Sunday 8 March 2015


Between 1972 and 1996, MARVEL UK (aka The Annex of Ideas) published well over 150 ongoing comic and magazine titles as well as (probably) an equal number of specials, annuals and books (under the Marvel Books imprint launched in the late 1980s). 

For the last few years STARLOGGED has been trying to untangle the history of the British Bullpen and now, at last, here is a done-in-one, almost complete guide to ever regular title they published. Omitted are the annuals and many of the specials (it gets very hard, after the mid-eighties, to pull together an acute guide) but, nevertheless, this still represents probably the most comprehensive guides currently published in print or online. 

Corrections and updates gratefully received. 

THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL was the first official British Marvel comic.  Launched in October 1972, the weekly initially reprinted Hulk, Spider-man and the Fantastic Four.  The long-running Hulk was trumpeted as “Marvel’s TV sensation” from August 1978.  The mergers were: The Avengers and Conan (199, 21 July 1976); Planet of the Apes (231, 2 March 1977); Dracula Lives (247, 22 June 1977); Fury (258, 1 September 1977) and The Complete Fantastic Four (298, 14 June 1978).  

Although the bulk of the production work was handled by the New York office, the (small) British Bullpen was officially housed in London's High Holborn.  

Spider-man moved out of MWOM and into his own weekly (SPIDER-MAN COMICS WEEKLY for the first 157 issues) early in the following year.  Thor was the first (of many) back-up strip, joined by Iron Man from 50 onwards.  It ultimately ran for 666 issues through to the middle of the following decade.

THE AVENGERS was Marvel UK’s third launch, and the first to appear in the soon-to-be-standard 36-page/ glossy cover format.  It became well known for its not quite compatible back-ups including Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Masters of Kung Fu and Conan.  

Marvel New York launched the ongoing MARVEL TREASURY EDITION publishing programme in 1974 and copies of the tabloid-sized specials were imported, beginning with The Spectacular Spider-man (and followed by the Hulk, Conan, Doctor Strange, Howard the Duck, Seasonal specials and others), with the US price switched for the British equivilant (initially 40p for 100 colour pages) and heavily plugged in the UK weeklies.

Another highlight was the two late 1977 STAR WARS volumes, splitting the movie adaptation down the middle, that reached the UK months before the London Christmas premiere of the film itself. 


PLANET OF THE APES weekly, launched in October 1974, coincided with the UK TX of the live-action TV show.  The strips and features came from the US magazine.  Mismatched back-up strips included Ka-zar, Conan, Black Panther and – post-merger – Dracula and Man-Thing.  The infamous Ape Slayer (reworked Killraven pages) was the unique solution to a deadline crunch.  POTA ran for 123 and then continued, for a few months, in MWOM.  
DRACULA LIVES, reprinting Tomb of Dracula and other Seventies scare-fare, also launched in October 1974.  The cult favorite notched-up 87 issues before (improbably) merging with POTA (although Man-Thing was the post-merger strip to survive).  Dracula returned, following the end of POTA, in the pages of MWOM.  

THE SUPER-HEROES weekly, launched in March 1975, reprinted the Silver Surfer and the X-Men.  Latter line-up changes included Doc Savage (pegged to the movie release), Giant Man, The Cat, the Scarecrow, Marvel Two-in-One and Bloodstone.  Its demise, after fifty issues, triggered Spider-man’s switch to the Titans format to accommodate the merger.

THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN was Marvel UK’s first out-and-out flop.  The weekly reprints from the colour monthly ended after only eighteen issues, although they enjoyed a long subsequent run in The Avengers, MWOM and several other weeklies.  The title was revived, with great success, a few years later.

THE TITANS (October 1975) was a bold, but ultimately unsuccessful, experiment by Marvel UK that lasted for fifty-eight issues (and continued in Spider-man’s weekly).  The innovation was to publish landscape for mat that allowed two US pages to be placed side-by-side, doubling the usual contents of a weekly.  The format also demanded new covers, splash pages and posters.  The strips included Inhumans, Captain America, Nick Fury, Sub-Mariner, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider and the Avengers.  The fundamental flaw was that the format devoured Marvel’s inventory at an unprecedented, and unsustainable, rate.  

October 1975 also saw London play host to two significant Marvel UK events: The I.C.A (Institute Contemporary Arts) on the Mall mounted an exhibition of original art between the 18th and the 31st.  Monday 20 October saw Stan Lee in town to host a night at Camden's Roundhouse.  Tickets: 60p each.  

The Spider-man weekly became SUPER SPIDER-MAN WITH THE SUPER-HEROES from issue 158 (21 February 1976), adopting the Titans landscape format to accommodate the additional strip pages.  The masthead continued through to issue 198.  

US copies of the historic SPIDER-MAN/ SUPERMAN crossover were imported from the States (August 1976) and promoted in the weeklies.  

CAPTAIN BRITAIN (launched in October 1976) cemented Marvel’s commitment to the UK: not only creating a brand-new (albeit derivative) character but also (initially) publishing it in colour.  Stan Lee toured the UK as part of the launch campaign.  High costs, low sales and no immediate US home for the new material forced Marvel to drop the colour after twenty-three weeks.  Cancellation came after thirty-nine issues although the new strips continued, for a while, in Spider-man.  Fantastic Four and S.H.I.E.L.D were the back-up strips.  CB was merchandised with a pin badge, puzzles and an annual.   


The end of The Titans led to another name change for Spider-man.  Between issues 199 (1 December 1976) and 230 (the following July) it appeared as SUPER SPIDER-MAN AND THE TITANS.  The landscape format was dropped after issue 228.


Late 1976 saw Marvel UK depart Holborn - and London itself - for a new HQ in Tubs Hill House, Sevenoaks, Kent.  They'd remain there until the beginning of 1979.

FURY, launched in March 1977, was Marvel UK’s blatant me-too war weekly.  Edited by Neil Tennant, it shamelessly aped the Warlord/ Battle formula but the all-reprint interiors were no match for its rivals.  It merged with MWOM after twenty-five issues.  

SUPER SPIDER-MAN AND CAPTAIN BRITAIN began in July 1977 (issue 231 of the ongoing Spider-weekly) and continued through to issue 253 (after which the CB strips were dropped) in December.

THE COMPLETE FANTASTIC FOUR, launched in September 1977, finally saw Marvel’s first family graduate to their own UK weekly.  The cover-to-cover reprints were unsustainable and the title ended after thirty-seven issues, returning the strip to MWOM.  

RAMPAGE weekly, launched in October 1977, was home to the Defenders (including the Hulk) and Nova.  It ran for only thirty-four weeks but immediately bounced back, with greater success, as a monthly.  

Marvel UK’s revival of THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN, this time as a monthly, in November 1977 was an unsung success for the Annex of Ideas.  The second volume, which drew on the US Conan range, eventually ran for 93 issues.  Its longevity (which looked in doubt in 1981 when a merger with Savage Action seemed on the cards) was helped by the two movies and the boom in fantasy fare.  The merger of MWOM (issue 85) must rank as one of the most uncomfortable in M-UK’s history.  

SUPER SPIDER-MAN issue 254 (21 December 1977) was the first issue for several years not to share the masthead with a recently cancelled companion.  The stability continued for fifty-seven issues until the Marvel Revolution of early 1979.  By this point, the price had risen from 5p (1974) to 10p (1979) a copy.  

TALES OF TERROR was one of several black & white monthlies, reprinting material from the US horror magazines, launched in 1978.  Portman Distribution who, apparently, acquired the rights independently of Marvel UK issued them.  Incoming boss Dez Skinn objected to having to compete with Marvel product from a competitor (although he subsequently made no efforts to publish anything similar) and ordered the deal terminated.  Five issues, all featuring The Living Zombie reprinted from Tales of the Zombie, appeared.  

CASTLE OF HORROR, another of the 1978 Portman horror reprints, reprinted material from Haunt of Horror and Vampire Tales.  It ran for five issues.

DEMON was another of Portman’s British reprints form Marvel’s US horror line.

JOURNEY INTO NIGHTMARE was the fourth of the Portman/ Marvel horror magazines.  Like the others, it drew heavily on Monsters Unleashed.  

STAR WARS WEEKLY, launched February 1978, reprinted the US movie tie-in (and occasional extra deadline busters) as well as other SF fare including Tales of the Watcher, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, Star-Lord, Guardians of the Galaxy, Warlock, Captain Marvel, Micronauts, Deathlok and others.  Marvel also published the one-shot magazine STAR WARS OFFICIAL COLLECTORS EDITION

Easter 1978 saw the release of the first of three faux feature films spliced together from episodes of the CBS live-action SPIDER-MAN TV show.  The first was the double-length pilot (complete with ropey effects work) that had aired in the States the previous September.  Two sequels, SPIDER-MAN STRIKES BACK (the TV two-parter The Deadly Dust) and THE DRAGON'S CHALLENGE (the Hong Kong-tastic The Chinese Web which closed out the series) followed in quick succession.  The first was deemed such a success that it was released again at the end of the year.  The movies delayed the British premiere of the show itself until 1981.  They became mainstays of the VHS era but, like the show, haven't gone digital.  

STARBURST MAGAZINE launched in 1978 to coincide with the debut of Star Wars and burgeoning interest in the genre.  Originally published independently by Dez Skinn, it became a Marvel magazine later in the year when he was appointed the new boss of the British Bullpen.  The forth issue (with, appropriately, the TV Hulk on the cover) was the first under the new owners.  Marvel sold it, to Visual Imagination in late 1985.  Issue 87 was the last to be published by the Annex of Ideas.  

RAMPAGE MONTHLY, launched in July 1978, was initially a vehicle for the Hulk strips from the US Rampaging Hulk magazine and capitalized on the success of the TV show.  The supporting features (both from the weekly) were Nova and the Defenders.  The Marvel Revolution of ’79 changed the line-up, making the New X-Men the main attraction (appearing alongside Marvel Two-in-One, Doctor Strange and others).  It ran for fifty-four issues and folded into Marvel Superheroes.  

The MARVEL REVOLUTION of January 1979 saw New York relax control of British Marvel in favor of a new London-based Bullpen, headed by Dez Skinn (initially hired by Stan and his senior team to examine options for the UK operation in light of stubbornly slow sales and an offer by IPC to acquire the whole business just to secure the lucrative Star Wars license).  The overhaul saw the existing weeklies (with the exception of Star Wars Weekly which emerged largely unscathed) retooled, the monthlies reworked and an ambitious expansion plan.  

The changes to the weeklies saw the introduction of the 'Skinn I' format.  The glossy covers (seen as a costly hindrance) were jettisoned in favour of the same paper quality as the interiors (which must have made life easier at the printers).  The page counts were also shaved... but (predictably) the cover price was not.  Marvel was able to do more with less by reworking the US pages to cram more panels on every page, condensing a number of American pages onto one British one.  

The revolution saw the now-expanded British Bullpen return to London, Jadwin House on Kentish Town Road, after their exile in Kent. 

The revolution generated unprecedented attention in the British fan press including cover features in BEM and COMIC MEDIA NEWS. Dez, the Hulk and M-UK (along with Paddington Bear, the Mister Men and Disney's upcoming film The Black Hole) featured in the primetime BBC one documentary THE PERSUADERS: ROLLING WITH THE BANDWAGON, looking at selling to children.  Dez credited his appearance with impressing the mandarins at BBC Enterprises when he pitched for the Doctor Who license days later.  

The Spider-man weekly exited from the Marvel Revolution as the retooled SPIDER-MAN COMIC (from 311) in January 1979.  The new look crammed-in Spidey, Nova, Fantastic Four, The Avengers and the Sub-Mariner.  The title was changed again, a few months later, after issue 333.  The first of many seasonal one-shots appeared in the summer of 1979.  

MARVEL COMIC was the new name for the radically reworked (as an adventure anthology) MWOM, launched in January 1979 (issues 330-352).  Publication was suspended the following month due to a distribution strike.  The new look (without the Hulk) failed to spark and it ended in the summer.  The revised line-up included Godzilla, Daredevil, Dracula and Masters of Kung Fu.  

HULK COMIC (aka The Incredible Hulk), the first new post-revolution launch from Marvel UK, made the most of the opportunities presented by the TV show to justify (initially) an unprecedented amount of originated material (including the Hulk, Black Knight and Night Raven).  Falling sales pushed it to a predominance of reprints.  Launched in March 1979, it merged with Spider-Man after sixty-three issues (May 1980).  

The first issue of HULK COMIC came with a free card (not sticker) album with a starter set of cards.  Based on the format of the Universal TV show (the pilot was adapted with stills, the rest of the album featured new adventures illustrated by uncredited European artists), further packs of cards were sold through newsagents.  How long they (and presumably more copies of the album) remained on sale is now lost in the mists of time.  Marvel didn't make any further efforts to promote either in their titles.   

The British Bullpen published their first four SUMMER SPECIALS, including the one-shot magazine TV HEROES, in the summer of '79.

Spider-man emerged, after the merger with the title that originally spawned it (adding Daredevil and Godzilla), as SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN AND MARVEL COMIC from 334 (1 August 1979).  The cancellation casualty was quietly dropped after 337.

MARVEL SUPERHEROES Monthly (from September 1979) retained (subtly at first) the old MWOM/ MC numbering and was a vehicle for Avengers and original X-Men reprints (their next generation continued to appear in Rampage).  The Champions also became a regular fixture.  The new Captain Britain made his premier in 377 (September 1981).  Savage Action merged with issue 382 (February 1982) followed by Rampage in 393.  Issue 397 (may 1983) was the last, making way for the revived MWOM.  

The 1979 WINTER SPECIALS included STAR HEROES (featuring an adaptation of a Battlestar Galactica screen adventure still a year away from ITV), another outing for FRANTIC and SPIDER-MAN.  

DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY, launched in October 1979 and based on the TV series, was also heavily reliant on new material (eventually reprinted numerous times).  Sluggish sales led to a rethink, aiming at a younger audience, early in 1980.  When that proved a misfire, more radical action was required.  

ITV had already aired it, for free, but Kenneth Johnson's feature-length INCREDIBLE HULK TV pilot was still released as faux feature film in early 1980.  A finite number of prints, and a regional release schedule, meant it took months to do the rounds.

FRANTIC followed the two 1979 try-outs with a monthly series starting in March 1980 (and ending, after eighteen issues, in July 1981) which once again used US reprints to ape the success and formula of Mad Magazine. 

SUPERHERO FUN AND GAMES, another new Marvel UK monthly spawned by a one-shot the previous year, also launched in March 1980.

The (surprisingly swift) end of the Hulk’s own weekly led to another Spidey-centric merger in May 1980.  The first combined issue of SPIDER-MAN AND HULK WEEKLY was 376 (22 May 1980), co-starring Spider Woman and She Hulk.  The new masthead continued through to 417 (March 1981) and another merger.  


FORCES IN COMBAT, launched by Marvel UK in May 1980, was another crack at getting the adventure anthology formula right.  This time the reprints included the UK debut of Rom the Space Knight, Machine Man, Masters of Kung Fu, Sargent Fury, Kull and the Rawhide Kid.  It ran for thirty-seven issues before quietly folding into Future Tense’s thirteenth issue.  Overstocks of the Rom action figure were shipped across the Atlantic and sold as part of Palitoy's Action Man line in the UK.  

FiC and the new weeklies that followed used the 'Skin II' format, a legacy left by Dez.  The time-consuming hassle of trying to cram more panels onto every page was largely abandoned (although the art was still tweaked as required) but the cheap-as-chips print and paper was retained (until late 1981).  FiC did experiment with a couple of interior colour spreads... but they didn't last long.  

Marvel's raft of SUMMER SPECIALS for 1980 included CAPTAIN BRITAIN, the first (of three) WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS (a title errenously announced as a new monthly the following year) and the first (of many) DOCTOR WHO SPECIALS (with the first of numerous reprints of The Iron Legion).  YOUNG ROMANCE raided Marvel's romance files whilst WARRIOR WOMEN was surprisingly adult in tone, including a flash of boob. 

STAR HEROES POCKET BOOK continued, from the Winter Special, the Battlestar Galactica and Micronauts reprints. A rival official strip, created in the UK, also appeared in LOOK-IN (owned by ITV, which aired the series from September 1980) for a year from October 1979. 

SPIDER-MAN POCKET BOOK started as a vehicle for Marvel Team-Up reprints but switched, after a few months, to classic sixties ASM reprints when the MTU strips were diverted to the new weekly.  It ran for twenty-eight issues.

THE FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR marked the return of Marvel’s first family to a solo British book.  It ran for twenty-eight monthly issues.

YOUNG ROMANCE POCKET BOOK, one of the least collected Marvel UK titles of the Star Age, plundered the Bullpen’s extensive archives to try and attract a new readership.  

CHILLER POCKET BOOK saw horror return to the Marvel UK line-up.  The reprints included Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing and other Seventies scare-fare.  It ran for twenty-eight issues.  

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WEEKLY was the new name, coinciding with the sequel, for Star Wars Weekly from 118 (29 April 1980).  

MARVEL TEAM-UP weekly cherry-picked selected self-contained from the US edition along with the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, What-If and others.  This amounted to an all-out Spider assault on UK newsagents that, unsurprisingly, ended with a merger after twenty-five issues.  

CONAN THE BARBARIAN POCKET BOOK went back to the earliest days of the US comic for a thirteen-month run of reprints.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK POCKET BOOK was a thirteen-issue run of vintage sixties strips.

THE TITANS POCKET BOOK borrowed the title, and the eye-straining page sizes, for a thirteen-issue run of old Captain America, Iron Man and Thor strips.  

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY was a reboot forced on the British Bullpen by a lack of sufficient new US material to sustain the existing weekly schedule.  Issue 140 (November 1980) was the first.  

FUTURE TENSE, launched in October 1980, plugged the SF gap in Marvel’s weekly repertoire with a collection of serialized reprints including Star-Lord, Warlock, Captain Marvel, Paladin, Seeker 3000, Micronauts, Star Trek and Rom.  Marvel were stretching the available readership across multiple titles and, after forty-one turbulent issues, quietly terminated FT.  For reasons unclear (the film had been released in the UK almost a year earlier), Marvel held back the premiere of the Star Trek strip until the sixth issue in favor of Seeker 3000 (already seen in SWW).  The delayed debut marked the first time Kirk and crew had held a regular slot in a British weekly since the homegrown strips had beamed out of IPC's Valiant in December 1973.  

VALOUR, launched the same week, was FT’s polar opposite.  The weekly collection of fantasy fare (Conan, Devil Dinosaur, Doctor Strange, Thor and – latterly – Weirdworld) proved the less successful and the two merged after Valour’s eighteenth week.  
The weekend of 19/19 October 1980 saw Marvel host the one-and-only COMICS, FILM AND FANTASY CONVENTION at London's Royal Horticultural Hall.  Reports on the weekend's events subsequently appeared in various M-UK titles. 


SAVAGE ACTION (launched in November 1980 and published for fifteen issues) collected strips (mostly) from Marvel’s US magazines including the Punisher, Dominic Fortune, Ka-zar, Nick Fury, Moon Knight, Man-Thing and others.  Night Raven (late of Hulk Comic) returned in a series of prose adventures.  Savage Sword of Conan was mooted as a possible merger but ultimately survived.  SA itself folded into Rampage.  

The US title MARVEL PREMIERE ran four issues (57-60) of Doctor Who reprints, now in colour, from the British weekly beginning with the December 1980 cover-dated issue.  The Iron Legion version printed here formed the basis of the 1985 Summer Special.  City of the Damned was retitled, to avoid controversy, as City of the Cursed.  

X-MEN POCKET BOOK was a total (after a brief transition) makeover for Star Heroes PB.  The X-men reprints started in issue ten and the makeover was complete two issues later.  The numbering runs 12 (first issue) through to twenty-eight.  

CINEMA MAGAZINE attempted to clone Starburst’s successful formula in another movie magazine.  Although fairly successful, the undermanned British Bullpen found itself overstretched and it was cancelled suddenly after only nine regular issues (and a Winter Special).  

CAPTAIN AMERICA weekly (launched in February 1981) turned to unusually contemporary reprints of CA, Dazzler, Iron Man and the Defenders.  The twenty-first issue saw the arrival of the Fantastic Four and Thor from Marvel Action.  Daredevil, from Marvel Super Adventure, followed in November (issue 37) accompanied by a new glossy front-and-centre format.  The fifty-ninth issue closed the run in April 1982.  

The end of MTU shifted the main strip into the Spider-man/ Hulk combo leading to the new name SPIDER-MAN AND HULK WEEKLY INCORPORATING TEAM-UP from 418 (11 March 1981).  That was simplified (somewhat misleadingly) to SPIDER-MAN AND HULK TEAM-UP from 425.  

FUTURE TENSE AND VALOUR (18 March 1981) was the incongruous combination of the two floundering weeklies.  FT issue 20 was the first of the new line-up (Star Trek, Micronauts, Rom, Conan and Weirdworld) which ran through to issue thirty-five. 

MARVEL ACTION, launched in late March, rescued the Fantastic Four, Thor and Doctor Strange from the wreckage of MTU and Valour.  The new weekly fared even less well and closed in fifteen weeks, making it (to date) the least successful weekly in the history of the British Bullpen.  

MARVEL SUPER ADVENTURE, another weekly, launched in quick succession (following a 1980 Winter Special with a different line-up).  Daredevil was the main attraction (and took most of the pages) accompanied by Kirby’s run on the Black Panther.  It managed twenty-six weeks before folding into Captain America.  

MARVEL MADHOUSE, a second humor monthly from the British Bullpen, was briefly the companion to Frantic before absorbing it after four overlapping months.  MMH itself managed seventeen issues before folding in June 1982.


BLOCKBUSTER was the anything-but monthly launched in July 1981 by the British Bullpen.  The line-up (Iron Fist, Omega and the Inhumans) proved less than alluring and it merged with Rampage after only nine months.  An earlier special had starred Thor.  

FUTURE TENSE MONTHLY (August 1981) rebooted the floundering weekly in a last-gasp attempt to keep in viable.  Star Trek, Rom and the Micronauts anchored the new format.  Issue thirty-six was the first, forty-one was the last, quietly bowing out at the end of the year.  

Having had years to prepare for the possibility, Marvel made the most of the marketing opportunity presented by the long-delayed arrival of the live-action Spider-man TV show in October 1981.  SUPER SPIDER-MAN TV COMIC (from 450, 21 October) was a radical overhaul restoring the glossy covers (jettisoned in January 1979) and adding, for the first time, glossy centre pages.  Both were ideal for reproducing stills from the show as well as originally commissioned artwork.  The cover price rose from 15p to 20p.  The finite length of the TV show meant the overt tie-in only had a finite lifespan and the next change came after issue 499.

BLAKE’S SEVEN Monthly, launched to coincide with the fourth TV season in September 1981, tried to follow the success of DWM.  Unfortunately the tone of the first issues misjudged the audience and, once the TV show ended, it struggled to find new things to say about a dead show.  It eventually ran for twenty-three issues.  

WORZEL GUMMIDGE MONTHLY had a short run from October 1991.  Based on the Southern TV series (previously adapted in Look-In), it seemed uncertain of its target audience and was cancelled within the year (and replaced by a new weekly version).  Issue one came with a free flexi-disc, a first for Marvel UK.  

MARVEL CLASSICS POCKET BOOK, the last of the line to launch (in October 1981) reprinted Marvel’s literary adaptations beginning with War of the Worlds.  It ran for thirteen issues.  


The February 1982 cover-dated STAR-LORD THE SPECIAL EDITION US one-shot featured a reprint of the British DOCTOR WHO strip Spider God.

SCOOBY DOO AND HIS TV FRIENDS, launched in February 1982, pointed to a new direction for the British Bullpen: titles pitched at younger audiences (with a mixture of comic strips, text stories and activity pages) based on licensed characters.  It ran for sixty-seven issues before being cancelled to make way for the similar Top Cat weekly.  

THE INCREDIBLE HULK regained his own British weekly in March 1982 but, this time, only mustered a twenty-seven week run before (again) folding into Spider-man.  The glossy front-and-centre format allowed Marvel to tie-in with the live-action TV show (still appearing on the ITV network).  

 MONSTER MONTHLY (April 1982) was Marvel's short-lived attempt to replicate the success of the US magazines devoted to old horror movies.  However, this was the peak of the slasher boom and the explosion of VHS horror, leaving the magazine and its contents looking curiously old-fashioned.  The strip material, which took a back seat to the (poorly reproduced) photos and features, hailed from the seventies US magazines.  

There is no issue 428 of SPIDER-MAN.  A Bullpen blunder saw the numbering jump from 427 (13 May 1981) to 429 the following week (20 May 1981).  Marvel simply issued another 429 (27 May 1981) the week after.  

STAR WARS MONTHLY was, from issue 159, (July 1982) the latest incarnation of Marvel UK’s long-running title. 

The 1982 roster of SUMMER SPECIALS included the only Rom solo outing in the UK.

The demise, and merger, of the second run of Hulk weeklies led (somewhat inevitably) to another name-change for Spidey’s long-running weekly.  However, confounding expectations, it became simply SPIDER-MAN from issue 500 (6 October 1982).  The anniversary was celebrated with a free pin badge.  Although the Hulk became the regular supporting feature, and the logo often appeared on the cover, it never officially became part of the weekly’s title.  A trend that continued with the subsequent merger, Fantastic Four, in issue 529.  Spider-woman returned as the regular back-up strip (and made frequent cover appearances) from issue 517 to capitalize on the broadcast of the animated series on ITV.  Partial colour interiors were adopted from issue 544 (August), raising the cover price from 20p to 25p a week.  The glossy centre pages were dropped as part of the format change (and were never part of the existing colour weeklies).  

The FANTASTIC FOUR returned to their own weekly in October 1982.  The revival lasted twenty-nine issues before merging with Spider-man to make way for the impending colour weeklies.  

RUPERT WEEKLY, based on the Daily Express newspaper strip character, ran for 100 issues between October 1982 and September 1984.  
The WINTER 1982 SPECIALS included Spider-man, the Silver Surfer and the second (and final) STAR TREK SPECIAL (a not-quite-official Wrath of Kahn tie-in) which actually appeared AFTER Marvel had surrendered the license, allowing DC to relaunch the franchise in the States.

THE DAREDEVILS, the new home for Captain Britain (along with US Daredevil and Spider-man reprints) was the landmark new monthly from Marvel UK launched at the start of 1983.  Despite boasting Alan Moore as a principal contributor, it merged with the MWOM revival after only eleven issues.

THE MIGHTY THOR issue 1 (April 1983) was the first regular UK Marvel comic to feature colour interiors since the mid-seventies.  Unfortunately the print quality proved to be dire and, combined with dated reprints, sealed the weekly’s fate.  The nineteenth issue was the last to appear as a solo title (albeit with Captain America as the regular back-up).

THE ORIGINAL X-MEN had been a regular M-UK fixture since Marvel Superheroes in 1979 (and earlier in The Titans and elsewhere) and finally graduated to their own weekly, in colour no less, in April 1983.  The curse of crappy-colour struck again and sabotaged early chances of success.  The reprints were too dated and the back-up strip (Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur) unappealing.  It wasn’t long before the two new weeklies merged.  

The MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL revival (now, initially, an outlet for the new X-Men and reprints of US limited series like Vision/ Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, Cloak and Dagger and X-Men/ Micronauts) from June 1983 was the first M-UK monthly to boast colour interiors.  The Daredevils merged with the seventh issue.  The seventeenth issue was (literally) a limp conclusion, paving the way for a merger with (of all things) Conan.  Although the ongoing X-Men strip was dropped, the selection of reprinted limited series was obviously influenced by a desire to retain X-related strips.  The Micronauts, absent from the UK line since the demise of Future Tense, made their final British appearance here.

Despite being a best-seller since 1978, Marvel UK waited until the summer of 1983 (curiously missing the chance to cash-in on the impending release of the third movie) to release their first STAR WARS special.  It reprinted the bulk of the British strips, including some by Alan Moore, created for the monthly.  
Other 1983 SUMMER SPECIALS included THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL, DOCTOR WHO, SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN FUN BOOK and the humorous CHANNEL 33 1/3.  Creators Quinn and Howett toured the regional TV and radio studios of the UK (including About Anglia) to promote the one-shot.

WORZEL GUMMIDGE WEEKLY, launched in March 1983, replaced the monthly incarnation.  For this run, Marvel obviously dispensed with the TV tie-in element and based the comic directly on the original books.  

RETURN OF THE JEDI weekly, launched in June 1983, replaced the existing monthly (after 171 issues).  The new colour comic combined saga reprints with a rotating line-up of movie adaptations (Indiana Jones, For Your Eyes Only, Blade Runner, Time Bandits, Krull, Dark Crystal) followed by Crystar and a long run of Power Pack.  It ended, as it began, with the ROTJ adaptation after 155 issues three years later.  Issue nine features an infamous spelling mistake on the cover which the Bullpen tried to hide by taping the free bagde (sorry, badge) over the top of it.

THOR AND THE X-MEN (published between August 1983 and early the following year) proved that two failures didn’t make a success.  By the time the two titles merged, the amount of colour had already been drastically reduced.  The run (issues 20-39) continued in the back pages of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (crammed in with the ongoing Fantastic Four reprints). 

TOP CAT’S TV SHOW (21 September 1983) replaced the Scooby Doo weekly as the Marvel UK vehicle for numerous Hanna Barbara characters.  Issue 1 came with a free cover-mounted pin badge.

Another TV opportunity presented itself in October 1983 when the BBC picked up the animated SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS.  Marvel changed the name of the weekly, from issue 553, to make the most of the moment.  However, a lack of US material (and clearly no desire to commission more in London) led to a tenuous tie-in.  The title was justified by an extended run of US Marvel Team-Up strips which, along with the FF back-up, supplied an appropriate number of “Amazing Friends”.  More friends arrived in issue 567 with the demise of Thor and the X-Men, both of which were crammed in alongside the existing strips.  The free gifts in 554, 555 and 561 were originally announced for another (untitled) new weekly.  

The 1983 WINTER SPECIALS were the first to experiment with an album format and colour interiors.  With the exception of the DOCTOR WHO edition which retained its traditional magazine format.  The SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS special capitalized on the TV show but, true to form, didn't include any direct links with the animated series.  

1983 saw the British Bullpen appear in a filmed segment of TV-am Saturday morning kids' show DATA RUN.  A Bullpen Bulletins page covered the filming in December. 


The beginning of 1984 saw Marvel UK officially relocate to Bayswater and 23 Reden Place.  The new address had already been used, for several months, for Mail Order offers. 
THE THING IS BIG BEN, apparently a spoiler for Dez Skinn’s similarly named Warrior strip, was M-UK’s March 1984 launch.  The short-lived (eighteen issues) weekly reprinted Marvel Two-in-One, Iron Man and (after Captain America was swiftly dropped) Power Man and Iron Fist.  The principle strip carried over to Spider-man.  

After several years absence,  the Marvel name reappeared (albeit subtly) as part of the cover designs of the UK line. 

SPIDER-MAN reverted back to its simplified title from issue 579 (11 April 1984), welcoming back the Hulk to capitalize on the transmission of the Marvel-produced animated series on ITV.  590 (27 June 1984) saw a format change, switching to glossy paper and adding the movie adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The Thing is Big Ben merged with 595 and although the logo appeared on the cover for four weeks, it never became part of the masthead.  The format changed again, adding pages but jettisoning the colour pages, with issue 602.  Issues 607-610 featured a landmark UK created story that brought Spider-man to London and Birmingham to appear on ITV’s Saturday Starship.  The experiment was intended to test the viability of UK strips to avoid having to adopt the impending black costume.  626 was another (unexpected) format change.  Issue 631 (13 April 1985) belatedly introduced the black costume (which made its debut in, of all places, The Transformers, at the end of the previous year), only to see it dumped again after 633.  

The SUMMER 1984 SPECIALS included the return of SCOOBY DOO and the one-and-only THE THING IS BIG BEN SPECIAL.  The album format remained. 
INDIANA JONES graduated (after runs in Star Wars and Spider-man) to his own M-UK monthly in October 1984 to coincide with Temple of Doom (the adaptation had a second outing, following Spider-man, in quick succession here).  The solo title lasted only eleven issues before folding into Spider-Man (the last, of many, titles to merge with the first incarnation of the weekly).  

THE TRANSFORMERS, Marvel UK’s toy tie-in, helped change the direction of the company from in-house creations to licensed properties when in launched in October 1984.  The Robots in Disguise proved an immediate hit and ultimately ran for 332 issues through to January 1992 The main strip switched between runs of US reprints and new material.  It absorbed Action Force and Visionaries.  Other back-up strips included Machine Man, Planet Terry, Spitfire (from the New Universe), Rocket Raccoon, Robotix, Inhumanoids and others.  Spider-man's black costume made its British debut, thanks to a cameo appearance, here rather then in his own title.  The first UK created strip, Man Of Iron (subsequently reprinted in the US), appeared in the ninth issue as a stop-gap before the US series resumed after a hiatus. 

After a hiatus of several years, and reflecting the growing popularity of both the TV show and the American Direct Sales market, reprints of the British DOCTOR WHO strips returned to the United States.  The new 'Baxter format' monthly, featuring new cover art by Dave Gibbons, reprinted the remaining Tom Baker strips before moving onto the Peter Davison era.  It ended, quietly, in 1986 after 23-issues.  

CYRIL, long-standing editor of the various permutations of STAR WARS, finally received his own page-a-week strip. 

  The WINTER 1984 SPECIALS, still in the album format, included SPIDER-MAN.

CAPTAIN BRITAIN, after years punting around the UK monthlies (dodging cancellation every time) finally regained his own book in January 1985.  Initial plans to pad-out each issue with US reprints (including Alpha Flight) were abandoned in favor of new and reprinted British strips including Night Raven, Abslom Daak and the Freefall Warriors.  It ultimately ran to fourteen issues.  An internal mock-up, before the all-British theme was locked-down, featured reprints of Alpha Flight.

MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS was the British edition of the US limited series, launched as an ongoing title in April 1985.  Marvel UK had previously been reluctant to run the material in the UK.  It initially appeared fortnightly, alternating weeks with The Transformers but both were upgraded to weekly after early success.  The longevity of the titular strip was extended by running back-up strips (Alpha Flight, Ice Man and Zoids) to bulk out each issue.  The format and formula changed with the launch of Secret Wars II after thirty-one issues.  Issue 25, which appeared the week after the Spider-man weekly shuttered, featured an exclusive UK strip, created in October when Jim Shooter made an appearance on TV-am's Saturday morning show The Wide Awake Club.  The three-page adventure has never been reprinted. Redan Place was memorably terrorized by the fiendish 'Secret Artist'.  The reprints of the Ice Man limited series had previously been announced for the (pre-revamp) Spider-man.  Early issues came with free cover-mounted sticker-badges, officially intended to be stuck on a poster presented free with the second issue, glued to the covers.  These proved a nightmare to remove, making undamaged copies harder to find.  Surplus stickers eventually appeared stuck to the covers of Secret Wars II, Spidey Comic and Return of the Jedi.  

In order to give Secret Wars the best possible chance of success, Marvel sabotaged Spider-man by pitching it at a younger audience.  THE SPIDER-MAN COMIC, from issue 634, dumped the main strip in favor of (painfully dated) seventies Spidey Super Stories reprints.  The back-ups, from the Star Comics line, included Wally (renamed Willy) the Wizard and Fraggle Rock.  Lew Stringer supplied Snail Man and Captain Wally.  The Indiana Jones monthly merged with issue 646, adding the Further Adventures to the line-up.  

GET ALONG GANG, from April 1985, was based on the animated-and-merchandise series about the value of friendship imported from the States.  The cartoons aired on TV-am.  It’s notable for featuring a large percentage of originated material (the US edition fared less well, requiring M-UK to plug the content gap) as well as being the first weekly to appear in the soon-to-be-standard 24-page full-colour glossy format.  


Although technically a series of one-shots, the TRANSFORMERS COLLECTED COMICS constituted an ongoing series, albeit one published in a succession of different formats.  After two editions of US material (Summer and Winter 1985), the rest of the nineteen volumes (a further eight were published as seasonal specials) reprinted British material.  The last of the twenty-seven issue run appeared in the winter of 1994, outlasting the regular comic by several years.  

The 1985 SUMMER SPECIALS refined the album format but raised the price to a massive £1.25 apiece.  Unusually, the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE edition reprinted DC material, albeit based on the toys.  The SPIDER-MAN edition maintained the black costume and the older tone despite the drastic changes to the weekly.  The DOCTOR WHO edition reprinted the US Marvel Premiere colour versions of the original British material.  



August saw the long-running Spider-man weekly enter its terminal stage.  Now (from 651) known as SPIDEY COMIC (a name and format Dez Skinn had pitched to Marvel’s management in 1980), it was now a scrappy shadow of its former self.  Issue 666 was (appropriately) the finale, published in early December 1985.  

The 1985 WINTER SPECIALS were the last to appear in the album format.

CARE BEARS, another toy-animation-merchandise tie-in for younger readers, launched in October 1985 and ran for an impressive 147 issues.  

The short-lived dalliance with licensing selected DC Comics material (see also: Masters of the Universe in the summer) allowed Marvel UK to publish the SUPER POWERS ANNUAL, based on the Kenner spearheaded multimedia-and-merchandise assault on toy stores.  Hedging their bets, the Bullpen also published their one-and-only MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS ANNUAL (reprinting the first issue of the limited series and sixth US Marvel Team-Up Annual), based on the rival Mattel line.   

1986 saw the release of another DOCTOR WHO COLLECTED COMICS one-shot, this time reprinting (in colour) recent Colin Baker adventures from the magazine.

SECRET WARS II picked-up, in February 1986, where the original series ended.  Issue thirty-two was the first under the new masthead.  The relaunch coincided with a new direction that (largely) jettisoned the back-up strips in favor of (sometimes literally) cover-to-cover SWII strips.  In addition to the nine-part sequel, the majority of the official tie-ins (and a large number of unrelated-but-critical-to-continuity strips) also appeared.  Issue eighty, published in January 1987, was the last.  Lew Stringer's humour strip Macho Man made sporadic appearances but a lack of available space made it a very occasional treat.  Issues 55 and 56 reprint US Fantastic Four Annual 19.  The flip-side of the story, from the perspective of The Avengers, was reprinted in the concurrent SWII Special.  Neither had anything to do with the Beyonder's visit to Earth.  The Power Pack story published in 65 had already seen print, only a few months earlier, in Return of the Jedi.  Issue 66 presented a free Secret Wars Sticker Album (with stickers the following week), published by Panini, and loosely based on the first limited series.  The official SWII Rom and Micronauts crossovers were omitted, possibly for licensing reasons, from the UK run.  

SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS, the new Marvel UK weekly launched in March 1986, restored some of the luster to the damaged Spider-man franchise by returning to contemporary black costume adventures (albeit reworked to create a bizarre inner continuity).  The price (worth paying?) was that the toy-based Zoids (previously piloted in two promotional inserts and a brief run in Secret Wars) now had star billing.  The third feature rotated through Sectaurs, Fantastic Four, Star Wars, Star Brand, Secret Wars II, and Strikeforce Morituri.  The two mergers during the year long run were: Return of the Jedi (15, 14 June 1986) and Secret Wars II (46, 17 January 1987).  The weekly was cancelled, one issue short of its first birthday, to make way for the (aborted) Zoids monthly.  

1986 was the first year that Marvel UK added SPRING SPECIALS to their roster of seasonal one-shots.

ACORN GREEN was an eco-themed weekly for younger readers based on the toys.  Launched in October 1986 (after a preview in The Get Along Gang), it ran for 36 issues.  A free edition was also available from toy stores.  Issue one came with a free flexi-disc.  

MUPPET BABIES, which ran for fifty-six weeks from October 1986, was based on the animated series, produced by Marvel Productions, based on the Jim Henson characters.  It absorbed Acorn Green.  

The Marvel-made TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE is released in British cinemas, giving the British creative team free reign to weave their own stories, featuring the movie cast, between the US reprints.  

November 1986 saw Marvel team-up with snack food maker Golden Wonder to package a series of DOCTOR WHO MINI-COMICS, reworking recent Colin Baker strips from DWM,  given away with multipacks of their key brands.  The offer was heavily promoted in print.

The end of 1986 saw the entire Marvel business, including Marvel UK, sold to expansionist US film and television studio New World Entertainment.

POPPLES, which had a thirty-issue run from February 1987, was based on the cuddly toys with the ability to turn inside out into a fluffy ball.  

ACTION FORCE, launched (after a preview in The Transformers) in March 1987, transferred the toy license from Palitoy to Hasbro (who handled it in a much more professional manner: overhauling the packaging, promotion and ancillary merchandising) and the comics from IPC to Marvel UK.  The weekly, which mixed new material with reworked G.I.Joe reprints (and unrelated back-up strips including the tried-and-tested Masters of Kung Fu), ran for only fifty issues before succumbing to poor sales.  The US reprints continued, for years, in the pages of The Transformers.  Marvel UK had previously been announced as Palitoy's comics partner at the very launch of the toys several years earlier.  A new British weekly had been included in the manufacturer's early outlines for marketing plans.  That deal fell through and IPC came on board instead, saving the near-to-collapse Battle by dedicating half the page count to toy-based strips.  Issue one, on sale for a fortnight, included the second issue free (the only time that Marvel tried this approach to a launch).  Issue two was not sold separately.  It's possible that this ultimately contributed to its early demise as if readers missed issue 1 (TV promoted courtesy of Hasbro) then their first opportunity to jump-on was the third issue.

THUNDERCATS was another March 1987 launch from the British Bullpen.  Based on the animated series (shown on the BBC) and the toys, the series proved a considerable success and ultimately ran for 129 issues through to 1991.  The first back-up strip was a back-to-the-start reprint of Power Pack, previously seen in Return of the Jedi several years previously. The PP cliffhanger left unresolved when ROTJ closed was, eventually, resolved here.   

Spider-man and Zoids was cancelled to clear the way for a new US-format ZOIDS MONTHLY.  Despite being announced in the final issue of the weekly, the plan (which would have been M-UK's first US format book) was abandoned at the last minute, despite work having already been completed on the first issue.  Grant Morrison would have continued his writing chores from the weekly.  The reason for the cancellation has never been clear: it may have stemmed from reluctance from the US office or indifference from the UK news trade.  Regardless, Marvel continued to issue occasional Zoids related one-shots but abandoned the Collected Comics series after four issues.  The Annex believed that Spider-man was not a sufficient attraction to keep the weekly viable without his co-stars.   

VISIONARIES, based on the Hasbro toys and Marvel-made animated series, ran for four monthly issues in 1987 before folding into Transformers.  A subsequent special recycled the exact same contents, including the cover, as the final issues of the regular title.  

SINDY MAGAZINE, from August 1987, was based on the British Barbie would-be.  

October 1987 saw the launch of THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE AND FRIENDS, based on the ITV series (in turn based on a series of Children's books).  

INSPECTOR GADGET, launched in late 1987, was a bi-monthly title based on the animated series.  

MADBALLS, published from November 1987 to March 1988, was an eight-issue run of US reprints based on the deformed toy balls.  

EWOKS, published from November 1987, reprinted the Star Comics strips based on the animated spin-off (aired on BBC ONE) from Return of the Jedi.  


1988 saw the Annex of ideas relocate again, moving from the (dangerous) shadow of the Whiteley's department store conversion to the far more salubrious confines of Temple's Arundal House, a stone's throw from the Thames. 

THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, launched in March 1988, was a runaway success for Marvel UK.  The animation/ toy tie-in (both inspired by the movies) ultimately ran for 193 issues before closing in 1992.  It also span-off several other series including Blimey It’s Slimmer, It’s Wicked, Specials and a Best-Of monthly.  

THE ADVENTURES OF THE GALAXY RANGERS, launched in May 1988, hoped to replicate the success of previous animation/ toy tie-ins.  However, the space western floundered (in part because of unsympathetic scheduling of the TV show by ITV) after only nine issues (published fortnightly).  The remaining inventory of already commissioned strips (as well as material already published in the annual) subsequently appeared in Thundercats.  

ALF, from May 1988, reprinted the American strips based on the live-action and animated incarnations of the titular character.  The monthly merged with The Marvel Bumper Comic.  

THE FLINTSTONES AND FRIENDS (7 May 1988) renewed M-UK's association with the Hanna Barbera animation house after a break of several years.  

ACTION FORCE MONTHLY, launched in June 1988, saw the counter-terrorist team regain their own title, albeit now in the US format.  The relaunch allowed Marvel to switch the title and export copies to North America as G.I Joe European Missions.  The fifteen-month run combined new strips with reprints of the British material from the weekly.  

DRAGON’S CLAWS was a ten-issue US-format title launched by Marvel UK in July 1988.  The fifth issue of the 2000AD inspired title acted as a springboard for the launch of Death’s Head’s (another Simon Furman creation) own title.  

Following the success of the one-shot, THE MARVEL BUMPER COMIC returned as a regular series (initially fortnightly and then monthly) in October 1988.  It initially continued to be a ‘sampler’ reprinting the likes of The Real Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, ALF and other established M-UK characters.  It evolved over time to feature strips that didn’t have their own ongoing British titles (Droids, Defenders of the Earth).  The William Tell strip (launched in issue 21) was previously announced as being a standalone title that was cancelled at the last moment.  The Droids strip in 25 marked the end of Marvel’s association with a galaxy far, far away.  The Hulk appeared from issue 26, testing the waters for his own anthology later in the year.  ALF officially merged with issue 28 but it was hard to tell the difference.  The 31st issue (June 1989) was the last.  

DEATH’S HEAD, the self-styled Freelance Peacekeeper, graduated (via DWM) to his own US-format monthly in December 1988.  His further adventures ultimately ran for ten issues and made-up the bulk of the material in the 1993 series The Incomplete Death’s Head. 

POPEYE ran for eight issues between February and September 1989.  

WILLIAM TELL, based on the impending TV show Crossbow, was announced as an upcoming new fortnightly lunch... but spiked at the last minute, after house ads had already appeared.  The already-completed strips were diverted to The Marvel Bumper Comic.  The Annex of Ideas also published an Annual and one-shot special with new material.  A graphic novel collected the strips from TMBC.  

Marvel celebrated DOCTOR WHO's 25th anniversary with Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett's IT'S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE, a new collection of cartoons and humor strips.  The pair had previous produced the similar Doctor Who Fun Book for WH Allen.  Both returned to print, alongside the strips from the monthly, in 2015. 

CARTOON TIME (1989) was another Hanna Barbera tie-in.

IT’S WICKED, launched in June 1989, swiped Slimer from the Real Ghostbusters (the gift that kept on giving as far as the Bullpen were concerned) and transplanted him to a horror-themed humor weekly in the Monster Fun tradition.  The radical departure from Marvel’s former fare ran for only seventeen issues.  

THE PUNISHER, launched in August 1989, was a change in direction of the British Bullpen and an attempt to attract new readers with a Mature Readers weekly.  The main strip reprinted the limited and ongoing Punisher series.  The back-up was initially the RoboCop movie adaptation but that gave way to reprints of The ‘Nam.  It ran for thirty issues before vanishing without warning.  A merger of sorts did take place: seventies adventures subsequently appeared in Strip.  

THE SLEEZE BROTHERS, which followed a sales-boosting appearance in the Doctor Who comic strip, was a six-issue series produced and packaged in the UK and issued under Marvel’s US Epic Comics imprint.  

BEA, from September 1989, was a girl’s monthly.  The strips included a serialized version of Portrait of Love, based on the TV series Beauty and the Beast (also published as a standalone special).

THE INCREDIBLE HULK PRESENTS ran for only twelve issues between October and December 1989.  The main attraction was new Doctor Who adventures, albeit pitched at a younger readership than the strips in DWM.  The other strips, all reprints, were the Hulk, Indiana Jones (beginning with The Last Crusade adaptation) and Action Force (rebadged G.I. Joe: The Action Force mid-run).  The X-Men were slated to join the line-up but the weekly was suddenly cancelled before they could appear.  It set a new record (beating the one established by Marvel Action in 1981) but swiftness of cancellation (Galaxy Rangers clocked-up less issues but, being fortnightly, was on-sale longer).  

 SLIMER, launched in October 1989, transplanted the green slime specter from The Real Ghostbusters into his own monthly.  The contents hailed from the US Now Comics run.  

THE BOG PAPER, improbably, took the British Bullpen into the realms of toilet humor in an unwise attempt to expand the line.  Launched in late October 1989, the eleven-issue (wipe out!) run featured the likes of Flush Gordon and Doctor Phoo.  

FANTASY ZONE was an aborted attempt by Marvel UK to re-enter the media magazine market it abandoned when it sold Starburst four years earlier.  The new attempt ran for only six months before the Bullpen pulled the plug.  Several US one-shots (Ghostbusters II and Star Trek V) were licensed from Starlog Press and issued in the UK as FZ specials.  

DENNIS, from November 1989, was based on the US newspaper (and star of an animated series aired on Channel Four) strip character better known in the States as Dennis the Menace.  No relation.  

DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE celebrated its 10th anniversary with a behind-the-scenes documentary from Reeltime Video.  They did it again a decade later.

FANTASTIC MAX (1990) was based on the US animated import shown on BBC ONE.  

STRIP, launched in February 1990, was Marvel UK’s entry into the burgeoning category of “older reader” comics.  Its twenty-issue run was notable for a new Death’s Head adventure (The Body in Question, also a graphic novel).  Night Raven was slated for a residency beginning with the twenty-first issue (a new attraction heavily promoted in other titles) but Strip was cancelled without warning.  

The first volume of THE KNIGHTS OF PENDRAGON ran for eighteen months from June 1990 through to the end of the following year.  The eco-themed series, published in the US format, gathered critical acclaim but never became a breakout hit.  

The STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION fortnightly, launched in November 1990 (to coincide with the belated UK TV premiere of the TV show) featured virtually no Marvel created material.  The comic strip material came from the DC series and the features were ported across from the official US Starlog magazines.  It was relaunched as monthly from issue twenty but cancelled four issues later.  An annual followed the same uninspired format.  

THE COMPLETE SPIDER-MAN, launched in December 1990, was the first time that Marvel’s flagship hero had appeared regularly in the UK (even the traditional annuals had been discontinued) since the axe fell on Spider-man and Zoids.  The US-sized four-weekly (forerunner to the Collectors’ Editions) collected the four contemporary American Spider-man titles.  It ran for twenty-four issues before being reinvented as The Exploits of Spider-man.  

POLICE ACADEMY (1991) reprinted the US strips adapted from the TV cartoon adapted from the film franchise initially pitched at a rather older audience.

NIGHT RAVEN: HOUSE OF CARDS revived the character in strip form for the first time since the demise of Hulk Comic.  The revival had originally been slated for a run in STRIP MAGAZINE followed by a graphic novel compilation but, despite in-house publicity, the anthology was cancelled (without warning) the issue before the scheduled debut.  The GN was repackaged, as a 'prestige format' one-shot, with a more commercial cover, as part of the US line in 1992.  

RUPERT AND FRIENDS (1991) marked the return of “Britain’s favorite bear” to the Marvel UK line.  

HAVOC set a new record for the swift cancellation of a Marvel weekly.  The anthology of anti-heroes (Deathlok, Conan, Robocop, Star Slammers and Ghost Rider) clocked-up only nine issues after its July 1991 launch before vanishing without warning.  

MELTDOWN, also launched in July 1991, was another attempt to target older readers.  The anthology, which ended after only six issues, reprinted Akira, Nightbreed, The Last American and The Light and Darkness War.  The finale included a preview for Marvel’s upcoming Genesis 92 project.  

1991 saw Marvel UK's line of preschool comics split off into a separate entity: Redan Publishing, named after the British Bullpen's former base.  

DEATH’S HEAD II was the four-part radical reboot of the much-loved character, initiated by incoming boss Paul Neary, intended to rework the character for the impending ‘Dark Age’.  The US-format series was a sell-out (the first issue went through three printings) and shifted over a million copies.  The January 1992 launch usherd-in the start of the British invasion.  DHII was the first M-UK book to carry the new corporate logo in the left-hand cover box. 

OVERKILL, published in April 1992, was the British end of the Genesis 92 project and featured the initial five post-DHII UKverse strips.  These were initially edited (or the US versions padded, depending on your point of view) to remove the (deemed a hindrance) US characters.  That policy was swiftly reversed.  The fortnightly boomed during the Genesis Explosion and survived the 1993/4 massacre by cutting frequency to monthly (from issue 43) and becoming ever more obsessed with a certain psychotic cyborg.  The (belated) axe fell in the summer of 1994.  The strips also included Black Axe, Plasmer, Super Soldiers and Battletide II (the original mini-series was collected in the one-and-only Overkill special).  

OVERKILL included two sets of exclusive trading cards, with new artwork, as free promotional items.  The first set of twelve cards, all illustrated by Gary Frank, were available with issues 12-14 (4 cards per-issue).  A second set of nine cards (three per issue), illustrated by Bryan Hitch and given the 3D treatment, were given away with issues 43-45 (the first three monthly issues).   

Initially offered as a incentive for OVERKILL subscribers, Marvel subsequently offered the Overkill t-shirt featuring Digitek as a mail-away offer.  

Digitek, despite being the last of the 'Overkill five' books to see print, grabbed the cover of the second issue (April 1992) of COMIC COLLECTOR magazine (soon to become Comic World) which included an article previewing the new characters. 


WARHEADS was, by a week, the first of the Marvel UKverse series of books (known in press and previews as the Genesis 92 line) and laid much of the ground work for the British corner of Marvel Earth.  The titular team were dimension-hoping scavenger mercenaries dispatched by their Mys-Tech paymasters to bring back alien booty.  One of the Overkill Five, it ran for fourteen issues.  

In an attempt to protect sales of OVERKILL, Marvel initially planned to block the US editions from being imported to the UK.  That plan didn't find favour with readers or retailers so, to compromise, the Bullpen insisted that they only go on sale after the (truncated) strips had seen print in the British fortnightly.  They also had to be sealed, with a sticker promoting Overkill (the 'Genesis Seal'), in bags.  That policy was soon abandoned as the line expanded faster than the UK edition could ever hope to accommodate.  

HELL’S ANGEL, new age superhero supreme, caused Marvel no end of headaches when the punning title which incurred the wrath of the surprisingly litigious Biker collective.  A swift rebadge after five issues, and a donation to charity, avoided a siege at Arundel House.  One of the Overkill Five.  

MOTORMOUTH.  £*c& me!  Potty-mouthed London teen becomes inter-dimensional jumper courtesy of a pair of Mys-Tech developed sneakers.  Harley Davis (how did they get away this stuff?) was soon overshadowed by co-star Killpower.  The book ran for twelve issues.  Plans for various revivals were snuffed-out in the Genesis Massacre.  

THE KNIGHTS OF PENDRAGON were rebooted to suit the new superhero-centric aesthetics of the UKverse.  The revised version (which rebooted again, with fairly disastrous results, mid-run) clocked-up fifteen more issues.  

DIGITEK was the last of the original Overkill Five books although the US debut of this fully painted four-part limited series was delayed by several months to ensure the work was completed and the four issues shipped on schedule.  

WCW, based on the US wrestling franchise, ran for ten issues from June 1992.  

THE EXPLOITS OF SPIDER-MAN, launched in October 1992, replaced the previous Complete Spidey after a two-year run.  The new series also included uncut reprints of Motormouth, just months after the edited versions had appeared in Overkill.  An exclusive set of cover-mounted trading cards were amongst the additional attractions.  

DEATH’S HEAD II returned, in late 1992, for the inevitable ongoing series.  Initial issues sold just as well as the mini-series but the finite charms of the character, combined with too many shameless guest shots, soon meant diminishing returns.  The sixteenth issue was the finale and two further planned issues never saw print.  DEATH'S HEAD II GOLD was a planned quarterly that, suddenly, became a one-shot as the UK line imploded around it in late 1993.  

The foil-enhanced DEATH'S HEAD II issue 14 was a flip-book: turn it over and it doubles as DEATH'S HEAD II GOLD issue 0, a comic that's oft reported (and listed) as a standalone one-shot.

The new DEATH'S HEAD, the British Bullpen's flagship character, proved so popular (however briefly) that Marvel even commissioned an impressive costume for public appearances and promotional opportunities.  

BATTLETIDE was a four-part alien world rumble clearly inspired by a late night session watching WWF on satellite TV.  DHII, Killpower, Wolverine and others were transported off-world to (Secret wars style) take part in a melee for the gratification of assorted aliens.  

DARK ANGEL was the new name for Hell’s Angel, as of issue six (December 1992).  The title ran for sixteen issues before succumbing to the Genesis Massacre.

DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC COMICS, launched in December 1992, was a companion to the ongoing magazine featuring (new colourised) reprints of vintage WHO strips from across all eras.  It ran for twenty-seven regular issues and spun-off the EVENING'S EMPIRE one-shot.  

1993 saw Marvel UK celebrate its 21st year in business.  

THE INCOMPLETE DEATH’S HEAD (January 1993) was a canny way of getting more Death’s Head into stores quickly following the whiz-bang success of the limited series and first few months of the ongoing series.  The Bullpen shamelessly dusted down the various post-Transformers appearances of the original incarnation and wrapped them up with new bookends featuring his killer.  The twelve-parter ran throughout 1993.  

MYS-TECH WARS (March 1993) was a the-gang’s-all-here multi-character four-parter that crossed over into a number of Marvel UK’s other Genesis books.  It might have had more of an impact if the copious numbers of US characters had referenced events in their own books.  The wraparound cover of the first issue, supplied by Bryan Hitch, is a stunner. 

WILD THING (April 1993) was a seven-issue series riffing on virtual reality.  A further four issues were announced in the confusion of the Genesis Massacre but never appeared. 

BLACK AXE (April 1993), launched during the Genesis Explosion (with the obligatory DH II guest shot to kick things off), ran for seven issues before, suddenly, getting the chop.  Two more issues were billed in Marvel Age Magazine but never appeared.  The strips also appeared in Overkill.  This, Super Soldiers and Wild Angel were collectively known as Heroswarm.

SUPER SOLDIERS (April 1993) borrowed from Captain America lore to speculate about what a British team of enhanced soldiers would be like.  The eighth, and final, issue was the only part of the Red Mist 20:20 multi-book event to see print.  The other three new launches (Roid Rage, Death Duty and Bloodrush) were all canned at the last minute.  Two further issues were announced in Marvel Age magazine but never published. 

SHADOW RIDERS (June 1993) was a four-parter that channeled some of the contemporary success of the Ghost Rider family of titles. 

CYBERSPACE 3000 (July 1993) sent the UKverse into space (allowing Marvel to shoehorn in lots of the cosmic characters from the US run) for an eight-issue run.  The first boasted a glow-in-the-dark cover.

WARHEADS: BLACK DAWN (July 1993) was a two-part series featuring the mercenaries. 

DEATH’S HEAD II AND THE ORIGIN OF DIE CUT (August 1993) was a two-part limited series (starring you-know-who) published as part of the Pumping Iron summer promotion.  

With the future of the Annex looking rosy, and the Genesis Explosion in full swing, Channel Four aired an episode of the arts series OPENING SHOT to the company and its characters.  The uncomfortable sequences, filmed in a New York comic emporium, where the customers clearly knew nothing of the British line, didn't bode well.  Sure enough, explosion turned to implosion... and then the Genesis Massacre... within months.

BATTLETIDE II (August 1993) was a four-issue sequel to the previous series.  The first installment appeared in the last issue of Overkill.  Whoops. 

Despite the copious guest appearances by US heroes and villains throughout the Genesis line, reciprocal appearances by UK characters in American titles were few and far between.  One exception was Motormouth and Killpower in THE INCREDIBLE HULK 409.  

Simon Furman postulated WHAT IF DEATH'S HEAD I HAD LIVED in What If issue 54 (October 1993), illustrated by Geoff Senior. 

CHILDREN OF THE VOYAGER was, like most of the short-lived Frontier Comics line (wiped out in the Genesis Implosion), some of the better work to come out of the British Bullpen.  The four-issue series (issue one was cover dated September 1993) wrapped-up just as the Frontier Comics line imploded. 

DANCES WITH DEMONS was another superior four-parter from the more edgy (and doomed to a quick death) Frontier Comics sub-set. 

IMMORTALIS was another of the Frontier line who’s fate was sealed as soon as sales across the industry went into freefall.  Launched, along with the others, the summer of 1993, the four-parter subsequently shipped sporadically.  The strip also appeared in the one-shot anthology Marvel Frontier Comics Presents, a last-minute reworking of the first issue of a just-cancelled quarterly anthology. 

KILLPOWER (September 1993) rescued Motormouth’s co-star from the wreckage of her book and gave him his own four-part ‘early years’ series as part of the Pumping iron sub-set. 

DEATH 3 (September 1993) shamelessly milked the finite appeal of DHII with a four-issue more-of-the-same mini-series. 

JAMES BOND JR, launched in October 1993, was a British edition of the US strips created in the UK (confused yet?) based on the ill-judged animated series that has now been largely erased from the history books.

BLOOD SEED, launched with an October 1993 cover date, fell foul of the Genesis Implosion despite being illustrated by Marvel UK’s boss.  The Neary illustrated Conan-alike was scheduled for a four issue run but went on hiatus after only two with the promise of more in 1994.  The end of the Frontier Comics line, swiftly followed by everything else, ensured that never happened. 

DARK GUARD (October 1993) should have been the UKverse’s answer to The Avengers: a combo of some of their biggest hitters in a sure-to-succeed book.  The fact that the combined might of DHII (of course), Motormouth, Killpower and others only mustered four issues shows how desperate things were in the Annex of Ideas.  Plans to use already completed material in a quarterly reboot (Dark Guard Gold) amounted to nothing. 

GENETIX was an October 1993 ongoing series (featuring you-know-who in the first issue) that ran for six months before being swept away in the Genesis Implosion. 

GUN RUNNER was another entry in the Gene Pool sub-series.  The five part limited series (launched with an October 1993 cover-date) was accompanied by trading cards. 

GENE DOGS was a four-issue limited series launched with an October 1993 cover date.  Part of the Gene Pool line, the first issue came bagged with trading cards. 

DIE CUT, cover-dated November 1993, was another entry in the Pumping Iron sub-set.  The title came from the technology (predictably applied to the first issue) of cutting holes in card covers. 

DIE CUT VS G-FORCE was a two-issue limited series with a November 1993 cover date.   

G-FORCE were slated to get their own book but it was cancelled in the Genesis Implosion. 

PLASMER was a late-in-the-day (November 1993) four-parter (which also appeared in the dying months of Overkill) which launched with trading cards. 

DEATH METAL VS GENETIX was a late-in-the-run (cover dated December 1993) two-parter.  Part of the Gene Pool sub-line, accompanied by bagged trading cards. 

DEATH METAL, launched in late 1993 (with a January 1994 cover date) was yet another four-part DH clone, distinguished by being the last surviving of the US Genesis books. 

DEATH WRECK, another January 1994 four-parter, was more big biceps/ big guns shenanigans from the increasingly desperate British Bullpen.  

Although it didn't appear on the cover of any Genesis title, with the exception of the BODYCOUNT teaser, which amounted to a What If? of books that never saw the light of day), the dying days of the Genesis line saw the introduction, mostly in House Ads of the new disc logo design.  It was also used on titles intended for the home market but proved - ultimately - short-lived.  

Demonstrating his (brief) star power, Death's Head II appeared on the cover (alongside Magnus from Valiant Comics) of THE OFFICIAL COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE FOR GREAT BRITAIN 1993/1994 (published by Titan Books) in a new illo by Liam Sharp. 

RED MIST 20:20 should have been the big Marvel UK event of late 1993: the launch of three new interconnected books.  BLOODRUSH, DEATH DUTY and 'ROID RAGE (boasting a creative team including Jowett, Cowsill, Currie, Fonteriz, Braithwaite, Halls and Aldred) were about to roll off the US presses when Arundel House sent word to pull all three.  

House Ads and paid spots in the comics press had already appeared and several issues of each were completed with more on the way.  

The only part of the event to sneak out was the (unannounced) finale of SUPER SOLDIERS.  

Marvel had planned to bag all the books with exclusive trading cards.

WILD ANGELS was another announced, but ultimately unpublished (at least in English), victim of the Genesis Massacre.  The four completed issues of the Dark Angel/ Wild Thing combo eventually surfaced, courtesy of countryman Pino Rinaldi, as a done-in-one translated book for the Italian market courtesy of Panini.  

Other never-to-be launches included HEAVY WEAPONS 911 (a Frontier Comics title about "a big robot with a big gun"), KNUCKLEDOWN (dinosaurs!), MOTORMOUTH REMIX (a romp through alternate Marvel Earths), MOTORMOUTH Vs. REMOVAL MAN (another comeback for Harley), OFFICER OUTBODY, PUNISHER Vs DEATH'S HEAD II (by Abnett, Lanning and Hitch), SISTERS OF GRACE (Frontier Comics), TIMESTRYKE, WARHIDE, DARK GUARD GOLD: OLD FRIENDS (leftovers from the cancellation of the monthly), DEATH'S HEAD II: THE WILD HUNT (a trade paperback collection of the 1992 limited series), BATTLETIDE III and DOCTOR WHO: AGE OF CHAOS (published, in 1994, as a one-shot).  

LOOSE CANNONS was a full-painted spin-off from Warheads that was almost completed when the plug was pulled.  Subsequent attempts to save it amounted to nothing.  The Marvel PR machine managed to bag the cover of COMICS INTERNATIONAL, a feature in COMIC WORLD and placed paid-for ads in the fan press. 

BIKER MICE FROM MARS (1994) was based on the animated series.  There also appears to have been a German edition of the British edition.  


THE CLANDESTINE, by longtime Marvel UK contributor Alan Davis, was initially announced as British launch for January 1994 but, despite pre-publicity (including a free cover-mounted trading card with COMIC WORLD magazine) succumbed to the Genesis Massacre.  It was subsequently picked-up by Marvel New York and published, along with a preview edition, later in the year. 

THE DANGEROUS BREAKFAST was a 1994 advertiser-funded one-shot commissioned to celebrate the third birthday of London radio station KISS FM.  Published in limited numbers, it was not available for sale to the general public. 

DOCTOR WHO: AGE OF CHAOS (Summer 1994) was a done-in-one magazine-format collection of the strips originally commissioned as a four-issue limited series for the US line (which would have been the first made-for-the-States Who strip since the sixties Dalek movie adaptation) but hastily reworked for the home market after it was delayed and then cancelled in the Genesis Massacre.  It's often erroniously listed as a trade paperback or graphic novel but, to date, it has never appeared in book format.  The writer was Colin Baker.  

Reprints of the 1960s Dalek strips from TV21 had been a mainstay of the weekly/ monthly/ magazine since soon after launch but the summer 1994 THE DALEK CHRONICLES one-shot marks the only time the whole saga has been collected in one volume (a full-colour magazine). 

CONAN THE ADVENTURER was tenuously linked to the animated series of the same name but actually featured vintage reprints from the earliest days of the US colour monthly (and previously published in the UK in the first issues of both SSOC and the Conan Pocket Book).  The first issue was on sale in July 1994.  The third (simplified to just ‘Conan’) turned out to be the finale, just six weeks later. 

BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, from August 1994, was based on the flavor-of-the-moment animated MTV characters. 

X-MEN, launched in October 1994, was pegged to the mighty mutant’s animated adventures. 

THE REN AND STIMPY SHOW, also from October 1994, was another tie-in with an animated series.

The BLAKE’S SEVEN POSTER MAGAZINE, which ran for (appropriately) seven issues from late 1994, was something of a curio: based on the defunct-for-over-a-decade TV show.  Marvel’s renewed interest stemmed from strong sales of the VHS tapes and brief repeat run on BBC TWO.  Marvel also published two excellent specials penned by Andrew Pixley. 

DOCTOR WHO POSTER MAGAZINE was another spin-off from the regular magazine (Yearbooks also appeared during this period).  The eight-issue run never looked like it would be a long-term sales winner although its fate was sealed by the closure of Marvel’s magazine department. 

HAMMER HORROR, launched in March 1995 (after a successful preview issue the previous year), was a monthly magazine dedicated to the studio’s classic horror fare.  It ran for seven issues before falling foul of the closure of Marvel’s magazine department.  

CLIVE BARKER’S HELLBREED drew strips from the US horror line alongside feature material about the author and his work.  Launched in May 1995, it mustered only three issues before cancellation. 

CASPER, from October 1995, supplied a different sort of supernatural fare by reprinting “The Friendly Ghost”.  The second issue came with a free cover-mounted pin badge.  

The near-death of the Marvel Magazines department (leaving only DWM, albeit now without the specials and yearbooks, as last-man-standing) ended plans to bring back PLAYBACK (TV) and BIZARRE (unusual and obscure film) as regular monthlies after a special apiece to test the waters.  

THE ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN (November 1995) replaced the existing Spider-man title with a new US-proportioned four-weekly boasting cardstock covers. 

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ADVENTURES, from November 1995, was based on the animated series and pitched at a younger audience. 

THE ESSENTIAL X-MEN, launched in November 1995, heralded (along with its Spider-man companion) the start of the Panini Collectors’ Edition series which is still going strong (albeit with periodic relaunches) twenty years later. 

THE AMAZING X-MEN, launched in January 1996, replaced the previous adjectiveless X-book from what remained of the British Bullpen.  It also reprinted Generation X, possibly in anticipation that the TV movie (released on tape in the UK) might lead to bigger and better things.  It didn’t. 

MARVEL ACTION HOUR was based on the animated TV show that acted as an umbrella for separate Iron Man and Fantastic Four series.  Despite both being adapted by Marvel US, the short-lived UK edition (only four fortnightly editions from October 1996) curiously opted for other reprints featuring the TV stars. All four issues featured the unusual (for Marvel, but common for competitors) strip-starts-on-the-cover style... which meant new art had to be commissioned for each. 

WOLVERINE UNLEASHED, the third of the Marvel Collectors’ Edition range from Marvel/ Panini, premiered in October 1996.  

Massive thanks to Darren Robertson for providing the cover scans for TOP CAT'S TV SHOW COMIC, FLINTSTONES AND FRIENDS, ACTION FORCE, MADBALLS and SLEEZE BROTHERS.  Much appreciated!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...