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.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: SPECKY HECTOR

If you’re not already following Lew Stringer‘s blog then let this be your official instruction to do so. Not only will you be kept up to date on the latest comics work of Lew’s seeing publication in titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Beano, The Dandy Annuals and Rebellion‘s Cor!! Buster Specials, followers also get a look into his extensive back catalogue, glimpses into how some fondly remembered creations came to be and, in the case of OiNK and Buster character Specky Hector, a look at what some characters are up to these days.

Specky first appeared in #20 of OiNK and popped up now and again in both it and the comic it merged into after its run came to an end. Well, fast forward a couple of decades to the present day and Lew has shown us how Specky is doing. I’m very happy to see he hasn’t changed one bit.

Drawn as an A4 piece to help raise money for the War Child charity via an auction run by Enniskillen Comic Fest organiser Paul Trimble on the Battle Comic Fans Facebook page, it shows everyone’s favourite comics collector is still very happily collecting comics. In the end this one drawing raised £105 for the charity which is great news too!

Fans of the character may like to know he also made an appearance in 2020’s new Battle (of Britain) Special where Lew brought back one of his classic strips in a new colourised form. The special is still available on the 2000AD online shop at the time of writing.

Thanks to Lew for his kind permission to share this image here on the OiNK Blog.