Thursday, 18 April 2013

1984: CONQUEROR (Harrier Comics)

H.M.S CONQUEROR was the UK's (now long-forgotten it seems) contribution to the international space race... and international publishing.

Created by Martin Lock and Dave Harwood, this pretty blatant Trek-alike started life in the pages of the British fanzines that Lock edited and published.  In 1984, with the direct-sales business beginning to boom (and embracing black & white comics from indie publishers), Lock took his publishing ventures to the next stage and launched Harrier Comics (the company name both a punning nod to the British tradition of naming comics after members of the animal kingdom and also - presumably - a nod to the much-discussed role Harrier Jump Jets had played in the 1982 Falklands war).  Conqueror, and specifically the Special Preview Edition, was the first of what would (briefly) become a booming little business.

I first encountered Conqueror in the pages of (the revived) THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL.  The monthly incarnation, post DAREDEVILS merger, regularly featured a 'new talent showcase' (an opportunity to fill several pages for free) and a fanzine review column (something of a revelation to me at the time... and something that started a lifelong interest in amateur press).  Conqueror snuck into both and the review of the Preview Edition convinced me to get my dad to mail off a cheque for Harrier's inaugural effort.  That's my copy below which explains why it's a bit battered.

A regular bi-monthly book quickly followed, bolstered by some nice (albeit poorly coloured - compare these with his contemporary work on the Eagle Comics 2000AD reprints and elsewhere) Brian Bolland covers.

I must admit that, not yet being a regular comic book store patron (and, besides, I had very limited financial resources), I didn't revisit the alt. Trek universe until the dramatic cover of issue 8 caught my eye in Colchester's Ace Comics.  I snaffled-up issue 9 as well when it appeared... just in time for the book to be axed.  The strip continued, albeit hacked into smaller chunks (ala Marvel UK) in the pages of Harrier's anthology SWIFTSURE.

Obviously Ace weren't shifting that many copies as the entire run eventually made it into their 10p back issue boxes (ahhh... that happy time when half-decent comics could be 10p!) and I grabbed 'em.

The series gets off to a slow start, and the Star Trek parallels were unfortunately a little too blatant, but really ramps up towards the end of the run.

Harrier boasted Alan Moore as "editorial consultant".

Around the time issue 9 hit the stores, Harrier also published the weightier CONQUEROR UNIVERSE one-shot which collected several strips that had originally seen print in the 'zines.

A second one-shot, CONQUEROR SPECIAL, surfaced in early 1987 and - once again - featured a mix of short stories.

Harrier itself were remarkably prolific, churning out numerous black & white comics (notably REDFOX and Lew Stringer's brilliant BRICK MAN special) until being caught in the 1989 black & white bust.  There's a few stand-outs in the run (I'm rather partial to SENTINEL) but - not to put too fine a point on it - there was an awful lot of dross too.  Copies of many Harrier books, including Conqueror, still surface in the cheapo boxes at dealers.

The Chronology, reproduced below, explains how the various disparate strips fit together.

PREVIEW SPECIAL
1984

ISSUE 1
August 1984

ISSUE 2
October 1984

ISSUE 3
December 1984


ISSUE 4
February 1985

ISSUE 5
April 1985

ISSUE 6
June 1985

ISSUE 7
August 1985

ISSUE 8
October 1985

ISSUE 9
December 1985

CONQUEROR UNIVERSE ISSUE 1
December 1985

CONQUEROR UNIVERSE CHRONOLOGY

CONQUEROR SPECIAL
February 1987


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