Celebrating Akira, with a look back at its brief British connection – and what might have been

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

A Twitter celebration of Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo turned into tongue-in-cheek speculation about a short-lived anthology comic published by Marvel UK over the weekend.

HAVOC and Meltdown were two short-lived anthology titles, instigated by Editorial Director Paul Neary and launched in mid 1991, both edited by me, John Freeman.

Meltdown #2 (Marvel UK, 1991)

HAVOC ran for just nine issues, and reprinted a variety of Marvel strips including Deathlok, Conan the Barbarian, Star Slammers and more; while the monthly title,

Meltdown lasted just six issues, reprinting The Light and Darkness War by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, Arthur Suydam’s Cholly and Flytrap, The Last American by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Mike McMahon, and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, also by Grant and Wagner, and Jim Baikie.

The anthology also featured various articles on music and computer games and features on comic creators such as John Bolton.

Bizarrely, considering its frequency, the title also began to serialise Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo, and when writer/ artist Lee Grice sang the strip’s praises, in its original, biweekly form in Shonen Jump, and in its colour Epic Comics reprint, this reminded me of its brief British appearance.

“Otomo’s world-building and attention detail is phenomenal,” Lee noted of Otomo’s groundbreaking strip. “It’s kinda easy to forget what an effect it had at the time. It seemed to pretty much recalibrate everyone’s barometers in regard to how to portray action in comics. It seemed like, before Akira, you rarely got such a thing as a car chase in western comics…”

“I have to shout out to Steve Oliff’s colouring in the original US editions from Epic Comics,” he also enthused. “…”that neon-lit orange night time palette is perfect.”

Fantastic Akira certainly is, and epic, no pun intended, too. I’ve previously pondered just how long it would have taken Meltdown to complete publishing the strip at, roughly, eight pages an issue, without a break, had the title continued.

Suitably inspired, Lee worked out that, based on the manga’s length – 2511pages in all, Akira would have completed publication in Meltdown Issue 313, in September 2017… 26 years after the anthology made its debut!

Not only that – he came up with a fun faux cover, too.

Meltdown Issue 313 - faux cover by Lee Grice
Meltdown Issue 313 – faux cover by Lee Grice

“I thought I’d have a bash at something minimalist to mark the occasion,” he informs, “and factoring in that it would’ve gone through a redesign or two over the years, and would no longer be a Marvel publication.”

Also discussed was what might also have run alongside in Akira in Meltdown across those 26 fictional years of publication – had it not been an experiment to see what kind of publishing frequency worked best for Marvel UK on the British news stand, just like the bi-weekly HAVOC, and not really a title Marvel UK bosses were really committed to continuing. (The bi-weekly success of HAVOC leading directly to the launch of OVERKILL).

For me, Meltdown would have continued with a mix of bande desssines, like Thorgal and Storm, strips originally consdered for its starting line-up, and Marvel Epic and indie US comics, such as The Last American. In the tradition of Nightbreed, The Walking Dead wouldn’t have been out of place for the horror strip, either.

Taking my lead, Lee thought Valerian might be a good shout, as one of the ongoing titles strips, given the movie was out that year.

My thanks to Lee for a fun trip down the Might Have Been road!

Marvel UK's monthly title Meltdown, launched in 1991
Marvel UK’s monthly title Meltdown, launched in 1991

• More Marvel UK Might Have Beens – read our multi-part feature “Marvel UK: “Genesis ’92” – Looking Back and What Might Have Been

Part 1 – Published Comics 1992 | Part 2 – Published Comics 1993 -1994 | Part 3 – Published Comics 1994 – 1995 | Part 4 – Frontier Comics | Part 5 – Unpublished Projects Developed during 1990 – 1991 | Part 6 – Unpublished Projects Developed during 1992 – 1993 | Part 7 – Other Unpublished Projects Developed during 1993 | Part 8 – Unpublished Projects Developed during 1994 | Part 9 – 1994 (Marvel UK branded) Core Relaunch | Part 10 – Final Unrealised Projects 1994 – and a Postscript

In the Spotlight: Marvel UK’s European Comic Reprints

Web Links

Wikipedia: Akira

Buy Akira on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Katsuhiro Otomo: The Complete Works

A new project to republish all Otomo’s work

• Michael Carroll’s guide  on Rusty Staples to some of Marvel UK’s more obscure titles of the 1970s and 80s

• Starlogged on HAVOC | Comic Vine – HAVOC entry

• Starlogged on Meltdown #1 Comic Vine – Meltdown entry

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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