Friday, 16 June 2017


More from the VHS Years: The last of the original CIC STAR TREK TOS TAPES, featuring the final three episodes of the third and final season of the Sixties TV show.

The Three Episode format was unusual for the run.  All the previous tapes had included two episodes (which roughly equate, duration-wise, to a short movie) but, because of the odd number of episodes in the original series (79), they either had to chance releasing a tape with just one episode (although surely they could have padded it out with some documentaries or other filler from the vaults) or chuck three episodes onto a longer tape.  I don't recall whether they bumped up the price for this one... maybe by a couple of quid.

Prior to the coming of Amazon, and others, shops needed a lot of shelf space to carry a long-running series like this (which must have amounted to roughly 39-40 tapes).  Long-runners must have also tied up a lot of capital to keep a deep inventory on the off-chance that someone would want to pick up - say - tape 23 in the run.  Our Price even set up a chain of stores just selling tapes... although they didn't last for more than a few years


This is an interesting bit of diversification for IPC (unless they were simply acting as an agent/ mailing address for a different company... and the not-King's-Reach-Tower address and lack of IPC characters/ input suggests that's possible)... CAPTAIN MICRO'S ELECTRONIC COMIC.

I've never seen this (has anyone?) but i assume this was a compilation of anything-that-is-free-or-cheap that the producers could license for home video.  The You Tube of the age.


From the Autumn of 1996: the 11th issue of THE 5 TIMES, the fanzine published by the UK BABYLON FIVE FAN CLUB.

Apologies for skipping a few issues.  I'm not quite sure how that happened but it probably means I have a few issues buried in a box somewhere waiting to be rediscovered at some point in the future.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Another VHS tape with material from the golden age of the Televenture Action Factory: an AIRWOLF tape from a three-tape boxset released in the UK towards the end of the Tape Years.


From May 1997: Probably one of the most 'out there' of the wave of SF mags that cluttered newsagents in the 1990s boom: STAR VOYAGER.

Edited by Chris Martin and published by Roma, it appears to have never made it past this first issue.


From January 1982: FANTASY ADVERTISER issue 71.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


From late 1996 (with a January 1997 cover date): THE ADVENTURES OF SNAKE PLISSKEN, another 'non-core' (IE non-STAR TREK) offering from the MARVEL PRESENTS PARAMOUNT COMICS imprint.

It was, of course, a spin-off from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and the belated 1996 follow-up ESCAPE FROM L.A.

This was another one-shot.  The line was active from 1996-98 before ending during the Marvel bankruptcy.  Management probably decided that the benefits of being allied to a major studio (they were probably hoping that paramount would eventually step in and buy the publisher) wasn't sufficient compared to soft sales and high licensing costs at a time when Marvel were scalling back their output and their bloated cost base, alongside selling (sometimes at knockdown prices) parts of the over-extended business.

The core of the MPPC line were the various STAR TREK titles, unifying a franchise that had previously been split between DC Comics (Star Trek and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) and (now Marvel owned) Malibu Comics (DS9 and Voyager, although it never appeared under their banner).  Marvel kick-started things with an X-Men crossover (this was a time when such stunts still created a 'huh?' reaction) and then ploughed forward with a whole bunch of ongoing Trek books.  Amongst the least obvious: THE EARLY VOYAGES (starring the crew from the unsold pilot 'The Cage'); UNTOLD VOYAGES (filling in that murky period after ST: TMP) and STARFLEET ACADEMY.  VOYAGER and DEEP SPACE NINE had their own ongoing series but TOS and TNG were shoehorned into a bumper-length UNLIMITED book.  Various one-shots helped pad out the schedule.

The line ran into trouble pretty quick, probably partly because Marvel had flooded a weak market with too much product.  Trek had been a good - but not great - seller for its previous publishers and there is no reason to think that more franchise fans would have started buying the Marvel version.  Marvel's cash-strapped status also made it far less willing to support 'vanity' projects that it didn't own outright and couldn't bank all the cash. Some of the more marginal titles were shuttered after fairly short runs and replacements didn't appear.

Another problem, perennial with licensed titles, was getting studio sign-off promptly enough to stick to a publishing schedule.  The biggest problems lay with the shows that were still in production because they still had active creative teams working on the lot.  Marvel's solution was to close the ongoing DS9 and Voyager books and replace them with a series of back-to-back mini-series which could be planned and prepared further in advance of press dates to build in a bigger contingency for West Coast delays.

Plan B didn't have time to play out before Marvel ditched the line completely.  The last titles of ongoing books to appear had June (Early Voyages, Starfleet Academy) or July 1998 (Unlimited) cover dates.  Starfleet Academy, at 19 issues, was the longest-lived of the line numerically.  

The end of the line, and the state of the market, meant that Marvel didn't get any trade paperback collections out the door.  IDW have reissued some material in book form but the bulk - at the moment - have never been reprinted.  The current series of hardback reprints will - one assumes - get to this stuff eventually (they've done an Early Voyages edition thus far) but they have been much more willing to publish recent IDW series (probably because they are technically of a higher standard and require less production work to ready them for print) than dip into the DC or MPPC vaults.

Probably the line's greatest claim-to-fame? Publishing an issue of DS9 in Klingon.  With an English 'translation' also available.  Make sure you buy the right copy when diving into the 50p bins!

Like the previous MIGHTY HEROES post, Snake Plissken was a MPPC title that I had no idea even existed until I stumbled across a copy in a 50p box.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


From January 1995: Mulder and Scully inevitably make it onto the cover of THERMAL LANCE issue 22.  Because THE X-FILES sold.  A lot.  And it was cool.  Briefly.

What was the big deal about THE AVENGERS PROGRAMME GUIDE?  It was another in the run of unofficial Virgin-published paperback episode guides from this this period (Series covered included THE WEST WING, RED DWARF, THE SIMPSONS, BUFFY, ANGEL, START TREK, DAWSON'S CREEK, GERRY ANDERSON shows, BABYLON FIVE, NEIGHBOURS... I have a shelf full of them) but it ran into a spot of bother.  From memory, the first edition rather unwisely suggested that one of the leading actors on the show got the gig by bedding the incoming producer.  Dave Rogers, publisher of assorted Avengers fanzines and books (and -  crucially - not involved with The Programme Guide) got wind of it, told the performer and the lawyers were called.  Cue some hasty recalling and pulping of early copies that had already hit the shelves.

The book was later reissued - as THE AVENGERS DOSSIER - in 1998 with the offending text removed.


From 1996: another of the I-can't-believe-it's-not-STAR-TREK one-shots that snuck out of Marvel's tie-up with Paramount Pictures... MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

This one officially launched the line and was timed to coincide with the release of the first of the ongoing movie series and is - therefore - set in the continuity of the film rather than any of the previous TV versions.

It seems that there are two variations of this comic (I've not checked mine but considering I paid 50p for it I'm guessing it is not the valuable one) because of a last-minute request from Tom Cruise to make his character more butch (which is a tadge overkill as Marvel didn't have likeness rights to the actor anyway... as the Liefield cover demonstrates) which required a few changes to the interior art.  But not - it seems - before the presses had started to roll.  The run was pulped... but a few 'first editions' snuck out the door and into (oddly) the UK distribution system.  I don't remember any hoopla around this at the time (maybe WIZARD were asleep at the PC that month) so maybe no-one noticed.  Or cared.  

Despite the film being a hit (many more followed), the sales obviously weren't enough to tempt Marvel to do a follow-up.  By the time the movie sequel rolled around in 2000, the Marvel/ Paramount joint-venture was defunct.

Monday, 12 June 2017


From 1997 (but with a 1998 cover date): Everyone (who cares to remember) remembers the numerous STAR TREK titles published under the MARVEL PRESENTS PARAMOUNT COMICS imprint but often overlooked are several other one-shots that also snuck out of the tie-up before a cash-strapped Marvel called it quits.

I think this - THE MIGHTY HEROES - is probably the most forgotten.  I only found it by chance in a 50p box a few years ago.  The characters are from a 1966 Terrytoons animated series, created by Ralph Bakshi.  The company was aquired by Viacom in 1971.  Viacom went on to purchase Paramount in 1994, hence their (brief) appearance under the Paramount imprint.

UK Star Warriors may remember seeing the cartoons (which probably cost next-to-nothing to buy) during the early years of TV-am before management twigged they could get better ratings (but annoy the IBA) by airing shows based on the latest toy lines.

I'll cover some of the other non-TREK Paramount comics in future posts.

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