32 years ago Oink! came to a sudden end with #68 and I was crushed. With hindsight it's clear the switch to a monthly frequency was leading to that but 10-year-old me had really enjoyed getting a big, thick comic every month for six issues. Then suddenly that was it, it was all over. But hiding inside this final issue was a free gift which promised a new beginning and which was in a way the comic coming full circle from where it began.
You see, unbeknownst to me at the time Oink! had actually started out life as a preview issue given away free within the pages of several of its peers and now in its final issue it was the one presenting a free comic for a new title. It was almost like it was passing the torch to this new one. I'd decided not to follow three of the Oink! characters into the pages of Buster because the rest of that comic didn't really appeal, but my parents weren't about to be saved the expense because there was a very exciting new cat on the block.
So yes, that mini front cover kind of explains all the background you really need, doesn't it? Created and edited by Barrie Tomlinson of Roy of the Rovers, Eagle and Tiger fame (and of Ring Raiders and Super Naturals for readers of this site) it's set in the far future when all indicators point to Earth being subject to such devastating meteorite attacks that all life will be wiped out. The fortnightly comic was to tell the tales of the survivors aboard a huge interstellar spacecraft, the last of humankind, trying to find a new home amongst the stars. The premise instantly grabbed me as a kid and a week after this preview not only was I buying #1, I was placing a regular order at my newsagents too.
Previously on the blog, when I first started covering non-piggy publications I wrote a series of articles about the main comics I collected back at the time and a rather long post was put together for Wildcat. There was next to no information about this excellent title available back then and so I put the extra effort into trying to rectify that a little. Since then, Rebellion have bought up the rights and have produced two graphic novels collecting together the stories from this comic. I own them both but haven't read either because I wanted to collect all of those original issues first and read them that way, then use the graphic novels to finish the stories that concluded in Eagle after the comics merged. It's been a real test of my willpower!
I read a couple of issues for that article back in 2015 but have since been able to get my paws on all of them and finally the right date is here to begin this journey all over again from scratch for the first time in 32 years. As ever with this website they'll be read in real time on their original release dates and not before, so watch out for the reviews of the regular issues beginning next week and then fortnightly after that. But for now, let's get stuck into this mini 16-page freebie.
As with all good disaster movies the story kicks off with the leaders of the world ignoring the key scientist, in this case the main character of the comic and eventual leader of the expedition into space, Turbo Jones. Actually, this feels awfully relevant given events in 2020, doesn't it? Realising he's not going to get anywhere and they'll never agree to a mass migration of human beings from our planet, Turbo has no choice but to try to save as many as he possibly can.
The future Earth presented here feels a bit quaint in some places, such as the fact the huge Wildcat spacecraft is only going to cost around £50 million or so and an advertisement on television to broadcast all around the world on every screen all at the same time, looking for volunteers, is only £2000. We have to remember though that this was 1988 and these were huge numbers back then, especially for the target audience. Turbo's half chimp, half android assistant Robo, explaining he's videotaped EastEnders is also on point for a very 80s-style future.
I do like the taxis where we can opt out of conversation though.
According to Barrie the original idea behind Wildcat for publisher Fleetway was to launch a new science fiction comic aimed at a slightly younger readership than their own 2000AD, possibly aware of how the average age of the audience for that comic was beginning to increase (and would continue to do so throughout the 90s), rather than the younger readers it was originally aimed at. Perhaps Wildcat could step in and fill that void.
With that in mind we were never going to get a long, multipart origin story and indeed the near extinction of the human race is all dealt with in 11 pages, all written by Barrie himself and drawn by the legendary Ian Kennedy. The volunteers come thick and fast but it's also important to pick leaders to assist Turbo. Up step three very distinct and wonderfully diverse characters who'd leave a lasting impact on me and I'm sure will again over the coming months.
Previously on the blog I chatted to Barrie about the creation of these characters and their diverse nature, something which wasn't common back in the late 80s and which is still, sadly, an issue today. Wishing to reflect the world at the time, Barrie wanted to create a black hero (Loner) and a female warrior (Kitten Magee). "Girls had not been featured very much in boys' comics so I decided it was time that they were!", Barrie told me. Add in the alien Joe who was the last surviving member of his own race, and we had a wonderfully original cast, all very different and that spoke to me.
It's something I still very much believe in and perhaps Wildcat played a little part in the formation of my ideals in that area at a very young and impressionable age. I do hope so.
Anyway, as you can see raising the money for their goal is all rather easy (and Turbo adds his own fortune to the mix) but read into it a bit more and even here in the preview comic, in a scene seemingly there for exposition only, we're getting some little hints about their characterisations already. For example, Loner clearly doesn't care about money even though he has so much wealth and Kitten is very clearly hiding something about the fate of her own father. More on Kitten in a bit.