Classic UK Comic Zines Recalled: Chain Reaction, featuring Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter

Chain Reaction #5 - Cover
Blimey! What’s not to love about this 1983 issue of the British comics fanzine Chain Reaction (Issue Five), edited by Frank Plowright, the late, great and still much-missed Steve Whitaker and Hassan Yusuf?

Initially titled Direct Currents (the name changed after objections from DC Comics), Chain Reaction, published in 1983 – 1984 ran for seven issues and was one of several black and white zines I tried to follow in the days when UK comics gatherings were confined, for the most part, to the London Westminster Comic Marts and around the same time, the annual London UKCAC event (it’s hard to believe that now when comic events large and small compete for attendees almost every weekend across the country).

Wrapped in front cover by Mike Collins and Mark Farmer, with a gorgeous back cover by Pete Martin, this issue – available to read online for free on the Classic Comics UK Zines site curated by David Hathaway-Price – includes a fascinating interview with the brilliant American editor (and also much-missed) Archie Goodwin. He’s tackled on many aspects of his career in the piece, including his hopes for Marvel Epic. It’s a real snapshot in time.

A smashing Superman-inspired pin-up for Chain Reaction #5 by Pete Martin

But that’s not all – the zine also features great interviews with editors Sal Amendola (who started his career as an artist in the 1960s) and Jim Shooter (then Marvel’s Editor in Chief, enthusing about comics merchandising, a new phenomenon back then), and it’s crammed with silly cartoon strips poking fun at superheroes, some by the brilliant Nigel Kitching and others by the acerbic Howard Stangroom (now Will Morgan of 30th Century Comic shop fame in Richmond) and P. Chokran.

Chain Reaction #5 - Super-Folks Cartoon
This issue of Chain Reaction is the latest addition to a growing site documenting UK comics fandom through past zines that includes titles such as Paul Duncan’s Arkensword (later, simply ARK), BEM, Comic Media News, Hellfire, Russell Willis’ wonderful INFINITY (which I still have print copies of in a box somewhere!), Speakeasy and Worlds Collide.

“The aim of this site, is to create a digital repository of the comics fanzines published in the UK,” David explains.

“These fan publications contained work by artists and writers who would sometimes move into, and shape the industry that they loved.

“Equally, they contain work by people who simply appreciated the sense of community offered by taking part in fandom, and who may now look back fondly on a hobby no longer followed.

“These fanzines were printed in very limited numbers, sometimes as few as 50 copies and have become quite rare over the years.

“I hope to use this site to celebrate these publications, and the people who produced and contributed to them.”

• Check out the site at

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

3 thoughts on “Classic UK Comic Zines Recalled: Chain Reaction, featuring Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter

  • July 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    This brings back memories John. May be pushing it a little describing me as ‘brilliant’ though. The last review of my work (on Saviour) suggested that it it resembled the work of a child drawing with a wax crayon. I prefer your opinion.

    • July 11, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      I always liked your work, Nigel. Distinctive in a good way IMHO

      • July 11, 2017 at 10:52 pm

        Thanks John I appreciate that. Obviously I do think I do have talent but I quite understand when people don’t like what I do.

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