Thursday, 23 March 2017

March 23rd, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Good news, nostalgia fans! In this week of 1977, Manhattan Transfer were at Number One on the UK singles chart, with their cover of Chanson D'Amour. How quaint it seemed at the time for a band to be performing in the style of the 1940s.

And yet the 1940s were, in truth, more recent then than 1977 is now. How can we possibly hope to cope with such a dread realisation?

There's only one way.

And that's to seek refuge in looking at what hyper-modern antics the heroes of our favourite comics were getting up to at the time.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #24

I believe this is the issue where glossy covers finally arrived for the nation's greatest hero, and colour disappeared.

It was also the first issue I'd read in months, making it doubly eventful for me.

Apparently, this issue also featured the FF vs Gabriel, Nick Fury against that hell-hound thing that you see a lot of on the Internet, and Spider-Man teaming up with Iron Man.

The last one is something of a stumper for me, as I have no recall at all of Spider-Man's team-up adventures ever having featured as a backup in this comic. Given my love for Spidey, how could I have forgotten such a key feature?

I likewise cannot recall whether the free cardboard plane was capable of flight or not.

Marvel UK, Fury #2

Fury hits its second week and, like Captain Britain, gives us a free toy plane. Marvel UK clearly had a thing about toy planes back then.

As for the cover blurb, I don't like to be pedantic but isn't it a contradiction in terms (not to mention cheating) to escape from a suicide mission?

Marvel UK, Mighty World of Marvel #234, Hulk vs Doc Samson

No toy planes from Mighty World of Marvel, just a punch-up between Doc Samson and the Hulk.

Is this the tale where Samson tries to capture the Hulk so he can shrink him down and inject him into Glenn Talbot's brain in order to literally remove the major's psychological block?

I somewhat suspect that's the sort of behaviour that could get a psychiatrist struck off.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #215, Dr Octopus and Hammerhead

Can anyone spot the flaw with this cover?

That's right, Aunt May's warning Spider-Man of a trap, when we all know the real Aunt May would never warn Spider-Man of a trap.

I can only conclude she's an impostor and it's actually the Chameleon that Doc Ock is planning to marry. I feel he's going to get the shock of his life on the wedding night.


Dougie said...

I think that MWOM had an inside back cover with Starlin's cutaway diagram of Titan. More comics should provide diagrams. And maps. Love a map.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of anything good to say about that issue of Captain Britain - the cover was awful, the crappy paper plane was an insult and all the colour pages had gone. Even so, I'd been reading the good captain's adventures since #1 and I continued reading till the final issue (and beyond, after the merger with SSM)...UKIP would be proud of me :D

Anonymous said...

Mazes too.
Captain Britain often had a puzzle page with a maze - you know, a picture of the Red Skull's head with pathways in it and you had to figure out which one went to his brain, that kind of thing.

Not only was there no colour in that CB issue, but it also had the first episode drawn by the world beating team of John Buscema and Tom Palmer.
Seems a bit odd Marvel would put their top man on a fairly crap series done for a secondary market, but there you go... (no wonder they nearly went under in '77 and needed George Lucas to save them, the eejits)

Steranko's hellhound story deserves all the praise it gets, Steve. The CB reprint was nearly a decade on from SHIELD 3 but it still looked well ahead of everything else.
On the other hand, those dopey old Spidey team-ups were completely forgettable.

- sean.

Anonymous said...

PS Doh! "Mazes too" was intended as a smooth follow on from Dougie, only... Colin got in there first! Typical.

- sean

Anonymous said...

I was only getting CB for the FF reprints by his time. I see Fury #2 had another free model plane. Does anyone remember the Fury wallet and I.D. card? I thought it was a free gift but now suspect it was actually a send-away item. Was there some sort of Fury secret agent club?


Timothy Field said...

Think the Fury ID card and badge were originally a send-away but they have given it away with the comic at some point in a fit of desperation. I picked up mine at a London convention in 81, they were handing out buckets of them.

Steve W. said...

The pairing of Buscema and Palmer on the Cap Britain artwork was a genuine shock to me at the time. They seemed far too high class for such a venture. It does suggest that US Marvel were genuinely determined to make the mag a success. I've always wondered why they suddenly saw it as being so key.

The Artistic Actuary said...

That Captain Britain cover is trying too hard to not look like a Marvel cover and to blend in with all the other UK comics. Marvel UK is slowly dying. But, being someone that only ever read the Spider-Man comic, I was oblivious to all this.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents, I am on lunch break in Chicago and just discovered this blog. I don't know zip about Marvel UK so my question is why didn't Marvel just run stand alone reprint titles like in the USA instead of merging different titles into one book??? Thank you!

Steve W. said...

Hi, Charlie, by this stage of the 1970s, Marvel UK was increasingly in trouble and its comics were struggling to maintain a foothold in the market. Instead of just shutting failing comics down, it chose to merge them, which was a long-standing British tradition. The idea was that the combined fan bases of the two merged comics would be enough to keep the merged comic afloat. The fact that each comic was an anthology book made the mergers practical in a way that wouldn't have been possible had there only been one strip in each mag, American style.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Thank you for the reply, Steve. So the books, merged or unmerged, were they telling stories for a given American title in chronological order? E.g., an issue might print Spider-Man 103 then the next issue jump to Spider-Man 111 or something?

Steve W. said...

They mostly reprinted them in strict chronological, issue by issue, order but there were exceptions. I remember they once reprinted an Avengers story that featured the Vision, before they'd published the story that introduced him, and they therefore redrew him as Thor and hoped no one would notice.

pete doree said...

Hey Steveo, can't resist butting in here.
Charlie, our mags ran a regular USA issue in b/w and spread it over two ( or occasionally ) three issues. Sometimes they'd even cut up a 10 pg old 'Tales Of The Watcher' or something from Unknown Worlds Of Science Fiction and make you wait a week for the denouement.
We were used to non-Marvel comics being anthologies ( with every strip having 2 to 3 pgs ) so we didn't know any better, until we actually got the American books in.
It also meant we were reading Kirby FF Ditko Spidey in the early '70's, while Kirby was at DC so he actually seemed even more prolific than even he was.
Sometimes, British Marvel got through the American stuff so quickly, they had nothing to print, which led to strips like the legendary 'Apeslayer' where they re-edited the first few issues of Killraven as if it was happening on the Planet Of The Apes.
( Which plug plug you can read on my blog 'bronze age of blogs' which is nearly as good as Steve's site! )

Anonymous said...

That's right, I think, about Marvel UK using the weekly anthology format because it was the standard approach of the British market at the time.
Back in the days when comic sales were measured in six figures...

That's all changed now, with globalisation, American imperialism or whatever you want to call it eroding those cultural differences. These days British Marvel reprints - the "collectors editions" (yeah, right) - are in a format thats pretty much the same as the US originals.
Although they are thicker, what with reprinting a few issues at a time, which is a definite plus in these days of "decompressed" storytelling.
And they're cheaper than buying the latest imports too


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Merging Killraven and Planet of the Apes? W.t.h....

Pete - I like your blog too!

Steve - Can I assume you are the same "Steve" at the BitBA blog who has brought me up to speed on the Sheffield bands Heaven 17 and Hunan League? Big thanks for that!

Sean, I agree with you. American imperialism... well as an American I'll call it "biggest company wins" whether Nestle or Marvel, lol. I've been married to my French wife for 26 years now. Every trip to France, and often side trips to Germany... it is clear that Hollywood, English, and the "big brands" are taking over the world. The local and national cultures, arts, music, whatever... are fading away. Even within the countries. France's numerous cheeses are shrinking in number b/c as the french move around, within France, they then prefer a national brand of cheese to a local.

I just pray for one more "British Invasion" of music like in the 60s and early 80s!!!


Steve W. said...

Hello, Charlie, I am indeed the Steve of BITBA notoriety.

I read a theory the other day that it's impossible for a British Invasion to ever happen again because there are no real youth movements anymore. The likes of Adele, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, One Direction, Mumford and Sons, etc, sell records by the bucketload in America but there's no sense of it being a cultural movement like happened in the 60s and 80s. It's just people selling millions of records. Also, the rise of the Internet means that British acts make it big in America at the same time that they do in Britain, so there's no log jam of talent waiting to all break through at once in America, blunting their cultural impact when they do.

Dougie said...

Ha! You just reminded me of the Ymir/Surtur Avengers story with Vizh/Thor! Had completely forgotten about it. And those Buscema Captain Britain strips are beautiful wrecks. Terrible stories, gorgeously drawn.

paul Mcscotty said...

I wasn’t a fan of the original Captain Britain (although I always liked Herb Trimpe’s art and the colour) but I did enjoy the Buscema and Palmer run on Cap whilst it lasted – when Alans Davis and Moore took over it was excellent.

Charlie the new Paninni UK Marvel reprints are much more in line with US comics (although they still feature more than one story / character) and are (imho) ironically a lot better in quality and value for money

Anonymous said...

Hey Charlie, funny you should mention French cheeses... another example might have been comics - only, unlike the cheese biz, les bandes dessinees industry is bigger than ever, and its sales have actually been going up in the twenty first century.

Which just goes to show that the Brits have only themselves to blame for their disappearing culture - British comics which had their own distinct aesthetic and huge sales in the mid-70s pretty much disappeared inside ten years.
The "industry" became just 2000AD, basically a try out mag for US publishers.
Its British economics since the late 70s in a nutshell!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

You guys are like leading my mind with questions I would have!

I grew up with Beano, Dandy, Victor, Valiant, Tiger annuals b/c I have relatives hailing from Dundee and they would send us the annuals as gifts. Really kind of odd since the relative who came from Dundee married my great grandfather around 1910.

Anyhow, I've since come to learn that there were basically weeklies of all these annuals and Beano is approaching like issue 4,000? (Don't tell me that Beano Annual 1973 isn't one of the best covers of all time! I don't know who drew it but man oh man does he capture the essence of Dennis the Menace or what???)

So, I was reading Tiger 1962 annual a couple days ago (Roy of the Rovers!) and suddenly wondering, did these artists ever transition to drawing comics like Marvel comics? The styles seem quite dis-similar but that does not mean they couldn't draw like Marvel's artists does it?

Then, I started wondering, why didn't the UK crank out super heroes like Marvel or did they? I mean, why no British comic invasion? You certainly had comics, artists, networks for distribution?

Was this Leopard Boy, whom I just heard of a few days ago, like a Marvel superhero for plots and art???

So many questions... Help ole'Charlie out if any of you are still awake??? Thanks!!!

Also, is there original art from the Beano, Dandy, and such that is reasonably priced that I could find???

Steve W. said...

There were some British super-heroes. In the 1960s, Fleetway Comics had characters like The Steel Claw, The Spider, Adam Eterno and Kelly's Eye who appeared in comics like, "Valiant," and, "Lion," but never caught on in a major way. I suspect that the anthology nature of British comics didn't allow the page count necessary for the sort of character or plot development needed to make them compulsive reading.

There was also a 1950s character called Marvelman who was modelled on Captain Marvel. He was revived by Alan Moore and Dez Skinn in the 1980s and now belongs to Marvel Comics.

And, of course, "The Beano," had Billy the Cat and Katie.

I'm afraid I don't know anything about Leopard Boy and couldn't say what kind of antics he got up to.

I seem to recall that several, "2000 AD," artists started out in more traditional British comics but, off the top of my head, can't say which ones. Several, "2000 AD," artists then went on to work for Marvel and DC. Whether the ones who went on to work for Marvel and DC were amongst those who'd started out in more trad British comics, I'm not sure.

There was effectively a British Invasion in the early 1990s with DC Comics' Vertigo imprint being set up to hoover up British talent to make content for the US market, while Marvel UK made serious inroads into the American market at the time, with brand new material, before imploding financially.

I suspect that the best place to look for original, "Beano," and, "Dandy," artwork is on eBay. I don't have a clue how much it'd cost though.

Anonymous said...

You never heard of artists like Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland or Steve Dillon, Charlie? Or writers like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman?
Perhaps that only seemed like an invasion from this end - looking back, it was probably easy to miss from a US perspective if you didn't read much from DC. Artist Kevin O'Neill reckoned they were "the new Filipinos", because the exchange rate at the time meant it was cheaper for DC to pay them than anyone American!(Thats also the plan for sorting out all this Brexit nonsense)

In case you didn't know, Roy of the Rovers got his own weekly title in the mid 70s, which lasted long enough for Spandau Ballet to join the team (I am not making that up - )
Its a pity so many enthusiasts are mad for US superheroes at the expense anything else, and the history of a lot of that stuff gets ignored (eh, Steve?)

Sorry to disappoint, but Tiger and Valiant came from London.
But yeah, the other comics you mentioned were from Dundee, home of publisher DC Thompson. And the latest issue of the Beano is no. 3877 (Good luck to anyone aiming for a complete set)
Not sure what it is about that place - these days its a centre for computer games! I understand Grand Theft Auto is straight outta Dundee...


Anonymous said...

PS If Leopard Boy is a reference to the Leopard From Lime Street any comparison with Marvel is a bit optimistic (to say the least!)


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Zoot, I missed the british invasion, then, b/c I'd pretty much checked out of comics in the mid-70s with only an occasional buy, since then.

Yep Leopard Boy was a reference to Leopard from Lime Steet. My bad.

I must need better search terms... I can't find any original art from Dandy / Beano / Valiant, etc. on But perhaps it is a mistake to think it exists? I don't know... Anyone? Help?

Is it fair to say there were 3 big publishers of annuals in the UK, then? D.C. Thompson, Fleetway, and IPC?

You know, I still can't believe these weekly comics were being sold by the millions in the UK once upon a time. I think the only title here that sort of came close was Fawcett's Captain Marvel who got sued out of business by DC for copyright infringement (the cape).

They sold well over a million a week if you think of Whiz, Cpt Marvel, Cpt Marvel Jr, Marvel Family as "Cpt Marvel" titles.

Anyhow, is there a good book or two summarizing the UK comic world excluding Marvel and such. I really would like to read up on this!

Anonymous said...

Fleetway and IPC were the same company, Charlie (don't ask me to explain).
Although I guess you could still say there were three publishers of annuals because Marvel did them too. By which I don't mean US Marvel annuals, but proper book style UK ones tying in to the weekly reprints.
There were also some from other publishers, but they generally only did licensed tv stuff.
Actually, the best way to put it is that in the 70s DC Thompson and IPC were the two proper comic publishers - the rest were all doing tie-ins or reprints.
Unless you count something like Look and Learn; not really a comic as such, but it did include the Trigan Empire.

The only book I can think of that might still be in print is Comics Unmasked, which accompanied the British Library exhibition a few years back.
But hey - easier to just go to youtube where someone has uploaded all three parts of the BBC documentary series Comics Britannia.

The second episode - which covers the real heyday of big selling weekly comics - has been muted, which is a bit of a shame, but you can still enjoy the first which tells you all you need to know about the Beano and Dandy.
The third - Viz, 2000AD, Watchmen etc - isn't bad either, although it tends to overdo the "post-punk" mythology that Brit cultural commentators seem obsessed by.


paul Mcscotty said...

The Leopard of lime Street is being reprinted by Rebellion very soon - The "Leopard" was based very (VERY) loosely on Spider-man.

you can read a wee bit about it here:

Dundee is know as the City of Jam, Jute and journalism. Dundee produced a lot of newspapeprs back in the day (Scots for some reason read a heck of a lot of papers) and one of the reasons that comics came into force was to keep the newspaper presses running as it used to costs a lot of money to shut the presses down and to start them up again - DCT used the publication of kids comics as a little earner to keep the presses running little knowing that back in the day they would become their main earner.

For info: Jute was a fibre used to make sacking,canvass etc - Jam was more marmalade which was "invented" (ie made famous) in Dundee

pete doree said...

Me again with more blatant plugging.
Charlie, if you want to read any of the British superheroes, I've got full strips of ( from memory ) Leopard From Lime St, Trigan Empire, Kelly's Eye, Adam Eterno, The Spider, King Cobra, One Eyed Jack and probably loads more I can't remember. Must do Janus Stark one of these days too.
In terms of UK artists going over to America, I think that only really started with 2000AD; Steve Dillon & Dave Gibbons had styles made for the US, and until 2000AD, no one ever got credited so unfortunately it never happened before then.
Books about UK comics? There's Paul Gravett's Great British Comics ( orange cover with Korky The Cat ) and another I remember just called ( I think ) British Comics with Dennis The Menace on the cover.
In terms of artwork, I think you might have to search for specific artists, like Leo Baxendale ( Bash St Kids / Minnie The Minx ) or Ken Reid ( Faceache ). The aforementioned Lew Stringer might be a good guy to ask.
Hope that all helps.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for dragging this out even more, but -
Pete, I think we're all forgetting that quite a while before 2000AD Forest Gate's finest, one Barry Smith, did a bit of work for the 1972 Buster annual...


pete doree said...

WHAAAT??!! I never knew that! Who's got scans??

Steve W. said...

I've found scans of two panels. The style's noticeably softer than that of his early Marvel work - having hints of his later Conan work - and makes it clear that the cruder draftsmanship of his early Marvel work was a deliberate choice, rather than it being his natural style.

Click the links below to see those panels.

Panel One

Panel Two

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Awesome post! Thanks for the history!

Anonymous said...

And of course there was that time Mike Kaluta drew a few Numbskulls pages for the Beezer while on holiday in England after quitting DC.
Just kidding.

With it being a 72 annUal I'm guessing that would be when Smith got caught out not having a green card... One way or another the timing means he actually did it in reverse and went from working on US Marvels like Conan the Barbarian to breaking into drawing for er... Buster. On the Wizard of Football.
Barry always was one of a kind.

I seem to recall reading that the late Steve Moore worked on staff at Buster in the early 70s, so maybe thats how he got the work.
Complete speculation on my part of course, so that may well be completely wrong.

Getting back to the subject - and you might be interested in this, Pete - I got the Dynamite book on Jose Gonzalez not so long ago (damaged cover so it was cheap!) and it includes work he did for Jackie a while before going on to the Warren mags.
We were forgetting uite a few artists on British comics in the late 60s and 70s were Spanish and Italian, plenty of whom definitely worked for US publishers too. Eg the Giolitti agency had a relationship with both Gold Key and IPC.

Er... not that anyone's particularly interested in old Gold Key comics. So that's probably a sign I should stop now.
(Good job its spring, as I clearly need to get out more...)


Paul McScotty Muir said...

I never knew that about Barry Smith great find Steve (Im of to cjeck my pile of old Buster comics) - of course Barry started in UK comics drawing back page posters in Odhams comics like POW, SMASH etc in his Kirby style.

pete doree said...

Yeah cheers for those panels Steve, they're very much the style of the era, aren't they? You can see it's Bazza but only just.
I've got some TV Action Jose Ortiz did, but didn't know about Gonzalez, must check that book out Sean.
And I like Gold Key!

Unknown said...

Hi, maybe you could help as I don't know who's thread this is but one if the magazine's you are talking about, I have it in my possession with the in made plane in very good condition, I was looking to find out a bit more about it's worth if any one would like to help, it would be greatly appreciated cheers Carl

Steve W. said...

Hi, Unknown. If you mean the Captain Britain issue, there seems to be quite a strong demand for his old comics nowadays. A copy of that issue, in high grade and with the plane in its unmade form, sold for around £40 on eBay, not too long ago.