Sunday 26 November 2023

November 1983 - Marvel UK monthlies, 40 years ago this month.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

If there was one thing you could rely on in the 1980s, it was that the next near-miss with a global nuclear holocaust was no more than weeks away.

And so it was that, in November 1983, Soviet officials misinterpreted NATO's Able Archer 83 exercise as a nuclear first strike!

Fortunately, sense prevailed and this would turn out to be the last nuclear scare of the Cold War.

Fittingly, it was also the month in which the United States' ABC channel aired the TV movie The Day After which supplied a fictionalised prediction of just what it would be like to survive a nuclear war.

Not quite going nuclear, that month, was the Turkish part of Cyprus which declared independence. Wikipedia didn't bother to tell me who it declared independence from. So, I shall assume it was from Turkey.

Elsewhere, Dad's Army star John Le Mesurier died, aged 71.

Elsewhere, following fertility treatment, 31-year-old Janet Walton gave birth to six daughters at once. A feat which made them the world's first all-female surviving sextuplets.

Over on the UK singles chart, the month began with Billy Joel's Uptown Girl at Number One and it ended with Billy Joel's Uptown Girl at Number One. In between those two dates, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl was Number One.

The British album chart was not quite so static, with Culture Club's Colour by Numbers initially seizing the throne before being given the boot by Duran Duran's Seven and The Ragged Tiger.

The Daredevils #11, Captain Britain vs the Fury

Captain Britain and the Special Executive continue to battle the Fury and - hooray - manage to bury it in rubble!

But have they - and we - really seen the last of the relentless killer of heroes?

Only time will tell but we can know that, in our second strip of the issue, Night Raven finds himself in a Quiet Town.

And, rounding off the book, the Kingpin sends his wife to New York to hire Nelson and Murdock so he can turn state’s evidence against East Coast crime bosses.

Sadly, for his plan, she's captured by the mob, who're looking to use her to lure him back to the city, so they can kill him.

Doctor Who Magazine #82, Sgt Benton

It's a thrilling issue because the magazine dedicated to the world's greatest time traveller brings us news of the shock discovery of previously lost episodes.

That's followed by a look back at the William Hartnell adventure The Gunfighters.

There's also, as the cover can tell us, an interview with John Levene of Sgt Benton fame.

And there's a look forward to the imminent arrival of the 6th Doctor Colin Baker who's going to be inheriting the role from Peter Davison.

The Mighty World of Marvel #6, Wolverine

Doctor Doom's castle's still causing trouble for the X-Men. Inside it, the captive mutants are placed in deadly traps from which there's only one way of escape.

Needless to say, every single one of them manages to find that way.

Meanwhile, Havok, Polaris, Iceman and Banshee are battling their way through Murderworld, in a bid to rescue their teammates' friends and relatives.

In our second tale, Wolverine's in Japan but his latest girlfriend's horrified when she sees him in full-on berserker mode.

The Savage Sword of Conan #73

Conan's hired by beautiful twins to rob a bloke who lives on an island in the Vilayet Sea.

Needless to say, it all escalates quickly and Conan kills him. Then, on the way home, the twins are eaten by a sea monster.

As if that's not excitement enough for us, we're supplied with a backup strip the world knows as Demon in the Dark as relayed to us by the redoubtable pairing of Michael Fleisher and Alfredo Alcala.

Starburst Magazine #63, Psycho

The Nation's top sci-fi mag interviews Pamela Stephenson about her role in Superman III. 

Production designer Stephen Grimes talks about his work on Krull.

Anthony Perkins talks about Psycho.

And Michael Medved talks about his love of bad movies - and about Channel 4's upcoming season of the worst films of all time.

I do recall that season including such gems as Plan 9 From Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Wild Women of Wongo, They Saved Hitler's Brain and Godzilla vs the Smog Monster.

24 comments:

Matthew McKinnon said...

Here I am again. First in line to witter on about The Daredevils.

It was a bit of a shock reading about the cancellation / merger though. I think it might be the first comic cancellation I experienced...? That cute little Cobweb strip hidden away inside was sweet. Bernie Jaye seems to have been loved by everyone she crossed paths with, possibly because she wasn't a comics industry person and was a bit more normal.

Moore and Davis keep up the extremely high quality here. Those vertical panels in the last stages of the fight, and the suggestion that a superhero had wet herself in terror were stirring stuff.

I wasn't so keen on the DD story, as I thought the quality of the art dipped considerably after the Bullseye story from the month before. It looks better in the original colour issue, but does look a bit rushed in b&w.

Slightly iffy cover, this one. It's a strong image but CB's next is very long indeed. I am a fan of cover images that are isolated against white, though.

I had that Starburst, but never read it.

I had that MWOM because of Wolverine being in it.

We didn't get The Day After until 1984, did we? I remember it being on TV, and the next day we all discussed it avidly and it was quite nice weather so Spring / Summer 1984? Was it pre- or post- Threads?




Matthew McKinnon said...

*CB's 'neck'. Not 'next'

Anonymous said...

Ahh yes… “THE DAY AFTER.” The most-watched made-for-TV movie in the history of the USA. It rattled a lot of folks here including Charlie, Charlie’s brother, et al.

You can watch it on Youtube. Impossible to find any other format IIRC. FWIW said missles were actually in Missouri and the scenes of them launching during a wedding (or prep for it) still rattle my skinny ass.

Thank God Ronnie Reagen with help from Maggie Thatcher single-handedly got Russia and Gorby to “say uncle.” (No, Im not serious. But then Im not Republican and stopped swallowing their BS. But try explaining that to your rank-and-file amerikan.)

Anonymous said...

Steve, I really enjoyed your summary of the Conan comic. And it truly makes me wonder if the planning sessions for a comic were as simple as that, summed up in a few sentences.

Matthew McKinnon said...

Charlie -

You can get The Day After on disc.
It goes for pennies here on DVD and I know there was a blu-ray release in the US pretty recently.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Dez Skinn was a bit down on Bernie Jaye on his website, Matthew, as part of a general dismissal of Marvel UK after his departure. But otherwise, yeah - everyone else seems to have a fairly positive take on her editorial regime. So perhaps its not surprising she didn't stay in the comic book field for long.
She dodged the bullet on Prince Andrew though. I guess she wasn't young enough...?

A quick look online shows that 'The Day After' was first broadcast in the UK in December '83, which is about nine months before the urban improvement drama 'Threads' (only kidding with that description, Steve).
Funnily enough, my recollection is that was the other way round. Maybe there was a repeat showing a bit later?

-sean

Anonymous said...

Steve, you are mistaken about the Turkish north of Cyprus, which actually declared itself an independent state separate from the rest of the island. Although that basically formalised a situation that had been the case since the Turkish army occupied the region in '74.

Other than Turkey, no member state of the UN recognizes Northern Cyprus (a shame that approach isn't applied more consistently to island nations where the north is occupied by a neighbouring power imo). The rest of the island consists of the Republic of Cyprus - a relatively recent addition to the EU - populated largely by Greek Cypriots...

...and (inevitably) a couple of 'British Overseas Territories' or, to be more accurate, military bases run by Cyprus' former imperial overlords -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_and_Dhekelia

-sean

Anonymous said...

The inevitable merge of Daredevils and MWOM monthly was pretty sad at the time, as it marked Bernie Jaye's moving on and hit home that if a title as strong as Daredevils couldn't survive commercially, then what could? Moore later stated he resigned from Marvel UK over their sacking of Bernie Jaye, but David always rejected this. While the disappointment of the cancelling of what was clearly her pet project probably impacted her decision, I think she simply moved on. The two farewell pieces, by Moore and Davis, and the fact Moore continued for another six months, or so, tend to suggest this was another of his convenient 'forgetting' of the facts.

I include myself as one of the many that assumed Bernie was a man. Not because of any inherent gender assumption, but I remember seeing a big hairy man, at one of the Marvel UK Westminster mart signings, with a name tag displaying Bernie Jaye. I assumed he was the current editor. A few years later I realised it was, obviously, Alan Moore and the name tags had moved. Oh how I laughed...

DW

Anonymous said...

Well, I expect Moore wanted to finish off the story, DW. If he'd already plotted it out, why not? As it happens, the on sale date for Swamp Thing #21 was in the middle of this month so presumably by this point he could be a bit choosier about who he worked for in the UK.

Interesting you should think Daredevils was a commercially strong title, because it seemed like the opposite to me. I mean, I was buying it for the Moore/Davis CB, and 65p for around 10 pages didn't really seem like a sound, long-term propsition.

Sure, some readers wouldn't have had most of the Miller Daredevil stories already... but as the mag was aiming for the (mainly) teenage and fan audience, and pushing the new US titles available through those new fangled comic shops, that percentage of the readership would decline over time. In the same way that sales of the relatively long lasting Rampage probably dropped off drastically once the All-New, All-Different X-Men reprints hit the era - just before the Hellfire Club storyline? - that the US title became relatively easy to find in the UK.

On the subject of disappearing monthlies, I just noticed Star Wars isn't here. Not that cancelling Star Wars would have bothered me back then (or now)... but if Marvel UK didn't have the licence anymore that probably wouldn't have helped with their monthly bottom line.

-sean

Anonymous said...

So, quickly scrolling through the tag for this feature, it seems the last Star Wars issue was in July '83. That must be to do with licence, right? I mean, its not as if we're talking Blake's 7 - surely even Marvel UK couldn't have been that untogether at this point that they couldn't make money out of Star Wars?

-sean

Anonymous said...

Sean

Actually I agree. My point was that if this (Daredevils with original Moore Davis CB, well-written articles and probably not widely seen Miller reprints) couldn't survive what hope was there for other monthly titles? Given they'd all disappear in time, not much.

I pinned my hopes on Warrior, which could run original, challenging material and survive commercially with European-style collections (all Titan b+w collections of Marvelman, V for Vendetta, Pressbutton etc., and US colour reprints. This kind of happened except no-one made anything out of it, and they all fell out.

Depressingly, this signposted the demise of the local industry. 2000AD aside.

DW

Matthew McKinnon said...

Sean -


Star Wars had morphed into Return Of The Jedi magazine (I think possibly a weekly?). I remember as I bought a few in 1983.

I think DDs was actually intended as a standard Marvel reprint comic for kids - with the UK content as a bonus. But it quickly developed into something balanced the other way. I don’t think anyone seriously expected the Warrior model to be successful after a full year of the Skinn mag putting out astonishing material but failing dismally in terms of sales.

BTW I wasn’t buying US comics at the time so the Miller pages had real value for me.

DW -
Moore (thankfully) had a work ethic that meant that once he’d planned something out and begun it he’d see it through to completion whether he’d fallen out with his employers or not. He did the same with V For Vendetta, which wrapped up a full 2 years after his ruckus with DC. I think part of it was maybe the fact that he could bang out scripts really quickly, so he had the material stockpiled well in advance.

Anonymous said...

Matthew

The collections and US reprints were supposed to bring in the cash. It just didn't pan out as intended.

I din't think there was any real risk Moore wouldn't finish the final half dozen chapters of CB, and two or three were probably already scripted. I think Bernie's supposed firing was simply another stick to hit a publisher. If you want to walk away, that's fine. Just be honest and say I'm now getting more money from DC. That's why Halo Jones and Big Numbers were a shame because he genuinely appeared to want to finish them.

I didn't have those early Daredevils either and so the reprints were a welcome chance to read them. I recall they were already going for at least a fiver an issue by then. Also, there would have still been readers outside of the main cities and towns who wouldn't have access to US monthly issues.

DW

Anonymous said...

Ah, ok, Star Wars was a weekly again. Thanks Matthew.

Don't know about Daredevils ever being aimed at kids though. I'd agree that Warrior wasn't an ideal model from a business point of view, but I do think it pointed toward an audience that was out there, and Daredevils does seem like it was intended as the latest Marvel UK attempt to reach it. The first issue featured Alan Moore's article about Frank Miller's work, and fanzine reviews, which would be odd for a kiddie comic (as would the cost).

The Marvel UK monthlies were always aimed at a notional 'older reader', the higher cover price making a smaller circulation viable. That got a bit confused around the time the monthlies were proliferating - when it briefly seemed to become regular practice to change the frequency of weeklies to avoid cancellation - but it was the original point of them, starting with SSOC #1.

-sean

Anonymous said...

DW, I think its quite possible for someone to walk away from an employer because other work has made it economically possible, AND to have specific reasons why they might want to do that.

Freelancers often continue to work in situations they don't like because... well, they don't have much choice, or think they don't. Jack Kirby in the late 60s being an obvious example - just because he got a better offer from DC it doesn't follow that his differences with Marvel weren't a reason for the move.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Sean

I agree with all of that. If I appear to be critical of Moore its only in the way the whole Captain Britain/Miracleman thing played out with David not being treated very well.

The thing with comics, to quote Les McQueen (from Creme Brûlée), is that its a shit business ;-)

DW

Anonymous said...

Davis

!@#$ spellcheck

DW

Colin Jones said...

Charlie, when the Berlin Wall came down East and West Germany wanted to re-unite but Maggie Thatcher was horrified at the prospect and reacted as if Germany was intending to invade Poland and start World War III. She even wanted to revive the old Entente Cordiale between Britain and France from before the First World War. Needless to say the daft old bat made a complete fool of herself and showed how clueless she was about modern Europe. Right-wingers like Thatcher would have preferred the Berlin Wall to stay up, whatever they claimed otherwise, as the Soviet Union provided a convenient bogeyman to frighten the masses with - and they've been searching for a replacement bogeyman ever since such as Islam, the European Union, immigrants and China.

Steve W. said...

I don't know if people are aware but it would appear that Mike of Mike's Amazing World of Comics has passed away.

Anonymous said...

Oh no.

R.I.P., Mike

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Damn. Mike really provided one of the few sites that provided actual data regarding comics. In theory his creation should be of service “forever” to folks like us?

Colin Jones said...

That's sad news but it seems the site will continue.

Anonymous said...

Sad news. That is an excellent site.

DW

McSCOTTY said...

Aww that is awful sad news Steve, I never knew the guy but I felt like I did as I was always on his brilliant website. I just noted a link to it last night on my blog as well (to his Henry Boltinoff gallery).