Zoids, Captain Britain and other Marvel UK gems uncovered

The current Coronavirus Pandemic is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a generally wretched and for so many, a very tragic thing. I doubt many of us have, or will, escape the worst of this plague, either directly or indirectly, and I have every sympathy for those of you who have lost loved ones, or been ill.

However, humans being humans, distraction in the face of adversity is largely welcome, and never let it be said that the world of comics is not an appreciated distraction.

Aside from, a general reappraisal of our relationship with nature, one other unexpected benefit of lockdown has been comic creators having a long overdue tidy out of old archives, both physical and digital.

For Marvel UK fans, such scurryings in both real and virtual worlds have turned up a number of gems, now being posted online.

Comicraft Head Tiger and former Marvel UK Group Editor Richard Starkings has, for example, begun posting scans of the first issue of the abandoned Marvel UK ZOIDS monthly by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell with David Hine, which he lettered back in the 1980s.

Zoids Monthly Issue One Page One
Two pages from Marvel UK’s abandoned Zoids Monthly – with thanks to Richard Starkings

“I got hold of scans of the last 11 pages of pencils from Steve Yeowell a few years ago and lettered them up, I’ll continue posting pages,” says Richard, who is also posting the art from the abandoned project based on the Tomy toys on Twitter.

Richard has also revealed he has scripts for #2 and #3, the project possibly abandoned largely because the Zoids line failed to gain any substantial sales traction in the United States.

As noted over on Starlogged in a post about the only Zoids Collected Editions to date, the Tomy-created toys first appeared across the Marvel weeklies and monthlies in January 1985, in a four-page insert in Spider-Man 620, Indiana Jones Monthly #5 and Return of the Jedi #84. By bizarre luck, Jon Carpenter acquired a back issue of Indiana Jones with the original Marvel paperwork still attached (it must have been – at some point – a Marvel file copy) and he posted that here, revealing Tomy paid the princely sum of £400 to run the insert in 40,000 copies of the comic.

An originated Zoids strip written by Grant Morrison subsequently ran in Spider-Man and Zoids, which ran for 51 issues, debuting in March 1986. While the comic led with US Spider-Man reprints, the Zoids strip preceded the Japanese anime featuring the characters by several years, created under license with the to tie-in with the original UK release of model kits. Wikipedia has an outline of the story here.

If you are hoping for a legal reprint of Zoids, by the way, I’m afraid the bad news is that there are rights issues preventing that, despite numerous attempts by IDW head honcho Chris Ryall to find a way to publish them.

Elsewhere, GetMyComics distributor and publisher Adrian Clarke, while not busy teasing us on Facebook with information about his upcoming anthology, SHIFT, has been delighting us all with more artwork he has discovered from 1990s MUK projects, including the cover of Death’s Head II #14 and Gun Runner #1.

Death's Head II #14 cover art by Liam Sharp and Andy Lanning. With thanks to Adrian Clarke of GetMyComics
Death’s Head II #14 cover art by Liam Sharp and Andy Lanning. With thanks to Adrian Clarke of GetMyComics
Gun Runner #1 Cover Art. With thanks to Adrian Clarke of GetMyComics
Gun Runner #1 Cover Art. With thanks to Adrian Clarke of GetMyComics

However, it’s former MUK editor Tim Quinn who’s a dab hand at dropping a lost piece of art on fans of the British publishing arm of Marvel, and a Captain Britain find he’s presented to MUK fans on Facebook is a real treat.

“It’s always fun when I open an old book or magazine and out falls a golden piece of memorabilia,” he says. “Such is the case today when this pencilled rough cover shot of the Autumn 1992 Captain Britain comic reappeared.

“Not seen since those days. I couldn’t even remember that we had Autumn Specials!

“The art is by Richard Elson – the early days.”

Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 Cover - Pencils by Richard Elson
Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 Cover – Pencils by Richard Elson
Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 Cover - Pencils by Richard Elson, inks by Rodney Ramos, coloured by John Burns | Via S Smith on ComicArtFans
Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 Cover – Pencils by Richard Elson, inks by Rodney Ramos, coloured by John Burns | Via Steven Smith on ComicArtFans
Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 - Published Cover
Captain Britain Autumn Special 1992 – Published Cover

While the contents of the Special were reprints from Mighty World of Marvel and Captain Britain Monthly, they were at least presented in colour, but Richard’s cover was a new commission.

Was this Special perhaps in part the project was field test for a planned relaunch of Captain Britain that in the end did not happen, to assess potential UK sales?

As we note on our Marvel UK: “Genesis ’92” – Looking Back and What Might Have Been” Page, an unrealised four-book relaunch of the Marvel UK range Editorial Director Paul Neary planned in 1994, included a Captain Britain title, from which only Nocturne was eventually published, but as a regular Marvel US comic.

Written by Dan Abnett with art from Andrew Currie and Bryan Hitch, this is really a project that many are sad to learn was a victim of the company’s implosion – but Andrew has at least recently teased some pages from the first issue over on Twitter… enjoy!

Unpublished pages from an abandoned Marvel UK Captain Britain project, written by Dan Abnett, art by Andrew Currie and Bryan Hitch
Unpublished pages from an abandoned Marvel UK Captain Britain project, written by Dan Abnett, art by Andrew Currie and Bryan Hitch

WEB LINKS

Marvel UK: “Genesis ’92” – Looking Back and What Might Have Been” Page

• The STARLOGGED Blog has a huge number of Marvel UK-related rarities and is well worth a visit – starlogged.blogspot.com

Richard Starkings album of Zoids Monthly #1 is here on Facebook – more to come!

With thanks to Adrian Clarke, Andrew Currie, Tim Quinn and Richard Starkings

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comic Art, Cover Art, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Other Worlds, Superhero Comics

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