Online discussion of comics takes many forms, but none so enjoyable at times than a trip down memory lane – and over this surreal Easter weekend, one Facebook thread I kickstarted led back to the early 1980s. Discussion that revealed a fascinating snapshot of British comics fandom back in 1982, when Grant Morrison had only begun to deliver his take on the superhero genre, comic shops were flourishing and debate about the industry took place in the letters pages of fanzines such as Fantasy Advertiser, then edited and published by Martin Lock.
By the close of discussion that began with a posting of the cover of Fantasy Advertiser #75, drawn by Tony O’Donnell and featuring some, today, obscure British independently-published comic characters alongside Judge Dredd, DC Thomson’s King Cobra and Marvelman (Miracleman), those mystery characters had not just been identified. David Hathaway-Price, keeper of the brilliant Classic UK Comic Zines, had also added the issue in question to his growing archive of digital restorations of the title on his brilliant site – an issue that also featured comic strip drawn by Mike Collins, today well known as a Doctor Who comic artist and storyboard artist; reporting on developments on Marvel’s new Epic line and the upcoming debut of The Official Marvel Handbook of the Marvel Universe (shockingly, direct sale only); a mention for a new companion title to 2000AD, Zarjaz, and news on Titan Books latest planned reprints from the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic; and hints of a companion title to Warrior from publisher Dez Skinn (that, like Zarjaz, never happened, although of course Zarjaz is now the name of a terrific 2000AD-inspired comics zine from Futurequake Press).
On the letters pages, lively discussion included commentary on the recently–released Blade Runner, reviewed in the issue by Andrew Robins alongside Conan the Barbarian, who also lamented the banning of horror video releases Driller Killer and Death Trap under the Obscene Publications Act.
But for those of you simply curious about who those mystery characters are, alongside Marvelman, King Cobra, Billy the Cat, Judge Dredd and a and Captain Britain are Moonstone, Fantasy Advertiser’s comic strip star created by Martin Lock, a strip written and drawn by Mike Collins and Mark Farmer, and Captain Clyde, a creation of none other than Grant Morrison.
Discussion led Tony Foster, now editor and publisher of ComicScene Magazine, to recall a workshop with Grant Morrison and Tony O’Donnell he’d attended in Stirling as a teenager run by artist Graham Manley – and he posted a photograph, too.
The workshop led Tony Foster to create his own comic title, Atomic, and took him on the road that has led to ComicScene Magazine today.
“I remember attending that Comic Art Workshop,” recalled Tony O’Donnell. “In fact, it inspired me to start running my own, a few years later. I also remember a long walk with Grant from Stirling Railway station to the workshop, as my portfolio was very very heavy!
“We did a long interview where I think we were talking over each other, for myself, I am probably glad my nonsense ramblings did not get recorded properly. One of Graham’s students, a girl, had done an impressive strip about the Space Shuttle crash, that always stuck in my memory.”
Tony has fond memories of the cover of Fantasy Advertiser, too.
“Bill Graham, the Editor of Buddy, was convinced that I had drawn Billy the Cat after seeing this, but I was never lucky enough to land that job,” he revealed.
If you want to read Fantasy Advertiser #75 in full, thanks to David Hathaway-Price, you can find it here, part of his amazing Classic UK Comic Zines site. Do enjoy letters from other now veteran comic creators in the issue, including Lew Stringer and Andrew Winter, a round up of Britain’s then buoyant comic fanzine scene from Chris Padgett – and there’s a column in the issue from raconteur and comic artist and tutor Kev F Sutherland, too,
“My regular column is, as I recall,” cautions Kev, “no different from the rubbish I post on Facebook every day. Back then you needed an editor to agree it was worth saying. Imagine.”
Martin Lock took on the editorship of Fantasy Advertser in 1976, before handing it over to Martin Skidmore in 1984, who shortened the name to FA, making the magazine more provocative and political.
It was taken over by Trident Comics in 1988, but was closed in 1991 when Trident went bankrupt.
• FA Online – http://comiczine-fa.com
Thanks to everyone who joined in the discussion, especially Tony Foster, Tony O’Donnell and David Hathaway-Price
Grant Morrison doesn’t feature in the workshop photograph, but as an added nostalgia bonus, here’s an article about him from 1976, with thanks to Wullie Russell!