Tuesday, 30 July 2013

1981: SPIDER-MAN'S PLAYTIME FUN-BOOK WINTER SPECIAL (Marvel UK)

This is a mighty Marvel UK obscurity pitched at a younger audience: SPIDER-MAN'S PLAYTIME FUN-BOOK WINTER SPECIAL, published in 1981.

It combines puzzle pages (presumably from the American book... the name of which briefly escapes me) with reprints from SPIDEY SUPER STORIES.  As such, it could be seen as being a prototype for the later incarnations of SPIDER-MAN'S own weekly (see posts previous) in 1985.

The "Amazing Friends" reference is interesting: the TV show debuted on NBC in the autumn of 1981... but didn't reach British screens, courtesy of the BBC, for another two years.


8 comments:

  1. I 've noticed that Tesco sells "kiddie" versions of Marvel comics, I assume these are Panini ? In the comments about Spidey Comic you said the age of comics readers was dropping in the '80s which is curious as these days the average age of Marvel readers is supposed to be much higher than the target age was in the '60s/ '70s. I stopped reading comics in 1983 but when I finally returned in 2007 ( in a more limited way ) I thought they had a more adult feel so now , aged 47, I never feel like I'm reading something " for kids ". By contrast the Marvel movies feel a bit dumbed down and simplistic.

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    1. Oh, I think smarter people than me have written whole books on this subject.

      I think there is a big difference between the US and UK market... and that's informing the sorts of Marvel Comics you are reading today.

      In the states, comics - by the early 1980s - were being marginalised at the traditional points of retail because they were low-margin items. And it didn't help that onerous distribution deals didn't actually encourage local distributors to even get the comics to the stores. Specialist comic book store - to a certain extent preaching to the converted - seemed to be the solution and publishers shifted more and more emphasis to these outlets and abandoned the "news stand".

      Without the next generation of kids discovering comic books in their local store, this had the effect over time of pushing the average of readers higher. Marvel -and others - did have the occasional stab at bringing in younger readers (notably the Star Comics line which - in turn - populated much of the Marvel UK output in the eighties) but these generally failed. Hence: comics grew-up with their readers.

      In the UK, the traditional comics that i blog about became - to coin a phrase - the squeezed middle. Younger kids did still read comics - a market that Marvel UK successfully chased - but older kids didn't. In the early 1990s, with the weekly comic market all-but-over (the casualty list throughout the second-half of the eighties is bleak), publishers suddenly decided to target older readers in the hope that they would return to comics (and be willing to spend more doing it) hence the sudden rash of"mature readers" British comics (deep breath now... CRISIS, REVOLVER, STRIP, JUDGE DREDD THE MEGAZINE, TOXIC, THE PUNISHER, OVERKILL (sort of), BLAST, CLIVE BARKER'S HELLBREED and - of course - the various VIZ wannabes) which - with one exception - didn't last long.

      I'd say it's only from 1995/6 that the market began to stabilise with the first of the Marvel UK/ Panini COLLECTORS' EDITION books. Their ongoing success is very impressive: the most continuously successful Marvel offering in the UK ever. They, obviously, repackage material produced in the States for that older audience. I have no idea how well they sell here but the amount of titles - and the shelf space that WH Smith devotes to them - suggests they are doing something VERY right.

      I've not kept tabs on them but those "Young Marvel" comics are - as far as I know - published by Panini under license and reflect the fact that marvel characters are now a global brand. In addition to the films, there are also various animated TV show adaptations. As an aside, a few years ago Marvel (or Disney) decreed that overseas licensees like Panini could no longer produce their own strips based on Marvel's characters and had to only repackage material syndicated from a single source. Presumably for revenue and approval reasons.

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    2. Oh... and also from the nineties adult boom: DC ACTION, ZONES and SHOCKWAVE (all published under license by London Editions).

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    3. Thanks for that very thorough explanation ! I've thought the same thing about the ongoing success of the Panini UK line - in fact it was seeing them regularly on sale in WH Smith's that persuaded me , in 2007, to buy one out of curiosity and nostalgia ( that and the coverage of the Marvel movies in SFX magazine ). But U.S. marvels can only be obtained from Forbidden Planet which is well out of my way and so is not done very often. There is/was(?) a recent comic/magazine called CLINT which I tried and was astonished at the violence in strips like Kick Ass, that's way too extreme for my taste.

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    4. Colin,

      A pointer for your possible US comics needs in light of your Forbidden Planet lament - try eBay. There are a number of sellers there who specialise in pre-release orders (e.g. next month's Spider-Man, etc.) and keep the price, including postage, very competitive.

      The downside is you can't flick through the titles beforehand, of course.

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  2. Thanks for that but as yet I've never bought anything online as I don't feel safe doing it - I know everybody else does though and maybe I will one day !

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  3. With a paypal account and distance seller regulations, you should be safe buying from eBay. Both paypal and eBay are exceptionally good if a buyer is dissatisfied with a purchase, and most eBay sellers are very amenable before it gets to the complaint stage, especially the kind that sell new comics (rather than back copies).

    I used to be just the same as you with regards online purchasing but so long as you use a little common sense you'll be fine.

    Alternatively, try somewhere like Ace Comics which has an online presence but has been dealing in mail order for 20 years or so. I have friends who've patronised Ace for over a decade with no complaint.

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