Friday 30 October 2015

1993: STAR WARS HOUSE AD (Dark Horse International)

From March 1993: a Dark Horse International House Ad for the seventh issue of their STAR WARS monthly.

The first few months of the British edition had reprinted the DARK EMPIRE limited series. The rreplacement was CLASSIC STAR WARS, the reworked versions of the newspaper strips. These were of extra interest to British readers as, as far as I can tell, no UK paper ran them in the early Eighties. Even now, they have been out-of-print again for more than twenty years. 

The backup strip was still, in a nostalgic nod to the Marvel UK monthly/ weekly circa 1983, reprints of the Dark Horse Indiana Jones adventures.

Casual and lapsed readers were lured in with a free cover-mounted "May the Force be with you" pin badge. 

Despite these attractions, and a resurgence of interest in the saga, the revival was not a great success and shuttered after only ten issues.

The run is worth seeking out because the good print quality, and larger page sizes, are a nice showcase for the art. 

Thursday 29 October 2015


From February 2001: A PLANET OF THE APES cover adorns COMICS INTERNATIONAL, the comics newszine.

This, of course, technically falls outside the Star Age... And there were no shortage of magazines with covers pegged to the Burton retooling of the Apes saga... But this one focuses on the return of the saga to comic books rather than the movie itself.

Dark Horse, no stranger to working with Fox on adapting their movie franchises to the four-colour world, brought back the Apes for the first time since Adventure Comics ran their extensive, but not always great, line a decade earlier.

Except, this was a license for the new movie and not the original saga, so the good old' days of the future were off-limits. Its tempting to think that the DH run might have enjoyed more longevity if they had been allowed to play with more aspects of the franchise. Once the excitement over the Burton version diminished (which, for me, pretty much happened during the film... Although you can't deny that THAT ending was memorable... Albeit nonsensical) then sales and enthusiasm about the comics version dropped in equal measure. DH bailed pretty fast and the franchise went on hiatus again.

There was, briefly, a British version published under license by Titan Magazines. It was only notable for being the first UK POTA comic since the Marvel strips had quietly faded from the pages of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL over twenty years earlier. 


From October 1978: the fourth issue of FANTASTIC FILMS magazine.

I picked up a few of these in a 50% off sale over the summer so I'll post them as-and-when. Like their genre companions, they provide a nostalgic snapshot of the Star Age... And the covers may remind you of some long-forgotten treasure that somehow didn't gather much in the way of cultural traction.

Tuesday 27 October 2015


From January 1975 (so it would have been on sale during the last few months of the previous year): the launch issue of Marvel's American black & white mag UNKNOWN WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION.

These mags were shipped across the Atlantic (and subject to the sane erratic distribution) alongside the colour books and were another reason why the first few years of the British Bullpen focused strictly on traditional weeklies rather than rolling out a variety of frequencies and formats to see which performed best. 

But they also supplied useful reprint fodder for the early hard-to-fill British SF outings PLANET OF THE APES and STAR WARS WEEKLY. The formulas, and licensing restrictions (no BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or STAR TREK in SWW) often left much of the Marvel inventory off limits and occasionally (usually through mergers) created some tenuous combinations (scare-fare in POTA or Conan in FUTURE TENSE) just to keep the pages filled and the presses rolling.

Canny Marvel management made their lives easier (and their margins fatter) by quietly making each issue of STAR WARS WEEKLY eight pages lighter, for the same cover price, as its easier to fill contemporaries. The US magazines proved a useful source of filler whilst Marvel New York ratcheted up their SF offering (allowing Marvel UK to publish FUTURE TENSE in 1980-81: essential a compendium of SWW supporting features belatedly anchored by STAR TREK's return to a British weekly after a five year 'away mission').

Six issues of UNKNOWN WORLDS shipped on a bimonthly schedule during 1974 with a further one-shot the following year. This first issue consisted of a lot of non-Marvel commissions that had originally appeared in other magazines or fanzines. The amount of new material increased for the remainder of the run. Adaptations of literary work was often accompanied by interviews with their authors. 

Monday 26 October 2015

1992: ALIENS 3 MOVIE ADAPTATION (Dark Horse International)

From August 1992: a House Ad for the British edition of ALIENS 3, from Dark House International.

Maybe it was a sign of how the newcomer wanted to shake up the British business... Or maybe they just didn't have a firm grasp about how different it was to the US Direct Sales market... But launching a three issue mini-series in newsagents was highly unusual.

Of course, there are plenty of magazines and comics that only muster a few issues before sliding into oblivion. But that's a different business model.

As far as I know, this was the only time that DHI tried to publish anything other than ongoing series. The three "specials" (maybe the language was the key to getting it past the trade) appeared alongside the just relaunched DH edition of the regular monthly. 

The film didn't live up to expectations... Which might have had a detrimental impact on sales. 


From February 1994: the free MARVEL UK CLANDESTINE Trading Card, cover-mounted with COMIC WORLD magazine issue 24.

This, unfortunately, really was the last gasp of the British Bullpen'smarketing mahine. Even as this freebie adorned issue of COMIC WORLD magazine was hitting British newsagents (it had pretty good distribution through WH Smith stores and selected independent newsagents, including inexplicably my own local shop which probably didn't carry more than 100 titles overall) and specialist stores (where it served as a nice compliment to the more news-based COMICS INTERNATIONAL from the House of Skinn), word of the Genesis Massacre was spreading through the industry.

The British Bullpen had put a lot of promotional weight behind this and LOOSE CANNONS in the hope that they would address the perception issue that the whole UKverse line was suffering from quantity over quality. Twelve months earlier it had been perfectly acceptable to flood the market with (sometimes) substandard fodder but, now the speculators had bailed, readers and retailers were being more choosy with their pounds and dollars. And, frankly, the amount of British books still surfacing in the 50p boxes twenty years on suggests a lot of retailers had been overordering on an epic (not Epic) scale. 

The speed of the collapse was so fast that dozens of books and projects were caught in the final maelstrom. And very few emerged unscathed. 

THE CLANDESTINE was one of the lucky ones. Having Alan Davies' name above the door certainly helped but being a Marvel UK book didn't. So it shifted to the US operation. LOOSE CANNONS also looked like an obvious winner but didn't make the cut. 

If it comes as any consolation to the Annex of Ideas, TOPPS COMICS, publishers of THE MARK OF ZORRO, also didn't last... Despite bankable franchises like THE X-FILES, MARS ATTACKS, STAR WARS GALAXY MAGAZINE, JURASSIC PARK and XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS.

Those were indeed hard times. 

Thursday 22 October 2015


From 1988: the DC Comics adaptation of the ALIEN NATION movie.

Marvel were masters of stretching their movie adaptations over several issues (although they often issued them as done-in-one magazines or books as well) but DC preferred to recreate the viewing experience more faithfully by restricting their movie books to extended-length one-shots.

This ALIEN NATION tie-in was no exception.

Its a pretty standard, but still entertaining, riff on the familiar buddy-cop formula by making one of the bickering detectives an off-worlder and making the crime they investigate related to these "Newcomers". 

The movie, which boasts a great cast, presumably did OK business but not enough to tempt Fox into making it a franchise. 

Except the newly launched TV part of the business was looking for new shows that whilst superficially similar to normal telly fare, tweeked the formula sufficiently to give a twist on the tried and familiar. Alien Nation fitted the bill and blasted back as a weekly series, now overseen by Kenneth (" V") Johnson. 

The feature-length pilot, with a whole new cast, doubled as a follow-up to the first flick (Fox were clearly thinking that it could double as a straight-to-tape sequel overseas) but, after that, Johnson used TV's generous running time to flesh out the world of the near future and use the aliens for a bit of (occasionally on the nose) social commentary. 

The series fell victim, after only a season, to a change of policy at Fox which saw the new semi-network dump its expensive but soft rated one-hour dramas in favour of less risky sitcoms (inspired by the success of THE SIMPSONS and MARRIED: WITH CHILDREN).

The TV show inspired the Adventure Comics subsidery of Malibu to launch a seccession of mini-series set in the same world but, with one exception, no direct link to the show. I've posted those series in the past. 

Fox eventually revived the TV incarnation as a package of five TV movies.

The film, weekly series and movie package have all been released on DVD. 

Tuesday 20 October 2015


From 1976 (or thereabouts): the first issue of the A TRIBUTE TO CHARLIE'S ANGELS POSTER (or, err, "posta") MAGAZINE, featuring the first season cast of Farrah, Kate and Jaclyn.

I found this recently in a second handstore and it was too good to pass up. Its obviously British (or a British edition) and, judging from the title and the lack of publisher information, an unlicensed take-a-chance cash-in. 

There's no publication date but it features the original 76-77 line-up before, famously, Farrah walked away at the height of her fame. The US TV Movie THE CHARLIE'S ANGELS STORY is a fun, but probably not entirely accurate, dramatic reconstruction of the show's rollercoaster origin and turbulant first season. 

There's something charming about revisiting this and Spelling's other primetime crime shows like TJ HOOKER and MATT HOUSTON, not least because they frequently seemed to share the same plots, just tailored for the formats of the individual series. The legendary Angels in Chains (the prisonepisode that made the show a sensation) is not a million miles from the HOUSTON episode Caged, which gave Star Age icon Pamala Hensley a chance to shine when she found herself banged up in a similar establishment which also happened to be operating a prostitution business on the side. Such things must have been endemic in the US correctional system. 

Just remember: it's seven boobs including Bosley. 

Monday 19 October 2015

1992: ALIENS Volume 2, Issue 1 (Dark Horse International)

From July 1992: the first issue of the second volume of the British ALIENS comic.

The Dark Horse strips (ultimately the strips that elevated the indie from being just another publisher to being a major player with those all important Hollywood connections) had previously been published under license (or possibly not: a DH published guide to their own output claimed the British editions were unlicensed although, as I've noted before, this seems improbable to me) by Trident.

But, when DH decided to follow the Marvel model and open up a London office, the publishing rights to Aliens, Predator and The Terminator (appearing in "his" own monthly) were brought in-house and relaunched.
The DHI editions looked more classy than their predecessors and benefitted from better feature pages and design work. I seem to recall DHI also claiming that the British edition would feature exclusive strips but, in reality, I expect they just appeared in the UK ahead of a US outing.

DHI pretty much followed the template laid down by their predecessors and also ported across the Predator supporting feature. They'd already crossed over in the comics but were still more than a decade ahead of a cinematic slamdown.

DHI also published (unusually) a three-issue mini-series adapting ALIEN 3.

Other titles in the ultimately short lived DHI stable included STAR WARS, TOTAL CARNAGE and MANGA MANIA. All of which I've posted about in the past.


From 1981: the first hardback STARBURST ANNUAL, published by Marvel/ Grandreams.

Unliked the second (and final) edition, this didn't riff on a single theme (the second book focused on classic monster movies just as the Great British Public, and press, were becoming obsessed with slasher movies and video nasties) but instead took a broader approach more typical of an average issue of the magazine itself. 

Some of the features were traditional, easy-to-assemble, mainstream crowd pleasers like photo features on "robots". The sort of lazy page filling that just wouldn't pass muster today.

The main cover image is from BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, released in UK cinemas some two years earlier. The designer obviously thought that the spot was spectacular yet ambiguous enough (the two Hollywood stuntmen are kitted out as Draconian pilots having a bad day when their fighters start exploding as they launch) to make the grade. 

Friday 16 October 2015

1995: STAR TREK MAGAZINE Launch Ad (Titan Magazines)

From 1995: the launch advert for Titan's long-running (although now less frequently published) STAR TREK MAGAZINE.

Titan used the release of STAR TREK GENERATIONS (the crossover movie that killed Kirk as it handed the movie franchise to the Next Gen crew) as the hook to launch the magazine (this two-page spread appeared on the final spread at the back of the one-shot movie tie-in) at a time when the franchise was looking in rude health (although DS9 and its successors never captured the mainstream imagination, or ratings, to the same degree).

The magazine started out as a British (and certain overseas territories) venture and slotted in alongside several other licensed (and several more unlicensed but Trek-centric) players, mostly in the States.

Over time, Titan's version has become last crewman standing and is now distinguished, as far as I can tell, by being the only English language ST mag still running.

Comparing current issues (and long-running office companion STAR WARS INSIDER) highlights how much more material was crammed into each issue at their peaks. The issues currently on sale in WH Smith (that's something to be celebrated: they are still deemed worthy of shelf space by a retailer that's visibly slashed its commitment to print in favour of fancy stationary and greetings cards... Sales amongst their high street branches have, yet again, dropped a few more percentage points according to figures out this week) are, while still worth grabbing, are considerably less packed to the rafters.

Of course, the Trek mag had the benefit of at least four new episodes (excluding rerun weeks and the summer hiatus) a month to write about, cast and crew on tap on the studio lot and a fully geared up studio publicity machine. Now they just have a movie every few years and a Hollywood marketing strategy which micromanages every utterance, whisper and still. And things must be even tougher across the corridor with the INSIDER just another cog in Disney's coordinated marketing blitzkrieg.

Thursday 15 October 2015


From March 1993: The RADIO TIMES 1993 YEARBOOK, published by Ravette and BBC Magazines.

This hardback passed me by entirely at the time, suggesting that either I wasn't very observent or the book trade didn't exactly go wild for this highbrow review of the previous year. TV QUICK this ain't.

I stumbled across a copy in a secondhand book store in Manchester and, because media history is my thing, decided to give it a punt.

The RT was, of course, the programme journal of the BBC, first published in 1923. It was owned by the Corporation through to 2011 when magazine publishing was deemed no longer core to what the BBC was about. Its now owned by Immediate Media. 

This book appeared at a time of great change, and unpreecidented competition, in the sector. Prior to 1991, broadcasters had a monopoly on their own schedules which made their in-house listings operations cash cows. ITV, through its Independent Television Publications subsidery, had TV TIMES and LOOK-IN. Readers who cared enough to plan their week's viewing ahead were forced to double-dip, and then compare the two mags, to figure out their route to midnight. 

And, of course, buying both and plotting the Christmas fortnight (and the crushing disappointment when realising two must-see, by different family generations, movies were going to clash in those pre-VHS days) was an annual tradition.

The government broke that monopoly in 1991, making listings available to all. Murdoch already had a British version (albeit a magazine rather than a digest) of TV GUIDE on standby (although it oddly squandered the opportunity and became a puff piece for Sky TV) and numerous other titles flooded in. Creating a price war and several early casualties. 

ITV, spotting the writing was potentially on the wall and about to face a highly unpredictable franchise round, sold the TV TIMES family of titles to IPC. 

As the rest of the industry dashed down market, the RT took a different tack and decided to be the TV listings mag for the classier conosaur of the small screen. It was still populist but aimed at a more highbrow audience, justifying the higher cover price (with editorial investment to match) and offering a different readership to advertisers willing to pay a premium to flog their wares to more affluent readers. 

A quick bit of Googling suggests this was the one-and-only RADIO TIMES YEARBOOK published. 

Tuesday 13 October 2015


From February 1994: the first edition of STAR WARS ADVENTURE JOURNAL, published by West End Games.

This was probably the oddest of the myriad of officially licensed Star Wars "magazines" published during the pre-prequel boom years. For a start, it wasn't really a magazine at all... And yet contained some of the same contents you would expect to find in a magazine. 

The Adventure Journal were a series of soft cover, square bound, books spun off from the Role Playing Game (so essential in revitalising the moribund franchise after years in the culture wilderness by demonstrating how much fun and expansive that particular galaxy could be) which contained new scenarios for use with the game, original fiction, interviews, features and even news about other aspects of the saga, particularly merchandise. 

Fifteen editions were published through to November 1997.

Because of their publisher, and target audience, the Journal (along with the other parts of the West End Star Wars empire) was mostly sold through hobby and game stores with less exposure through traditional comic book stores (unless they also catered to the gaming fraternity). I bought a few of these at the time (this is a battered replacement copy I bought for the purposes of STARLOGGED), often from branches of the now defunct Virgin Games chain (which may have been taken over by, or somehow evolved into, the current Game chain as some of their branches occupy former Virgin locations) which combined computer games with role playing. I remember buying West End product in their branches in Colchester and London Oxford Street (a brief walk westward from the main Virgin Megastore).

The ironey was that I was never interested in Role Playing itself but the various source books (of which there were many) were enough to satisfy my inner geek. Even through they tended to be pretty expensive. 

Monday 12 October 2015

1980: The 2000AD SPACE QUIZ BOOK (Mirror Books)

From February 1980: the 2000AD SPACE QUIZ BOOK, published by the Daily Mirror.

This is another good example of how Dan Dare (or, at least, Tharg's interpretation thereof) was still seen as the weekly's most bankable star during those first few years. Of course, it helped that the former Pilot Of The Future had the highest public profile of all the comics characters, even if the late Seventies version paid scant regard to his illustrious predecessor. That might explain why our hero was banished to the back cover in favour of his arch foe. Who also happened to make for a stronger image.

Inside the black & white paperback, it follows the predictable format of questions devoted to particular topics and themes, fact and fiction, being grouped together into 'chapters'.

This isn't exactly an essential 2000AD collectable but it is rather nice. Copies seldom seem to appear, suggesting it largely passed collectors by upon its original release. 

Why a Mirror Books release? In a neat bit of corporate synergy (probably before the term even existed), the DAILY MIRROR newspaper and its sundry subsidiaries were also part of the vast IPC empire. Publication under the Mirror banner presumably gave it access to distribution and outlets that might otherwise have eluded it. I also imagine Mirror Books churned out a lot of this sort of fare (possibly a strong seller at station and airport outlets catering for travellers with time to kill) so a 2000AD edition may well have slotted nicely into the publishing programme. 

IPC (the owner since 1958) sold the Mirror Group, to Robert Maxwell, in 1984. A few years later, the struggling Youth Group (which included the 2000AD family) followed. 


Friday 9 October 2015


From March 1987: the first of the British STAR TREK paperbacks published by Titathre  Books: CHAIN OF ATTACK, by Gene DeWeese,

As the number top-left suggests, this was the first of the Pocket Books Trek novels to be reprinted in the UK by Titan Books.

Titan was the house that DREDD built thanks to the succession of 2000AD albums, and the Eagle Comics line, reprinting already paid for strips from "the galaxy's greatest comic".

By the second half of the Eighties, the publisher (part of the group which also owned Titan Distributors and Forbidden Planet) was obviously looking to expand (and hedge its bets) by signing up to publish UK editions of DC and Trek books. 

The benefit to Brits is that this gave the UK editions far better distribution than the old imports. Suddenly it was possible to find British editions in WH Smith as well as the specialty book stores supplied by Titan.

The Pocket Books deal also allowed Titan to publish new editions of large format books such as the seminal MISTER SCOTT'S GUIDE TO THE ENTERPRISE. 

Titan didn't following the numbering and release sequence of the American run. This was actually the 32nd book in the stateside run of paperbacks. 

Titan eventually lost the license in favour of simply shipping US editions into the UK but the association continues today via the official magazine.

I've not read the book (I found it recently it a second-hand bookstore and bought it for its start-of-the-run significance) but its noticable that the artist has muddle TV uniforms (and a TV-aged cast) with the then current (and always the best) movie Enterprise.

Thursday 8 October 2015


From 1996: the DOCTOR WHO MOVIE SPECIAL, published by Panini to coincide with the premiere of the long-awaited, but short-lived, return.

This glossy one-shot (which wasn't as pink as my scan suggests... Sometimes my scanner does strange things when confronted with certain colour combinations) hit the shelves just as the movie hit the screens. Intended as a primer/ refresher for all things WHO, it caused some disquiet amongst regular readers of DWM who feared it heralded a similar "dumbing down"/ reaching out to the mainstream for the main mag if the movie had been a success and spawned a series.

Such is the way of TV, once the green light was given to shoot the movie (a complicated co-production between BBC TV, BBC WORLDWIDE, UNIVERSAL TV and the FOX network) then things moved fast and the  DWM team found themselves racing to cover the story and have everything ready for the impending airdates on both sides of the Atlantic.

The movie was, broadly, a creative success (and WHO had definitely never looked so good) and certainly not the Hoff-tastic train wreck fandom had long been predicting.

Ratings in the UK, bolstered by plentiful hype and TV listings magazine covers, were great but the reception across the Atlantic was more mooted, killing hopes of either new movies or a new series. The BBC, unable to bankroll a series alone (and still impregnated with a corporate mentality that the show was rather " naff" put the franchise back on the back burner.

As a result, DWM also returned to a business-as-usual approach, devoting its energies to revisiting the past and looking to the present and future being portrayed in the burgeoning audio and print lines. For many readers, it was the magazine's golden age.

Other quick-to-the-shops merchandise pegged directly to the movie included a VHS tape (which was delayed to accommodate last-minute cuts for violence), novelization, script book and postcard book. An excellent "making of" book followed later, a must-read for anyone interested in the movie's complicated, and fraught, journey to the screen.

Sylvester McCoy, returning to the show for his swansong, also recorded an excellent video diary of his time in Vancouver which formed the basis of a fan-made documentary release.

DWM eventually did spawn the sort of easy-access spin-off that this Special piloted. The US-focused DOCTOR WHO INSIDER (borrowing some of  the title from their STAR WARS stablemate) contained a similar mix of material that seemed intended to reach out to American readers unfamiliar with the back story of the series who may have found the regular magazine too inaccessible. It didn't last long.

Tuesday 6 October 2015


From July 1993: The comics premiere of STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE, courtesy of a floppy inserted premium bagged with the first issue of HERO ILLUSTRATED.

Not only was this the first comic (although its more of a tease) based on the new TREK TV show (and one that turned out, after a duff start, to be a franchise highpoint) but it was also the first Trek comic published by young contender Malibu Comics... And also the first time that Paramount's (no doubt very busy) merchandising department had split the license.

DC Comics (owned by rival media conglomerate Warner Communications) already (with the occasional hiccup) published books based on the two existing branches of the show so it was a natural assumption they would flex to accommodate this one. But the studio decided to make things interesting... And put DC on notice.

Apparently Paramount were so smitten with the Malibu operation that when it hoisted the "for sale" sign as the market sagged, the studio considered buying it and using it as a starter for its own publishing venture. Paramount passed and, after DC started showing a little too much interest (a consolidation that would push Marvel out of the coveted 'biggest beast' slot, vital for maintaining the floundering share price and stock market credibility) Marvel's owners swooped. 

That purchased open channels between Marvel and Hollywood and led to Marvel launching the Paramount Comics line which was essentially a vehicle for pulling all the Trek licenses back under one banner (and expanded the line to unprecedented size) but also allowed Marvel to publish low profile tie-ins with other Paramount franchises (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), also rans (CONEHEADS) and semi-obscure animated shows. 

The deal eventually floundered when sales of the TREK line failed to justify the cost of the license, a situation exhaserbated by the financial woes that also saw Malibu wither and die.

Under Marvel ownership, plans were also hatched to publish the Stan Lee created EXCELSIOR COMICS line and even a line of soft core adult titles (a rival to the lucrative PENTHOUSE COMIX offering) under the PLAYBOY banner. Neither materialised. 

HERO ILLUSTRATED was the highest profile of the WIZARD contender titles which, unfortunately, spelt the end of the previous generation of comics magazines like COMICS INTERVIEW and AMAZING HEROES. It went toe-to-toe with its rival with an all but identical formula and battled for readers with exclusive covers, trading cards and these PREMIERE EDITION inserts.

The collapse of the hype fuelled collectors market ended the need for two near identical offerings and HI shuttered after some two years.

Ashcan editions were a long-standing tradition of US publishing to secure ownership of a particular idea or title by printing a small number of copies purely to register ownership ahead of a full launch. They were not intended to be seen by the public. This type of teaser, often promoted (of course) as a "hot collectable" borrowed the name, and the smaller dimensions and page count, but weren't Ashcan Editions in the true sense. 

Monday 5 October 2015


From October 1987: A competition to win copies of the two very hard-to-find ACTION FORCE storybooks, published under the Marvel Books banner, by MARVEL UK: OPERATION RAGING RIVER and OPERATION STAR FLIGHT.

I didn't see either of these back-in-the-day (probably because I wasn't visiting the children's book department anymore) and I've never seen copies since. That probably makes them amongst the rarer M-UK publications... Albeit non-comics ones.

I've always assumed that these are rebadged versions of similar books, published by the US branch of Marvel Books (which did licensed tie-ins in a big way) as a G.I. JOE tie-in. Although I have no idea whether that is true. The left-hand "tea towel" version of Cobra Commander certainly looks more like something that would come from the States (Palitoy ignored that version of CC altogether when they held the UK license). 

There is, of course, no writer or artists credits here. It remains to be seen if the books themselves were credited.

Many people, including myself, hold the original Baron Ironblood era of AF in high regard but there's no doubt that Hasbro were able to leverage that previous success and the weight of the G.I. Joe franchise (Marvel strips, the animated show, the reworked TV adverts) to really reinvigorate the line. 

Unfortunately, the Marvel weekly only had a few more months to live and it shuttered, making way for the transatlantic monthly, early in the new year. 

Friday 2 October 2015


From 1991: Starlog celebrates its most durable crowd pleaser/ puller (and the reason it was launched to begin with) with a 25th anniversary salute to the STAR TREK franchise.

Its scary to think this typically uncritical (well, it was licensed by the studio), photo-centric, overview was on sale 24 years ago. Time has certainly warped past fast.

The slapped together cover boasts a silver ink finish so typical of the era.

I imagine we can expect the fiftieth anniversary reprise next year, probably from Titan Magazines. And possibly without the premium ink. They already have their traditional "best of" bookazine on the schedules for the end of this year (along with the annual STAR WARS edition and new compilations of mold material from the defunct BUFFY and X-FILES magazines). 

1978: SF COLOR POSTER BOOK Issue 2 (Starlog)

From 1978: Another early Starlog spin-off... The SF COLOR POSTER BOOK TV AND MOTION PICTURE SCIENCE FICTION. Phew.

Its not really a book at all. Its just another Poster Mag, albeit packed with Star Age goodies. Especially if you're a fan of Larson's screen jumping SF epics. 

It's very much a preview piece teasing upcoming productions... Which left the editors somewhat short of visual references and hard facts. Fortunately for them, Poster Mags are seldom a vehicle for heavy detail. 

Thursday 1 October 2015

1984: DOCTOR WHO (USA) Issue 1 (Marvel Comics)

From October 1984: the first issue of the ongoing American DOCTOR WHO comic book, reprinting Marvel UK material from the weekly (and, lately, the monthly).

Marvel New York had already taken some tentative steps in this direction with a four issue run of reprints (ironically reprinted by Marvel UK in 1985) in the dying days of MARVEL PREMIERE. However, the niche appeal of the little PBS import made it an unlikely candidate for an ongoing US series. Although Dez Skinn  had always prepared for the possibility by structuring the UK installments so that two could run back-to-back in any US format edition. 

Two factors changed the landscape mid-decade: WHO was at the peak of its US appeal (post 2005 not withstanding) and the boom in the Direct Sales market made a niche title (especially one with low origination costs) more viable. 

The strips needed to be coloured for the US edition so Marvel pushed the boat out for a premium Baxter Paper package which allowed better (albeit unsubtle) printing and also, no doubt, allowed for higher margins compared with traditional low-end books selling at half the price (but in greater numbers).

To Marvel's credit, they didn't try and move the title too far from its origins and there was never the serious prospect of a STAR TREK/ X-MEN style crossover (heck, even TRANSFORMERS chased sales by spinning in SPIDER-MAN) in the hopes of luring in a more mainstream Marvel audience. They even hired Dave Gibbons to supply a run of stunning new covers (some of which were recycled for IDW's run of Marvel reprints) to accompany his earlier work. 

The monthly ran for 23 issues before quietly fading. The decision to terminate may have been down to the need to renew the US license for another year at this point, although the UK magazine continued strong. By the time it was cancelled, the reprints had moved onto the Peter Davison era and, had the title continued, it would have hit the point where it had exhausted the finite British inventory (a reversal of the usual trans Atlantic situation faced by the two Bullpens).

I picked this edition up from a dealer a few months ago for around £2. I already have a copy somewhere in storage but, at that price, there seemed no harm in adding a second to the top of the stack. What neither I nor the dealer realised was that Dave Gibbons had, at some point, signed the splash page. A nice bonus. 

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