Thursday, 1 November 2018

November 1st, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's official! I have survived Halloween! Neither ghost nor ghoul was able to lay a glove on me and all vile succubi kept their distance! This means I am still free to investigate just what our favourite comics company was up to in this week of four decades ago, in the year when the first movie that bore the name Halloween was unleashed upon the world.

Satr Wars Weekly #39

Things are getting bad for Luke Skywalker. Not only does he seem to be in a coma but it looks like The Stranger is out to get him, as well.

I can exclusively reveal that among this week's back-up strips is the UFO Connection, that Herb Trimpe drawn tale in which a man and his daughter battle an evil alien conspiracy which has something to do with pyramids but I can't remember exactly what.

This issue also contains an advert for Palitoy's Commander Power action figure, a character I must confess to being unfamiliar with - but, apparently, he can fire a green beam of light from his chest, so that's got to count for something.

Speaking of beams of light, the back cover sees the return of the advert for the battery-powered Star Wars Force Beam that's clearly meant to be a lightsabre, now available for the galactic price of £3.50.

Savage Sword of Conan #13, Red Sonja

We may be a couple of months away from the Dez Skinn revolution which radically changed Marvel UK's weekly mags but it would seem his influence is already being felt on the monthly titles, as Savage Sword of Conan suddenly switches to the layout Skinn favoured for his Starburst magazine; the artwork in a box on the right-hand side of the cover and the contents listed in a sidebar on the left.

I do believe this cover illustration was the first that Boris Vallejo ever did for a Conan comic book story. You can see that his painting style for the genre hasn't quite reached its final form yet.

Rampage Monthly #5, the Hulk and Sub-Mariner

No Dez Skinn boxes for Rampage Monthly just yet.

Otherwise, the Hulk is taking on Subby in a tale I know little of.

Mighty World of Marvel #318, the Hulk, Angel and Iceman vs the Sentinels

This is a Hulk tale I know far more about. The Hulk, Angel and Iceman are in space and up against the Sentinels' controller, the evil Master Mold.

But just what did that green and yellow caption say before it was largely obscured by the, "It's the No.1 T.V. Show!" banner? All we can make out of its message is, "Can a fighting mad Hulk...?"

"Can a fighting mad Hulk," what?

Meanwhile, can the Fantastic Four come to the rescue when Agatha Harkness and Franklin are kidnapped and taken back to her hometown for reasons I fail to remember?

Also, Daredevil's about to team up with Shanna the She-Devil, in order to tackle the Mandrill, while Iron Man finds himself up against Mikas and is about to come to blows with a massive great big serpent.

Super Spider-Man #299, the Hulk

It's a busy week for the Hulk. Not only does he have to fight the Sub-Mariner and the Sentinels, he also has to contend with Spider-Man.

Still, it's his own fault because he's still trying to bust the Chameleon's best friend out of jail, in the belief that the face-changing felon is Rick Jones.

Elsewhere, Captain America's still up against the Grey Gargoyle, while the back cover features an advert for that year's Hulk and Spider-Man annuals. I had the Spider-Man book but was, until now, totally unaware of the Hulk one.

Marvel UK, Starburst #4, the Hulk

Oh my God, it's turned into an even busier week for the Hulk because he's also the cover star of Starburst magazine which, with this month, becomes an official Marvel publication, thanks to its creator Dez Skinn's editorship of Marvel UK.

After leading so many publications in one month, the Hulk must be feeling exhausted. No wonder he's looking a bit green around the gills.

Thanks to Sean for pointing out the significance of this issue.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dez Skinn's influence was starting to show because he was already in charge, Steve - according to his website he joined Marvel UK in autumn '78, and he actually uses that cover from SSOC #13 to illustrate the first of the changes he made.
www.dezskinn/Marvel-UK/#monthlies
Scroll down a bit at that link, and you'll find the contract selling his Starburst mag to Marvel, dated 12th October. Which makes the first issue to use that cover format also the first from Marvel - #4, dated November '78 - so maybe you should have included it here?

-sean

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Sean, I've now added that issue of Starburst to the post.

The depressing thing is I bookmarked its page on archive.org, months ago, for future reference and then got it into my head that it was the December issue and that I wouldn't need to bother with it until then. I am truly clueless.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

UK Gents -

1) Happy Night of Guy Fawkes!

2) Were you guys that crazy about the Hulk? Or was Marvel just thinking you were that crazy about the Hulk? I mean, it seems it would be clear to UK Marvel they are relying heavily on the Hulk. Are there sales data for the UK Marvel comics like for the US Marvel comics? (Sorry if I have asked before and forgotten!)

Timothy Field said...

Hulk was pushed quite hard in the UK, especially around the time of the TV show. No doubt because 'we demanded it'. It does seem weird that Hulk was evidently more popular here than the likes of FF or the Avengers.

Steve W. said...

I suspect the truth was that the Hulk was probably the only Marvel character back then who was a household name in Britain, thanks to the TV show. I suppose it's inevitable that Marvel would see him as their big selling point.

Charlie, I've never seen any sales data for Marvel UK comics. British comics never had those half-page sales and returns statements that US comics had.

Anonymous said...

You might well have good reason for thinking Starburst #4 was published in December Steve, as that could be when it actually appeared, Marvel UK schedules being somewhat ...er, malleable at that point. But your features generally go by cover dates, right?

Charlie, while Mighty World of Marvel was their longest running - so presumably best selling - title, the proliferation of the Hulk on Marvel UK covers in late '78 must be down to the popularity of the tv series.
Besides sales of the comics, there was also the money from licensed products based on the character, which in this country had to be authorized by Marvel UK so it was in their interests to ensure the Hulk's visibility.
As I understand it, the first new material produced by Marvel UK during the Skinn era was done for the Hulk Comic, partly to produce stories closer in tone to the tv series, as a more effective tie-in.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Actually, it looks like Luke Skywalker is being menaced by the late actor George Kennedy, who could be pretty menacing when he wanted to be. Ever see Cool Hand Luke? Now, even scarier, his giant head is floating in space.
That Hulk cover is wild. I remember seeing an ad for it in another Marvel comic and wanting to get my sweaty little hands on it. Alas, I never did.
I guess I could get it on E-Bay or something, but I'm incredibly lazy and incredibly cheap.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

OK Gents, Charlie is struggling, lol...

It seems you are indicating that Hulk was a popular TV show, hence the number of covers appearances by Hulk.

But at same time, in the past months, you have said the cover banner (yuk, yuk) that says "It's the Number 1 TV show" as rather exaggerated?

Fair to say Hulk was indeed popular on TV but unlikely the show with the most viewers in the UK at that time?

Anonymous said...

I remember as a kid being rather disappointed by the Hulk T.V show at first. No gamma bomb, no Hulk throwing army tanks around, no Hulk punching the ground and causing an earthquake. Just Banner traveling around, like that dude in Kung-Fu or those guys in Route 66, meeting new people and solving their problems, and as the Hulk occasionally tossing red-necks or gangsters across the room. Then Banner gets himself a new pair of pants and goes thumbin' down the road.
Well, they had a budget. And it was a pretty good show, all-in-all.
I learned to curb my expectations.
Then decades later, they came out with these cheesy Hulk movies where he was 20 feet tall, the size of a trailer, and I thought, "why?"

M.P.

Steve W. said...

Charlie, I do believe the Hulk's show topped the ratings at one point. For how long, I don't recall.

MP, re-watching the Hulk's show a couple of years ago, I was struck by how much better it was than I'd remembered. It was also surprisingly sombre.

Timothy Field said...

The Hulk show was popular, in as much as it was all there was of it's kind at the time but for Marvel UK it was free promotion. I don't think the prominence of the Hulk in UK comics actually reflected his popularity with the readers. It was what they gave us, so it's what we read.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, bear in mind there were only three tv channels in the UK back in '78, so even a half way popular programme could do really well.
Weren't people here just complaining about the over use of the "number 1 tv show" cover banners, rather than accuracy? To be fair to Marvel UK, I expect they wanted to make it clear that it was actually the same character, given that the difference of the comics; like M.P. pointed out, you never saw Lou Ferrigno throwing tanks around the desert.

M.P., you finally get a Hulk flick in the twenty-first century where he does throw tanks around the desert and you're still complaining! Some people are never happy.

-sean

Anonymous said...

PS Oops, apologies - that should have been "given the difference of the comics".

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents - I think I get "Hulk" now in the UK! Thanks for the insights!

M.P - George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke I don't recall being particularly "menacing?" I mean, other than rubbing ole' Lucas's belly (Paul Newman) so that he could eat more hard boiled eggs? Or am i getting it all mixed up and "we have a failure to communicate? But George definitely stole the "car wash" scene!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Oh... UK Gents, sorry if I don't recall, but did you have WOnder WOman as well on the tube?

I watched both Hulk and Wonder Woman and IIRC they aired during the same years more/less? Both were entertaining for sure, and besides, it was all we really had, unless you count the old 1960s Batman and 1950s Superman.

WHich makes me wonder if you had the old George Reeves 1950s Superman on the tube as well? And Batman?

Ahhh.... life was much simpler when there were 3 primary network stations! We all saw more/less the same thing in one's country. Not sure what kids have in common these days?

Colin Jones said...

Charlie, Guy Fawkes Night is on the 5th - you don't need to wish us a Happy Guy Fawkes Night every day lol. And yes, we had Wonder Woman on TV over here.

The Hulk and Spider-Man were the only Marvel characters my parents could recognize - they were clueless about all the rest.

Dez Skinn's Marvel Revolution began here with the new-look Savage Sword Of Conan (and Starburst, which I'd completely forgotten about). Curious that Rampage had to wait another month till its' makeover. The revamped weeklies were dreadful but the monthlies were pretty good.

Also on sale around this time was the Conan Treasury Edition featuring a colour version of "Iron Shadows In The Moon" and a brand-new cover by John Buscema. "Iron Shadows" (or "Shadows In The Moonlight" as the 1934 story was originally called) is my favourite of Robert E. Howard's Conan tales. It had appeared a year earlier in Savage Sword Of Conan No.1 but I'd missed that particular issue so the 1978 Conan Treasury Edition was my introduction to the story :)

Colin Jones said...

I forgot to mention that this month's Savage Sword Of Conan featured the debut (I think) of Solomon Kane. Last year I finally got around to reading all of Robert E. Howard's original Solomon Kane stories (there were only six) - they were really enjoyable and it's a pity Solomon Kane isn't better known. The underrated 2009 Solomon Kane film was quite good too but it was a box-office flop so that was the end of that.

Anonymous said...

Yes Charlie, we had Batman and Wonder Woman on tv (Cesar Romero was a much better Joker than Heath Ledger imo, and Gal Gadot might be easy on the eyes but she's not Lynda Carter).

Steve, now its on freeview I finally watched some of the Supergirl tv series this week; have you seen it at all? As a notable authority on the Maid of Might, do you have an opinion?

-sean

Steve W. said...

Sean, I remember watching an episode of Supergirl in Season One. I think I found it quite amiable but must confess that I can't remember a thing about it. I think The Flash was in it. I shall make an effort to watch more episodes, to see what I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Steve, can't say it did much for me either - I was hoping for something a bit different to the current tv superhero formula. But it was the first few episodes, so maybe it gets better.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Charlie, George was menacing at first, before turning into a big ol' teddy bear. And I forgot about the belly-rubbing scene.
I think I wanted to forget the belly-rubbing scene.
I do remember the car wash scene.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP - The egg-eating, belly-rubbing season still makes me queasy, lol. The notion of eating 50 (?) hard-boiled eggs to win how much $? Ole boy Lucas probably didn't sh!t for a month after that!

Gents - is there any superhero show on "TV" worth watching? I do like Gotham and Luke Cage. O/wise I can't say I really am compelled? You guys sound luke warm on Supergirl.

Anyone dig Daredevil? I did like the first season or so but then drifted away for no particular reason.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I've seen bits of Daredevil and the Punisher on You Tube that don't seem half bad.
Granted, they generally just show the fight scenes. Casting Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin was inspired.
I dunno about Gotham. But I like the actor who plays Alfred, who in the show is an ex-SAS badass. He doesn't just serve sandwiches and tea. He serves a lotta whup-ass.

M.P.

Dougie said...

I've watched the first two seasons of Daredevil. I was fairly bored by the pace and tone of the first one. I liked the second better but they're both extremely violent.

I recently bought the Crisis on Earth-X dvd which features the crossover between Supergirl, Flash and Arrow. If you like the original Wein/Dillin JLA story, I think you'll get a kick out of it.

I vaguely remembered that we had the 50s Superman series on tv. I checked it on the BBC Genome project and the first reference I found was weekday mornings in the summer of 1989! That really surprised me. I think I was still living in a basement flat in the West End of Glasgow at that time and had a p/t job at the University. I did have a tv but I probably saw little of it, given that I was in theatre groups in the evenings and then drinking 'til the wee hours in bars.

Colin Jones said...

Has anyone downloaded the new BBC Sounds app yet? I have.

Steve W. said...

Dougie, I don't remember ever having seen the 1950s Superman series. I do remember seeing the 1940s Batman movie serial at some point. I think it might have been on Channel 4 a long, long time ago.

Colin, I've not heard of the BBC Sounds app. What does it do?

Colin Jones said...

Steve, BBC Sounds is intended to replace the BBC iplayer-radio app. It features all the BBC's radio stations, national and local, and you can listen to programmes live or download them. The app also includes podcasts and lots of other things. It's meant to appeal to younger listeners and make them interested in the BBC. But I'll just use it to download radio programmes I've missed, like I did with the old app.

By the way, are you aware that Redartz & Martinex's Back In The Bronze Age blog is closing? (Only Tuesday's Follow The Leader slot will remain).

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the app info, Colin. I shall give it a go and see how it performs for me.

I wasn't aware that BITBA is closing. I've been occupied with various things today and my internetting's been limited. I shall hop over there before the evening's done and see what's going off.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Alas, BitBA is in retirement but for Tuesdays! THat means SDC gets my full, undivided attention!

Though I must say one of my favorite moments at BitBA was your wonderful article on Marvel UK! Wonderful thing - building bridges by sharing your comic situation with us over her in the USA!

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Charlie. :)

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