Friday, 24 March 2017

1998: PRIMETIME MAGAZINE CHAPTER 2

From 1998: a one-off (?) revival of the TV fanzine PRIMETIME.

Published by TV historians and trackers-of-lost-telly Kaleidoscope, this revived the earlier incarnation of the title.  And it contains some really excellent articles sure to tickle the fancy of Telly types.  For me, the best of the bunch is Andrew Pixley's inevitably comprehensive history of the TV output of ITC.  There's been a number of books and articles written about the company's extensive output but they almost invariably focus on the familiar suspects.  Pixley, of course, pieces together the whole ITC small-screen canon including shows barely seen (if at all) in the UK as well as Children's (THE MUNCH BUNCH anyone?) and other shows released under the ITC (rather than ATV) brand.  The complete history of ITC (including all their numerous movie projects, behind-the-scenes dramas, changes of ownership, remakes and more) is still to be written.  But, in the meantime, I consider this an invaluable reference.

I picked this up from - of all places - London's COMIC SHOWCASE when it was published and I've never seen another copy 'in the wild'.  I'm not sure how extensively this was distributed but - I imagine - not very much.


1992: DOCTOR WHO FANZINE CYBERZONE ISSUE 1

From 1992: The first - and possibly only - issue of the DOCTOR WHO fanzine CYBERZONE, dedicated to all things Cybermen.

I *think* I found this one rummaging through the boxes of a now defunct secondhand bookshop in Birmingham's city centre.  It was a magical cave of paperbacks, comics, magazines and books of all subjects staffed by two chaps who never created the impression they really wanted to be there.  The prices weren't great and the stock was random but it was the sort of place you could happily browse for hours and spend a fortune.  Cash only.  Of course.  I miss it now...

Does anyone know anything more about the 'zine?

1983: COMIC INFORMER INDIANA JONES COVER

From Early 1983: a copy of the obscure US fanzine COMIC INFORMER boasting a distinctive Indiana Jones cover.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

1985: SPEAKEASY ISSUE 56

From November 1985: SPEAKEASY issue 56 reports a busy month of comics news. 


1992: DWB CELEBRATES 100 ISSUES

From April 1992: long-running DOCTOR WHO (and, latterly, telefantasy in general) fanzine DWB celebrates 100 issues with this fancy bit of cover photoshopping.

STARLOG'S COMICS WORLD becomes COMICS SCENE

Because the lawyers demanded it -

COMICS SCENE MAGAZINE was a mainstay of the STARLOG empire, not least because its fortunes waxed and waned through several runs depending on the public's overall interest in comics and their characters.

The mag was initially announced and promoted as COMICS WORLD (a title that would later become familiar with British collectors thanks to an entirely different magazine with a very similar - but not identical - title) but that fell victim to some sort of legal shenanigans/ prior title claim and had to be changed prior to the first issue hitting the stands.



After a quiet few months (during which time the collective Starlog brains trust must have been frantically brainstorming alternatives... and making sure fandom hadn't already thought of them) they bounced back with... COMICS SCENE.  Hurrah.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

1998: STARLOG CELEBRATES BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S 20TH ANNIVERSARY

From October 1998: STARLOG MAGAZINE issue 255 celebrates BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S 20th anniversary.

Sadly, it wasn't a whopper of a retrospective along the same lines as the Log's legendary look back at 10 years of the STAR WARS saga almost a decade earlier.  But still...

Don't you feel old?  Well... If I didn't then I do now as we approach the 40th anniversary.

It's a tribute to the staying power of the original series that Starlog felt confident enough to put a twenty year old show on the cover of a magazine still riding high on the Nineties SF TV boom.


1994: STAR TREK GENERATIONS IN 2000AD PROG 928

From February 1994: The Mighty One shamelessly chases the notoriously free-spending (in those days) STAR TREK fans with this STAR TREK GENERATIONS cover and competition.  


1991: AVENGERS FANZINE BIZARRE ISSUE 2

From February 1991: the second issue of British AVENGERS TV fanzine BIZARRE.


Monday, 20 March 2017

ITC'S SUPER SPACE THEATRE US GERRY ANDERSON TV MOVIES

More long-lost (mostly) TV movie versions of familiar TV shows: ITC's SUPER SPACE THEATRE teleflick compilation package.

ITC, the programme sales spin-off from ITV franchise operator ATV, were past masters at creating content with an eye to the American market.  They realised that was where the cash was as well as giving the UK broadcasts of their shows and sheen that most other ITV companies couldn't hope to match.

As the article points out, the US market had gone cold to Gerry Anderson's work by the late 1970s so the New York office reworked them into a package of teleflicks which they could offer to local stations and the brave new world of cable television.

I don't think any of these reworked versions made it onto British TV (ITV bought the reruns rights to a large chunk of the Anderson back catalogue in the 1980s) but i think they did appear on tape during the early years of the VHS boom.  Indeed some (or similar compilations made in the UK) were still knocking around a decade later, preventing ITC themselves from releasing complete series of uncut episodes on tape.

This article appeared in STARLOG MAGAZINE.





1979: MARVEL UK'S SUPERHERO FUN AND GAMES WINTER SPECIAL

From the Winter of 1979: a battered and much used (but not by me) copy of the SUPERHERO FUN AND GAMES WINTER SPECIAL, one of the first Winter Specials (following a burst of summer one-shots earlier the same year) published by Marvel UK.

This is, essentially, a puzzle or activity book of the type frequently deployed to keep kids quiet during the holidays or during long trips.  The contents, themed around Marvel's characters, was recycled from a series of US books.

It must have been a success as a monthly series followed in 1980.  This special, and the ongoing version, must rank amongst the hardest to find M-UK titles of the era.  Deemed less collectable by the faithful, kids were far less likely to keep them in good nick.  As you'll see, even the cover of the copy I managed to track down has been defaced.  Is nothing sacred?

Once again, Conan - a licensed character - is treated as one of Marvel's own with pride of place on the cover.


1988: TITAN BOOKS ADVERT FOR STAR TREK AND BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

From September 1988: Titan Books promote their growing STAR TREK line of paperbacks and large format titles (published under license from Pocket Books here in the UK) and their brief daliance with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

The latter was timed to make the most of the BBC TWO repeat run, the first time that the show had been networked (after ITV scheduled it on a station-by-station basis) in the UK.  The BBC skipped, the rights reasons, the three-hour opener and the two-part The Living Legend.  The following episode, Fire In Space (which also formed the second theatrical movie MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK) was scheduled but had to be pulled at the last minute because it coincided with the aftermath of the King's Cross fire disaster.

Titan's publishing schedule consisted of new editions of the first three paperbacks originally published in the late Seventies (adapting Saga of a Star World, The Gun On Ice Planet Zero and Lost Planet of the Gods).  All of which were frequent secondhand bookshop fodder at the time and quite easy to track down, albeit sometimes in a well read condition.  Sales obviously weren't great because Titan didn't crack on with new editions of the rest of the US titles, which was a shame as the rest of the run were a darn sight harder to find on this side of the Atlantic.


1985: SPEAKEASY FANZINE ISSUE 55

From September 1985: SPEAKEASY, the UK comics fanzine, issue 55.

I have, somewhat to my surprise, a long run of this 'zine stuffed into various boxes.  But ths is the earliest one that I have in my (obviously very incomplete) collection.  Back issues don't generally seem to come to light very often, especially compared with some of the higher profile 1970s and '80s titles like FANTASY ADVERTISER.  I imagine this is everything to do with how widely these were sold in comic book stores rather than via Marts and Mail Order.


It evolved, over the next few years, into the leading British news title for comicbookdom, even going tabloid for a while to emphasise its news credentials.  It then switched back to a magazine format, initially still on crappy newsprint, before settling down as a glossy mag.

It then went all professionals and became BLAST magazine, riding the coat tails of the brief boom in 'mature' comics early in the next decade.  Copies of that incarnation can still be found, without too much trouble, stuffed into dealer's mag boxes across the land.

Friday, 17 March 2017

THE FIRST ISSUE OF MARVEL UK'S THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY

From November 1980: The first issue of Marvel UK's THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY.  And what a story to start with!


Yup, mere months after the bold relaunch which saw STAR WARS WEEKLY rebadged to coincide with the release of the most hotly anticipated film ever (at least in my playground) the British Bullpen suddenly cut the frequency of their main attraction to monthly.

The sudden frequency change normally meant that a weekly wasn't doing very well (or paying its way) and a reduction in frequency and bump in cover price (accompanied by a few extra pages) was usually seen as a good way of extending its viability.  It worked a treat for DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY.  Bot so much for FUTURE TENSE.  But that's in the future.

It could be that the weekly's sales dropped off a cliff once the movie left the cinemas... but I find that unlikely.  Marvel didn't help the situation by running a dull post-adaptation story of diplomatic shenanigins which failed to live up to the epic scale of the sequel.  Maybe if they had run this man-against-machine showdown instead the story of SW in British comics would have been different.

A sales dip was probably inevitable but i think the British Bullpen were forced to cut the frequency to ensure that they kept pace with the slower US publication of one story a month.  The old weekly would devour two US editions per month and the US Bullpen had to create extra strips (which barely saw print in the States) just to fill the gap in the British schedules.  That was probably acceptable, before 1979, when the UK editorial strings were still being pulled by the New York office.  But, after the Marvel Revolution of early 1979, the UK office was operating at arms length and I doubt extra US content was still on the cards.

Jadwin House did go on to commission some UK created strips, including (famously) some early Alan Moore penned tales, which were dropped in alongside the US stories over the next couple of years.

Marvel weren't quite ready to surrender weekly SF to Tharg (DOCTOR WHO had already seen a similar scheduling cut) and cobbled together FUTURE TENSE to plug the gap.  The end result read like a compilation of SWW back-up strips without a strong lead strip (sorry STAR TREK) and suffered an eventful 1981 before quietly expiring at the end of the year.  Meanwhile, in the Pocket Books department STAR HEROES was already being prepared for a radical makeover as X-MEN POCKET BOOK.  

THE AVENGERS FANZINE ON TARGET VOLUME 1, ISSUE 5

Mrs Peel, we're needed!

From sometime in the 1980s: ON TARGET, the AVENGERS (TV) fanzine, Volume 1 Issue 5.  Published by Dave Rogers.


There's no date that I can find anywhere inside this issue so I can't nail down exactly when it appeared.  Rogers continued to pump ount Avengers 'zines well into the 1990s, eventually running out of steam after the flawed-but-underated movie (which also saw him pen some officially licensed tie-ins).

This particular issue, the earliest I seem to have in my collection (I think I must have bought a stack from a dealer years ago), is yer standard A3 photocopied-with-colour-paper-cover affair.

I first discovered the show thanks to the Channel Four reruns early in the Eighties.  The rest of the household were less enthused so I had to watch them on my little b&w portable telly.  Kids today don't know how lucky they are.  I dabbled with a few episodes of THE NEW AVENGERS when ITV picked up the repeat rights as part of their new overnight services at the end of the decade.  But I really got back into the original show when they started releasing them on VHS tape early in the 1990s.

1991: MARVEL UK'S RUPERT AND FRIENDS ISSUE 1

From November 1991: The first issue of MARVEL UK's RUPERT AND FRIENDS.


This is not to be confused with the previous Rupert weekly published by the British Bullpen a decade or so earlier.

What a happy looking bear!



Thursday, 16 March 2017

STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WEEKLY ISSUE 118 (MARVEL UK)

From May 1980: STAR WARS WEEKLY is no more... long live (ahem) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WEEKLY.

Yup: New title, same weekly.  The US edition also incorporated Marvel's sequel adaptation within the usual run of the monthly but didn't feel the need to change the overall title to accomodate it.  The American edition of ROTJ sidestepped it by floating off into a standalone four-part series in 1983.  But here in the UK, the British Bullpen did everything they could to cash-in on the hefty anticipation around the return of the Star Warriors and rebooted the weekly to coincide with the beginning of the adaptation.  In contrast with today's every-six-month relaunches, they didn't go as far as restarting with a new Issue one (although they did in 1983).

The fantastic cover art is probably one of the most seen pieces of EMPIRE art.  Originally created for the US one-shot magazine, it also poped up here on the weekly, on the UK annual (which was shipped back to the States in limited numbers) and on the paperback-sized edition.


THE 'LOST' PLANET OF THE APES MOVIES (STARLOG MAGAZINE)

Remember the 'other five' PLANET OF THE APES movies?

This is a STARLOG magazine article about the five additional teleflicks cobbled together by 20th Century Fox in the late Seventies.

Cobbling together TV Movie versions of defunct TV shows were a canny way of recouping some of the studio's investment in short-run series that local stations (in the pre-cable age) wouldn't touch with a Neilson Meter.  Other examples that I know about are packages hacked together from KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STAKER, SPIDER-MAN and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA/ GALACTICA 1980.  I'm sure there are many others as well.

I'm calling these the 'lost' movies because they have vanished in the last twenty-odd years.  The 14-episode TV show (complete with UK inaccuate box text) has been available on DVD for a long time (and is worth picking up) but the movie edits (with their overblown titles) aren't part of the set (understandably) and aren't available seperately.

Surprisingly, they did pop up on British TV in the late 1990s, albeit without the special ABC introductions.  Anglia TV (and, I assume, other ITV regions) ran most (or possibly all) of them as part of their Saturday afternoon schedules.  This was back in the day when dayparts outside primetime were still handed over to each region to schedule locally... which made TV a lot more interesting!  I taped them at the time but - silly me - I eventually taped over them.  Grrr.



Wednesday, 15 March 2017

1995: 2000AD INCURS THE WRATH OF THE LUCASFILM LAWYERS.

From June 1995: More STAR WARS related legal action.  This time the Lucas legal guns were pointed at Tharg's Command Module and the galaxy's greatest comic.

The Mighty One Versus the Bearded One.


This time the Lucasfilm lawyers objected to the cover copy, related to the Rogue Trooper strip, which they felt was a triffle misleading.  I don't think this went any further but the Mighty One's green knuckles were well-and-truely rapped.  


1980: STARLOG REPORTS THE OUTCOME OF THE STAR WARS/ BATTLESTAR GALACTICA LAWSUIT

From 1980: The December issue of STARLOG magazine confirms that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA had emerged triumphant from the protracted legal spat with 20th Century Fox over the two deep space franchises.

The press fixated on the lawsuit at the time of Battlestar's launch but I suspect there was a lot less interest once the show had left the air.  Twice.

Universal didn't use the judgement as a green light to revive the concept... but it did leave them free to keep the Universal Studio ride in business long after most of the tourists had forgotten what had inspired it.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

MARVEL UK'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND HARDBACK

Here's another MARVEL UK oddity that I reckon most hardcore collectors are oblivious of:


The ALICE IN WONDERLAND comics adaptation, published in hardback by the British Bullpen sometime in the early 1980s. The book is undated but it does give Jadwin House as the company address,which places it before the company relocated to Redan Place.

There's also no clue as to whether this was a standalone book or whether it was one of several titles. My guess is that it's the latter, and there were several similar literary adaptations in the range, but I can't be sure.

Predictably, the strip first appeared in the States in MARVEL CLASSIC COMICS. Issue 35 to be precise.

Monday, 13 March 2017

1998: ZENITH, THE BLAKE'S SEVEN FANZINE ISSUE 1

From 1998: the first - and I believe only - issue of ZENITH, a glossy black & white BLAKE'S SEVEN fanzine which was sold through branches of Forbidden Planet.

I don't know much about the history of this one but I always assumed that this had somehow spun out of HORIZON, the B7 Fan Club, because the contents were similar to what had been appearing for years in their hefty newsletters.

I never spotted any more issues at the time and although copies of this issue occasionally surface in secondhand outlets (presumably because more copies were distributed originally) I've never seen any others.

It reminds me that circa the year 2000 I was working at a well-known London University.  My office PC screen saver or desk top had something SF-TV related which caught the eye of one of the visiting lecturers.  We'd chatted before but - as is so often the case - I'd never caught her name.  She asked me about what was on the screen... and then she revealed that she'd previously been a BBC Make-up artist who had worked on the show... As soon as she told me her name the penny dropped because she was still active in fandom!  I name no names here but it just goes to show that it's a small world after all.

BTW: Does anyone remember THE STRANGERERS?  The long-forgotten Sky One foray into telefantasy which generated some buzz at the time (particularly because the cast included some British genre vets) and then promptly vanished without trace from the collective race memory.


1993: THE OFFICIAL STAR TREK FAN CLUB OF THE UK MAGAZINE ISSUE 1

From the summer of '93: the first issue of THE OFFICIAL STAR TREK FAN CLUB OF THE UK magazine, dedicated almost entirely to STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE (as well as, borrowing from the US club, an extensive mail order section for punters to order assorted Trek tat direct from the club).

I don't know much about the history of this one although I seem to recall that the club (or a different incarnation of it) was plugged heavily a few years later in the Titan magazine (indeed I have a vague memory that Titan may have had the license to run the club at some point).

This is, for me, another exampe of the sheer abundance of different Trek magazines, albeit with slightly different distribution routes (I don't recall ever seeing this one, unlike the American version, on sale in any retail outlets and I'm not sure if the cover price is intended to create the illusion of value or whether this did sneak into stores) that were compeating for the attention - and cash - of Trek fans during the Nineties boom in both the franchise and publishing.


RARE MARVEL UK BOOK: THE 'OTHER' MARVEL SUPER-HEROES OMNIBUS

This is something of a MARVEL UK oddity that I stumbled across whilsts trawling the shelves of a secondhand book store: the ultra-rare (this is the only copy I have ever seen) alternative edition of the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES OMNIBUS.


At first glance, it looks like the widely distributed hardback MARVEL SUPER-HEROES OMNIBUS which kept the super-powered flames burning in the dark days after the cancellation of SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS, the British Bullpen's last regular in-continuity super hero weekly.

But look again: The cover features a different line-up of characters. Ironically, only one of whom actually appears inside.  Open up this distinctly thinner-than-the-omnibus oddity and inside are the contents of the 1986 SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL (the Fire Lord one) sans the front pieces.

I assume that Marvel stripped unsold copies of the Spidey annual and glued the contents into this generic cover.  Which opens up the possibility that alternative copies are also knocking around with completely different contents.  There's no retail price or hint of where this was being sold.  I assume it was a single-retailer 'exclusive' and offered at a discount price.  Was there a garden centre chain in the UK stacked to the rafters with rebadged unsold Marvel UK annuals in the late Eighties?

Anyone got any ideas?

Below is the more familiar 1987 edition, an undisputed high point in the long line of British Marvel stocking stuffers.  Especially at a time when it really felt like the British operation had abandoned its roots in favour of being a plug house for assorted toy lines and animated shows.


The cover design started life as an edition of the US AVENGERS mag, infinitely adaptable for whoever the British Bullpen wanted to include.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

1979: THE STORY OF DIRK BENEDICT AND RICHARD HATCH

From September 1979: another bit of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA obscura courtesy of the US supermarket tabloids.

It's THE STORY OF DIRK ("sexy Battlestar blond") BENEDICT AND RICHARD ("shy and loyal") HATCH. All completely unauthorised you understand.

Surely this must be one of the rarer bits of Battlestar print tat (unless you know better) by virtue of it being a mail order exclusive, which (like all the best things in life) wasn't available in any store.

Have you ever seen a copy? Did you mail away for the chance to see the Colonial Warriors "out of uniform"? What type of girls did they like?


Friday, 10 March 2017

1983: STARLOG POSTER MAGAZINE ISSUE 1

From 1983: the first issue of STARLOG POSTER MAGAZINE, yet another spin-off from the churn-em-out O'Quinn magazine bunker. Grainy blow-ups galore.

Which adorned your wall?


Monday, 6 March 2017

1994: COMICS INTERNATIONAL ANNOUNCES PUNISHER VERSUS ARCHIE

From April 1994:

Guilty pleasure alert! I'm really rather enjoying the CW's RIVERDALE at the moment... regardless of the facts that I've never been interested in the 1950s Americana of the Archie comic books and that I'm way above the weekly target demographics for the show.

It's a lot darker than the comics have traditionally been and twists and subverts the familiar tropes throughout. Even if it has swiped at least one plotline from DAWSON'S CREEK. Archie himself is a bit of a dope (albeit with a great body which the writers connive to expose on a regular basis) who's saddled with the least interesting plotlines but the rest of the town is swirling with murder and secrets like a teen TWIN PEAKS.

Here's COMICS INTERNATIONAL announcing whst seemed to be one of the most preposterous crossovers in comicdom... at least until Archie made a habit of bumping into the Predator or encountering Sharknados.




BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S RICHARD HATCH, 1945 - 2017

From 1977:


I was saddened - and not a little shocked - by the news of the passing of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA's Richard Hatch last month. This is the first opportunity Starlogged has had to mark his passing.

I've unearthed this pre-BATTLESTAR 1977 article from a copy of a celeb-packed American supermarket tabloid.

Hatch was subbing for Michael Douglas on the final year of THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO at the time of publication, although Larson may already have been courting him for his new space epic as Battlestar was already deep in pre-production - as a series of occasional teleflicks - at the time.

I've always thought that Hatch was pretty underserved by the script writers on the first / only season. Despite having star billing, Dirk Benedict's Starbuck quickly emerged as being the more interesting character and grabbed the lion's share of the numerous iterations of the 'lost warrior' plot that cluttered the run. It didn't help that one of his few solo episodes was a blatant reworking of SHANE (which was subsequently blatantly reworked again as an episode of TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY a few years later).

Days before he died, I happened to see Hatch in a rare movie starring role in CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN, the 1981 misfire which I doubt did Hatch's acting resume many favours. The film itself is OK, thanks mostly to a strong cast (Angie Dickinson, Roddy McDowall and a young Michelle Pfeiffer) but suffers from too much enforced quirkiness and pratfalls. It also veers into un-PC territory by casting Peter Ustinov as Chan and Hatch as his mixed race 'number one grandson'.

Hatch was never keen to sign aboard the Battlestar (at least until he realised that filming was about to begin and he could name his price) but did manage to make it into a lifetime's career despite only shooting one season. In addition to the usual conventions and personal appearances, Hatch filled the (rather large) gaps between acting gigs by penning a series of original novels and some stories for the various comic book versions. He famously also went out and shot a trailer for a mooted revival despite not having any rights or ownership claims. His reasoning: the studio bosses couldn't envisage what an updated show might look like... so he set out (with the help of fellow cast members and assorted fans) to put together a presentation reel.

He had been slated to make an appearance in the aborted early Noughties revival and - of course - returned to the franchise for the remake. A role which finally stretched him as an actor.





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