Tag Archives: Ian Kennedy

WiLDCAT HOLiDAY SPECiAL: ANOTHER BiTE

It hasn’t really been that long since the final issue of Wildcat, two months in fact, but it’s great to hold another edition in my hands, especially one I’ve never actually read before. I wasn’t aware of it as a child because I hadn’t followed the characters into Eagle when the comics merged. There’s a rather lengthier wait after this but I’ll get to that at the end of the review. So what we have here is the standard Fleetway Holiday Special format of 48 large, glossy pages full of strips with a prose story and extra features thrown in for good measure.

After a contents page and a recap of the set up from the preview issue Turbo Jones reclaims his position as the lead strip (now drawn by Keith Page) and like all of the stories here it’s a standalone tale and not linked to the ongoing serials that all ended with cliffhangers in the last issue. Of course, by now those stories could have concluded or moved on to goodness knows what in the pages of Eagle. (That’s something I’ll look into in future posts.) Some of these read a little strangely because of this.

For example, as far as I was concerned Turbo was still languishing on his quest through the Valley of Death, but here we’ve skipped forward to the next chapter in his adventure on the new planet. We find him and his robotic friend Robo accidentally stumbling across two aliens out for blood (or whatever runs through their veins… if they have veins). This isn’t a quick summing up of things either, in the end they realise the two creatures have no interest in our heroes, they have literally stumbled upon this fight. But of course if they don’t defend themselves they’ll go the same way as the loser.

Turbo is knocked unconscious by a falling branch and Robo saves the day by knocking coconut-like fruits off the trees onto the heads of the aliens. No, really. It ends with Turbo disbelieving this tale of heroism and Robo talking directly to the reader, asking them to write in and tell Turbo what happened. It’s a fun diversion of an opener but feels very slight in comparison to the fortnightly. However, I do love that alien design. Moving on now to something somewhat darker stalking the corridors of the Wildcat itself in The Wildcat Complete, brought to life by Jesús Redondo.

That’s right, we have an actual vampire onboard. There’s also plenty of well-judged humour here too so it’s unfortunate we don’t know who wrote the script. Here on the first page the casual thoughts of our victim raise a laugh as he catches himself on about the “misty evening” before meeting his end, and later on as another victim is running late in getting home he thinks to himself how he’ll “get it in the neck” from his wife! These are the only people we see die (taking the Wildcat Death Toll up to 40) but mention is made to them being only the latest in a series of disappearances.

During the day our vampire goes by the name Dr. Joseph Lugosi, obviously a play on the name of renowned actor Bela Legosi who is probably best remembered for playing the title character in the 1931 film Dracula. It’s not just his name the story pays homage to either, just take a look at the doctor in this close-up frame.

There’s a rather dark moment where we see him dispose of a body by taking it to the food recycling plant, which is basically a bunch of retro-futuristic robots munching down on anything thrown into their pit! We get a little internal monologue of how Lugosi applied to be on Wildcat because there’d be no sunlight in space to stop him feeding, and we see him queued up to get on board, everyone else in casual gear, him in his dark cloak, standing out a mile. Given his appearance and dress sense, when he thinks his plan is foolproof and no one would ever suspect him it seems ridiculous, but it’s actually all explained in the end.

When an attack is disturbed mid-feast he has to leave the body behind and as Wildcat Commander Griffin reviews the tapes he sees Lugosi disappear into thin air. He ends up tricking Lugosi into believing he’s replacing an ill doctor on an expedition to one of the planet’s moons, but before anyone else boards the shuttle craft it’s launched out of the Wildcat on autopilot. The last page of the strip is below and very neatly wraps up the story.

I really like how Griffin had to research what a vampire is (so far into the future are we, their legends appear to have been lost) and that he simply reacts logically to the problem. There’s no disbelief, just a problem to solve and the history tapes give him the answer. While I can only show you a little bit here he’s a cool-as-a-cucumber character and one I wished we’d gotten to know properly in the comic. Check out that final caption too, vampires are now extinct! Another great anthology story, one that’s made me realise just how much I’m missing them every two weeks.

Loner gets a good bit of space in the special but unfortunately there’s not a comic strip in sight. There’s a two-page spread of pictures taken from the early issues and his initial scraps with, and ultimately friendship with, The Fuzzballs. There are also two pin ups, both drawn by David Pugh. One is brand new and the other is a reprint of the cover to #7 which was so good it deserved another outing as a mini-poster without the title and issue details. To this day it’s probably my favourite piece of art from Wildcat. In fact it’s one of my favourite pieces of comic art ever.

On top of all this we do get a Loner story, however it’s told in prose with reprinted images by David taken from the regular comic. At five pages and full of text it’s a meatier read than I expected and actually a whole lot better than the strip we’d been reading for the last handful of issues. Falling into a chasm he’s apparently rescued by an alien slug creature who carries him to a large cave full of slugs where he also sees another, two-headed alien. They have to fight to the death for the entertainment of the slugs!

It’s a struggle. The two-headed creature is relentless but soon Loner is able to escape by causing chaos in the audience (he throws one of the slugs into the crowd as a distraction). Back outside the alien is on Loner’s tail and in what looks like the end of the fight Loner’s gun Babe ends up pressed against the creature’s throat. But Loner backs off, trying to communicate he doesn’t want to kill them, he has no beef with him.


Both heads broke into hideous grins, then it turned and walked away.

Loner prose story

Communicating is difficult however and relies on body language more than anything, which is interesting but I’m also disappointed he no longer has the headband from previous stories. It’s only given a passing explanation that he’d returned to Wildcat and had it removed before coming back down. This completely contradicts the story where he received it! Such a shame, but perhaps a necessary evil because the images they had to use didn’t include it, rather than it being a story choice.

Anyway, the two-headed creature continues to follow Loner at a distance. When our mercenary gets back to his shuttle it appears to attack, throwing Loner to the side and leaping into the craft. Are they going to steal it? Nope, there was a deadly snake-like predator inside. The alien had saved Loner’s life. But before Loner can try to communicate a thank you, he’s attacked by the alien! He wins the battle by unhappily having to end its life, or be killed himself.

In the end, the creature had been a warrior and it was always going to be a fight to the death, but Loner had saved him from the underground slug beings and he’d had to repay that debt first. This would’ve made for a great multipart strip in the regular comic, it’s full of character and paints a wonderful, exciting picture. Such a shame it’s only illustrated by images from different stories.

There’s one more special to come and I’m very excited by it.

Alongside the double-page spread about Loner’s furry friends there’s a four-page feature about some of the robots that reside aboard the Wildcat and which have featured in previously stories, most notably the Wildcat Complete series. Features like these act as a nice way for new readers to catch up and to get an idea of what Wildcat is all about, but unlike some of the Super Naturals features which felt like filler, these are nicely put together and are still enjoyable for regulars.

Alongside more reprinted pin ups there’s another new one which hadn’t made its way into the fortnightly and it’s of one of my favourite characters from the Kitten Magee story, Bonnie. As regular readers of the comic (or even these reviews) will attest, Kitten’s team were just starting to get fleshed out some more, even going on their own adventure without their leader in the final issue. I look forward to reading the ongoing tales in Eagle and Wildcat at a later date, mainly for them.

Their story is up next in fact, as always (and just like the pin ups) drawn by José Ortiz. Stalked by a three-headed giant cat-like predator it ends up capturing Kitten’s robotic pet, Crud. Tracking the beast down they find a ginormous cyclops, but as they try to save Crud the cat-like creature attacks and is shot and killed. The previously monstrous cyclops burst into tears and the team realise they’ve made a horrible mistake, they’ve killed the giant’s pet. Not only that, but upon discovering a giant spacecraft overgrown with weeds they piece together a fascinating backstory.

It’s important for me to note here that at the beginning of the strip the team had captured a docile kind-of-giraffe animal for study by Doc. You’ll see below how that comes back right at the end. This story contains hints at the world building Wildcat could have achieved if it had carried on for years to come. We’d had some in the twelve regular issues but of course everything was still in its early stages of development. We can only imagine the epic, overarching stories editor Barrie Tomlinson and his team could’ve concocted over time.

Four pages within this special are made up of a Tiger comic reprint called Jet-Ace Logan, a pilot who works for the futuristic interplanetary C.I.D. approximately 100 years in the future. Two stories are included here, two pages apiece and the one I wanted to show is called Haywire House. A modern home exhibition is about to be robbed and Logan stops the burglars in their tracks in a suitably ingenious way. I particularly like the art by Brian Lewis (Eagle, TV Action, Countdown), with so much of it crammed onto the page and jam-packed with details, all without losing any of its clarity.

In his book Comic Book Hero, Barrie explains how he was the editor of Tiger from 1969, after these strips appeared originally. He turned the comic into one with exclusively sports-related strips but he always had a fondness for Logan. Back to the special and perhaps the couple of reprinted pin ups and the Logan pages were marked for something else but after the cancellation of the comic plans changed. A very real possibility.

Before a very special ending to the issue there’s one more strip. Wildcat fans will know that must mean it’s time for Joe Alien, although not in his usual full-colour format which is a shame (in fact apart from the pin ups and a readers’ drawing spread the whole issue is black and white) but Ron Smith’s artwork still shines. The strip itself finally gives us some background information on the interesting character and how he ended up as the last of his race.

Tracking a massive meteoroid heading towards their planet, his people soon discovered it was being pushed from the other side by a fleet of Kargroz ships! Joe’s race had long before abandoned space travel, keeping only one small shuttle and so he was sent up to negotiate, but the Kargroz kill for fun and for honour and couldn’t be bargained with. Almost blasting Joe out of existence they hurled the meteoroid into his planet, destroying it and all who lived there.

Fuelled by revenge Joe hijacked one of the enemy ships and crashed it into the side of one of the others, all of which were in a straight line formation, side-by-side with each other. Where Joe had crashed, his ship now faced down the long line of enemy ships. Firing one huge laser blast it tore through them all, killing everyone and leaving him the only survivor of the battle and of his race. This next page of Ron’s reminded me he drew for Marvel UK‘s Transformers, it just has that feel about it. Looking into that however, I was surprised to see he only ever drew one strip (#82)! Such was the impact he must’ve made on me I thought he’d been a semi-regular artist on it!

Joe’s men console him and try to tell him they agree with his seeking revenge, but the strip ends with our hero rejecting this. “Revenge? How can any revenge balance the millions who were killed? I am only pleased that my external brain pack allows me to switch off such memories… forever!” That is about as heartbreaking an ending as you can get as he switches off all memory of his loved ones.

One final feature rounds off this edition of Wildcat and it’s a special Back to the Drawing Board spread of Ian Kennedy’s original design sketches for the Wildcat itself and some of its characters. At the time of writing this Ian has only recently passed, so seeing these drawings, as well as his superb cover (which is on the back as well) is tinged with sadness. I’ve always loved his Wildcat design, his originality not only with its shape but also its bright colours and I think we can all agree he did a superb job of realising Barrie’s wish for a truly diverse cast of exciting heroes, which was rare.

Thus ends our look at the Wildcat Holiday Special from 1989. As I’ve said before I do own the graphic novel collections for two of the characters so I’ll be covering them at a future date, and I’m going to be tracking down the others through the individual issues of Eagle and Wildcat. But in the meantime we haven’t quite finished with Wildcat in its own form just yet.

There’s one more special to come and I’m very excited by it. Once again it’s an issue I’ve never read before. It’s even bigger than the Holiday Special and comes with a simply gorgeous high gloss, high quality cover. The Wildcat Winter Special was released several months later so look out for its review on Thursday 17th November 2022. Now that’s going to take some will power on my behalf, it’s sitting on that shelf right over there looking at me! I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

To finish with for now here’s the promo for the Holiday Special as it appeared in the pages of Eagle and Wildcat. We’ll be back with Turbo, Loner, Kitten and Joe before your know it!

WiLDCAT #10: MAGNETiC MADNESS

This review was due on 25th February, click here to find out about the delay. More catch-ups to come this week.

It is with a lump in my throat that I picked up this latest issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s superlative Wildcat comic from 1989. My initial reaction was thinking it was great to have an Ian Kennedy cover again to kick off proceedings, only to be reminded how just very recently we lost the great man himself. A giant in the comics industry, his artwork always astounded me as a kid and no less so now. His work features on many covers on the blog in the Ring Raiders, Super Naturals and of course Wildcat series.

Barrie brought Ian on to design the Wildcat craft and the characters who would lead humanity down to the surface of the planet, and the Wildcat Holiday Special would show some of his original designs. Released on 27th May 1989 you can look out for that review (which will definitely include Ian’s designs) on that date this year, and check out his gorgeous full-colour, hand-painted introductory strip for the Ring Raiders Mini-Comic given away free with Eagle.

A talent who worked right up to the end, Ian was 89 when he passed and will be missed by a legion of fans across the world. You can read an obituary for Ian on Rebellion‘s Treasury of British Comics website here.

Ian drew the very first episode of Turbo Jones but ever since #2 he’s been in the more than capable hands of Vanyo, and after some darker episodes we’re back into the realm of far-out dinosaur and spacecraft action. But not before Barrie writes in one more shocking scene, in which the Burroids being sacrificed to the Arglons‘ god are given a chance to escape. But only six of them. Swooping down on Robo‘s new pal, Turbo obviously wants to save who he can, but we end up with desperate soldiers clambering for position, some falling back to their inevitable death.

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news, so to see it in a children’s comic is all the more shocking, which makes for excellent reading and shows how Wildcat never talked down to us kids. It threw surprising scenes like this at us and we lapped them up. Advertised at the time as a comic for the younger siblings of 2000AD readers, it’s no wonder in the years since I’ve read of people discovering Wildcat and wishing the “younger” label hadn’t put them off at the time.

Commandeering a shuttle craft to take after the one allegedly on the way to hijack the Wildcat, Turbo and Robo find themselves back in space when they discover the real intentions of the Arglons. It’s actually a robotic crew sent on a suicide mission to blow up the entire spacecraft and end humanity! But with the robots confused over whether to defend themselves against Turbo or attack the Wildcat first, we’re left wondering who’ll make the first move.

With the stakes being raised so high it feels like we’re on our way towards a climax for this first adventure of Turbo’s, but I don’t remember it coming to a conclusion by the time of the comic’s cancellation. So maybe for any other comic this could be the beginning of a grand finale, but for Barrie it was just another episode!

Joe Alien is still stuck down the slimy hole leading to the home of the giant slug creatures that saved him and his men from the killer vegetation. (There’s a sentence!) Fortunately, Joe’s original assessment of these slugs being friendly appears to have been correct. These Dargonlites, so superbly designed and drawn by Ron Smith are vegetarian enemies of the plants and in a funny moment they tell Joe all the slime was produced to break their fall, and they thought the humans would find it pleasing!

Joe’s brain pack has been placed securely back on to his head but it appears some of the slime got in. This makes it malfunction and he starts to go crazy again, extended limbs flailing everywhere, even bopping the slugs on their heads as if he’s playing a giant, slimy piano. His legs spring him into the air and he ends up in one of their mouths, much to the surprise and disgust of the alien slug, producing this funny panel below on the left.

This doesn’t exactly build bonds and as you can see the cliffhanger is even more shocking than Turbo’s. Affronted at Joe’s indiscretions one of the slugs pushes a long, thorny sting out of its rear end and electrifies the slime, sending our team into twists of agonising pain. For the life of me I don’t know why I can’t remember more of this strip because it’s just so much fun.

These being the only colour pages helps of course, with Ron’s art and colour palette leaping off the page. His designs and a real kinetic energy make Joe’s pages (split over two different sections of the comic) hugely exciting and it seems every single chapter is introducing brand new elements and twists to what was already a highly original (and way out there) story. It’s absolutely perfect children’s sci-fi and I’m not ashamed to say at 44 years-of-age it’s making me feel like a kid all over again. I love it!

Kitten Magee and her team finally make it to Hoboan City, despite Hobos‘ various attempts at offing them over the last few issues. Placed aboard floating transports they’re flown over the metropolis while he boasts about his people’s accomplishments. Only when they enter a great council chamber and he formally announces his entrance with, “I, Hobos the Murderous, return” to the other members does the penny finally drop all the way for the humans.

A magnet on the ceiling relieves them of their weapons and when their transports flip to toss them down a trap door below, Kitten’s robotic pet Crud ends up flying off in the opposite direction. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the comical moments for Crud in recent issues. They’re never overdone and at all other times he’s been a real help to the team and a proper character in his own right, so these moments are genuinely funny when they happen.

All pretence is gone and as the team are flung out into the open air they’re captured in giant nets and shown the Hoboan version of fishing, where electrical shocks are used to torture the aquatic life in their city’s pools. The cliffhanger has the women being tossed towards the water and their ultimate fate. I have to say I’m glad to see the story leave the jungle after a few monster-of-the-week episodes, although I’ll admit last issue’s was a highlight of the whole story so far. Hopefully we can start finding out more about the history of Hobos’ people and this part of the planet, but if not it all makes for some daft fun anyway!

On the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages (letters pages to you and me) the answer to this reader’s question stood out. When asked about possible character profiles in future issues the answer mentions the Holiday Special and an Annual. Unfortunately, the twelfth issue would be the last before the comic merged into Eagle but it’s interesting to know even at this stage the fate of the comic may not have been known. The Annual didn’t materialise of course, but a Winter Special did, the contents of which I always thought was intended to be in an Annual originally. Perhaps this was the case.

On to our shrunken Loner now and while David Pugh‘s art is always the highlight of an issue, again I feel the story doesn’t really know where it’s going. In this chapter Loner has been attacked by an alien creature that’s clinging to his face, but before he can shoot it with Babe another creature attacks his arm. He’s able to free himself using a rock, hitting the creatures with it and they just pop open, no blood or guts visible. This asks questions, obviously. Then a larger version appears, leaps on one of the smaller ones and begins to eat it, then another larger one appears and does the same to that one… like a vicious family of cannibalistic Russian dolls.

I’m intrigued by these creatures. Their designs are wonderful, they’re somehow hollow and this apparently never-ending cycle fascinates me, but just like the wonderful spider and ants they’re forgotten about when Loner makes his escape. He then spots the floating blob that shrunk him to this size in the first place, but before he can get to it a horse-like alien is taking a drink from the river and doesn’t spot the tiny man who ends up in its mouth, about to be swallowed. Maybe as a child I loved the endless stream of dangers he faced as he tried to return to normal, but now I’m craving more story.

As you can see with those creatures the action is imaginative and exciting but over the course of the first seven issues we had all this plus a proper plot for Loner to sink his teeth into. Now instead it’s like he’s just stumbling from one danger to another, which is all the more frustrating when some of those dangers have real potential to be a main story element. Maybe I’m being harsh, after all it was aimed for a much younger me who may have loved it just as much as the earlier stories, but I can’t help but feel the comic has spoiled me up to this point, and proven time and again it can produce dynamic, interesting and deep stories to match David’s incredible artwork, leaving the current story feeling somewhat lacking.

The complete tale this issue simply gets ‘The Wildcat Complete‘ as its banner but at the top of every page artist Joan Boix has written “Earth 2” so that’s the actual title. This correlates with the front cover, which would have us believe a planet called Earth 2 has killer robots on it. (Quick note: This was six years before the short-lived TV series of the same name.) But the planet the landing parties are exploring is called Targon-5 (not actually named in the strips, it was named as part of the free gift with #1 and mentioned in its Next Issue promo), so what’s this all about? Colour me intrigued.

It kicks off with more Space Madness infecting humans aboard the ship, something which has been a problem since #2. Aboard a cramped tin can in deep space, unable to leave and far from their home (which blew up!), some people’s minds just can’t cope and they go loopy. Here we have someone jettison themselves out an airlock where their body explodes in the vacuum, and the equivalent of space fire fighters called the ‘Emergency Squad’ start emergencies! But Doctor Jedd Gruber thinks he has a solution, a vast holographic simulation of life back on our long lost planet.

Soon, across the whole ship people are being given tokens to allow them two hours a week inside the simulation and at first it appears to be working. Reports come in that people’s madness is being properly managed, some have recovered completely and many sane people are visiting it as a preventative measure. But of course this is the Wildcat Complete story so we know it all has to go horribly wrong.

Two individuals hold up the doctor at gunpoint and destroy his robotic assistant, demanding to be let into ‘Earth 2’ (as it’s become known due to how realistic it is) and to have the doors locked after them. The doctor tries to explain none of it is real and asks what they’re going to eat, but consumed with Space Madness they’ve become addicted to Earth 2. They call the doctor stupid (“blitz-brain”); they’re going to eat the berries on the beautiful bushes and fruits from the trees! Fearing for his life the doc has no option but to close them in. Looking on from outside he summons the security droids.

I love those last words, how it was so realistic it ended up going the same way as the actual planet. It’s definitely one of the better anthology tales (they’ve all been very good) and Joan’s art is a superb fit, their depiction of the space madness is just perfect. This is one of the most interesting aspects of this series of stories. While they’re all individual, there are some themes that pop up now and again, with this sickness being the most prevalent and one which I’m sure would’ve played a huge part in the ongoing saga of the Wildcat if the comic had carried on.

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues?

The ending reminded me I’ve been remiss with my Wildcat Death Toll of late. In the Christmas issue not one person died (suitably enough) and since then I haven’t picked the count back up again. So, with three dead in this story alone, and all six human characters killed off in last issue’s Complete, where do we stand? Going back and adding up all the deaths from all strips, in all issues, with only several hundred humans left alive in the universe editor Barrie and his team have seen off 32 already! (Plus the wonderful Gliz alien character.)

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues? Who knows. But for now I close another superb issue and with only two regular ones to go I await with bated breath what’s in store for the remainder of humanity. Our penultimate fortnightly review will be on the blog from Friday 11th March 2020. Just before we finish here though, as I turned the final page (after the Next Issue promo below) I was transported right back to 1989 with this Weetabix advert. I remember collecting those very cars. Even though there was nothing particularly different about them from the other toys I had, the fact you had to collect tokens and send away for them made them feel exotic and rare! Did you remember these?

SUPER NATURALS #5: FESTiVE FRiGHTS

Super Naturals and Wildcat may have been released a year apart but they shared more than their editor, their fifth issues were also their festive specials. I’m a huge fan of Christmas but even I would’ve forgiven the Super Naturals team for not going overboard since the comic had just begun, however editor Barrie Tomlinson made sure it was a special treat with festive themes in four of the five strips, as well as an additional one-page strip, decorative trimmings around the letters page, a Christmassy poster and that fun Ian Kennedy cover of the Ghost Finder and its crew.

The issue is dated Boxing Day but would’ve been released early, arriving into eager young hands a few days before Christmas Day which, given the cover and the contents would’ve made for a wonderful treat. I just can’t help but feel happy when reading a seasonal issue of a favourite comic and this is one of the very best examples. Ghost stories always go down well at this time of year too, so surely this is a comic that can’t fail to entertain. Let’s see.

I was surprised when I picked up this issue because the glossy paper had gone, replaced with the same matte-finish stock all other Fleetway comics had at the time. But that doesn’t take away from any of the enjoyment in our first story, The Legend of the Super Naturals drawn by Dave D’Antiquis, which quite literally heads off in a different direction. The battle in New Orleans comes to its conclusion but not before Eagle Eye‘s predicament raises some interesting questions.

He’s injured when fired upon by an Air Force jet while transformed into the eagle, but when he changes back to his humanoid form he’s healed and the bullets pass straight through him. The healing part has already been established in the comic, he’s already dead after all, and they can’t actually kill each other never mind us having a shot at it. But it appears they don’t turn into mystical versions of their animal totems, they must actually turn into real, solid animals, capable of being killed. It certainly adds another dimension to the set up and one I hope is explored more. For now, he’s rescued by Spooks before Skull decides to take his team across the Atlantic (the trucks can fly) to England to destroy the mythical Excalibur and show them evil now rules. Told you it was heading off in a different direction for the new year!

In Ghostlings, drawn by Anthony Williams, we get confirmation it is indeed set on Earth in the far future where humans have regressed and now live in fear underground, calling themselves Guardians of the Underworld (so our self-importance hasn’t diminished then). What they live in fear of are the Surface Stompers, the dinosaur-like creatures we’ve seen already and the Crevice-Crawlers which are giant, intelligent, talking insect-like beings that prey on the humans for food. Spooks is rescued by these future humans when he becomes trapped amongst rocks after being pushed over a cliff by Weird Wolf. I’ll assume it’s his clothing that’s stuck, not him, seeing as how he’s a ghost and all.

We can finally put to rest the myth that The Doll was produced for another comic

While trapped his supernatural powers are able to recognise the time of year on this future Earth as Christmas and he reminisces about when he was alive centuries earlier. When he’s rescued he discovers the humans have a Christmas tree in their caves, although they don’t recognise the name, only that it’s a tradition they follow despite the meaning being lost centuries ago. The story ends with a cliffhanger for Weird Wolf as he encounters the beasts above ground. There’s also mention of a Rock-Ruler, so there’s definitely more scenario building to come. While Christmas feels a bit forced into this one, it’s still as interesting as last issue and shows the potential for Super Naturals stories to really go anywhere.

Moving on and hopefully the setting can finally put to rest the myth that The Doll was produced for another comic (just published within the pages of Super Naturals). I’ve known this all along but some online refuse to accept such a quality horror strip was intended for a licenced toy comic. In this seasonal issue the strip jumps forward a little, the ground is covered in snow as the police pull the body of the dead homeless man from the skip outside the Marshal’s home, while an evil figure watches from the roof, where clearly it’s been gleefully watching for a while as it’s covered in a thick layer of snow.

After Simon saves his foster dad from a falling roof slate (I wonder how that happened), noticing how his younger brother David didn’t even flinch when it fell, the story skips forward to Christmas Day. Peace has descended upon the house. It’s clear the doll’s presence hasn’t been felt in a while and David is glum as the family open gifts from each other. This doesn’t go unnoticed and the Marshals try hard to cheer him up, even giving him a brand new ventriloquist’s dummy! A window smashes at this exact moment and it’s assumed vandals threw something from outside, but Simon isn’t so sure.

The glass is all on the outside, meaning it was broken from inside the house. But how? A game of hide and seek brings the answers out into the open but first I do love a certain panel here. First, look at the one above on the right where Simon is convinced the doll was responsible but he can’t see anywhere for it to hide. Of course the readers’ eyes are drawn to the Santa Claus ornament on the side table, but it’s the next panel which I’m sure stuck in the minds of all those young readers, as Simon turns to leave.

Artist Francesc Masi is just superb at conveying real threat from what is essentially a toy. Again, the suspense is palpable in this chapter. What on the surface might’ve looked like a diversion from the main story to placate the Christmas issue is anything but. A game of hide and seek in the house builds tension with Simon hiding in dark, cramped places, hearing noises but then just discovering other family members in there with him. Meanwhile foster father Frank sneaks about the house looking for everyone when he comes across the new dummy torn to pieces, then hears a terrible scream as the doll swings down from a curtain, the arm of the new toy in its mouth, hurling himself at Frank as the chapter closes.

While it’s only a toy arm full of foam padding, the meaning is clear; the doll has ‘killed’ its replacement and now intends to take revenge on the person responsible for its purchase. In the final panel there’s the usual caption asking readers to send in their ideas for what could happen next, any printed on the letters page earning their senders a crisp five pound note. Perhaps this was included to balance out any shock from the last panels? Instead of the children having a murderous cliffhanger in their minds, instead they’d be thinking of what they would have happen next? It’s a good idea and no other strip does this.

A wonderful, colourful poster by Sandy James brings a rare piece of relief and happiness for the good Ghostlings, but not so much for their evil counterparts who are strung up and used as decorations on the Super Naturals Christmas tree. After that there’s a festively decorated double-page spread of letters before we move on to the The Scary Cat Challenge and the second in the series based on an idea sent in by a reader. This time it was Clive Sheppard of Lincoln who got two Christmas gifts of a £10 prize and the pleasure of seeing his imagination brought to life in his favourite comic.

Finding an empty box among their Christmas presents, an unnamed family decides it must have been wrapped up by accident and placed underneath the tree. No one owns up to the error and they simply decide to ignore it and go about celebrating the rest of Christmas Day. However, while they’re eating breakfast in the next room a mist rises out of the empty, unwrapped box and slowly takes on a ghostly shape.

Obviously surprised to find a strange old man in their living room the father of the house goes to ring the police, but the rest of the family implore him not to. Looking dishevelled and hungry, they don’t have the heart to turn him out on this particular day of the year, instead inviting him to stay for Christmas dinner. He remains mysterious about where he came from but this doesn’t appear to put the kind-hearted family off and soon they’re all gathered around the table. After dinner they realise they forgot the crackers and this is when the visitor reveals he isn’t any old homeless person.

From the cracker pulled by dad spills thousand of pounds in notes, from mum’s comes handful after handful of diamonds. When the children pull theirs a magical dust fills the room. “The stuff dreams are made of” explains the old man as he takes their hands and they begin to fly, visiting the moon, the pyramids, undersea reefs, the Himalayas and then flying back home sitting on the back of Concorde.

The family are awestruck and want to thank him but he insists he was the one who needed to thank them; they gave a stranger a warm place to be on Christmas Day, opening their home and their hearts and sharing their food. One of the young boys asks what would’ve happened if their dad had called the police and he shows them an illusion of all their worldly belongings disappearing and the whole family ageing far beyond their years. As he cancels the illusion he leaves their house and looks out through the page to the readers and wonders aloud who he could be visiting the next year.

The message is clear to the impressionable youth and is one that’s just as important in the world we now find ourselves in: Be kind. While it does centre around material possessions it’s actually a nice little metaphor for Christmas itself and taking that spirit of giving with you everywhere, and not just once a year. So not a scary tale but a nice addition to this particular issue before we head on to the new serial drawn by Alan Langford, which I was very pleasantly surprised to see starting off with possibly the most Christmassy of Christmas opening pages possible.

Last time the excellent Mount of Athos came to an end and I’ve tentatively waited to see what the team would replace it with.  Thankfully keeping Alan on to draw it, The Curse starts off with this gorgeous page of a festive Victorian London. The title at the top stands in stark contrast with the artwork which wouldn’t look out of place on a greetings card. But turn the page and into this Dickensian scene crashes Skull, Burnheart and Scary Cat on the Bat Bopper.

This opening chapter is all about setting the scene and it does a wonderful job. It feels like Alan has really got to grips with these characters and having a great time drawing their creepy adventures. In the end, as they make their way up the Thames we find out Skull and his cronies are in search of the Tomb of Britannicus, the last resting place for a savage barbarian sorcerer, who if released is said to bring evil never seen before upon the world who entombed him. But first there’s the obligatory chase as Lionheart and his heroes give chase.

As you can see the evil Super Naturals have caused destruction and terror in no time at all, though the strip does manage to squeeze in some comedy. For example, at one point the horse on the first page bolts, the family inside thrown from their carriage as it crashes and their Christmas supplies are strewn everywhere, including their turkey which Burnheart can’t resist roasting with this flame power as he speeds past it!


“London, 1972. Under a drift of gentle snow, the city glows with all the festivity of Christmas Eve!”

The Curse

While I have no idea what Spooks is on about when he says he’s going so fast he’s almost overtaking himself (that just makes no sense whatsoever) I do enjoy how the humans are just as terrified of them and how they’re stopped by Skull taking out an enter house. Great action, gorgeous visuals and a real festive ghost story feel to it all. Wonderful stuff and already a worthy follow-up to the Mount of Athos, which is no small feat.

One final thing before I wrap up this review. You remember how our comics had little coupons to cut out and give to our newsagents, or small reminders to place our orders so we never missed out on an issue? Well, Super Naturals decided to do something a little different (in keeping with the comic as a whole) and gave us a full-page strip. While it doesn’t actually say anything about placing a regular order it kind of works in that regard and really would’ve make a wonderful advert to have appeared in other Fleetway comics at the time.

It’s actually the first in a series of small stories which would all fall under the banner A Ghostling Tale, each hosted by a different character. Another nice little addition to the comic.

So that’s it for now. This has been a blast from beginning to end. Having the Christmas vibe throughout was a surprise and an absolute delight, but then again maybe I shouldn’t have expect anything less from Barrie Tomlinson! Issues like this reaffirm the whole concept of this site. If I’d just binged on this series earlier in the year it wouldn’t have been as special as reading this now at Christmastime, it’s been evermore enjoyable reading it in real time. The next review will be here on Sunday 9th January 2022 and it would appear there’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year.