Friday, 31 August 2012


"I felt that last year was a lot of glitter and not much substance.  They were lousy stories and not very good characterisations, and I didn't want to see that again."

Talk about PR nightmare!  Here's the star of your show slagging it off (in no uncertain terms) in a national magazine!  This is the infamous Gil Gerard interview from STARLOG MAGAZINE (Issue 40, November 1980), published on the eve of the (drastically) retooled second season of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY.

It's amusing to see Gerard singing the praises of Year Two as most fans (and, judging by the slumping viewing figures, casual punters as well) regard the STAR TREK-lite reboot (concocted by an entirely new writing and producing team) as generally vastly inferior to the disco-tastic first season.

Personally, I think the feature-length opener (Time of the Hawk) is one of the better Buck episodes from either series.  But - after that - things deteriorate fast with a run of unmemorable shows and very odd production decisions: jettisoning well-liked first-season characters, (temporarily) ditching Mel Blanc as the voice of Twiki, adding the annoying know-all robot Crichton (previously a piece of set-dressing in season one) and - worst of all - adding doddering Brit Wilfrid Hyde-White as cardigan-loving Doctor Goodfellow.  Prime first-season assets Erin Grey and Pamela Hensley were, respectively, given less to do and dropped entirely.

Even Buck's new base, the space ship Searcher, had (in an amended form) previously appeared as the "cruise ship to the stars" in season one.  


Here's an oddity from the vaults: a one-shot spin-off from ELECTRONICS MAGAZINE with an extended STAR WARS feature.

When I saw the cover, I dismissed this as another opportunist (and strictly unofficial) quick-killing cash-in.  But the cover was rather nice (and the price was right) so I bought it anyway.

Inside, hidden between pages (and pages) of impenetrable circuit diagrams and essays on all things electronic (invoking long-buried memories of GCSE Technology) is a lengthly SW piece... with some behind-the-scenes material I doubt has ever been seen anywhere else.

As befits such a magazine, they've taken the lid off the various non-humanoid droids (most of them background players in the Jawa sequences) peppered throughout A New Hope.

I love some of the names allocated to these topless 'bots (Dome, Stick, Umbrella and Box).  It's refreshing to return to a time before Lucas hadn't spotted the marketing potential of everything and professional fans hadn't started building the "expanded universe" to give every bit-part player (and object) an elaborate (and unnecessary) back-story.

ELECTRONICS TODAY (a Modbags publication) is not a magazine I'm familiar with but a quick Google search suggests it had a long history (launched in Australia in 1971, with the UK version arriving the following year) and several international editions.  The Wikipedia entry isn't clear but I assume it has now ceased publication in the UK.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


More Phoo from Marvel UK!  

The cover of THE BOG PAPER issue 2 (11 November 1989)


Here's an improbable entry from the Annex-of-Ideas back catalogue: the toilet-obsessed humour weekly THE BOG PAPER, launched in November 1989 (making it a contemporary to the similarly short-lived THE INCREDIBLE HULK PRESENTS).

This is a massive departure from the usual Marvel UK style: heading in the direction of comics-for-big-kids like VIZ.  I can only assume that Marvel's mandarins looked at the collapsing British comics market and thought humour titles looked a better bet than traditional action/ adventure fare (a genre that had gone into steep decline since the middle of the decade).

Marvel UK had tentatively toyed with humour comics before (notably the Mad-inspired FRANTIC and MARVEL MADHOUSE in the early eighties) but those were reprint-based monthlies.  This was an all-new weekly, with all the origination costs that go with it.  

May of the same year had seen the launch of IT'S WICKED! - a humour weekly in the MONSTER FUN tradition - which used that annoying ectoplasm Slimer from THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS as its star.  Despite the media tie-in (and, lets face it, M-UK bunged the Ghostbusters in every possible comic during this period) and some unsubtle attempts to clone the look of DC Thompson's fare, it shuttered after only 17 issues.

I've showcased the weekly's most memorable strip - DOCTOR PHOO (do you see what they did there?) but other strips included Flush Gordon, Chicken Vindaloo, King John, Super Lu and other shit-based strips.

So obscure is the BP that I'm not sure how many issues in clocked-up, I'm betting no-more (and quite possibly less) than 15.


Here's some (frankly stunning) Al Williamson artwork from the 1980 adaptation, published by Whitman, of the FLASH GORDON movie (the greatest movie ever made?  Quite possibly). The adaptation was penned by Bruce Jones.

The strip ran across three issues (31-33) of Whitman's regular Flash comic and was also collected in book form.

Williamson was apparently unhappy with the movie's interpretation of the character as well as the number of changes during shooting and editing which impacted on his work.

The covers are - as you'll see -  a weird photo/ artwork hybrid.  Some have said that this was a result of disagreements over Williamson's portrayal of star Sam J. Jones (also of THE HIGHWAYMAN fame). I'm sure this is entirely possible but I also suspect that someone thought it would benefit both the movie and the comic to get some movie stills on the news stands of America.

I've included the climatic scene where Ming gets spiked because, for many years, ITV would schedule the movie in daytime slots and cut these essential shots to avoid scaring the kids.  That pruning somewhat undermined the ending of the movie.  Shame on ITV.

I was a big fan of the movie when it was originally released (and I've become a far greater fan in subsequent decades) and collected as much merchandise as I could get my young paws on (the sticker album, the non-movie continuity Flash novels with movie tie-in photo-covers and the Weetabix cards) but I don't ever recall seeing these comics.  Of course, US comics suffered from notoriously patchy distribution anyway (newsagents in seaside locations always seemed to be the best bit for the second - or lower - tier US publishers) but I don't think the book version (which I've never seen) reached these shores in any great numbers either.  A real shame as - frankly - this is beautiful stuff.

The strips have recently been reprinted - hurrah - as part of an ongoing reprint of the US comics - in a hefty (and pricy) book version.  A luxury purchase but - to be honest - one that was very easy to justify.
Issue 1 splash page

Issue 2

Issue 32

Issue 33

Issue 33
Sample page

Issue 33
Sample page

Issue 33
Sample page

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


THE HIGHWAYMAN: "They started hitting each other... and the police came."

Here's a 1988 interview with the delightful Jane Badler (from STARLOG MAGAZINE 133, cover-dated August 1988) where she discusses her time on "V" and the short-lived THE HIGHWAYMAN.

THE HIGHWAYMAN is long-forgotten so this is a rare opportunity to get some behind-the-scenes insight and it sounds like it was not always a happy show to work on.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jane - briefly - during her recent visit to London (she's been living in Australia for many years now) and - to be honest - it was dream come true.  I'm pleased (and relieved) to say she was utterly charming (and still beautiful).  We spoke briefly and she said she enjoyed her time of the recent "V" revival (one of TV's great missed-opportunities). 


With DOCTOR WHO returning to our screens this weekend, it seemed appropriate to run this seldom-seen Marvel UK house ad ushering-in the beginning of the Peter Davison era.

1983: MARVEL UK on TV-am's DATA RUN

This Bullpen Bulletins page (from the weeklies dated 21 December 1983) includes a report on a visit to Redan Place by TV-am's (which launched earlier in the year) Saturday morning kids show DATA RUN (predecessor for the Wide Awake Club).

I have the very vaguest memory of seeing this report at the time.  I seem to remember that the (by now long-defunct) PLANET OF THE APES weekly was mentioned.  Does the memory cheat?  Am I thinking of a different programme?  I'm really not sure.

As I've mentioned before, TV-am's archive appears to be well preserved so - possibly - this episode still exists.   

Friday, 24 August 2012


Strange as it may sound, this issue of a long-forgotten British magazine (LM aka LEISURE MONTHLY issue 3, cover-dated April 1987) was a vital geek resource thanks to its comprehensive STAR TREK article (below).

I found the magazine on one of those market stalls that sell new (but a few months old) magazines that have (I assume) been returned as unsolds by distributors.  I never bothered to read the rest of it but the Trek feature was a vital overview of the franchise at a time when I knew very little about it.

What makes it a real blast-from-the-past is the lack of diversity in the franchise: just the original series (and the animated shows) and four feature films.  It was still a Kirk-centric galaxy in early 1987!

I'd long-since misplaced the magazine and couldn't remember the name or anything about it.  But I remembered the article.  I stumbled across a copy in eBay recently... and snapped-it-up.

I have no idea how many more issues (if, indeed, any) LM ran for and whether they ventured into the SF/ cult genre again.  Any ideas?

300th post!  Yippie!

1982: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN UK print advert

KHAAAAN!  It's the UK print advert, from July 1982, for the second (and still - in my mind - best) of the TREK flicks.


This is Marvel's house ad, from January 1984, for the improbable combination of Marvel's muties and the Micronauts.  The limited series will be familiar to British readers thanks to its four-month run in THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL volume 2 (the last time the Micronauts appeared in a Marvel UK comic).

For licensing reasons, it (along with the rest of Marvel's Micronauts back catalogue) has never been reprinted making it a prime find in 50p back issue boxes.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Despite the whole K.I.T.T thing, I've never really classed KNIGHT RIDER as being an SF show.  For me, its an action-adventure show with a hardware gimmick.  But that didn't stop STARLOG from running this feature on the show in February 1984 (issue 79).  The almighty Hoff even grabs the cover slot.

The car (not K.A.R.R) schematics are also worth a look.  As is the delightful Caroline Monroe from STARCRASH.


Everyone remembers the action figures... but how many young British Star Warriors had these other early Palitoy STAR WARS products?

This is a two-page centre-spread advert from the middle of Marvel UK's STAR WARS WEEKLY issue 5 (cover-dated 8 March 1978).  Unless anyone knows otherwise, I'd speculate that this is the first British consumer print advert (as opposed to trade adverts and in-store promotion) for SW toys.

It seems a little surprising that the British licensee (who released Kenner product, supplemented by their own creations, in the UK) took five whole weeks to ply their wares in such an obvious publication but - maybe - they had to make sure they had sufficient product in stores first (or run the risk of consumer backlash or - worse - parents walking out of the toy shop with a completely different toy).  The fifth issue also featured a Palitoy action figure competition so - I'd speculate - some sort of deal was cut between the two.

I love that - by seventies manufacturing and advertising standards - the action figures are "accurate in every detail". 

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