I was only one of countless people who grew up on the amazing comics of editor Barrie Tomlinson. Whether you were a football fan and followed Roy of the Rovers, engrossed in science fiction and fantasy and had a regular order for Eagle, or caught up in all the early 90s hype and rushed to the newsagents every fortnight for the next Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures. These were just three of a huge catalogue of comics Barrie brought to life.
Personally, it was three of Barrie’s shorter-lived titles that hooked me and you can read all about Ring Raiders, Super Naturals and Wildcat on the blog, their respective real time read throughs already completed. I’ve previously asked Barrie questions about Ring Raiders and now he’s kindly agreed to chat with me about the latter of those three terrific comics, the post-apocalyptic Wildcat, the whole premise of which Barrie created.
The very last issue of OiNK contained the free preview issue of Wildcat, like a passing of the baton for me, and I was hooked right away. It’s the year 2492 and Earth has been destroyed. Thankfully, the foresight of Turbo Jones meant several hundred humans were able to escape in search of a new home aboard the massive Wildcat spacecraft. After a long search a planet capable of supporting human life (and the comic’s stories) was found and we followed different teams as they explored the surface, as well as keeping up to date on the happenings back on the surprisingly dangerous living quarters of the ship.
The comic still feels fresh and original today. Barrie’s story is set up to allow five completely different stories every issue while also progressing an overall story arc. I was gutted when it all came to a premature end with #12 and merged into the pages of Barrie’s Eagle. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of editorial quality, it just unfortunately never found its audience. But I’ve really enjoyed reliving it and to celebrate finally reading the Winter Special for the first time, let’s welcome Barrie back to the blog.
OiNK Blog: Hi Barrie, how did Wildcat first come about? It was marketed as a “younger person’s 2000AD”, but was this the intention? What were the reasons behind the creation of this very different comic?
Barrie Tomlinson: The management asked me to produce a science fiction comic for a younger group than 2000AD. I went away and thought about it and decided to have one storyline running through the whole comic. I thought it would make it a bit different.
OB: Can you tell us anything about the character choices? Wildcat showed true diversity which wasn’t as regular a sight back then as it should’ve been. Were they permanent characters or interchangeable as time went on?
BT: I thought up the characters and wanted to reflect what was happening at the time, which is why I created a black hero and a female warrior. Girls had not been featured very much in boys’ comics so I decided it was time that they were! The characters were intended to be permanent ones.
OB: Is it true Loner was created specifically with David Pugh in mind as the artist? Also, is it true he’s said Loner was his favourite character he’s ever worked on? I hope that’s true!
Barrie: I really wanted David Pugh to be one of the artists and the Loner strip seemed just right for his talents. I hope Loner was his favourite character. He did fabulous artwork on that story and on Dan Dare in Eagle. (David has confirmed Loner is his favourite character and spoke about drawing the strip in the introduction to the Wildcat: Loner graphic novel from Rebellion – Phil)
OB: Did you have an idea of how the story would pan out in the long term? Were they to settle on that planet, keep finding new places to explore on it, or even fly off to discover a new planet every-so-often?
BT: The plan was they would fly off to other planets and there would be a long search for the right one.
OB: Can you give us any insight into who was in the writing team behind the comic and if you wrote any of the strips yourself?
BT: I wrote the script for the preview issue, to set up the storyline and the characters. For the regular comic my son James (under the name James Nicholas) wrote Kitten Magee. I wrote Loner. Joe Alien was by a new writer, David Robinson (Eagle, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Army of Darkness/Xena) who later changed his name and has done a lot of writing since then. I’ve been searching but I can’t find anything [about the name change]. If I do I will let you know.
OB: Do you have any specific memories of your time on the comics covered on the blog you’d like to share with readers today? Anything at all you could tell us to give fans a little personal insight into what it was like to work on them?
BT: It was great fun working on both those titles (Wildcat and Ring Raiders). Wildcat particularly so, as it was all my idea, they were my characters and my storylines. It was very rewarding when the whole thing came together in a good first issue. I particularly enjoyed designing the free gift, which was a giant poster of The Alien Zoo of Targon-5. Each fortnight, readers could collect stickers which they would stick on the poster. The artwork was by the brilliant Ian Kennedy and featured not only the zoo but also the main characters Turbo Jones, Loner, Kitten Magee and Joe Alien.
It was an absolute delight to be able to ask these questions of Barrie. As always, he was a complete gentleman and very enthusiastic about his comics, which I found wonderful. I’d originally wondered if he would want to talk at all about two comics which ended only a few months after they began, but Barrie was completely open about how proud he was (and still is) of both Wildcat and Ring Raiders, the interview regarding the latter you can also read here.