Sunday, 22 February 2015

February 22nd, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hark! What's that stopping and starting sound I hear?

Why, it seems to be a song that keeps stopping and starting.

That can only mean one thing. Not that my CD player's broke but that it's forty years ago this week that Cockney Rebel's famously segmented track Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) leapt to Number One on the British singles chart.

But did the heroes of Marvel's UK department have anything to smile about?

Or were they themselves, like Cockney Rebel, being repeatedly halted in their tracks?

Marvel UK, Avengers #75, Dr Strange

Is this the story where Dr Strange teams up with first the Sub-Mariner and then the Hulk to sort out the whole Nameless Ones saga, with the aid of Barbara Norris? Thus making it a kind of unofficial debut epic for the Defenders?

I've never been sure if Strange was wearing a mask during this era or if he'd just turned his face blue. I always preferred to think it was the latter.
Mighty World of Marvel #125, Hulk

After last week's interruption by the Inheritor, the Hulk gets to do his Conan thing in Jarella's kingdom.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #18

It might be a perfectly nice night out but, right now, Dracula's feeling a little cross.

Admittedly, it's not a little cross. It's a middling-sized cross but my joke wouldn't have worked if I'd said, "Dracula's feeling a medium cross."

Granted, my joke didn't work anyway but at least I made the effort.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #18

This is another Planet of the Apes cover I redrew when I was a boy, in the belief that I could improve on it.

I believe I was led to do so by having seen a reproduction of the original American version of the cover which was done for one of the black and white mags and therefore painted.

My version wasn't painted. It was in pencil. It possibly didn't look as good.
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #106, The Kingpin

Spidey literally gets the rug pulled out from under him, as the Schemer storyline rumbles on.


Kid said...

I believe they turned Dr. Strange into a blue-headed (or masked - I dunno either) for two reasons. One was that it made him look strange and thereby live up to his name, but chiefly because it made him look like a superhero. Superhero mags sold better and Doc Strange wasn't doing too well at the time. I don't think it helped much.

Anonymous said...

Always liked Dr Strange's blue period, but that's more down to Avengers Weekly being my introduction to the character and - more importantly - the phenomenal artwork of the Colan/Palmer team, rather than a preference for that mask.

Yeah, disappointing I know, but apparently it was a mask. Or so I was informed by a Bronze Age of Blogs post a few months back. I'm not entirely convinced, though.... you'd have regular moustached Doc in a panel and then - ZAP!! - suddenly he's blue. Certainly looked like some sort of magical transformation to me; I suppose he could just be magically putting on a mask, but how can anyone tell?
And was he wearing all-yellow contact lenses?


Colin Jones said...

I always thought he transformed into his "blue alien" persona by calling on the hoary hosts of Hoggoth or whatever - which would be more logical for the Sorcerer Supreme than pulling on a mask. Anyway, the whole blue period was a disaster and Stephen Strange even retired altogether as Master of the Mystic Arts till they brought him back without his mask. This really was Marvel UK's golden age before all those bloody mergers started - I wish I'd been reading all these weeklies rather than just POTA and Spidey.

Steve W. said...

Just a couple of weeks to go before two new mags join the roster of Marvel UK books from 1975. They were heady days indeed for British Marvel fans.

Anonymous said...

The mergers never bothered me. Look at it this way - now that each of these comics are 8p, getting all five would have cost 40p. 40P!! That's EVERY WEEK!! 40p a week for five comics - I ask you, who had that kind of money?

I used to get Avengers and POTA, so the mergers meant I could follow Conan (just in time for the later Barry Smith stuff) and Gene Colan on Dracula, which was great. The real problem was more that Marvel UK started to lose direction later in 75, reprinting stuff too hadhazardly.
And too small and sideways...


John Pitt said...

THIS is what I've been waiting for!

Colin Jones said...

Sean, you wouldn't have been able to follow Dracula in POTA for very long as the Dracula strip was dropped after just 5 issues. Despite the comic being called POTA & Dracula Lives there was no Dracula in it at all from #93 to the final issue #123 - I assume this was because the UK reprints had almost caught up with the U.S. Tomb Of Dracula so Dracula had to be dropped for a while but anybody buying the comic expecting to find Dracula in it would have been rather confused. Marvel UK must have known they intended to drop Dracula when the merger occurred so why they went ahead with it is a mystery to me. Was it even legal to call a comic POTA & Dracula Lives with no Dracula in it.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Dr Strange has always been one of my favourite characters and I liked the idea of the "superhero" version with a mask etc but I thought the idea of giving him a new "secret identity" of Dr. Stephen Sanders and yet the character was called DR Strange was just daft and as Kid says is didn't really work and was soon cancelled.

I think a bit of the problem with UK Marvel apart form the numerous and sometime poor mergers/presentation (Avengers and Conan, 2 great strips but not really bedfellows) was due (imho) to the material not being a good in general as the earlier 60s - 73 era strips and art.

Colin Jones said...

By the way, a few years ago there was a Defenders mini-series where the original team (Dr. Strange, Hulk, Namor and Silver Surfer) become evil. Evil Dr. Strange is portrayed in the blue version and later on 'good' Dr. Strange says that his original blue period was a time when he was at his mos\t egotistical.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Colin I think that Defenders series (with Kevin Maguire art) has just been reprinted in full as part of the Hachette hardback “Marvel's Mightiest Heroes, the definitive graphic novel collection” I picked it up a few weeks ago very nice indeed

Anonymous said...

Colin - Didn't recall it was only five issues; actually, now I think about it, Drac didn't even appear much in his own story, which was more about Blade if I remember rightly (although its quite possible I don't!).... But hey - at least Man-Thing appeared in POTA/DL.
Didn't it? Wasn't that from Dracula Lives? Or am I hopelessly confused....? (Not that I'll let that stop me commenting:))


Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Man Thing appeared in "Dracula Lives" when it had the strap line " featuring "The Legion of Monsters" Sean.

Colin Jones said...

Yes, Paul is correct and Man-Thing also continued into the merged POTA & Dracula Lives. I suppose Marvel UK would have said that the COMIC was called 'Dracula Lives' and as long as something from that comic was in POTA & DL it was acceptable - it didn't have to be Dracula himself.

Dougie said...

I prefer the blue-faced "superhero" Strange. I have read a theory that Thomas wanted him to resemble the Golden Age Vision. Don't know if it's true but there is a passing resemblance.

Steve W. said...

It wouldn't be a surprise. Roy did like to pay homage to the Golden Age characters.

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