From thirty (!) years ago this month: the first four issues (all on sale in March 1986) of Marvel London's SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS weekly.
The previous year had not been kind to the web-slinger's long-running weekly (once the flagship of the British line but now looking distinctly unloved). Distribution had got so bad that copies seldom surfaced in any newsagent and the only way to be sure of a copy was to place a special order. Several format changes (tweaking page counts, paper stock and colour pages) had taken place in quick succession.
A radical relaunch as THE SPIDER-MAN COMIC (latterly SPIDEY COMIC, a spec title that Dez Skinn had mocked up a few years earlier as an entry level book for younger readers) pitched the weekly at a younger audience and 'encouraged' established readers to shift their loyalties to the new SECRET WARS launch. The reboots were not a success and the 666th issue, published in early December 1985, was the last.
But that finale did promise a reboot in the new year. And this was it. The Spider-man stories returned to the present continuity (or a convoluted British version thereof) and an older audience. And they were packaged with more commercially appealing fare which satisfied the current corporate mantra that a toy tie-in was essential for success. And two would be even better.
Marvel's first encounters with the Zoids had been in two strip inserts across the range (see posts previous) which must have been well enough received for Tomy and Marvel to book them in for a finite regular booking in the (increasingly packed) pages of Secret Wars. Clearly a success, the UK originated strip was shuffled again to become a regular herein. Make no mistake, despite the masthead, this bunch of warring machines were the main attraction herein.
The last issue of the original run teased this return to form and promised that the Fantastic Four would take the third slot in this all-colour 24-pager (the so called "Get Along Gang" format). However, Marvel encountered industry resistance from a newstrade resistant to superhero fare. So the back-up strip (the first of a succession) was allocated to SECTAURS, another American toy line (and, very briefly, a TV animation) which combined action figures with glove puppets. The reprint hailed, logically enough, from the first US issue.
Over the next few weeks STARLOGGED will chart all 51 (yup... this wasn't a rousing success) issues of this interesting little run.
Issue one came with a Zoids photo-poster (basically a photo of the toys) with spaces for stickers. The first sticker was cover-mounted (lost from this copy) with more stickers loosely inserted in the following issues starting with week three. The second issue was bagged with a TRANSFORMERS sticker album and starter stickers (that tried and tested wheeze) adapted from the cartoon series. The third issue featured more stickers to seal the deal.
CORRECTION--1986 was *30* years ago!
That promised Fantastic Four strip appeared from issue 5 or 6 with a Mr Fantastic cover, I believe (reworked from a FF Weekly poster image by Jerry Paris).
Doh. Actually a typo. That will be eradicated.Delete
Yup, well aware that the FF snuck in a few weeks later. All that will be covered in future posts in this series. There's some other interesting back-up strips in the mix too.
Krusty, you are making me feel so old.ReplyDelete
Slow, I'm looking forward to your future posts on this, easily one of the most offbeat titles from M-UK in the late 80's.
Regarding the strip inserts, I must confess I no longer have them and they are usually missing in any second hand copies which surface these days.
IPC also used this promotional tactic quite often and the practice is still alive and well as seen recently in LEGO NINJAGO which had a free insert for the new NEXO KNIGHTS comic.
If you look back through the STARLOGGED vaults you'll find some original MARVEL UK paperwork related to those ZOIDS inserts.Delete