In the mid-1990s, after a period of intense activity and hugely successful sales on titles that included Death’s Head II, Warheads, Motormouth and Killpower in the US and Doctor Who Magazine, The Real Ghostbusters, Overkill and Transformers in the UK, Marvel UK‘s fortunes foundered as comic sales plummeted across the Atlantic for a variety of reasons and internal management issues finally crippled the company, whose assets were eventually absorbed by Panini.
During that “white heat” phase for the company in the US market, instigated and then launched by Editorial Director Paul Neary in 1992, Marvel UK began development work on numerous projects and characters, sadly cancelled as crisis after crisis hammered home. After leaving the company in early 1993, for example, Paul commissioned me to come up with a revamp for the Knights of Pendragon, which went through about six months of development work with MUK editor Bambos Georgiou, who I’d worked with on the mini-series Gene Dogs, drawn by Dave Taylor. Then work suddenly stopped – a fate that also befell a number of projects detailed here on downthetubes – including Officer Outbody, a character created by writer Glenn Dakin and artist Ross Dearsley.
Today, Cambridge-based Glenn, who scripted numerous MUK books, is well known for his work as a writer on many comics, including Temptation, the semi-autobiographical strip Abe and the recent Marvel UK character revival series, Revolutionary War. He’s also a writer for many children’s TV shows, including the BBC’s Shaun the Sheep.
After his work on the four-issue MUK mini series Shadow Riders, written by myself and Brian Williamson (the first issue sold what might be seen now as a staggering 140,000 copies), Berkshire-based Ross went on to carve a name for himself in the world of gaming design. Raised on Marvel Comics, Thunderbirds, 2000AD and Star Wars, he’s now an accomplished professional freelance concept artist and illustrator, who works in a variety of entertainment media areas including video games, print, film and television.
“Officer Outbody grew out of the character Die-Cut,” Glenn Dakin recalls of the abandoned project. “Paul Neary showed me a picture of a big guy with a blade that could cut through anything, and asked me to invent an identity for him (this was early in 1993). I thought it would be good if the blade cut through dimensions, and came up with the idea of an ‘astral plane patrolman’.
“I thought a mad cop trying to impose order on Steve Ditko’s wacky astral realms would be fun,” he continues. “Paul liked the idea but said it was wrong for Die Cut and suggested we create a whole new series. So I brainstormed some other names and we ended up with Officer Outbody. We got permission to use Doctor Strange in the story, which I was delighted about.”
Why did the project – solicited as a four issue mini-series – hit the buffers? The announcement of delayed publication appeared in Comic World 22 (December 1993) and then cancelled when Marvel UK pulled the US line completely.
“In the end, Outbody seemed to get drowned under other projects like Die Cut and Plasmer,” says Glenn. “I wrote the origin of Die-Cut as a two-part team-up with Death’s Head II (drawn by John Royle), then a four-issue mini-series with Red Skull and an evil version of the Beast, the X-Beast, which predated Marvel’s Dark Beast.”
“I did quite a few development sketches,” says Ross of his work on the character, “but I think I only completed two pages in ink before the project was cancelled.
“It was a very surreal story… there were tons of weird background elements like floating architecture, eye-ball creatures and starfields.”
During discussion of this abandoned project, Glenn reveals yet another – a never-released Plasmer follow-up series, drawn by Pasqual Ferry, the Spanish artist best known for his work on Heroes for Hire, Action Comics and Adam Strange. That too, was canned, and only this cover draft seems to have survived.