Thursday, 31 January 2013


Here's one of the earliest spin-off's from Tharg's Command Module: the DAN DARE POSTER MAGAZINE published in July 1977.

The one-shot repurposed Bellardinelli artwork lifted from the weekly: the cover comes from Prog 7, the interior strip was a cut-and-shunt job, assembled from the earliest issues of the weekly and the fold-out poster itself was reworked art originally found on the centre pages of Prog 12.

Sales - presumably - didn't meet expectations as it took Tharg's droids another 16 years before they took a punt at a second "Poster Prog". A run of poster magazines (dedicated to Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Rogue Trooper, Slaine and Strontium Dogs) appeared between 1993 and 1995.  That year also saw a brief run of five poster magazines dedicated to the JD movie.


Here's another oddity from the MARVEL UK archives: the one-shot PLAYBACK from the Marvel Magazines imprint.  

The TV dedicated one-shot profiled numerous different TV shows across all the key genres (omitting - I think - News, Current Affairs and Documentary).  By way of a sample, and because the new series returned to British TV this week, I've rerun (ahem) the page dedicated to DALLAS by way of an example.  

Much like the HAMMER HORROR one-shot (which I'll run in a future post), this special was intended as a primer for a regular TV-devoted monthly.  Marvel did the same thing with BIZARRE (not to be confused with the creepy fetish/ gross-out magazine of the same name) devoted to unusual and obscure movies (and sure-to-be the subject of another upcoming post).

Unfortunately, this coincided with changes within the cash-strapped Marvel empire.  Responsibility for Marvel UK was transferred to Panini (soon to be sold) and the new management axed everything that wasn't core to their target audience of younger readers.  DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE survived (although the spin-off specials, yearbooks and poster magazines all shuttered) but the rest of the magazine group (Hammer Horror, Hellbreed, Bizarre and Playback) were all unceremoniously canned.  

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


I love uncovering the unexpected.  Whilst rummaging through a 50p back issue box at a Comic Mart, I found this: MARVEL'S 1992 ANNUAL REPORT (published in May 1993).  That in itself is rather fun (I love finding stuff that's likely to remain buried, and never reprinted, in the vaults forever) but what made this even more - ahem - special was that it still included the covering letter sent to someone at Mattel Toys in the UK.

Clearly Mr Benison didn't heed Nicola's advice and allowed this potential "collectors item" to pass through his hands.  I bet he's kicking himself now.

The report is US comic book sized and features a long strip outlining Marvel's good fortune with page-after-page of dull-but-manditory financial information.  Quite what suited-and-booted business types made of this unique presentation is unrecorded but I doubt many bothered to wade through the strip.

I've not scanned the whole shebang, just the pages that refer to Marvel's overall financial performance (remember fact fans: Marvel filed for bankruptcy protection in 1997) and the only reference I can find to Marvel UK ("Marvel's sister company in London").

Back cover


It's no secret that I loved (and still do) THE WONDER YEARS.  Although it slowly spiralled into decline, it remained capable throughout its 115 episodes of tugging on the heart strings when least expected.  And the final few minutes of the final episode remains one of TV's finest moments.

I found this slightly battered book, many years ago, in a dump bin at London's Tower Records flagship store at Piccardilly Circus (latterly a Virgin Megastore, then a Zavvi and now a fashion store) and snapped it up.  It remains the one-and-only time I have ever seen a copy of the book on sale anywhere.

The curse of these TV tie-in books is that - generally - they are only published when a show is hot.  Therefore they only cover the early episodes and publishers have little interest in an update once the show has been cancelled and a comprehensive overview becomes possible.  The same is true here.  The unofficial tome, published in 1990, only covers the first fifty-odd episodes.

Edward Gross is a fine writer of TV tie-in factual books but the production standards of the book leave a lot to be desired.  The cover and interior layouts are both pretty amateurish and it would have been possible to condense the text into far fewer pages if the font had been smaller and the liberal quantities of white space better utilised.  Access to photos was also clearly limited, although given the quality of the printing, it's not a massive loss.

Being unofficial, Gross' access to the show, cast and crew is obviously limited but he does at least offer some insight into the creative process. 

THE WONDER YEARS itself hasn't been treated well in the subsequent decades.  Although it has been repeated on various channels a few times, it seems that New World's initial music licensing deal wasn't permanent as reruns often feature music substitutions which can wreck the emotional impact of the scene (I tried watching a rerun of the final episode again - years later - and I was horrified to find that the piece of instrumental music playing under that poignant final scene had been unsympathetically replaced).  The same music rights problems have scuppered any form of DVD release.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Colin will need no introduction to long-time Marvel UK readers.  Lew Stringer's "urban survivalist" first made his debut as the resident gag strip in ACTION FORCE.  When the weekly succumbed to low sales after only a year, Colin (along with the G.I. Joe reprints) transferred into the pages of THE TRANSFORMERS.  He remained a mainstay until shrinking editorial budgets sealed his fate.  He also found time to appear in THE MARVEL BUMPER COMIC.

Marvel, in an unusual moment of generosity, transferred ownership back to Lew allowing him to publish this one-shot A5 fanzine for the summer of 1997.  The line-up, behind the colour cover, was a new Colin strip supplemented by some reprints, Pete's Pimple (Lew's OINK strip) and Suburban Satanists, a gag strip for a European audience.

A second CC special followed.

Until the beginning of this year, Lew was blogging regularly at BLIMEY! It's Another Blog About Comics.  Although he's not updating the blog at present (making the internet seem a more empty place), his previous posts are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in British comics.

1990: CENTURY 21 ISSUE 1

This 1990 launch, devoted to the world's of Gerry Anderson, was - in the great British publishing tradition - the result of the merger of two other magazines.  S.I.G (formally Supermarionation Is Go) had been a professionally produced text-based fanzine whilst its companion ACTION 21 had licensed the sixties and seventies Anderson strips from TV (CENTURY) 21, COUNTDOWN and TV ACTION.

When the later could no-longer stand alone, the two were merged into this articles-and-strips hybrid.

It was the same Anderson back catalogue that fuelled the Fleetway comics (Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray and Joe 90) in the early nineties.

The cover still is from the excellent late-entry U.F.O episode Timelash, featuring extensive location filming on the Pinewood Studios (UFO's second home after - with undue haste - vacating the MGM studios) backlot.  


Another run of EAGLE covers, this time from March 1984.

Monday, 28 January 2013

1993: DRACULA (Dark Horse International)

The discussions about Dark Horse International (DHI aka Dark Horse UK) in the comments section of my recent MANGA MAX post reminded me that I had these cover scans on file from DHI's short-lived (10 issues) BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA comic, published in 1993 to coincide with the Francis Ford Coppola feature film.

The headline strip was a reprint from Topps Comics in the states.  Later issues spread the scare net a bit wider with Vampirella (from issue 4), Werewolf (from 5) and Vlad The Impaler (from 6).

I intend to do more about DHI in future posts but - basically - the US indie (possibly spurred on by the success of ALIENS, TERMINATOR and PREDATOR reprints published under license by Trident Comics) launched an ill-fated expansion into the UK based on the Marvel UK model of US reprints for the mainstream British news trade market (Dark Horse comics being only available via comic book stores).  They, like almost every other publisher, were chasing that illusive (but apparently abundant) "mature readers" market.  

They clearly didn't find it and - in the face of the collapsing US market - retrenched back to the States.

 Free cover-mounted metal badge.






 Note the subtle name-change from this issue.
Free cover-mounted sticker.




Final issue.

Friday, 25 January 2013


Here's an interior page from EAGLE issue 100 (see the previous post for the cover) with a brief retrospective of the highlights of the previous 99 issues as well as a chance to win some specially produced freebies.

Did anyone win these?  Does anyone still have them?  Can they provide photos?  How cool would that be...


February 1984... and the EAGLE celebrates its next significant landmark: its 100th issue, adding two memorable new strips (News Team and The Brothers) to the mix.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

1974: WARLORD ISSUE 1 (DC Thompson)

This is a 5p landmark from British comics: the first issue of DC Thompson's war weekly WARLORD.

Not only did it bring a new attitude to the moribund genre of British war weeklies, its success prompted IPC to launch BATTLE (March 1975) and ACTION (February 1976).  The illegitimate spawn of all three would outlast them all: 2000AD (February 1977).  Even Marvel UK launched a me-too Warlord wannabe, FURY, in March 1977.

Warlord ran for 627 issues, eventually succumbing to the collapsing comics market in September 1986. Its principle rival Battle clocked-up 673 issues before merging with EAGLE at the beginning of 1988.

1998: MANGA MAX ISSUE 1 (Titan Magazines)

Sex sells!  Especially for geeks. it seems.  Titan Magazines obviously thought so with this pretty blatant MANGA MAX launch issue from December 1998.  

MM was - I think -  the successor to MANGA MANIA, created during Dark Horse Comics brief foray across the Atlantic in the early nineties and then passed first to Manga Publishing (an offshoot of the VHS people) and then Titan Magazines.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


This was one of several cheap'n'cheerful STAR FLEET VHS tapes that were released in the eighties.  Intended for kids, these were like gold dust and bloody hard-to-find.  I *think* I found this one in one of those mysterious fly-by-night VHS stores that used to appear (and disappear), in otherwise empty stores, selling remaindered and ex-rental stock.  

In the pre-internet age, and with no prospect of a better release or a TV repeat, these tapes were the only way to see the show again.  Predictably, it featured several episodes hacked together to form a (fairly coherent) movie.  Finding - and watching - this again (circa 1992 I think) was a real blast-from the-past that confirmed it was a pretty good series.

The whole series is now available on DVD and - although pricy - is well worth getting.


This is a Marvel UK house ad - from April 1975 - giving British Marvel fans the chance to order (because they DEMANDED it!) Stan Lee's ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS direct from Mighty Marvel's Holborn headquarters.
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