British Comics Flashback: Looking back at the launch of Marvel UK’s “The Real Ghostbusters”

Philip Boyce began his utterly awesome OINK! Blog as a site charting history of the much-loved and fondly-remembered British humour comic, but the project has grown to encompass other titles. Today will see him reviewing the very first issue of The Real Ghostbusters, launched on this day, 12th March, back in 1988.

While I was editing Doctor Who Magazine at the time for Marvel, one of many sidelines to boost my income was writing comic strips and text stories, including writing them for The Real Ghostbusters. It was launch editor Richard Starkings who asked me to come up with stories for the title, and I was very grateful for the opportunity.

Richard Starkings notes to creators for Marvel UK's The Real Ghostbusters comic
Richard Starkings notes to creators for Marvel UK's The Real Ghostbusters comic
Richard Starkings notes to creators for Marvel UK’s The Real Ghostbusters comic

Back then, pre-internet, we only had letters from readers to go on in terms of how well our work was being received, although the 100,000 weekly sales certainly suggested we were doing something right…

Here, Philip reveals his eager anticipation of The Real Ghostbusters launch, and just how he found out about its impending arrival in his local newsagents…

Who Ya Gonna Call? Marvel UK!

The Real Ghostbusters

It was 7.30pm on Boxing Day, 1987, and I was settled in my bedroom watching a movie premiere on my brand new Pye 12″ TV. A few months previously, I’d rented a video of a cartoon series called Filmation’s Ghostbusters and had enjoyed it but that was all the shop had. Then I found out a new ghostbusting cartoon was to begin in January and the film that inspired it was being shown at Christmas. Some friends were big fans of the movie, and were understandably confused when I asked them if it had the flying car and the gorilla in it.

The original promo used to sell The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Fans will notice some changes would be made between this and going into production

Knowing this movie had nothing to do with the show I’d seen, I curiously began watching… and curiosity soon gave way to thrills and plenty of laughter. I quickly forgot all about Filmation’s cartoon (itself based on a 1970s live-action show) and on Tuesday 11th January at 4.20pm the first UK episode of The Real Ghostbusters (actually episode eight of season two) aired on CiTV and I was immediately hooked.

But it was during Cilla Black’s Surprise, Surprise a month later when my enjoyment would be taken a step further. A young artist and comics fan had been surprised by Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog, and taken to the headquarters of Marvel UK in Bayswater, London, where they’d be put to work contributing a page to one of their comics.

When it was announced this would be for an as-yet-unreleased comic based on my new favourite cartoon, I immediately started recording it. Well, once the VHS tape got up to speed, anyway.

The famous intro and song to the show itself. It still sits up there as a quality cartoon with top writing thanks in no small part to co-creator/script editor J.Michael Straczynski

I have a distinct memory of playing that section back and pausing it at the exact moment Cilla or Bob held up the premiere issue of The Real Ghostbusters, so I could try to see the date. All I could make out on the fuzzy pause screen was “March” and it had been mentioned it was going to be fortnightly. Knowing how Marvel UK dated their comics with that of the next issue (kind of like an expiry date) I patiently waited.

Well, when I say that, I obvious mean very impatiently, running to the newsagents each Saturday to see if it was out yet…

The morning of 12th March 1988 lives rent free in my head to this day. (Isn’t it strange the things we remember?) It was the last Saturday the new comic could be released for its cover date to include this month. My dad left for the newsagent and I sat by the window in our upstairs living room waiting for him to return. When I saw him walking up the lane, I was filled with excitement but he had returned with no comic. The newsagent had told him it wasn’t there and they had just the one box left to open so in all likelihood it was late.

Crestfallen, I put all my hopes into that final box. I mean, a first issue can’t be late!

I was told to wait until the afternoon, but instead, after one hour, I ran to the shop myself. I didn’t even stop to find it on the shelves and instead went straight to the counter to ask if it had arrived. It had – and they’d kindly put a copy aside for me. I immediately asked for a regular order before I even left, and again I ran home as quickly as my feet could take me and jumped up onto the sofa to read it.

Today, 12th March, marks the 33rd anniversary of that very day and the premiere issue of one of Marvel UK’s most successful comics. I’ve read a few of the annuals in previous years for the old blog site, but now I’ve been able to get hold of a copy of Issue One again – and I’m going to give it the full OiNK Blog real time read through.

I may not have any more issues yet (yet!) to follow up on but it’s still going to be fun to relive this one.

Oh, the memories this comic, in particular this edition brings back!
Oh, the memories this comic, in particular this edition, brings back!

Back in 1988, I may have been really enjoying the cartoon every week, but it was the comic that cemented me as a super fan. Years of comics, books, toys, records, videos and more were to follow and, more importantly, some very happy memories.

So, please head over to my OINK! Blog for a review of Issue One as I dip my toe in the waters of what could become a future collection for the blog at some point.

Philip Boyce

Check out Philip Boyce’s Oink! Blog here

This article first featured on Phil’s blog and is cross posted here with permission

ALSO ON DOWNTHETUBES…

Creating Comics: An Interview with Real Ghostbusters artist John Marshall

Back in 2018, Joe O’Brien tracked down elusive The Real Ghostbusters artist John Marshall (John Williams), who now lives in Suffolk, and interviewed him for his brilliant The Art of The Real Ghostbusters web site. With Joe’s permission, we re-posting the feature, re-visiting the creation of one of Marvel UK’s best-selling titles back in the 1980s and Nineties…

WEB LINKS

Check out Joe O’Brien’s The Art of Real Ghostbusters web site at theartofrgb.com

Wikipedia: The Real Ghostbusters comics (including Marvel UK)

Ghostbusters Wiki: Marvel UK’s The Real Ghostbusters

Facebook – Spook Central’s The Real Ghostbusters Marvel UK Comic Covers Gallery

The full run from Issues #1 – #120 is complete. Missing are Issues 121, 130, 138, 140-191. Images here are shared with the Ghostbusters Wiki, where the originals are hosted

The Real Ghostbusters books on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

I’d highly recommend these books if you’d like to dip your toes in and try out the comic
I highly recommend these books if you’d like to dip your toes in and try out the comic

Selected stories from hugely-popular The Real Ghostbusters comic, launched in March 198 and running for 193 issues,were collected by Titan Books

The Real Ghostbusters: A Hard Day’s Fright
by Dan Abnett (Writer), Anthony Williams (Artist)
Paperback – 26 Aug. 2005

The Real Ghostbusters: A Hard Day's Fright

WHO YOU GONNA CALL? Unorthodox scientists Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler decided to go into business, forming a company specialising in paranormal investigations. Now, along with Winston Zeddemore and their “pet” ghost Slimer, they protect the world from the supernatural – as the Ghostbusters!

In this first volume, collecting the Real Ghostbusters comic and based on the smash-hit cartoon, creators including Dan Abnett (Majestic) and artist Anthony Williams (2000AD) bring the zany fun of the cartoon series to the comics page! With spooks on the loose – not to mention a bucket-load of ectoplasm – the Ghostbusters are busier than ever! But don’t worry…they ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

The Real Ghostbusters: Who You Gonna Call?

The Real Ghostbusters: Who You Gonna Call?
by Dan Abnett (Writer), Anthony Williams (Artist)
Paperback – 24th November 2006

There’s more spooky action in this second volume as the gang take on more netherworld ne’er-do-wells, sinister spectres and rotten revenants!

Collecting more never-before-collected strips from the Real Ghostbusters comic… you’ll be gripped by the ghoulies!

The Real Ghostbusters: Which Witch is Which?

The Real Ghostbusters: Which Witch is Which?
by Dan Abnett (Writer), Anthony Williams (Artist) et al
Paperback – 21st July 2006

The Ghostbusters are back in action against another horde of horrible haunters, wicked witches, very nasty vampires and grim ghouls in this spook-tacular collection!

The Real Ghostbusters: This Ghost is Toast!

The Real Ghostbusters: This Ghost is Toast!
by Dan Abnett (Writer), Anthony Williams (Artist) et al
Paperback – 21st April 2006

Unorthodox scientists Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler decided to go into business, forming a company specialising in paranormal investigations. Now, along with Winston Zeddemore and their “pet” ghost Slimer, they protect the world from the realm of the supernatural – as the Ghostbusters!

There’s something strange afoot in this volume of comic tales as the gang charge their proton packs once again to take on the world’s most ghastly ghouls, foolish phantoms and diabolical demons!

The Real Ghostbusters books on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

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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: British Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Humour Comics, My Comics Projects

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1 reply

  1. One of the best comics in the ’80s

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