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Old 2015-05-28, 05:56 PM   #21
Auntie Slag
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I don’t think the Master System had anywhere near enough traction to pull sales away from the Transformers comic, and certainly not the NES. I don’t think that was popular in the UK because it was released way too late and the cartridges were unbelievably expensive.

On top of this you had the ZX Spectrum with (at cheapest) £1.99 games on cassette. The three main computer platforms of the time were all out at the time of Transformers and I don’t think even ate away sales of a 32p comic.

I’d say Transformers killed themselves. Their post-movie dayglo boxy appearance coupled with the fact that they didn’t really change into anything that was a disguise (transforms from futuristic spaceship to robot and back!).

They looked like arse, how was that going to attract a new bunch of eight year olds? And all the current fans were three years older and turning to glue and bikes and football.

Compare a cool as hell Sideswipe toy to a pink Misfire. Yes, you could say the minibots were as crappy as the blocky Headmasters/Pretenders/Powermasters etc. but they filled a different niche, intended more as ‘pocket money’ toys (I have a vague memory of buying Bumblebee for £1.50 or £2 from Woolies), not necessarily headliners (although the minibots were brilliant).

Video games only reeeally took a hold of the mainstream when that colossal fuss was made about Sonic and Street Fighter II.
 
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Old 2015-05-28, 06:16 PM   #22
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Huh, I got my NES in the early 90s, and a lot of my friends were getting consoles at the time also.

Just to clarify, I wasn't talking solely about Transformers - if you look at comic sales in general, across multiple titles, sales started to nosedive across the board around the turn of the 1990s. These days, comic sales figures are lot lower than what they were in, say, 1985.

It's obviously speculation, but I still think the emergence of video games was one of the major causes of kids dropping comic books in general around that time (and the numbers have never recovered), not solely Transformers.
 
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Old 2015-05-28, 06:32 PM   #23
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Oh yeah, I agree with you there. It feels to me that Transformers took a major nosedive around ’88-’89. The NES came out in 1983 in Japan but didn’t come to the UK until late ’88, which is an age in videogame tech and it was so far behind the more forward looking Amiga and ST. I remember my mate getting NES, and being the only person to have one. It wasn’t long before it was superseded by the SNES and Megadrive.

The early 90’s coincided with Sonic, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat etc. I remember the nutty reports on the Six O’ Clock News about parents and children somehow forking out £90-£100 for a copy of Super Street Fighter II: Championship Edition on the Megadrive. Then there was the TV shows, the glossy games mags. The change was palpable, the comics were pulpable.
 
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Old 2015-05-28, 07:08 PM   #24
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Of course, amongst all the other factors (you could probably write a book on it) Marvel UK also helped to destroy themselves. Overreaching and overestimating how many comics the market could stand and how much interest there actually was.

When Doctor Who Magazine run a series of features on their history, oh, must be about ten years ago now, a former big wig actually went all the way and blamed the entire collapse of the company on Death's Head. Which is probably unfair (Death's Head didn't put a gun against Marvel's head and force them to publish everything from the Sleaze Brothers to all those unexciting characters who remained unexciting when Revolution War featured them) it does perhaps show that Furman may not have been anyone at Pannini's new purchase's favourite writer by the end.
 
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Old 2015-05-28, 07:28 PM   #25
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Christ, The Sleaze Brothers. They got some major plugging at the time, I bought the first issue, it was pretty awful. I hate it when British people mimic American culture badly, (the Cat on Red Dwarf; good for about three episodes. After that he was godawful).

And have you seen Dominic West trying to do a Baltimore accent in The Wire? The viewers there must've cringed!

I love overblown American names though; John Matrix, Stacker Pentecost... superb. In a similar vein some Transformers seemed innately big & american; Fortress Maximus, Jetfire, Hot Rod etc.

British Transformers would have wonderfully button-down, unimposing John Cleese Clockwise-style names like Talbot, Overcast, Erstwhile, Seaside, Workbench, Ploughman, Bunting or Scone.
 
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Old 2015-05-28, 09:42 PM   #26
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Hmmmmmmmmm.

Its not surprising to see the Transformers comic eventually be axed. The brand was six years old by 1990, and as you guys have pointed out, a new generation of children have their own interests and things that they were into.

So much of what grabs children's attention is down to the right thing in the right place at the right time. Even juggernaughts like Star Wars and He-Man were distant memories by 1990.

I'd agree that the late '80s / early '90s were when you started to see a generation of children whom were more interested in video games rather than toys. And it wouldn't be until the arrival of Power Rangers in 1993 that kids got seriously interested in toys again.

Whilst Transformers managed to sustain interest as a toyline in the UK (it has continued uninterupted as a toyline since it came here in 1984 after all), the numbers just weren't there to support the comic. Which isn't a great surprise. The comic was six years old by 1990, and had a lengthy ongoing story that's off-putting to new readers. In comparison to the pickled in aspic likes of The Beano, there isn't the feeling that you could just dip in and out as the fancy took you, and unlike more 'mature' titles like 2000AD, there's no convenient jumping on point (one of the smart things 2000AD has always done is having periodic 'relaunches' where there's an issue where there's five new stories kicking off). If you look at other UK adventure titles in the 7 - 12 age range, they tend to have a fairly short run of 2-3 years. We've never managed anything like the US market where things like Spider-Man and what have you have been running for the best part of a century. Mostly that's down to cultural differences - comics have always been seen as something juvenile over here, partly in some way because comics over here developed from satirical works and have become synonymous with humour, rather than adventure.

Indeed, the above is arguably why 2000AD has endured - it has a similar anthology structure to a humour title, and so much of its content has some satirical intent, so it appeals to that jaded cynic in us all.

Whilst the boys action comic market was dying out in the late '80s, comics aimed at teenagers were booming : Deadline, Crisis, Revolver and Toxic! were all moderate successes (although short lived - although I'd be betting Deadline might well have survived beyond 1995 it hadn't had so much riding on the success of the Tank Girl film).

At the same time as Transformers was winding down over here (along with a lot of other boys action comics), comics were entering their biggest period of commercial success across the pond with the titles like Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man and Jim Lee's X-Men selling in their millions. As a lot of these sales were generated through the direct market (i.e. comic shops) and with the big publishing houses cottoning on to the direct market and its 'no returns' model (in contrast to newsstands whereby as discussed above, drug stores and what not would order loads and send any unsolds back), there was a real shift in how comics were sold and, crucially, who would be reading them. Comic shops, by and large, don't tend to be visited by children and their parents. Newsstands are. So slowly over time, you can see that by cutting out the newsstand, the comic industry has ended up shooting itself in the foot a little, as there's no traditional access to the medium and if you're going to get into comics these days, its going to be when you're teenage or older - something thats reflected in the kinds of stories comics tell these days. Thats not to say that attrition wouldn't have happened anyway, with competition from other media and whatnot, but it is interesting to think how different things might be now if their were more opportunities for young children to get into comics.

Over here, well, the market has always been slightly different, with anthology titles being the preferred (and percieved) way of presenting comics. Even reprints of stuff like Batman and Avengers over here have a 'back up' or 'double feature' nature to them. Again, with comics being seen as quite juvenile, there's unspoken cultural rite where by children are encouraged to put down the 'picture books' as soon as possible. This means comics over here tend to aim squarely at the nursery market and this is where most companies now put their money.

Interestingly, there's been a huge growth in magazine style licensed titles for children. Monster High, Lego Chimia, quite possibly due to the incredible success of boys title Toxic (not the Toxic! I mentioned earlier, which was sweary, sexy and incredibly violent for 31 issues during 1991) , which everyone has then immitated.

In terms of Marvel UK, its worth noting that Dragons Claws and Death's Head were launched, it was under a different editorial team whom tried to mainstream the titles within the domestic market. There was no serious attempt to get the US parent company to take an interest. When Paul Neary instigated the big push into US format comics for Marvel UK in 1992, the UK got Overkill - an anthology title (having tested the waters with Havoc and Meltdown the year before) - which was interesting beast as it effectively reprinted stories crafted for the UK market but were aimed at cracking the potentially lucrative US comics market (extra material was created for the US books is the lie we are often told, but when you read back stuff like Hell's Angel and Pendragon II in Overkill, there are some obvious gaps in the stories where stuff included in the US format book has been 'cut' for Overkill) . Unlike with the US format launches that occured under Starkings and Furman, Neary smartly partnered up with Marvel US to have them print and distribute the books, ensuring they had a greater chance of success - which they did (they were also promoted alongside Marvel US own titles in Bullpen Bulletins - somewhat sneeringly at times, it has to be said - mainly I suspect because of what Auntie Slag said above).

Marvel UK only really became undone by pumping out books like there was no tommorrow and ultimately succumbing to the speculator crash in the US of 1994, and then being ignomiously sold off by Marvel US in 1996 when they went into bankruptcy proceedings.
 
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Old 2015-05-29, 03:26 PM   #27
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What's interesting is that the recent Titan comic basically lasted the same length as time as the original despite the name changes and renumberings (I think the total number of issues was only just short of what the American Marvel comic managed as well). You get the feeling it only really fell at the end because they managed to completely mishandle having the licence to the most successful film of the year. Considering how hard it was to find on shelves I'd not be surprised if it was only old farts like me buying in the end, but it at least suggests a sustainable market for a TF title in the UK. As said, most licensed properties don't manage anything like that sort of lifespan, even in the peak of the Marvel days.
 
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Old 2015-05-31, 11:47 AM   #28
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I think the most notable thing with the UK comics industry compared to the US is that there are no 'new' titles any more - every comic in my local newsagent is either a long-standing behemoth like the Beano or 2000AD, or a licensed title like Peppa Pig or Doctor Who Adventures. There seems to be no mass-market desire for anything 'new' this side of the pond.

This was partially why Marvel UK floundered in the 1990s, because they put all their effort into new IPs like the Sleaze Brothers that nobody really cared about. It's telling that the one survivor through all this was Doctor Who Magazine, when all else fell by the wayside.

It's no wonder all the good UK comic talent works for US publishers these days - other than 2000AD, there's just no mechanism for any new ideas to reach the newsstands - there's just no demand for it.

Another thing that didn't help Marvel UK was that it suddenly became easier to get American comics in the UK. The early successes of the Marvel Transformers and Spider-Man titles depended on the fact that there was no easy access to their US equivalents. Although there were comic ships in the major cities (Forbidden Planet, Nostalgia & Comics), there were very few elsewhere.

Suddenly, there seemed to be a lot more of these shops popping up all over the place (when Ace Comics opened in Colchester I was awestruck by the stuff they had available), which meant that UK comics were not only competing with each other, but imports from America. Why read Sleaze Brothers when you now had literally hundreds of American titles to choose from?
 
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Old 2015-05-31, 06:31 PM   #29
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Marvel UKs collapse was indeed due to pumping out too many books that no one cared about. A surprising amount of stuff got canned late on 1993 - The Red Mist 20/20 crossover, The fully painted Warheads/ Death's Head II book, all those second year titles; Wild Thing, Black Axe and Cyberspace 3000 - despite having being already solicited and in some cases even being at the printers. This is no worse than the same sort of expansion that had happened across the whole comics industry - huge expansion between 1990 - 1993, followed by a lot of titles falling by the wayside in 1993 - 1994 as the market collapsed (most notably all the Marvel US books that Simon Furman was writing..!) and anything unlikely to sell, never mind turn a profit, got junked.

As for the whole thing about the reprint titles, I'm not sure how true the expansion of comic shops over here was - during this period of growth, Marvel UK only had Exploits Of Spider-Man on the go. When Panini took over, they relaunched this as Astonishing Spider-Man and added Essential X-Men. Those two books have continued uninterupted since they launched (save for periodic restarts as #1, keeping a 'volume' system going and keeping the titles welcoming to new readers) and they've added a further five titles in this format over the last fifteen years, so they must be popular enough, despite the presence of comic book shops.

Panini did instigate some original material - albeit for US characters they held the license for - and its a shame this has stopped now, as enforced by Marvel US. Its is a pity that unlike Marvel UK, they didn't use generating their own material to produce their own characters - as with Captain Britain, Night Raven, Death's Head and the Sleeze Brothers.

Just on the Sleeze Brothers, I wonder what the thinking was behind giving them a limited series? Had they really proved so popular with the readers of Doctor Who Magazine that someone thought they deserved their own book?
 
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Old 2015-05-31, 07:21 PM   #30
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From what I can gather the Sleaze Brothers were put in DWM to promote their forthcoming book rather than being given a spin-off because of the success of their appearance. All due to Richard Starking's "Shared Marvel UK" Universe idea. Transformers actually got off lightly, Death's Head being the only attempt to tie in with everything else and that wasn't initially intended.
 
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Old 2015-05-31, 08:18 PM   #31
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I quite enjoy the Sleeze Brothers...
 

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Old 2015-05-31, 08:33 PM   #32
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Perhaps the series is better, but their DWM appearance is just awful and only mildly more funny than colon cancer.
 
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Old 2015-06-01, 09:26 AM   #33
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I do have The Sleeze Brothers, its kind of alright. Andy Lanning's cartoony art is great. Its mild Satire using the Blues Brothers as a heavy frame of reference (although the titel characters are supposedly based on writer John Carnell's brothers...)
 
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Old 2015-06-01, 08:58 PM   #34
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Prompted by this thread, I've recently been looking back at some of the Peters-edited issues, and he does come across as a bit - how shall I put it? - testy, both in Dread Tidings and on the Transformation page.

Rather than apologise for the black and white stories (and the glut of reprints around this time, 'Wanted: Galvatron', 'Headhunt', 'Resurrection' etc.) he actively criticises kids who write in to question the new format. How much of this is Peters' actual opinion and how much is him trying to be 'in character' as Dreadwind is open to debate, but it's almost startling how sore he sounds.

He dismisses any criticism as 'moanin and groanin' (#225), and sounds surprised that people are disappointed ('I don't know what you're complaining about' - #226). He even tries to justify the change as an actual improvement ('I thought it looked quite good' - #224), in #223 he even suggests readers should be happy for the opportunity to colour in the stories themselves.

In #226 he's really condescending to a reader (who obviously wrote in before the 'soaring costs' explanation was published in #225: 'I’ve already explained about the black and white strip – where were you?! As to repeating stories, it may surprise you to know that there may be a lot of people out there who haven’t seen them yet… you’re still getting new stories, even if they are in black and white. Surely that’s better than no new stories at all, yes?'

On the one hand it's quite refreshing that he printed this criticism in the letters page at all, but on the other hand, Peters' poor handling of the situation is hardly endearing - and possibly even helped exacerbate the mass exodus of readers.
 
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Old 2015-06-01, 09:08 PM   #35
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It is a bit unfortunate that editorial didn't really sell the positives of the three strip format (If I'm honest, I actually quite liked the mix of strips from around this time), I think if the 'rising costs' thing had been sold as a positive from the get-go, there might have been an opportunity to stave off criticism.

Brow beating your readers isn't the best way to encourage loyalty at the very time your comic really needs it.

That said, I do wonder if some editors just weren't as good at the jokey rudeness as others and just come across as right sh*tbags. Titan's letters pages were similarly rude to readers under the guise of this being a response from a character (for 'character' read 'tw*t').
 
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Old 2015-06-02, 05:54 PM   #36
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Yeah, the "Phase 2" Dreadwind after Furman leaves is just a bit of a dick and his responses to those criticisms must have alienated readers. Though I think that's when we got the shagpile carpet joke, which was awesome so points there.

It might not have actually been Peters writing it though- Rimmer wasn't Soundwave, preferring to let Furman (and presumably his successor as editorial assistant in that period when he wasn't working "On staff" for the book due to cutting his editor teeth on Thundercats) take the reigns. I've got the impression that directly writing the letter's page wasn't automatically a job of the editor, but one Furman took upon himself during his tenure because he really enjoyed it (though the EA may have been the one sorting the letters).

Mind, Peters would have had ultimate responsibility for what the book was putting out, so even if he wasn't directly writing the responses he should have been keeping a more careful eye on them.

Early Soundwaves are mildly interesting as they try to find a style, in particular I think the second or third one is really odd with Soundwave replying to letters' in a way that refers to himself in the third person.
 
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Old 2015-06-02, 08:47 PM   #37
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...through repeated mentions of the Sleeze Brothers in this thread, I've only gone and bought The Sleeze Brothers File TPB, which collects all six issues. It was a penny off of Amazon. That's cheaper than buying the individual comics!

Here's a thing - why did Marvel UK not pump out more TPBs of their stuff?

We got The Life & Times Of Death's Head, Night Raven: The Collected Stories, Ghengis Grimtoad, Death's Head : The Body In Question, Abslom Daak from off Doctor Who, Doctor Who : Voyager , The aforementioned Sleeze Brothers collection and Night Raven : House Of Cards (twice).

That's a really odd selection when you would have thought more obviously popular stuff like Knights Of Pendragon would have been a shoe-in for the TPB treatment. Even really obvious stuff like the runaway success of Death's Head II (in particular the initial limited series) didn't get a TPB...
 
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Old 2015-06-23, 09:05 PM   #38
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...I totally forgot Marvel UK did a Captain Britain trade in 1988. There's ads for it all over Death's Head and Dragon's Claws.

So, of course, I've gone and found a copy! And its really good! It collects the tale end of the good Captain's weekly outings from the mid 1980s, and collects the run of Cap stories by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. I'm guessing these stories were collected to coincide with the launch of Excalibur by Marvel US (which also featured Davis on art duties), featuring as they do the introduction of Meggan the um, flame haired space elf or whatever she is. Also Psylocke, before the Americans did all that silly stuff sticking her in an asian girl's body for whatever.


...I also bought the Chronicles of Ghengis Grimtoad, which must be one of the last things John Wagner and Alan Grant wrote together. Its not very good, although Ian Gibson's painted art is nice here (and better than his work on Robo Hunter).
 
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Old 2015-06-23, 09:13 PM   #39
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Oooh, maybe you can help me out. When I was young reading the TF comics there was an ad for Captain Britain, it featured all the characters running/walking from left to right (like Mario), with Captain Britain at the front.

One of the characters in the row was this weird hairy creature, consisting of short stumpy legs and hair. It also had an oversized, seemingly hollow set of eyes set into the torso. It used to freak me out as a kid and I always wondered what the hell it was. Can you tell me?
 



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Old 2015-06-23, 11:09 PM   #40
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Pic? Any idea what era / issue?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyquake87 View Post
So, of course, I've gone and found a copy! And its really good!
Mmm, it is. Shouldn't have moved it on. Disturbed the hell out of me in parts as a kid, and I think last time I looked copies were scarce... lots seem to have come up on Amazon now, maybe because of other reprints.
 
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