Friday, April 11, 2008

Battlestar Britannica

(* Jeremy Briggs has been away doing good things elsewhere—see, for instance, his recent interview with Bill Graham—so I'm pleased to welcome him back with a companion piece to his recent looks at Brown Watson annuals (here and here).)

With the fourth season of the new Battlestar Galactica about to premiere on television, it seems an appropriate time to take a look back at the different British comic strips associated with the original version of the television series.

The original Battlestar Galactica starred Lorne Green as Commander Adama, Richard Hatch as Apollo and Dirk Benedict as Starbuck and the 24 episodes were broadcast in the UK on ITV beginning in September 1980, almost two years after its American premiere. ITV did not network the series which means that different ITV regions screened it at different times and on different days, while some totally ignored it. To tie-in with the TV broadcasts, and the cinema release of two films constructed from television episodes, there were three different comic strip incarnations of this first version of Battlestar in the UK. Marvel UK reprinted the Marvel US version, Look-in published a full colour version, while Grandreams published two annual style books.

Marvel US released several Battlestar specials before moving onto a monthly series which lasted for 23 issues. The first five of those issues adapted TV episodes whilst the rest continued on with new stories. Dez Skinn at Marvel UK reprinted the colour US stories in black and white, along with the other Marvel US science fiction title of the time The Micronauts, in the unusual Star Heroes Pocket Book digest sized comics. This lasted 13 issues between March 1980 and May 1981 and was predated with a Winter Special in 1979. The art shown here is from the story The Lost Gods of Kobol which was based on the two part TV episode The Lost Planet Of The Gods, adapted by Roger McKenzie with art by Walt Simonson and Klaus Janson. Since the Winter Special only has a single Micronauts strip and the double Battlestar strip the “And Lots More!” referred to on the cover amounts to four pages of adverts for other Marvel publications.

Look-In magazine, which was initially dubbed The Junior TV Times, was a weekly title following on the tradition of TV Century 21, Countdown and TV Action in containing a high television based content. The title regularly ran two page ongoing comic strips based on science fiction and fantasy series, both British and American, such as Space:1999 by John M Burns, The Six Million Dollar Man by Martin Asbury, The Bionic Woman by John Bolton, or Sapphire and Steel by Arthur Ransom. Battlestar Galactica began in the 1979 issue 43 dated 20 October and ran through four stories for a full year ending in 1980 issue 42 dated 11 October.

None of the four stories had titles and while the first three were in colour, the final one was only published in black and white. The artist on all four stories was Martin Asbury who, while being a well known name for producing comic strips in the 1970s, has since moved onto producing storyboards for the film industry including some of the James Bond and Harry Potter films.

The final version of the original Battlestar came in annual style books produced by Grandreams to tie-in with the two Battlestar movies. The first film, entitled simply Battlestar Galactica and released in 1978, was an edited version of the three part TV pilot Saga of a Star World while the second film, entitled Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack and released in 1979, used the Living Legend episode which introduced the Battlestar Pegasus and Commander Cain and bolstered it with footage from the episode Fire In Space.

The first annual, which has a 1978 copyright, includes a three page comic strip retelling of the film storyline in black and white followed by two colour and one more black and white strip plus three text stories with spot illustrations, plus photo features on the movie. The second annual has a copyright date of 1980 and is more interesting in that the four comic strips tell an ongoing story. Yet the title of the annual is a misnomer since, other than the cover photo of Lloyd Bridges as Commander Cain and a four page review of the film, the annual does not use the Battlestar Pegasus or any of her crew in its ongoing comic strip or two text stories.

All the comic strips and spot illustrations for both of these annuals was produced by John B Higgins and as was typical of the Grandreams titles in allowing him to sign his work. More details of his work on these titles is included in the bibliography on his website.

The modern Battlestar Galactica does have comic strips associated with it but to date none have been produced in the UK and with the series concluding at the end of Season 4 it is unlikely that any ever will be.

(* Battlestar Galactica © MCA/Universal Studios.)

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