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.
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.