Published by Hibernia
Edited by David McDonald | Designed by Richard Pearce
Review by Peter Duncan
In his introduction to the latest addition of the Hibernia Comics ‘Comic Archives’ series, editor and publisher David McDonald muses over the amount of quality material commissioned for UK comics that has never been published. Over the next 90 pages of Fantastic Adventures, he presents us with a set of articles, interviews and unused art that allows a glimpse at some of the ambitious and fascinating plans for comics that never quite made it to fruition.
Beginning with David Lloyd’s ill-fated proposal for a mid-1980s, a high-quality companion comic to 2000AD, the Fantastic Adventure, after which this collection is named, we are taken through various other proposed comics which floundered before reaching print.
Presented are surviving dummies for Derek Lord’s various attempts to launch an updated version of the Eagle – comics planned to mix entertainment with education. We are shown the intriguing possibility that a comic featuring the art of both John Bolton and Nigel Parkinson was, at one stage, on the cards.
We are told of plans for a Football Comic with real attitude, of a DC Thomson rival to 2000AD that carried manga sensibilities – and a kids comic that distilled the rude bits out of Oink!, creating what could have been a new start for that segment of the comics market.
It’s a story of missed opportunities, many of which have faltered due to various publishing company management’s unwillingness to try something new, or the rising tide of comics featuring licensed characters that began in the 1980s and accelerated through the 1990s, pushing traditional comics aside on the news stand.
It’s impossible to tell how successful these titles might have been but, David’s articles raise the fascinating question of what might have been.
Along the way, we get to see some of the artwork and completed pages put together for dummies of the proposed titles. The artwork from Fantastic Adventure is particularly exciting. A comic featuring art by John Higgins, John Ridgway and Steve Yeowell would be special enough, but the idea that John M. Burns black and white artwork on the “Johnny O’Hara” strip and Ron Tiner’s horror-themed “Nightwalkers”, both written by Grant Morrison, never went any further, is tragic.
On a personal note, it was sad to see a hand-written note, ‘artist here for dummy only’ on an excellent page drawn by an old friend, the late Steve Whitaker, for a spy-themed story. Somehow, Steve never quite got the big break he deserved.
There are also articles on cancelled 2000AD spin-offs, a little known manga version of Judge Dredd and the Revolver comic, from the days when comics were cool.
Also included are interviews with Battle editor Terry Magee, Rogue Trooper creator Gerry Finlay-Day and a long discussion with the late Robert Nixon conducted back in 1981, one of the finest and most fondly remembered cartoonists to work on humour titles for both DC Thomson and IPC.
All this is accompanied by samples of original art and a few pages from a proposed Revolver strip which would have teamed Garth Ennis and Will Simpson on a modern-day western.
Hibernia’s Comics Archives series is a must-have for fans of British Comics and the latest edition might just be the best so far. Colour pages, excellent design and production and most importantly of all, great content. Fantastic Adventures focuses on lost comics – but contains so much more.
• Print copies of Fantastic Adventures are only available from Comicsy – www.comicsy.co.uk/hibernia | Digital editions are also available for £5 as a PDF. Contact Hibernia directly at firstname.lastname@example.org – the PDF will be emailed within the day
• Catherine Nixon has published a website dedicated to her late father, Robert Nixon – an online archive of his work and his contribution to the British comics industry throughout his 35-year career – www.rtndesigns.co.uk