Tag Archives: John Freeman


It’s time to add another comic to the blog, to relive another cherished childhood title in real time and it’s from Marvel UK. Previously from the same publisher the blog has covered the short-lived Visionaries monthly comic (and its annual and merge) and over on OiNK Blog’s Instagram I’m still reading Transformers, currently approaching the sixth anniversary of that particular read through at the time of writing this. Back in July 1991 the Robots in Disguise and The Real Ghostbusters were the only comics I had a regular order for (all my others had stopped being published by that point) when a new weekly called Havoc caught my eye.

The first issue of a brand new comic was always an exciting prospect and this front cover was enough for me to know I just had to try it out. The free booklet which introduced us to all five strips inside blended into the cover image of Deathlok and when I pulled it back to what was underneath I had a hunch straight way this would be a regular purchase. (You’ll see the contrast in the first review.) Recognising Robocop and Conan and seeing a fiery skeleton riding a motorcycle convinced me this was going to be new, exciting and unlike anything I’d read before. I wasn’t wrong.

Launched and initially co-edited by John Freeman (he of Down the Tubes) and Harry Papadopoulos, the writing of both I’d previously on The Real Ghostbusters, although I didn’t realise that at the time. Most likely forgotten by many because it only lasted a couple of months, Havoc was a weekly 36-page anthology comic featuring five action-packed strips from the US which hadn’t seen print over here. To me, it felt like a really meaty read, a meaner, grittier, more mature version of my school friends’ 2000AD (I’d only read a handful of Tharg’s organs). Indeed, some of those zarjaz friends loved Havoc just as much as I did.

I decided to be nice to my parents and cancelled The Real Ghostbusters after 150 issues so I could order Havoc

I was only 13 when I read Havoc, lured in by that cover and the promise of RoboCop comic strips. It was heavy on character as well as action, the choice of strips was original and it worked. It was the perfect package. After reading only the first issue a reservation at the newsagent was in order so, even though I’d been allowed up to four regular comics previously and was currently only getting two, I still decided to be nice to my parents and cancelled Ghostbusters after more than 150 issues so that I could order something new.

At Marvel UK new Editorial Director Paul Neary had a remit to expand the company’s originated content, especially in exporting it Stateside. The ‘Marvel Genesis’ project would kick off with Death’s Head II and Overkill the following year, the idea being to have a range of US-format comics alongside the latter, UK-size anthology featuring all new, original material. However, this new project was going to take a while to get off the ground.

The company still had a large range of titles at the time, from nursery to teen, but lost a bunch when former Managing Director Robert Sutherland was able to take some of the licences with him to Regan Publishing. Paul had to be seen to be creating new titles, they couldn’t just wait a year or more for the new comics and so Havoc and its sister title Meltdown (basically a larger monthly along the same lines) appeared. They were essentially stop gaps while everything else was slotted into place, but also designed to compliment the new Genesis titles when they rolled in. Unfortunately neither comic’s sales were good enough to last that long.

Meltdown lasted six issues, Havoc for nine. The first issue coincided with the beginning of my school summer holidays, the final one released the Saturday before we started again for the next year, so it was the perfect summer comic for me that year! I loved every single strip, surprisingly enjoying the characters I’d never heard of more than the ones that had grabbed my attention in the first place. It was a more mature read and at that age I felt it really spoke to me, like the editors knew exactly what I wanted to read next even before I did.

It also contained a weekly news column and I’m really looking forward to reading those for its contemporary look at the entertainment of the day. Later issues would also include a letters page full of very keen readers. It really felt like it was here to stay. Then, after #9 left us with another weekly dose of cliffhangers the next issue… just didn’t appear. I remember thinking it must be late, so I was popping into the shop every day over the next week asking for it. When it and the following week’s issue didn’t arrive I got the hint and I was crushed. Again! Why did all my favourite comics have to end?

While the sales just weren’t there it apparently proved the concept enough to Marvel UK for them to move ahead with their project. But, as regular blog readers will know, just because a comic wasn’t popular enough at the time doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t great for those that did read it. I’ve only recently been able to complete my collection so I’m now ready to read them for the first time in 31 years. Even though I know the stories will just suddenly end, I can’t wait to relive the excitement these characters brought to me every Saturday morning (albeit on Wednesdays in 2022).

Deathlok, RoboCop, Conan, Ghost Rider and the Star Slammers, it’s going to be fun getting reacquainted with you all. The first review (which I’m really looking forward to) will be here from Wednesday 6th July 2022.


While OiNK‘s creators Tony Husband, Patrick Gallagher and Mark Rodgers assembled an insanely great mixture of various art styles from the best cartoonists and illustrators around, many would agree Ian Jackson‘s work is considered the seminal OiNK look. His main strips were Uncle Pigg, Mary Lighthouse and The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile and his covers always elicited an excited reaction when I picked up the latest issue.

As well as his jagged, animated and highly original drawings he was also the person behind the covers which featured actual model work. Who can ever forget the famous OiNK Book 1988‘s pig face (and tail) and the first Holiday Special of plasticine and cardboard, which you should be able to see at the top of this post.

To mark OiNK’s 35th anniversary, John Freeman has written a fascinating post all about Ian for his Down the Tubes website. When I was writing the previous version of the blog Ian was one contributor to the comic who remained an enigma, so I’m very happy to see this could be rectified this time around, starting with John’s research.

Above, you can see Ian with his brother, John Jackson a family law barrister in Leeds, who shared on Twitter this photo and a recent piece by Ian of the Sandsend valley where his shop, Wild Hart resides. It’s a gorgeous illustration and it reminded me of a certain other map of Ian’s I remember enjoying somewhat.

John’s post goes into more depth on Ian’s catalogue of work, such as his work for Punch magazine, which fellow OiNK cartoonist Jeremy Banx also contributed to. I wasn’t aware of a children’s cartoon co-created by Ian called Minuscule Milton, the art style of which is clearly recognisable and it’s a lovely looking thing indeed.

Created for CBBC and broadcast between 1997 and 1999 it tells the tale of a very, very tiny little boy who lives in a clock on a mantlepiece, with only his canine friend aware of his existence.

John has plenty of information on Ian’s further work in illustration, model building, cartoons and more on the Down the Tubes post. For any fans of OiNK it’s an essential read and you can even watch an episode of Milton’s show while you’re there.


I admit that back in 1988 when I finally got to open my copy of The Real Ghostbusters‘ premiere issue I was a little confused. I’d been looking forward to something like Transformers but with the ghost busting team, with a lengthy multi-part story and certainly no text stories which I associated with comics aimed at much younger kids. However, any confusion, or indeed initial disappointment, evaporated as soon as I started to read.

By the end of its 24 pages I was hooked and didn’t regret placing the order with my newsagent before even reading it. In fact, I stayed with the comic for the majority of its run. Now, 33 years later I’ve just finished reading issue one for the first time in decades. How does it hold up to reading today?

That front cover is nothing short of iconic, often copied by my young self back in the day on several school exercise books. Andy Lanning (The Sleeze Brothers, Superman, Majestic) and Dave Harwood‘s (Action Force, Swift Sure, Conqueror) introduction to this new title perfectly captures the light-hearted tone of the comic. Unlike the aforementioned Transformers I’d enjoyed reading at my friend’s house, The Real Ghostbusters would focus on smaller, complete tales aimed at getting a chuckle out of its readers. A unique approach, brave even, but they pulled it off and created a comic like no other.

The first issue has no less than three strips and a text story, fact-file, activity page, ghost guide, request for readers’ letters and of course a Lew Stringer strip. What Marvel comic was complete without one? It’s all introduced on the HQ page which starts off the whole shebang by reciting the movie, setting the tone perfectly for this comedy comic (a term I’ll clarify later). The overall design of the comic wouldn’t change, there’d be no ‘new look’ every 50 or so issues, instead the cover and feature pages would remain the same throughout.

There’s certainly a confidence about this comic from the very start.

All of the strips here are written by John Freeman (of Down the Tubes). Editor of Doctor Who Magazine at the time he was asked by editor Richard Starkings to supply stories for the first issue. John told me this was literally his first regular writing gig, which is incredible since this was the launch of a brand new comic based on such a hot property. Needless to say, John knocks it out of the park.

As with the other stories, “There’s a Ghost in my House!” takes place with the team already on the job and gives us an idea of the pacing we can expect, as well as acting as an introduction to the Ghostbusters’ equipment, interactions and most importantly their humour. That’s all it really needs to do, but there’s still a twist. The ghost itself is a buggane, a house ghost and harmless if treated right. The homeowner ends up feeling sorry for it and keeps it as a pet!

Dave’s inking added ample shadow work to gloomy, haunted scenes in the annuals

The strip is drawn by Anthony Williams (Judge Dredd, Fate, Sinister Dexter) with Dave Harwood on inking, lettering by future Slimer! artist Bambos Georgiou (Knights of Pendragon, Spectacular Spider-Man, James Bond Jr.) and coloured by Steve White (Transformers, Xenozoic Tales in Jurassic Park, editor of Visionaries). One of the other stories, The Ghost Under the Hood is also drawn by Williams but with Dave Hine (Detective Comics, X-Men, Night of the Living Dead) inking and there’s quite the difference. For the previous blog site I’d read a couple of the annuals and Dave’s inking added ample shadow work to gloomy, haunted scenes and made for some very eye-catching, atmospheric frames in them. Finally, this strip is coloured by Paul Jacques (Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers).

Again, it’s full of action and humour and plays out like one scene has been plucked from an episode of the cartoon. This was Richard’s intention, he wanted each story to take place right in the midst of the action whenever possible. Here, Ecto-1 is out of control, Egon unable to steer or brake. You can see from the page above the plan isn’t to Peter‘s liking. In the end the car suddenly stops, sending him flying. Now parked outside a Chinese Takeaway, Slimer appears from under the hood.

To establish a scene and scenario, pack in some action, wit, character and a funny conclusion all in three pages is quite the achievement. Indeed, by the time I finished reading the comic I was a little breathless (metaphorically speaking) with the fast-paced nature of the stories and gags.

The humour in their interactions was always well developed and genuinely very funny.

The covers were mainly used to illustrate the text stories, doubling up as their title pages. So yes, basically we’d be getting two identical pages in our comic but we didn’t care, some of the front covers would have us frantically flicking straight to that story. This was especially true later in the run with some simply stunning artwork on the covers.

I’ll admit it took me a handful of issues before I read one of the prose stories as a kid because of a false perception they were aimed at younger children than me. But I remember discovering just how good they were and reading all the ones I’d glossed over one very enjoyable afternoon. From then on they often became the first thing I would read.

Space constraints might have been a factor here, but they would often focus on just a couple of members of the team per story. This would give each individual character time to shine, and in doing so the humour in their interactions was always well developed and genuinely very funny.

None were funnier than the Winston’s Diary series which ran in alternate issues, with Brian Williamson‘s (Doctor Who, Totally Primeval, Batman) panels repeated each time. In this issue, my favourite character takes us through a typical day in the life of the team. In this issue’s story, over the course of a few busts Winston’s cool head provides a hilarious contrast to the others. Here’s just one example, where a rock star is hearing strange noises in his apartment:

“The apartment was newly decorated and equipped. Egon took PKE readings in all the rooms. Ray spectra-scoped the walls and balcony. Peter explained that he must carefully examine the rock star’s expensive Hi-Fi and video in case the ghost was lurking there. We all heard weird noises, groans and whines. I bled the air bubbles from the newly-installed radiators and the noises stopped.”

Winston Zeddmore (Dan Abnett)

This repeats throughout the day, Egon and Ray going to ever more extreme methods of ghost hunting, Peter finding something to distract himself and Winston solving the problem with common sense. It’s deadpan humour at its best.

Another text feature would also be a highlight every issue.

Spengler’s Spirit Guide appeared in every issue until just before the end. In the film and cartoon Egon would make reference to ‘Tobin’s Spirit Guide’ and this ongoing series was his own version of the tome. These were all written by Dan Abnett (Knights of Pendragon, Death’s Head II, Sinister Dexter), which is no small feat when you think about how the comic went weekly from issue 14 onwards and he created well over 150+ altogether! In an issue which featured The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the Guide detailed the other half dozen or so Horsemen that don’t get talked about. I can remember laughing hard at that one in particular.

What I’ve found out recently is that little illustration of Egon was drawn by none other than future Marvel US, DC Comics and 2000AD artist Cam Smith (Supergirl, The Incredible Hulk, Gen13). This means Cam’s work appeared in more issues than anyone else’s of course, technically speaking.

This issue also contains the first fact-file. As a child I drew a combined figure of the Ghostbusters based on that final sentence. From what I remember Egon was the brain, Winston the heart, Slimer the stomach (obviously) etc. It was a real Frankenstein’s monster which I decided not to send in to the letters page because, well, some things just aren’t meant to be seen.

Once in a while the comic would include what it called Ectoplasmic Activity, such as this membership card, and masks in a couple of future issues but it didn’t appear much, unlike Blimey! It’s Slimer. While it wouldn’t be too long until Bambos (letterer on our first strip) took over, at the beginning the little green blob was in the hands of OiNK’s very own Lew Stringer. With Lew at the helm, of course Slimer is going to make his way to Britain for a slap up feed.

Lew has written a blog post about his time on the comic, which you can read here.

A look at a classic comic wouldn’t be complete without a look at the advertisements within, especially when they’re connected to the subject matter. I welcomed these figures into my toy collection Christmas 1988, along with Ecto-1, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a few other ghoulish monstrosities, and I recall I ate far too many packets of these crisps that summer too. They were surprisingly nice for a tie-in.

So how did this 33-year-old comic hold up for this 43-year-old? One word: brilliantly. I was surprised at how many times I chuckled while reading it, even though I’m not exactly the original target audience anymore.

I called it a “comedy comic” above, a term I’ve never used before. The definition of “funny comics” conjures up images of OiNK itself, Beano, Buster etc. But while this is indeed a comic which sets out to be as funny as it can be (something it succeeds at incredibly well) it’s more the sitcom to OiNK’s sketch show. I also think calling it some combination action/adventure/funny comic would sell it short. The Real Ghostbusters was a unique comic and remains so to this day.


Just as it happened 33 years ago today I have an urge to collect this comic all over again. This issue has been immense fun and the comic just kept getting better and better. In fact, as brilliant as it began my favourite time with the comic wouldn’t be until around issue 80 onwards.

It’s just such a fun comic there’s only one thing for it.

Now of course this will take a while, it was Marvel UK’s most popular comic at one stage and lasted a whopping 193 issues, alongside four annuals, specials, poster magazines and more, even a puzzle spin-off. It’s going to be quite the task so don’t expect real time reviews after this one for quite some time, but I am officially announcing they’ll be joining the OiNK Blog posse as soon as possible. The daunting thought of covering a series of its size on a weekly basis has put me off in the past, but after reading an actual issue there’s no way I could do anything less.

Finally, just look at this little Easter egg I found while doing some research, from the pages of IDW‘s Ghostbusters Crossing Over comic from 2006!