Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Suffolk Saucer Attack

THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT (2015)

Steve Bissette's trading card on the Rendlesham alien envounter, featured in Kitchen Sink's "Saucer People" set of 1992. Bissette's illustration focuses on one of the many traits of this infamous 1980 UFO incident: the observation by American and British personnel of creatures suspended in beams of light working on their spaceship.

SHORTLY after Christmas 1980, Suffolk became the location of an apparent UFO crash; dubbed "the British Roswell," mystery still remains what actually happened in Rendlesham Forest, near RAF Woodbridge. At around 3.00am on the 26th of December, RAF Watton in Norfolk registered an "unknown" flying toward the coast. Disappearing from scopes in the vicinity of the forest, security police at the RAF base - then under the control of the USAF - saw lights fall from the sky. Patrolmen discovered a metallic object with "a pulsating red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath ... hovering or on legs." Case studies are blighted by witness contradictions and disparities, particularly the extent of people involved: one maintains that before a second sighting, a large number of personnel gathered to await the UFO's arrival at a prearranged spot. Consequently, facts have been shrouded by exaggeration and misperception; UFO researcher Jacques Vallee has even suggested that the story was a complete fabrication to monitor servicemen's reactions to a potential alien attack.

Since the Autumn of 1980, Eastern England had been a hotspot of UFO activity. Incidents included strange lights over Fylingdales radar station and the NSA communications base at Menwith Hill, and even a police officer was reported abducted from his patrol car in Yorkshire. On Christmas Day, the British Astronomical Association stated that sightings of moving lights were in fact meteors and inert space debris; even on the 26th December, the RAF Watton "unknown" coincides with the passage of a bright meteor. Yet by the following day, stories had spread between the twin NATO bases at Woodbridge and Bentwaters of aliens, ground traces from their craft, strange marks left on trees, and significant increases of radiation. USAF airmen claimed that they discovered triangular depressions in the clearing where the UFO landed, yet British police officers noted that "the impressions were of no depth and could have been made by an animal." Similarly, the marks on the trees were in fact made by forester's axes identifying trees due to be felled.

If you go down to the woods today ... THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT creates some wonderfully ethereal images.

While the facts of the Rendlesham UFO encounter are still muddied thirty-five years on, explanations follow two main paths. As Jenny Randles notes in her piece 'Rendlesham Evolving Theories' in Fortean Times #204 (December 2005), "there are hints ... that conditions could have made the [nearby Orfordness] lighthouse look more mysterious and difficult to recognise. The trigger for this confusion may have been a mirage caused by the lighthouse beam shining through a patch of low mist, splitting the light and smearing it. Some of the military witnesses were using night vision scopes to observe the glow, and these can cause optical distortion effects." Another plausible theory is that the lights were caused by a "fireball" created by the rocket-body of Soviet satellite Cosmos 749 re-entered Earth's atmosphere around the same time. Indeed, it was subsequently revealed that twelve satellites decayed during the week of this particular UFO flap.

Daniel Simpson - who made the squatter-horror SPIDERHOLE in 2010 - filmed THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT without a formal script as HANGAR 10. The picture is shot in found footage style, following metal detector enthusiasts Gus (Robert Curtis) and Sally (Abbie Salt) in their quest for Saxon gold. Their expedition is shot by Jake (Danny Shayler), who captures incredible UFO footage while the three drift increasingly lost into MoD land. Eventually stumbling upon a disused military complex and linking tunnels, mutations of a spiky viral-fungus are revealed, and alien life itself. Found footage pictures are thematically disadvantaged by generic characters and sluggish pace; THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT suffers from both these factors, but is saved by its sound design (metallic groanings and aircraft screeches) and SPFX (allegedly achieved by Simpson on his laptop) which are refreshingly non-obscured and genuinely eerie. The sheer vastness of the forest is photographed effectively with washed-out tones, but Ufologists expecting a film steeped in Rendlesham folklore will be disappointed. Its triptych of protagonists, disillusioning movement and foreboding are more direct lifts from the picture's real inspiration, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Behind Forbidden Doors


THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1969)

THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR makes the cover of German magazine Film Neues-Programm, where it was released under a title which translates to GOOSEBUMPS.

AN early attempt at the teen slasher movie that would explode a decade later, Michael Armstrong's THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR begins during a less than swinging shindig in Carnaby Street. A group of bored youths - including Chris (twenty-nine year old Frankie Avalon, in a role intended for Ian Ogilvy), Sheila (Jill Haworth), Gary (Mark Wynter) and Peter (Richard O'Sullivan) - leave the party and drive to a deserted mansion haunted by a killer who murdered his family in a frenzied knife attack twenty years previously. When Gary is slayed, rather than report the incident to the police, the group hide the body and try to solve the mystery themselves.

After all the problems with THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR, it is amazing that director/writer Armstrong had the inclination to continue in the industry. Developed from his script THE DARK from 1960, Armstrong envisioned the film as a vehicle to showcase the talents of then unknown David Bowie, who the filmmaker had worked with on the 1967 avant-garde short THE IMAGE. With this being a joint Tigon/AIP picture, American International's head of British productions Louis M. Hayward ordered a new draft to add sex scenes, Americanise characters, and include an ill Boris Karloff so the literally fading star could see out the last three days on his AIP contract. "Deke" Hayward also rejected any involvement with Bowie, insisting that Stateside audiences wouldn't except any songs unless they were sung by Avalon. Deke then butchered Armstrong's revised draft anyway, turning Karloff into a crazed Police Inspector in a wheelchair, somehow rampaging around a derelict house before proving to be a red herring; this was a similar synopsis for Karloff that actually reached some kind of fruition a year previously with CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR.

Michael Armstrong encountered endless front office interference while making his debut picture, but things didn't get better for his next project, filming the notorious MARK OF THE DEVIL in Austria. The Bolton-born filmmaker would later write numerous 1970's British sex comedies and Pete Walker's HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

To ease tensions between Armstrong and Hayward, Tigon head Tony Tenser intended to shoot two versions: essentially Armstrong's third draft, and Deke's AIP/Karloff version. But when it became evident that Karloff was too ill to participate - even in a desperately proposed introductory speech - the inspector role was awarded to Dennis Price. While Hayward was called away on problems with Cy Enfield's DE SADE, Armstrong shot his scenes while Tenser attempted to capture Deke's wheelchair killer; with a rough cut not ready for an international sales pitch by AIP heads Arkoff and Nicholson, Tenser cut together what he could - to disastrous results. With Tigon trying to appease AIP and Hayward attempting to hide his meddling, Armstrong then discovered that Gerry Levy was shooting additional scenes (essentially giving Sylvia (Gina Warwick) an affair with sugar daddy Kellett (George Sewell), a pub sing-a-long, and generally toning down the feel of the film - under the pseudonym Peter Marcus). Filled with clichéd lines ("I really dig this place", "Let's hold a séance!", "I think its a gas!"), Armstrong's intended darker, sexually edgier piece is not surprisingly lost in the mess.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sixties Sorcery

THE SORCERERS (1967)
CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (1968)

"You enjoyed it, didn't you?" In an allegory for the thrills of cinema itself, THE SORCERERS tells of an old couple who invent a machine to live vicariously through a young man.

MICHAEL Reeves was a true cineaste and perhaps the greatest lost talent of the British film industry. Although he only directed three pictures, the Sutton-born Reeves increasingly became frustrated about the difficulty of getting projects off the ground. Suffering from depression and insomnia, on the 11th of February 1969 he died at the age of twenty-five from an alcohol and barbiturate overdose which many - including lifelong friend Ian Ogilvy - believe to have been purely accidental (indeed, the coroner's report stated that the level of barbiturate dosage was too marginal to suggest any dark intention). There is nothing critics like more than to mythologise an untimely artistic death (Brian Jones would follow five months later), but there is no mistaking that Reeves was a precocious talent. This is a man who travelled to Hollywood at the age of sixteen, sought out the address of his favourite director - Don Siegel - and subsequently gained employment. But after the critical and commercial success of WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968, Reeves seemingly lost his way. Starting to drink heavily, the boy wonder was also taking uppers and downers, and those close offered a variety of reasons: the development hells, the strain of his on-set clashes with Vincent Price, a failed romance, and an underlying nihilism.

There is much to enjoy in Reeves' second feature under consideration here, which followed the British/Italian REVENGE OF THE BLOOD BEAST shot in 1966. THE SORCERERS is a trippy slasher movie made as the 1960s neared its dizzying end. Retired and discredited hypnotist Professor Marcus Monserrat (Boris Karloff) and wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey) are an elderly couple who, through hypnosis, can "live" through young people and feel their emotions. Marcus picks up a bored youth - Mike Roscoe (Ogilvy) - at a Wimpy bar, who partakes in a ground-breaking experiment at the Monserrat household. When the pensioners choose to 'tune in' their fun begins mundane enough - Estelle instructs Roscoe to steal a fur coat - but soon she becomes hooked on the strength of her manipulative powers, forcing the hipster into carrying out a series of increasingly gruesome acts (such as a scissor murder of Audrey (Susan George)). As Marcus becomes mentally and physically overpowered by his wife, the husband manages to break the spell by causing Mike to die in a fireball of a car crash; the film ends on the image of the Monserrat's charred remains miles away at their home.

"... as though Boris Karloff's going to pop up at any moment." Barbara Steele's only home-grown horror - and Boris Karloff's last - CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR also wastes the talents of a bored Christopher Lee, who wears his own tweed jacket throughout.

By 1967 exploitation guru Tony Tenser had left Compton-Tekli and formed Tony Tenser Films, which would soon be renamed Tigon. THE SORCERERS was a co-production with the American company Curtwel - run by the husband-and-wife team of Patrick Curtis and Raquel Welch - and it is an effectively edited and lively lensed film which confronts cinema's inherent voyeurism. It also deftly contrasts gyrating youth culture with the dreary existence and tired home décor of the older generation; quieter sequences are governed by the sound of a ticking clock, as if to signify the both the passing joy of youth and the beginning of the end. Reeves makes the most of a derisory budget (£11,000 of the total £50,000 went to Karloff), though Monserrat's laboratory set is achingly threadbare. Karloff - sporting a pinstripe suit and goatee - gives a strong performance in his twilight years, still managing to sustain a erudite presence but also very much under the shadow of past glories. But it is Lacey who is the star, her demented wide-eyed enjoyment of Roscoe's building mania made even more disturbing by the fact that it is portrayed through violence rather than sexual yearning.

If Karloff was fading here, Tigon nearly finished the star off totally during Vernon Sewell's CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, where Boris contracted pneumonia during night scenes filmed in freezing rain. Based uncredited on H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House, Robert Manning (Mark Eden) goes in search of his brother, who was last known to have visited Craxted Lodge, Greymarsh. Manning is invited to stay by Eve (Virginia Wetherell) - the niece of Lodge owner Morley (Christopher Lee) - but is haunted by nightmares. When wheelchair-bound Professor Marshe (Karloff) informs Manning about a cult based around Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), and Robert discovers that he is descended from Lavinia's chief accuser, Craxted Lodge is burned to the ground, and Morley - exposed as the head of the followers - is consumed in flames. Starting with a written extract about hallucinatory drugs, the film descends into an unintentionally hilarious attic ritual, where Lavinia is aided by a man wearing an antlers head cap and leather underpants, and a woman with nipple-patches and horsewhip. The camp continues at a swinging party at the Lodge, which includes an exotic dancer pouring champagne over her breasts, but this is where the fun ends. Eden and Wetherell are functional at best, and the climactic notion that Morley and Lavinia are the same person - which would have made sense under the shooting title THE REINCARNATION - is left unexplored.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bloodsucking Freaks

INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED (1970)

In a non-speaking role, Imogen Hassall is bewitching as the leader of a perversion-driven vampire cult.

DIRECTLY after THE BLACK TORMENT in 1964, director Robert Hartford-Davis and cinematographer Peter Newbrook quit Compton and formed Titan. After making the musical GONKS GO BEAT, Michael Bentine's THE SANDWICH MAN and Norman Wisdom vehicle PRESS FOR TIME, the studio turned out their lasting legacy in 1968 with the seedy CORRUPTION. A brutal picture which sees Peter Cushing as a surgeon killing in order to restore his young fiancée's facial tissue, Cushing departed to make another low point in his filmography with Tigon's THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR. Titan, however, went on to nearly complete their greatest folly, a take on Simon Raven's novel Doctors Wear Scarlet - INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED.

If you ever wanted to see Patrick Macnee and Imogen Hassall ride donkeys in a British vampire picture, then INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED is the film for you. Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower) - an Oxford don and the Foreign Secretary's son - falls into the clutches of Chriseis (Hassall) while researching ancient Minoan rites in Greece. Chriseis heads a non-supernatural bloodsucking cult of socialites who murder innocents as a form of sexual perversion. In an attempt to avoid a scandal, a search party flies to the island of Mikonos in a desperate search for Richard, which contains Major Derek Longbow (Macnee), British Foreign Office assistant Tony Seymore (Alexander Davion), friend Bob Kirby (Johnny Sekka), and Fountain's somnambulant fiancée Penelope (Madeleine Hinde). After apparently halting the cult's influence over Richard, the don returns to his sheltered life, but we discover that the marks left by Chriseis still resonate.

Also known as BLOODSUCKERS and FREEDOM SEEKER, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED is based on Simon Raven's 1960 novel Doctors Wear Scarlet. Raven - a Luciferian provocateur who was also a journalist and television writer - rejected faith and possessed a deep contempt for the English unwillingness to offend.

According to David Pirie's The Vampire Cinema, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED was a long-gestating project of Terence Fisher, who was never able to interest Hammer in its subversive content. With the rights acquired by Titan and Hartford-Davis at the helm, it was the beginning of a painful production and editing process. While shooting in Cyprus funds were exhausted, leaving the picture unfinished. With a compressed narrative and lame narration introduced to cover the cracks, the director disowned the picture and prints only exist under a directorial psydonym (Michael Burrowes) or with no director credit at all. The ending was also shot against Hartford-Davis' wishes, where Kirby and Seymore go to Fountain's coffin to administer a stake through his heart. This climax vilifies the rest of the film, which had explained vampirism as a psychological distortion, rather than reverting to cliché. Also jarring is an extraordinary six-minute sequence of a hallucinogenic orgy, which was either cut or excised completely for overseas prints.

Mower’s character is revealed as impotent - and possibly bisexual - making vampirism his only means of satisfaction. Richard's liberating climactic outburst at a Oxford dinner not only frees him from the stifling academic system championed by provost Dr Walter Goodrich (Peter Cushing) - Penelope's father - but also plays as a rousing counter-culture statement of the times ("the thieves who come to take our souls ... smooth deceivers in scarlet gowns.") As Tim Lucas points out in his Video Watchdog review, INCENSE would play well with Fisher's THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, where Mower plays another privileged upper class individual who falls under the power of persuasion. As well as Cushing - who is used far too fleetingly - Edward Woodward appears as an anthropologist who tries to explain vampirism where the drinking of blood serves as surrogate orgasm.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Fordyke Saga

THE BLACK TORMENT (1964)

A panting Edina Ronay makes for a memorable opening to THE BLACK TORMENT. The Anglo-Hungarian daughter of food critic Egon and mother of actress/writer Shebah, Edina was noteworthy for her fleeting turns in A STUDY IN TERROR and PREHISTORIC WOMEN. In the mid-70's she retired from the screen to take up fashion design, specialising in knitwear.

TAKING its cue from Hammer's costumed gothics, Compton's THE BLACK TORMENT is an underappreciated gem that also draws upon the aura of Mario Bava and the eloquent staging of Roger Corman's Poe pictures. Set in the spring of 1780, the film opens with a young woman fleeing across a nocturnal wood, as a murderous assailant gives chase. After being attacked and left to die, she utters the name ... Sir Richard! Days later, Sir Richard Fordyke (John Turner) returns to his Devon estate with second wife Elizabeth (Heather Sears). Although he has been away in London for three months, villagers claim to have seen the aristocrat riding through the woods, chased by the spirit of his first wife Anne, who supposedly committed suicide four years previously. With Sir Richard increasingly being manipulated into an alleged ancestral madness - including finding his crippled father hanging - he turns to magistrate Colonel Wentworth (Raymond Huntley) to help him solve the mystery. The final revelation is less a surprise more a sign-posted but illogical confirmation: this particular backward "evil twin" brother can not only rape and pillage, but place detailed orders to a Tiverton saddle maker.


The posters for THE BLACK TORMENT went into hyperbolic overdrive: "terror creeps from the fringe of fear to the pit of panic"; "the screen shudders with raw and violent savage suspense!"; "...by the screaming terror of a woman's fear" et al. Underneath this barrage you actually get a richly rendered production filled with solid performances (though Turner often subscribes to Elizabeth's line "Oh Richard, you're overwrought") and meticulous supporting players such as Peter Arne (whose trademark swarthy villain is a role identical to his appearance in THE HELLFIRE CLUB) and Patrick Troughton (who appears as a stable groom). A colour long associated with sensations of infinity and imagination, cinematographer Peter Newbrook smothers the film in languorous blue, and as Jonathan Rigby argues in English Gothic, perhaps a more apt title would have been THE BLUE TORMENT. Known for his moving camera and zooms, director Robert Hartford-Davis was indulging in his lush sets and costumes - including the obligatory low-cut frocks - until an on-set visit from the studio's wheeler-dealer partners Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser. Compton had already committed to a number of projects so budgets were tighter than ever, and after running three days behind schedule, allegedly Tenser ripped out ten pages from the shooting script in front of the director and proclaimed "there you are, you're back on schedule."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

House of Video Nasty Horror

The Suppression of House of Hammer in America
Video Nasty (2014)

Uncredited cover art for Warren's House of Horror #1 (April 1978), an "ashcan" produced to quash Top Seller's intention of House of Hammer reaching US shores.

AT the beginning of 1978, the US publishing empire of Jim Warren - responsible for Famous Monsters of Filmland and the b&w comic magazines Creepy and Eerie - announced a new quarterly venture House of Horror to be made available through their in-house mail order service Captain Company. Yet the truth was that the publisher rushed this magazine - which was always intended as a one-shot - into print for copyright reasons, securing the name and halting Top Seller's plan to release their respected House of Hammer in America under the same title. Warren was infamous for his volatile working practices, but any publisher who had the audacity to challenge his domain particularly created embitterment. Both mags were reprints: hardly a House of Horror at all, Warren's effort revisited paste-ups from Famous Monsters such as the special effects of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and the robots of STAR WARS; Top Seller's collation included John Bolton's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF comic adaptation, a George A. Romero interview, and Brian Lewis' VAMPIRE CIRCUS cover which originally graced House of Hammer #17.

When Warren immediately filed for copyright infringement against the British invaders, the US courts upheld his claim, so Top Seller's American adventure lasted two issues: (Hammer's) House of Horror #1 and the next issue of the regular title, #19, which received limited distribution in the States. Because of this outcome, Top Sellers were forced to change the name of their homegrown version to (Hammer's) Halls of Horror with #20. This was a stunt the American publisher also pulled over the fabled birth of Eerie in 1965. Warren printed around 400 copies of House of Horror, but only 200 editions of Eerie #1 existed. This illustration of the publisher's ego started with the demise of a one issue Eerie (Tales) in the late 1950's, by Hastings. Warren discovered that another publisher who used the same distributor was bringing out an imitation of Creepy called Eerie, thereby inventory material from Creepy was used to cobble together his version of the title, which was on the newsstands outside his distributor's building the following morning. The most ridiculous aspect was that Warren had his facts wrong: the company who challenged him was Eerie Publications, and the magazine in question was actually called Weird.

Each with a cover by Graham Humphreys, Video Nasty is a breezy Reaper comic book that nevertheless deals with weighty agendas.

In his website, Top Sellers supremo Dez Skinn remains tactful towards Warren, championing his business sense. Warren initially heard the news of the British assault in Comic Media News, where Skinn proudly announced 200,000 copies of his House of Horror were set to conquer America. By the most unlikely of coincidences, that same issue also featured an interview with Warren, so the editor sent him a complimentary copy. The first Top Sellers knew of the situation was when their office received a letter from Warren’s lawyers, stating that shipping copies for US distribution would be infringing the copyright of their client’s “well established” House of Horror magazine on which a “considerable amount” had been spent on its launch. The hard fact is that, against this messy backdrop, American readers were deprived of a quality publication, instead left with the pictorial and pun-filled standard of Famous Monsters.

Former comic store owner turned independent writer, Mario Covone's six-issue Video Nasty is set in 1983 Kettering, and uses both the video panic in Britain, and the political climate of the era, as its provocative foundation. Along with Greek artist Vasilis Logios, Covone has produced a love letter to the genre, inspired by the documentary VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE and Lucio Fulci's THE BLACK CAT. Characters are archetypes without being bland, as the police, neo-Nazis and a film director turned media scapegoat are sucked into a pit of depraved murders. Mario's crisp dialogue creates a flowing yarn which exists in a fictionalised but recognisable tableau - the relocation from Manchester to Northampton of "God's Cop" Chief Constable James Anderton for example, as he instructs officer David Gorley to look at video nasty's for case research (by the end of the second issue, Gorley has acquired ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST from his friendly local video rental store). What inevitably hurts the book is the frighteningly sketchy interior art of Logios; proportions vary wildly from panel to panel, and what is even more surprising are the standard of Graham Humphreys' covers; while #5 and #6 have a grandiose power, the first four covers lack a central focus.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Blood of My Ancestors!"

Doctor Who Weekly - Black Legacy (1980)

When Black Legacy appeared in June 1980, Alan Moore's story predated his 2000 A.D. debut by a month, representing his first published comics work - amateur or professional -  solely as a writer. To illustrate the tale's "legacy," Russell T. Davies name checks the Deathsmiths of Goth in a Time War piece published in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual.

LIKE most TV characters that find themselves on the printed page, the Cybermen enjoy poetic license in comics. John Canning's surreal Patrick Troughton strips for TV Comic had DOCTOR WHO's second greatest foe use skis (Eskimo Joe, #903-906, 1969) and earlier they were even destroyed by flower scent (Flower Power, #832-836, 1967). Steve Moore introduced the philosophical Kroton in Throwback: The Soul of a Cyberman (Doctor Who Weekly #5-7, 1979), a man from Mondas who is sent to quell a human revolt, but wonders if an understanding of "abstract concepts of freedom and individuality" is the better path to take. Even Grant Morrison wrote a debatable account of Cyber origins in The World Shapers (Doctor Who Magazine #127-129, 1987). Using a muddled reference dating to the 1968 serial THE INVASION, Morrison explains that the rubbery inhabitants of "Planet 14" the Voord - seen in the 1964 THE KEYS OF MARINUS - have used an alien Worldshaper machine to evolve into Proto-Cybermen.

One of four back-up strip collaborations between writer Alan Moore and illustrator David Lloyd for Doctor Who Weekly, Black Legacy is introduced and tailed by the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) as if recounting the story. Published in issues #35-38, Cyberleader
Maxel leads a mission to Goth ("a haunted planet shunned by all"), the former home world of legendary armourers the Deathsmiths. In search of a weapon that wiped out an entire civilisation overnight, the cyborgs explore the war museum, but are watched by the Apocalypse Device, a synthetic creature carrying every conceivable disease and virus. Having annihilated his creators, the being wipes out the Cybermen by telepathic nightmares and a lethal rust-like virus. Finally, Maxel confronts the Apocalypse Device who wants to use the Cyberleader's craft to escape the planet and destroy the galaxy; when Maxel auto-destructs the ship, the creature's dastardly plan is seemingly thwarted ... until a Sontaran vehicle lands. The last line – "It will not wait forever, that is the problem with ultimate weapons" – is almost certainly Moore's attempt at implicating the nuclear arms race.

Altered Vista's created a VCD version of the story in 2006, which was applauded by Moore. As the writer states on the Altered Vista website, "This is clearly a work that is born out of nothing save for a simple love of the material. It has not opted to change elements of the story, give it a less bleak ending or introduce a love interest and cute pet dog for the chief Cyberman protagonist. You have simply adapted the story as faithfully as you were able, without feeling the need to 'improve' it".

Taking a cue from the exploits of Kroton, Black Legacy portrays the Cybermen as un-characteristically human in their thinking, speech and posture, and illustrates Moore learning his craft with little interest in the source material (the strangely declamatory Cybermen spout "blood of my ancestors!" twice). These strips acted as ideal learning curves for the Northampton magus, creating characters and worlds in concise timeframes (usually a tale of two pages crossing four issues); consequently, as well as building the story, each two instalment had to work if read in isolation, but also recap and end on a cliff-hanger. The flaws of the strip, however, are not limited to aspects of Who lore. It’s actually a near re-run of Steve Moore’s The Final Quest from Doctor Who Weekly #8, where a Sontaran is tricked into self-destruction by exposure to a lethal plague. The Apocalypse Device broadcasting telepathic nightmares, paralysing enemies with fear, are two factors Cybermen ought to be immune to.

Moore followed Black Legacy with the Autons story Business as Usual, and three linked tales set in the distant past of Gallifrey: Star Death (with artist John Stokes), 4-D War and Black Sun Rising. While DOCTOR WHO had been on television for seventeen years, the history of the Time Lords had barely been touched on. With a relatively blank canvas, Moore created a space opera hung around a time paradox – the Time Lords are under attack from the Order of the Black Sun, a mysterious organisation from the future who are retaliating for some offence the Time Lords are yet to commit. The series hadn't explored the nuances of time travel since the 1972 Jon Pertwee adventure DAY OF THE DALEKS, so it was refreshing to see an illustrative work play with similar non-linear ideas. In conclusion, Moore’s strips for Doctor Who Weekly come to a sum of 28 pages over little more than a single year, and even though he was working to a restrictive brief and writing for a very young audience, the reader can already see a distinct progression from simple templates to the type of cosmic-bending work Moore would later make his own.