Wednesday 27 November 2013

1985: GET ALONG GANG ISSUE 1 (Marvel UK)

This is a Blast-from-the-MARVEL UK-past which, at first glance, probably wouldn't be deemed worthy of interest to many fans.

But. It is. Honest.

The first issue of the GET ALONG GANG weekly was the first M-UK comic to introduce the 24-page, full-colour glossy format that became the standard for the weeklies and fortnightlies over the next few years.

Marvel had been experimenting with colour interiors, with varying degrees of success, since the painful launch of THOR and X-MEN in 1983 but all their previous attempts all relied on a mix of colour and black & white pages, occasionally recreating the sensation of watching a TV about to die.

GAG (hmm!) was the first to crack all-colour interiors on a regular basis (THE TRANSFORMERS issue 1 was full-colour… but that was a one-off lure that didn't last).

The Robots in Disguise switched from issue 27 (cover-dated 21 September 1985), followed by RETURN OF THE JEDI (26 October 1985) and SECRET WARS from issue 19 (9 November).  SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS adopted it from launch (8 March 1986), as did ACTION FORCE (7 March 1987), THUNDERCATS (21 March 1987) and THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (26 March 1988).

New additions to the range for younger readers, including THE CARE BEARS, MUPPET BABIES and ACORN GREEN all followed the same formula.

The comic itself was based on the US syndicated animated show which, as was the eighties way, expanded out to encompass all possible licensing opportunities.  The gist of the cartoon was that friendship and co-operation (some would say conformity) was the key to a better world, all delivered in a heavy-handed kid-friendly pro-social way.

The show itself formed part of TV-am's weekend line-up, the theme tune ("Get up with the Get Along Gang") being an absolute gift to the breakfast broadcaster (who was seldom averse to running merchandising-flogging animation unless chastised by the IBA).  For what it is, it isn't bad but it seems to have escaped the DVD era entirely.

Marvel US picked-up the GAG license and published a mere six issues under the just-created Star Comics brand.  Those six outings crossed the Atlantic and appeared in the UK edition but, with such poor pickings, the bulk of the British editions contained new strips from British creators.  The first back-up strip was Top Dog, also from the Star line.

The British edition ran for a highly creditable 93 issues through to early 1987 and also spun-off Collected Comics specials (from Winter 1985), annuals and other sundries.


  1. ...and, as you can see by analysing the covers, GET ALONG GANG ended with issue #93 (24th January 1987) and merged starting from the following week with CARE BEARS (issue #69, 31st January 1987), whose cover title became CARE BEARS AND GET ALONG GANG ... up to issue #71. ;)

    1. Thanks Duff. I wasn't 100% sure what happened to GAG after it closed, so it's good to know that M-UK did at least make the effort to merge it… although it sounds like the combined title only ran for three issues! Did the GAG strip run longer, albeit without a shared masthead, or were they really turfed-out that quick? Maybe the license was running out!

    2. Unfortunately I don't know whether the GAG strip run longer in the pages of CARE BEARS... It is something I will have to check at the British Library, when they will re-open their journal services in March...!

    3. Although the shared masthead (and letters page) didn't last long, the main comic strip fared better. Reprints of both British and American stories appeared in C.B. issues 69 (31.1.87) to 105 (10.10.87) and made a brief re-appearance in 1993.

  2. I may be misremembering but I think Transformers #1 was only mostly colour with b/w pages near the centre before the colour centre spread (animation cel poster and transfers background). If that's the case, then Get Along Gang really was the first Marvel UK colour title!

    I'd be interested to see a listing of the UK creators for the original material... if you have the time, patience and a complete set of GAG.

    Thanks as ever for a brilliant, must-read blog.

    1. I would need to unearth my copy of TRANSFORMERS 1 but I'm 99% certain it was full-colour throughout (and - possibly - on a slightly heavier paper stock as well) as I remember being impressed that it was full-colour throughout and feeling a little let down a fortnight later when the number of colour pages slumped.

      Unfortunately, I don't have any more GAG issues at all. The Marvel "nursery" titles seldom seem to surface (but don't equate that to being worth more… I doubt many collectors are that interested in them) so I've never snapped-up more. If a collection was to appear - at the right price - I would certainly think about getting them as - despite it's sugar-coated goodness - it's one of the more palatable of the genre.

    2. I DID find TRANSFORMERS issue 1 and it is - indeed - a full-colour affair. Those crafty tricksters at the Annex of Ideas scaled back (considerably) the number of interior colour pages from issue two onwards.

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    4. "I'd be interested to see a listing of the UK creators for the original material... if you have the time, patience and a complete set of GAG."

      ART: Barrie Appleby - Main strip (U.K.) covers (except #35) sundry illustrations

      LAYOUT: Frank McDiamid

      STORY: Ian Mennel, John Gatehouse

      LETTERING: John Aldrich (Sometimes spelled "Adrich")

      COLOUR: Maggie Simpson ( :-D, Steve Robinson, Joanne "Jo" Baker, Gary Gilbert, Nicky Stone, Theresa George

      TEXT STORIES: John Gatehouse, Karen King

      PUZZLE / ACTIVITY PAGES: Lampitt & Bradshaw

      Source: Personal Collection.

    5. Thanks Paul M, that's above and beyond the call of blog-duty!


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