Tag Archives: David Pugh


Who else remembers the short-lived toy line and cartoon Dino-Riders? You may think it wasn’t a coincidence that they launched the same year as Wildcat, but since they never came to the UK until the following year I’m going to go with coincidence. The cover certainly ticked all the boxes for me at that age and inside the action picked up a gear in many of the strips, the death toll continued to climb and there’s some art in here so good it’s stayed in the recesses of my memory all these decades since.

No recap page this time, instead we’re straight into the Turbo Jones strip, drawn by cover artist Vanyo. The Brain rather callously believes his people, the Burroids, are all cowards as he fills in Turbo on their situation. I’d say they’re more peace lovers than cowards. There’s a big disconnect between them and their leader, never mind the fact their leader is a giant brain! Why is that? Is there more to this relationship? I seem to recall there’s more to their enemy the Arglons too, that nothing is as simple as good versus evil here. In fact, I think that goes for all the serials in Wildcat.

Turbo really becomes the action hero he’s promised to be since the preview issue, with everything from laser-edged gloves to laser binoculars at his disposal. His companion Robo is also quite the strategist when it counts and not the coward he makes himself out to be. He improvises and uses the alien tech that initially imprisoned them against his attackers. They make quite the team and their camaraderie and trust in each other is very naturally written, surprisingly. I’m glad to see their bickering in previous issues is just part of their relationship, a part of their banter.

One of the Arglons is captured, but when he doesn’t give up any information during questioning a Burroid casually vaporises him, explaining it’s just what happens to enemies. Wait, aren’t they inherently peace loving? Is this The Brian’s influence? Either way, Turbo instantly has him arrested and begins to take command of their armies as requested by the mysterious leader. Choosing two seconds-in-command they set out to tame local dinosaurs to match those of their enemy.

I do like the way the character is developing beyond the single-minded Dredd-type he was to begin with, and this is only the third issue. The story is genuinely interesting, it feels like there’s a lot more than meets the eye with everything in this strip and that I shouldn’t assume anything about anyone. Brilliant stuff. When I think back to Wildcat I remembered the other strips more, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how great Turbo’s has been this issue.

A quick commercial break before we move on and I wonder what 2000AD editor Tharg the Mighty would make of the tagline used by one of Wildcat creator/editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s other comics in the advert for its annual? Given how they were both published by Fleetway I’m guessing Tharg didn’t say very much.

Our only colour strip, Joe Alien now finds himself in the very capable hands of a new artist, namely Ron Smith who drew the pin up in the previous issue. Taking over from Massimo Belardinelli is no small feat and Ron’s style is completely different. At first I approached this with trepidation. I had loved Massimo’s work in the first two issues, particularly his furry man-eating plants. But I needn’t have had any concern.

Ron brings a fresh new style to David Robinson‘s scripts, reminding me very much of early Geoff Senior from Marvel UK‘s Transformers. The clean, sharp visuals are a perfect match for this most alien of alien characters and the nightmarish jungle he and his team are trapped in. In fact I’d even go so far as to say the plants look even more menacing and the action more dramatic. This isn’t to take away from Massimo’s work of course, but after reading this chapter I think Ron is an even more suitable artist for this story.

The resolution to last issue’s literal cliffhanger sees Joe using his telescopic legs to cushion his fall, the plant which caused it falling down on top of him, knocking him to the ground where the impact on his head causes his external brain pack to disconnect. As explained in the first issue this turns him into a gibbering loony, to put it politely. His race were so obsessed with obtaining more knowledge they had to manufacture artificial brains for themselves, regardless of the risks. I love both these panels above, the exciting landing and the funny craziness.

Joe disappears into the jungle and his team are left to fend for themselves while trying to track him down. As well as having a new artist the writing seems to make a bit of a shift here too. No longer are his men simply unnamed team members used as fodder for the alien plant life. Here, some are finally given names and they’re written as individual characters, complimented by more distinctive looks. Instead of lining up to die they actually rescue each other and function and coordinate as a proper military team.

The chapter ends with Joe captured by a gigantic tree and his men come under attack by what they initially think are harmless little spiky orbs. But these soon open up to reveal little pollen balls which float on the air and begin attaching themselves to the men. Ron’s art is superb here. We can sense the tiny little barbs piercing the skin of these men and the sense of pain is palpable. The Joe Alien strip has certainly stepped up a gear.

Moving on to James Tomlinson‘s Kitten Magee and after she uses laser bracelets (our future selves really love their weaponised jewellery) to escape from death by boulder and defeating the tribe’s leader, she is welcomed with open arms by the rest. Having proven herself, she and her team take to eating and celebrating with the locals while the two fat men on their hovering platforms look on. But what they view as a “scientific experiment” between Kitten and her pet robot Crud is much more foreboding.

Kitten’s life dust was first mentioned right back in the preview issue, but this is the first we’ve seen the harrowing effects it’s meant to prevent. I was quite surprised at just how old she looks here (even Crud describes it as “severe ageing”) and artist José Ortiz brings a lovely atmosphere to this nighttime scene in the middle of the jungle. While she’s sneaked away to get her drug, the fat men flick a switch on some kind of mind control device and the tribe begins to attack the rest of her team. Overwhelmed, and with Kitten nowhere near, it doesn’t look well as the chapter ends.

But for me the plot point I’m most eagerly wanting to see picked up next time is the whole life dust situation. While the questions of what happens if Kitten doesn’t take it regularly is answered here, I find myself asking even more. Does this mean Kitten is actually a lot older than she appears? Or is it the result of an illness, or a previous encounter with an enemy? Does the dust only keep her looking younger or does it work on her physiology? What long-term effects does it have on her, and what effects has it already had? Colour me highly intrigued.

The letters pages have town names for the first time, so it looks like Barrie has started to receive contributions from readers. As with all of his titles it’s not a simple case of letters, instead there are drawings, ideas, jokes, questions and designs. One such design is for a digging machine to take the exploration teams from one area to another on the planet while avoiding the dangers on the surface. What I love about this is the honesty in the review of what the young reader has sent in. Marked down for originality and weapons, but with good scores for design and suitability, I like the way Barrie (I would assume) explains clarification is needed on oxygen supply.

It shows how his comics never talked down to their audiences. We never felt patronised by the answers, never treated as little kids. The same could be said of comics such as Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters which would often give sarcastic replies to honest queries. It wasn’t just a simple wish to see our letters or drawings in print, we wanted to see what our comics would say to us. In this case, maybe if Wildcat had lasted a long time we’d have seen more complex designs being sent in as the kids read the feedback from previous issues.

Next up is Barrie Tomlinson‘s Loner and given how good the previous three strips have been this issue I was really looking forward to seeing how he would step things up this issue. A quick look at the artwork below will answer that! Our former mercenary meets the lizard who has been tracking his every thought and first of all I was surprised he’s only about twice the size of a human, but this is simply because of that incredible final page artist David Pugh treated us to last time. Things begin here with Loner seeing him for the first time and we get this dramatic reveal through his eyes.

Take a closer look at that first photo and you’ll see the beast isn’t sitting on a chair but on his tail. A nice touch. He doesn’t get named yet but we do find out about his race the Bellari and their history of travelling from world to world to control the minds of whole species. Just for the craic they’d turn populations of whole planets into slaves until they got bored and moved on, leaving behind a galaxy of worlds having to rebuild from the destruction wrought by their entertainment.

But this particular Bellari crash landed on the same planet the Wildcat found, falling through into the same underground labyrinth as Loner. With no way out he took control of the furballs, a task he found far too easy and which kept him entertained for about five minutes. I laughed at the panel above on the right, where he wonders at the miracle of him not going insane, with his wide eyes, drooling and his finger stuck up his nose. David is an incredible artist and this is a rare moment of humour in the Loner strip. The main highlight however, is another full page image which deserves to be studied.

Studied it was, both back in 1988 and today. Just look at that design. I was in awe of David’s work. At this point my comics reading had included the many styles within the pages of OiNK, the simplistic but sweet drawings in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and the fun, quirky art in The Real Ghostbusters. I’d never seen anything like this before.

All the serials have really upped their game this issue and it’s hard for me to pick a favourite anymore

The beast wants Loner to hunt down a ravenous snake-type monster that he can’t control because its brain is too simplistic. It functions on instinct and hunger alone, so it’s a big threat to this lizard. Loner knows he has no choice and agrees but makes the mistake of thinking otherwise. Since the Bellari is reading his mind he knows Loner plans to trick him and suddenly our hero finds himself in another place and time, three of his enemies firing upon him as the episode ends.

It’s clearly a trick of the mind but still, I remember that snake but can’t remember anything else about this story, and the developments this issue have been genuinely interesting. But then again, even if the story was plodding along David’s art would still have propelled it to another level. While Loner was always my favourite as a kid, the three other serials have really upped their game this issue and it would be hard for me to pick a favourite anymore.

After the wonderful art of Loner’s strip is a rather basic Next Issue promo page. Last issue there was a lot more information in half the space. While I’m sure the Great Ark in the Turbo Jones strip will be of great importance, with so much going on in all of the strips this feels too simplistic, almost like it was a last minute addition. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to really hype the next issue of what was still a new comic trying to build its regular readership. So yes, you should’ve said more, a lot more.

“Diet is unnecessary! Death stops all eating!

The Invaders

Our final strip is the next Wildcat Complete and it’s called The Invaders. It’s a particularly bleak one this time. An asteroid is making its way around the planet and the Wildcat is directly in its path. Strangely, instead of simply manoeuvring out of its way (we saw its pilots in control in #1) a team are sent to plant explosives on its surface, a whole decade before that became the plot of what seemed like an endless supply of disaster movies.

No reason is given as to why this was the solution, why the Wildcat couldn’t be moved, which is strange. Anyway, a group of scientists go with them to collect samples and upon their return some of the rocks appear to possess members of the team.

At the end of the story we find out this used to be a prison asteroid, with murderous alien beings trapped inside rocks on its surface. Now freed and with a powerful spaceship at their disposal they set about making plans to take control, casually killing off all who get in their way. Not that any of the people they kill are a threat. They even see off a garbage disposal man by unceremoniously dumping him out of the airlock. This does prompt a bit of morbid humour when someone on board sees it out of the corner of their eye, thinks the exploding body is a star and makes a wish!

The garbage disposal would be used to get rid of the bodies they’d accumulate, they kill a weapon designer to steal his prototypes, a chef by testing a mass poison out on him first and one of the other scientists who knows the truth behind the murders. All of this takes our death toll up to 11 in only three issues. I wonder what number we’ll get to by the time these stories are over?

Their mission is to ultimately make their way to the ship’s bridge and use it to get back home and take revenge on their planet. The Wildcat’s crew end up using robots to stun the human bodies instead of simply killing them, fully aware the possessed scientists are innocent in all of this. I liked this solution. It shows the comic won’t be taking the easy way out in its stories, even when it’s a one-off and needs to wrap everything up in only six pages.

Dark humour and plenty of shocking deaths are expertly combined into the script here. It reminds me a little of The Doll from Super Naturals, which is another of Barrie’s comics. The artist who brought all of this glorious death and destruction to our young eyes was Joan Boix (The Phantom, Warrior, Eagle), a name I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of until reading this and seeing his signature, something which was a very rare thing in action comics of the time. With this level of quality I’m glad he did.

The back page pin up rounds things off with some light relief as Robo takes centre stage. So another issue and another hugely enjoyable read. I don’t want to come across as fawning in these reviews, but there’s no other way to write these; this really is a wonderful, quality comic in every way. All of the stories are really opening up, our characters (both main and secondary) are developing nicely and if I didn’t know how long the comic would last I’d say things feel set for a long run.

Issue four will be here in just two weeks on Friday 3rd December 2021 and it really can’t come soon enough (and not just because that means my tree will be up).


We all know the risks of buying classic comics on eBay and that’s why I always check either in the description or with a message to the seller that all the pages are included and intact. This was listed as being in mint condition and it really is, but what the seller failed to mention was that it also came complete with its free gift. In fact two copies of the gift. To go along with that lovely depiction of the Wildcat spaceship by Ian Kennedy are stickers also drawn by the man himself.

These were to be attached to the free poster that came with the previous issue, which I haven’t been able to acquire yet, but even on their own they’re a cool gift. None of the aliens (at least in these stickers, there were more given away with the first few issues) relate to any of the stories inside, so this was simply a case of Ian’s imagination running wild. I think you’ll agree they’re great and very typical of his work. Brilliant stuff.

With this being only the second issue there’s another recap page to kick things off for new readers who missed out on the preview and issue one, although the comic does ask them why they missed it! The page itself feels a bit like an 80s tabloid layout which is a nice touch, giving the headline news of the story an immediacy I’m sure was appreciated at the time.

After this it’s on to the second part of Turbo Jones‘ story and unfortunately it looks like Ian is no longer the artist for the leader of the daring planetary expedition.

But you needn’t fear because in his place is Vanyo (Death Wish, Storm Force, Ghost Squad), which was actually the pseudonym used by two Spanish brothers, Vicente Vano Ibarra and Eduardo Vano Ibarra. I asked Barrie if he remembers which brother drew Turbo but because they worked through an agency he was never sure which one was contributing which art to his comics. However, on their work he did say, “I do know they kept up a very high standard of artwork and I am a great fan of their work.” I think we can all agree on that.

Their line work brings dramatic facial expressions to Turbo that really humanise him, and adds a real solid feel to the ground-shaking action throughout. In this part of the story we find out the aliens who captured Turbo last issue are called the Burroids and they aspire to be a peaceful race. However, their war with the savage Arglons has been raging for so long now they were instantly suspicious of these new human aliens. Their leader is a giant brain suspended in a large glass dome, who tells Turbo of the history of their races, the war and of the planet itself.

A radiation storm, not unlike that which Turbo predicted for Earth (coincidence?) struck the planet a millennia ago. The resultant conditions upon the world resulted in all species developing a lung deformation and the inability to survive for any length of time above ground level. This rules out air travel and with giant monsters and raging seas stopping travel across the oceans each continent was thus cut off from their neighbours. This also explains the interference in communications prevalent in all of the strips.

This is the perfect set up for the comic. Each continent evolved across a million years separate from all others, meaning each of our landing parties (and our strips) can discover completely different environments and inhabitants, and are all cut off from calling for help, meaning they must explore. It’s quite an ingenious idea by Wildcat‘s creator and editor Barrie Tomlinson. It’s like having lots of different planets to explore all at once.

The Brain explains the two races signed an anti-nuclear treaty to ensure their war wouldn’t destroy the planet or negatively impact those on other continents. But the Burroids are still losing and need a new military leader. Guess who they want? That’s the set up to Turbo’s initial story arc complete and it’s an original one. Let’s see how it develops.

The scenes of murder and mayhem feel like they’re drawn with real relish.

David Robinson‘s Joe Alien is up next and his team aren’t really having the best of days. Confirming contact with the Wildcat is being disrupted, I like the fact this only happens after Turbo’s strip has given us readers the explanation why (Loner was cut off last time but we figured it was just the area he was in). It’s just one way in which each strip feels connected to the larger story, which was the whole point of the comic in the first place.

The bad luck continues as he loses another team member, all the while taking shelter from their stalker among the thick vegetation, unable to work out that this is actually the source of their woes. Joe himself keeps sensing danger all around them but continues to be just as confused as his men. When they see something move in the shadows they open fire and hear a scream but find no body. It was the tree that screamed, unbeknownst to them.

I know I’m making a bit of an assumption here but the scenes of murder and mayhem feel like they’re drawn with real relish, like artist Massimo Belardinelli is really enjoying drawing this strip with its weird and wacky antagonists. I do hope that was the case, as it’s such gruesome fun so far. A real classic gem.

We return to Kitten Magee next, written by James Tomlinson and drawn by José Ortiz, and she finally meets some of the locals. First they befriend a cute little furry eight-legged creature, only for it to be eaten on the very next page by flying blobs with big teeth. Her team fire back to scare them off, Kitten stopping her team from killing them, pointing out this is just nature’s way and their lives aren’t in danger. This is a nice moment because after the action of last issue it could’ve been easy to make these characters trigger-happy. Instead, the readers were given all-out action in issue one to draw them in but now things are settling a little more and proper exploration and research is beginning.

There’s quite a funny moment here when two of the team members are talking about when the next attack will come. They draw the conclusion it’ll be a while because their initial actions probably scared off the animals, when this happens.

The two-headed, three-mouthed tiger and its dinner disappear as quickly as they appeared, not even noticing the humans, making for nothing more than a fun piece of comic timing. The laughs soon stop when a tribe of multi-eyed men walk out of the shadows, not flinching when warning shots are fired in an attempt to halt their advance. Cassandra wants to fire directly upon them, based solely on how scary they look, but she’s told by Kitten she’s assumed incorrectly. The tribe are instead conveying a message through a form of sign language.

They wish for their leader to fight Kitten, who they’ve observed as the leader of this strange new tribe. Accepting the challenge, it doesn’t go her way but despite the cliffhanger of a giant rock held over her head, ready to crush her, she tells her team they can’t interfere if this is the custom of the local people. With what seems like an endless array of weaponised jewellery, we’ll have to wait 14 days to see which one she pulls out of the bag (figuratively speaking) to get herself out of this one.

The art here is suitably creepy or suitably action packed when it’s called for. José’s use of dark shadows and scratchy lines is a great contrast to the glorious full-colour assault on the eyes that is Joe’s strip. In fact, I think Kitten’s really benefits from being in this place in the line-up right after Massimo’s work. The sudden change almost forces us to read this differently. The contrast is striking and helps the story convey the darker tone it wants to get across.

There are then two pages of reader’s letters and drawings, although most likely not by actual readers of the comic yet (I explained where #1’s came from last time). One of the alien designs stands out, although not for the reason you might think. Take a look at ‘The Mighty Mouth Monster’ by Paul Ramsey. The second I saw it I recognised it from the myriad of marketing images for The Real Ghostbusters, a franchise which had only just launched in the UK (complete with its own comic) at the beginning of the same year. Here’s the image in Wildcat alongside one of the TV tie-in novels. Notice anything similar?

The question about the destruction of our home planet being different to that predicted by Turbo is raised on these pages too, answered with the hope that six pages will be devoted to explaining it in a future issue. Intriguing, although I do know from speaking with Barrie that this story was never developed. What a shame.

On to my favourite strip now and former mercenary Loner uses his modified six-shooter Babe to fire flares into the air, scaring off the cute-but-deadly little furballs from last issue’s cliffhanger. Loner was created by editor Barrie Tomlinson and written by both him and his son, James Tomlinson (Johnny Red, Storm Force, Ring Raiders) and I think you can tell they were having a blast with the scripts here. As he tries to run for his life, Loner jumps into the water but there are floating versions of the little balls of fluff. Then on higher ground he gets attacked by cuddly bat versions!

It doesn’t descend into farce but it’s still quite comical without ever losing its edge or drama. Quite the feat considering how they look. What I particularly like is how he recognises himself as the intruder. He laments having to use his gun to scare them and he refuses to open fire. Again, Wildcat lured its younger readers in with the action but is now showing them there’s more to being a hero than fighting. Constantly getting stung, becoming weaker and weaker he’s unaware of a pair of lizard eyes watching his every move and reading his every thought, or that this creature is controlling the furballs with his mind.

When Loner comes up against a wall of the little creatures the image makes the reader stop and take notice! It’s a great looking page; the wall of electrified death is the background, the panels leading up to that moment on top. I especially like the perfectly aligned little row of eyes between the two groups of panels. But nothing could’ve prepared the young version of me for what was on the next page.

Wow. This is the creature that’s been in control this whole time and would you just look at this image! The detail here is quite remarkable. I love the little details such as the scars, the veins, the shading giving real weight to the figure and that hand in particular. When you have an artist of the calibre of David Pugh drawing something like this it’s almost criminal to know the likes of 2000AD told its readers Wildcat was for their little brothers or sisters. Well, it was their loss and those of us who bought Wildcat were treated to the very best.

Across the page, under those adverts for stamp collecting that seemed to appear in every comic throughout the 80s is the Next Issue panel. At the end of Joe’s strip he used his telescopic limbs to grab hold of a small plant high up on a cliff, trying to look down and see who was attacking them. But the plant started to unravel its roots from the rocks and Joe realised they’re more alive than he bargained for. His realisation came too late though as it ended with him plummeting to the ground. Below you can see what happens next.

The second Wildcat Complete is called Space Madness and readers of classic 2000AD might feel right at home with this one. Although not 100% confirmed, my usual sources of help in identifying artists believe this issue’s story was drawn by Jesús Redondo (Dan Dare, M.A.C.H. 1, Nemesis the Warlock). It all kicks off with a DJ at the ship’s radio station being murdered by a robot while he’s still broadcasting to the last several hundred human beings in existence. As his death is played out live one of his listeners suffers the exact same fate in her room somewhere else on board.

Their untimely deaths make the front page of The Wildcat Express newspaper, which now feels somewhat quaint for being set in the far future (there are even horoscopes despite them being in deep space), but I always enjoy seeing how the future was predicted in stories from our youth. Anyway, I digress. Panic hits the Wildcat, which is understandable given the fact there appears to be a serial killer among them when there really aren’t that many people left, and they’re all trapped inside an orbiting tin can.

As the killings continue you begin to realise each one could be a major blow to the mission. For example a professor is carrying out experiments into the thoughts and feelings of plants in an attempt to understand them. I could see that being of particular use to Joe! Remember, as stated in the preview issue everybody was handpicked by Turbo and his team to be the best of the human race and here the story is just picking them off one by one.

“Mad Newspaper Boss Responsible For Wildcat Murders”

Newspaper headline

In the end, a witness to a fourth murder identifies the culprits as printing robots, leading security to the editor of the paper whose sales were failing because everything was so peaceful on board. It wasn’t exactly a hard case to solve but that’s not the point. The editor is diagnosed with Space Madness, “a kind of insanity triggered off by dwelling too long on the fact that Earth is destroyed and we’re in an unknown galaxy”. Apparently it’s happening across the ship.

It sounds similar to ‘Future Shock’ from the earliest 2000ADs, although here it makes a lot more sense. (It always confused me why people in the future would diagnose others as being unable to cope with living in the future; it’s not the future to them!) I instantly think this would’ve been interesting to expand upon, perhaps it spreading across the Wildcat could’ve been the basis for future stories. I’m not alone in this thinking, because that’s exactly what happens in #10. The fact the doc’s experiments could’ve related to Joe’s story is also interesting. Perhaps if the comic had lasted longer we’d have seen plot points from the strips develop, crossing over into others since they’re all part of one bigger story after all. We’ll never know.

The back page pin up is Joe Alien this time and it’s drawn by the hugely talented Ron Smith (Transformers, The Dandy, Harlem Heroes) and I’m happy to say there’ll be more of Ron in future issues. With all the danger inside, it’s nice to see Joe taking a moment to do some alien meditation surrounded by his new, erm, friends.

Just one thing I’d like to add before I sign off. During The Wildcat Complete I reiterated the point about how so few people were actually saved from the cataclysm. This hasn’t stopped Barrie and his writers from killing off plenty of them so far though! Between Joe Alien and the Wildcat Complete stories so far we’ve lost seven of our survivors already and we’re only two issues in. I think I’ll have to keep tabs on this, just for fun.

Already showing confidence in its scenario and where it wants to take us, this second issue has been a joy to read from beginning to end. If it were in the hands of anyone other than Barrie this is the kind of solid quality we wouldn’t expect until much later in the run, so we really are off to a flying start. Come on back on Friday 19th November 2021 to see where he takes us next.


So it begins! I can remember the excitement of buying this after the hype of the preview issue’s end of the world storyline. This may have been the same size of paper as OiNK but there was something about Wildcat that just made it feel bigger in my hands. It was such a complete package (the stories, the art, the characters, the scenario) the excitement kind of overwhelmed me, to be at the start of such an epic comic! Of course, with hindsight I know it only lasts 12 issues, but I didn’t at the time. I’m sure as hell going to enjoy the ride again.

Ian Kennedy draws the attention grabbing front cover. Ian was a mainstay of many of creator and editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s comics and you’ll see plenty of his work this winter in blog reviews for Ring Raiders and Super Naturals, my other favourite creations of Barrie’s. As for that brilliant logo, Barrie recalls it was created by him and group art editor Doug Church and its design would be carried throughout every strip. So a mere week after my first ever comic (OiNK, keep up!) was cancelled I was collecting the first issue of its replacement. Hey, we moved on quick at that age.

Editor Barrie said it was hugely important to have both a female lead and a black lead

We kick off with a brief, one-page recap of the preview and then we’re straight into the action. Wildcat is broken down into four five-page strips following the leaders’ expeditions and a six-page complete tale set aboard the spacecraft itself. Our first strip is Turbo Jones, the man who predicted the destruction of Earth (although it did explode instead of being hit by meteors, and a few years early) and as with all the main strips this issue we begin with his landing on the surface of our potential new home.

Barrie takes lead as writer (it’s his baby after all) and Ian stays around to bring the inaugural strip to life and Turbo down to solid ground. With a bump. The first thing I notice is how, after he mellowed when surrounded by his fellow crew towards the end of the preview, he’s reverted to being more hard edged again, particularly towards his poor android sidekick, Robo. In the preview he would snap at Robo when he called him “master”, but only because he believed friends shouldn’t do that, but here their strange relationship reminds me of that between early Judge Dredd and his home help, Walter the Robot.

If memory serves me correct (which is quite the ask these days) Turbo loosens up as the strip goes along, particularly thanks to Robo’s friendship. I have a recollection of warming to him and rooting for him with each cliffhanger. But when you think about it, it’s natural for him to be tense, he’s leading the first landing on an alien world with the survival of his species at stake after all and it isn’t exactly going well.

Upon arrival his team is instantly captured by a race of beings who call this region of the planet home and who are naturally suspicious of these strange alien creatures called humans. Turbo doesn’t take kindly to this and his inner thoughts are full of plans for fighting his way out. But there are a couple of little hints that there’s more than meets the eye here, a key theme in Wildcat throughout all of its stories. Our initial reaction as kids is meant to be of shock, to think the same as Turbo, that these wonderfully designed aliens are frightening monsters.

However, the comic would teach the characters (and thus us readers) the important lesson of not judging a book by its cover. For example, as they fly over what looks like a dinosaur one of the aliens laments how others treat these “magnificent beasts”. These lessons would play out over several issues, varying from one strip to the next. This was long-form storytelling and, while there was plenty of action and building to cliffhangers, nothing ever felt rushed. Twists and turns kept us guessing and we soon understood things weren’t always as they seemed. More on this below.

The next strip leaps off the page. Joe Alien, written by new comics writer David Robinson (Eagle, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Army of Darkness/Xena) and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli (Ace Trucking Co., Sláine and a simply stunning Super Naturals strip) is the only colour strip and suits his style just perfectly. It’s also the right choice for the colour strip, being full of wonderfully grotesque plant life and that intriguing main character himself. Joe is the last of his race, who were all fitted with external brain packs at birth to absorb as much knowledge as possible throughout life to share with other species. Oh, and they had telescopic limbs.

In this first chapter Joe and his team get acquainted (Joe showing them what happens if his brain becomes disconnected) and notice the landing craft’s scanners indicate the area is rich in vegetation but no other lifeforms at all, so it’s safe to explore. Have they never seen a horror movie in the distant future? It’s not long before a trooper goes missing after encountering a hallucination plant, giving him a vision of his favourite night club, making him want to walk inside without realising the imaginary doors are actually its big, slobbering mouth.

The “burp” just makes this scene. This is a sort of mini-cliffhanger as the strip is split between a three-page chunk and another two pages in the centre of the comic. This was my first exposure to Massimo’s work as a kid and I loved it. The plants feel really textured and the humans themselves have unique chunky proportions to them, bringing a real cartoony feel to proceedings and giving us a false sense of security before the horrors begin.

Our next character is our female lead and by far the most intriguing going into this issue, Kitten Magee. Between mysteriously avoiding discussion about her father’s death whose money she inherited and telling her robotic pet Crud to make sure her “life dust” supply is packed, the preview certainly piqued my interest in this character more than any other. Refusing to have any men on her team, she and her colleagues land on the planet in a remote jungle swamp area ready for action.

Kitten’s team are the only ones named and given unique character traits rather than being unnamed troopers. We’re introduced to Casandra Cardeti and Doc Barnes in this first chapter, and to see the beginnings of a proper working team and their interactions as fleshed out characters set this strip apart from the others. It may be all-action from beginning to end, but it also manages to cram in enough drama and character to make for compelling reading.

Encountering a slug-type creature and a giant water-based monster that work together to catch prey, Kitten uses her cunning, physicality and some unique jewellery to cut, slice and burn her way out of trouble just in time. Written by James Tomlinson writing as ‘James Nicholas’ (EagleRing RaidersScream), the fantastic, almost scratchy artwork of the late, great José Ortiz (The House of Daemon, The Thirteenth Floor, Rogue Trooper) adds a great deal of atmosphere to the jungle and an immediacy to the action. It’s thrilling to look at.

As a child I was wondering if we humans were always going to assume anything different was to be feared but then Doc Barnes laments the creatures’ demise. This was another hint for me that this comic was really teaching us something. It was original and it was laying down the basics here before developing really rather quickly.

In the end Kitten and her team walk off, unaware of the fat male presence floating menacingly above them, hidden in the trees. I can remember the look of this guy and his race but nothing else, so I’m eager to get stuck into further chapters of this strip and see where it goes.

“I was delighted to be offered Loner as my character.”

David Pugh

After Kitten there’s a double-page spread of apparent reader contributions but how is that possible for a first issue? According to Barrie he has memories of visiting neighbouring families of his, knowing where children of the right age bracket were living and asking them to contribute to it after showing them a dummy issue. I know of only one other comic which did something similar and that was #1 of The Transformers which took a dummy issue to a local school to gather feedback on the comic for letters.

Back to the strip action and the moment I’ve been waiting for has arrived. A former mercenary who always worked on his own, with only his specially modified classic six-shooter ‘Babe‘ for company, a rare black hero in British children’s comics of the time takes centre stage at last. Meet my favourite Wildcat character, Loner.

Still arriving down in a multi-person pod, highlighting the sense of isolation with the very first panel, Loner finds himself in a desolate part of the planet and he isn’t happy about it. Seeking some action he finds a previous radiation storm causes him to lose contact with Wildcat so he takes to exploring the rocky desert landscape.

Below, a wide image really brings home the feeling of him being all alone. At least for now anyway. A falling rock is no accident and he spots some indistinct alien figures in the shadows. It surprised me to read this for this review and spot sort-of-humanoid beings were responsible because I can only remember the little fur balls and the giant, crazy lizard monster to come. More on him in a later review and believe me, if you think the art here is great it’s incredible in coming issues!

Loner was created and written by Barrie specifically with artist David Pugh in mind. To quote David from 2019’s Loner graphic novel, “I was delighted to be offered Loner as my character. I had perfected a black and white style which I felt had enough texture to not need colour. I enjoyed the challenge of creating a handsome, cool and tough black guy. I was listening to a lot of West African music so my Loner became a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Senegalese singer Baba Maal.” I can see it! Indeed, Barrie told me it was hugely important for him to have both a female lead and a black lead because they were woefully underrepresented in UK children’s comics.

Falling through the ground and discovering a whole hidden world lit by luminescent rocks he finds little furry creatures he thinks could be a source of food. But when one suddenly attacks him, electrifying him, he shoots it dead. Next thing a deafening chorus of chirps erupt from dozens of the creatures surrounding him. One shock may have been a slight annoyance, but this many could kill him. Remembering how these creatures would become his friends later, it’s so interesting to go back to their first encounter.

David says working on Loner was the happiest year in his comics career and you’ll see as we go along how this comes across on the page. For now he’s the main attraction (alongside the free gift) for the second issue in a fortnight’s time. Interesting to see the planet get named here first instead of in one of the strips. Loner was not only my favourite Wildcat character, he was one of my very favourite comics creations from all the titles I collected at the time. I’m looking forward to seeing if he matches up to the memories.

The final strip is The Wildcat Complete: Final Mission. Each issue would end with a slightly longer story set aboard the Wildcat itself. Just right, since the comic is named after it. This anthology series would often be of the horror genre with a Twilight Zone feel to the stories. For this first instalment the artist is Enrique Alcatena (Batman, Conan, Aliens) and his art brings a suitable spookiness to the Wildcat pilot Lancelot Knight‘s (subtle heroic name) discovery of a strange object outside.

It’s nice to see the inner workings of the Wildcat and get a chance to meet some of the crew. I’m also very happy to see a perfectly 80s sci-fi bridge to kick things off in. What he spots looks remarkably like one of NASA’s Explorer craft, which the young readers would’ve known about at the time. While they were current designs to us, they’re an ancient space craft here.

We find out the one now cruising past the Wildcat famously went missing in 1999, still 11 years in the future to readers but soon enough to make this fantastical tale feel closer to home. With a diverse crew from all over the world this Explorer was sent into space to explode our planet’s last nuclear weapon. We were so optimistic in the late 80s, weren’t we? It has now suddenly reappeared right next to the last remaining human beings in the universe. Naturally Lancelot has to go and explore.

I’ve distinct memories of seeing these ghostly figures and their rotten corpses and the impact it had on me. I knew right there and then this comic was going to continuously surprise me. The Wildcat Complete tales in particular, being an anthology, could be absolutely anything! What a rush that was.

After his own shuttle accidentally disconnects from the Explorer, Lancelot is trapped on board with the souls of the brave crew, who can’t rest until their mission is complete. His shuttle drifts away, as does any hope of ever returning to the Wildcat but Lancelot surprisingly makes peace with his predicament, seeing it as an honour to be able to help these personal heroes of his. It ends with the now deceased crew, content at last, with their new eternal companion.

Each issue would have a colour pin-up of one of the main characters or alien creatures and they kick off with Kitten Magee and Crud on the back cover, bringing to an end a very original premiere issue. A fortnight sounds like a long time to wait for the next instalments of all these great stories but I know it’ll be worth the wait.

I remember thinking the comic somehow kept outdoing itself each issue. Let’s hope it lives up to those expectations now. Remember, remember, Wildcat returns to the blog on Friday 5th November.