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Kev O\’Neill\’s design skills soared on his five issue Just Imagine (1975 to 1977) as can be seen by the first and last issues covers above. Great shame it didn’t continue.

By 1974 I still felt a creative frustration in my working hours. I’d got a job in comics, but the wrong kind of comics. While I appreciated working with incredibly talented people like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale, my passion was not for humour (at least not in comics). So I continued producing fanzines.

One like-minded recruit to IPC’s Boys Juveniles department in 1973 was a new office junior, Kevin O’Neill. He drew a a great little six page EC spoof and cover for my Fantasy Advertiser, but he also loved films and specifically special effects.

So in May 1975 the two of us launched his Just Imagine, with the lofty subtitle of “The Journal of Film and Television Special Effects” under my Penwith Productions banner. I was living in Earlsfield, south west London by this time in a street named Penwith Road, so I thought that was a cool name to publish under.

Kev did all the work on the magazine, I simply looked after the printing and distribution for him, so that left me with plenty of spare time to continue work on another title I’d started under the Penwith banner the year before… Warrior.

Because of its long history as independent publishers amalgamated into the mighty IPC, there was a huge amount of superb material going to waste, not being reprinted in annuals and not being syndicated around the world. So I hatched a plan with the head of IPC’s licensing division, Syndication International’s Peter Laccohee, to give exposure to some of it. I can’t imagine my efforts resulted in a single extra sale for Peter, but I got to play with some fantastic old toys!

Warrior v 1 montage

With the title as its theme, I chose the best of IPC’s sword and sometimes sorcery strips. And what a selection that was…

Warrior Bill Ward pic
From #2, a Bill Ward illo.

• Michael Moorcock and Ron Embleton’s Wrath of the Gods from Boy’s World.

• Ken Bulmer and Don Lawrence’s Karl the Viking from Lion.
(although the proofs we used were from the later Smash! reprint as Erik the Viking)

• Ken Mennell and John M Burns’ Kelpie the Boy Wizard from Wham!

• Tom Tulley and Tom Kerr’s Black Axe: The Saxon Avenger from Buster.

• Andy Vincent and Arturo del Castillo’s Horatius: Hero of Rome from Look & Learn.

• Frank S Pepper and Don Lawrence’s Olac the Gladiator from Tiger.

• Tom Tully and Frank Bellamy’s Heros the Spartan from The Eagle.

Warrior v1 #1 wraparound cover
There was no alternative! Warrior #1 cover just HAD to be this great Bellamy battle scene from The Eagle’s Heros the Spartan. The ever-versatile Dave Gibbons provided the title logo which I thought was fab, even if he does now consider it somewhat clumsy. All in all, for a fanzine I really think it was way ahead of its time! Now if only we’d had colour back then…
Warrior v1 no 2-6
Ringing the changes: cover art by Don Lawrence (Erik the Viking). Barry Windsor Smith (Conan the Barbarian), John M Burns (Kelpie the Boy Wizard) and two by Angus McKie (Conan and Swordspell). Conan was very popular in 1974!

But even though it started out with reprints only, I planned to expand it through introducing original new material as soon as possible. On reflection, this was an approach I was to use several times in the future, with Marvel UK and the 2000 AD colour titles. And the idea of going beyond the restrictions of licensed material was something I became keen to do with both House of Hammer through Kronos and Shandor and Doctor Who Weekly through Kroton, the Cyberman with a Soul and Abslom Daak, Dalek Slayer, introducing new stories to expand on existing themes.

Here’s the first new material I published, which spoofed the entire sword and sorcery genre with the wonderful Steve Parkhouse serial Thong the Barbarian beginning in issue two.

Warrior v1 #2 Thong p1Warrior v1 #2 Thong p2Warrior v1 #2 Thong p3

Warrior v1 no 4 The Knight from NowhereWarrior v1 no 5 The Mystic Fountain
Issue three continued the Thong serial and the regular reprints, while issue four added the Eric Bradbury drawn three pager, The Knight from Nowhere (left) and issue five included the three page Mystic Fountain, with art by Keith Robson (right).

By issue six, we were really kicking. Sheffield-based Alan Booth had been providing me with articles since my very early days of fanzines. But he had an epic story he’d been developing for years, Swordspell. Today it sounds like a new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, but it was far more than that! From the time of creation, through Adam and Eve, to the far future it was Alan’s telling of the once and future king, Arthur and the Knights of Truth, with Adam being both the Alpha and Omega of the story.

In Angus McKie we found the perfect artist to illustrate this three-volume saga. So, complete with a dedicated cover, Warrior #6 included no less than ten introductory pages of Swordspell .

But this was to be the final issue of the first incarnation of Warrior. By this time I was no longer frustrated by working for the restricted IPC humour comics. I’d moved on and the artists who had previously found only free work in my fanzines could now be paid for their endeavours.

Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p1Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p2Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p3

Above and below: the first six pages from Alan Booth and Angus McKie’s epic opening installment of Swordspell. Looking back, it’s amazing to realise that this was merely fanzine material of the early 1970s.

Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p4Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p5Warrior v1 #6 Swordspell p6

Fantasy Advertiser 59
Colin Campbell managed only three issues before passing the F/A mantle on to Martin Lock, but he did showcase a wonderful new art find, Bob Wakelin, on the covers.
FA 59 Swordspell p1
Wanting the Swordspell serial to work as a collected book, I devised an L-shaped title box which, when dropped from an album, would keep the story art in proportion.

While there was the inevitable delay (seemingly an integral part of fanzine publishing) to keep things tidy – as in prepaid subscriptions and unresolved serials – both of my fan titles continued without me, after a fashion. The new Fantasy Advertiser incorporating Warrior finally appeared in December 1976, under the editorship of Colin Campbell. This issue, #59, completed the Arturo del Castillo serial Horatius, Hero of Rome and continued but sadly never resolved the epic Swordspell saga.

In fact through several further editors, from Martin Lock to Martin Skidmore, Fantasy Advertiser continued for a further 15 years, closing only when its last publisher Trident Comics went bankrupt in 1991. 121 issues in all, across 26 years – a still unbeaten record for any UK comics fanzine!

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