32 years ago this month, a chilling issue of Ring Raiders landed in newsagents. One of the best villain characters from all of comics archivist and blogger Philip Boyce’s childhood comics, Skull Leader Chiller was the cover star, as well as being the lead bad guy inside, really piling up the bodies!
Over on his fabulous OiNK blog, Ring Raiders is another vintage British comic he’s reviewing in real time, a short-lived toy tie-in title – and Issue Three, he reveals, doesn’t pull punches in terms of action adventure.
For those unfamiliar, Ring Raiders were created by toy car makers Matchbox, in partnership with Those Characters From Cleveland (perhaps better known for the Care Bears, My Pet Monster, and Popples). It was a toyline consisting primarily of small plastic toy planes mounted on plastic rings via a detachable display stand, the stands allowing the aircraft a small degree of mobility.
Fleetway published an eponymous fortnightly comic based on the toy line, edited by Barrie Tomlinson lasting just six issues, launched in 1989 with a mini-comic given away free with other boys comics of the time; featuring strips drawn by artists such as John Cooper, Sandy James, Ian Kennedy and Carlos Pino. A Special that wrapped storylines left hanging after the title’s abrupt cancellation was also published.
The Ring Raiders animated television series based on the toy line was also short-lived, running for just five episodes.
Ring Raiders was more popular overseas than in the US, with extra series of planes and today, the Fleetway tie-in comic is something of a much sought after collectible, copies of the first issue with free gift offered on eBay for quite eye watering amounts. Two annuals were also published, but lack any art by the comic’s best known regulars.
“It felt like there wasn’t a single ad break without that catchy metal music in the latter half of 1989,” Philip notes in his introductory article to the comic that kicked off his real time reviews.
“Full of great action and even greater characters, this remains my favourite non-OiNK comic to this day,” he adds elsewhere, “so check out the latest review to find out why!
“Plus, how were those rings incorporated into the story? After all, they had to be called Ring Raiders for a reason in the fictional universe too. This is finally answered is spectacular fashion with some superb Sandy James artwork inside.”
Do head over to Philip’s fantastic blog and check out his features on Ring Raiders, and many more comics you may remember from your childhood, especially OiNK, of course! He’s promising a lot more information on the Ring Raiders project, including a look at the ultra rare “style guide” used to develop the comic, in due course.
Introduced by Lesney Products in 1953, Matchbox is now owned by Mattel, Inc, which purchased the brand in 1997. Any reprint of this material would have to be negotiated with them.
Ring Raiders © Mattel
With thanks to Philip Boyce and Richard Sheaf