Thursday, 28 July 2016

1999: CLASSIC STAR WARS: A LONG TIME AGO.... DIGEST ISSUE 1 (DARK HORSE)

From March 1999: the first issue of the Dark Horse black & white digest CLASSIC STAR WARS: A LONG TIME AGO....

It sounds strange now but - at the time - this was a really big deal. It was the first time that pretty much any of the 1977-85 Marvel Star Wars run had been reprinted. Despite the boom in Star Wars publishing pretty much throughout the 1990s, no one had tackled the inventory of Marvel material (107 regular issues, one mini-series, three annuals and two Star Comics series). And the price of back issues (never exactly in plentiful supply in he UK thanks to a long-standing embargo on copies shipped to UK newsagents) had shot up as collectors returned to the saga.

However, Dark Horse didn't exactly jump at the opportunity. These digests shrunk the artwork (making text tough to read) and reproduced it in b&w. And they cherry-picked the reprints so collectors weren't getting a complete chronological run. Even the selection of cover art hardly sold the product inside.

Nevertheless, this run of six 96-page editions (sometimes described as trade paperbacks online although they are actually digests) were essential purchases at the time. Only to be superseded by a run of (really expensive) Dark Horse trade paperbacks. Which were then replaced by Omnibus editions. More recently, with the license back at Marvel, the original run has been collected into several whopping volumes... with prices to match.


1983: FANTASY EMPIRE COLLECTOR'S EDITION ISSUE 1

From 1983: FANTASY EMPIRE COLLECTOR'S EDITION issue 1.

Fantasy Empire, which ran for 16 issues between 1981 and 1985, was a US fan magazine dedicated to British TV and pop culture... specifically DOCTOR WHO.

In addition to the core run, the magazine also had several spin-off. This was the start of a six issue run (spanning 83-84) which reprinted material from the earliest issues of the regular mag.

The cover art is - hmmm - interesting. And the strap line makes it sound like he died already.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

1980: COMIC MEDIA NEWS INTERNATIONAL ISSUE 40: THE FINAL ISSUE

From the summer of 1980: COMIC MEDIA NEWS INTERNATIONAL bows out with its 40th and final issue.

I love back issues of news-focused comics fanzines  because of the instant nostalgia rush of reading about the latest contemporary projects from creators and publishers. With the power of hindsight we know some will amount to nothing (literally in some cases) whilst others - sometimes deemed worthy of no more than a sentence or two) would change the Star Age forever.

CMNI, the foremost British newszine of the period, was shuttering because editor/ publisher Richard Burton had achieved the ultimate fanzine dream: using it as a way into the profession proper. He was joining Dez Skinn's new North London British Bullpen to be at the ground zero of the Marvel Revolution: the audacious and controversial plan to reboot Marvel UK to lure in more punters.

After a stint at Kentish Town Road he moved south of the Thames (just) to take up Editorial residence in Tharg's Command Module.


2007: DREAMWATCH 150: THE FINAL ISSUE

From March 2007: DREAMWATCH ISSUE 150, the last issue of the magazine and the end of a long publishing run that dates all the way back to the launch of DWB as a photocopied DOCTOR WHO newsletter in the early 1980s.

Technically this is so far outside the pre-millennial Star Age that it is virtually last week's issue. But I thought it was important to include it because it does mark the end of such a significant run.

The mag was supposed to have a bold future as an online site but - as is often the case - success in one medium doesn't ensure longevity in another and Titan Magazines (true to form) soon lost interest in that as well.


1990: ALIEN NATION: THE SPARTANS LIMITED COLLECTOR'S EDITION (ADVENTURE COMICS)

From 1990: The premium ALIEN NATION: THE SPARTANS LIMITED COLLECTOR'S EDITION, published by Adventure Comics.

As posted previously, Adventure snapped up the rights to the about-to-be-cancelled Ken Johnson TV series (based on the earlier film) in 1990 and published a run of black & white mini-series which dug deeper into the (near) future Earth established on the screen. This creative route seemed to be governed by a limited licence which - with one exception - didn't allow them to use the characters from the film or TV versions.

The Spartans was the first four-parter to go into print and the launch was marked by this premium edition version with alternative cover art and foil logo. Those were the days...

Follow the ALIEN NATION link below for more...



Monday, 25 July 2016

1994: TRIPODS VOLUME 1 VHS SLEEVE (BBC VIDEO)

From 1994: Carrying on the TRIPODS theme from BEEB (which ran a regular spin-off strip which was - frankly - a lot more exciting than the sluggish show itself)... the first TRIPODS VHS release, courtesy of BBC VIDEO.

Ultimately buyer enthusiasm was somewhat mooted and the folks at BBC WOODLANDS (tucked under the shadow of the Westway) passed on releasing season two.

At least until the height of the DVD era.


1985: BEEB 10 - 14

From April 1985: A bumper month of BEEB magazines, just as the TV schedules transition from the autumn/ winter season to the "that'll do" summer makeweights.

The Star Age connection is, of course, Peter (Chief Scout) Duncan... who undertook the ultimate dare in FLASH GORDON.






Friday, 22 July 2016

2003: DREAMWATCH ISSUE 100 (TITAN MAGAZINES)

From January 2003: DREAMWATCH MAGAZINE celebrates its 100 issue (and an awful lot more if you count DWB as well).

Technically this falls outside the Star Age and therefore outside the remit of STARLOGGED. But it's an anniversary of a mainstay (which managed another fifty issues before succumbing) so well worth a post.


1988: ACTION FORCE WEEKLY ISSUE 50 (MARVEL UK)

From February 1988: Marvel UK's much heralded ACTION FORCE weekly runs out of road after a mere fifty issues, one less than SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS mustered... and considerably less than the three year run in IPC's BATTLE ACTION FORCE.

The cancellation came as so drying of a shock at the time. It felt like the British Bullpen had a surefire winner. THE TRANSFORMERS had been selling well for several years and it seemed a sure bet that this fellow Hasbro property would fair equally well. Hasbro had taken over the toy franchise, from Palitoy, a year or so earlier and reinvigorated it with more ambitious packaging designs, punchy TV advertising (using Marvel animation) and a multimedia merchandising roll out (modeled on G.I. JOE) which included, for the first time, episodes of the Joe animated series (redubbed, but not reanimated, and with a new title sequence to remove the most obvious Joe references) albeit only on VHS because they couldn't score a broadcast deal.

Marvel's package was also pretty attractive: a full colour 24 page weekly on decent paper (none of the surplus newsprint dumped on the IPC weeklies from Reed International's paper mills) which combined new UK material (focused to plug whichever toy Hasbro were desperate to shift at retail) and reworked GIJ strips, seen in the UK for the first time.

Despite the setback, AF continued to be part of the British Marvel arsenal. The US reprints transferred to THE TRANSFORMERS and the UK strips moved into a monthly, also sold in the States as G.I. JOE EUROPEAN MISSIONS, which clocked up 15 issues.

US reprints also appeared in THE INCREDIBLE HULK PRESENTS in late 1989. Marvel also published several annuals and specials.

1989 also saw the toys rebadged as G.I. JOE: THE ACTION FORCE to bring them in line with international marketing efforts.


1998: BABYLON FIVE VHS SLEEVE SIGNED BY THE CAST

From 1998: the sleeve for the UK VHS release of the teleflick BABYLON FIVE: IN THE BEGINNING, signed by several members of the cast and crew.

To be honest, I'm not 100% sure who signed this. One of the signatures is clearly Mira Furlan but I'm really not sure about the other. I am pretty sure that the signing took place at London's Forbidden Planet (during the New Oxford Street era) to promote the release of the tape. JMS and the B5 crew were popping up in the UK all the time and I seem to recall going to several different signings over several years.

The TV Movie was the first of four produced by US cable outfit TNT (another part of the Warner empire) which rescued the show from oblivion at the end of season four. B5 had started as a one hour syndicated drama in the grand tradition of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. But WB TV had found slots on local stations harder and harder to come by as the amount of programming increased and upstart networks the WB and UPN signed-up local affiliates.

TNT stepped in with a deal to bankroll (on a reduced budget) a final season (completing the much discussed five year plan), four TV films and rerun the existing four seasons. There initial enthusiasm dulled considerably when it came to the troubled spin-off CRUSADE (which suffered the indignity of being cancelled before a single episode had aired).

Of the four movies, IN THE BEGINNING is the best of the bunch.


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