The recently-announced news that Marvel was to bring back a number of Marvel UK characters in a new limited series, Revolutionary War, by Alan Cowsill and Andy Lanning next year prompted memories of some of the projects that were in the pipeline at Marvel UK before the plug was pulled on the company’s US comic titles back in 1994 (and, indeed, Marvel UK itself as a separate entity).
A number of titles were in the pipeline at the time which had all reached different stages of development, by creators such as David Leach, Craig Houston, Stuart Jennett – and myself. The most famous is probably Loose Cannons by Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison – a gorgeous, fully painted mini series featuring the first appearance of an all-female wing of the mercenary time-travelling dimension-hopping squad Warheads, joined by Death’s Head II.
Marvel UK commissioned Dan to write the four-part mini series that would introduce the Marvel universe to Virago troop, an all female mercenary team, who, with the help of wormhole travel would acquire technology and wealth to advance the interests of their shadowy techno mage employers, MyS-Tech. A disastrous mission to a dark, ruined realm, finds them trapped and facing insurmountable hordes of ravenous creatures. Think a dark version of Stargate meets Aliens, realized by Mark Harrison who back then had provided some amazing covers for Marvel UK’s weekly comic, Overkill – and would go on to become a major creator for 2000AD.
Sadly, Marvel UK suffered a crisis in early 1994 (as did most of the comic industry) and was drastically downsized, its assets eventually bought by Panini, and production on Loose Cannons was axed half way through the final book, only a month before publication, and after two months of heavy advertising.
“I had my first wake up call to the cruel reality of the commercial comics world,” recalls Mark, who has published the strip online. “My first comic strip, and it didn’t even see print!”
Perhaps, if Revolutionary War is a success, someone at Marvel will drop Mark and Dan a line and get it completed.
I don’t think there’s much chance, however, of proposals for ongoing Shadow Riders adventures (co-scripted with Brian Williamson, who co-wrote the first mini series drawn by Ross Dearsley) or a new incarnation of Knights of Pendragon, titled Armageddon Knights – submitted to Paul Neary in September 1993 – ever seeing the light of day, but if anyone at Marvel is interested I’d be happy to send them over.
One unpublished project that got a little further was a G-Force mini-series, a follow up to a two-issue Die-Cut versus G-Force story that was published by Marvel UK. The mini series expanded on the world of reluctant superhero G-Force, whose gravity-based powers were affected by his emotional state. Work on the first issue was in full swing when the book was cancelled, with John Ross, now better known for his art on Doctor Who Adventures, completing almost the entire issue, which guest starred the Knights of Pendragon.
For those of you interested in ancient history, I’ve posted the work done, including the scripts (both for the mini series and a two-page G-Force story for Overkill) here. The best thing about it, looking back, is John Ross’ amazing art. I can’t speak for the story. Rose tinted glasses and all that!
• For more about British heroes in the Marvel UK universe, check out the blog It Came From Darkmoor