Former Starblazer editor Bill McLoughlin recalls the making and undoing of a much-loved SF comic published by DC Thomson…
Starblazer appeared in April 1979 with the trigger being the success of the first Star Wars film although the idea had been conceived some three years earlier with work on a science fiction magazine being done independently by two departments within the DC Thomson empire. Ian Chisholm, when editor of Sparky , had put forward the idea of producing a science fiction based magazine and material was produced for this. It comprised tales of a supernatural nature, along with a streak of horror. At the same time, Jack Smith in the women’s magazine department and a science fiction aficianado, had the idea of producing pocket sized SF tales.
At some stage, Ian and Jack got together and the idea was put forward.
In September 1978 the go ahead was given to publish the comic and authors and artists sought out. The response to adverts was immense and finally we settled on a coterie we knew we could rely on: Ray Aspden, Mel Chappell, Rob Carter, John Speer, Mike Knowles and Jon Radford to name but a few. These stalwarts were ably supported by Alan Rogers and Grant Morrison, who both scripted and drew their own stories.
We also needed artists and the various agents we worked with were given the remit and the selection they came up with was stellar. Alcatena, Ortiz, Carrasco, Sarompas, Pino, Ferrer, Montero, Saichann. Over the years some of the stalwarts of the British scene were persuaded to draw for us… Mike McMahon, Cam Kennedy, Tony O’Donnell, Alan Burrows and Keith Robson, plus many others who wanted to contribute.
The first stories were space opera along very traditional lines. 2000AD was the only SF magazine on the market at the time and their success undoubtedly helped Starblazer. A number of authors and artists wrote and drew for both publications and it was them who got us up and running.
However, as time passed, the Starblazer stories left behind space opera and became more sophisticated, darker and altogether more graphic novel than pocketbook. No genre was left untried and Mike Chinn was the first author to venture into the world of fantasy, his Michael Moorcroftish stories were illustrated by the Argentinian genius, Alcatena.
Alcatena was an absolute delight to work with, creating his own fantastic worlds and characters from the scripts. You didn’t need detail galore for Alcatena because he developed the story in directions you had never dreamed of… he was one of the few artists we didn’t mind adapting storylines because his interpretation was simply genius. Mike also ventured in the world of comedy with the Robot Kid series.
It would be an injustice not to mention some of the other authors and artists who worked their magic on some very basic ideas. Among the authors were Dave Taylor, Mark Gorton, Bill Reed, Tony Stent, Gary Rice, Stafford Neeld, Ted Cowan, Alan Hemus, John Smith, Dave Motton, Paul Alexander (my apologies to any that have been omitted).
Artists were Casanovas Junior, who had a number of differing styles, Garijo, he of the Robot Kid artwork, Colin McNeill and Ian Kennedy – who painted some of the best covers seen in Starblazer – Ron Brown, Keith Robson… and Keith Page also made a huge contribution plus the many others who made Starblazer what it was.
But Starblazer was doomed. The day of the graphic novel was dawning and the pocketbook format was old hat. Although the tales were very much of the same genre, it was the unappealing format which eventually sealed the end.
In fact, when Starblazer was consigned to the great Black Hole, there were five stories in the pipeline along with four stories under the Legends banner. These were scripted by Alan Hemus, who wrote some of the best text stories to appear in the pages of DC Thomson’s publications, and were illustrated by Alcatena, but have never seen the light of day.
They, too, remain in limbo ready to be dusted off and launched on an unsuspecting public when the word is given…
|Starblazer Cover Gallery|
This page is part of our Starblazer section on downthetubes.
• Click Here for Jeremy Briggs article on Starblazer: Blazing Through the Secrecy
Jeremy Briggs ponders DC Thomson’s secretive nature about its creators down the years, and explores the secrets of its science fiction title Starblazer, whose creators included a young Grant Morrison and artist Ian Kennedy…
• Click Here for From the Command Deck: Starblazer editor Bill McLoughlin’s history of the title
• Click Here for Starblazer Ray Aspden’s feature on writing for the title
• Click Here for Starblazer Recalled: Forgotten Fantasy Fiction – With Pictures by series writer Mike Chinn
• Click Here for a complete Starblazer Cover Gallery (off site)
Cover scans for these Starblazer articles with thanks to ‘Gary’
Steve Holland is amazed at how many people remember Starblazer, noting the pocket books appeared as “regular as clockwork throughout the 1980s at the rate of two new titles a month so I guess over the nearly twelve years it appeared a vast army of young science fiction fans, high on Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, sought them out.”
Starblazer fan Douglas Nicol began this article on the internet’s contributor-based encyclopedia
Starblazer is © DC Thomson. The images featured in this article are done so for review purposes only and no copyright infringement is intended.