Friday 21 December 2012


December 1979 saw STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE hit the British big screen.  And LOOK-IN, despite Star Trek being a BBC show in the UK, marked the occasion with a cover and interior feature, poster and competition.  All of which can be found below.

Unlike BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (also featured in this issue), Look-In never had a Trek comic strip.

Years later, ST:TMP would get its UK television premiere... on ITV.


Let it snow! Let it snow!  Let it snow!

Actually, it looks like its going to be a fairly soggy Christmas in the UK (which, after a year of rain, seems appropriate - not to mention predictable - somehow) so here's SCOOBY and the HANNA BARBERA gang to spread some festive white stuff.

This is the SCOOBY DOO AND HIS TV FRIENDS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (do you see a theme developing here?), spun-off from the MARVEL UK weekly in the winter of 1982.


Another Mighty MARVEL UK festive blast-from-the-past: Stan Lee wishing his British brethren happy holidays.

This appeared on the back cover of Marvel's weeklies in December 1973.

Happy holidays True Believers!  

And happy 90th birthday for the 28th Stan!

1977 and 1981: MARVEL CHRISTMAS POSTER (Marvel UK)

It's almost Christmas!  Hurrah!  As this is likely to be the last chance I get to post something (you never know... I might post something else over the weekend or early next week... or maybe not) I thought it was time to get the decorations up.

This is a full-colour glossy centre-spread poster from MARVEL UK's CAPTAIN AMERICA weekly (issue 44), from December 1981.

The artist appears to be uncredited.  Any ideas?

And... here's the art - in glorious black & white - as it first appeared in December 1977.  Can you spot the rather obvious interloper exorcised from the reprint?

Thursday 20 December 2012

1978: MARVEL TOP TRUMPS and other toys (Marvel UK)

MARVEL TOP TRUMPS!  The perfect Christmas gift!  This is an ad, which ran in MARVEL UK's weeklies, from May 1978 with assorted goodies for young super hero fans.  I definitely remember someone at school having the mighty Marvel card game.  Presumably Galactus gazumped everyone.


Oh my!  It's the miracle of the modern age: the STAR WARS DIGITAL WATCH, as offered as a competition prize, in MARVEL UK's STAR WARS WEEKLY in July 1978.

It seems bonkers now but, in the summer of '78, such an item would have been considered space-aged technology of Bondian proportions... a coolness that would have been doubled by the Star Wars association.


This is the October 1988 advert, which ran in Marvel UK titles (and - possibly - elsewhere) promoting the VHS release of ACTION FORCE: THE MOVIE, better known as (the original) G.I. JOE THE MOVIE.

As with the selected episodes of the daily JOE animated show, the soundtrack was altered to remove all verbal references to the American incarnation.  A new, specially-written, song was also placed over the opening sequence.  The titles were also changed although, as with the TV show, any visual references within the animation had to be retained.

Once the UK toy line was rebranded as G.I. JOE, all such deception was rendered irrelevant and subsequent VHS and DVD re-releases used the US prints of the movie.

Unlike TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE, which did get a brief UK theatrical release (I know, I was there!), Action Force went direct-to-tape.


Here's a MARVEL UK in-house plug for the US Marvel-made fanzine FOOM.

Appearing in February 1978, it gave UK readers the chance to take out a three-issue subscription, covering issues 21-23.  Unfortunately, Marvel New York abandoned the 'zine with issue 22, leaving British subscribers screwed.

Dez Skinn promised to produce a special UK-centric 23rd issue, specifically for British fans and to meet Marvel's outstanding commitments.  But the project was abandoned before publication.  And - presumably - outstanding subscriptions not refunded.  Unless, anyone knows otherwise...

Wednesday 19 December 2012


Here's another Marvel UK house ad, this time from the Summer of 1994, for OVERKILL.  

This time, Marvel's marketing geniuses decided to use the surefire combination of bums-and-guns to draw readers to the fiftieth issue of the monthly (previously: fast, furious and fortnightly).

It was obviously an unsuccessful ploy as OVERKILL was cancelled, apparently in some haste, two issues later.  It didn't come as much of a surprise at the time following Marvel's decision to entirely bail-out of the US market, in undue haste, earlier in the year.  Once that happened, it seemed like only a matter of time before Overkill, essentially a reprint outlet for selected US-format strips, would close.


Despite being published back in 1984, I only found out about THE TV SCHEDULE BOOK this year.  So - of course - I had to order myself a second-hand copy.

It's basically a hardback book of US TV schedule grids, showing which programmes sat in which primetime slot each season.  Not only can you find your own favourites, but you can see the show's they were scheduled against.

It's completely geeky, and I don't really know how accurately it could possibly reflect week-by-week schedule changes, pre-emption's, cancellations and other hasty programme shuffles so beloved by ratings-desperate TV schedulers... and hated by viewers forced to chase their favourite show across the week.

Nevertheless, it's also a rather neat - if ultimately pretty pointless - historical document.  It's probably more fun for US readers of a certain age who'll be able to recall frustrating schedule clashes, shows-long-forgotten (and possibly much loved) and growing up with the box.

As far as I know, there's never been an attempt to create a British equivalent.  With less defined seasons, more one-off programmes and shorter seasons, I imagine it would be something of a nightmare to compile.

I thought it would be useful to reproduce one - ahem - random interior page to demonstrate how it worked.  Of course, I just happened to settle on the Fall 1978 season... with a certain show sitting in ABC's Sunday night at 8 slot.  Apologies for the slightly wonky scan, the book's binding made it a little tricky to get it under the scanner hood.


This is a 1983 US advert for the STAR WARS: JEDI ARENA home video game, released to coincide with RETURN OF THE JEDI.

It's value as a training tool is - unfortunately - unrecorded.


This is a British ad, from September 1983, plugging a SUPERMAN III in-pack promotion from SHREDDIES breakfast cereal. Each game is connected, in some way, to a moment or plot-point in the not-terribly-good movie. 

Tuesday 18 December 2012


Here's a MARVEL UK house ad, from November 1978, heralding the arrival of STARBURST MAGAZINE into the Mighty Marvel Magazine ranks.

When Stan Lee recruited Dez Skinn to head the UK operation, he also acquired Dez's just-launched SF/ Fantasy magazine as part of the deal.

Dez didn't last long (he was shown the door, by mutual consent, in 1980) but his magazine lasted longer.  Marvel eventually grew bored of it in the mid-eighties and sold it on to publisher Visual Imagination.  They turned it into something of a cash-cow, spawning numerous spin-offs, until the age of the web finally overtook them.  The magazine's been revived in recent years and its great to see it back on WH Smith's shelves.


It's my 500th post!  So, to demonstrate that this thing isn't always thrown together at the last moment, I'm going to break my own rule of only covering Geek Media issued between 1972 (the launch of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL and the official birth of Marvel UK) and 1996 (when Marvel UK was taken over by Panini in a corporate restructuring at the House of Ideas) in order to cover something rather special: the first British Marvel strip!

It's back to October 1966 (Starlogged's pre-history) and SMASH! issue 38.  SMASH!, launched earlier in the year by Odhams, was a British weekly that combined original humour and adventure strips (Grimly Fiendish, Bad Penny, Rubberman, Swots and Blots) with US meta-human reprints: BATMAN (actually the TV-inspired US newspaper strip), THE AVENGERS and THE HULK.

SMASH! marked, except for a few haphazard imports, the first chance most British kids had of seeing Marvel characters in action.

But, what's really significant about the HULK strip above is that it's a Smash! exclusive.  The reason for its creation (presumably some sort of deadline crunch) are lost, along with its creator, to the mists of history but it does mark the first Marvel comic strip created in the UK, beating the much-lauded debut of the HULK COMIC by some thirteen years.

I reckon its probably also the first Marvel strip to be created anywhere that wasn't directly overseen by Smilin' Stan and the New York Bullpen.  History made twice over.

The Hulk strip runs for six pages, although I've only posted the first three.  Marvel USA have announced plans (although they keep delaying them) to collect together the entire run of British Hulk strips, including this one, in a hardback volume.  According to the latest listing on, its now due to be published in July 2013.

Smash! launched in 1966 and spawned Odham's briefly successful POWER COMICS line, largely built around Marvel reprints.  

POW! launched in January 1967and included, from its first issue, SPIDER-MAN.  It absorbed WHAM! from issue 53 and merged with SMASH! after 86 issues.

WHAM! launched in 1964 as a rival to THE BEANO.  However, it latterly added FANTASTIC FOUR reprints to the mix.  It folded into POW! in 1968 after 187 issues.

FANTASTIC launched in February 1967 and reprinted THOR, THE X-MEN and IRON MAN.  It absorbed TERRIFIC, adding DOCTOR STRANGE and the AVENGERS.  It merged with SMASH!, after 89 issues, in September 1968.  Only the Thor strip continued.

TERRIFIC was the least successful of the Power Comics line.  Launched in April 1967, it barely scrapped into the following year.  It merged with TERRIFIC after only 43 issues.  The line-up included THE AVENGERS, DOCTOR STRANGE, SUB-MARINER and GIANT MAN.

SMASH! continued as last-man-standing through to its merger with VALIANT in 1971, although the Marvel reprints were jettisoned (by new owner IPC, thanks to some corporate reshuffling of the ranks) in 1969.

Even the venerable EAGLE, albeit well past its prime, added a cash-saving Marvel reprint in 1968: TALES OF ASGARD from THE MIGHTY THOR.

The once-mighty TV21, by now devoid of any connection with Gerry Anderson, had added reprints of SPIDER-MAN, THE SILVER SURFER and Marvel's Western heroes by 1970.  It merged with VALIANT the following year.

Marvel UK opened for business in 1972.


This is a two-page, centre-spread advert, published in US Marvel Comics dated October 1983, promoting the about-to-launch G.I. JOE VIDEO GAME.

They may be ideological opposed... but they both have a mutual need for a man (or... men)....

Yo Joe!

Monday 17 December 2012


Another US Fall Kid-Vid advert, this time hyping ABC's autumn 1980 offering.  As always, at least several of which crossed the Atlantic shortly thereafter.

The BBC snaffled-up the time-travelling FONZ AND THE HAPPY DAYS GANG, initially for Saturday mornings.  They also acquired HEATHCLIFF and - shudder -  SCOOBY AND SCRAPPY DOO (I distinctly remember the feeling of excitement when the BBC promoted the return of my favourite cartoon... and the crushing sense of disappointment when that first Scrappy-centric episode aired.  TV had betrayed me).  

PLASTIC MAN, based on the also-ran DC character, aired on ITV.  But it was hard to care (and we gave him a very politically incorrect alternative name).

I could be wrong, but I don't remember THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN showing-up in the UK at all.  Can that be right?

1982: THE MAKING OF STAR TREK II paperback

After thirty years of geeing (Can you tell?), its not often I stumble across anything that I had no idea existed.  That doesn't mean that I own everything but it normally means that, at some point in the previous decades, I've spotted a copy of most paper-based geek things.  So, imagine my surprise when I found a copy of this book in a secondhand shop a few weeks back.  Bonkers as it may sound, I'd never clapped eyes on this behind-the-scenes tome, published stateside by Pocket Books in 1982, devoted to my all-time-favourite STAR TREK outing.

Perhaps the US is awash with remaindered copies of THE MAKING OF STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN but very few appear to have ever crossed the Atlantic.  

I've only had a chance to skim through this oversized paperback but it looks a fascinating read.  Hurrah!


These are two 1983 covers from Britain's satirical magazine PRIVATE EYE, celebrating the early highs and lows of Britain's first breakfast TV service: TV-am.

As bonkers as it might sound in today's zillion-channel media environment, I was there (way back in February 1983) for the arrival of Breakfast Television in the UK!  We'd only just gained a fourth channel the previous year (and the bulk of CHANNEL FOUR's niche-interest output was pretty-much off-limits due to intense dullness) and regularly-scheduled daytime and overnight services were still years away.  Yup, things really were bleak.

So the chance to see TV whilst getting ready for school was a real novelty.  First on-air was ITV's national service TV-am.  Thanks to ITV's unique regional structure, each of the local companies were required to handover their early morning hours to the new seven-day company (hardly a hardship considering those hours were hardly -if at all - ever used).

TV-am launched with a (fairly) high-minded service with viewer-unfriendly segments including long and indigestible interviews (conducted by David Frost or one of the other star name "Famous Five" presenters) and - of all things - farming prices.

The BBC launched their own, surprisingly informal, alternative - BBC BREAKFAST TIME - a few weeks later and swiftly hoovered-up the small audience willing to watch TV at that time of day.

TV-am, saddled with high running costs (the well rewarded "Five", purpose-built studios in North London's Camden and it's own News-gathering service after it failed to strike a deal with ITN, ITV's existing national and international news provider) and hit by a dispute between unions and advertisers (union disputes would haunt the company throughout its life), quickly went into panic mode.

By March, it's backers had parted company with its uber-brained instigator Peter Jay.  It's new management team also swiftly dumped most of the original presenting team, retaining only Michael Parkinson (hence the cover) and David Frost, although both would be shunted to the weekends with undue haste.

In 1987, the company became embroiled in an extended dispute with the broadcasting unions.  Technicians walked-out for 24-hour but management subsequently prevented them from returning to work until they signed new contracts.  With negotiations at an impasse, and the station outputting a ramshackle line-up of (mostly acquired) programmes staffed by management and non-technical staff, the union members were subsequently fired.  That action, against what Mrs Thatcher believed to be one of the last bastions of union power, appeared to win the company friends in high places (and repeats of the sixties BATMAN camp crusader show boasted the ratings).

All ITV franchises came up for renewal at the turn of the decade and Thatcher's Conservative government introduced a new bidding system.  Now, assuming the applicant reached the minimum quality threshold, the highest bidder would win, regardless of the performance of the current operator.  TV-am, now highly profitable thanks to its cheap-and-cheerful programme formula, bid low (inexplicably) believing that (somehow) its programme quality would see off all challengers.  It didn't stand a chance.

Defeated, it soldiered on for the remaining eighteen months of the contract, slashing costs and staff along the way in a final dash for profit.  The last episode of GOOD MORNING BRITAIN, TV-am's flagship programme, soldiered on until 31 December 1992.  Its successor, GMTV, took to the air the following morning.

Not only was TV-am's garish sofa a comforting early-morning sight for a generation of geeks, it was also a reliable source of (not-entirely-good-for-you) entertainment.  Always watching the pennies, TV-am was fairly shameless in acquiring toy-based animation (THE TRANSFORMERS, CHALLENGE OF THE GOBOTS, M.A.S.K, JEM as well as CARE BEARS and THE GET ALONG GANG) and - as mentioned in previous posts - it also hosted visits from various Marvel US creative types.  It also aired the sixties BATMAN live-action show.  Initially intended for weekend slots (along with FLIPPER), episodes were swiftly drafted-in to fill the strike-hit weekday schedules.


Here's another web-find...

A long time ago, I posted the HULA HOOPS (hardy perennial UK snack food, apparently launched in 1973) advert for a mail-away 3D INCREDIBLE HULK JIGSAW which appeared in Marvel UK titles in early 1979.

At the weekend, I found this photo of what - I assume - was an in-store poster for the same campaign.

The live-action TV show was booming in the UK at the time, hence an avalanche of licensed products and Marvel's decision to drag the green goliath out of his long-time seventies home - THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL - and into his own weekly.

Friday 14 December 2012


Have you got the "Saturday morning fever"?  

Here's a one-page ad, published in US comics dated December 1978 (hence the timelessly topical reference) hyping NBC's Fall Saturday morning schedule.  

For British viewers, of a certain age, there's several familiar 'toons on show here.  Most notably the infamous FANTASTIC FOUR animated series which, notoriously, dispensed with the Human Torch in favour of H.E.R.B.I.E, Jack Kirby's specifically-created appeasement to the Star Wars Generation.  To set the record straight, Johnny Storm wasn't dumped because Saturday Morning Mandarins feared a nationwide craze for self-immolation imitation.  Marvel had already done a big TV deal with Universal (which spawned TV interpretations of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, DOCTOR STRANGE and CAPTAIN AMERICA) which placed the Torch off-limits (gawd knows how they would have pulled the human fireball off with creaky seventies telly technology).

Telly's tame reinterpretation of GODZILLA became a BBC ONE fave over here.

I think Hanna Barbera's YOGI'S SPACE RACE also crossed the Atlantic although I can't recall any details.  This was clearly the year of Star Wars if even Jellystone Park's most famous resident was suddenly improbably propelled into the void.

JAMA OF THE JUNGLE, paired with the great green stomper, rings no bells.


Here's something I found online (apologies it's not of the highest quality but I'm sure you'll get the idea): what appears to be a promotional poster, from MARVEL UK, sent out to US retails to announce the North American distribution of their key monthlies: CAPTAIN BRITAIN, STARBURST and DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE.

The magazine-format Captain Britain was not a strong seller and shuttered after 14 issues.  Starburst, after an extended hiatus, is still published today although Marvel dumped it not long after this poster appeared.  Doctor Who Magazine, of course, survived the demise of Marvel UK itself a decade later and continues to appear, every four weeks, today.

M-UK subsequently started adding US and Canadian dollar prices to their weeklies but I've no idea how many copies actually crossed the Atlantic.


I've had these scans on file for so long that I'd forgotten that I'd never quite got around to running them: this is the British edition of the THE BLACK HOLE movie comics adaptation, published under-license, by IPC in 1980.

It's a magazine-sized, black & white, version of Whitman's typically "that'll do" adaptation.  As you'll see from the sample interior pages, below, it's clear no-one was striving for the highest quality results. It really is no wonder that the likes of Whitman succumbed to falling sales when you imagine how much better this would have been if it had been adapted by one of the big two (even with their notorious lack of interest in the properties they licensed).

There's no credits that I can find in either this or the original US version (published as a two-issue run and also collected into book form).

The second page shows Whitman's minimalist interpretation of the movie's bonkers through-the-black hole conclusion.  There's no Dante's Inferno to be found here, presumably because the publisher got cold feet about the idea.  Or the film makers hadn't decided how to close the flick by deadline.

If you wondered what happened to the Palomino crew next, Whitman published another two issues which plonked them down in a mirror universe (giving them the chance to encounter the movie's villains all over again).  Those two issues hit the UK in the form of the one-and-only BLACK HOLE ANNUAL (which I'll cover in a future post).

The US also say a Disney-sponsored strip adaptation for newspapers, by none other than the mighty Jack Kirby.  Unfortunately, I don't think it appeared in any British paper.

Thursday 13 December 2012


I looked back at the free SUPERNATURALS PREVIEW COMIC a few posts back (a lucky 50p Geek Shop find) so I thought I'd follow-up with one of the toy commercials.

This is an American TV spot and - as I recall - the British ones were (slightly?) different.  I don't recall if the footage was the same (they actually manage to make the toys look pretty neat) but I'm almost certain that the British ads featured a short, sung, jingle along the lines of "Soooopernaturals".  It's stuck in my head for decades, despite my almost-total contemporary lack of interest in both the toys and the comics.  That's the power of advertising!


Yikes, it's the omnipresent DEATH'S HEAD II again!  Here he is in a Marvel UK house ad, from November 1992, for OVERKILL (still: Fast, Furious and Fortnightly).


Truth-be-told, most of the deluge of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA merchandise that appeared between 1978 and 1980 wasn't much good (and, in some cases, actually deadly), especially if you're a serious fan of the show rather than a nine year-old space brat.

I never saw this book, published by Grosset & Dunlap, at the time and, to be honest, I've never spied a copy since.  Presumably it crossed the Atlantic in such small numbers (if at all) that copies have never reached geek dealers, charity shops or secondhand book dealers.  I acquired this one on the 'net a while ago... and then buried it on my bookshelf... only to be unearthed again during my recent pre-Christmas sort-out.

The title is a tadge misleading, certainly for British readers (which may help explain the lack of imports, maybe retailers were ordering a very different product... and didn't bother).  It suggests a book where you paste-in your own clippings/ art/ whatever (and, invariably, glue the pages together too).  It's actually a perfectly sensible square-bound "making of" tome, covering the production of the show's three opening stories (Saga of a Star World, Gun on Ice Planet Zero and Lost Planet of the Gods).

Most of the interior is black & white with only a smattering (eight pages) of colour printing.


It's freezing in ol' London Town this morning... which has - inexplicably - put me in the mood for ice lollies!  I dunno.... don't ask, don't tell!

So I've unearthed this summer 1980 (6 July 1980 to be precise) advert for Wall's Ice Lollies, originally published in IPC's weeklies, featuring a couple of very familiar geek brands.

A Black Hole you can eat.... so bold!


It's back to the spring of 1982 and IPC's big launch: the revived EAGLE.

Last seen being devoured by LION in 1969 (although, predictably, the spin-off specials and annuals contented to appear well into the next decade), this mix of the old (a more-faithful-than-Tharg's reinterpretation of DAN DARE) and the new (photo-stories, an idea purloined from IPC's teen girls department and intended to counter the distractions of TV and video games) was clearly a bigger priority for the massive publisher than some of its other here-today, gone-tomorrow punts.

The pricy-to-produce photo-strips, along with the better printing required to make them work, didn't last long (the last issue in the original format was cover-dated 17 September 1983) but the comic itself continued (although, towards the end, it dropped to a cancellation-dodging monthly schedule and largely consisted of reprints) until 1994, making it (almost) last-man-standing in IPC/ Fleetway's once booming comics group.

I've covered the first 18-odd months of the Eagle in earlier posts, and I've got provisional plans (IE I acquired a bunch of back issues a while back) to extend that coverage into the newsprint era, but these are a series of house ads that appeared in other IPC weeklies around the time of the relaunch, beginning with this small teaser ad which first appeared in IPC boys comics dated 6 March 1982.

20 March 1982

3 April 1982 

10 April 1982

17 April 1982

1 May 1982
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