Category Archives: Comic Introductions

JURASSiC PARK: iN REAL TiME

Back in 1993 something arrived that would forever change cinema. It led the way in its use of CGI and sound production and I’ve incredible memories of seeing it on the big screen. I was already a fan of Steven Spielberg thanks to Jaws, Indiana Jones, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and many more, but Jurassic Park was unlike anything even that master of the silver screen had created before.

When my dad and I left the cinema I dragged him to a newsagent and bought Michael Crichton‘s novel, devouring it that summer as I awaited the VHS release of the film. I’d never really been interested in dinosaurs but this story’s premise and these characters had entranced me. I’ve particularly fond memories of receiving the video for Christmas in its rather fantastic special edition fossil box too.

Jurassic Park also did something I’d thought impossible. It brought me back to comics. After starting my comics reading with OiNK in 1986 I’d had several years of fun with the medium before I made my way to the world of magazines, specifically Commodore Format for my new obsession, my Commodore 64 home computer.  The last of my comics was Marvel UK‘s Transformers, which had been cancelled in January 1992 and after that I felt I’d outgrown comics in general. But 20 months later, during the buildup to Christmas 1993 I would see the errors of my ways.

It reminded me of Transformers, a comic I’d adored for years. It was too good to pass up!

A few months before that I’d seen an issue of a Jurassic Park comic in a newsagents somewhere and noticed it was an adaptation of the film. I’d been disappointed with previous comics adaptations of movies (The Transformers: The Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) so I decided not to buy it and that was that.  However, when visiting my local shop to pick up my latest Commodore Format before Christmas that year this bold logo really stood out and I spotted the banner along the top! “New Adventures”? I picked it up from behind the other titles on the shelf and was greeted with a fantastic cover.

One look inside only excited me further. Not only did it contain the official (at the time) continuation of the movie’s story, it also contained other non-Jurassic Park back up strips, tied in to the overall dino subject. It reminded me of Transformers, a comic I’d adored for years. To have the same formula applied to a new title based on my new favourite thing was just too good to pass up!

Twenty-eight years later it’s the next comic to get the OiNK Blog treatment. This means I’ll be covering every issue of the UK version of Jurassic Park on their original release dates. Each detailed review will include story details, personal insights and memories from the time when they were brand new, alongside highlights from this seemingly forgotten comic.

While the original Topps Comics strips were reprinted by IDW roughly ten years ago (and sell for ludicrous prices online today) the fact there was a UK version of the comic seems all but forgotten here and completely unknown by fans elsewhere. I was only able to find a couple of blog posts and one YouTube video, none of which go into any detail, instead simply proclaiming they’d found a Jurassic Park publication they’d never known existed.

I’m hugely excited to get stuck into this classic series from Dark Horse International again. So join me as we re-enter the park and follow a top comic that proved to be an excellent continuation of a great story, only for it to be cut short when the company behind it just vanished.

Jurassic Park UK #1 comes to the blog on Thursday 24th June 2021.

ViSiONARiES: iN REAL TiME

Surely the greatest cartoon intro of all time

For such a short-lived toy line, Visionaries forms a huge part of my childhood memories. I stumbled across the fantastic cartoon on Sunday mornings on BBC Two and can even remember the children’s TV presenters exclaiming it had the best opening sequence of any cartoon ever. Who am I to argue? Hooked, I watched it every week and later that year gratefully received a large selection of toys for Christmas 1987. It was a very merry time indeed.

Of course what had actually happened was that Hasbro‘s new blockbuster toy line hadn’t busted the blocks, hence how my parents were able to get hold of so many of them that festive season, as they’d already been heavily discounted just months after their initial release. Not that I’m complaining, I ended up with almost the entire range that Christmas! In fact I had three of the four initial vehicles and I think all but one or two of the figures.

Vehicle photos from Toyark,
figures from Action Figures & Comics

There was an advertisement for their comic in the first issue of The Real Ghostbusters the following March but by then I’d moved on to that cartoon as my new obsession. I forgot all about that advert and didn’t remember they’d had their own regular comic until I received their Marvel UK annual the following Christmas. Then a few months after that they merged into Transformers in April 1989, albeit with the exact same story I’d just read in my annual. This wasn’t the first time they’d appeared alongside the Robots in Disguise but I didn’t know this. A Spring Special with a brand new (for me) strip then appeared but that was it; the toys, the comics, even the cartoon just disappeared.

The Spectral Knights wished to lead with compassion to save the newly destitute people, and the Darkling Lords wanted to rule with an iron fist to save the ravaged planet.

So for the uninitiated, what were the Visionaries? They were the latest attempt at resurrecting the hologram, with images on the characters’ chests, staffs and vehicles. Their planet, at the pinnacle of scientific advancement, was destroyed by the coming of the latest Age of Magic and two factions arose; The Spectral Knights wished to lead with compassion to save the newly destitute people, and the Darkling Lords wanted to rule with an iron fist to save the ravaged planet.

The three-dimensional holograms were a sight to behold, even if it meant playing next to a window or with a torch to see them. The chest images represented their inner powers and in the cartoon and comic they’d turn into the animals shown. I remember wishing the figures had come with little animal toys too but we just used our imaginations instead. The staffs and vehicle holograms gave the characters super powers for a limited time after reciting a magical incantation.

I loved them, but as with Super Naturals from Tonka Toys they were expensive to produce and needed to be a lot more successful than they ultimately were.

After the toys had been released in the US a new comic from Marvel (well, their imprint Star Comics) was released. Much like the US Transformers comic it was bi-monthly to begin with, however the first issue was double the normal size, containing a whopping 40+ page origin story. Unfortunately it was cancelled after just six issues, in the middle of its first multi-issue epic no less.

In order to print the American strips on a monthly basis with no gaps Marvel UK had to wait until its US counterpart was far enough ahead, but the US one was cancelled soon after, limiting the future of our version. It was wrapped up with #5 and merged into Transformers to print the last two stories.

The annual was released and then, when Transformers needed to take a break in the Action Force (G.I. Joe) back up strip, they reran the Visionaries origin story from the first two issues of their comic and the annual for seven weeks, marking the third time it saw print in just one year. Even that Spring Special, such an exciting release for me as a kid was actually a page-for-page reprint of #5 of the comic. Strangely enough, the annual was on sale again the following Christmas and I ended up with a second copy.

Now, decades later I own the complete UK comic series, all of which had to be bought again. As per the brief for the OiNK Blog I’ll be reliving the series in real time, beginning Friday 19th March with the special preview pull-out from #158 of The Transformers and Action Force.

The real world origins of the Visionaries may sound familiar to fans of that other Hasbro property. A new toy line is released and a bi-monthly American comic is produced to see how it fares, while 13 episodes of a cartoon are produced and Marvel UK eventually launch their own comic, beginning with the US strips. Unfortunately, unlike Transformers the American Visionaries comic didn’t turn monthly, the cartoon didn’t get a lengthy second season commissioned and the UK comic didn’t get to the stage of producing their own strips.

But what I would personally add is that the origin story of the Visionaries is more enjoyable and the cartoon was light years ahead of the robotic one. There was so much potential, but if the toys don’t sell everything else is going to fall apart. Why did they fail? Were holograms just not ‘cool’ enough? Was it a case of the cartoon and comic being overly ambitious in their depictions compared to what the toys could actually do?

One thing is certain and that’s just how much I’m looking forward to reading through these comics and becoming reacquainted with the world of Prysmos.

WHO YA GONNA CALL? MARVEL UK!

It was Boxing Day 1987 at 7:30pm and I was settled in my bedroom watching a movie premiere on my brand new Pye 12″ TV. A few months previous I’d rented a video of a cartoon series called Filmation’s Ghostbusters and had enjoyed it but that was all the shop had. Then I found out a new ghost busting cartoon was to begin in January and the film that inspired it was being shown at Christmas. Some friends were big fans of the movie and were understandably confused when I asked them if it had the flying car and the gorilla in it.

The original promo used to sell The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Fans will notice some changes would be made between this and going into production

Knowing this movie had nothing to do with the show I’d seen I curiously began watching. Curiosity soon gave way to thrills and plenty of laughter. I quickly forgot all about Filmation’s cartoon (based on a 70s live-action show) and on Tuesday 11th January at 4:20pm the first UK episode of The Real Ghostbusters (actually episode eight of season two) aired on CiTV and I was immediately hooked. But it was during Cilla Black’s Surprise, Surprise a month later when my enjoyment would be taken a step further.

A young artist and comics fan had been surprised by Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog and taken to the headquarters of Marvel UK where they’d be put to work contributing a page to one of their comics. When it was announced this would be for an as-yet-unreleased comic based on my new favourite cartoon I immediately started recording it. Well, once the VHS tape got up to speed anyway.

The famous intro and song to the show itself. It still sits up there as a quality cartoon with top writing thanks in no small part to co-creator/script editor J.Michael Straczynski

I have a distinct memory of playing that section back and pausing it at the exact moment Cilla or Bob held up the premiere issue of The Real Ghostbusters so I could try to see the date. All I could make out on the fuzzy pause screen was “March” and it had been mentioned it was going to be fortnightly. Knowing how Marvel UK dated their comics with that of the next issue (kind of like an expiry date) I patiently waited. When I say that I obvious mean very impatiently, running to the newsagents each Saturday to see if it was out yet.

The morning of 12th March 1988 lives rent free in my head to this day. (Isn’t it strange the things we remember?) It was the last Saturday the new comic could be released for its cover date to include this month. My dad left for the newsagent and I sat by the window in our upstairs living room waiting for him to return. When I saw him walking up the lane I was filled with excitement but he had returned with no comic. The newsagent had told him it wasn’t there and they had just the one box left to open so in all likelihood it was late.

Crestfallen, I put all my hopes into that final box. I mean, a first issue can’t be late! I was told to wait until the afternoon but instead after one hour I ran to the shop myself. I didn’t even stop to find it on the shelves and instead went straight to the counter to ask if it had arrived. It had and they’d kindly put a copy aside for me. I immediately asked for a regular order before I even left and again I ran home as quickly as my feet could take me and jumped up onto the sofa to read it.

This Friday marks the 33rd anniversary of that very day and the premier issue of one of Marvel UK’s most successful comics. I’ve read a few of the annuals in previous years for the old blog site but now I’ve been able to get hold of a copy of #1 and I’m going to give it the full OiNK Blog real time read through this Friday. I may not have any more issues yet (yet!) to follow up on but it’s still going to be fun to relive this one.

Back in 1988 I may have been really enjoying the cartoon every week, but it was the comic that cemented me as a super fan. Years of comics, books, toys, records, videos and more were to follow and, more importantly, some very happy memories.

You can now read the review of #1 as I dip my toe in the waters of what could become a future collection for the blog at some point.