Regular reader Colin Jones (Hi Colin... and thanks!) tipped me off yesterday that it was 40 years ago this very week that MARVEL UK launched these two iconic new weeklies: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES.
Not only are these both stonking reads but they were also landmark issues for the Annex of Ideas:
- These were the fourth and fifth (following THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL, SPIDER-MAN and THE AVENGERS) weeklies launched in the UK.
- They were the first of the British weeklies to feature contemporary, made-the-same-decade, strips as the main attraction. THE AVENGERS weekly had already, riding the martial arts craze, included Masters of Kung Fu and and Iron Fist. The tight turnaround between the two sides of the operation created scheduling problems later (hello Apeslayer!).
- Both of them were a departure from Marvel's usual super-powered stable. Marvel UK's next experiment, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, in March 1975, didn't fare so well.
- POTA was the first time that Marvel had adapted a screen property. The POTA TV show (which mustered more enthusiasm in the UK and other international markets than it did on CBS in the States) premiered around the same time and, although Marvel didn't have the strip rights, they could benefit from the free marketing.
- Horror was also something new for the Annex of Ideas. The black & white format, and larger pages, actually benefited the strips and gave them a Hammer noir atmosphere. Surprisingly, the contents didn't seem to ever generate any negative publicity in the British press. Something that, maybe, IPC's nervous management should have noted when they got cold feet over SCREAM a decade later.
- This was the first time that British Marvel had launched two new titles simultaneously and, as such, marked a significant expansion for the small operation.
- For the record, DRACULA LIVES clocked up a run of 87 issues before merging with its stable (coffin?) mate. POTA eventually ran for 123 issues before folding into THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL (allowing Marvel to burn-off the last of the licensed strips).
- DRACULA LIVES, without benefit of a merger, became DRACULA LIVES FEATURING THE LEGION OF MONSTERS from issue 60 with, MWOM style, the interlopers given prominent billing on the masthead.
This is also an appropriate place to mention that Titan Books have a new hardback overview of the whole saga in shops now (not to be confused with their excellent art book devoted to the two recent revivals). I've not had a chance to study the text in detail (so much scanning... so little time) but it looks a highly agreeable addition to anyone's bookshelves and, probably, the most significant new tome on the saga (except for the excellent SIMEON SCROLLS fanzine and the two Hasslein volumes) since the 2001 book boom.