Tag Archives: John Gillatt

SUPER NATURALS: PREViEW iSSUE

Given away free with a handful of other Fleetway comics a week before the launch of the new Super Naturals fortnightly was this full-sized 16-page preview edition. Inside it contained a five-page introductory strip, a shorter humorous back-up and a few full-page photographs of the Tonka toys in all of their holographic glory, as well as a competition and full details on the contents of #1. But it wasn’t the only thing falling out of comics that week.

Also included was this glossy comic-sized card with that great logo on one side and a fact-file about the characters on the other with images drawn by Sandy James. The toys were just launching in the UK around this time so the preview comic was also kind of acting like a preview/advert for the toys. Well, it is a licenced comic after all and that’s kind of the whole point. This card highlighted the good and evil characters we’d be following each issue and introduced their illustrated look for the comic.

At the time I wasn’t aware of either gift, only stumbling across both a few years ago on eBay. Instead I came across the premiere issue on Hallowe’en itself, which I’ll whitter on about in the next review. But having this card bundled in with the preview, and the fact a Super Naturals Blockbuster advert like the kind OiNK had was also produced (which you’ll see soon), gives the impression there was a big push for this comic. The toy adverts seemed to be on TV constantly and the comic launch was next with a few issues before Christmas to build the hype.

Ian Kennedy‘s gorgeous painted cover kicked things off in a suitably creepy fashion with skulls, ghosts and powerful animal images. He’s even able to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of three-dimensional holograms, particularly in evil leader Skull‘s shield. Surely intriguing to those who received it, inside the background story is equally atmospheric. Drawn by John Gillatt (ScorcherEagleRing Raiders) he does an incredible job invoking the themes of mystery, darkness and the supernatural in this opening spread.

Throughout history humans from various points in time have discovered the Tomb of Doom, an ancient doorway to another realm called Ghostworld, overseen by the unknown entity Specter. These people would be attracted to its power for good or evil purposes, becoming trapped inside. Killed by Specter and transformed into the Super Naturals, they would be imbued with special powers best reflecting their individual personalities.

Specter did not care whether these people wanted the power to protect or to rule, only that their heart was dedicated to their desires. Who or what was Specter? Why were they doing this? To what end? Was it all a game to them? We didn’t know. Enter two brothers who end up leaders of the opposing forces in our main story The Legend of the Super Naturals, part one of the main ongoing strip. While their backgrounds are a mystery, Lionheart and Skull are descended from royalty of some description and it’s interesting to find out after all these years they were brothers when they were human.


“It’s a judgement on us all!”

Eyewitness to the arrival

The story rockets along. Yes, it has to in order to set up the comic’s premise but it’s full of story points which could’ve been explored further down the line; the origin of Ghostworld, were there other Super Naturals in there, the living history of every character, the list goes on. Unfortunately none of this would be explored because the comic’s life was cut short, but it’s intriguing to think of the potential storylines because these characters and this setting are crying out for development and for depth of storytelling on an epic scale.

All of those swirling doors and windows within the Tomb are entryways to the real world, the only place they can use their powers to do battle because it is forbidden inside Ghostworld. The end result is truly terrifying if the faces of the church goers in the above panel are anything to go by.

Their first breach flings them into their far future but to the reader it was the present day, Hallowe’en 1987, the date the first issue of the comic would be released. At this point in the story they’re unaware of where they could end up, the places and timezones seemingly random. As the comic gets underway we’ll see Skull and his cronies plot and plan like all good evildoers, choosing where and when to crash through to spread as much fear as possible, their ultimate goal was to turn reality into a dark underworld with them ruling all. The usual stuff.

I love the fact they’ve smashed through a church window here, showing straight away there’s no safe place in our world. For me, it also shows the comic wasn’t afraid of exploring certain horror themes, because I can imagine some parents wouldn’t have been too happy about a child’s comic showing evil demons battling in such a religious setting. It’s great stuff and reads like a classic 80s horror movie, the atmosphere perfectly captured by John.

The comic was edited by Barrie Tomlinson (see also Ring Raiders and Wildcat on the blog) but unfortunately it seems very little is remembered about the creation of this particular comic. John had worked with Barrie before on titles such as Tiger and drew Billy’s Boots for a long time, as well as working on both of the comics mentioned above. This was released earlier than either of them and John really does seem to relish drawing the darker material here after all the sports strips he was best known for at the time. Skull looks appropriately manic as he breaks through and the nighttime scene of their arrival wouldn’t look out of place in something like Scream. This won’t be the last time I mention that comic.

This preview also acted as advertising for the toy line and I don’t just mean because it had a licenced comic strip. There are also pin-ups of the various figures and vehicles produced by Tonka, who were always known for their high quality truck toys so naturally the Super Naturals wouldn’t drive about in any old cars, they had to be large Tonka trucks!

The images were supplied for the comic by the toy manufacturer and are expertly lit to show off the intricate and highly detailed holograms. I only owned one of the toys but from seeing these images and others online they were in a class of their own and superior to Hasbro‘s Visionaries. (I went into more detail about the toys in the introductory post to Super Naturals.) I can just imagine how I would’ve poured over these images in anticipation of Christmas if I had owned this at the time, but unfortunately the preview comic wasn’t given away with OiNK.

To lighten the mood after the main strip is Ghostlings, a shorter story based on the smaller ghosts; long-time inhabitants of Ghostworld who acted as helpers to the main characters. Again, each has a background of their own, in fact we’re told exactly who they were before they were killed, albeit without their original names. Among them, a former stage magician, a court jester, a witch and even a teen wannabe rock star. They’re certainly a diverse group. Their stories would bring a bit of humour to the main fortnightly comic.

Little did we know the lasting effect that story would have on us!

Below is the line-up for the first issue. I do think it’s strange the preview printed the story already planned for issue one rather than its own introduction, but beyond that is another Super Naturals strip which really is epic in scope and really shows off the kind of stories the set up would be capable of telling. The Ghostlings would return, there was the promise of complete horror stories (which do live up to the hype) and innocently listed there is The Doll. Little did we know the lasting effect that story would have on us!

It’s interesting to see even before the first issue the two non-franchise stories taking second and third place in the line-up. You’ll see these in the review of #1, but already it’s clear this is going to be more than your standard licenced comic. In some ways it felt like a reimagining of the horror classic, Scream! I’m incredibly excited to get reading these again. As per usual I’ll be doing so fortnightly in real time and it all begins on Hallowe’en itself, one week from now.

To finish off this whirlwind introduction to these very different characters the back page has a special competition to win a Tomb of Doom and action figures to place inside it. The slogan from the TV adverts adorns the top left of the page and should be read in a suitably creepy voice. The competition had been put together by Tonka themselves as an advertisement just for the comic and would become a regular back page addition with various prizes along the way.

There really is no other comic more suitable for review at this time of the year, so join me (if you dare) on Sunday 31st October 2021 for issue one of a forgotten classic.

RiNG RAiDERS #3: COMiX & CHiLL

Skull Commander Chiller pops up on the cover to the latest Ring Raiders introducing the free Skull Squadron poster, which I’ll show you later in the review. He’s easily the star inside too; a main character of two strips and he’s the pin up too. Chiller was a fan favourite, so much so that his Wing was hard to come by and in the end I wasn’t able to add him to my collection.

With a sleek plane equipped with a freeze ray and an equally slick haircut equipped with a cool white stripe he was the epitome of 80s villainy, probably more so than their leader Scorch at this early stage. Although to be fair the comic is slowing moving its way through the large ensemble cast and, instead of rushing, it’s taking its time with certain individuals. In the final issue we’ll start to see the second batch of stories begin and the focus moving slightly, so over time all of the characters would’ve received fair development.

In part two of Barrie Tomlinson‘s Battle Zone ’99 the remaining gravity-powered submarine is still under attack, as part of Skull’s aim to destabilise the governments of the world, a part of their overall goal of assuming control through a mix of all-out warfare and covert operations. Here, dozens are already dead but while trying to fire upon the sub Skull Leader Scorch accidentally damages Chiller’s F-104 ‘Ice Machine’ when Ring Commander Vector expertly dodges an attack, forcing his comrade to eject and abandon his awesome craft.

Adding insult to injury, Chiller is almost killed when his leader fires upon the sub again, not knowing he’s been pulled onboard and is assuming control. The episode is left with us unsure if Chiller is going to complete his mission or take revenge on Scorch! There’s a certain air of Starscream about the character. What I love the most is Carlos Pino‘s energetic, colourful art. In particular that panel of the F-104 being shot down. For my younger eyes his work was an action-packed start to each issue.

Apart from Thundercloud‘s Rescue Wing launching there are none of the toy range’s planes in the third part of Angus Allan‘s Trackdown. Instead the action takes part either on the ground or aboard (and hanging off of) a forestry service helicopter. A rather bold move for a tie-in based on those toys but it just goes to show the team wouldn’t confine their characters and stories to the cockpit.

The scale of these stories compared to what we might’ve expected was incredible to our young minds

It was exciting to see our Matchbox planes in action but look at that opening panel by John Cooper; the scale of these stories compared to what we might’ve expected (given the toy line) was incredible to our young minds. There’s a real feeling of confidence here, of being unrestricted and free to tell what the writer wanted to. Trackdown is the best example of how the writers weren’t being expected to shoehorn the planes into the stories. Character, action and story came first, and the planes became an organic part of the stories.

Our two original characters are still the stars, with Ring Raider Freddie Riley and the professor commandeering a helicopter to get above the mountains and radio for help. Runtz, however, clings to the side and the chapter ends with him bursting in and holding the professor by the throat! There’s a great little bit of humour there too from the Skull when he contacts Scorch. It’s an exciting read and, even though at this point we had no idea how long Trackdown would last, something in the way it was being told made it stand out as the main strip.

Trackdown might be the most fondly remembered tale in the whole run but this is the best strip in this issue. The complete character story is all about the leader of Bandit Wing, Chiller and it’s his turn to reminisce about an important part of his past to his wingmen. But first can I just point out he’s killed a Ring Raider! Max Miles has only appeared briefly and his Bravery Wing haven’t made the pages yet, but he’s definitely a man down, one of his pilots frozen into place in his cockpit, no parachute visible and the plane shattered on the mountainside. It’s dealt with in a throwaway manner but again backs up how the comic depicted the Skull Squadron, as I mentioned last time.


“You’re gonna stay down here and freeze like the scum you are!”

Skill Commander Chiller

The story continues with its bleak theme and the bodies really do pile up! I know you’ll think I’m cracking a joke when I say it’s a chilling tale but there’s no other way to describe what is the best of these complete tales in the whole series. Writer Scott Goodall depicts Chiller as an average guy with a job as a freelance mail service pilot flying between the mountains and the sea. Bitter and angry it’s clear he has an issue with the wider world and, as well as beginning his obsession with the killing potential of cold and ice, this story appears to push him over the edge and become the kind of person Skull Squadron would appeal to.

Remember that “twisted by war’s cruelties” line from last issue’s brief look at the history of the Squadron? That rings true here. We’re not told (yet) what made him into the character we see here but perhaps if the comic had continued we’d have had a look further into his past. The person hiring him ends up forcing him at gunpoint to land on the Devil’s Throne mountain where his diamond smuggling partner crashed his plane, within which he still sits.

John Gillat‘s art certainly sent a shiver down my spine when I first read this back in 1989. It was the most adult tale the comic would produce in its short life and cemented Chiller as the best villain and the most defined. It looks like the Devil’s Throne is going to encase him and the criminal who hired him until he sees a mountain climber, dead and perfectly preserved in the ice. Chipping away with his knife for a long time he lets the smuggler (whose leg broke in their fall into a newly opened crevasse) endlessly tell him what he needs to do to lift him out.


“Time’s running out, Kirkov! You can’t fly on Ring-Power forever or you’ll burn out your nervous system!”

Skull Commander Mako

Letting the man think he’s listening, he gets a sudden awakening as he watches Chiller climb out, leaving him to freeze to death. The takeaway from all this is how hardened it’s made a man who previously had a chip on his shoulder, but who wouldn’t necessarily have considered leaving someone to die. This was his tipping point and it’s expertly brought to the page as a tense little thriller. It makes me wonder if the people who actually created the Ring Raiders franchise ever saw where the UK team took their characters.

Leaving with the diamonds, when he was approached to join Skull Squadron he helped fund their efforts and I’m sure they welcomed him, given how his appearances seem to be amassing the biggest death toll in the whole comic. In addition, though it isn’t confirmed, the way he berates the American makes me think he’s actually British. Given his dress sense I think this could possibly be the case and I hear a British accent every time I read his stories. A brilliant character.

With this third issue some input from the readers has made its way on to the letters page and it’s been decided the Skull Squadron will get first crack at choosing who gets to appear. The opposing sides would take it in turns each fortnight, with the prizes also changing between those featuring the good guy or the baddies. The toy package images have also been replaced by a Sandy James depiction of the guest editor and who better to kick things off than the big bad himself, Scorch.

Just across from this is the first proper Next Issue promo and it looks like the plane stars will be back in full force in Trackdown. Just to answer the question posed here, yes my copy was on order at the paper shop, in fact it had been ever since I bought issue one, before I even took it home.

Just below this is a coupon for The Ring Raiders Club. This was just a preliminary coupon to show interest, a bit like when we sign up for updates on new websites or Kickstarters today. When the final issue of the comic arrived I was desperate for more Ring Raiders action and sent off my own coupon but I never heard anything back. With a different address to the comic this wasn’t a Fleetway Publications club and in fact I’m unsure who was actually planning it, but unfortunately it looks like it never took off (ba-doom-tish).

Moving on to writer James Nicholas‘ and artist Don Wazejewski‘s Bomber Blues and after a last minute pull out of a crash dive, ‘Cub’ Jones crashes through the air traffic control tower and has to pancake his F-5 ‘Sky Tiger’, destroying its undercarriage and rendering it unusable. The World War II airfield has been destroyed, the leader of Hero Wing is down and Hubbub‘s Rebel Wing are returning with replacement planes to attack at full strength and enact his revenge on the American pilots. He and his men could easily wipe them all out.

Don’s artwork is gorgeous here and oozes atmosphere, whether that’s on the eerie, flattened airfield or just a couple of panels later with the Air Carrier Justice cruising the night skies. Vector stops any rescue attempt, telling the other Raiders this is a personal mission for the new pilot Jones and it’s something he has to figure out for himself. Well, figure it out he does with a rather surprising moment you can see above.

It’s a fun solution to the problem although my adult mind can’t help but think how that possibly worked? The bomber wouldn’t have been able to hover over the F-5 while they attached it, soo are they meant to have scooped it up on a flypast? Oh, who cares?! Given the set up for the whole comic I’m not going to get hung up on this! Plus, as a kid I loved this, it was genuinely surprising, I laughed and I do believe I reenacted it when the larger bomber toys were launched the next year. It’s fun! That’s the point and it certainly ticks all the boxes in that regard.

The Skull Squadron weren’t just the stars of the letters page, they also had a full page advert to themselves. With illustrations by Sandy James and some rather lacklustre toy photographs, it was still enough to elicit excitement for the upcoming Christmas season in this young reader. With my birthday four days before Christmas Day it was a bumper Matchbox festive season so these adverts were all hype to me, tying these tiny planes into the stories in the comic in brilliant fashion.

I do wonder if the comic and toys had carried on for longer (as they both deserved to) would we have seen this relationship develop further and where would it have led? Would we have seen Sandy’s artwork on the toy packaging? Would Barrie and his team have taken responsibility for the little comics we got with our planes? Just wondering aloud as a fan who really saw their potential and continues to do so to this day.

Chiller continues his comic takeover with this issue’s pin-up, also drawn by Sandy. In fact, the last several pages pretty much belong to Sandy as this leads on to the final strip, part three of Freedom Flight and his glorious, full-colour artwork bringing Tom Tully‘s script to life. It was a particularly exciting one for readers because this was the first time we saw a ring being used to connect pilot and plane.

As well as communicators or time-meddling warning signals the rings could be used to “receive improved flying skills in times of crisis”, to quote last month’s issue. By being inserted into a special part of the cockpit they flood the plane and its pilot with raw energy. At the end of last issue’s episode Commander Kirkov was plummeting towards the fort in his F-4 Phantom ‘Comet’, his death (and the destructive changing of history) seemingly imminent. Here’s how it’s picked up.

With the energy of the ring the plane gets a burst of power but in order to control it so does Kirkov. While the ring is inserted it’s obviously affecting his body too. (Each ring was programmed specifically for each pilot and their own aircraft.) While it could have other uses in other dire situations (perhaps for bursts of speed when ambushed for example) the fact it could be incredibly damaging to the human behind it means they’re only brought into play in absolute emergencies, as a last resort and can’t be used for long for fear of the pilot passing out.

Mako makes reference to this while he tries to gun down Kirkov, but the two men are such incredible pilots they can’t get a lock on each other. But this doesn’t matter to Mako, he knows all he has to do is keep Kirkov in the air long enough for him either to disengage the ring and lose control of the failing aircraft, or pass out and crash anyway.

In desperation Kirkov banks into the smoke-filled sky above the battle and loses his pursuer. But he’s still in a predicament and upon spotting a landing strip behind friendly lines he lands so quickly he does’t spot it’s about to be overrun by the rebels. It’s an exhilarating ride and all these years later a real thrill to see the ring power finally used in this way. There are so many fantastical elements to introduce in the world of the Ring Raiders it makes sense to do them a little at a time and this has been well worth the wait.

On a side note, in the cartoon the ring power was used to kind of ‘supercharge’ the planes and a previously unseen silver armour would slide out from hidden panels and cover the entire aircraft, even the cockpit. How did they see out? In this too I much prefer the comic’s version. Why would you want to cover these wonderfully designed decals?

There’s the free poster, up on the wall of my current home office. I’ve various free posters and the like plastered all over these walls, making it the perfect spot to write this blog and the Skull Squadron poster takes pride of place. Now if only I could track down the Ring Raiders one to go with it! It’s been lost over the years but one day I will reunite them.

So that’s it. The third issue of Ring Raiders comes to an end and it’s been a rollicking good read. I can’t wait for the rest of the series simply because I know it just keeps on getting better. You’ll see what I mean in a fortnight when #4 lands on the OiNK Blog on Thursday 28th October 2021.

RiNG RAiDERS #2: IN THE BATTLE ZONE

I’ve a distinct memory of reading this issue of Ring Raiders on the school bus and hearing one of the older kids behind us proudly proclaiming, “I’m Joe Thundercloud!” at the top of his voice. Ian Kennedy contributes that sole figure with the free poster taking centre stage. (You’ll see #3’s poster next time.) They were proper gift posters, separate from the comic and I had mine up instantly. My collection of planes was growing, I knew certain large boxes in my parents’ bedroom were bases for Christmas and this was my first reserved issue the comic. These things had me hooked.

Inside things kick off with a new multipart tale written by editor Barrie Tomlinson and drawn by Carlos Pino, Battle Zone ’99. The Skull Squadron pilot causing havoc here is Skull Commander Chiller and with this story he immediately became my favourite baddie. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. What kid wouldn’t love a jet with a sci-fi freeze ray? Chiller would love experimenting with various killing methods involving cold and ice and it would appear he fired up the imagination for the writers too, as he would star in more stories than anyone else.

Launching an attack on a futuristic gravity-powered submarine by freezing it, making it brittle, then destroying it with a well-placed missile, he kills the entire crew. This toy comic wasn’t afraid to show its baddies actually being bad and killing innocents to meet their foul goals. In the year 2057 aboard the Air Carrier Justice the Ring Raiders get a warning that a moment in history is being changed by the Skulls and they set off to rescue the second submarine.

There was going to be a Northern European Republic and Scotland was very much a part of it. It feels somewhat prescient.

Interestingly, it appears they can’t just set their time travelling planes to appear at any moment they want for fear of altering history further. Instead, once the alert is received via their rings that particular moment in time continues to play out as our heroes scramble. Fans of Doctor Who will know all about how she can’t mess with moments in time once they’re in motion and it’s interesting to see this was also part of the rules here.

In this version of our world there was going to be a Northern European Republic and Scotland was very much a part of it in 1999. The Victor Vector strip later in this issue is set just one year prior and there’s an appearance by the British RAF. So I can only assume Scotland had become independent and joined the European Republic, with England (and maybe the rest of the UK) outside of this union. It feels somewhat prescient, doesn’t it?


“Some people believe that Sea Hunter is capable of operating underwater… and I’m one of them!”

Ring Commander Victor Vector

Moving on to the second strip and it’s the phenomenal Trackdown written by Angus Allan and drawn by John Cooper. Professor Deke Martin‘s Doomsday Device is thankfully mobile and the unnamed toy pilot Freddie Riley is taking it and the professor deep into the woods to buy time while his wing, led by Thundercloud, tries to dispatch Havoc Wing. By the end of the story two planes have been destroyed and another original comic character is out to track down the device. It was always a thrill when the comic created these characters for our other toys!

What stands out the most is the amount of ground action that occurs and the level of characterisation being slipped in, in just four pages. The military characters interact realistically, grounding the fantastical set up and giving the aerial action a real feeling of danger. Especially when we’ve seen so many shot down already! We also see Wing Commander Thundercloud break off and order his men to return to base and all we’re told is that his instincts have come into play. So for now his apparent abandonment of Freddie is a mystery. Colour me intrigued by this layered storytelling.

Back then, leader characters in our toy ranges and cartoons were somewhat clichéd, a caricature of what either side stood for. Compare the 80s cartoon Optimus Prime to the nuanced, troubled version from the movies and you’ll see the difference. Ring Raiders is off to a good start in this regard. The complete story here is all about a moment from Ring Commander Victor Vector‘s past and showcases his strategising and leadership qualities in a unique way; he’s on holiday from the British Royal Air Force (in the comic he’s British it would seem) before his Raiders days when Skull Squadron attack the French side of the recently completed Channel Tunnel in the year 1998.

In the real world the tunnel was completed in 1994 so it wasn’t a bad prediction and I remember the regular British tabloid attacks on its construction being headline news around the time of this comic. With no plane at hand Vector befriends a local deckchair salesman who leads him to one. Sort of. I laughed at this I’ll admit, and I mean today as I read this as an adult. The comic wasn’t short of well written humour.

This is great fun and involves Mako‘s Mig-29 ‘Flying Shark’ which (as I touched upon previously) was one of my top toys in the range because of its shark motif and the apparent ‘rumour’ it could be flown underwater. As you can see here it’s no rumour as he begins to drill down to flood the tunnel. Vector also believes it’s true after apparently shooting Mako down with a handheld rocket launcher, however it’s a fact the readers would be in on but the Raiders could never verify.

It’s written by Scott Goodall and expertly drawn by John Gillatt. It has a Flight of the Pheonix feel to it, with added sci-fi elements thrown in, that ghostly underwater sequence, great action, a topical subject for the time and a little bit of comic relief. I also love the ending when we find out the entire flying aircraft carrier makes a trip far into the future just to drop Vector off for his hols! It’s a shame we don’t get the chance for more development for him (or indeed, more development for them all) due to the short lifespan of the comic and the ensemble nature of the cast, but I have enjoyed this softening of his character.

Obviously there’s still no content for the letters page because of deadlines in getting this issue to print, so instead stars of two of the issue’s strips introduce one page apiece outlining the history of both sides in the conflict and requesting input from readers in all its various forms for editor Barrie and editorial assistant Terry Magee to sort through.

It appears the Ring Raiders were plucked right out of raging battles (which fits in perfectly with ‘Cub’ Jones’ affection for the bomber crews in the next story) and there’s a little hint for readers of some of the additional abilities of their rings, something toy collectors were already aware of but it’s nice to see a certain one mentioned given how this issue ends. The little throwaway line of how Skull Squadron recruits had been “twisted by war’s cruelties” hints at possible future character plots too.

Cub is back in the war he was plucked from in Bomber Blues which makes a surprise return as an ongoing story after last issue’s apparent one-off. Following what was now clearly a prelude, Skull Leader Hubbub‘s Rebel Wing return to take their revenge on the crew who rescued Hero Wing, unaware they were grounded after their fantastical tales to their superiors. Nor is he aware they’re also in possession of a signal ring to summon Cub and his team.

I’m so happy to see this story continue. The premise is just too good to leave at one issue. Writer James Nicholas‘ fondness for the subject matter and Don Wazejewski‘s art style are just perfect and there’s a true vintage war comic vibe going on here, even with the mixture of aircraft and electronic weaponry.

In the toy packs there could be a mix of prop planes and jets and I often thought how on earth did they fly in formation together? Well they don’t, instead each is used for a particular purpose. For example the prop craft often being brought in for low-flying raids on slow moving targets or navigating close over difficult terrain. This is what happens when someone who knows their stuff writes for us. I mean, just look at this glorious action panel!

The comic certainly wasn’t shy in destroying the planes we were playing with as kids either. Throughout this issue about half a dozen altogether are outright destroyed, giving an air of jeopardy to the stories. Instead of vast battles where no one actually gets shot down or injured as we’d have seen in our cartoons, here anything seemed to go!

Before the final strip we’ve an advert for the toys and a pin-up of Vector. The advert is very basic and appears to have been put together by the comic itself rather than Matchbox, but they’d get more creative in future issues, even incorporating new artwork by Sandy James. Speaking of Sandy that’s his work on the pin-up before the full-colour second chapter of his story, Freedom Fight.

As part two commences the fort’s soldiers are frozen in fear at the futuristic aircraft but the rebels, though just as confused, see their chance and charge the fort. What’s compelling here is finding out another rule to the overall story, and that’s how the Ring Raiders must never fire upon or harm anyone caught up in Skull Squadron’s plots, even if those people are firing upon our heroes.

This leaves Commander Kirkov in a predicament. How can he push back the rebels without opening fire on them? He can’t take sides, he’s just trying to preserve history as it was originally written. Writer Tom Tully uses the unique features of the plane mentioned on the toy packet to great affect here and has Kirkov blast the ground with his laser cannon, setting it on fire and stopping the advance. It reminds me of some classic set pieces from Airwolf, which is perfectly fine by me! Sandy’s bold colouring is spot on here.

Once again the comic ends on a riveting few pages, finishing with a cliffhanger of Kirkov’s ‘Comet’ F-4 Phantom on fire and plummeting towards the very fort he’s trying to save. The final caption simply reads, ‘In A Fortnight’s Time: Flying on ring-power!’ Look back at that letters page preview and you should know why I was so excited to get my hands on the next issue back in October 1989. In fact, I can’t wait for it now!

I think I can say with confidence Ring Raiders had a very firm foundation to its universe, characters and stories at this very early stage. Building on the basics from the premiere issue Barrie and his team were wasting no time in exploring different characters, scenarios and the various kinds of aerial action they could depict. It honestly feels like its writers and artists were having a whale of a time with the subject matter. I know I am.

Don’t be late for #3’s departure, right here on OiNK Blog on Thursday 14th October 2021.