Tuesday, 24 May 2016


From October 1987: DOCTOR WHO BULLETIN (aka DWB) gets the knives out again. This time, in issue 48, to complain about BBC ONE's daytime daily talkabout telly show OPEN AIR.


From March and April 1984: what a difference a week makes! The last old format (akin to the 1982-83 relaunch of EAGLE, or STARLORD from the previous decade) edition of IPC sports weekly TIGER and the first of the newsprint format already adopted by the bulk of the publisher's other weeklies.

This was another nail in the venerable weekly's coffin and a sure sign that sales (and therefore budgets) were seriously on the slide. Adopting what format across the range almost certainly simplified production and print contracts as well.

Tiger had launched back in 1954 and, from the start, had a heavy emphasis on sport. The changeover to a cheaper format (significantly not reflected in an amended cover price (IPC pulled the same trick with Eagle) happened exactly one year before the title folded into the pages of (surprise surprise) Eagle after 1,555 editions.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, little editorial hoopla was generated by the switch and the emphasis was placed squarely on the number of strips crammed into each issue.

Monday, 23 May 2016


From August 1986: The British Bullpen are (were) coming to town!

The Redan Place dwellers hit the road (or the rails) for a public appearance at Nottingham's NOSTALGIA AND COMICS.

Were you one of the team that made the trip? Who attended? Were you a reader that turned out for the day? Any pictures you want to share?


From November 1986: A bumper month for MARVEL UK's SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS weekly.

The Spidey strip continued the crossover with SECRET WARS II which kicked-off the previous month. A canny, and fairly unusual, way of cross promoting the two weeklies by encouraging the readers of one to sample the other. That combined readership, however, must still have been pretty small as both titles were defunct within the next couple of months. The crossover fan between issues 33 and 36.

Other things happening in an eventful month: the STAR BRAND strip bowed out after a brief run in issue 37. If you want to know what happened next Marvel have just reissued the first ten issues as a trade paperback collection. The British Bullpen did eventually explain why they curtailed the run... and I'll post that sometime soon. Redan Place's commitment to the New Universe was transitory at best and they dropped this and SPITFIRE AND THE TROUBLESHOOTERS (in THE TFANSFORMERS) pretty promptly.

The following week marked the arrival of STRIKEFORCE: MORITURI, another non-core US strip presumably deemed self-contained enough to work well for a British audience.

Friday, 20 May 2016


From 1995: the third issue of the British STAR WARS fanzine HOLOCRON.

STAR WARS never struck me as having an active fandom back-in-the-day in the same way that STAR TREK or some of the other TV shows engaged fans to create their own 'tribute'. Maybe I just wasn't as aware of what was being created. Or maybe the sheer amount of official merchandise negated much need for anything fan-made. Or maybe SW appealed to a younger fandom who lacked the will and ability to publish in the same way that Trek fans had already been doing for a decade.

The 1990s resurgence did start to change that. Fans were obviously older and, for a while, ill-served by a mainstream media that had moved on from the saga far, far away. So titles like HOLOCRON, DARK TIMES and STAR WARS OUTSIDER appeared alongside STAR WARS MAGAZINE, GALAXY, INSIDER etc.

I would argue that the Expanded Universe was a repository for all the fan fiction that the saga had previously failed to spawn. Writers were finally let loose to nose around the universe and devote many pages to the smallest and most throwaway aspects of the movie series. And all with the endorsement of Lucasfilm.

Holocron was an A5 zine with colour stock cover (this issue being a dull shade of grey) and the standard black & white interiors. The articles ran the gauntlet of the films themselves through to the then current publishing boom. Articles of interest included a detailed looked back at the MARVEL UK original strips from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY from a period when no one was writing about them.


From October 1998: DREAMWATCH MAGAZINE celebrates fifty issues in print since its relaunch four years earlier.


From October 1986: the next four issues (31-34) of SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS, published by MARVEL UK.

Twas the month for gifting with no less then three issues including some form of crowd-pleasing bonus. The biggie came at the start of the month: the MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS STICKER ALBUM. This loose adaptation of Shooter's first series felt a little like ancient history at this point considering Marvel UK were deep into the sequel. But it was still a welcome surprise.

It also sparked playground rumours that a SECRET WARS movie, TV show or animation was imminent. We associated sticker albums with screen properties and assumed this was a similar venture. It wasn't. Instead it featured new uncredited art. It seems that Marvel Productions were trying to pitch an animated Secret Wars series but either the superhero adverse networks nixed the idea or soft sales of the toy line deterred Mattel from investing the cash required to get a show into first-run syndication.

Issue 32 followed with, as tradition dictated, more stickers for the album as a second hit to get kids addicted to the new collecting habit. More stickers were, of course, available from local pushers - err - newsagents.

Although it sparked a fair bit of debate, the free album didn't translate into a playground collecting frenzy and I don't remember anyone persevering beyond the freebies. Maybe we were a little too old for that sort of thing... or maybe superheroes really did need a movie or TV show to really snag our interest.

Tomy, with both eyes fixed on the crucial Christmas toy season, pitched in with a ZOIDS poster the following week.

October closed out with a UK cover featuring the heroes of all three strips. The only time that STAR BRAND snatched the cover slot and a special rare Zoids cover that didn't actually feature any of the toys.

Friday, 13 May 2016


From 1985: Know your enemy (and, eventually, your friend)... the ever so handy KLINGON SHIP RECOGNITION MANUAL, an in-universe supplement created for FASA's STAR TREK THE ROLENPLAYING GAME. 

I've previously published the Federation equivalent and I'll post the Romulan edition in the near future. 

TV and movie budgets, combined with finite screen time, meant that before TNG we hadn't actually seen much of the Klingon space fleet... so FASA's creative team basically made it up. Padding out the scant information presented for the screen-seen craft with copious supplementary 'facts' and a fleet of hitherto unseen vessels that might make game night more interesting. 

I suspect most Trek fans, unless they were also Role Playing fans, were largely oblivious to the existence of these guides as they sold mainly through games outlets rather than comic book stores or traditional book stores. 


From October 1990: the first issue of the long-running (and still in business today) British horror magazine THE DARKSIDE.

Edited forever by Allan Bryce, it has managed to survive the collapse of Robert Maxwell's publishing empire and nose diving magazine sales (it went on an extended hiatus between 2009 and 2011) to become one of the few survivors on WH Smith's diminishing Film and TV shelf. 

The best part of flicking through random back issues (if you can survive the sometimes shoddy layouts) is finding the old video adverts and reviews from deep in the VHS era. How many long-forgotten Nineties goodies (or should that be baddies?) never graced the shiny disc?  

Thursday, 12 May 2016


From May 1985: A somewhat unfortunate cover (in retrospect) from Polystyle's BEEB.

This weekly was a belated attempt to get a BBC version of LOOK-IN off the ground, built around BBC talent and any BBC TV show deemed of vague interest to the target audience (hence the choice of deathly dull zoo vet drama ONE BY ONE as one of the strips).

The main differences between the two rivals was that LOOK-IN benefited from being an off-shoot from TV TIMES and therefore owned by the network of ITV local operators. BEEB, on the other hand, was published by Polystyle and not BBC Magazines (the BBC Enterprises offshoot that housed the RADIO TIMES) and therefore more arms length from the corporation. Plus: it tried to be all things to all readers and was pretty dull compared to its main rival and the other adventure weeklies of the time. 

Polystyle had previously published TV COMIC, the long-running weekly which (despite a brief renaissance towards the end) they'd finally crashed into a mountain a year or so earlier.  

LOOK-IN was also able to leverage its ownership to bag regular promo slots across the ITV network and helpful plugs within programmes. BEEB couldn't invade BBC airtime in the same way which left it at a disadvantage. The BBC didn't make the same mistake when it launched FAST FORWARD a few years later, giving the in-house mag copious free airtime (Fast-Fast Forward) in the critical 5.35pm BBC ONE junction sandwiched between the official end of CBBC and the start of NEIGHBOURS (except for viewers in Northern Ireland... who opted away half-way through the final bit of Children's in-vision continuity). 

Launched in late January 1985, it vanished without warning after the 20th issue in early June. 

Other strips included Larson-tastic AUTOMAN, THE TRIPODS (a great deal more exciting than the TV show), BANANAMAN (new strips based on the animated series based on the NUTTY character from rival DC Thompson) and - not for the first or last time - GRANGE HILL. 

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