Category Archives: Comic Introductions

HAVOC: iN REAL TiME

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 decided to be nice to my parents and cancelled The Real Ghostbusters after 150 issues so I could order Havoc

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.

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.

WiLDCAT: iN REAL TiME

OiNK launched itself into the world with a preview issue, something new for IPC Magazines in the 1980s. When its final issue rolled around (now published by Fleetway) it in turn contained a free preview for a brand new comic, coming full circle as Uncle Pigg sailed off into the sunset.

During OiNK’s two-and-a-half year run and 68 regular issues we were treated to a total of 12 free gifts, each one a special treat and this was probably the best of them all. It felt like my first comic was passing the baton to a new kid on the block, and that new kid was Wildcat.

After 11 years 2000AD had matured along with its audience, appealing more to parents who had grown up with it than the ten-year-olds and young teens it was originally aimed at. Quite violent by the standards of the day some of its contents was no longer deemed suitable for such young eyes. (This is something Rebellion have tried to counter with the 2000AD Regened series in recent times.) Fleetway saw a chance to launch a new sci-fi title aimed at 80s children within that original target audience bracket and so they approached Group Editor of Sport and Adventure, Barrie Tomlinson.

At the time Barrie was editing such comics as Eagle and Roy of the Rovers. The previous year he’d also launched Super Naturals which is coming to the blog very shortly and in 1989 fellow real time read through comic, Ring Raiders. But these are just a small part of his incredible career.

You can’t get much more shocking than Earth exploding, killing billions and leaving only several hundred survivors on a hastily crafted spaceship

Barrie came up with the idea of a storyline which would run through all of its the strips, a storyline launched with a dramatic, shocking event to pull readers into the concept. Well, you can’t get much more shocking than Earth exploding, killing billions and leaving only several hundred survivors on a hastily crafted spaceship in a desperate search for a new world. In some ways it may sound slightly familiar to fans of Battlestar Galactica, but it was in no way inspired by that series. Besides, at the time the original 70s version of that show hadn’t been successful and wasn’t known to those of us Wildcat was being aimed at.

Inside each issue we’d follow the adventures of four teams as they navigated our species’ potential new home, a planet found only after an extensive search. Each strip would be named after the team’s leader; we had research scientist and Wildcat creator Turbo Jones, the mysterious warrior Kitten Magee, former mercenary Loner and last survivor of his alien race Joe Alien. We’d also get glimpses inside the orbiting Wildcat in complete tales which would build up into a Twilight Zone-esque series of stories, often leaning towards a kind of claustrophobic horror.

The idea was we’d eventually realise this planet wasn’t the right place to settle, so the comic would move on to another and another, with an almost endless variety of different stories to tell. But it wasn’t only in the comic’s story that Wildcat was innovative, it was truly groundbreaking in its choice of characters. Barrie was adamant he wanted strong female and black leads, which we got in the magnificent Kitten Magee and Loner who were easily my favourite characters.

The team working on the comic included such renowned names as Ian Kennedy, Vanyo, James Nicholas, Massimo Belardinelli, José Ortiz, David Pugh, Enrique Alcatena, Joan Boix, Jesús Redondo and Ron Smith. Make no mistake, this was a quality comic and one I just had to have on regular order! I was allowed a maximum of four comics on my reservation list at the newsagent’s and in October 1988 these spaces were filled with OiNK, The Real Ghostbusters, Big Comic Fortnightly and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, so when OiNK was cancelled logically I had a spare place on my list. Well, that’s how I was able to wrangle it with my parents anyway.

It’s heart-warming to see how highly regarded Wildcat is with comics fans young and old

I adored every issue and was crestfallen when #12 told us it was merging with Eagle comic. How could this happen again and so soon after OiNK’s demise? It may have been described as being for younger siblings in the pages of 2000AD but it never felt that way and never spoke down to us. Perhaps it’s marketing made it sound unappealing to older teens, which is a real shame because it reads so well today. But the whole point of Wildcat was to go after the younger readers who were becoming more interested in video games and TV and who didn’t have their own sci-fi comic.

It’s heartwarming to see how highly regarded it is with comics fans young and old these days thanks to its solid, layered storytelling and gorgeous art. Wildcat‘s legacy is solid and it’s about to join the OiNK Blog with its own real time read through on Friday 15th October 2021 when I’ll be taking a closer look at the preview, followed a week later with the first fortnightly issue.