Tag Archives: Keith Page

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!

SUPER NATURALS HOLiDAY SPECiAL: HiSTORiC HORROR

Welcome back to Ghostworld for the very last time. Just a month after the final issue comes Fleetway‘s Super Naturals Holiday Special for 1988, as ever edited by Barrie Tomlinson. Kicking off with a Sandy James cover which would’ve been fun for any kids who received the oversized Tonka trucks for Christmas, here we have 48 glossy pages which, much like the Adventure Book, focus more on the action aspects of the comic rather than the horror.

There are two exceptions, including a reprint from Scream! which checks the horror box for the young readers of Super Naturals unaware of the previous short-lived comic, but other than that it’s all licenced strips and extras. That means there’s no ventriloquist’s Doll or readers’ suggestions for Scary Cat, both of which were highlights of the regular comic so that’s a shame, especially knowing this would be the last publication in the series. But let’s not get too down, the idea of a Holiday Special was to have lots of fun one-off stories to read while off school. Let’s see how the Super Naturals fare with theirs, shall we?

It starts high in the air in SkyJack! The evil Super Naturals flub an attempt to transport themselves into our world, with only Snake Bite able to make it and imaginatively the strip has him crashing through a tiny airplane window, terrifying all the passengers on a transatlantic flight to America. Hypnotising the pilots, he shares his strength with them to save the plane, but only because he wants to use it to crash into Washington which would cause much more destruction in our world.

Snake Bite was always the most interesting of the evil characters and the set up for this story is great. We even have Hooter and Lionheart using the Ghost Finder to nudge the plane up just enough so that it’s trajectory is right for the pilots to take over before Lionheart slashes a hole in the fuselage and throws Snake Bite out, who loses his telepathic control as a result. I like how it’s not an easy, miraculous rescue plan, as Hooter bluntly states. It’s just a shame the artwork doesn’t match the exciting potential of the script.

It’s even more of a shock when you find you who the artist was. It’s Geoff Campion‘s work (Eagle, Lion, Valiant) which I’d personally adored in Ring Raiders, another of Barrie’s titles. However, here things feel somewhat rushed, even unfinished in places, such as when the Ghost Finder crew makes their entrance the buildings in the background look like rough layouts. As the story goes on more details are lost and backgrounds become even more sparse, almost like it was hastily finished for a deadline. It’s not the usual exemplary work we’ve come to expect from Geoff and I’m intrigued as to why, but unfortunately that’s a question lost to the mists of time. It’s still a fun story to open with, a really enjoyable complete tale perfect for a Holiday Special.

To make a special even more so, there are always a few extras. Inside we have new pin ups of the toys, some of the marvellous posters from the fortnightly have been shrunk down to A4 size, a one-page Ghostling Tale features a thief making his getaway only to board the Titanic and there’s a pretty poor quiz. Much like the one in the Adventure Book it’s just a series of strip panels and the questions are all a variation of “Who is in this picture?”. We do get some lovely reader art in Ghostworld Gallery including a superb rendering of Skull by David Round who was clearly a fan of Alan Langford‘s depiction of the character.

There’s also a page called Incident at Rock Canyon which looks suspiciously an unused cover. Drawn by Sandy James it clearly hadn’t reached the colouring stage yet when the comic was cancelled. To accompany it is a short story by way of explanation, reminding me of the inner front page to the Ring Raiders special printed after that favourite comic of mine also abruptly ceased. It’s a nice addition and always interesting to see work that was still in progress for future issues.

Next up is a Scary Cat Challenge story. The anthology story isn’t based on a reader’s idea like some of the very best in the regular series, instead it’s a reprint from Scream! #9. Part of the Library of Death series in the comic, Ghost Town was written by Fred Baker (Roy of the Rovers, Lion, New Eagle) and illustrated by Mike Dorey (Action, Warlord, 2000AD). An old Western town in America witnesses the arrival of its first automobile, which promptly has a brake failure and ploughs straight into a dynamite storage (of course it does), blowing it and the whole town up in a huge chain reaction of explosions. That’s just the beginning.

In the then-present day of the 80s two young lads pull up to a gas station in the desert and ask for directions, but there’s more to the little old man who helps them than they realise. They soon find themselves in an old fashioned town instead of back on the highway and are greeted by the sheriff. The only problem is he’s a waking, talking skeleton! Telling the boys they’re going to stand in a fair trial for murder, soon a whole town full of dead bodies with other ideas are chasing them down.

Cornered in the sheriff’s office with his guns, the young men have no choice but to try to shoot their way out and get back to their car, but they’re no match for one of the local gunslingers. Seeing the two innocent guys gunned down was quite the shock when I turned the page! I know it was created for a different comic but to see it in the pages of Super Naturals it makes quite the impact. I never owned this edition as a kid but if I had (and not knowing this was a reprint) I know I would’ve loved this story because of this horrific final page.

The next strip is the definite highlight of the whole comic, even though it only comes in at four pages. I believe the artist for The Making of Evil could be Keith Page though this is unconfirmed. The middle couple of pages are your typical tale of Skull and Burnheart causing terror and destruction as they set fire to a small Austrian town at the end of the nineteenth century. They’re defeated by Lionheart and Thunderbolt but our main focus is the young boy the evil Super Naturals crash in on at the beginning of the their story.

The strip doesn’t explicitly tell us his name but instead treats the young readers with the intelligence to either know straight away who this is, or to piece it together by the end. I was still in primary school when this was released so I wouldn’t have been taught anything about World War II at this point, but some slightly older readers may have, and even if they hadn’t a rereading in a year or two would’ve brought a fresh, terrifying perspective.

The boy’s reaction to Skull inspires the evil leader to bestow upon him unlimited power to score against those he hates, but even Skull can only hope the boy will spread some form of fear after they’re recaptured; he has no idea of what he’s actually created. For now we see the boy carry on with their work, helping spread the fire and blocking the streets from help. In the final issue’s review I said how it would’ve been great to see the Super Naturals interact with more myths from our past like they did with the Lady of the Lake, but to see a real-world evil inspired by Skull is something I didn’t expect! It’s a brave move by the comic and an inspired story that once again shows the potential of the franchise.

I also adore that awesome Tomb of Doom looming over the characters as they disappear back into Ghostworld, and I wish it had been depicted as such throughout the whole series. Then, after that somewhat creepy tale comes a bit of comic relief in the shape of Ghostlings, this time focussing on Hooter and Scary Cat and as ever it’s drawn by Anthony Williams. The slight plot sees the witch trying to wreck a bit of havoc by having lions escape a zoo close to a town.

Hooter tries to stop her by using his magical sleeping potion but he’s quite a clumsy wizard is our Hooter and he drops it in a mid-air kerfuffle between the pair. But luck is on his side and instead of Scary Cat being put to sleep the animals end up having a doze instead. But when Scary Cat transforms back to her witch form, their hard landing sees her join them in the land of nod. Our hero is then easily able to carry her back to the Tomb. Silly stuff, but then again the best Ghostlings strips always were, that was the whole point of them.

Racetrack Riot is the special’s prose story and follows F1 driver Alan Dixon as he test drives a new super powered engine, which of course Skull wants for his Bat Bopper truck. Alan and his team are kidnapped and forced to remove the engine from their car, however outside Lionheart, Thunderbolt and Hooter (who is making up for being underused in the regular comic by the looks of it) are watching closely. It’s our clumsy wizard who comes up with the plan and after transforming into his owl form he swoops in from the skylight on which they’re perched and seemingly attacks the F1 team.

There’s method in his madness of course. It looks like a regular owl, possibly nesting somewhere nearby, has flown in. So the evil characters simply ignore him while at the same time in this form he doesn’t inadvertently scare the humans into freezing in fright for once! Instead, they dive into the maintenance pit under the car for cover. This allows the main Super Naturals to launch an attack and duke it out without fear of harming anyone. It’s inconsequential stuff but entertainingly written by Barrie Tomlinson. Unfortunately though, we’re not sure who the artist was.

The final story in the comic and for any of these characters is Tooth and Claw and I believe it could be drawn by Keith Page. I’ve checked with some sources and parts of this (in particular the Super Naturals themselves) seem to be in his style but the jury is out for how the wild animals are drawn. So it could be Keith. Anyway, the story is set in an unnamed country suffering from a drought, its inhabitants hungry and the animals dying. Through a sacred temple emerge Skull, Snakebite and the underused Rags (as someone interested in Ancient Egypt I wish they’d used him more, he’s a Pharaoh who can turn into a cursed mummy) in the Bat Bopper and Lionheart, Eagle Eye and Mr. Lucky in the Ghost Finder.

As they give chase the good guys are surprised to see the villages have been left untouched by their evil counterparts, until they come face to face with a wild stampede. Hypnotised by Snake Eyes, the animals have either been forced into a frenzy to chase down and eat the human flesh of the nearby villagers, or into a made rage to stomp all over their homes and kill them underfoot in the case of the elephants. But the plan hasn’t reckoned on one simple thing, namely Lionheart’s third and final form.

It’s surprising to think the character hasn’t been placed into this kind of environment before now. It’s the kind of story which could’ve been developed into a serial to delve deeper into his mind, especially if he befriended other lions. After all, he was given this lion form by Specter for a reason, could he have found a kindred spirit in them? But then again, the comic was still in its infancy when it was cancelled, so who knows what could’ve happened. I have to say though, it’s fun to see him take to this form with relish, acting like an actual wild lion and fighting off the hypnotised, innocent animals (without killing them). Only a few characters got the chance for any kind of development by the end and unfortunately Lionheart wasn’t one of them. This is like a teaser for what could’ve been.

Before we sign off from the last ever edition of this comic there’s just time for a quick plug for some of Fleetway‘s range which may have appealed to he target audience. Battle had merged with the new Eagle after a phenomenal run, Roy of the Rovers was still going strong and another of their licenced comics, Mask had proved a lot more popular, lasting 80 issues and it was certainly a hit with some of my friends. These could be described as the Barrie Tomlinson range, as he edited all of these titles too.

A reprint of a Skull poster with the top and bottom chopped off to fit the inside back cover followed by the title logo on the rear round things off and that’s it. In an edition which contained a lot more fun and action-orientated strips, the horror stories of the Scream reprint and the Hitler tale really stand out. So does the action-packed Lionheart ending, if only to show what could’ve been and as a great example of the licence.

Never again would the young readers see these fun characters and the horror comics that came along with them for the ride. While there seems to be very little left to tell as memories seem vague when it comes to Super Naturals, keep an eye on the blog for some possible extra content in the future nonetheless. It’s sad to see the comic end and it will remain a treasured part of my collection, taking pride of place on the Barrie Tomlinson Trilogy Shelf. I hope I’ve been able to do my bit in helping keep the memory of this classic alive.

(Please note the Super Naturals Adventure Book review is yet to come, more information here.)