Thursday, 27 April 2017

1988: MIDLAND BANK GRIFFIN SAVERS ACCOUNT

From the summer of 1984: the ubiquitous MIDLAND BANK sign-up-the-kids-and-we'll-have-em-for-life GRIFFIN SAVERS 'starter kit', as advertised in the pages of EAGLE.

This has a huge nostalgia quotant:
- A long-gone from the High Street brand name.
- A cunning way of making a staid-and-stuffy brand identity look more - ahem - human.
- An ace marketing slogan that's outlived the bank itself in the public conscious. Beat that HSBC UK!
- A school bag that everyone seemed to have... especially if you had parents who saw the value in savings AND saving money. As the term went on, sightings would become rarer as the good-but-not-great quality succumbed to daily wear-and-tear.
- A dictionary which was likely to be defaced on the first day of term... and almost certainly didn't have any rude words in (the ones that did were always deemed to be THE BEST dictionary).
- A stationery set once again pitched at the price-sensitive parent.  With a compass ideal for unexpected attacks on classmates during a dull GCSE English Lit. class.  How many people have actually ever used one - for anything - since they left school?  Except - maybe - for pipe fitters and circular hole makers.  It's bonkers to think that this was a time before Poundland and free stationery kits as comics freebies when such a set would actually represent a considerable start-of-term investment.
- A folder.  Because everyone knows that a folder is a great starting point for any project.


1988: FLEETWAY COMICS HOUSE AD

From 1988: A classic 'twenty minutes until home time and I need to fill half-a-page' house ad showing the beleaguered state of the Fleetway boys' adventure line-up.  EAGLE had just gobbled-up BATTLE (the latest in a long list of conquests), MASK was a toy/ TV tie-in with a finite lifespan (I wonder where that ended up....?) and ROY OF THE ROVERS was the sort of comic read by people that didn't look at the other titles.  And visa versa.

Interesting to note that 2000AD wasn't seen as part of the line-up.


1988: DUNCAN REGEHR TALKS V: THE SERIES WITH STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1988: Actor Duncan Regehr discusses his brief stint on V; THE SERIES (four episodes, a wedding and a murder), the movie MONSTER SQUAD, the blink-and-you-missed-it fantasy show WIZARDS AND WARRIORS and the even more fleeting EARTH*STAR VOYAGER.

His four weeks on V:THE SERIES, playing the charismatic Charles, was one of the highlights of the erratic series and came mid-run, just as the show was transitioning from the A-TEAM/ Soap hybrid of the early episodes (something akin to the successful format of the two mini-series, especially THE FINAL BATTLE) into the bargain-basement campery of the show's final months on the air.

What I find interesting in this interview, and it is something that does not appear to have been picked up elsewhere, is that the twin-brother-with-the-same-fake-face plotline, eventually given to Frank Ashmore all but reprising his role as Martin from the mini-series and first hour of the weekly series, was originally devised to allow Regehr to step back into the show.  It would have been a lot more interesting to have seen 'Charles II' as the traitor in the midst of the alien ranks.

Regehr was one of those prolific actors of the period who never quite became a star.  Maybe it was a succession of poor choices (none of his TV work seemed to go very far for very long) or because he seldom seems to look like the same person in any two productions.  I still find it hard to spot him... even when i know the character he is playing.

The interview is from STARLOG MAGAZINE.




Wednesday, 26 April 2017

AMERICAN GOTHIC VHS TAPE

From the VHS era: another of the tapes in the Universal/ Sci-Fi Channel tie-up which presented a range of found-on-the-channel shows packaged in the same style.

Unlike some of the other shows included in the collection (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, SLIDERS and others), this was the only tape release of AMERICAN GOTHIC in the UK.  Who knew that we were only a few years away from DVD and the chance to own the whole of this one-season-wonder.

I really liked this show back-in-the-day.  I thought the premise - and the performances, writing and direction - were genuinely innovative and not just another one of the jumping-on-the-supernatural-bandwagon shows that cluttered the airwaves at the time.  Clearly the dead hand of a nervous CBS buggered things up a bit (messing with the TX order so it didn't always make much sense, casting changes to try and draw in more viewers and some dumb-but-promotable 'stunt' episodes) but the creative vision remained largely intact.  Like EZ STREETS (another CBS show that sadly went nowhere very fast), it was clearly a made-for-cable (or the new century) show tryig hard to survive in a traditional network environment.  It didn't help that it wasn't pitched at the traditionally older and rural (hello MURDER, SHE WROTE) CBS audience who weren't likely to tune into a sheriff-is-the-devil show in any great numbers.

The series aired on CHANNEL FOUR here in the UK with later repeats on - of course - The Sci-Fi Channel.  It has been available on DVD for years and is well worth watching.


1983: BUSTER BADGE GIVEAWAY ADVERT

From February 1983: More gold-badge start-of-year gifting, this time from BUSTER.

Once again, IPC's freebies team went back to their go-to people for gold giveaways (see also: EAGLE issue 2 and 2000AD 300) to create this uncanny likeness of the onetime 'son of Andy Capp'.

Clearly the booklet people were already rushed off their feet with other punter-retaining projects but - not to be left out - the Buster gang concocted a game which, it seems, you ad to wait three weeks before you could start playing.  I hope it was worth the wait!


1983: ON SALE THIS WEEK: THE EAGLE ISSUE 58

It's a snatch raid!

On sale thiis week back in 1983: EAGLE issue 58, cover-dated 30 April (remember: the date on the cover represented the 'off-sale' date rather than the day the comic hit newsagents).

By this point, the DAN DARE strip had regained its traditional starts-on-the-cover status, officially maintaining the three-pages-a-week count.  I always considered this to be a bit of a con (and not just because it saved the time, trouble and expense of designing a decent cover each week) as the cover splash demanded strong, bold visuals which - although eyecatching - often didn't add much to the overall story.  Effectively an expanded panel subbing for what would have been a full page of traditionally structured art under the previous layout.

I suspect deadlines and weekly churn played their part and the art remained top-notch throughout.  There was just a need to deliver less panels per week.  Although, look at the detail in that first panel... lovely stuff.

The Dare strip had - at this point - drifted away from the core Return of the Mekon storyline into an extended astronauts-in-training flashback which couldn't hope to measure up to the Mekon and Earth occupied by the Treens. But it was still a lot better than some of the dross - and reboots - that would follow over the next decade.

But, just like the whole photostory era in general, there is still innovation to be found.  Check out the successful inclusion of well made (and well lit) model work into the art!  Another benefit (soon to be lost) of the superior printing used during the early run.  I wonder if the editors of the other weeklies looked on enviously... or whether they were thankful their titles weren't carrying the additional overheads.




Tuesday, 25 April 2017

1983: ROY OF THE ROVERS BADGE SET ADVERT

From February 1983: New year... new freebies!

IPC's circulation gurus obviously thought that the first months of the year was a good time to perk up their weeklies with a few freebies.... I've found several adverts for cool covermounted goodies from this part of the year.

Maybe they feared that traditional - but casual - readers would drift away over the disruption of the Christmas holiday season.  Maybe they suspected that parents - in the grip of New Year debt - might have made a resolution to cut comics expenditure.  Or maybe they thought that the new years was a chance to lure in some new punters....

Here's ROY OF THE ROVERS trying to tempt fans with a set of 'stick-on' badges (hmm... sounds a bit like 'a set of stickers' or 'one badge... and some stickers to stick on it').These days they'd have to give away six badges, a sheet of stickers and a pencil box.  All attached to the same issue.

And - oh look - the launch of yet another clip-and-collect keep 'em comic back booklet.

'Race to the top' indeed.


1994: CLASSIC STAR WARS VOLUME 1 - UK EDITION

From 1994: the first of the CLASSIC STAR WARS trade paperbacks, published in the UK by Boxtree (the masters of flooding the market with quick-and-dirty reprints).

IDW is about to publish a classy compilation volume of the STAR WARS NEWSPAPER STRIPS... so Marvel NY beat them to market by issuing their own trade paperback compilation of the old Dark Horse series from the early Nineties... which (heavily) reworked the US newspaper strips (which i don't think ever had an outing on this side of the Atlantic) into comic book format.

The strips - both original and reworked versions - have, until this year, languished untouched for several decades.  But the return of the movie series, and Marvel's energised publishing programme, has obviously renewed interest.

The new Marvel book is a curious mix of some of the pages reworked by DH and some - previously unpublished - strips in their original 'newspaper' format.  I'm assuming the IDW effort will preserve the strips as they were originally intended/ published.  Let the comparisons begin.

Boxtree published three volumes (that I know of) of the DM monthly series way-back-when.  Some of the strips also appeared in the short-lived Dark Horse International published UK monthly.  Which shuttered after less than a year.

The strips also appeared in the earliest issues of the US magazine AMAZING HEROES.



1979: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S NOAH HATHAWAY INTERVIEWED BY STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1979: STARLOG MAGAZINE maganges to stretch out (mostly by interviewing his parents) a very brief interview with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA's Noah Hathaway into a full-page companion to the Lorne Greene piece.

It's a shame they never managed to interview the chimp...


1983: DOOMLORD PHOTO PROFILE IN THE EAGLE

From 1983: DOOMLORD (self-confessed 'Master of life, bringer of death') gets the PERSONALITY PLUS treatment in the EAGLE.

Maybe they were short of celebs... or maybe they just wanted to show off - in colour - the excellent mask (apparently an off-the-shelf shopping trip find) and costume.

This is a really nicely-done pre-Photoshot shoot which manages to look a lot more realistic than many TV and movie monsters of the time.  The pic - or similar ones from the same shoot - were also used on the first of THE BEST OF EAGLE MONTHLY (leading a compilation of comic strip era reprints) and the Hibernia Comics limited print run one-shot


1979: BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY MOVIE FEATURE FROM STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1979: Another STARLOG MAGAZINE teaser for BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY.

At this point, it had ceased to be a TV project (it was initially shot as the first of three teleflicks for NBC) and had morphed into a fully-fledged feature film.  And then, when the box office ticked the boxes, it landed back at NBC as a series.




Monday, 24 April 2017

1979: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S LORNE GREENE IN STARLOG MAGAZINE

From May 1979: Lorne Greene discusses BATTLESTAR GALACTICA with STARLOG MAGAZINE.





1983: STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI AIRFIX MODEL KITS ADVERT

From 1983: a UK advert for the Airfix STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI model kits.  With free poster offer... and the Marketing department were very smart in their selection of stills to adorn young boy's bedrooms across the land.  Those sticky fingers weren't just because of the glue don't-you-know.


1983: MANIX CUTAWAY FROM THE NEW EAGLE

From 1983: Remember MANIX, the SIX MILLION DOLLER MAN knock-off from EAGLE?  Ever wondered what he looked like in his pants?

Here's a fun piece of pre-Photoshop design work which really shows how innovative the much maligned photo-strip era of the new EAGLE could be when the boffins in King's Reach Tower put their mind to it.


1982: THE DC COMICS SWAMP THING MOVIE ADAPTATION

From 1982: the first US SWAMP THING ANNUAL, actually an adaptation of the slightly-campy cult classic man-in-a-rubber-suit movie.

It's hard to believe this minor entry on Wes Craven's credit list, starring the lovely Adrienne Barbeau (career highpoints: THE CANNONBALL RUN, acting opposite the Hoff in TERROR AT LONDON BRIDGE/ BRIDGE ACROSS TIME and - of course - THE FOG), spawned a whole industry of not-very-faithful-to-the-comics screen tie-ins.

The Swamp Thing industry spawned a Craven-less sequel, a TV show (apparently spawned because the movies had been a bankable hit on cable... and Universal had a new studio attraction in Florida which needed some shows to fill the stages and keep the staff busy) and even an animated series/ excuse for a Kenner toyline which boasted a really annoying theme tune.

This first annual, which uses the movie poster key art as the cover, is often overlooked by collectors of movie adaptations because, unless you know otherwise, you would just assume it was the first in a run of annuals spun-off the comic at the height of its print popularity.  Now you know...



BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY PULP SCI-FI UK VHS RELEASE

From the dying days of the VHS era: a stand-alone BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY tape, released as part of a series of similarly-branded tapes as a tie-in between Universal Playback and the Sci-Fi Channel (when they used to show SF).

The three episodes on this better-value-than-usual (CIC and the BBC tended to just bung two episodes of a drama on a tape... this label gave us three!) release were the not-as-good-as-it-sounds PLANET OF THE AMAZON WOMEN (Buck ventures into Carry On territory, giving Gerard a chance to flash his chest hairs for a bevvy on man-hungry space babes); SPACE VAMPIRE (the legendary banned-by-the-BBC horror show... even through it had previously popped-up in a family viewing slot on ITV and was part of the Buck sticker album.  This tape is only a 'PG' as well) and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUCK (assassination-based silliness).

Predictably, the back cover stills are nothing to do with the selected episodes and actually feature a cut scene/ character from the original pilot episode.  Draco appeared in some of the publicity material, was made into toys and generally looked like he was going to be a player... but was then all-but-cut from both the theatrical and TV prints.

I'm currntly rewatching selected first season episodes in HD thanks to an imported Australian BR set... and really enjoying revisiting some episodes I've not seen in a while.  They look great in High Def even if it does expose some sloppy production standards... and Gerard's almost ever-present stunt double.  Sadly, except for some alternate cuts of a couple of the episodes, there is nothing in the way of new bonus features.  Which is a pity.

There is also a fan-made edit of the pilot (aka THE AWAKENING) which combines the theatrical and TV cuts into one longer piece.  What it doesn't (can't) do is restore the scenes that never made it into either print.



Friday, 21 April 2017

1983: ACTION FORCE TOY ADVERT

From July 1983: a Palitoy advert for the ACTION FORCE toyline, originally published in the EAGLE.


1983: THE ORIGIN OF DAN DARE'S MEKON IN THE EAGLE

From January 1983: the origin of a species.... and a great dictator.

The second part of DAN DARE's look back at the origins of the Treens and their bulbous-headed overlord: the mighty Mekon.

Once again, Ian Kennedy's art really pops off the page thanks to the superior print quality EAGLE enjoyed during 1982-83 before the newsprint reboot.

I would be the first in line to buy a nicely put together compilation of this material.  Although I bet the three-page format, including the centre-spread, would be a pagination nightmare to compile.





1983: ADVERT FOR BATTLE'S AIR ACES BOOKLET

From January 1983: an IPC in-house advert (published in the EAGLE) for another one of those clip-and-collect circulation-maintaining booklets so beloved of the Youth Group during this period.  This time: BATTLE'S AIR ACES BOOKLET!


1983: DOCTOR WHO'S JON PERTWEE INTERVIEWED IN EAGLE

From January 1983: Jon Pertwee talks WORZEL GUMMIDGE and DOCTOR WHO with the (new) EAGLE.

He doesn't mention it here, but he'd be back in the Tardis before the end of the year....


1981: WILFRID HYDE-WHITE DISCUSSES BUCK ROGERS IN STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1981: New boy Wilfrid Hyde-White discusses life aboard the Searcher, during season two of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, with STARLOG MAGAZINE.




Thursday, 20 April 2017

1983: DAN DARE RECOUNTS THE ORIGINS OF THE TREENS IN EAGLE

From January 1983: EAGLE issue 44 takes a brief break from the ongoing RETURN OF THE MEKON storyline (albeit now running under the Fireflight title) to recount the history of the Treens.  Script by Pat Mills, amazing art by Ian Kennedy.

The revived DAN DARE strip (featuring - for TV licensing reasons - the grandson of the original Pilot of the future) often played fast-and-loose with the continuity of the original strip so I have no idea if - and how - it fits together but readers in 1983 wouldn't have been much the wiser escept via the hazy memories of their own parents (the original Eagle, a shadow of its former self, shuttered in 1969) and the - rather nice - compilation books of the original strips published around this time.

I've long maintained that the RETURN OF THE MEKON strip (along with the photostory era of DOOMLORD... which STARLOGGED has covered in the past) really needs to be reissued in a decent format.  And I think these three pages demonstrate that.




1985: SPEAKEASY ISSUE 56

From November 1985: UK fanzine SPEAKEASY reports big changes at DC... and the launch of Marvel's ultimately ill-fated NEW UNIVERSE.


1978: KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK IN STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1978: Another slice of bonkers US genre TV which - unless you are a KISS fan - has been largely forgotten today (and it is very possible that they - like the band - would like to forget it as well): KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK, a US TV movie previewed in the pages of STARLOG MAGAZINE.

I've seen this movie - as a bootleg - several times over the years and I still can't make any sense of it.  The plot - such as it is - is all over the place and involves a theme park (not, for once, the Universal backlot tour), superhuman rockers, a mad scientist and robot doubles.  It's telling that the movie was a rare wander into the realm of live action for the folks at Hanna Barbera.

The TV movie aired on US TV for Halloween 1978 and subsequently popped up in overseas theatres and on home video, sometimes under alternative titles and with alternative edits.

Years ago I spotted in a magazine, which I don't have, that there was some talk (and pre-production) of a KISS animated series.... but the project stalled for whatever reason.


1978: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'S MAREN JENSEN TALKS TO STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1978: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA beauty Maren Jensen talks to STARLOG MAGAZINE.

Mareen's character, despite winning the show its second TV GUIDE cover, was slowly phased out over the single season, vanishing completely from the final few episodes... even when it would have made story sense for her to appear.  Some sources have attributed this to her general lack of acting experience (although I've always found her performance on the show fine) whilst others have chalked it up to the overall trend of simplifying the show from mid-season onwards.  Either way, it's a shame that she didn't stick with the show... and that the show didn't run longer in its original form.





Wednesday, 19 April 2017

1981: MARVEL UK'S STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY ISSUE 144

From 1981: STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY issue 144, reprinting Starfire Rising from issue 54 of the US run.

This issue boasts another unique-to-the-UK cover.  Curiously it also omits the issue number and hedges its bets over the month of publication, suggesting that the British Bullpen were having some production and scheduling issues around this time.

The main story is, as with the last issue, an old John Carter inventory story left on the shelf when Marvel lost the license and closed the title.  Marvel tried to stockpile stand-by strips that could be slotted in at any time if a title looked like it would drop behind schedule... but these were often left unpublished when a title closed.  This wasn't a problem when Marvel owned the character as the one-shot story would eventually see print in one of the 'spotlight' anthologies or - in the 1980s - in the pages of MARVEL FANFARE.  But licensed books were more of a challenge.  And Marvel's accountants demanded that everything paid for had to appear somewhere.

So the unpublished strip was rather crudely reworked into a STAR WARS two-parter.  And it stood out a mile.  I suspect sales, on both sides of the Atlantic, took a hit when casual browsers spotted that the main strip barely looked like a dispatch from the galaxy far, far away.

Marvel, of course, had previous form in this area: famously, an issue of the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA run reworked an unpublished TARZAN story... recasting Apollo in the role of the Lord of the Apes.  And then there was Apeslayer....


1976: STARLOG ISSUE 1 LOOKS AHEAD TO SPACE:1999 YEAR TWO

From 1976: the very first issue of STARLOG MAGAZINE looks at the changes afoot on the set, and behind-the-scenes, on the second year of BRITISH-based SPACE:1999.  

Well, that went well...




1983: ADVERT FOR 2000AD PROG 300

From January 1983: 2000AD celebrates surviving 300 issues in print (and several behind-the-scenes close calls during the first few years) with a special issue... and a free metal (of some sort) JUDGE DREDD badge.

Unfortunately, the Mighty One couldn't stretch the budget as far as putting a pin on the back so the badge had to be affixed with some double-sided spongy tape stuff stuck to the back. 

The other attraction was one of those multi-week, build-it-yourself, cut-out-and-keep booklets beloved of the IPC Youth Group of the time: an eye-straining reproduction of the very first prog.  Which was at least pretty cool.  

This advert appeared in the pages of the EAGLE.  



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