Tuesday, 29 September 2015


From 1991: the original DEATH'S HEAD crosses the Atlantic for a rare US appearance in the pages of THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK 24.

Appearances by Marvel UKverse characters (except, of course, it didn't exist when this appeared) outside their own books are so rare that its often easy to overlook them because you just assume they don't exist to begin with.

This has a higher profile than most because it was included in the DH Panini trade paperback collections.

The She-Hulk, somewhat of a second tier title, was by this point in the care of Brits Simon Furman and Bryan Hitch, a dream team combo of DH collaborators that made the guest shot possible. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to convince incoming British Bullpen boss Paul Neary to relaunch the Freelance Peace Keeper in a new limited series, pitched at the States, and he scrapped the project in favour of DEATH'S HEAD II and the start of the UKverse the following year. 

There was, except for the much more recent trade paperback, no contemporary UK edition but it was reprinted in the hard-to-find final issue (12) of THE INCOMPLETE DEATH'S HEAD in late 1993/ early 1994: one of the final titles to emerge before the Genesis Massacre shredded the UK line. 


From 1995: The British edition (DC published the American printing as part of its ill-fated licensing deal to publish new JD comics stateside) of the JUDGE DREDD MOVIE ADAPTATION.

This was a one-shot spin-off from the 2000AD group and appeared alongside movie-themed editions of the regular runs and opportunist reboots of the two ongoing archive compilation mags.

I don't think its a bad little movie, despite its obvious flaws, and was a reasonable attempt at bringing the JD universe to the big screen. The adaptation, in turn, does a good job of bringing the movie back to comics.

The movie version of JD also appeared in the new LAWMAN OF THE FUTURE fortnightly and a one-shot.

Monday, 28 September 2015


From March 1985: A V: THE SERIES interview with Lane (Nathan Bates) Smith from ENTERPRISE INCIDENTS. 

Smith was a venerable TV and movie trouper, often cast as unsavory or unscrupulous business or political leaders (indeed, I was watching the original RED DAWN over the weekend and there he was as the town mayor... also an untrustworthy collaborator name of Bates. It's easy to believe the movie influenced the thinking of the weekly series, especially episodes like The Wildcats). His others great genre TV contribution, playing somewhat against type, was as Daily Planet editor Perry White in LOUS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTUTUES OF SUPERMAN the next decade.

This interview must have been carried out early in his run as manipulating businessman Nathan Bates in the ill-judged weekly incarnation of the NBC invasion franchise. He was one of a number of cast members (arguably all the most interesting characters... Or expensive talent) jettisoned in the mid-season purge which coincided with a hefty budget cut and simplified (LA as an "Open City" governed by Bates becomes a all-out war zone, albeit with a budget too small to realistically realise it) format. The writing was on the wall. 

The show was cancelled the following year. 

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Nixon in the 1989 ABC teleflick THE FINAL DAYS. 

Smith died, aged 69, in 2005. 

The now-professional EI, having jettisoned its origins as a TREK fanzine was already tranisioning into SF MOVIELAND by running both logos. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

1993: TOTAL CARNAGE Issue 1 (Dark Horse International)

From April 1993: Another launch issue from Dark Horse's short-lived colonisation project... Which came to a shuddering halt with the realisation that the industry grass was no greener on this side of the Atlantic.

TOTAL CARNAGE was, as the name and line-up suggests, pitched at an older readership. One that presumably frequented the local video library on a regular basis.

For me the big draw here is the first intercompany smack down between BATMAN and PREDATOR although, curiously, the editor favoured the unknown in the British newsagents Grendel as the launch issue cover star. Maybe the new-to-market DHI were skittish about crossing legal paths with Fleetway, publishers of DC reprints in the UK. 

Other strips included the pre-movie MASK and the post-movie ARMY OF DARKNESS.

Later issues saw a redesign of the masthead to make the "total" more obvious and the Batman strips gave way to the Predators acid-filled encounters with Aliens (DHI were also, of course, publishing the separate Aliens title with a similar line up). The monthly ended after ten issues

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


From 1975: Forget the Bullpen's post TMP venture into the TREKverse... This is (unless you know different) the first time that STAR TREK appeared on the cover of a Marvel publication. 

MONSTERS OF THE MOVIES, published under the Curtis Magazines masthead, was another interation of the FAMOUS MONSTERS formula. Although this claims to be an annual (essential a regular magazine but with a bolstered page count rather than the hardback stocking stuffer that Brits know and love), the small print inside reveals its actually the ninth issue of the regular mag. 

There's no comic strips inside but there is, as the cover announces, a new Nimoy interview. 

The production standards seem painfully old fashioned and this type of magazine would soon be overtaken by the likes of STARLOG, STARBURST and the next generation of genre titles. 

Monday, 21 September 2015


From 1979: the ninth issue of FANTASTIC FILMS magazine (July) runs an extensive ten page feature devoted to the screen-size flip-flopping opener to BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (aka Awakening, albeit off screen). 

Like much of the early print media related to the show (and, indeed, the Mego action figures which were all derived from the movie), the Big Bad of Draco (Ardala's pa) is prominently featured in the publicity stills. In the final cut, the scenes involving Joseph Wiseman's character were all, the exception of none brief scene reminiscent of the yet-to-be-shot debut of the Emperor in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, droped from both the theatrical and TV cuts. 

The character was referenced  ("Your father...") by Ardala and Kane throughout their first season appearances but it was obvious the writing team had no plans to bring the character back.

Unlike BATTLESTAR, Buck's deleted scenes have no been fully explored on line and don't seem to have entered the public domain. Hopefully they'll be unearthed, along with any blooper reels and a full account of the making of the series for any future Blu Ray release. There is a fan cut of the movie in circulation which combined scenes from the two official edits. 

The BUCK ROGERS movie was shot, alongside the opening instalments of BATTLESTAR, during the summer of 1978 (allowing the Draconia's corridors to double as the Viper Pilot transport tube amongst other double-ups), but not released until the following year. 

Friday, 18 September 2015


From 1979: I'd not previously encountered AFTA (brilliantly subtitled the magazine of temporary culture) before but I recently stumbled across this lone and random issue in a second hand bookstore in London.

It's a fascinating (albeit challenging on the eyes)  insight into US contemporary culture, but it was the reviews, and connected news clipping, for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which I thought worth sharing.

I'd not previously heard the story of the kid that suffocated on the plastic bag and the blame apportioned to Larson's space epic. It sounds a pretty tenuous connection to me as I wouldn't (and didn't) associate the Cylons with shopping bags.

That would take the BATTLESTAR death toll to three. Far more widely reported (and with good reason) was the toddler that choked on the firing missile feature on Mattel's Viper toy (some contemporary sources attributed it to the Raider toy, although the description of the nose-mounted missile being like a gun seems to confirm that the Colonials were to blame).

A US teenager committed suicide, by jumping from a bridge, after ABC canned the show later in '79, and blamed the network in his suicide note.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


From October 1990: one of the great survivors of British comics (and the only one of the wave of Mature Reader chasing title to launch in the early 1990s to get any traction): the first issue of JUDGE DREDD THE MEGAZINE.

This was seen as far from a safe bet back at the launch and IPC, and then Maxwell, had toyed with launching a ROY OF THE ROVERS type spin-off for the best part of the previous decade but always backed off for fear of cannibalising the success of 2000AD.  The collapsing market for traditional weeklies was the final shove Fleetway's management needed to take a chance.

The success of DREDD stateside in he licensed Eagle and Quality reprints also convinced the publisher that they could double their income streams by issuing a bookshelf/ prestige format US edition. That part of the project ultimately proved short-lived.

Its been a rocky 25 years as the megazine has endured a sucsession of relaunches, bloated confidence that the 1995 movie misfire would catapult Joe D into the mainstream and a succession of budget cuts that forced the editors to reprint some good, but not always appropriate strips, just to stretch finite budgets further and keep the book alive. 

Volume 1 ran for 20 issues through to May 1992.

Deemed a success, the second volume saw the frequency upped to fortnightly for an 83 issue run, ending in 1995 to coincide with the overhaul of the 2000AD family of titles on the eve of the movie release.

The 79 issue third volume startedfortnightly but, once it became clear that the movie was not the success that everyone had hoped for, management lost faith and the schedule was dropped back to monthly. This was accompanied by a new fortnightly, LAWMAN OF THE FUTURE, chasing a younger crowd attracted to the franchise by the Stallone outing.

Volume four ran a mere 18 issues, ending with the overall 200th issu of the Meg's run.

Volume 5 is the one currently on sale. It launched, with issue 201 in January 2001 and is still going strong. 

Happy Birthday Joe! 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Monday, 14 September 2015


From June 1978: the launch issue of yet another Star Age magazine launched in the wake of the success of Star Wars... FANTASTIC FILMS.

To the credit of the editorial team, this was (for its time) a pretty good package and, whilst not quite Starlog, was certainly several notches above the various quickies that Warren and co were churning out.

The attempts to translate the alien language of CE3K and others is fun but also the sort of thing that gave fandom a bad name in the mainstream media... At least in the Star Age.

FF wasn't initially big on cover numbers and frequently relaunched with new volumes which makes trying to figure out which issue is which pretty tricky. This is identified in the small print as Volume 1, issue 1 but there was an earlier "première" issue dated April '78 which I don't have in my collection.

The magazine eventually ran through to 1985.  

Saturday, 12 September 2015

1984: QUESTPROBE ISSUE 2 mini-comic (Marvel UK)

From 1984: Another unsung oddity from the MARVEL UK pantheon... The A5 second (and probably final) British issue of QUESTPROBE.  The Annex had previously published the first issue as a one-shot colour magazine, with minimal promotion in the regular line.

This follow-up looks like it was produced specifically as an in-pack item for the game and not sold separately. 

It reprints the full US issue and also included several pages of game tips, character notes and a guide to loading the game (for Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, BBC Model B, Atari and Dragon 32K).

It promises the FANTASTIC FOUR in the third issue but, because Marvel's partner, Scott Adams, went out of business the following year its unlikely to have ever appeared on this side of the Atlantic. The third issue, which actually starred just the Thing and the Human Torch, did see print in the States.

The fourth US issue was scuppered by the bankruptcy but Marvel, not ones to leave paid-for inventory to gather dust, eventually reworked it for MARVEL FANFARE 33 in 1987. 

Marvel and Adams' Adventure International had planned 12 releases but faltered after three games.

Friday, 4 September 2015


From 1978: A really nice compilation of ABC on-screen promotions, and channel branding, for the September debut of, for me, the second-most iconic media property from the peak of the Star Age: the three-hour (with commercials) TV premiere of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

With hype like this, and sixty-five million Americans tuning in on opening night, it was inevitable that the only way would be down.  A ratings slide that alarmed network execs just at the same time that (the far cheaper) MORK AND MINDY was surging.  The die was already cast.

It's interesting to see that the opener is obliquely referenced by its 'saga of a star world' title (one of several working titles briefly considered for the series in 1977) even through the episode name doesn't appear anywhere on the programme itself.

There's also several shots (including a prominently featured Imperious Leader... kept in the shadows in the final cut and sidelined in the series proper) and some alternate effects work that don't appear anywhere in the completed episode.  

Someone has also dubbed a reference to the "Android Sisters" (a production team gag) into the trail.  Whether this was an outtake from the show itself, or done especially for the promo to raise a laugh, is lost in the mists of time.  

Surprisingly, unless I blinked, neither the Ovions nor Muffet make much of an appearance... suggesting that either that material wasn't available when the promos were compiled or that the network wanted to hold back a few surprises for opening night.  Which would have been slightly odd as both elements were heavily merchandised, covered in contemporary print media AND a cut of the film had already been released in Canadian cinemas. 


From October 1982: the sixth issue of MARVEL UK's shortlived excursion into the world of film: the ill-fated CINEMA magazine. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

1992: EPI-LOG MAGAZINE issue 17

From April 1992: some semi-obscure small screen goodies in the 17th issue of EPI-LOG.

I don't think the UK ever had a contemporary outing for MISFITS OF SCIENCE, the strike-busting MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE revival (unless one of the early satellite channels picked it up... it's subsequently been released on DVD) and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS *may* have surfaced as part of the ITV night time offering (they rather liked cheap, scheduling filling, anthologies).  TUCKER'S WITCH did air here: but only in selected ITV regions.  I used to watch it in the afternoons on Thames, alongside first season episodes of RIPTIDE. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

1977: 2000AD ANNUAL 1 (Fleetway/ IPC)

From September 1977: the very first 2000AD ANNUAL, from IPC's Fleetway imprint.

Yup... that REALLY is Dan Dare on the cover!

The galaxy's greatest comic always played fast-and-loose with the Pilot of the Future but this interpretation really demonstrates how far Tharg was willing to deviate from the established formula.

The Fleetway annuals that accompanied most of IPC's weeklies (even the long-defunct ones) were assembled by a different team which allowed, by (bad) luck or (bad) judgement, the spin-offs to sometimes only enjoy a passing resemblance to the 'mothership'.  A situation compounded by finite budgets (which meant that much dipping into the combined IPC vaults was required), key creators already committed to the remorseless weekly schedule of the core title and, in 2000AD's case, an annual that (because of extended lead times) had to be put together alongside the earliest regular issues.  

This was one of the two earliest spin-offs from the weekly: IPC also issued a DAN DARE POSTER MAGAZINE one-shot circa August '77.  See here for more.  

It total, 14 2000AD annuals appeared cover-dated between 1978 (published 1977) and 1991 (published 1990).  Another four appeared as softcover "yearbooks" dated 1992 - 1995 (published 1991 - 1994 respectively).  The sudden decline in the sector sealed the fate of what had been a sure thing throughout the Star Age.

The following year (cover-dated 1979) Tharg added a DAN DARE ANNUAL to his hardback offering.  Although still hindered by Fleetway's set-up, the spin-off was actually better than the core title.  A second outing followed a year later before it became obvious that Dare, by now the subject of a possible TV adaptation and a mooted move to a revived EAGLE, was not going to become 2000AD's breakout character.  

The first JUDGE DREDD ANNUAL appeared in late 1980 with a 1981 cover date.  A total of eleven were published with the late appearing in 1990.  Four Yearbooks appeared between 1991 (cover-dated for the following year) and 1994 (for 1995).

1990 saw a concerted effort to elevate Rogue Trooper from the strip ensemble to make him the comic's next big star.  Unfortunately, he failed to break out and the ROGUE TROOPER ANNUAL 1991 was the only one to appear. 
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