It’s time to add another comic to the blog, to relive another cherished childhood title in real time and it’s from Marvel UK. Previously from the same publisher the blog has covered the short-lived Visionaries monthly comic (and its annual and merge) and over on OiNK Blog’s Instagram I’m still reading Transformers, currently approaching the sixth anniversary of that particular read through at the time of writing this. Back in July 1991 the Robots in Disguise and The Real Ghostbusters were the only comics I had a regular order for (all my others had stopped being published by that point) when a new weekly called Havoc caught my eye.
The first issue of a brand new comic was always an exciting prospect and this front cover was enough for me to know I just had to try it out. The free booklet which introduced us to all five strips inside blended into the cover image of Deathlok and when I pulled it back to what was underneath I had a hunch straight way this would be a regular purchase. (You’ll see the contrast in the first review.) Recognising Robocop and Conan and seeing a fiery skeleton riding a motorcycle convinced me this was going to be new, exciting and unlike anything I’d read before. I wasn’t wrong.
Launched and initially co-edited by John Freeman (he of Down the Tubes) and Harry Papadopoulos, the writing of both I’d previously on The Real Ghostbusters, although I didn’t realise that at the time. Most likely forgotten by many because it only lasted a couple of months, Havoc was a weekly 36-page anthology comic featuring five action-packed strips from the US which hadn’t seen print over here. To me, it felt like a really meaty read, a meaner, grittier, more mature version of my school friends’ 2000AD (I’d only read a handful of Tharg’s organs). Indeed, some of those zarjaz friends loved Havoc just as much as I did.
I was only 13 when I read Havoc, lured in by that cover and the promise of RoboCop comic strips. It was heavy on character as well as action, the choice of strips was original and it worked. It was the perfect package. After reading only the first issue a reservation at the newsagent was in order so, even though I’d been allowed up to four regular comics previously and was currently only getting two, I still decided to be nice to my parents and cancelled Ghostbusters after more than 150 issues so that I could order something new.
At Marvel UK new Editorial Director Paul Neary had a remit to expand the company’s originated content, especially in exporting it Stateside. The ‘Marvel Genesis’ project would kick off with Death’s Head II and Overkill the following year, the idea being to have a range of US-format comics alongside the latter, UK-size anthology featuring all new, original material. However, this new project was going to take a while to get off the ground.
The company still had a large range of titles at the time, from nursery to teen, but lost a bunch when former Managing Director Robert Sutherland was able to take some of the licences with him to Regan Publishing. Paul had to be seen to be creating new titles, they couldn’t just wait a year or more for the new comics and so Havoc and its sister title Meltdown (basically a larger monthly along the same lines) appeared. They were essentially stop gaps while everything else was slotted into place, but also designed to compliment the new Genesis titles when they rolled in. Unfortunately neither comic’s sales were good enough to last that long.
Meltdown lasted six issues, Havoc for nine. The first issue coincided with the beginning of my school summer holidays, the final one released the Saturday before we started again for the next year, so it was the perfect summer comic for me that year! I loved every single strip, surprisingly enjoying the characters I’d never heard of more than the ones that had grabbed my attention in the first place. It was a more mature read and at that age I felt it really spoke to me, like the editors knew exactly what I wanted to read next even before I did.
It also contained a weekly news column and I’m really looking forward to reading those for its contemporary look at the entertainment of the day. Later issues would also include a letters page full of very keen readers. It really felt like it was here to stay. Then, after #9 left us with another weekly dose of cliffhangers the next issue… just didn’t appear. I remember thinking it must be late, so I was popping into the shop every day over the next week asking for it. When it and the following week’s issue didn’t arrive I got the hint and I was crushed. Again! Why did all my favourite comics have to end?
While the sales just weren’t there it apparently proved the concept enough to Marvel UK for them to move ahead with their project. But, as regular blog readers will know, just because a comic wasn’t popular enough at the time doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t great for those that did read it. I’ve only recently been able to complete my collection so I’m now ready to read them for the first time in 31 years. Even though I know the stories will just suddenly end, I can’t wait to relive the excitement these characters brought to me every Saturday morning (albeit on Wednesdays in 2022).
Deathlok, RoboCop, Conan, Ghost Rider and the Star Slammers, it’s going to be fun getting reacquainted with you all. The first review (which I’m really looking forward to) will be here from Wednesday 6th July 2022.