Category Archives: Wildcat

WiLDCAT: PREViEW iSSUE

<< GO TO WILDCAT INTRODUCTION

It originally took me the best part of a week before I read this free preview of brand new sci-fi comic, Wildcat. It wasn’t from lack of interest but rather the fact it was inside the last issue of OiNK. After realising this I wasn’t in the mood to read my favourite comic, never mind the free gift inside. But when I got around to it I found an original, exciting and yet oh so bleak story awaiting me. A day or two later I was in the shop buying the first issue proper and placing a regular order.

Created by editor Barrie Tomlinson it was very much his baby. It would be a comic with one story told over various strips but it had to kick off with a big, dramatic event, something so huge it would justify having all the strips tied in together. So how about the end of the world? The cover may have Earth at the mercy of meteors but it’s the first page inside, where these have turned into meteorites striking our world that really hit home to me. This was a seriously attention grabbing start.

The first page makes no bones about what the predictions for Earth are and I can remember being shocked as a kid. I didn’t think comics could do this sort of thing and I was instantly hooked into the scenario. It has all the markings of a disaster movie, right down to the government ignoring the expert and as I continued to read I was surprised this awesome Wildcat spacecraft, humanity’s last chance of survival, was only going to hold several hundred of us!

Quite brutal for kids to read. That’s why I loved it so much back then!

This preview story is all about introducing life on board and the regular characters. Written by Barrie and drawn by Ian Kennedy the eleven pages of strip action cover a lot of ground, move at a blistering pace and conclude with a cliffhanger to get the young readers excited for the premiere issue. Also given away inside Fleetway’s 2000AD, Eagle, Buster, Whizzer and Chips, Roy of the Rovers and Mask it certainly had a large pool of potential readers to pull from.

Predicting the end of everything is our main character, research scientist Turbo Jones. An apparent billionaire through some form of inheritance (being rich allows him to address the governments of the world, so some things don’t change) he buys worldwide advertising space, asking for volunteers to take humans into the stars, but he only has room for several hundred. He mentions picking suitable colonists but not what makes someone suitable, and the whole project is handily funded by more inheritances and lottery wins. While this reads as convenient now, as a young reader these sorts of things wouldn’t have interested us anyway so they only needed glossed over in the first place.

Saying that, Kitten Magee‘s finances seem to have a shady history and later she asks her robotic assistant, Crud (whose voice I always end up reading as K-9‘s from Doctor Who) to ensure her entire supply of something called ‘Lifedust’ is stored safely aboard. Along with animals reacting badly to her presence and even plants pulling away from her, there’s definitely a lot more to this particular character than her colleagues realise.

Given the welcome changes happening in our modern world now, I also like the fact she was once part of the World Campaign Against Male Domination and how she’ll lead an all-female team. Forward thinking for the day, it actually reads as quite topical now.

This is in contrast to all the lovely 80s futuristic spaceships and cityscapes. Think of the best sci-fi movies from that time and the kind of visuals they’d portray for future worlds. We’ve got shuttles that wouldn’t look out of place in Thunderbirds, self-flying taxis, futuristic “vid screens” which are clearly chunky CRT TVs with extra bits added on, as well as references to “massage slippers” (no, really), hi-tech shops, light-reactor engines and more. All this while at the same time Robo tells Turbo he’s successfully videoed the latest episode of EastEnders. It’s all great fun and has a lovely retro feel to it now.

While the purpose of the preview is to set up the main story and make people aware of the new comic, with Kitten it feels like those early episodes of Babylon 5 when hints, questions and mysteries abounded, setting up larger stories for the unwitting audience. Loner and Joe Alien are introduced although their development is kept for the regular comic. Turbo himself comes across as rather self-important to begin with, but given the circumstances this is understandable. He does seem to relax a little when around his new seconds-in-command though.

He has a robotic aid called Robo who appears to be a hybrid between robot and chimp and he can be rather snappy with him, but only because Robo insists on calling him ‘Master’ which irks Turbo. He tells Robo his friends call him Turbo, but his companion has his programming and keeps on using the term. It’s clear this back and forth has been going on for quite a while, which explains Turbo’s responses. It makes for a unique partnership and one I’m looking forward to more of.

The main characters and the Wildcat itself were all originally designed by Ian Kennedy although various artists would take them on for the fortnightly. Above is a small poster which makes up the middle pages and shows just how colourful the spacecraft responsible for the survival or extinction of the human race actually was.

An interesting little coincidence I spotted was how Turbo’s calculations proved the extinction level event he predicted happens to Earth every 67 million years. At one point he even says, “It’s happened before… and it’s about to happen again” which was similar to a popular phrase in Battlestar Galactica. However, Barrie assures me the TV show had no influence over the creation of Wildcat. It’s a nice coincidence though and, given how Earth is to be destroyed by collision with natural forces that orbit our galaxy, it makes more sense in this story.

Or at least that’s true as far Turbo’s prediction goes anyway. But on the last page that suddenly changes, just after the crew finally (after what must have been months of searching) find a planet which could in theory support human life. At this point, a few years before the predicted event our planet Earth just blows up! No meteors, no long-term destruction, no slow deaths by radiation. Just like that the entire planet and the billions left behind are gone.


“I was piling on the pressure, indicating that anything could happen in this story!”

Barrie Tomlinson (Editor)

I asked Barrie about this sudden change in the final panels. “It was creating a mystery which perhaps would never be solved,” says Barrie. “Turbo had predicted something different but it happened quicker than he had anticipated. It had a shock element for characters and for readers. I was piling on the pressure, indicating that anything could happen in this story!”

Whether we’d ever have found out what really happened will itself remain a mystery but for now it ends a story which was quite brutal for kids to read. That’s why I loved it so much back then! As as adult I can see how it had to rush through so much in such a short period of time, because the comic was going to kick off its regular strips with all of the teams landing to explore this potential new planet.

I was engrossed as a ten-year-old and now as adult I’ve enjoyed the rollercoaster and am in awe of how much Barrie and Ian were able to squeeze in here. The exhilarating ride of the strip has me hyped for next week and as such the pages of “The Creatures to Come!” aren’t even needed, but I can understand why they’re here. Again, you have to remember the target audience.

I do recall the so-called “Nightmare Alien!” is actually one of Turbo’s allies but this is just one piece of the misdirection the comic would be great as, which you’ll see as its stories develop.

The preview issue was smaller than the comic it was slipped into. It’s about the height of an American comic while being a little wider but the fortnightly was going to be the same size as the monthly OiNK. A small panel on page two of the piggy publication pointed this out, as did the promo on the back of the preview itself.

There was plenty to look forward to including free gifts, lots of strips and The Wildcat Complete tales and all on big, glossy pages that I remember made the action feel epic in scale. That premiere issue of Wildcat will be reviewed on the OiNK Blog in just seven days on Friday 22nd October 2021.

Wildcat had landed.  Figuratively speaking for now anyway.

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.