SUPER NATURALS: iN REAL TiME

Completing this winter’s trilogy of classic comics created and edited by Barrie Tomlinson is 1987/88’s licenced title, Super Naturals. As you can see by my little pile of the complete series it’s another short-lived comic, cut short far too early. At the time I only bought the first couple of issues and, after receiving one of the toys for Christmas, the very final issue. But that’s the great thing about this blog, I not only get to revisit favourites I collected as a kid, I also get to read those I wanted to, and all in real time for that authentic experience.


“Is it a Ghost? Is it a Man? Agghh! It’s a Hologram!”

Super Naturals TV advert

So for the uninitiated what were the Super Naturals? Released the same year as Hasbro‘s ill-fated Visionaries line, Tonka‘s toys also featured holograms, an expensive addition to toys that the companies both thought would result in sure-fire hits. Super Naturals went a lot further with the concept, covering a lot more of the toys, even replacing the faces of the action figures as you’ll see in this first advert shown in the UK in the autumn of that year.

The story behind it involved the Tomb of Doom, a mysterious doorway to another world. It would appear and disappear at various moments throughout history, enticing explorers, heroes and conquerors alike. But once inside they’d instantly be killed and turned into supernatural entities with the ability to transform into animals or creatures most suited to their character. Unable to fight in the other realm they’d break through into our reality to battle it out.

Tonka was renowned for high quality truck toys and the range would include two of these as well, complete with weapons and holograms. The action figures were solid and quite a lot larger than their holographic competitors and each came with a glow-in-the-dark weapon just to add to the creepiness when played with in the dark. Shining torches on them worked just as well in the daytime obviously, but kids would often be found in darkened rooms bringing the monsters, ghosts and goblins to life.

The adverts certainly caught my attention at the time; the creepy music and the horrific looking monsters that could change and disappear looked incredible. I’d never seen anything like them before and on a trip to a not-so-local toy store I convinced my parents to pass on my excitement to Santa Claus. This was all during the build up to Hallowe’en, a holiday I never really participated in as a kid but my imagination had been captured and, quite perfectly, on Saturday 31st October itself I spotted the first issue of a brand new comic.

However, due to the fickle attention span ten-year-old me had by the time Christmas came along something else had taken the top slot in the Santa Claus list, namely Visionaries! I received the one Ghostling toy my parents had already bought me, Scary Cat, but received a wealth of Hasbro’s Knights of the Magical Light and three vehicles! (This was because the Visionaries had launched a lot earlier in the year and were already flopping, so had been reduced in price in the toy shops.)

I do recall particularly liking the little Super Natural, especially removing its plastic cloak and arms and shining a torch on it in the dark, the witch/cat apparently sitting right in front of me, so good was the 3D effect. In early 1988 I chanced upon #9 of their comic in the hope of collecting it every fortnight along with more of the toys.

Unfortunately, inside it contained a message that it was to be the last issue. I was disappointed but not overly, since I hadn’t been collecting it or the toys yet so wasn’t emotionally attached. Later in the year when a certain piggy publication was cancelled that would be a whole other story! But due to the cancellation of the comic I never did collect any more of the toys, which looking back at them now (especially those trucks in the advert at the bottom of this post) I kind of regret.

There wasn’t a cartoon and UK fans were the only ones to get a comic tie-in. It was a unique title and one which holds up today in unexpected ways. There are ongoing strips featuring the epic story of the Super Naturals, a more comedic one based around the Ghostlings (the smaller helpers) and an anthology series based on ideas sent in by readers which would turn their imaginations into full strips full of gruesome art.

I remember it being genuinely disturbing and scary, so obviously loving it.

But best remembered is The Doll. A horror series created specifically for Super Naturals comic, it wasn’t tied into the toys and told the tale of a possessed ventriloquist’s dummy. I remember it being genuinely disturbing and scary, so obviously loving it. Thanks to the line-up of strips Super Naturals was very much like a licenced version of the earlier Scream! comic, which had also been edited by Barrie.

After its preview issue there was also a free Blockbuster Advert just like OiNK had and the comic itself lasted for nine fortnightly issues, one Holiday Special and a glossy Adventure Book released in early January to appeal to those who had received the toys for Christmas. The preview issue also came complete with a special card introducing the main characters and will be reviewed here on the OiNK Blog this day next week, Sunday 24th October 2021.

Be here! You won’t want to miss this in-depth look at a forgotten classic.

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #13

As happy coincidences go you can’t get much better than the thirteenth issue of your comic also being the one on sale over Hallowe’en. The creators of OiNK certainly weren’t going to let this slip by unnoticed and the creepy comic would celebrate the spooky season in style with a special shivering logo and a cover by Ben Turner you just have to see!

Jon Langford‘s Next Issue promo from the pages of #12 sets the tone for what promised to be an exceptional issue. Not only does it contain hilarious themed strips, readers would also find a Tom Thug/Weedy Willy crossover and a monster movie-like spoof introduced one of the most loved characters from the comic’s entire run.

Come back Monday 18th October 2021 for the full review, if you dare!

WiLDCAT: PREViEW iSSUE

<< GO TO WILDCAT INTRODUCTION

It originally took me the best part of a week before I read this free preview of brand new sci-fi comic, Wildcat. It wasn’t from lack of interest but rather the fact it was inside the last issue of OiNK. After realising this I wasn’t in the mood to read my favourite comic, never mind the free gift inside. But when I got around to it I found an original, exciting and yet oh so bleak story awaiting me. A day or two later I was in the shop buying the first issue proper and placing a regular order.

Created by editor Barrie Tomlinson it was very much his baby. It would be a comic with one story told over various strips but it had to kick off with a big, dramatic event, something so huge it would justify having all the strips tied in together. So how about the end of the world? The cover may have Earth at the mercy of meteors but it’s the first page inside, where these have turned into meteorites striking our world that really hit home to me. This was a seriously attention grabbing start.

The first page makes no bones about what the predictions for Earth are and I can remember being shocked as a kid. I didn’t think comics could do this sort of thing and I was instantly hooked into the scenario. It has all the markings of a disaster movie, right down to the government ignoring the expert and as I continued to read I was surprised this awesome Wildcat spacecraft, humanity’s last chance of survival, was only going to hold several hundred of us!

Quite brutal for kids to read. That’s why I loved it so much back then!

This preview story is all about introducing life on board and the regular characters. Written by Barrie and drawn by Ian Kennedy the eleven pages of strip action cover a lot of ground, move at a blistering pace and conclude with a cliffhanger to get the young readers excited for the premiere issue. Also given away inside Fleetway’s 2000AD, Eagle, Buster, Whizzer and Chips, Roy of the Rovers and Mask it certainly had a large pool of potential readers to pull from.

Predicting the end of everything is our main character, research scientist Turbo Jones. An apparent billionaire through some form of inheritance (being rich allows him to address the governments of the world, so some things don’t change) he buys worldwide advertising space, asking for volunteers to take humans into the stars, but he only has room for several hundred. He mentions picking suitable colonists but not what makes someone suitable, and the whole project is handily funded by more inheritances and lottery wins. While this reads as convenient now, as a young reader these sorts of things wouldn’t have interested us anyway so they only needed glossed over in the first place.

Saying that, Kitten Magee‘s finances seem to have a shady history and later she asks her robotic assistant, Crud (whose voice I always end up reading as K-9‘s from Doctor Who) to ensure her entire supply of something called ‘Lifedust’ is stored safely aboard. Along with animals reacting badly to her presence and even plants pulling away from her, there’s definitely a lot more to this particular character than her colleagues realise.

Given the welcome changes happening in our modern world now, I also like the fact she was once part of the World Campaign Against Male Domination and how she’ll lead an all-female team. Forward thinking for the day, it actually reads as quite topical now.

This is in contrast to all the lovely 80s futuristic spaceships and cityscapes. Think of the best sci-fi movies from that time and the kind of visuals they’d portray for future worlds. We’ve got shuttles that wouldn’t look out of place in Thunderbirds, self-flying taxis, futuristic “vid screens” which are clearly chunky CRT TVs with extra bits added on, as well as references to “massage slippers” (no, really), hi-tech shops, light-reactor engines and more. All this while at the same time Robo tells Turbo he’s successfully videoed the latest episode of EastEnders. It’s all great fun and has a lovely retro feel to it now.

While the purpose of the preview is to set up the main story and make people aware of the new comic, with Kitten it feels like those early episodes of Babylon 5 when hints, questions and mysteries abounded, setting up larger stories for the unwitting audience. Loner and Joe Alien are introduced although their development is kept for the regular comic. Turbo himself comes across as rather self-important to begin with, but given the circumstances this is understandable. He does seem to relax a little when around his new seconds-in-command though.

He has a robotic aid called Robo who appears to be a hybrid between robot and chimp and he can be rather snappy with him, but only because Robo insists on calling him ‘Master’ which irks Turbo. He tells Robo his friends call him Turbo, but his companion has his programming and keeps on using the term. It’s clear this back and forth has been going on for quite a while, which explains Turbo’s responses. It makes for a unique partnership and one I’m looking forward to more of.

The main characters and the Wildcat itself were all originally designed by Ian Kennedy although various artists would take them on for the fortnightly. Above is a small poster which makes up the middle pages and shows just how colourful the spacecraft responsible for the survival or extinction of the human race actually was.

An interesting little coincidence I spotted was how Turbo’s calculations proved the extinction level event he predicted happens to Earth every 67 million years. At one point he even says, “It’s happened before… and it’s about to happen again” which was similar to a popular phrase in Battlestar Galactica. However, Barrie assures me the TV show had no influence over the creation of Wildcat. It’s a nice coincidence though and, given how Earth is to be destroyed by collision with natural forces that orbit our galaxy, it makes more sense in this story.

Or at least that’s true as far Turbo’s prediction goes anyway. But on the last page that suddenly changes, just after the crew finally (after what must have been months of searching) find a planet which could in theory support human life. At this point, a few years before the predicted event our planet Earth just blows up! No meteors, no long-term destruction, no slow deaths by radiation. Just like that the entire planet and the billions left behind are gone.


“I was piling on the pressure, indicating that anything could happen in this story!”

Barrie Tomlinson (Editor)

I asked Barrie about this sudden change in the final panels. “It was creating a mystery which perhaps would never be solved,” says Barrie. “Turbo had predicted something different but it happened quicker than he had anticipated. It had a shock element for characters and for readers. I was piling on the pressure, indicating that anything could happen in this story!”

Whether we’d ever have found out what really happened will itself remain a mystery but for now it ends a story which was quite brutal for kids to read. That’s why I loved it so much back then! As as adult I can see how it had to rush through so much in such a short period of time, because the comic was going to kick off its regular strips with all of the teams landing to explore this potential new planet.

I was engrossed as a ten-year-old and now as adult I’ve enjoyed the rollercoaster and am in awe of how much Barrie and Ian were able to squeeze in here. The exhilarating ride of the strip has me hyped for next week and as such the pages of “The Creatures to Come!” aren’t even needed, but I can understand why they’re here. Again, you have to remember the target audience.

I do recall the so-called “Nightmare Alien!” is actually one of Turbo’s allies but this is just one piece of the misdirection the comic would be great as, which you’ll see as its stories develop.

The preview issue was smaller than the comic it was slipped into. It’s about the height of an American comic while being a little wider but the fortnightly was going to be the same size as the monthly OiNK. A small panel on page two of the piggy publication pointed this out, as did the promo on the back of the preview itself.

There was plenty to look forward to including free gifts, lots of strips and The Wildcat Complete tales and all on big, glossy pages that I remember made the action feel epic in scale. That premiere issue of Wildcat will be reviewed on the OiNK Blog in just seven days on Friday 22nd October 2021.

Wildcat had landed.  Figuratively speaking for now anyway.