editor Perry White in LOUS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTUTUES OF SUPERMAN the next decade.

This interview must have been carried out early in his run as manipulating businessman Nathan Bates in the ill-judged weekly incarnation of the NBC invasion franchise. He was one of a number of cast members (arguably all the most interesting characters... Or expensive talent) jettisoned in the mid-season purge which coincided with a hefty budget cut and simplified (LA as an "Open City" governed by Bates becomes a all-out war zone, albeit with a budget too small to realistically realise it) format. The writing was on the wall. 

The show was cancelled the following year. 

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Nixon in the 1989 ABC teleflick THE FINAL DAYS. 

Smith died, aged 69, in 2005. 

The now-professional EI, having jettisoned its origins as a TREK fanzine was already tranisioning into SF MOVIELAND by running both logos. 

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