Friday, 3 May 2013


I stumbled across this THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL (issue 317, 25 October 1978) letters page a while ago and I was struck not only by the honesty of both the letter and Editor Nick Laing's response but also how such an exchange (both the length and the content) would never have happened at Marvel UK (or anywhere else) in later years: a whole page of dense type dedicated to one letter and one reply.

It's worth noting that Laing was about to part company with the Bullpen.  Whilst he was labouring away in Sevenoaks, Dez Skinn (officially a 'consultant' hired by Stan and the New York management to review Marvel UK's performance) was ensconced in London quietly setting-up a rival British Bullpen to take full responsibility for the British line and begin the "Marvel Revolution".

Did Laing know his fate was already sealed when he ran this piece?


  1. I remember reading this letter a couple of years ago, when I was re-reading some MarvelUK back-issues and wondering what Steve Haswell thought of Dez Skinner's Marvel revolution where many of Steve's dislikes came true. He may have enjoyed the monthlies but what of the weekly phase. What would he say to edited down stories and six, seven or eight stories in a weekly comic? I never found out, did you?

  2. Yes, aren't the letter pages from that era amazing in their openness and the amount of behind the scenes info buried in there. I've recently read leafed through the majority of them, and the Bullpen pages, just to see if there was anything therein that now fitted with everything I've know uncovered with regards to the early years of the company for my book From Cents to Pence - edited by a certain D. Skinn ;)

    Although I admit it makes good copy in connection with the notion of the 'Marvel Revolution', but it's not true to say that Dez was plotting away in a darkened room and 'quietly setting up a rival Bullpen', as that's not how it happened at all.

    Yes, Dez was hired to deliver a report to see if the UK wing could be saved in the face of falling sales across the industry - re-writing it several times to make it sound less harsh - but it was Stan, so impressed with what he'd read and the ideas suggested, who persuaded Dez that actually, he should really implement his own report, which happened during one of his regular visits to the UK :)

    Having spoken to studio manager Alan Murray at length, its clear that everyone was well aware that changes were afoot, so it wouldn't have been a shock to Nick Laing, or anyone else when thiose changes happened, especially as Dez had already made recces to both the Sevenoaks office and the NY British Bullpen to see how things were then being organised.

    But the whole story of how there came to be a UK Bullpen, and specially created weekly comics, is far more nuanced than many have previously believed, and is tied up with many important changes in the US comic marketplace during the late 1960s. Despite past speculation, the venture was extremely lucrative to begin with, and was also definitely driven by Stan, encouraged by Al Landau (then the boss of Transworld Feature Syndicate, who sold Marvel's strips around the world and could see opportunities in publishing directly in the UK), and led to Sol Brodsky's return to Marvel and the involvement of Ray Wergan, head of the Transworld UK Ltd., who was given responsibility for overseeing British Marvel up to 1978 when Dez took over.

    Ray Wergan has never been interviewed before, and his input has been invaluable in the uncovering of how the whole operation was set-up, and has provided a huge amount of detail about the business side of the operation was run, alongside the (I believe also previously un-interviewed) Alan Murray, whose input on the staff and Bullpen side of the operation had proven equally invaluable.

    From Cents to Pence tracks the story of Marvel from the first licensed post-war reprints by Thorpe and Porter et al through to TV21, and follows their own comics through the 'British Marvel' era, the 'Marvel UK' era and on through the Panini years to present day, including substantial contributions from many writers, artists and former editors on both sides of the 'big pond'.

    I have the latter chapters left to re-read and update now, so the plan now is start preparing the book for production next year. In addition to the history, the book will also contain indices to every comic, Annual and Special published since 1972, their free gifts and posters, as well as almost everything printed in the UK and originated, it'll probably clock in around 500 pages or so! Advert ends ;)

    Back Issue #63 ran a preview feature back in March this year, if anyone wants to learn a tiny bit more, and I occassionally add a few tidbits on my own multi-projects blog (as I run an Ultravox etc. music magazine called re:VOX too):


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