Posts Tagged ‘star wars in the uk’



Star Wars in the UK: Lyons Maid Ice Cream

Mark Newbold | January 9, 2014

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Being a kid in the ’70s here in the UK was, in a word, brilliant. We had Grange Hill, Chopper bikes, flares, and Green Flashes, 8-tracks in the car, Judge Dredd in 2000 AD and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the radio. ELO and Wings toured the world while the Sex Pistols caused scandal wherever they went, and the Bee Gees notched up what was then the biggest selling album in music history with Saturday Night Fever. Oh, and Ipswich Town won the FA Cup, beating Arsenal 1-0 (and my beloved West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals), and the nation was still buzzing after the Silver Jubilee celebrations of ’77. But being a kid, and a hungry one at that, one of the best things about the late ’70s was the food. Monster Munch, Secret Agents, Pacers, Space Invaders, Spangles, and of course, Lyons Maid ice cream. And being a Star Wars kid in ’77 who was hungry for anything to do with the galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars tie-in with Lyons Maid ice cream was a scoop.

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Star Wars in the UK: Action Transfers!

Mark Newbold | December 20, 2013

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Back in the late ’70s in the UK the word “transfer” evoked three things. It brought to mind the musical stylings of Manhattan Transfer, the record-breaking sale of Trevor Francis from Birmingham to Nottingham Forest, and Star Wars. Why Star Wars?   Because back in the day for kids raised on Grange Hill, Madness, Pot Noodles, 2000 A.D. and Secret Agents the chance to rub your favorite Star Wars characters onto anything and everything was almost irresistible.

Image via StellarX — 7 Wonders

The company that had the Star Wars licence in the UK was Ashford, Kent-based company Letraset. Formed in 1959, the company made its name manufacturing typeface for application to all manner of artwork, a requirement for companies and magazines in those pre-computer typeface days. By the ’60s they applied the dry transfer technique to a children’s game called “Action Transfers” and by the ’70s had branched out into buying licences including DC Superheroes, The Rescuers, and then Star Wars.

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Star Wars in the UK: 1977, the First Star Wars Christmas

Mark Newbold | December 16, 2013

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As the 37th Star Wars Christmas arrives, it’s a great opportunity to roll back the years to the very first, in 1977, and see what it was like here in the UK. Compared to the traditional Star Wars Christmases that have followed, it was distinctly unique.

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After the release and record-breaking success of Star Wars in North America on 25th May 1977, the anticipation for Star Wars in the UK was palpable. As was the way back in the ’70s and ’80s, UK audiences had to often wait months for American films to cross the Atlantic, and so all summer and autumn we heard about this groundbreaking space fantasy that broke convention and records in equal measure, full of faces familiar to UK audiences.

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Star Wars in the UK: Memorabilia, 23-24 November 2013

Mark Newbold | December 13, 2013

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The eyes of sci-fi and fantasy, anime, and comics fans across the UK turned to Birmingham, the nation’s second city, over the weekend of 23rd and 24th November as Memorabilia returned to Brum for the second time this year, bringing with it stars of screens both large and small, voice actors, sports stars, cult heroes, comic artists, and writers and cosplayers of every ilk. And, as ever, it made for a fascinating two days of fun, color and vibrancy celebrating every facet of fandom.

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Star Wars in the UK: Star Wars Comic Book Annuals

Mark Newbold | November 15, 2013
Back in the 70′s and 80′s the output of Marvel UK was one of the keystones in keeping the spirit of the Star Wars saga alight between the release of the  films, and every year during the festive period kids across the country would be treated to a tradition that’s run from the grandaddy of British comics The Beano in the 30′s right up to the releases of the present day – hardback Annuals.
In the States there were three Star Wars Annuals released in 1979, 1982 and 1983, but the UK was treated to 9 annuals between 1978 and 1985 as well as an Ewoks annual in 1988. Differing from their American cousins the UK Annuals were hardbacks in the traditional UK magazine size and were released by Marvel UK, in conjunction with other specialist companies. Marvel UK was started in 1972 after years of outsourcing the Marvel product to other companies. The success of these titles led to the establishment of Marvel UK, and a fast growing roster of titles incorporating major Marvel US titles and home grown stories by a group of up and coming writers and artists including Alan Davis and Alan Moore.
The first Star Wars annual, released in conjunction with Brown Watson, was a 63 page reprint of the classic adaptation of the first film, still known simply as Star Wars, by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin. Originally published in the first 12 issues of Star Wars Weekly the annual was a common gift across the country, being read and re-read numerous times by ravenous fans who had a limited amount of product to devour. In these days of weekly Dark Horse releases it’s hard to imagine reading and re-reading a title but, no slight to Dark Horse intended, back in ’78 we only had that 6 issue comic and the few issues that had been released afterwards consisting mostly of a controversial green Lepus carnivorus.  I know that when I got to the final page I would often go right back to the start and begin again.
1979′s second Star Wars annual, released by Grandreams was a reprint of Star Wars Weekly issues 25 and 26, which itself reprinted the US Marvel issue 13 “Day of the Dragon Lords” and Star Wars Weekly 27 and 28 which reprinted US issue 14 “The Sound of Armageddon”.  Written by the legendary Archie Goodwin and drawn by Star Wars stalwart Carmine Infantino, it saw out the decade on a wave of high adventure.
1980 brought not only the second chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back but also it’s comic adaptation, released by Marvel/Grandreams.  Released initially as issues 118 – 135 of Star Wars Weekly (which reprinted US Star Wars issues 39 – 44) the 63 page Annual, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by two of George Lucas’ favourite artists Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, brought not only the stunning story of the second Star Wars epic to the Annual format, but also some intriguing glimpses into an early, impish and purple version of Master Yoda before Stuart Freeborn had completed his magic and Williamson redrew the character for later versions of the adaptation. Wrapped behind a beautiful and distinctive Bob Larkin cover I have hugely fond memories of this annual as it was the last gift I’d recieve from my Grandmother, who passed away in late 1981.  As with many Star Wars releases of this era, they come with some very special attachments.
The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars were both honoured with Annuals in 1981, with the Empire Annual reprinting the J.M. DeMatteis and Carmine Infantino story “The Dreams of Cody Sunn-Childe” from issue 46 of the US Marvel run and issue 141 of the UK Empire Strikes Back Monthly along with Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and Walt Simonsons “The Crimson Forever” from US issue 50 and printed in the UK for the first time.   Both quirky tales, they were complimented in ’81 by the return of the Star Wars Annual, which featured three stories.  ”The Third Law” from US Star Wars issue 48, “Death Probe” from US Issue 45 and the classic “Droid World” (which would soon be adapted into a Read-Along-Adventure by Buena Vista, as I discussed in my Read-Along-Adventures entry) from US Issue 47.
The stories were first printed in the UK in The Empire Strikes Back Weekly 136-139 and The Empire Strikes Back Monthlies 140 and 142.  Sitting behind a dazzling cover by Paul Neary (who among other achievements would go on to become editor-in-chief of Marvel UK in the 1990s) the annual would be the last before the final chapter in the second Star Wars trilogy arrived.
Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson would return to complete the saga after their stellar work on Empire and the weekly magazine strips with Return of the Jedi, reprinting the Marvel Super Special and 4 part Limited Series (one of Marvel US’s first) which had already been released in the UK in the first 8 issues of the renamed UK weekly, renumbered and renamed Return of the Jedi Weekly.  Released by Marvel/Grandreams and lying behind the same Bill Sienkiewicz cover that graced the Super Special, it was a big seller and along with the RCA soundtrack, Read-Along-Adventure and Futura novelisation it truly brought the grandeur of the final chapter home to UK fans in 1983.
1984 was a busy year for Star Wars, with the release of The Ewok Adventure on US television, arriving in the UK and Europe on the big screen as Caravan of Courage.  The 1984 Return of the Jedi Annual gave us a striking Glynis Wein cover collaging images from Jedi and collecting  ”Chanteuse of the Stars” from US Issue 77, “The Big Con” from Issue 79 and “Ellie” from US issue 80.  Printed here in the UK in Return of the Jedi Weekly between issues 20 – 43, the three stories all written by Mary Jo Duffy and drawn by Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer make up one of the strongest of the UK annuals, the heart-breaking “Ellie” particularly standing out as a strong tale.  The striking final panel of a tearful See Threepio stays long in the memory.
1984 also brought a collection behind a Jolly John Higgins cover that pulled together the adaptations of both Empire and Jedi.  Unique in that it was a Marks and Spencers exclusive it was tougher to find but a treat for fans of Goodwin and Williamson.
By 1985, while Star Wars was still in full swing with Ewoks and Droids both on air and a second Ewoks television movie released in the UK on video via MGM, the shadow of the Dark Times was near.  The Kenner line was rapidly fading into the bargain bins, the whole tone of the Star Wars line had become very much a young childs arena and with George Lucas putting the saga on ice to concentrate on other pursuits the Star Wars galaxy approaching a period of hibernation.  The 1985 Annual collected the first issue of Star Comics Ewoks title “The Rainbow Bridge” (written by David Manak and drawn by Warren Kremer) along with 1983′s US Annual #3 “The Apprentice” (written by long-time writer and editor Mary Jo Duffy and drawn by Klaus Janson).  Released by Marvel/Grandreams, it would be the last in an almost unbroken run of 9 annuals in 8 years, the last in the first age of Star Wars.  But not the last Annual by Marvel UK.
By 1988 we were deep in the midsts of The Dark Times.  In 1987 West End Games had launched The Roleplay Game to great acclaim by roleplayers but Return of the Jedi Weekly had ended with its 155th issue on 7th June 1986, relegating Star Wars to a back-up strip in Spider-Man and Zoids weekly.  Ewoks had continued as a title, capturing the kids market but by 1988 even that had ended.  This final Marvel UK Annual compiled two comic strip adventures “The Undwerwater Kingdom” from issue 9 of Star Comics run and “Rites of POwer” from issue 2 along with the prose tales “Chief Chirpa Kidnapped!”, “Return of the Great One!” and “The Ice Princess”.  It marked the end of a 10 year association between Star Wars and Marvel in the UK, a pairing that brought the magic of Star Wars to young UK fans every week and via these iconic Annuals made our Star Wars memories even more awesome.

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Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Marvel UK was one of the keystones in keeping the spirit of the Star Wars saga alive between the release of the films. Once each year, comic book fans would be treated to even more Star Wars in the form of special over-sized releases: hardback annuals.

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Star Wars in the UK: The Phantom Menace

Mark Newbold | August 5, 2013

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After the golden age of Star Wars that was the ’90s — a return to the public consciousness that rivaled its heyday of the late ’70s and early ’80s and banished the shadow of the Dark Times — Star Wars was ready to enter a new era of prominence that would both unite and divide an increasingly broad fandom. By the late ’90s, that fandom crossed multiple demographics and encompassed followers of various formats of media including roleplayers, computer gamers, action figure collectors, book readers, and comic fans. It was the era of the prequels.

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Star Wars in the UK: The ’90s

Mark Newbold | June 25, 2013

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The Dark Times of the mid to late ’80s had passed and as we entered the 1990s brighter times lay ahead for Star Wars fans — but at the turn of the decade, that was yet to become evident to the wider Star Wars public. While rumors continued to float around about the prequel trilogy there was little movement from Lucasfilm on the Star Wars front. Indeded, Lucasfilm had recently completed their Indiana Jones trilogy and were in a busy period, releasing Willow, Howard the Duck, and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. ILM had worked on a number of special effects smashes in the late ’80s including Star Trek IV, Ghostbusters 2, The Witches of Eastwick, and Back to the Future II and III, and LucasArts was fast building a solid reputation in the computer gaming industry via such smashes as Labyrinth, Maniac Mansion, and Secret of Monkey Island. It would appear that Lucasfilm had outgrown its reliance on the galaxy far, far away and developed an identity free of Jedi, Wookiees, and Wampas.

However, in the late ’80s artist Cam Kennedy and writer Tom Veitch pitched an idea to Lucasfilm, who in turn was offered it to Marvel Comics, the longtime publishers of Star Wars comics who had let the license lapse in 1987. Marvel turned it down, despite going so far as to releasing a print ad for the series and the project – Dark Empire – found its way into the hands of Milwaukee comics publishers Dark Horse, a relatively new face on the comics scene who had proven to be adept at handling movie licenses. The title would go on to be a smash hit for Dark Horse, coming out in late 1991 after another dipping of the toes into the Star Wars pool proved to be equally as successful.

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Star Wars in the UK: The Dark Times, 1987—1991

Mark Newbold | April 15, 2013

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The year was 1983. Return of the Jedi had been released to great fanfare on 25th May, breaking opening day records worldwide and bringing the original trilogy to a conclusion with a blast, resolving — for the next 32 years, at least — the fates of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids. As it had been for the previous six years, Star Wars was everywhere. But little did fans know, we were just a handful of years away from an era of Star Wars history known as The Dark Times.

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Star Wars in the UK: Late ’70s, Early ’80s

Mark Newbold | March 13, 2013

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As we dive into the post-Disney acquisition era of Lucasfilm and Star Wars I thought it might not be a bad time to take a few steps back into the past to see what loving Star Wars was like before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, before the Internet, before DVDs, Hasbro, Dark Horse, and even before Star Wars Insider. I’m talking about the late ’70s and being a Star Wars fan here in the UK.

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Star Wars in the UK: Farthest From Toy Show

Mark Newbold | January 23, 2013

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“If there’s a bright center to the universe you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.”

Any Star Wars fan worth his or her salt knows that Luke Skywalker was talking about his adopted home world of Tatooine, but last month, Farthest From — a retro Star Wars toy show — was right here on planet earth in the UK, in the middle of the New Forest and a small village called Fordingbridge.

For the past three years, event organizer Dave Tree (you may know him as the brains behind Celebration Europe’s massively popular 2007 Palitoy Archive exhibit, a display so incredible it reduced Dengar himself, Simon Pegg, to nostalgic tears of joy) has held events in the town. First he hosted two Fordingbridge Film and TV Festivals, the first of which saw original trilogy and Indiana Jones producer Robert Watts present the UK’s only showing that year of Raiders of the Lost Ark and then bringing Farthest From to the Town Hall in September and now December of 2012.

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