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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Starblazer: In-jokes

Starblazer: In-Joke Credits
by Jeremy Briggs

Even before the current exhibition in the Lamb Gallery in Dundee, Starblazer was one of those titles that we seem to keep returning to, be it here on Bear Alley with Steve's memories of it, or on downthetubes with the ongoing foreign additions to our issue listing and the interviews with the two Bill's, Graham and McLoughlin, editor and sub-editor of the title. Even so little snippets that are worth mentioning continue to come to light.

Firstly a little background. Starblazer was DC Thomson's science fiction and fantasy digest sized title which began in 1979 on the back of the popularity of the first Star Wars film the year before and which ran until its final issue at the beginning of 1991. It was conceived by Thomson editor Jack Smith and he began the title with Bill McLoughlin as his deputy. Jack Smith retired in 1985 after which Bill McLoughlin continued on with new editor Bill Graham. Starblazer, like all DC Thomson titles of the time, did not credit its writers and artists let alone its editorial team however that does not mean that they did not get their names into it.

Being a science-fiction and fantasy title it was rare for the Starblazer covers to depict real places. However there were a few - issue 58 Pyramid Power had the Sphinx at Giza, issue 101 Forgotten World had the Forth Bridge near Edinburgh, issue 115 Liberty Goddess had the Statue of Liberty in New York while issue 155 Return To Darkland had Tower Bridge in London. Also with a London cover, issue 105 The Conquerors Of Earth showed a post-apocalyptic London street complete with shops and an underground station painted by regular Starblazer cover artist Keith Robson. Now since shops need names it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary for Robson to name one of the shops "Smith" since it is one of the most common British surnames however since he named another shop "McLoughlin and Co" I think that we can safely assume that the Smith is for Jack Smith while the McLoughlin is for Bill McLoughlin.

Issue 276 Outguard was one of the last issues of Starblazer when the title was winding down to its 281st and last issue. The internal art is by Alan Burrows and when one of the main characters needs to obtain some weapons he goes to a weapons dealership which is run by W McLoughlin and A Crook. Bill McLoughlin is obviously really William hence the "W" and we are more than happy to point out that he is not a crook. Did the writer, the late Alan Hemus, include those names in his script or did Alan Burrows add them? Without seeing the original script pages in DC Thomson's archive we may never really know for sure.

However one script that we know for certain had the production team names in it was for issue 258 Computer Killer. One of the Mikal R Kayn detective stories, the internal art for Computer Killer was by Vila and it includes a frame in which there is a list of murdered people. Top of the list is W McLoughin and second is W Graham which means that even Bill Graham got his name in print.

So how do we know for certain that the two Bill's names were included in the script and not added later? Easy. That script was written by Steve Holland.

[It was indeed. And, yes, I did put both Bills in the script as victims of the titular assassin. I think it was a coincidence that this was my last ever Starblazer

(* Starblazer
© DC Thomson and Son Ltd.)

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