Friday, 30 April 2010

Mighty World of Marvel #10. How green was my comic book?

Mighty World of Marvel #10There was a time when street lamps could fire laser beams, buses could double up as submarines and the Fantastic Four lived in an alternate world which could be reached by knocking down the back of my nan's closet with a sledge hammer if she'd only let me.

That time was 1972, and I believed all those things to be true because I was eight.

It was also the time when I first started reading American Comics.

I first started reading them in the summer of that year. In fact, I'd read one issue of The Amazing Spider-Man before then but summer 1972 was when American comics became a regular part of my life rather than a rarely glimpsed piece of exotica.

Clearly this was how fate designed it, as, within weeks of this, The Mighty World of Marvel started up and I, thanks to its reprints, could suddenly catch up on the early adventures of my favourite heroes, each and every week.

Sadly, those issues all eventually found their way into the dustbin but, by chance, I recently came into possession of issue #10 of said comic. Yet again it must be fate because (apart from issue #4) issue 10 happens to be the early issue I remember most strongly.

Mighty World of Marvel #10, Spider-Man vs Sandman
It's certainly something to be reacquainted with. The first thing that strikes me, apart from the non-glossy cover, is the lack of staples. The things were put together so cheaply that even this was presumably seen as an unnecessary extravagance. The second thing you can't miss is the green. Page after page after page is rendered in the hue.

Clearly it was done to compensate for the lack of full colour - something a British editing team would never have felt necessary, as British readers didn't expect comics to be in full colour. Looking at it now, the green's terrible, degrading artwork that'd already been damaged by the seemingly random addition of zip-a-tone at every possible opportunity. Still, kids see things differently and I seem to remember feeling it all seemed rather exciting and special at the time..

But this is all packaging. What about the actual content?

Well, this issue, we get three tales, kicking off with a truly odd one wherein the Incredible Hulk decides to take on the hordes of would-be-Genghis-Khan General Fang, by disguising himself as the Abominable Snowman for no good reason. This is from the era when Stan Lee'd decided the Hulk should talk like a cross between the Thing and Al Capone and spend as much time threatening Rick Jones as he did the bad guys. Frankly, with its clichéd enemy and unsympathetic "hero" you can see why the Hulk lost his own comic after just six issues. The big mystery at this stage must've been how he ever got it back again. Fortunately, more impressive days were ahead for Jade Jaws.

Next we get part of Spider-Man's first battle with the Sandman, whose artwork suffers more than the other stories under the twin assaults of zip-a-tone and green.

Finally, we get the mid-section of the Fantastic Four's first battle with Dr Doom, in which they go back in time to retrieve Blackbeard's treasure, only to learn the Thing was in fact Blackbeard. It's clearly the best of the tales we're presented with here and, thanks to Jack Kirby's relatively simple artwork, suffers the least badly from the greenification of its world.

But the comic, overall, is an odd thing. The lack of staples and the fact the cover doesn't even get the name of the Hulk's foe right (it claims he's up against Tyrannus) suggests it was knocked together with little love. Then again, it has a cover specially drawn by industry great Jim Starlin. Then again, it looks like he bashed it out on the bus on the way to work. Then again, it does have a maze, part of a poster, a pin-up and a letters page so, at least there, more effort was put in than strictly needed. Tony Isabella in this article gives an insight into how the UK comics were put together and leaves us in no doubt that Marvel weren't exactly pulling out all the stops in their production.

But, in the end, despite the implied lack of respect for the British readership (you couldn't see Marvel cutting such corners for a US audience) production flaws don't matter. The comics weren't designed to be read by men in their mid-forties. They were meant to be read by eight year olds, and you can't get round the fact that, for a kid in the early 1970s, there were two things in life that made the wait for each weekend a long and torturous thing. One was the wait for the latest adventure of Dr Who and the second was the wait for the arrival in your newsagents of the latest issue of The Mighty World of Marvel.


Terence Stewart said...

Oh, 1972 was the year! I wonder sometimes, if Marvel hadn't started up their UK reprint line, if there would actually be any Marvel fans in the UK (even the now lapsed ones!)?

Steve said...

Well, I'd have been one - although most of my early American comics were DC ones, so maybe I'd have grown up to be more a DC fan than a Marvel one.

Terence Stewart said...

Yep, the first American comics I had were DC (and I'm more a DC fan than Marvel)but it was Marvel UK that got me buying American Marvel comics and gave me The Avengers! Until fairly recently, that is...

Paul D Brazill said...

Top post:

Am I right in the following?:

the singer from the per shop boys worked for British Marvel and was responsible for turning the Killraven comic into a Planet Of The Apes comic. Remember? The aliens from Killraven had apes head drawn on them.

British Marvel blocked or limited the sale of US Marvel comics so that they could sell more of their own?

Steve said...

The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant was indeed Marvel's UK editor at one point. Whether he was responsible for Apeslayer I'm not sure.

I've often heard it claimed that Marvel didn't distribute their major titles in the UK for a few years, to stop them competing with their UK reprints but I managed to get my hands on them without much difficulty at the time, so the attempt was either short-lived or failed miserably.

Paul D Brazill said...

I dunno, certainly in the sticks we had the fixed amont of title- that why I read Man Wolf! - and I did trail around every shop in Hartlepool trying to get stuff I saw advertised in the limited -20 or 25 -comics on the list. We didn't have a specialist comics shop, mind you.

This could have been the start of my paranoia! Cracking blog BTW.

Steve said...

Thanks for the praise, Paul. In Sheffield, I mostly got my comics from a specialist stall in the now demolished Sheaf market, although it was also pretty easy to get them in my various local newsagents. Certainly you could get the Fantastic Four and Hulk easily enough.

Paul D Brazill said...

Aye, you could get the them everywhere but I remember it was the same titles at every newsagent and there were lots advertised in the comics that weren't on general release.

I remember going to Stokesly market and getting stuff that I couldn't get in my home town. Ponder, ponder... I think I'll investigate this and see how much the drink addled brain has mixed up.