Tuesday, 19 March 2019

BBC NEWS: INSIDE FRANK'S HEAD

After several years of development the documentary film Being Frank by Steve Sullivan is finally being released slowly but surely, beginning in the States at a film festival and now it's spreading across the UK and Ireland.  It even got a showing in Belfast but unfortunately I simply wasn't able to attend, which I have to say was incredibly frustrating!  Now, the source which originally broke the sad news to me of Chris Sievey's passing, BBC News, has a piece on its website all about the film.


Reporter Ian Youngs speaks to Steve and BBC DJ Mark Radcliffe who had appeared in a band with Frank and, while there's only a passing mention of Chris' work on Frank's comics, it's a fascinating introduction to the character and his creator for anyone not up to speed on one of Oink!'s most fondly remembered contributors.

Even for long-time readers there may be one or two snippets of information new to you here.  For me personally, I didn't know much about Chris before Frank came along, or how he added a ZX Spectrum computer game to the 'B' side of a single to try to increase sales, or how he opened at Wembley Stadium for one of the biggest boy bands in the UK at the time, only to get booed off stage.

Frank with (from left to right) Mark Radcliffe, Keith Chegwin
and Bob Holness!

The article only makes me want to see this movie even more than I already did.  There's a DVD release to come at a later stage and you can expect news on when you'll be able to order it for yourself right here on the blog.  Expect more updates about the film here as the year progresses too.  In the meantime check out the BBC News story and stay tuned.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

THE SLEEZE BROTHERS: FOLLOW THAT TARDIS!


Back in 1989 I was deep into my time with Marvel UK's Transformers comic, having started towards the end of 1988 and the company regularly used their most popular title to promote new releases.  But what I didn't know was that Marvel's Doctor Who Magazine had a habit of including guest stars in its comic strip who would later go on to appear in their own titles.  This happened for Death's Head (who had been created within the pages of Transformers no less) and it was only recently I found out that The Sleeze Brothers had made their debut appearance alongside Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor.

I would meet the brothers in the first issue of their comic later in 1989 so I'll reserve my own personal memories of the double act for that post in a few months.  For now though, here's a quick look at their preview strip in #147 of DWM, which I read for the first time just seven days ago.  My first impressions here were of the magazine itself, though.  Edited by friend of the blog John Freeman (with original Transformers editor Sheila Cranna now the Magazine Group Editor), it may be a lot thinner than today's at only 40 pages (8 of these being extra pages to make up a "Free Season 25 Episode Guide") but after reading the strip I found myself completely engrossed in its contents; interviews and features about the show's 25th anniversary season, in particular Remembrance of the Daleks, the first Doctor Who story I ever watched.

But let's get on to the reason the magazine is being included here on the blog.


The Sleeze Brothers was one of those comics I was destined to only read the first issue of.  I was collecting a few other comics at the time, reserved at the newsagents and purchased by my parents I wasn't allowed to ask for any more without cancelling one of the others.  But that didn't stop me using my pocket money (about 50p or so) to buy an extra comic for myself every so often, usually trying out new comics or just random editions.  But by the time their next issues would roll around my youthful attention span would have moved on to something else bright and colourful on the comics shelves.  The Brothers Sleeze were unfortunate casualties in this way.

But that's something I'll go into more depth on when I cover their series, all the issues of which I now own.  For now we can see their first ever appearance above as the Doctor's TARDIS lands on Earth sometime in the not-too-distant future, right in front of their car.  The Doctor is chasing the Meddling Monk across space and time, a character from the TV series whose TARDIS was still able to disguise itself as items from the place it landed.  So, a flying toilet makes its mark above and soon the Doctor unwittingly finds himself with two unlikely new companions.


Follow That TARDIS! is written by John Carnell, with art by the talented team of Andy Lanning (John and Andy are the characters' creators), John Higgins, Kev Hopgood, Dougie Braithwaite and Dave Elliott, lettering by Bambos and the whole strip edited by Richard Starkings.  A lot of these names would've been very familiar to me back in 1989 as they were regular contributors to The Real Ghostbusters comic.  Check out the blog's original post on that particular title to see a very familiar style, particularly that of Lanning's.

El' Ape and Deadbeat Sleeze are clearly modelled on Jake and Elwood from The Blues Brothers and just like that movie they've very distinct characteristics.  El' Ape is the short loudmouth, the forthright and in-charge brother of the investigative duo.  He's street smart, though somewhat lacking in the intelligence and mental acuity departments.  The taller Deadbeat is the quieter brother who may not say an awful lot but who makes up for this with his ability to see things more logically, though this obviously doesn't make him any less of a Sleeze Brother!  In this strip we see Deadbeat with a nose in a book all the way through the story as he pieces together the seemingly random, fantastical events taking place in front of their eyes.


This is a good example and the first of three time travel events the trio end up involved in.  The Meddling Monk has disappeared and El'Ape thinks he knows how to sniff him out.  One accidental nuclear explosion later and we have the Tunguska Event!  This was a real explosion in Russia in 1908, which I'd never heard of before now, believe it or not.

It was the largest meteor impact ever recorded in history, though no impact crater was ever found.  The explosion flattened over 2000 square kilometres of forest, taking out an estimated 80 million trees but fortunately no human casualties are officially listed, though several reports have indicated two people may have perished (see above).  The explosion and damage were attributed to the air burst of a meteor after it was said to have disintegrated above the ground.  In recent years evidence has proven this was the case, but in the decades that immediately followed it wasn't a certainty if this was the real cause of the blast and it was deemed a mystery for many years.

A mystery that just happens to be in Deadbeat's book.  At the time of this strip's writing, another event in history also hadn't been as fully explained as it is nowadays:


Add to this the Monk's TARDIS imploding over Bermuda in 1945 and you get the general idea that the brothers' little escapade to track down the person who damaged their car (and get their insurance details) gets a little out of hand.  From what I very, very vaguely remember of that first issue and the one-page adverts in Marvel's other comics of the day this would be the general rule with their own investigations.  Their slogan would end up being "Anytime.  Any planet.  Anything!", so the random nature of this preview strip would only be highlighted in their own full stories.

I'm really looking forward to rereading #1 for the first time since 1989 and then the other seven stories (there were 6 monthly issues, a final special and a one-off in Elephantmen), as per usual sticking with the format of this blog and doing so on the dates of their original releases for the monthlies.  Online there seems to be a few different dates listed for the issues, most websites simply guessing from the cover dates, but I've gone back to the source to find out for sure.  I've flicked through the Transformers comics from 1989 and (while ignoring the rest of the contents so as not to spoil anything for myself) checked the Mighty Marvel Checklists which the publisher ran in most of their comics at the time.  From these it's been easy to get the actual release dates of each issue, so expect #1 on Monday 24th June this year!

Its going to be a long wait but I'm positive it'll be worth it.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #18 of 77

<< GO TO MONTH 17
<< SELECT ANOTHER MONTH


What a month February 1987 was for Transformers UK fans!  Just look at this little mashup of the four issues' covers and you might understand what was so good about it:


I think that just about captures the overall sense of excitement these past four weeks have brought me in my weekly read through of this classic comics series.  Just imagine what impact these would've had on the young audience of the time, seeing these for the first time!  Incredible stuff.

From issue 100's famous cover, to classic stories featuring alternate dimensions, Dinobots, time travel, Galvatron and a rather a horrific moment on Cybertron, it's hard to believe this is all just one month's worth of issues; just 4 out of 332 comics!  Add in more from the first G.I. Joe strip to ever see print in the UK, a dash of humour from Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers, the beginning of one of my favourite back up strips and a little selection of features and 80s advertisements.  Hope you enjoy!

ISSUE 100
7th February 1987


#100: I'm sure this cover will bring back many happy memories!  Issue 100 of Transformers UK was a 32-page beast with an extra-long strip featuring Optimus Prime and Shockwave caught in an alternate dimension thanks to Galvatron's time jumping.


A cerebral solution of Prime's sees their true status revealed, there's a special competition to mark the issue (can you name them all?  Of course you can!) and look at what was just hitting the cinema at the time!

I'm even more excited for the next issue, knowing where these stories would eventually lead.

Cover by Alan and Thomas Davis
Distant Thunder! pencils by Will Simpson, inks by Tim Perkins and colours by Steve White

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@regulon_four - "Finally πŸ‘πŸ˜ƒ You've teased us enough with this one. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Only 232 to go!"
@science_fantasy_experience - I absolutely love this issue for both the story and the incredible artwork... the forced perspective of the cover is so evocative of the time!"
@stealexanderuk - "What a brilliantly insane story for the 100th issue.  Great though!  Love whoever wrote 'BUM' on the Guess-the-Transformer page.  Need someone to recreate that cover with masterpiece TFs, someone very rich."

ISSUE 101
14th February 1987


#101: 32 years ago today (at the time of the Instagram post, pig pals) Marvel followed up issue 100 of Transformers with an issue I think is even better!  A wonderful cover by Lee Sullivan is followed by wonderful strip art from Geoff Senior and wonderful bold colouring by Steve White.  A simply gorgeous issue to look at!

But nnnooo, not Skids!  My favourite!  Bloody Galvatron.  An exciting story featuring some favourite Autobots, followed by another A-Z (more beautiful robot renderings) and more Action Force (G.I. Joe to you young bucks) showcasing its trademark humour.


Speaking of humour there's a fondly remembered Robo-Capers from Lew Stringer to round it all off.  This is definitely high on my list of favourite issues so far.

Cover by Lee Sullivan
Fallen Angel: Part One art by Geoff Senior and colours by Steve White
The Transformers A-Z art based on model sheets by Marvel Productions, inks and embellishments by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, with art director John Romita, colours by Nel Yomtov
Action Force: Improvisation On A Theme pencils by Rod Whigham, inks by Andy Mushynsky and colours by George Roussos
Robo-Capers by Lew Stringer

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@gazmondo595 - "Man, I really need to dig my old comics out.  I remember this but I can't remember anything about it - if that makes any sense at all!  Lol."
@theoinkblog - "@gazmondo595 it makes perfect sense πŸ‘ I get that all the time with each 'new' classic cover... and every episode of ER I watch πŸ˜‚"

ISSUE 102
21st February 1987


#102: Fallen Angel: Part Two had twists, time travel, a psychotic Decepticon and a mind meld between human and machine.  But let's face it, it's remembered for the Dinobots fighting Galvatron!


There's a sense the story is building again, despite only just passing issue 100.  While I know roughly which epics are to come in the next 100 issues, that's the next two years(!) and I can't remember which one is next.  No spoilers please!  Great stuff and the last part (for now) of Action Force is an explosive introduction to their own comic.  Also, could that Next Issue heading be any more 80s?


A while back I commented on how companies made fan clubs for anything in the 80s.  The advert here is all the proof you need.  What on Earth was in the free comic?

Cover by Geoff Senior
Fallen Angel: Part Two art by Jeff Anderson, colours by Steve White
Action Force: Improvisation On A Theme pencils by Rod Whigham, inks by Andy Mushynsky and colours by George Roussos

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT:
@gazmondo595 - "Wow... I love this - bringing back so many happy memories!  Galvatron vs the Dinobots... epic! πŸ‘ŠπŸ‘ŠπŸ‘Š"

ISSUE 103
28th February 1987


#103: 32 years ago on the Transformers' home world of Cybertron, Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus were fighting side-by-side against... well, that's anyone's guess now.  Megatron's battle against Lord Straxus' attempt at mind control is startlingly drawn by Will Simpson and the outcome, for now at least, was left up in the air.  What a cliffhanger!


Elsewhere the new back up strip was based on the new toys and cartoon, The Inhumanoids, something I never saw as a kid (they didn't last ling) but after reading Jurassic Park comics recently there's something awfully familiar about its first page.


We've also got a competition for one of those excellent Transformers videos I remember renting as a kid and an advert for Thundercats crisps.  What more could you want?

Cover by Martin Griffiths and Robin Bouttell
Resurrection!: Part One art by Will Simpson, colours by Steve White
The Coming of The Inhumanoids! pencils by James W. Fry, inks by Joe Del Beato and colours by Juliana Ferriter

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@stealexanderuk - "I really liked The Inhumanoids.  It was a pretty weird strip I seem to remember."
@gazmondo595 - "Inhumanoids!  I loved reading that back up story.  I remember it being kinda scary too!  I never knew how the story ended? πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”"
@theoinkblog - "@stealexanderuk, from when I read these about 12 years ago I seem to remember it ends on a cliffhanger.  I think the comic in the US was canned pretty quickly.  I remember being gutted as I was getting into it, too.  So, @gazmondo595, you'll find out soon then 😜"
@captainalexis - "Love Will Simpson's art.  So raw.  Mechanical faces.  Big chins.  In fact the Straxus possession is close to comic book horror.  Same as the limbo strip before this."
@the._inevitable.k - "Friend actually won one of the videos."


Phew!  Deep breath.  Okay, so I think I'm ready for more.  Are you?  If so, you can check out the first of March's issues right now on the blog's Instagram account by clicking on the camera icon above.  Both of the blog's social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter are public so you don't need to sign up to see them, but if you do you'll never miss an issue of Marvel UK's classic Transformers. On the photo sharing site you'll see all the photos, the mini write-ups and comments (please join in!), but if you only have access to Twitter never fret, there you'll see a couple of the photos and a handy link to check out the rest.

Come join in the fun, you might even see your name here next month!  If you prefer to just follow along on the blog feel free to comment here and the next dose of the Robots in Disguise will also be here on Thursday 4th April 2019.