<< GO TO SUPER NATURALS PAGE
Well if you're going to go out, go out in style! Francesc Masi's cover starring The Doll clearly wasn't designed to be the last Super Naturals cover, but it's a powerful image and probably my second favourite front page second only to Ian Jackson's gorgeous painting for the preview issue.
Not only is it a remarkable cover for that demonic doll, which is a brilliant design it has to be said, but also for the fact that this is a licenced comic but, big bold logo aside, there's actually nothing associated with that licence! Even though it had a very short lifespan the comic is fondly remembered among those that had the good fortune to be readers, as its own anthology horror title, and The Doll is the most remembered strip of all. He fitted in perfectly alongside the licenced strips and his inclusion was a stroke of genius from editor Barrie Tomlinson.
More on The Doll further below but for now let's concentrate on the final chapter to The Legend of The Super Naturals.
This actually has a rather funny ending. Skull has made it to the mythical lake where it is said Excalibur can be found, his ultimate goal being to corrupt this symbol of hope into a symbol of evil which would tear apart the very fabric of everything the country stood for. But as you can see above the Lady of the Lake had other ideas. This is a fun way to end the story because all the way through we've seen our heroes use powers which exhausted them, and they seemed doomed to lose with no hope of survival.
Now, it might seem like a little bit of a cop out with the way I've described it but it really isn't, however there is a caveat with this. I'll let you read this final page of the story and have a look at Dave D'Antiquis' artwork before I explain.
You see, that whole thing with the Lady in the Lake led to the good Ghostlings (including Hooter who hasn't had much to do in the comic until now) take on their counterparts and win, banishing them back to Ghostworld. This leaves Skull all alone with the upturned Bat Bopper, stranded on Earth. The Legend of the Super Naturals story has been an ongoing tale designed to tell the tale of the first encounters between the two sides after they emerged from Ghostworld for the first time. We've had two scenarios so far but one grew organically out of the other. I get the feeling this wasn't going to be the ending of the story, rather it was probably meant to set up a defeated and angry Skull setting out on his own in the next issue.
But alas it wasn't to be. It does feel like those final few speech balloons have been rewritten to end the story. Maybe in the script whatever Skull said led to another great cliffhanger?
With the review of the Super Naturals Adventure Book I highlighted a particularly good drawing from a reader of the comic and while reading this issue I discovered I had to do so again. Below is a drawing of Thunder Bolt by Christoper Evans and it's just wonderful. It's such a shame it's so small on the page though, it deserved to be blown right up but it's still a great addition and kudos to the young artist.
I have a memory buried somewhere in my grey cells of being in the back of my late nanny's car, my mum was in the front and we were parked somewhere in Carrickfergus here in Northern Ireland. (The things we remember, eh?) Anyway, we were off out somewhere and I'd had the chance to get a comic for the drive and I'd chosen the latest issue of Super Naturals, a comic I'd really enjoyed the first couple of issues of but then hadn't collected any more. Not for any other reason than a short attention span.
I'd wanted to get into the toys shown I first saw the ads and Santa did bring me a Ghostling, but between that time and Christmas my ten-year-old brain saw other toys and unfortunately forgot all about the holographic monsters. The same thing happened with the comic. I was collecting Oink! and two weeks before #1 of this comic I'd also asked my parents to reserve Marvel UK's Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. I wasn't allowed another regular comic (later on I'd be allowed three or four at once but this was still at the start of my comics journey) and so I was buying Super Naturals with my own pocket money. Then, with so many comics to choose from each week I just ended up buying different ones most weeks.
But, I was crushed when I saw Spooks' letters page. I had been really enjoying the comic, in particular the main Super Naturals strips and that terrifying doll, who I hadn't seen in a few months. But after reading them I turned to the rest of the comic in my tiny hands and read the below.
Gutted. I didn't understand why it was finishing so soon. Oink! was still going strong and I just assumed comics kept on going. I was in a household where my brother read the long-running The Beano and Roy of the Rovers (another of Barrie's titles). The previous magazines I'd collected had been Story Teller partworks which had a pre-planned limited lifespan, but comics weren't supposed to end so soon. I was really upset and within the space of 10 minutes had gone from wanting to go to the toy shop to thinking there was no point.
I'm actually not sure if I read the remainder of the comic! But now I have and the next strip on the agenda is the final Scary Cat Challenge. Unlike last week's special book this idea has been supplied by a reader and the idea is simple; a young boy discovers a genie in a lamp and gets a lesson in greed. What I particularly like is how the genie himself is a bit snarky and not the typical stereotype we knew from the movies.
Tracking down who drew all of these wonderful strips hasn't been easy but John Freeman and Lew Stringer have been incredibly helpful throughout this comic's run. John's research and the general consensus with those he asked led him to believe Genie was crafted by Alan Burrows (Beano, Red Dwarf, Transformers) and there's a definite classic British comics feel to the art.
Finding the lamp in some old ruins, young Jason Watkins doesn't believe the genie's powers and keeps testing him with small tasks such as suddenly being able to skateboard and make friends with the cool kids, things like that. But it's not long before those same kids start to turn on him, thinking it's all a con. To prove them wrong Jason starts to wish for bigger and more elaborate things. As his popularity grows he starts to get greedy, which our mysterious servant notices straight away.
I thought at this point the strip would end with Jason alone, friendless, out of wishes and living a life of much wealth but poor and lonely in every other way. I should've known I couldn't predict the outcome in this comic though. Becoming more wealthy and powerful, the young boy quickly turns on his new friends, thinking himself better than everyone around him. The genie is quick to scold him and warn him of the error of his ways.
Jason, now acting like quite the spoilt brat is just begging to take things that one step too far but I never expected what came next. His wishes had become so elaborate he was struggling to outdo himself with each successive demand until he came up with the ultimate wish, one that no human had ever done before; to be able to travel at the speed of light and see the whole universe on a whim. The genie is startled but replies, "I most certainly have never been asked that wish! However I must try to grant it and for once, it will give me great personal pleasure!" Uh-oh.
But matter disintegrates at the speed of light and Jason soon sees his own body becoming "zillions of particles" and panics, demanding that everything become as it was before he found the lamp, leading on to this wonderful ending.
Scary Cat returns just to wish us harm instead of the usual request for more story ideas and that's the final reader story we'd see. Such a shame. I'm not aware of how detailed the original ideas were, or how much of each plot was taken from the readers or crafted by the writer, but it'd be interesting to find out. When reading these strips and seeing the letters and drawings sent in it's clear Super Naturals had captured and nurtured some great imaginations.
For the final time we've got another Sandy James poster and it's the evil Snakebite who gets the double-page treatment this time.
I love that shield drawing and, upon seeing it in 3D in some of the classic television adverts for the toys online, I'd say this guy would've been a firm favourite of mine if I'd had him as a child.
Instead of a one-page Ghostling Tale this issue we've got a full page advertisement for the Adventure Book which had come out two weeks previous. If you've come to this blog series with this issue you'd best click right here and go and read the review of this superb book right now before Skull hypnotises you into doing so!
So here we are then with the final chapter of The Doll. Last time I was concerned the ending would be very rushed but thankfully that isn't the case at all. In fact this may have originally been an ending of sorts for this chapter in the story anyway.
It kicks off with Simon saving his foster dad's life and confirmation that the doll was definitely trying to murder him. Leaving the hospital with his foster mum Louise, Simon demands to know the truth about her previous foster son Alan, a story we've had hints of before but never all the details. As with all good horror stories we get to know all about the doll's interference in their lives right before we see history about to repeat itself.
Below are two individual parts of a double page spread to show the mirror image it created.
You'll recognise David's fall from the cover, although the maniac itself was added for the front page. This time however, the doll's victim has a big brother strong enough to fight against the terror and dive straight into the doll-infested water in order to save his sibling. Unlike Alan, David hasn't been dragged to the bottom and drowned but the doll is missing.
Until the final frame, that is.
I'm not sure if this was always intended to be the final chapter of The Doll or not. Unlike the Super Naturals serials it doesn't feel rushed and feels like a well thought out climax. Perhaps it got the cover treatment because it was going to be his final issue no matter what? I don't think so. He was a hit with readers and is still fondly remembered (well, terrifyingly remembered) by so many people today it would seem if reactions to these reviews on social media is anything to go by. I prefer to believe this may have been the final chapter for Simon and David, but that in the next issue the briefcase would've washed up somewhere else, taking us on another suspense-filled tale with a completely new owner.
We'll never know.
The three main franchise strips do feel like they're in a bit of a rush to wrap things up, but at least they are wrapped up, that's the important thing, although Ghostlings seems to suffer the most. This is a shame because Anthony Williams' art is so full of character it deserved more meaty content. Last issue Thunder Bolt was able to turn up all-of-a-sudden despite it breaking the comic's established rules but maybe this was the only real way to get our characters out of the predicaments they'd found themselves in. However, having Weird-Wolf pushed off a cliff and the Tomb of Doom randomly appear right beneath him seems rather convenient.
The final strip of the fortnightly is Alan Langford's The Curse. Alan's strips have been my favourite of the three Super Naturals stories every month, his artwork lending a creepy feel to the proceedings and a real sense of danger from Skull and his evil cohorts. Whoever wrote this story (and the previous Mount of Athos) really nailed their leader's character, giving him a slightly harder edge in his words, such as below.
With their hands on the mummified coffin of Britannicus this final chapter initially seems like it's setting things up for an epic battle, with Skull and Burnheart either getting the coffin open or escaping with it again to open it elsewhere. They've been fighting over this for months after all, but in the end it builds up to nothing. This is an unfortunate necessary evil (no pun intended). First though, have a look at some more gorgeous, atmospheric Alan Langford art. Oh how I'm going to miss this!
We do get a bit of a battle between the Super Naturals but it's all over very quickly. Some humans get involved and start firing artillery into the abandoned church in which the battle takes place and for some reason, despite burning down whole villages previously, the powers of evil run away. The good guys apparently grab the coffin and they all meet up in Ghostworld where Lionheart gives his men a quick speech about the power of good being triumphant and then that's it.
It's just unfortunate that it feels so curtailed in the end. The good guys actually win off-camera! They disappear for a few panels before returning to tell us the coffin has been transported to Ghostworld through the Tomb of Doom (which, to be fair, did pop up) where it can't be opened thanks to the rules that say no combat nor any event that'd give any one side an advantage can take place in that otherworldly dimension. The mystery and intrigue around the coffin in previous issues is lost and it feels little more than a McGuffin in this final part, just something to have a bit of a duff up about.
It definitely feels like it was meant to carry on for a few more issues. But hey, at least we get to see Alan's superb depiction of Skull a few more times before we bid adieu.
Barrie's later Ring Raiders comic ended even more abruptly after only six issues and, it would seem, with even less notice because none of the stories could be finished off in that last issue. Instead, they all ended on a cliffhanger and a couple of short months later a big, thick special edition was produced finishing off all the stories. It was a fantastic read for fans and it's a shame the same couldn't have been done with Super Naturals two years previously, but I can appreciate the wish to finish off the stories and give the young readers closure.
The door to the Tomb of Doom would open one more time though. In no time at all the Super Naturals Holiday Special would leap out of the dark depths of newsagents shelves and into trembling hands. As Spooks said above its release date was set so expect the full review of another special edition, the very last comic for these creatures on Thursday 26th March.
- GREAT NEWS FOR ALL READERS -
But how about more Barrie Tomlinson and holograms before then? Well, come back on Saturday 7th March for the review of the second half of that aforementioned Ring Raiders special from Barrie's team, then Tuesday 24th March is the original release date of Marvel UK's hologram-based Visionaries! That's right, that'll be the next comic to receive the real time treatment on the blog. Exciting times ahead!