Thursday, 10 January 2013


At the same time that the EAGLE was rebooting as a traditional weekly, IPC were also revitalising BATTLE.  

The home of Charley's War, Johnny Red, Darkie's Mob and Major Easy had fallen on hard times by '83.  Despite rebooting as a general action-adventure weekly to broaden its appeal, British fanzines were already speculating that a merger with the Eagle was imminent.  Instead, the Kings Reach Tower mandarins pulled a licensing masterstroke which dodged cancellation (BATTLE did eventually fold into Eagle, but not until January 1988), boosted readership and slashed costs: turning over half the comic to strips based on Palitoy's ACTION FORCE toys, bankrolled by the Leicestershire company.

The weekly had already dabbled with a four-part Action Force strip earlier in the year, followed by five mini-comics inserted (on a fortnightly schedule) into IPC comics over the summer.  October saw the culmination of this collaboration: 50% of the comic turned over to the toy heroes in a deal that ran until November 1986.

It's worth noting that this wasn't a merger, there was no solo AF title prior to the relaunch (Palitoy and Marvel UK had planned something - announced in some early retailer briefings for the toys - but the project was abandoned for reasons unknown) although once the license transferred from IPC to Marvel UK, from early 1987, the Annex of Ideas published two ongoing Action Force comics (weekly and monthly) as well as spin-off specials and annuals.

In retrospect, IPC were pretty radical in their thinking (and deal-making) here.  Rival toy-based comics (like THE TRANSFORMERS and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE) didn't become a common sight in British newsagents until sometime later

Below is the full-page announcement of the changes from Battle itself (note the clumsy use of the Action Force part of the new logo) and two house ads from Eagle.  I was interested to note that the cross-promotion didn't extend beyond the first two weeks of the relaunch (although certain key - usually ones with gifts - issues were promoted later).

I suspect there was also a TV spot for the relaunch but - truth be told - I remember nothing about the details and can't find anything on-line.

Copies of the first relaunched issue, with the original inside back page (pages from Charley Bourne's A-Z of World War I) substituted for a full-page advert for the AF toys and the cover copy slightly amended, were also handed out free in toy stores.

One other inconsistency that I never clocked at the time: The Eagle was 22p a week (a legacy from the photo-story era: IPC didn't cut the cover price when they switched formats) whilst Battle was only 20p for what was essentially the same offering (print quality, page count etc).  Kerching!
1 October 1983

1 October 1983

15 October 1983

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