The new THOR movie is about to open in cinemas (the first was surprising good) so I thought, to mark the occasion, I'd start a COVER GALLERY devoted to THE MIGHTY THOR, the Thunder God's short-lived British weekly.
Thor had already been knocking around the Marvel UK line for a decade (and was a fixture of the sixties Power Comics line before that), dating back to the launch of SPIDER-MAN's weekly in early 1973, but this was the first (and, I think, only) time he - ahem - flew solo in an ongoing series.
The weekly only lasted 19 issues (and another 20 as the combined THOR AND THE X-MEN... but, in the words of Kevin Arnold, we'll get to that) which makes it little more than another minor title in the succession of short-lived reprint titles hatched, matched and dispatched by the Annex of Ideas.
Except... it earns a place in Marvel UK's history for being the first all colour weekly. The earliest issues of CAPTAIN BRITAIN had dabbled with some interior colour pages back in 1976/77 before abandoning the idea when sales were less than spectacular and the anticipated US reprints (which would have need to have been coloured anyway) failed to materialise in any meaningful way. But this new generation of British comic (which left IPC and DC Thompson's newsprint weeklies looking rather old fashioned) combined glossy covers with colour interiors. It should have been a revolution...
If it had worked.
The first issue looks pretty good. The dated early seventies Lee/ Kirby strips weren't the best choice to hook in eighties kids (and, yes, they'd already done the Marvel UK rounds at least once before) but at least (apart from the back page, see below) they were presented well (and maybe long-time older fans would have welcomed the chance to see vintage strips in colour).
And then the second issue hit newsagents. What a mess. The bulk of the colour plates were out-of-register (Marvel couldn't colour within the lines!) and pages were also often creased. The same problems - which lasted for weeks - also cursed the earliest issues of THE X-MEN (the second colour weekly) and the revived THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL (monthly). The "great Marvel colour" masthead looked pretty stupid.
These early teething problems must have really affected sales and almost certainly contributed to the demise of both titles. The problem was only really sorted when Marvel drastically reduced the number of colour interior pages for "economic reasons" after a few months.
Cynically, I suspect all three new launches were intended to test the technology, economics and reader reaction to colour printing before rolling-out the format change to established titles such as SPIDER-MAN (which switched in the summer) and STAR WARS (timed to coincide with the relaunch as RETURN OF THE JEDI weekly).
Issue 1 Editorial.
Issue 1 - Back page
Note the poor colouring
Issue 2 Cover
Sample interior page
- To Be Continued -