As a plane-mad boy growing up with no History Channel Biggles was a staple of my childhood, thanks to my parents taping the movie from ITV one Bank Holiday - a recording I ran to death. Biggles was created as a series of aerial adventure books by W. E. Johns, a World War I pilot himself, for younger readers in 1932. The books were a staple for boys from then until 1970, the series having enough of a loyal following to only end when the author died. Biggles' in-fiction career started off in 1916 but did move forwards through time, taking in post-war time in a charter plane foiling various plots against Britain and then reactivation for World War II, followed by a period as part of a special flying unit. This seems to have been possible by James "Biggles" Bigglesworth and his chums having some sort of sliding lifespan; initially his callow age was a feature but it froze when he hit about 30. The book's attitudes towards race and nationalism congealed at about the same point and by the sixties were firmly out of swing with much around it; one suspects by this point the readership was mainly made up of those who had been reading the books for decades.
Thursday, 7 June 2018
Friday, 6 April 2018
Survivors tends to be at its' best when it's examining an issue - how a problem or area is affected by the death, for best results something that's taken for granted in everyday society. "Law and Order" is probably the most extreme example and certainly the best. It's again from Clive Exton under his Wodehouse-baiting M K Jeeves pseudonym and it's one of the most brilliant and disturbing pieces of television ever made.
IDW's movie tie-in comics hadn't been able to ride the film's box office to some sort of wider casual audience or even been particularly well-received by fans but they had done decent business within context, selling in and around the same numbers as their G1 material (at the time, at least - each issue of their prequel series probably sold more copies than their combined Transformers output does now). While Transformers had done huge business at theatres a sequel wouldn't be due until 2009; IDW needed money though and decided to make their own. And these fuckwits have the word "Idea" in their name.
"Spoil of War" was the first of two episodes written by M K Jeeves. If that name sounds like a pseudonym it is, one assumed by Clive Exton, rather a posh playwright who had co-written Hammer horror spoof The House in Nightmare Park; he'd already written the screenplay for Richard Fleisher's 10 Rillington Place and would later write Red Sonja and later the Jeeves & Wooster TV series. So a heavyweight really. His first episode is the first with the group firmly established at the Grange.
Wednesday, 4 April 2018
Back in the pre-video age if you loved a film rather than having home media or oldies channels was for kids to by a comic based on the film from Gold Key or Dell. Now, Gold Key and Dell weren't exactly renowned for groundbreaking material or high artistic pretensions, largely being concerned with instead profitability. Guess what IDW did while the first Transformers film was in the theatres even though it would be out on DVD officially within months (and illegally before that). Go on, fucking guess.
Despite the triumphs of Charles Vaughan and Jimmy Garland it's clear the production team saw limited value in the leads as a wandering nomadic trio. While they're living out of cars many others were banding together and forming groups, with the series establishing that humans are sparse but not outright rare. "Starvation" sees the leads given a base at last, and acts as something of a mid-season reformatting - with Jack Ronder writing the script you again begin to see that already the show was moving away from Terry Nation's initial plans.
Survivors is overall a positive show - it might start off with the near-annihilation of the human race but really it's about the reaction to the death, one that is quite often positive. To some degree the likes of Abby, Greg, Charles Vaughan and even the likes of Arthur Wormleigh and Ann Tranter are thriving, using skills and knowledge that would have been locked away in their day-to-day lives. Maybe even Jenny was even wetter and thicker in day to day life before the plague, though I'll admit that is a push. Terry Nation returned to script the sixth episode (he wrote seven of the first 13 for the show before leaving) and it makes this theme explicit in the form of Jimmy Garland.
Monday, 2 April 2018
As part of the promo push for the 2007 Transformers film there were a couple of freebie comics put out with support from Target - one, later titled "Interlude", was handed out in cinemas and the other (which would become "Planetfall") would later be issued with the DVD at the chain's stores. However, never short of a cash-grabbing wheeze (remember when they "found" all those limited edition convention covers in a warehouse?) IDW wrapped them in a new cover and charged four dollars for the two free comics.
Well, we were due a fucking stinker. Actually, "Gone to Angels", again from Jack Ronder, isn't outright bad, just a big step down from the first four. Generally episodes of Survivors concentrate on a single plot line and this works as it allows the subject at hand to be explored thoroughly, and the casting structure largely reflects this in that we only have three fully-fledged regular characters with the rest recurring and hired as needed. However, "Gone to Angels" splits the leads fully and the result is scattershot.
Sunday, 1 April 2018
The initial three episodes of Survivors effectively bring the leading trio of Abby, Jenny and Greg together, more or less establishing them as a unit with the same goals and moral values. It's not quite time for them to become static yet though so "Corn Dolly" is the first of three episodes with the three on the road, ostensibly looking for Abby's son Peter. Of course even to first-time viewers it must have been clear that they were never going to just stumble across him somewhere as that would basically end her personal arc. Instead, they're an excuse to meet three different responses to the death. The first of these is Charles Vaughan.
Friday, 30 March 2018
It hit me rewatching this episode that Survivors is actually a lot more optimistic than Blake's 7. Sure, 99.5% of the human race die but once that's done with (basically in the first episode) everything's back on the way up. Not without obstacles and diversions, of course, but as the seasons develop there's a positive response. It's not a bad thing and the show is basically a tenet to the hardiness of the human race, and the real nihilism of B7 (the abject failure of the heroes to destroy the Federation and their increasing irrelevance as opposition to it) didn't come in until Terry Nation's fingers came back out of the mix. In Survivors there's never anything as broadly depressing for the species as the huddled figures moving from campfire to campfire in the opener or Abby living out of the back of a Volvo estate.
Thursday, 29 March 2018
No, not something fan-wanky bridging the gap between the second series of the cartoon and the hair metal-infested guilty pleasure of the final bow of the man behind Touch of Evil, but instead IDW's attempt to get the coin of the 2007 Michael Bay blockbuster in their pocket. Of course, the first thing anyone who's seen the 2007 movie will tell you is that its' got a prequel built into the first hour with endless exposition and flashback. But you have to remember the other thing built in to IDW - not only do they love money but they realise the bulk of their readers are as thick as pigshit. Fuck's sake, they put out a comic specifically to slowly explain Prowl having character development.
The problem with a concept like Survivors is that it would quite rapidly get depressing to just watch everything break down and everyone die. Terry Nation's concept for the series was more about how people would deal with the result than the plague itself, which was really just an excuse to get society in a good position to be explored. So here, as the name suggests, are the first kernels of a new start for the characters. A handful of isolated cases over the next few episodes aside the plague has done its' killing - but worry not, as Nation will show, there are plenty of other ways to die horribly in this brave new world. For now though we've hit a level where most of the people who would die from the death or initial death-related stupidity have done so and the survivors are beginning to respond.
Tuesday, 27 March 2018
Grant Morrison's late-1980s slice of superhero revisionism is something of a change from the myriad Watchmen/Dark Knight Returns knockoffs of the time. Zenith isn't a dark, brooding figure, he's an idiot. The rough gist, for anyone who's yet to experience the serial, is that Zenith is the world's one known superpowered being but instead of protecting the world he uses this status to become a pop star. It sounds a bit sneering in text, but Zenith's bratty behaviour is actually quite engaging. That said, in the first storyline he's not actually too bad - there's a bit of snark and selfishness from the lad, but he actually spends most of the story doing more or less the right thing, despite protestations. Don't get used to that, though...
Terry Nation spent most of the seventies trying to hawk the Daleks to American TV networks and make himself even more money (and when that happened he definitely would have passed on the money to Dalek designer Raymond Cusick, definitely), only occasionally popping back to Blighty in order to turn in effortless occasional Doctor Who scripts (one effortlessly brilliant, three simply effortless) and create a couple of excellent series. A few years before the infamous Blake's 7 pitch he had considerable success with Survivors, which hinged on a single simple premise - if then-present day Earth is struck by a deadly virus which wipes out 99% of the population, how would people cope?
Thursday, 22 March 2018
Jesus I'd forgotten all about this. Basically, Marvel had - after an initial boom and bust - managed to produce a magazine based on Doctor Who; it had initially been more of a comic before they cottoned on that there was a lot of cheap mileage in articles about the show's history and the like, meaning only a handful of pages of comic strip needed to be commissioned each month. The decision to do the same thing for B7 from the start was therefore a no-brainer and the title debuted in autumn 1981 just as the new-look Season 4 hit screens. Brilliance, apart from the fact within a few issues the the cast were wiped out in a bloodbath and the series was cancelled, with the monthly presumably selling enough to amble on regardless. Same thing would happen with Doctor Who Magazine, which bridged a 17-year gap between the show being cancelled and that CBeebies shit with farting aliens arriving on the screen by surviving on a TV Movie and lots of interviews with minor guest stars. The difference was Who had a 26-year history to draw on, not to mention ongoing official fiction like the novel and audio series. Blake's 7 had four years, seemingly no rights to anything from the first three, and an official ending that saw everyone die.
What with the devastation of 'Be Invoked', which may have included the destruction of the entire universe, but at a minimum killed every single regular character and destroyed pretty much every trace of the Earth Empire, the Buff Clan and the Solo Colonists you'd think Ideon would be sequel proof, as per Yoshiyuki Tomino's intention. However, in 1992 something along those lines appeared in the manga publication named MS Saga, written and drawn by Yuichi Hasegawa. Serialised in four parts, Mobile Suit vs Giant God - Gigantis' Counterattack was ostensibly based on Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, but crossed over with Ideon by attempting to link the two universes together.
Really need to do more custom covers, forgot how much I enjoy it. So a cover for the much-missed (by me, anyway) Moonbeam City, seeing as the lone half-series made before cancellation doesn't seem to be set for an official release. A shame, though it was more funny than hilarious and they'd probably hit the limit for the premise; if the animation didn't tap Patrick Nagel quite so hard I suspect I'd like it less. Anyway, largely based on promotional elements found on the web.
Wednesday, 21 March 2018
This is the one, this is what it's all been leading up to. I've mentioned before that the Federation could not be plausibly defeated by our heroes and it stands to reason it wouldn't be as long as the show was running (maybe a sequel series where Avon and Vila try to get to grips with the day-to-day admin of revitalising a post-fascist Earth? No?) it wouldn't be either. And the universe is something of a downer anyway - two regulars had already been outright killed off and a third has disappeared, not to mention the myriad defeats the crew have suffered. So, when Vere Lorrimer and Chris Boucher realised it was highly likely the series wouldn't be returning (audiences were healthy but 2m down on the previous year, while critical savaging of the series had stepped up) there was only one thing that could be done.