Sunday, 21 January 2018

2018 OFF TO A SLOW START? DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!


I've been saying for a while now, since changing the blog name in fact, how this site was going to expand and grow.  At that time the menu bar appeared below the logo, containing links to the new About page and the Relive Oink! section; a completely redesigned way of accessing all the posts related to the title comic.  In September Ring Raiders appeared in its own series of posts with the short-lived title getting the same treatment of on-the-day-of-release write-ups Oink! received for nearly three years, and Transformers popped up in monthly roundups of Instagram photos of my Marvel UK comic collection.


I've also covered some small press comics from Oink! cartoonists amongst others and the new Ghostbusters Answer the Call.  But if you're new to the blog you may not know this, or if you're simply looking for any of these you'll have to go through the calendar of posts (in the left-hand column on the desktop version), search labels or just scroll ad nauseam.  A couple of quick preview posts at the end of December hinted at what's to come but what exactly is this blog going to consist of and why those particular comics?  Why only one modern day mainstream title?  Where's the other sections I promised or will the blog simply keep Oink! highlighted while giving brief coverage to everything else?  All these will be answered very soon.


The reason there was such a big gap between the last two posts was because I'd been working behind the scenes on the blog.  I went back to the original Beyond Oink! series of posts and updated them with new information gathered since then, correcting some errors and adding in sub-headings to help them flow better.  The reason is these will headline the first new section of the blog.  I've also worked out exactly what comics titles will be covered in two other sections entitled Further Beyond and Small Press too (just working titles at the minute) and that was no small feat in itself!  I'll go into more detail when these sections begin.  But there remains one final stage before I begin work on those.


If you're reading this on a mobile you may have noticed the sections I've already mentioned aren't completely formatted correctly and I'm working on this too.  It's difficult to get things formatted and looking exactly how I want it across the desktop and mobile versions and so for a long time I just deactivated the mobile one.  But it must be said that when on a smaller screen it really can make all the difference for ease of use, so it's back but needs work.

So that's what I've been up to (and will be up to), as well as scanning and photographing some things for posts that I want to get up ASAP.  Now I'm at the stage where I can properly balance writing new posts and reprogramming the background stuff, so you should see content return on a regular basis again.  Thanks for your patience and I'll speak to you all real soon.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

TOXIC #300: PUSH YOUR KIDS INTO THE TOXIC SWAMP


You may have seen Toxic out on the comics shelves yourself, bagged up with various chunky gifts inside with no way of seeing what the actual reading content is and so, if you've been looking for a comic or magazine for your kids you may have passed it by.  But you should really head back to the shop and take that leap of faith, your children could really thank you for it.

The fact it's now made it to its 300th issue should be proof enough of its quality and success with the young 'uns.  It's extremely rare for any kid's periodical to make it anywhere near that far (the still ongoing Thomas & Friends being one notable exception, but purely because I was there when it all began, 742 issues ago at the time of writing) so it's all the more disappointing to see publishers Egmont completely ignore this fact.  It's left to none other than Lew Stringer to mark the occasion in his Team Toxic strip, which is obviously the whole reason Toxic has appeared here for the first time.


Lew's strip has been going since the premiere issue which is a marvellous achievement (a small amount have been reprints, but still) and he has written up an in-depth look at this 300th issue and what you can expect inside the tightly sealed pages on his Blimey! comics blog.  It's a good indicator of the reading material, this issue focussing on superheroes and Star Wars by the looks of it, which is fair enough as that's what the majority of children will be clamouring for anyway.  Plus there's more comic strip fun in the shape of Russ Carvell's Captain Gross and fellow former Oink!-ster Steve McGarry and his Ruined Ronaldo.

Fun, irreverent and full of gross-out humour in the strips it sounds like perfect fodder for young wannabe pig pals!  It's out every three weeks, which may sound like a strange schedule but it's not uncommon, I remember taking out a joke subscription for one year to Spongebob Squarepants for a friend once several years ago and it was thrice-weekly too.  Toxic is pretty much available everywhere and is a top seller so you shouldn't have any difficulties in tracking it down, but in case you do you can order it from the Newsstand website by clicking on their logo below:

Friday, 5 January 2018

300,000 AND MOST DEFINITELY STILL COUNTING

Humbled.  Thanks to everyone who has visited the blog!

I remember getting a chill of excitement when the blog received its first 1000 hits inside its first month but that pales in comparison to this latest milestone.  Given the fact for the first few months of this year the blog was for all intents and purposes dead in the water, the fact it's added 50,000 hits in the last six months amazes me.  It's been getting exponentially more popular as it's gone along and now, with the relaunch in full swing and the future looking bright with a wealth of new content and comics to come, I fully aim to hit that next milestone in record time.

I'm not putting this post up to boast, more as an affirmation that the original comic has not only proved popular in the modern world (the Facebook group also hit a milestone this year, remember) but also that the branching out has been embraced by you all.  It's like confirmation I did the right thing and I appreciate that I really do, and hopefully after the recent previews you'll have an inkling how this site will grow and grow over the next year.

The main reason for the post though is to thank you all for your support.  This amount of hits over the course of four-odd years is amazing, even more amazing to think how it's being read more and more as time goes along.  Roughly 5000 hits inside the first six months to 50,000 in the last six.  This post is my commitment to you, my readers that I won't be complacent, won't fill the blog with fillers, I've always said quality-over-quantity and I'll be sticking to that.  I think you've proved that's what you want.

Thank you everyone, pig pals and otherwise.  You've made my year and it's only 5th January!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #4 of 77

<< GO TO MONTH 3


Welcome back to another month's recap of the photographs I've been taking of my The Transformers UK comics collection for Instagram.  Even with such a large task still ahead of me I'm relishing this series, not only looking forward to each Thursday's photos but also this monthly post on the blog.  It's just as well, what with this continuing until 2024 and all that!

Now in December young Transformers fans had an additional treat in store from Marvel UK, in the shape of the first annual (co-produced by Grandreams at the start) which, while they were available from the summer, would make perfect Christmas gifts and so it's on that day I'll be covering them every year, just like I did with the Oink! books.  Of course there's also another fours issues here too, which I photographed and shared on their actual release dates, just 32 years after the fact.

In the future I'd love to do a proper write-up on all of these like I did with Oink!, but that'd be an even bigger undertaking and would require me filling those pesky gaps from the first year and specials.  For now this series is going to be large enough!

So on with the show.  The Christmas issue and annual have already appeared in their own posts to celebrate their festiveness, but they're here again as part of the ongoing series so everything is back in order.


ISSUE 39


#39: 30 years ago today Transformers fans were shocked by this cover!  Inside, Optimus Prime's head was finally reunited with his body, but reprogrammed by Shockwave.  Despite the cover, this wouldn't happen until the final page of the lead story and readers had to wait a whole 7 days to find out what happened next.

Also Jetfire's robot form is revealed, though he's still a blank slate and was under the control of Buster Witwicky until he passed out during an air battle.  Returned to the Decepticons, we see how they're going to remove the essence of the Creation Matrix from Buster's head and what the plan is.  (Interesting to see the modern movies have more in common with the comics in their depiction of the Matrix of Leadership than the cartoon.)

Some nice humour here too in the scene between Shockwave and Rumble and can anyone confirm if Marvel kept their word from this letters page response as far as Tony Stark and Iron Man by the year 2020 goes?


BONUS PHOTO


The issue before the Christmas one brought us this great little Robo Capers strip from Lew Stringer, so I posted it up on Instagram on its own to signal the countdown to the much-anticipated seasonal issue to come.  Robo Capers would continue until Marvel's Action Force was cancelled and merged with The Transformers, bringing with it none other than Combat Colin.  You can read a quick preview of #2 of Lew's Combat Colin comic, due for release at the end of January 2018 and containing the first of the Transformers strips right here on the blog.


ISSUE 40


#40: This cover must've promised so much... but delivered a rather anti-climactic 1-page "fight" which was basically Optimus Prime tossing Shockwave into a swamp, to sink out of sight, unable to free himself.  Much better was the superbly narrated build up for Prime!  Brilliantly written.

Can someone also explain what use a handle on a 100-foot gun has?  At least 80s Megatron shrunk (albeit impossibly) so his gun mode could be handled!


A letter from a reader also points out something I'd never noticed before, right up until about 10 years ago when I read this!  Anyone else?


ISSUE 41



#41: Thirty-two Christmases ago this issue popped up for festive Transformers fans across the UK. No snow on the logo yet unfortunately but the issue as a whole is a lot better than the one sentence previous editor Sheila Cranna gave us to celebrate in 1984!  With Ian Rimmer now in charge, inside there's decorations everywhere and Ratchet takes over Soundwave's letters page for one issue, hilariously explained on the editorial page.  There's also a Christmas competition including a Transformers train set!  Shame the photo on the page is so bad, as it's never featured in the comic again.

The main story sees the return of Circuit Breaker and while the idea of Optimus Prime dressed up as Santa Claus at a party first seems silly, it's to thank Buster Witwicky for the hell they've put him through recently and it makes for some lovely contemplative moments for the character, as he develops beyond the stereotypical leader we were used to in the cartoon.  Circuit Breaker also gets a taste of her own medicine after she rescues a drowning child and goes on to nearly kill Jazz (again) but is stopped by Buster and the church bells ringing in Christmas.

Harmless fun which I've a soft spot for because it would end up being the first Transformers story I'd read... albeit it two years later.  Um... so stay tuned for that.

Cover: Mike Collins (pencils) and Mark Farmer (inks and possibly colours)
Christmas BreakerJames Hill (script), William Simpson (art), Hart (colour), Starkings (letters)


TRANSFORMERS ANNUAL #1 (CHRISTMAS 1985)


ANN#1: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  The first Transformers Annual was released in the summer of '85 but let's face it, it was today fans got their mitts on it.  Created a long time in advance, Sheila Cranna was still editor and it shows.  Perfectly suiting the old fortnightlies, the fillers are a bit at odds with the newer weeklies, with basic games, puzzles and lots of pictures taken from the toy packaging.  The strips and stories are also using the older comic models rather than the streamlined ones we were used to by now.

But on to the stories and here Sheila's team really surprised!  Plague of the Insecticons starts out with some nice atmosphere-building scenes though I have to admit the appearance of Ronald Reagan made me cringe a little, but actually it's all dealt with brilliantly, in much the same way as the modern movies integrate the governments of the world.  The last page of the whole book is a downbeat one, which is all the more powerful in a book filled with such basic, childish fillers.

Also there's the story of Optimus Prime's first battle as Commander!  Most of it is taken up with Prime awaiting the nod from the grand council of Autobot elders, led by Emirate Xaaron (was he a toy or a creation of the UK comic? *) before he can finally strike back against Megatron, rather than constantly holding a defending position.  It would be a huge turning point for the peace-loving Autobots and I love how it all comes down to politics in a kid's comicbook.

* - thanks to blog reader Andy Boal who left a comment on the annual's Christmas Day post.  Emirate Xaaron was indeed a creation of the comic but would later appear in toy form in 2012.


The real stand outs here are the text stories!  Full of character, they take the time to get into the inner thoughts of the Transformers involved.  Unable to wow us with spectacular action-packed art, they relied on some moody scene-setting illustrations and intriguing, gripping, well-written stories.

Storywise, a fantastic first annual and I'm sure it was a stocking filler from Santa which made many, many young people very, very happy.  Heck, I'm 40 and they still read brilliantly today and that ending is a surprise... which I've now ruined for you if you're hunting it down on eBay... whoops!  Also interesting to see the new direction Sheila was going in before she moved on.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks!

Plague of the Insecticons
Simon Furman (script), Collins/Anderson (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
And There Shall Come... A Leader
Simon Furman (script), John Stokes (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
Unfortunately no credits on the text stories.


ISSUE 42


#42: Yes it's Thursday again.  You've lost all track of days this week, haven't you?  Anyway, 32 years ago the UK's The Transformers from Marvel UK finished the year with #42 and a contemplative Optimus Prime, doubting his leadership and fighting with his team (after the previous US stories) in the British tale from Simon Furman, Crisis of Command!

Tensions are high and in the middle of it all Ravage has been snooping in The Ark and finds the Autobots divided.  Nice to see Mirage and Hound using abilities detailed in the toys and Jazz transforming.  Makes for some nice action.  The Decepticons are also fighting internally over who should lead and in the end it's revealed Ravage getting captured was part of Soundwave's plan and we see him escape.  (In the cartoon at one stage he was captured and the Autobots manufactured his escape, let's hope this isn't Furman stealing ideas again, eh?  Although the capture certainly is!)

Elsewhere, there's a look at the other Marvel comics out in the UK at the time and the very last Machine Man before Iron Man makes a return next year... in one week.


That one week is now up!  That's right the next issue is up on my Instagram feed today and you can check it out by clicking on the icon there.  You don't need an account as I have it all set to public, but if you are signed up tap 'Follow' and these will appear in your timeline every Thursday.