From June 1982, the MARVEL USA Launch Ad for G.I.JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO. I doubt anyone, at this point, anticipated they were about to unleash a blockbuster….
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
More NIGHT RAVEN! A MARVEL UK House Ad, published in the American comics, promoting the second edition of the HOUSE OF CARDS Graphic Novel. This appeared in titles dated February 1993.
A MARVEL UK House Ad from 1993, announcing the imminent launch of the new, quarterly, FRONTIER COMICS UNLIMITED, an anthology spin-off from M-UK's Frontier Comics imprint.
FC aimed to be something more akin to DC's Vertigo line: more edgy output that may, or may not, feature established Marvel characters.
The line, edited by Michael Bennent, was made up of the Conan-alike BLOODSEED (announced as a four-issue limited series, of which two appeared, with a further two issues scheduled for 1994. They never appeared), IMMORTALIS, DANCES WITH DEMONS and CHILDREN OF THE VOYAGER. All of the above were four-issue series.
Not mentioned here are two original strips, Evil Eye and The Fallen which, presumably, were slated as possible contenders for their own FC books or, at the very least, return engagements in the quarterly.
Unfortunately, the Frontier Comics line was one of the first things to be jettisoned when the GENESIS EXPLOSION started to turn swiftly into an IMPLOSION. Fortunately, with the exception of Paul Neary's own Bloodseed, the existing series were all wrapped-up (not a privilege given to many of the M-UK books as the situation swiftly deteriorated) but the line was shuttered and all future projects abandoned. The first issue of Unlimited was hastily rebadged FRONTIER COMICS SPECIAL (they forgot to change the small print) and issued as a one-shot.
Monday, 29 September 2014
ALIEN NATION: THE SKIN TRADE (cover-dated between March and June 1991) was the third of Adventure Comic's ALIEN NATION limited series, based on the 1988 movie and the 1989-90 TV series.
Published in black & white, it borrowed the premise (a ship of alien slaves crashes in the desert outside Los Angeles and, upon release, the 'Newcomers' must integrate into a society they find equally alien) from the screen incarnations but none of the characters, giving the creative teams free reign to explore new ideas without (necessarily) having to frame them in a police procedural plot device.
The first four-parter was THE SPARTANS followed by A BREED APART (neither of which I have to hand to scan).
NIGHT RAVEN: THE COLLECTED STORIES, another early 1990s (1990 to be precise) outing for the MARVEL UK character, reprinted (as the name suggests) the strips from 1979's HULK COMIC (and reprinted in 1985's CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly) in one A4 graphic novel behind a new David Lloyd front page.
Oddly for a noir character, M-UK decided to colour the strips for this book. Whether this was to create some value-added appeal to readers or make it more desirable to the book trade is unclear. However, the end results are rather nice and sympathetic to the original art.
Unfortunately, it doesn't also collect the myriad of prose stories (some by Alan Moore) that weaved through the UK monthlies (somehow managing to dodge cancellation each time until landing in THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN) throughout the early eighties.
The "lost" issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE: When Ben Grim met the Space Knight.
This, the penultimate issue of the run, was published in early 1983 (the May cover-date being, of course, several months ahead of the on-sale date) and is, today a mainstay of the 50p boxes. If you see a copy: grab it.
It's clearly not demanding high dealer prices (ahem), or generating lots of reader demand, but it is the only issue of T-I-O that hasn't (and won't be, for the foreseeable future, anyway) reprinted. The final ESSENTIAL TWO-IN-ONE volume simply skips the issue.
That's because Rom is trapped in a limbo that means that Marvel had long since lost the rights to the character despite firmly implanting him inside the Marvel Universe for the duration of the license (75 issues and 3 annuals). That sales-boosting integration has also been preventing anyone else from acquiring the reprint rights: they'd also have to negotiate with Marvel to use all the MCU characters that pop up throughout the run.
This was reprinted in issues 15-16 of THE THING IS BIG BEN, making it Rom's last in-continuity UK appearance. His SECRET WARS II crossover episode was omitted from the British run, possibly because Marvel had already handed back the license.
Friday, 26 September 2014
A MARVEL UK House Ad (from THOR issue 13, 13 July 1983) touting the free Thing pin-badge freebie cover-mounted to that week's SPIDER-MAN weekly.
The badge made a triumphant comeback as the free gift affixed to the 10th issue of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL the following year.
Soft, cuddly and full of love: the MARVEL UK House Ad trumpeting the launch of the CARE BEARS comic, part of a multi-media merchandising and media tsunami to shift the cuddly toys.
The weekly launched in October 1985 and was something of a pre-school blockbuster for the Annex of Ideas, clocking-up an impressive 147 issue run (plus annuals and specials). In comparison, THE GET ALONG GANG (which established the formula for this sort of offering) fell out after 93 weeks and ACORN GREEN (which lacked animated support) mustered only 36 issues.
Although not of much interest to collectors of M-UK fare, this is significant because it shows why the company so decisively turned its back on its own characters in favour of licensed properties throughout the second half of the eighties.
The flexi-disc (quaint technology from the past) was rarity for the British Bullpen. The monthly incarnation of WORZEL GUMMIDGE had featured one in 1981 and M-UK repeated the trick with the launch issue of ACORN GREEN the following year.
The strips were a mixture of reprints from the US Star Comics book and newly commissioned material from the folks at Redan Place.
The back-up strip was (initially) Strawberry Shortcake. The CB animated series was part of the roster of toy-based cartoons served up by TV-am.
One book: two editions: MARVEL UK issued two different versions of the original NIGHT RAVEN graphic novel HOUSE OF CARDS only a year-or-so apart.
The 1991 first print was an A4 sized affair. The second, published as part of the GENESIS 92 wave of material pitched specifically at the US market (although it wasn't part of the G92 sub-universe of characters), was a US-sized 'bookshelf' (aka "the Dark Knight format" for old 'uns) squarebound edition.
In my experience, it's actually the 1992 version that is the harder to find today. I've only ever seen one copy… and this is it!
Whichever the version, it's well worth seeking out.
The character, of course, made his debut in 1979's launch issue of HULK COMIC. Although the strip (latterly reprinted in 1985's CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly and again, this time in colour, in a graphic novel compilation) couldn't escape Hulk's diminishing origination budget, the character did continue to appear in as series of prose adventures which ran across the M-UK monthlies (skipping from title to title as each was, in turn, canned) and included contributions from Alan Moore.
Thursday, 25 September 2014
The end of another chunk of MARVEL UK history: the hefty (84 pages!) finale of THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN.
Cover-dated July 1985, a ninety-three issue run seems remarkable longevity. Even more so considering that the first volume of Savage Sword, published weekly, had been the British Bullpen's first significant failure: canned after a mere eighteen issues a decade earlier.
The only M-UK monthly to surpass this run was, of course, DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE which celebrated its 100th the same year… but that had the advantage of a 43 issue head start as a weekly. STARBURST MAGAZINE also soared way past the centenary mark… but only after M-UK had passed it onto Visual Imagination.
At his peak, circa early 1981, the Barbarian was appearing simultaneous in three titles: this monthly, the Pocket Book (also monthly) and in VALOUR/ FUTURE TENSE AND VALOUR.
Conan's fortunes were no doubt boosted by the two early eighties Arnie outings (the adaptation of the second, CONAN THE DESTROYER, had graced the pages of the magazine from issue 85 onwards) which, in turn, had spawned a flurry of (not always terribly good) cinematic imitators. Ironically, SS was cancelled just as Conan's co-star Red Sonja was also making her (underwhelming) screen debut.
Savage Sword had, for the most part, been left to do its own thing throughout the lifespan of the title. The only significant (and arguably ill-advised) intervention from the rest of the M-UK line being the merger of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL spanning issues 85-90. Did this uncomfortable combination extend the life of Savage Sword by another few months… or hasten its demise as traditional readers turned away from the unwelcome infusion of the mainstream Marvel Universe?
Conan had nowhere to merge (a sign of the times) but this didn't end his British run entirely. After a five year hiatus he returned as part of the line-up of the short-lived anti-heroes weekly HAVOC and then vanished again until the even-more-short-lived CONAN THE ADVENTURER.
The (uncredited) wraparound cover from another late Seventies unofficial STAR WARS tie-in: FANTASY FILM JOURNAL from late 1977.
The issue is heavily devoted to John Dykstra and the work of the movie's effects team.
I don't know anything about this magazine (other than it was published in the Staes) so I have no idea whether it spawned any further issues… and whether, as its title suggests, it expanded its remit to a wider range of Star Age activity.
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
This is DC Comics' (of course) adaptation of CANNON FILM's low-flying entry into the SUPERMAN movie franchise: the much lambasted (I saw it in the cinema in 1987… I believe it was deemed more acceptable than whichever JAWS sequel was playing on another screen at the same time… and it was pretty bad) SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, the last outing in the original sequence of films.
Somewhat unbelievably, DC had only started doing adaptations of these movies with the third outing (they also covered-off dodgy spin-off SUPERGIRL) because the corporate mandarins believed that having the movie version of Supes AND the regular comic book incarnation appearing on news stands at the same time would confuse the punters. Go figure.
The end of another MARVEL UK era: THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN issue 84 (October 1984) announces the impending merger of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL.
Although MWOM's second volume only clocked-up seventeen issues, it's line could be tracked (with a couple of brief hiatuses along the way) all the way back to the launch of the original MWOM, the British Bullpen's first title, in 1972.
The Marvel Revolution transformed MWOM weekly into the new MARVEL COMIC in January 1979 (February's copies were lost in a distribution strike which forced Marvel to briefly shut up shop) only to see another relaunch, as the monthly MARVEL SUPERHEROES, that summer.
MARVEL SUPERHEROES clocked-up 397 issues (retaining the original numbering dating back to 1972) before expiring in May 1983, giving way for the revived MWOM.
Folding MWOM into SAVAGE SWORD wasn't an obvious combination (indeed, it seems to have been design to annoy readers of both) but it's a sign of how few options Marvel had left. For the first time since the launch of RAMPAGE's second volume, Marvel UK had no monthly superhero book.
The British Bullpen had at least been canny enough to cue up a fantasy strip (a reprint of the X-Men spin-off MAGIK, another four-issue limited series) in MWOM's final outing rather than try and shoehorn in a pure tights-and-flights story.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the combination, Conan's own time was coming to an end and Savage Sword itself shuttered with a hefty extra-length 93rd issue within a year.
Savage Sword 85 was also the first issue of the Conan monthly to boast colour interior pages.
Marvel UK also issued the CONAN THE DESTROYER movie adaptation as an annual.
NOCTURNE is another Mighty MARVEL UK obscurity: a last survivor from the British Bullpen's ambitions to be an originator of mainstream (albeit with a British twist) superhero adventure comics (which, for the most part, went up in smoke during the late 1993/ early 1994 Genesis Implosion.
Dated June 1995, this was put together by a British team overseen by Paul Neary (he served a similar duty on THE CLANDESTINE) but published as part of the US line. Apparently with minimum hype as this passed me by entirely at the time despite running for four issues.
I stumbled across this first issue (sadly not the remaining three) in a dealer's dump bin at the weekend… and the name rang a bell.
The M-UK connection (other than the creative team) here is that NIGHT RAVEN is featured, albeit in flashbacks as a fictional character… who may not (you can see where this is - probably - going) have been as fictional as everyone assumed.
I really enjoyed this first issue. Dan Abnett's plotting doesn't feel very original but it is highly enjoyable and I hope I get a chance to read the remaining chapters soon. More disappointing is Nocturne's costume design: it looks like a pimped-up Phantom and is far from memorable.
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
This is a (slightly defaced) copy of MARVEL UK's SUPERHERO FUN AND GAMES WINTER SPECIAL from 1979.
The formula, which led to a similar monthly series, was a puzzle-book-for-kids with (as the cover boasts) Marvel-themed variations of all the old standbys.
Presumably because they were designed to be used, and held less interest to connoisseurs of comic strips, this (and the regular series) are harder to track down than their contemporaries.
This full-page of MARVEL UK House Ads appeared in the 84th issue (the last with all black-and-white interiors trivia fans) of THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN monthly from October 1984.
The top one previews the about-to-launch (it was slightly delayed, actually going on sale in December/ January) CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly, a return to his own title after half-a-decade bumming around assorted (always about to close) M-UK monthlies. What's interesting here is that they still hadn't quite nailed the line-up: Jeff Hawke (presumably reprints) never did appear. Incidentally, a fanzine article from this period revealed that Alpha Flight was part of the in-house dummies, a strip that eventually went into MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS instead.
The other half-pager is promoting what was actually the final issue of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL's second run (finally ending a run that, despite various name and frequency changes, could be traced back to the launch of M-UK back in 1972) and the beginning of a reprint run of the X-Men related Magik four-parter. Another full-page add elsewhere in the same issue announced that, as of the following month, it would be continuing in the pages of Conan itself (a merger every bit as bonkers as when the original Savage Sword was folded into THE AVENGERS in the seventies).
The final issue of MWOM itself was distinctly lacklustre and apparently only allowed out the door to prime readers for the upcoming merger. The page count was dropped and the interior colour abandoned altogether. Needless to say, the changes extracted no downward pressure on the cover price.
This came as a pleasent surprise at the weekend… whilst rummaging through a box of assorted Dealer Dross I found this genuine obscurity from the MARVEL UK vaults: an A4 softcover album format (by Proost) edition of the seventies (copyright 1976 according to the small print… the only date I could find anywhere herein which makes dating it difficult, although the publication address is Arundel House) adaptation of the original WAR OF THE WORLDS (by Wells, of course).
There's no credits anywhere (even on the strip itself - which looks gorgeous - which I'm not sure is true of the original or whether they've been deliberately removed from this edition. A quick Google search reveals it to be Claremont, Kane and Cockrum) including this stunning cover which looks like a recreation of the original art used on MARVEL CLASSIC COMICS 14, where the material first appeared.
The back cover simply reproduces the covers of the four books in the series. There are no supplementary notes, text pages or editorial inside.
I would imagine these were published through the MARVEL BOOKS operation and intended for sale in book departments and stores rather than newsagents. I've never seen copies of any before which, I imagine, makes them amongst the rarer M-UK fare.
And it cost me a £1. Hurrah.
Monday, 22 September 2014
The MARVEL UK/ Grandreams BLADE RUNNER movie adaptation annual from 1982, which reprinted the US MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL. The work was by Archie Goodwin with fantastic art by Al Williamson.
The same strip was also serialised, but with inferior printing, in copies of RETURN OF THE JEDI weekly (where it replaced, appropriately, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES).
I just Googled this on Amazon.co.uk to confirm the year of publication (there's no copyright date inside) and the two Marketplace dealers selling copies are listing them for a boggling £2,449.49 and £2,449.50 respectively. Good luck with that. I found this copy, at the bottom of a £1 "tat" box at a recent London Film and Comic event. Based on their ridiculous take-a-punt valuation, this is probably the most valuable MARVEL UK publication ever!
The ALIEN NATION TELEVISION SPECIAL was an Adventure Comics/ Malibu Comics black-and-white bookshelf-format (card covers!) one-shot from 1982 that adapted the unshot resolution to AN's solitary season on the small screen.
The episode, Soul Train, had been written to open the second TV years and wrap-up the numerous dangling plot lines and associated jeopardy from the season one wrap-up. Unfortunately for Kenneth ("V") Johnson and the show's team, FOX decided to forsake one-hour drama shows in favour of comedy and factual and AN was dumped.
Years later, FOX revisited the would-be franchise with a series of five new TV movies which reunited the cast and behind-the-scenes creative team. Elements from this script were worked into those movies.
Thursday, 18 September 2014
Science Fiction was still the hot property in the playground during 1980 and 1981 (fuelled by the release of ESB, MISSION GALACTICA and the belated TV debuts of Battlestar and Buck Rogers), so it's slightly odd that the British Bullpen were so convinced that kids really wanted to read about cowboys.
MARVEL UK even announced a monthly WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS title in 1981… although it never actually launched and the project was quietly dropped.
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
This special issue of 1980s fan magazine AMAZING HEROES (issue 137, 15 March 1988) was devoted to the many facets of FLASH GORDON, including the new DC Comics interpretation (which I posted about here many moons (of Mongo) ago).
MARVEL UK'S Winter (or "Christmas" herein) 1984 SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL, published in the album format (square-bound with card covers and colour interiors, albeit not particularly well presented) reprinted the 46th issue of the US WHAT IF book.
This launch add for the DEATH'S HEAD II limited series, the title that kick-started (in all but name) the GENESIS 1992 line from MARVEL UK, was one of a series of one-page House Ads for the "Big Guns" promotion (a marketing push for edgier/ violent fare such as Cage, Silver Sable, the Punisher and Deathlok).
The campaign obviously worked as the initial DHII series was a massive seller (M-UK went back to print with a silver ink second edition) and kick-started the whole G92 project (none of the characters appear in this series but the back pages contained various House Ads and previews teasing the first wave of titles).
This ad appeared across the US line, this particular one is from (of all places) the one-shot CAPTAIN AMERICA movie adaptation.
This is a 1997 article on MARVEL's roster of STAR TREK titles that appeared in their in-house "fan magazine" MARVEL VISION (issue 20, August 1997).
This was, of course, Marvel's second crack at the franchise following their ill-fated 1980-82 run which dropped out of warp speed after only eighteen issues.
MARVEL VISION was the successor to the long-running (over a decade!) MARVEL AGE MAGAZINE which itself, after a hiatus, replaced FOOM magazine (albeit with much wider distribution).