British comics fandom has been produced some fantastic publications for decades now – and one such title was Defective Comics, a comic strip fanzine in the era of photocopied zines of which there’s little to find online, so here’s a short feature that may jog the memory cells of some readers…
The creation of, today, award-winning author and comics writer Rik Hoskin, Defective Comics ran a magnificent 115 issues from 1988 – 1997, which possibly makes it Britain’s longest running small press comic title.
“Defective is where I “learned” how to write comics,” Rik tells downthetubes, “because it got so much feedback. It also got mentioned in Marvel UK’s short-lived STRIP, which is how I came into contact with then-editor Dan Abnett and did some writing for Marvel UK as a teenager. Bizarrely, it also got promoted on Teletext!
Defective Comics main strip became “Agents of Psyence” with issue 70 in 1992, and briefly span out into its own comic in 1998, published by Abaculus – but the idea had been seeded for a long time before then.
The strip, written by Dan Abnett and Rik Hoskin, drawn by Ian Richardson and Dave Morris, follows the adventures of the Psyence Agency, a secret organisation that deals with arcane threats, which reviewer Nigel Lowery describes as, “The X-Files goes mystic.”
(Reuben Willmott notes Abaculus also published the also short-lived Gyre, launched in 1997, by Martin Shipp and Marc Laming, sadly unfinished).
“Psyence Fiction was the ‘proper’ version of the comic through a keen start-up company that talked me into cancelling Defective and launching it,” Rik recalls. “It ran two issues and went nowhere. I didn’t like the title, I would have called it Agents of Psyence if I’d had my way. The story was adapted for audio by a semi-pro group.
“Most recently, I actually got somehow involved in developing it as a TV show for a British company run by an old BBC contact, but when money wasn’t forthcoming I put it on the back burner and followed the paying work instead … typical mercenary freelance!
“In theory, the TV idea is still live, never say never, right?”
Today, Rik is an award-winning comic book writer and novelist from the UK who has written comics for Star Wars, Doctor Who, Superman, Shrek and a successful Spider-Man title aimed at younger readers, among many others.
In recent years, his work has included three White Sand graphic novels, working with author Brandon Sanderson, the first making the New York Times bestseller list, and collaborations with writers Dean Koontz, Pierce Brown and Patricia Briggs. His other credits also include the SEAL Team Six novels and two projects for Indian publisher, Campfire – Taj Mahal and They Conquered the World.
He has also written over 25 novels under the pen-name James Axler, as whom he was the lead writer on the Outlanders series for eight years. He’s also written a trilogy of original novels for HarperCollins based on the Kevin Sorbo-led Hercules, The Legendary Journeys TV series, has written animation scripts for the BBC’s website, and others, and was lead writer on the game, Game of Khans.
Rik continues to work with some of the contributors to Defective Comics to this day, including Chatri Ahpornsiri, who’s created covers to his Deathlands audio series, writing as James Axler.
His latest book, Bystander 27, a comic-inspired novel, published by Angry Robot, was published last year, a story steeped in 1980s and Nineties comics traditions, which fans of Defective Comics may just want to check out.
It’s just one of many projects he has worked on, including a card game, Terror Trumps, and as he told us last year, he has many other stories he wants to explore!
• Many British comic fanzines have now been archived online in a read only format by David Hathaway-Price, with the permission of their original editors or publishers, on the brilliant Classic UK Comic Zines site
With thanks to Frazer Brown for this particular rabbit hole, Reuben Willmott for information on Abaculus, and especially to Rik Hoskin, for digging out some copies of Defective Comics for us!