A semi-random scan from June 1978: COMIC MEDIA NEWS INTERNATIONAL issue 36, edited and published by Richard (Burt) Burton... future staffer at the Annex of Ideas and Tharg's Command Module.
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
From October 1982: A fascinating issue of ITV's LOOK-IN.
It's ridiculously hard to emphasis what a massively big deal the TV premiere of STAR WARS was. Almost five years after its British theatrical premiere (just after Christmas 1977), it was finally coming to the small screen. It had been a long wait.
I'm not even sure whether it had been released (officially) on home video at this point but, even it is was, it was strictly rental only. The affordable sell-through market was still a few years away.
How many families bought or rented a VCR simply to record and keep Star Wars? Or borrowed the school, college or workplace machine (assuming it was bolted to a hefty trolly) for the weekend?
LI stablemate TV TIMES also ran a STAR WARS cover and feature to celebrate the premiere... and I'll get to that...
Why didn't ITV make it their big Christmas Day film? Ad space is in higher demand in the pre-Christmas sales period so ITV could charge a premium for ads in highly-rated programmes in the final three months of the year. Christmas Day films could command huge audiences... but generated less income because the gift buying season was over.
But... there were other delights that weekend as well. ITV also premiered (with considerably less fanfare) the first episode of STAR FLEET, the legendary puppet SF show from Japan. From the opening theme and the first few minutes, it was obvious that this adventure serial was something special. And it was. It became essential viewing throughout the run. And, if I recall correctly, a latter quirk in ITV's regional scheduling meant I could watch it twice ever weekend. The memory may be cheating but I think Anglia kept it in its Saturday morning slot... but neighboring LWT shuffled it to Sundays... allowing people (like me) who lived on the border of both regions the chance to double-dip.
And LOOK-IN also teased the show that never was: BIG DADDY'S SATURDAY SHOW. Central's networked Saturday morning entry for the 1982-83 season should have been fronted by the legendary wrestler. Despite his lack of TV presenter experience. And this show was live. What could possibly go wrong? The improbably-named Shirley Crabtree bowed-out (apparently because of ill-health although I can't help wondering whether someone belatedly concluded that it was a non-starter) at the last moment and the show was hastily rebadged (with a tweaked title sequence) as simply THE SATURDAY SHOW. TV mainstay Tommy Boyd was drafted in to anchor alongside the already-booked Isla St Clair (another TV favourite but, again, somewhat lacking in the live-TV-presenting department).
It proved a canny move for Boyd. He stuck around for TSS successor SATURDAY STARSHIP (legendary for appearances by Spider-man, Gerry Anderson and - in the finale - the Fink Brothers) and then moved to main presenter duties (and also, apparently, a management role) at TV-am's Wide Awake Club. The following decade he even became the regular presenter of CITV's equivalent of the continuity "broom cupboard".
From February 1991: the first issue of the first volume of the British ALIENS comic.
This was part of the turn-of-decade mini-boom in more adult comics fare... and had the bonus of two movie franchises (The Predator was also along for the ride) to help shift copies.
As you might expect, the contents were from the US Dark Horse run. I read, in one DH title, that these British reprints were unlicensed but it seems unlikely that anyone would risk the double wrath of a US publisher and a major Hollywood studio with a large UK base (in sunny Soho Square) and sister companies with considerable clout and influence within the British media.
This first volume ran until DH opened their own (ultimately short-lived) British branch and took responsibility for British editions in-house.
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
From May 1986: A MARVEL UK House Ad with itinerary details for the Marvel US-organized (apparently as "thank you" overseas trip for the X-creative team) signing tour to promote the launch of the new CLASSIC X-MEN monthly.
It's unlikely that a few extra copies flogged in the UK was going to make much difference to the overall sales figures so this was clearly a "working vacation" ruse on everyone's part.
This was not the same tour that saw the team appear on TV-am's GOOD MORNING BRITAIN... that took place the previous year.
CLASSIC X-MEN, which reprinted the New X-Men strips from a decade earlier, turned into a canny launch for Marvel. It eventually clocked-up an impressive 110 issues through to 1995.
It became X-MEN CLASSIC from the 45th issue, presumably to group it alongside the other X-books on retailer paperwork and on the shelves.
Those initial four-odd years also included new material (supplementary pages of new art and back-up strips) intended to anchor the past events to current continuity or explore additional facets of the original storyline.
"Well hello ladies! I remember these from THE WICKED LADY!"
From 1991: The fourth issue of Visual Imagination's long-running (and inspiration to several we-can-do-that-too wannabes) STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION OFFICIAL POSTER MAGAZINE.
As I've mentioned before, the appeal of poster magazines (other than as a piece of Star Age nostalgia) has always eluded me so I didn't get any of these at the time. I stumbled across this random issue recently and decided to add it to the vaults.
From August 1987: The MARVEL UK House Ad for the two-volumes-and-we're-done THE TRANSFORMERS: THE (Far From Complete) WORKS.
As mentioned in posts past, this was a two volume run of hardbacks that, despite their name, only actually compiled (in colour) the initial four-issue US limited series which introduced the giant robots and their universe (actually, at this point, Marvel Earth). The same material (give-or-take) had already appeared in the ongoing series and the two 1985 Collected Comics editions.
Whether Marvel had ever planned to extend this range further is unrecorded but it seems unlikely. They even went as far as to commission a new final page of art that left the Autobots triumphant over their enemy. As anyone who remembers reading the shocking conclusion to the strip at the time, Marvel left the limited series on a cliffhanger by suddenly bringing (the daft looking) Shockwave (teased in earlier issues) into the battle and apparently annihilating the Autobots.
For a long time, rumors circulated that this page had originally been prepared for the American editions but substituted pre-press, at the last minute, once the green light had been given to continue (after a hiatus) the series. Although in makes a convincing case, the uncredited art doesn't match the rest of the book.
Friday, 22 May 2015
From February 1988: The MARVEL UK teaser ad for the about-to-launch THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS. It's an obvious design... but also incredibly strong.
TRG turned out to be a real cash-cow for the Annex of Ideas. Not only was the core book a runaway hit but it also spun off the traditional Collected Comics and annuals.
Marvel also published books, a poster magazine, a best-of monthly and the spin-off BLIMEY IT'S SLIMER monthly and specials.
The Big Green Ectoplasm also popped-up in the short-lived all-original humor weekly IT'S WICKED and the Ghostbusters were also mainstays of THE MARVEL BUMPER COMICS anything-goes anthology.
From January 1987: Another in the run of TSR ads for the British release of the MARVEL SUPER HEROES Role-Playing Game.
New year: New edition. Although, apparently, not a second edition.
This, like the others in the series, was fairly ubiquitous across the core MARVEL UK line (and, no doubt, in Role Playing magazine) at the time.
From 1996: The thirteenth issue of Rob Dyer's fanzine DARK STAR.
I found this random issue in a store recently. I don't remember seeing this particular issue back in '96 but - prior to that - I have a hunch that the Forbidden Planet branch on London's New Oxford Street used to carry copies when they still had a fanzine section in the basement. Looking back... I wish I'd paid more attention (and had more money) to sample the collective wares.
I know very little about DARK STAR so there's not a lot of background or context I can add.
I suspect the cover feature comes off the back of the late Michael O'Hare's visit to the UK after he bowed out of BABYLON FIVE after the first season. I remember him doing the rounds of various stores signing stuff (in these more innocent times he would rock up to one of the organized events and charge a fortune each time he picked up his pen).
He also made a personal appearance at a long-defunct SF cafe just off London's Tottenham Court Road. They had a lecture theatre/ screening room upstairs and he gave a talk and Q&A. This was also filmed and later sold on VHS tape. I think I have a DVD dub of my original VHS somewhere...
O'Hare (who, it seems, had a more troubled private life than anyone was privy to at the time) came across as being more relaxed and likeable than he ever did on screen. It was always tricky to know whether his performance was because he saw the character as by-the-book and unemotional or whether he just wasn't a terribly good actor.
I assumed, at the time, his replacement on the show, Bruce Boxleitner, was drafted in by the studio after season one to raise the show's game. He was a more established acting talent and also able to boost the show's appeal to wavering station managers and groups by parachuting in a known star who had already anchored several network dramas.
O'Hare suffered from mental illness for some twenty years but died of a heart attack, aged sixty, in 2012. The B5 cast has been particularly cursed and other talented members who are no longer with us also number Richard Biggs (who was only 44 when he died), Andreas Katsulas and Jeff Conaway.
Thursday, 21 May 2015
From January 1980: THE OFFICIAL METEOR MOVIE MAGAZINE, published by Warren.
I must confess that I have never seen this Seventies Disaster Movie/ SF combo... although, from what i have heard, I doubt it is as spectacular as the magazine enthusiastically suggests. Indeed, I understand it's more akin to a RAISE THE TITANIC stylee clunker.
But... I have a copy of the movie on order... so I'll know for sure whether it's a Star Age disaster of a Disaster Movie.