In the summer of 1989 I came across small Matchbox toy planes, attached to rings which I could fly about on my hands in aerial dogfights. The background story concerned the formation of the Skull Squadron, a band of extremely talented fighter pilots who could travel through time in their bid for world domination, and their enemies the heroic Ring Raiders, formed of the best and bravest pilots from the past, present and future. This meant the planes could be based on classic World War II fighter planes, late 80s jets and even some brand new, still-in-development prototype American Air Force machines, all fighting it out side-by-side. Each set contained four planes but only the leader craft had the image and name of its pilot next to it; the Wing Commander.
I was an instant fan. Soon the adverts appeared on TV and to my young mind they rocked! There were huge bases, larger bomber planes, battery-operated SFX boxes which attached to our wrists complete with a plane's joystick to activate the sounds, audio cassettes, medals, display stands, cartoon videos... and in September 1989 I was thrilled beyond belief when I nipped into the newsagent on the way home from school, only my third week of grammar school, and spotted a brand new comic dedicated to Ring Raiders, complete with an actual honest-to-gosh free toy plane on the cover! I was sold. More than that, once I read the second story I was hooked! (Why the second story? You'll find out when I write up #1.)
A couple of years ago (almost to the day) I wrote a detailed summary of this comic series from Fleetway, but now it's going to get the full Oink! Blog treatment, the first non-Oink! comic to do so. This means each and every issue will get a full blog post all to itself, complete with scanned highlights. But this means I actually have to start with Eagle!
|Better late than never, only took|
me 28 years to get it
When writing that original post I discovered for the first time there'd actually been a preview comic given away in some Fleetway comics I simply wasn't buying at the time, such as the one above. What was rather disappointing was finding out it was only four small pages in length, but then I was eventually able to track one down on eBay and discovered it was all beautifully painted by Ian Kennedy! It's absolutely gorgeous. Ian would go on to produce the majority of the covers for the comic and, an aviation fan himself, his love of aerial combat shines from every frame. It may be light on plot, but the point of it is to establish the high-octane action, superb artwork and, of course, that a comic based on the latest craze (or so we thought) had arrived! It's certainly confident in itself!
If only it had gone on to be the best-selling comic on the shelves. As you'll see when we go through the run of issues it's truly top quality stuff. There's some real depth to the characters, which is no small feat given the outlandish setup and the toys, some hints of bigger stories in the background which could've been elaborated on, more action than any other comic and a great sense of humour. It also never talked down to us and reading it now as an adult it's just as enjoyable as it ever was.
As I said above I never got my hands on the preview until recently, but from this Saturday 16th September I'll be rewinding the clock and taking you through all the actual issues, from scratch. Yes, when I did this with Oink! I hadn't read those comics in many years, whereas with Ring Raiders I did in 2015. But the same mindset applies, so I'll be discussing the experience of rediscovering this comic from a couple of years ago, I'll be going in-depth with each issue and giving frank and honest opinions from reading it now, as well as reminiscing about when I first read it in 1989, naturally.
208 pages in total, the first 24 of which will be winging (sorry!) their way to you on Saturday. "The Command Is In Your Hand", so make sure you come back.
In the meantime, editor Barrie Tomlinson kindly answered this fan's questions on the topic of Ring Raiders and you can read this post from a few days ago, published to mark the arrival of his brand new book about his time at IPC and Fleetway!