Channel 4 has a lot to answer for – It was where I got my first taste of both anime and Hammer films. Hell, it was where, before The Big Breakfast began, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors and Ulysses 31 would keep me amused during my early mornings when the BBC channels (only two of them back then) were being boring with news or Ceefax. Yeah, my insomnia was bad even as a kid. I suppose that is how I often found myself sitting in front of the television when normal people were busy sleeping, so the late-night horror films would have been an attraction I couldn’t resist. Yet again, my introduction to a staple of geekdom was roundabout and unconventional. The first horror film from Hammer I can clearly remember was The Curse Of The Werewolf, though I’m almost certain I had sat through the television serial version of Quatermass And The Pit by that point. The Quatermass serial was one of the first videos I went out and bought with my own money, so it certainly struck a nerve with me. The lasting influence was cartoons though…
Anime wouldn’t really become an obsession until I happened across Ghost In The Shell, but the look of these strange cartoons popping up in the television schedules was interesting enough for me to look out for more to watch. Of course, being stuck in the UK in the eighties, the choice of viewing material was severely limited, and I had to make do with a lot of rubbish badly stitched together, and dubbed by people who would rather be doing anything other than voice-overs. Thundercats wouldn’t be shown in the UK until 1987, by which time I had well and truly discovered the school library, so I only caught the latter part of the first season.
Sunday mornings were where Land Of The Giants, Planet Of The Apes, The Time Tunnel and other shows were given a fresh airing in the 90s on Channel 4, and BBC2 slowly shrugged off its’ academic stylings to embrace Star Trek, Farscape (the game of which is the only black mark against the franchise), and the severely underrated Seven Days. The 90s was a great time for genre shows, both old and new, though I never really understood the immense hype surrounding The X-Files. Far more interesting was Babylon 5, which (for reasons I still don’t understand) always seemed to be on at 2am. It didn’t bother me, with the almost sleepless state I spent most of the decade cursing, and I was able to watch and read a lot of unusual material which would otherwise have slipped through the cracks.
Both the increased attention I was paying to science fiction and fantasy, and the growing output of great shows, made me aware of the older material which was just out of reach. Before the widespread uptake of the internet, I had to contend myself with reading about a lot of the classic films and television shows which were still hidden away. Most of those shows are now, of course, available to watch online, but the 90s was a frustrating time to be interested in them. I picked up a slew of magazines such as Cult Times, Shivers, Dark Side, the late, lamented Samhain, and – importantly – House Of Hammer. The old Quality issues, mind you. Those, along with a few books which were of varying quality, showed me how interconnected the world of film and comics were, and the beautiful adaptations of Hammer films made me seek out the films themselves.
Everything, as I often point out, is connected.
The 90s was also the era I really got back into US comics – well… when they only cost one quid, anyway. After the mid-90s I began waiting a few months to pick them up for a fraction of the cover price, especially after the colossal waste of money which was The Death Of Superman. Image Comics bored me with shallow characters and a heavy focus on art, while Marvel seemed to be intent on insulting people with clones of Spider-Man and so many X-Men titles that it was impossible to follow even the most basic storyline. I retreated from the front line and took to collecting Gold Key and Dell, which had far superior stories than the superhero titles. It’s the largest of my collections, ranging from the mid-50s to the late seventies, and the one which I spend the most time with. I have spread out in recent years to Charlton as well, because those hundred-pagers are so beautiful.
The main part of that comic collection? Twilight Zone, Man From UNCLE, Boris Karloff’s Tales Of Mystery, and the other shows I mentioned desperately wanting to know more about earlier in this post.
I told you everything was connected.