Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Happy 40th birthday to The Titans.


Forty years ago this week, the world of comics may not have been turned upside down but it was at least turned over onto its side and left lying there for over a year, as Marvel UK launched a comic like no other.

That comic was The Titans and it didn't just throw the rule book in the bin, it then jumped up and down on that bin, until that bin was nothing more than a crumpled pile of scrap metal, left wondering just what the hell had hit it.

Why? Because, in a moment of mad genius, Marvel UK had decided it'd be a great idea to print a comic sideways.

Marvel UK, the Titans #1

Why they decided to do this, I have no idea. Perhaps whoever was in charge was in the habit of tipping their TV over while watching it, or perhaps they'd had a lifelong dream of being buried vertically.

If one put no thought into it at all, the advantages of the policy were clear to see. Obviously, by adopting the format and therefore printing two pages side by side on each sheet, it meant they could publish twice as much material as before, at no greater expense.

Marvel UK, the Titans #14, Captain Marvel

But it also meant it was guaranteed to run out of reprint material twice as fast as a normal mag.

Considering the problems they'd had with Planet of the Apes running out of reprint material, and that their Super-Heroes title was already reduced to giving us Ant-Man and the Cat in its search for stories, it does seem amazing that this didn't occur to them.

Of course, none of that mattered at all to an eleven year old reader. To an eleven year old, all that mattered was that we suddenly got twice as much entertainment on a Saturday as we could have hoped for.

Bearing in mind that Saturday was a day notorious for giving us nothing to watch on TV until Mick McManus showed up at teatime to forearm smash people in the face, this was a development that could only be welcomed.

Its voracious nature also meant that we got to read the adventures of Marvel's less commercially viable stars like Nick Fury, the Sub-Mariner and the Inhumans.

Marvel UK, the Titans #28, Captain America

Unlike The Super-Heroes, The Avengers, Dracula Lives and Savage Sword of Conan, I managed to read the first issue. Not only that but I was grabbed by it at once.

Maybe there was something wrong with me but I actually preferred the smaller artwork it presented us with. I also appreciated the chance to discover the adventures of characters who wouldn't have been able to find house space in comics that could afford to be more choosy about their material. And because of all this, from the moment I first saw it, I had no doubt at all that truly this was a comic that, like Janus the Nega-Man, was destined for greatness.

Marvel UK, the Titans #51, the Fantastic Four

Well, as it turned out, it wasn't. It lasted barely more than a year before it merged with Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes, which had by then also adopted the sideways format.

For me, its highlights were it introducing me to Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel and Jim Steranko's Captain America, not to mention giving us the last couple of years of Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four and also bringing us the conclusion of the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War, a saga that was born in the Avengers' own mag, spent its middle age in the Mighty World of Marvel and finally claimed its death bed in The Titans. You have to hand it to Marvel UK, they could at times be chaotic but they never gave you the chance to get complacent.

Marvel UK, the Titans #43, the Fantastic Four

So, in the end, The Titans didn't revolutionise comics or even moderately change them but it was, in its time, possibly my favourite Marvel mag, precisely because of the things that wiser men than me might claim were its failings.

Marvel UK, the Titans #58, the Avengers

7 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Yes, I loved the sideways format too but I missed the first issue as usual which meant missing the free poster. By the time I finally managed to get the first issue of any comic it was Captain Britain #1 and the free "gift" had sunk to a crappy cardboard mask. My favourite period in The Titans was the Fantastic Four's run from #27-52 - the end of Kirby, the brief Romita issues and the arrival of John Buscema which were all printed in full, not cut in half as per usual with Marvel UK. If anybody saw me with a copy of The Titans they were always bemused by its' odd appearance - it was a truly unique creation in comics history, I'm glad I was there to experience it :)

Steve W. said...

If I remember rightly, I think the only Marvel UK comics that I had issue #1 of were Spider-Man Comics Weekly, Planet of the Apes and The Titans.

Anonymous said...

Whoever came up with this idea was either a genius...OR A MADMAN!!!!
M.P.

baab said...

Did anyone else see the tv advert on either the week before or the day of release?
I know I did.

Steve W. said...

Sadly, I think I missed it, although it could just be that I've forgotten about it. :(

Colin Jones said...

Apparently there were TV adverts for Planet of The Apes No.1 but I never saw them - as a massive fan of the TV show I'd have been very curious about the comic. I started getting POTA from No.5 which was also my very first Marvel comic. Steve, you mentioned somewhere that you still have the poster from POTA #1 - it was only about a year ago that I finally found out what that poster looked like.

Steve W. said...

I think I may have the outline of my then 10 year old bare foot drawn on the back of that poster. It is surprising how small my foot was back then.

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