Thursday, 27 August 2015

WELCOME TO STARLOGGED

Much to my surprise (but... cue: warm feeling inside) STARLOGGED gets a positive mention, as a place for all things MARVEL UK, in the new issue of BACK ISSUE magazine (the International Heroes issue which, amongst many excellent articles, includes pieces on the launch of CAPTAIN BRITAIN, Spider-man's mid-eighties sojourn to the UK and the Annex Of Ideas in general.

Hopefully this will bring in a few new readers hitherto unaware STARLOGGED existed.  Welcome one and all.

To make life a little easier, here are some of the key posts that you might find good starting points for diving into the massive Marvel UK back catalog:

THE (ALMOST) COMPLETE HISTORY OF MARVEL UK
A chronological overview of the ongoing series published between 1972 and 1996 or thereabouts.  There's plenty that will surprise all but the most ardent collectors of the British Bullpen.
HERE

MARVEL UK IN THE USA
From the late 1980s onwards, and peaking with the 'Genesis' line in 1992-94, the British Bullpen made various excursions across the Atlantic in the hopes of gaining a foothold.  The occasional incursions (like Death's Head and G.I. Joe European Missions) became a deluge... which ended suddenly with the behind-the-scenes Genesis Massacre. 
PART ONE: HERE
PART TWO: HERE

SPIDER-MAN'S ADVENTURES IN THE UK
For four short weeks, the British Bullpen relocated the Web Slinger to London (and Birmingham) for a made-in-the-UK adventure.
HERE

THE HULK IN THE UK
The Green Goliath was a mainstay of the British Bullpen from the very beginning (indeed much earlier: the first commissioned-outside-the-States Marvel strip was a done-in-one Hulk adventures published in the UK in the late Sixties) and his career here (including several solo titles) is chronicled HERE

THE FANTASTIC FOUR IN THE UK
Marvel's first family were also here from the start (part of the dream team line-up alongside Spider-man and the Hulk in THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL issue 1) and subsequently appeared in numerous British comics.
HERE

MARVEL UK'S POCKET BOOKS
Published between 1980 and 1982, these black and white A5 digests are a whole sub-section of the M-UK pantheon.
HERE

MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS: THE BRITISH EDITION
If you thought you'd read the whole SECRET WARS saga in one of the numerous book releases... think again.  The Annex of Ideas gave their own spin to the superhero slam jam.
PART ONE: HERE
PART TWO: HERE
PART THREE: HERE
PART FOUR: HERE
PART FIVE: HERE

There are hundreds (thousands?) of individual posts dedicated to MARVEL UK: you'll find obscure one-shots, ongoing series, covers, house ads, free gifts, editorial, company paperwork.  All sorts.  Just click on the MARVEL UK link at the bottom of any relevant post and start your explorations.

The STARLOGGED 'mission' is to chronicle Geek Media from the Star Age (that pre-millennial period, from the Seventies onwards) that had STAR WARS and the other contemporary space epics (and not-so-epics) at its core, so you'll find plenty else outside of M-UK to grab your interest. 

Comments and contributions are always welcomed. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

1994: STAR WARS GALAXY Issue 1 (Topps)



From the last quarter of 1994: the launch issue of TOPPS' STAR WARS GALAXY magazine.

The mid-nineties saw a profusion of officially licensed STAR WARS magazines as different publishers, in different territories, tried to grab a slice of the resurgent interest in the franchise (and, no doubt, hoped to be at the front of the line when liceses related to the impending new movies were dished out). 

The existing LUCASFILM FAN CLUB (companion company to the Official Trek outfit) had been publishing a flimsy wraparound for their mail order business since 1986 (which, in turn, had replaced the equally flimsy but less glossy Bantha Tracks published by the Star Wars Fan Club).  They started to offer better value for money, and chase shop sales, by rebooting as the STAR WARS INSIDER, from issue 23, in 1994.

The selection widened again in 1996, at least if you lived in the UK, when Titan Magazines added a SW title to their existing Trek offering.  The UK edition shared a lot of material with the US title and Titan eventually took over publication in 2007.  It's still going today.

Sitting in the midst of this, Card makers Topps took advantage of their existing (dating back to 1977) relationship with Lucasfilm to launch this magazine, borrowing the title from the card sets they'd published since 1993.

Topps, witnessing comicdom's expansion into the card business (at one point Marvel owned Fleer, Skybox and Panini), pushed back with an ambitious move into publishing.  But, they couldn't nab (although I'm sure they hoped to) the SW license from Dark Horse so they settled for the next best thing: a comicbook-sized magazine devoted to the saga and spin-off merchandise.  Following the tried-and-tested DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE formula, they commissioned new SW strips from Dark Horse anyway.  Although I'm sure Topps hoped for the day that the license would come up for renewal and they'd have a chance to use their history, commitment to the brand and experience with other Hollywood franchises (notably THE X-FILES) to wrestle the rights away.  

Published quarterly, it ran for thirteen issues between late 1994 and late 1997.  Then, possibly to define its niche amongst the other licensed magazines, it relaunched as STAR WARS GALAXY COLLECTOR MAGAZINE with a larger format and, as the name suggests, a new emphasis on SW merchandise and collectibles.  They certainly had A LOT to write about during this period.  Eight issues appeared between February 1998 and December 1999.  

Each issue of original SWG maximized the synergy wrought by the Topps connection and came polybagged with trading cards.  Another highlight was the original illustrated covers, another benefit of the card art connection.  

The magazine is not to be confused with Titan's 2010 launch of the same name which reprinted US Dark Horse strips for the British market.  Despite a handsome format (the 'Collector's Edition format pioneered by Marvel UK/ Panini and subsequently adopted by Titan for their DC reprints), it closed after 24 issues. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

1985: IPC JUNE FREE GIFTS HOUSE AD


From 1985: a June free gift boom courtesy of the IPC weeklies...

The humor (BUSTER and WHIZZER AND CHIPS) and boys 'adventure' weeklies (EAGLE AND TIGER and ROY OF THE ROVERS) served up, courtesy of a hook-up with stodgy breakfast biscuit provider (now, apparently, making inroads into China if the SUNDAY TIMES is to be believed) WEETABIX for cover-mounted promo badges featuring the briefly ubiquitous marketing creations (stars of TV ads, the improbable Weetabix Club and on-packaging appearances).  The badges were, probably, randomly distributed across the four titles.  

Odd-man-out was BATTLE ACTION FORCE who were fully engaged in the battle against global terror with a free, no-doubt Palitoy bankrolled, ACTION FORCE poster.

1982: CINEMA MAGAZINE PART SIX: ISSUE FIVE (Marvel UK)


From September 1982: GREASE II graces the front cover of MARVEL UK's CINEMA issue 5.

Reproduction anyone?

Friday, 21 August 2015

2000: CINEFANTASTIQUE MAGAZINE BABYLON FIVE SPECIAL


From 2000 (and therefore, technically, outside the Star Age): CINEFANTASTIQUE magazine's epic retrospective (including full, annotated, episode guide) on BABYLON FIVE.

This hefty whopper covered years 2-5 of the main series (the pilot and season one had already snagged coverage in issues covered in previous posts), the spin-off TNT TV movies (a mixed bag of the good and the bordering-on-bad) and a look ahead to the ill-fated CRUSADE (a show with the distinction of being cancelled before a single episode had even been shown to the public).

This wasn't quite the end-of-the-line for the franchise.  It also spawned a much-derided (although I actually liked it... so go figure) TV movie, LEGEND OF THE RANGERS, in 2002 and 2007's disappointingly low-budget direct-to-disc THE LOST TALES.  Both were intended to kick-start new aspects of the show's epic story arc but both floundered at the first hurdle and the franchise has been dormant ever since.  

It's surprising, given that the 1990s have come of age and that publishers are always looking for established brands to exploit, that no-one has seriously looked at doing a new comic strip version.  It seems a natural for a publisher like IDW.  Maybe the Warner Brothers connection automatically locks-out a third-party publisher (DC dabbled with a short-lived run, reprinted in the first incarnation of Titan's magazine over here, when the show was on the air but obviously struggled to find an audience).

This is Volume 31, issue 12. 

1981: BLOCKBUSTER PART SEVEN: ISSUE 6 (Marvel UK)


From November 1981: More of the same as MARVEL UK's BLOCKBUSTER hits it's sixth (of nine) issue. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

1982: STAR WARS: WORLD OF FIRE (Marvel Illustrated Books)



From October 1982: A Marvel STAR WARS adventure which will seem a lot more familiar to British Starloggers than our American cousins: WORLD OF FIRE.

This Chris Claremont penned adventure (art by Carmine Infantino and Gene Day) was first published in March 1980 in the pages of STAR WARS WEEKLY (issues 107-115), one of several "buffer" strips inserted into the UK run whenever it looked close to running out of material (Marvel were smart enough to realize a repeat of an Apeslayer style deadline crunch should be avoided at all costs).  By this point, SWW was already the first-run outlet for the strips, appearing in the UK before they were 'reprinted' (albeit in colour) in the US monthly.  

It's unclear whether this, and the other UK exclusive strips emanating out of the US Bullpen, were ever penciled into the American book's schedules or whether they were always created on the understanding that they would only be seen oversees.  If the latter was the case, it's interesting that by 1980 the NY office didn't just tell the post-Revolution British Bullpen (by now adept, albeit sometimes reluctant, at producing strips in-house) to "sort it out yourselves".  

It's also odd, but presumably down to licensing and cash, that the US didn't see the launch of a second, companion, title to the core monthly ala the multiple Spider books of the era (partly created to ensure that the British weekly was never short of reprints).  A second book would almost certainly have increased overall sales (even if the core book took a slight hit) and would have helped ensure the Weekly was kept well-stocked.

Regardless of plans, this adventure was left on the shelf once THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK hit and Marvel switched to a succession of self-contained post-movie stories.  Once again, they could have presented it as a post-movie adventure (with, perhaps, new wraparound bookends to position it as a flashback tale) but it turned up here, as a hard-to-find, black & white paperback instead.  

I've never seen a copy in stores (at a guess I would say UK distribution was virtually non-existent) so I eventually took the plunge and ordered this copy on-line.

It's officially STAR WARS 2 because Marvel had already published the 1977 paperback version of the movie adaptation.  They presumably chose to ignore that they had already published a second SW paperback: the 1980 outing of The Empire Strikes Back.  

Ironically, the strip is actually pretty symbolic for me as issue 110 was the first issue of SWW I ever owned.  Although, thanks to School Fairs and a market stall, I soon amassed a substantial selection of earlier issues.   

For the record, the other UK-only strips that appeared in SWW were Way of the Wookiee (SWW 94-96), The Day After The Death Star (97-99) and The Weapons Master (104-106).  SWW also reprinted the strips from PIZZAZZ magazine which also didn't form part of the regular US run.

These extra strips (and their excellent original covers) are usually omitted from compilations of the US runs but they can be found in the WILD SPACE collection (along with the latter post-ESB British created strips and other oddities).  Snap up a copy of this Dark Horse published book whilst you can as it will, presumably, drift out of print now that the license has shifted to Marvel again.  Those hefty hardback Marvel omnibuses are, once again, skipping these adventures.  They've never been published in colour (SWW and this paperback are both black & white) and, presumably, the colour work was never completed. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

1992: EPI-LOG ISSUE 16


From March 1992: More Gerry Anderson as part of the selection of British shows covered (come of whom must have been a revelation to US readers) in the 16th issue of EPI-LOG.  

Personally I think the magazine industry would be in much better shape today if it had resisted the rise of the web with more covers featuring string vest inspired attire. 

1976: THE MAKING OF SPACE:1999 by Tim Heald


From November 1976: a book that seldom seems to surface today: THE MAKING OF SPACE:1999.

I spend a fair amount of time perusing secondhand book stores and comic book stores whenever I'm visiting a new town or city but this one had, up until recently, eluded me.  I hadn't made it my life's work to find it... it's just the sort of paperback I would buy without a second thought if I ever saw it.  Which I never did.  

So I eventually took the plunge and ordered a copy (for a lot more than the 85p cover price) from Amazon.

I've not had a chance to look at it in detail (and, in truth, I'm worried that the ancient binding might not respond to well to too much love at this advanced age) but I'm (once again) struck that it is not the sort of book that would ever appear nowadays.  It's a text-heavy paperback which is dense with information but not a great format for stills, artwork etc.  Today, it would be a studio-scrutinized coffee table tome with an abundance of images and a lot less text.  And none of it critical.   

This seems to have been published in the States and then shipped to the UK.  This may explain why copies are few-and-far between.

Monday, 17 August 2015

1982: CINEMA MAGAZINE PART FIVE: ISSUE FOUR (Marvel UK)


From this month back in 1982: the fourth issue of MARVEL UK's CINEMA MAGAZINE, with a very contrasting cover to the previous month's offering.  Maybe it was this erratic style that confused would-be readers?
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