Friday, 9 July 2021

From Cents to Pence! update (plus a very special edition of Captain Britain #7)

Firstly, a quick update, and then a poser to end on (as posted out on Facebook earlier).

Since January (and, admittedly, aided tremendously by Lockdown #3) I’ve been adding in a considerable amount of material not originally featured, and some upgrades to iron out some inconsistencies that became apparent once I began revisiting those files, largely untouched since 2007.

I’d forgotten just how much work was involved when I originally compiled the indices to almost everything published by Marvel in the UK since 1972 (and since 1967 by World Distributors and TV21), so it’s only now that I've nearly reached a point where I can start proofing it all before moving back to finish off all that remains, the last few chapters of the book and some of the Doctor Who Magazine content.

I've also made some unexpected discoveries with regards to some of the foreign material that John Freeman has kindly flagged up on his Down the Tubes site over the past year or so, as well as discovering some originated material published during the past few years that I was entirely unaware of.

In the meantime, here’s a poser guaranteed to get you rummaging through your collections of Marvel's 1970s weeklies :)

Captain Britain #7 was unique in two ways, both in relation to any other issue in the 1976/77 series, and indeed to any other Marvel UK weekly at the time.

Firstly, it contained a staple of other British comics, the pull-out, cut and fold booklet - in this case, an edited version of Howard the Duck’s first appearance, perhaps answering readers demands that Howard feature somewhere in the weeklies. More importantly, and the reason for this posting, is that #7 gave 100 lucky readers the chance to win one of five Stan Lee-signed copies of Bring on the Bad Guys, with the other 95 receiving an undisclosed prize instead.

As pictured, turning to the regular Fun Page feature by Owen McCarron, readers needed to focus their attention on a special box in the bottom right corner, just in case their copy contained an additional special message.

You’ll have guessed where I'm headed with this, I’m sure! What was the message? I've never seen a copy to learn if it was indeed an expensive over-print, as the text implies. #17 later revealed that the message was 'Excelsior', although whether all hundred copies were purchased at the time and every single copy mailed in to High Holborn to win a prize isn't clear.

However, just in case they weren’t all given up, I thought that you might fancy checking out your copies of #7 just in case you have that special message inside. While you’re rather too late to redeem the original prize, of course, if anyone does have the special page lurking in their collection and can provide a high quality scan for us, they can at least bask in seeing a very rare page from a comic in their collection in print for all to view.

Who knows, maybe there's still a copy or two somewhere across the globe. After all issues of the series were imported into the US and Canada, and no doubt across the Antipodes too. Happy hunting :)

Thursday, 10 June 2021

From Cents to Pence! latest + can you help #1

I'd forgotten just how much work was involved in compiling the original indices to Marvel's published UK output when the time came to revisit and update from 2000, where it had been left when writing on the history kicked in. I won't bore you with some of the stylistic changes needed for consistency - but I had a lot of fresh material to add that involved a lot of typing but provided the chance to fill in some annoying blanks.

Thanks to the input of various kind souls across the internet, in addition to the info on The Real Ghostbusters I'd secured last year, I now have full title info on Galaxy Rangers and Captain Planet, plus a few other oddities that I didn't buy at the time. As well as making a discovery about the ongoing Spider-Man magazine - for several years it's been running tranches of exclusive material, also published in Panini's European editions.

The good news is that I've almost finished with this - bar some intensive proofing - so I can soon return to the final task, finishing up the final chapters of the book detailing the Panini era.

With that overdue update out of the way, I'm hoping someone out there maybe able to help with the first of several searches I've fallen short on. These won't affect completion of the book - if I can resolve them then they'll be one of several holdovers for any subsequent updated edition. One of the things I've been looking at in recent years are the various foreign strips published in the UK - in the past week I seem to have resolved almost all of them once I'd deciphered a specialist website devoted to Tintin magazine (yes, they ran quite a few things from out of its pages in the mid-1980s), but not quite everything.

Here's one to get you thinking: Betty Boop - courtesy of a one-off Valentine's Day Special and various editions of The Marvel Bumper Comic. In the attached gallery below I've now been tipped off that the strip (images 1) probably came from a four issues series published by Gevion, but in which issue did it appear? I've also included the only Sunday page whose date is missing (all the others published were from 1985)? Good hunting!

Another search request and update will follow shortly.


Friday, 19 March 2021

Promises, promises... why I want From Cents to Pence! completed in 2021

Inspired by one thoughtful response posted on this site yesterday, and in line with my promise to run more regular updates, I thought it might be useful to explain precisely why you haven't seen From Cents to Pence! before now... and why that is actually a very positive thing.

As you may be aware, the original impetus for this book dates all the way back to 1990, and my growing curiosity about what had and hadn't appeared in Marvel's British comics, in order to create a wants to list to plug holes where stories were skipped (Marvel Team-Up I'm particularly looking at you!) or to supplement for any series where stories were butchered... ahem... 'edited' for reasons of continuity, format (the Marvel Revolution) or space. A nice little summer job, I thought ;)

Armed with the only available tools - a set of those wonderful George Olshevsky Marvel Index books (this was pre-internet days after all, folks), and later the Marvel cover book from the library - I set to the appointed task with gusto. The result was a large heap of paper and some very strange results in some places. For instance, one series appeared to have had far more stories published in the UK than in the US, which surely couldn't be right... could it?

Clearly more work was required, and during a period of several years between jobs, this gave me the time to start developing things further - buying up cheap sets of comics to reference titles not covered by Olshevsky, as yet, where my friend didn't own those issues (and thanks for letting me view, and buy some of, what you did have, Andrew!). Comics International then arrived and I was soon able to take full advantage of the small ads to fill in most of the gaps in my UK collection so that I could then fully index every story in every UK edition.

By the mid-1990s, my aim was to produce a British equivalent of those Olshevsky guides. If not for the regular persistence of Steve Holland (then editor of Comic World magazine) and Dez Skinn - who kindly allowed me to join Comics International's 'brains trust' on their Q&A pages (also publishing my story search requests) - that I should write a history as well, then it's likely that a guide to Marvel UK's published output would have appeared during the early Noughties as the internet allowed me to complete that research.

Now, I'm not trying to apportion any blame here, I should add! Steve and Dez were absolutely right to gently keep encouraging me to go further, and I'm glad that they did. I'd always been curious about the unwritten back story of Marvel in Britain, but just never expected to be the one to write it. With so little information out there pre-WWW, it seemed an impossible task, as three abandoned drafts working to a thin skeleton outline seemed to prove. Still, letters to other publications, particularly the late, lamented CBG, drew some interesting responses, and the arrival of the internet then opened up all sorts of new contact opportunities. None of us ever expected where this would all end up!

WHAT YOU ALMOST SAW - Parts 1 and 2
In one of its earlier guises, the book had been known as The Mighty World of Marvel UK, at least until Panini's revival of the comic that had inspired the name well and truly scotched that idea. A pre-DTP manual artwork, paste-up version under that name had been largely completed by then, and a copy was sent to the Comics International offices. I was later told that this invoked a mixture of fear and wonder amongst staffers at the scope and detail of the indices, and after a long quizzing from Dez with regards to my self-publishing plans, he offered to come on board as editor. I was hardly going to say no, was I?!

So, why didn't the book then come out circa 2005? Well, CI was still taking up a lot of Dez's time and so publication plans were simmered until he sold the magazine to new owners and began to develop his new publishing plans - the fruits of which we've now been seeing in recent times with various Quality collected editions. With more information increasingly coming to light by 2010 my history had reached a point where it seemed to be as complete as I could make it based on what I'd uncovered up to that point.

By 2010, magazines like Comic Book Marketplace, Comic Book Artist, Alter Ego and Back Issue had become a boon for new UK-related facts issuing forth from their many interviewees, and by then I'd spoken to many of the people I'd hoped to locate, some who'd been put in touch with me by others such as Alan Murray and Herb Trimpe, and a few who I didn't know before then, but who also had great stories to tell.

Of course, there were others who'd slipped through the net, and if you've been following this blog since it began, you'll know that I regarded two of the most important misses as Ray Wergan and Neil Tennant. Still, I couldn't wait forever, and by then I was teaching myself the use of InDesign as I began to construct a new electronic layout based on the original paste-up version, and in the build up to Marvel UK's 30th anniversary it seemed the perfect time to wrap things up. I'd completed several chapters before that fateful Saturday during 2011...

It's a good job that I hadn't turned over more than one page of that Saturday's edition of The Times, because a name immediately jumped out at me in their, always fascinating, often sparky, reader Feedback column. That correspondent was one Raymond Wergan, writing about the use of columnist's photos in the paper. Knowing by then that Wergan had run an agency supplying photos and other materials to the press, while also looking after Marvel's output until Dez had taken over in late 1978, I knew I'd found my man!

Dashing upstairs later that day to pen an urgent request, the columnist hosting the feature at the time very kindly, and promptly forwarded an introductory letter to Ray, and a few days later he responded to me directly. A decade long conversation then commenced, although I admit that neither of us would ever have expected that outcome back then.

Ray had never been interviewed about his involvement with Marvel before, and as the months rolled on, it became clear that while nothing I'd written thus far was really wrong, bar a few specific details, there was so much more I'd been unaware of and he had a lot to say about the operation that had never been revealed before. Answers to questions revealed new questions that needed asking, much like lifting up a huge boulder to secure a fossil only to reveal another hidden underneath, and as I began to further investigate and research the things I was learning, so many other new things were then uncovered.

Naively, I expected this process to extend completion of the text by a year or so, but thought it definitely worth the wait. In the meantime, I'd uncovered a whole other side to the history of Marvel in America that had led up to the decision to go for Britain in a big way in late 1972, knowing now why it was that year that MWOM had started up and not in any other one. And then there was the discovery of the Stan Lee archives at Wyoming University, and a treasure trove of British paperwork as well as that Roundhouse recording. While I wouldn't finally get to finally view that footage until last year (as posted about recently here), by then I'd quickly made full use of Lee's archived paperwork straightaway and had spoken to Neil Tennant by another quirk of fate (also posted here after the fact). One productive weekend of trawling the 'net had also managed to locate two British editors in one go - Peta Skingley and Maureen Softley. Everything was happening at once, and the discoveries were thrilling.

Of course, I do have a personal life and a demanding job too. At this point a confluence of various things occurred to slow my progress, but in-between I still pushed forward. In 2017 I then came to an abrupt standstill, with echoes of the present world situation, when I was completely flattened by a particularly nasty flu strain doing the rounds that left me with an infected lung and a five-month recuperation in all during a glorious spring and summer. Weirdly, the first lockdown last year almost perfectly matched that period from start to finish, and with much the same weather, too. It wasn't until the spring of 2018 that I felt ready to ease back into looking at the book afresh, and it was soon obvious what parts of the text needed more work to finish things off.

After spending six years cycling around the period 1951 to 1978, as I read further on past that point, some chapters - written, in the main, many years earlier now - were too patchy in places and not presented in the same depth that the first half of the book was. It would have been jarringly obvious to anyone reading things as they stood. The key areas were obvious, and it's those I've been ticking off ever since. Captain Britain and the Overkill era were two big areas to be completed. A full overview of The Real Ghostbusters was added at last during 2020, leaving later chapters involving Doctor Who and the final four devoted to the Panini era still to be completed.

An American cover converted by the Power Comics team into a recap page, introducing the plot for that week's Avengers instalment inside the pages of Fantastic #72.

I'll be coming back to those latter chapters in the next few weeks after I've finished updating all the indices to accommodate The Real Ghostbusters and several other series that I was previously unable to feature, as they were not titles I'd bought at the time. I've also been working on two parallel projects with fellow researchers that will also feed into the book, one of which will provide a skeleton guide to the many nursery titles not indexed in the book, the other providing accurate credits for the US artists involved on covers, pin-ups and splash pages during 1972 to 1979 or so. I also managed to complete, and typeset, a long-running TV21 index last year, and over 2/5 of a Power Comics index for potential inclusion too.

Galaxy Rangers advert - a series now fully indexed alongside the merger with Thundercats, the later Annual and the strip in the Marvel Bumper Comic Holiday Special

After finally getting to watch the Roundhouse footage last year, and by a fluke, finding a specialist researcher just before the pandemic who managed to locate something special for me in the British Library (a vital, unrecorded until now, connecting point between TV21 and MWOM) - both of which were vital loose threads that still needed stitching in - it suddenly feels like everything has finally fallen into place in a way that it obviously hadn't back in 2011. The book is now a very different beast from that presumptuous young cub that thought it was finished a decade earlier, and I think all the better for its delayed maturity.

I hope this reassures you that the long journey to complete From Cents to Pence! has been a worthwhile one, and that I'm not hanging things out so as 'just' to keep adding in the latest nugget of information - that's a process that could go on forever! I've long since accepted that a book like this will never be truly complete when there's always more out there still to be revealed.

As further proof of this desire to finally wrap things up, due to the decade it's taken to effectively overwrite and reshape much of what I had into something which now tells a much more unexpected story (and I never thought I'd end up writing so much about Marvel in America, for one thing), there simply aren't enough hours in the day to now go back and expand the indices to also cover the first two decades of the Panini era in full. As a compromise, for his edition I intend to provide full details of all the regular titles, Specials, Annuals that have been released from 2000 up to the end of 2020, but will only be able to list any originated material they contained - a full series-by-series catalogue of all the US material they contained, in the style adopted for everything published from 1972 up to 1999, will take some time to research and assemble (that's hundreds of pages of records to go through, as I've been logging everything as its released, title-by-title over the past two decades plus) and so will have to wait for a future, updated edition should that ever become a desirable necessity.

So, I hope you're now convinced that I really do want to get this wrapped up, not just for my own sanity, but to allow you to finally see what all this fuss has been about! And, of course, 2022 will mark 70 years of Marvel in British comics, in all its many forms, starting with Thorpe & Porter right through to Panini, which is surely something to celebrate!

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

From Cents to Pence! - Celebrating 70 years of Marvel in the UK: 2021 update 1

As promised, heres the latest in a more regular (I hope) series of updates in the months to come on the progress of From Cents to Pence!

The pandemic has been a difficult time and induced a strange mixture of emotions for everyone. Ive been fortunate enough to have been in a position to make good use of both the first, and now latest, lockdowns to massively push forward work on the book, such as filling in the remaining Thundercats information from the few issues I never bought (its a long story, and a rare and stupid mistake, as Ive never been able to purchase more than a handful of them since for my own collection), and also inserting a huge amount of information into the history and indices covering almost every issue from the various series connected to The Real Ghostbusters, along with full details of the long-lived main title. These were all major omissions from the book, of course, so a huge thanks to all those who provided scans or the relevant hard-copy details.

During these unexpected periods of research, on both occasions Ive also found myself taking unexpected, but useful detours in to areas I hadnt expected to look at until any future up-dated edition - this time around due to managing to lock myself out of my laptop due to a saving glitch.

The other useful outcome of this unexpected break from hardcore typesetting and formatting has also inspired a slight change to the shape of the chapter structure, in as much as Ive reduced the number of grouped headings, inspired by the solution to a clue in The Puzzler no less (a title that I originally started purchasing regularly not long after discovering Marvels own range of British published delights, only abandoning sometime in the mid 1980s until now, except for the occasional Christmas and anniversary edition).

This simple change to the chapter groupings, which also obliterates those untidy date overlaps, seems so blindingly obvious that Ive no idea why it has never occurred to me before now! It also provides something that has been lacking before now - a straightforward terminology for viewing the overall shape of Marvels relationship with Britain since 1951, in the same way that such terminology has long been applied to American comics as a whole, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age and beyond. In Britain, the defining eras are much sharper to zoom in on, but see what you think with the revised groupings below...

THE LICENSED AGE (1951-1971)
Chapters 1-4: A brief history of Marvel in America, with a view to highlighting how the early years of Stan Lee’s career pointed the way towards the formation of a British magazine division; Marvel in British comics from 1951 up to 1970; Developments at Marvel in America that led up to the start of the British project.

Power Comics house advert from Terrific before the retrenchment began

THE MARVEL AGE (1972-1978)
Chapters 5-20: The secret origin of British Marvel; The confluence of initially unrelated business decisions in America that led to the formation of the UK wing, and how Stan Lee, Albert Landau and (yes) Chip Goodman became involved; a tale of two cities – how it was all run under the watchful gaze of Sol Brodsky and Ray Wergan; the backstory behind all the comics they produced from 1972-8.

THE MARVEL UK AGE (1978-1999)
Chapters 21-36: The Marvel Revolution! – the inside line on the whys and wherefores of the re-shaping of the UK line in 1979 and the comics now produced directly by the London office; Title-by-title, through Paul Neary's post-'Revolution' publishing explosion and the start of the ‘Marvel UK’-branding; The third coming of Captain Britain; Their huge success in licensed (toy) comics.

One of several slightly-bigger-than-US sized comics from the mid-1980s - Droids and Alf were others.
Not be confused with any other Dennis, of course!

Chapters 37-47: Moving on through Marvel UK’s first toe-tip into publishing comics also sold in America, through to the last knockings of the Overkill-era of UK created American colour comics (which also includes an in-depth title-by-title look at many of the titles that didn’t quite happen during that period), and all the UK comics released during that period; How Marvel UK was merged with Panini’s UK operation under Marvel America’s control, as the company on both sides of the Atlantic re-orientated after the direct market crash; The birth of the Collector’s Editions.

THE PANINI AGE (1999-2021+)
Chapters 48-50: The sale of Marvel UK to Panini in the wake of Marvel America’s Chapter 11 deal; The expansion of the Collector’s Editions; New formats, experiments and surviving perhaps the most difficult period of history that publishers have had to face in centuries.

And that’s it... at least for now!

P.S. Apologies for the repeated illustrative material from the last post on this topic, which is entirely due to having to fall back on a more basic computer in the interim.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

ROUND YOUR WAY (back in 1975, anyway)!

In the year following first contact with Ray Wergan in 2011,
I made a series of discoveries that changed the course of the book in a major way, inspired by what I was now learning from British Marvel’s first overseer. I forget what I was researching one winter afternoon, but I stumbled across an exciting catalogue listing from an American museum. This formed part of a much larger holding at the American Heritage Centre (AHC) based on the campus of Wyoming University, who had been gifted the Stan Lee Archive.

The archive comprises material from several different deposits made by Lee in the years preceding his demise, and so you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across that master list of its contents – notated as a series of storage boxes containing various materials. There were three that caught my attention, although I’d spot a fourth one on a later occasion (a short audio recording for a UK radio commercial): British Correspondence 1973/4; Transworld correspondence; and in one of the audio/visual boxes videotapes of his appearance at The Roundhouse 1975.

The first teaser advert for The Roundhouse event

I know, videotape! Of the show at The Roundhouse! I was stunned by the prospect that it might be viewable.

Of course, I got in touch with the AHC immediately, although I remained doubtful that I’d be able to access anything given that I wasn’t resident in the US. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The team were wonderfully helpful from the outset, and arming their researches with a list of key words, I soon received a packed PDF of all that correspondence at a very fair cost  well worth it for the time taken to locate and scan all the pages. This stash of paperwork revealed a wealth of behind the scenes details via memos, letters, print contracts and sales reports. It also created more material to ask Wergan questions about too, naturally, starting up a continuing dialogue.

If you’ve been following TwoMorrow’s recent output, then you’ll have seen such books as Stan Lee Universe that have dipped into the Wyoming holdings. However, I think it’s fair to say that although the archives are open to one and all, the significance of that Roundhouse box will have been lost on most people in the US. Inside that storage box were two black-and-white video reels – an early professional format – which former Marvel London studio man Alan Murray informed me had been recorded by the young, comic-loving fans working for London’s first cable company. This documents Stan’s first major interaction with British comic fans on the evening of 20th October 1975.

There was one teensy-weensy, small snag, however. Whoever first requested such material had to pay the digital transfer costs. Not cheap for such a specialist job.

One of the two video reel boxes housing a visual treasure trove...

It was only this year that I was finally able to make the necessary arrangements to have the footage transferred by an archival specialist with the machine in the US capable of running the precious reels. The tapes were not in good condition, so the footage is – sadly – no longer in broadcast quality (quite where Stan kept the tapes we’ll probably never know). Thankfully, we’ve caught it just in time, so despite the visual glitches, the odd missing frame or picture hold, the audio remains rock solid throughout the entire show… and it’s a long one at nearly two-and-a-half hours’ worth!

In fact, the only thing that it didn’t include was the band performance by Good Habit, which wasn’t filmed (although a brief snatch of a soundcheck can be seen, and the lead singer's opening dialogue can also be seen and heard), but everything else was there from start to finish, captured by a single camera located in the gallery. It's an amazing time-trip to a very different era, and I feel amazingly privileged to be one of the first to view it since the original event happened.

Projection behind the band throughout their performance, while Spidey patrolled the audience
giving out special vitamin pills to fortify the audience for the evening ahead (no, really!)

Due to copyright considerations, I hope you'll forgive me for, at present, not uploading even a sampler onto YouTube. If this becomes possible later, then I’ll seek out someone to help me edit the footage slightly into something more manageable, as there are some staging portions that could easily be trimmed or removed to speed things up a bit (the pace is somewhat leisurely by today's standards, shall we say). It would certainly be nice to perhaps hold some kind of special one-off screening at some point. For now, I’ve posted the only two screen grabs that I’ve had time to capture so far (from notes I made of suitable sections during the initial viewings), and you’ll find a brief extract from a full transcription below, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Most of the extracts published in the fan press were fairly accurate in what they quoted, but it’s great to finally be able to take it from source to eliminate mis-hearings/typing. Naturally, this has been an extremely useful resource in addition to all the audio interviews that Alan Murray held on to, several phone interviews I’ve conducted over the years (Larry Lieber, Herb Trimpe and Neil Tennant), and of course countless e-mail conversations with folks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Okay, I’ll shut up, and get back to working in the final chapters…

The following extract  covering three popular characters of the day (one not even by Marvel!)  comes from the first round of audience Q+As that evening at The Roundhouse before Herb Trimpe came on stage later, and just a few minutes after host Ted Polhemus had finished trying to get to the essence of what made Stan, well, Stan. As to why Ted and/or Stan are repeating the questions, well that was for the benefit of the audience. There was only a small microphone set-up on stage, so questions from the audience are as inaudible on the recording as they would have been to much of the packed crowd too.

Stan Lee captured in full flow, perched on a reversed office swivel chair, with mainly untouched
glasses on the tea-chest in front of the epidiascope that Trimpe will later draw on
(note the frame distortion at the top of the still, and speckling across the image)

Ted: “Now, Stan, tell us about the Silver Surfer”.

Stan: “Silver Surfer! Okay, Silver Surfer time! The Silver Surfer is one of the strangest examples of something that I can think of. Y’know, the way we used to work, I would give the artist a plot because I was writing most of the stories and I didn’t really have time to… I couldn’t write fast enough to keep all these artists busy. So, you’re wondering, what has this to do with the Silver Surfer? Well, in my own roundabout way, you just watch how we zero in on it. So, I’d be writing a script for Jack Kirby, let’s say, and Steve Ditko would come over and say ‘I need a story’, and Don Heck would say ‘I need a story”, and Gene Colan, and here I am finishing Kirby’s, but I could let these guys sit around with nothing to do. So, I would say, ‘Well, look Steve, I can’t write your script now, but here’s what the plot is; I’ll tell you roughly what the idea is. You go home and draw it, then bring it back to me, and I’ll put the copy in later’. And then I would say that to Don, and to Gene, and to everybody else, and in that way I could keep a lot of artists busy at once just by telling them the story idea, letting them draw it any way they wanted, and I’d put all the words in later. I found out it was the best way to work, because I’d get the real creative thinking of the artist, who wasn’t hindered by a detailed script, and when I wrote the copy, I could write copy that was tailored exactly to what the drawings were. Well, I did that with Jack Kirby, and here we get to the Silver Surfer”.

“On a Fantastic Four story, I said, ‘I want you to get a villain called Galactus, and Galactus is a guy who destroys entire planets by draining the energy of that planet, you see, and it may sound crazy but Jack knew what I meant. He went home and drew the thing, and it was great, and when he gave the drawings to me, I looked at the drawings and I said I noticed he had one character flying in the air on a white surfboard, and I said, ‘Who’s this nut on the flying surfboard?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I figured that anybody named Galactus who can destroy whole planets he ought to have an assistant – a herald who goes ahead of him and finds the planets for him to attack’. That sounded okay to me, but I liked the look of this guy on the surfboard, and Jack and I talked about him, we decided to call him the Silver Surfer, and I was so intrigued by him I said, ‘I’m not going to let him talk just like any ordinary guy, but I’m going to give him dialogue that’ll be, I don’t know, almost biblical. He’ll philosophise about the human condition, and the state of the world, and the insanity of the people on Earth, and the fact they have all these wars, and they have crime and there’s poverty, and race hatred and bigotry, and all the terrible things about the human race’. And I really enjoyed it, and I thought it would be great, but I never really thought that people would relate to the Silver Surfer as much as they did. Little by little a whole cult grew up about this character, and we finally put out a series of Silver Surfer books, which Jack was too busy to draw and we had John Buscema draw them, and they became very popular, but again I got very busy and couldn’t continue it. And now, to answer the question as to what happened to him, and when we’ll bring him back, I have fallen so in love with this character I really don’t want anyone else to write the Silver Surfer. I don’t have time to write the series, so he’s sort of in limbo now, floating round on his surfboard somewhere in the galaxy until I’ll get a chance to write him, because I’m not going to let any other writer… it’s like some parent letting somebody else take care of his kid – I couldn’t do that!”

Ted: “But Stan…” [audience applauds]

Stan: “Thank you, Silver Surfer lovers!” [more applause]

Ted: “You’re like a parent to all of these characters – Spider-Man as well – now you let other people write Spider-Man”.

Ted: “What’s so special about the Silver Surfer then?”

Stan: “Well, I think one of the special things about the Silver Surfer is everybody, even young kids, are really into philosophy, into what’s the world really about and why are we here, and where are we going? And we all like things that are a little bit metaphysical, and I think the Silver Surfer has all that. He has sort of religious overtones without being religious, you know what I mean? I don’t know. It’s a little hard to explain why something fascinates somebody, but look he affects me the same way – he’s the only character I won’t let anybody else write”.

Ted: “How about the guy waving two Titans comics in the air?”

Audience member: [Inaudible question]

Stan: “Ohhh!”

Ted: “The question is, what’s happening about the Superman/Spider-Man team-up? Which I didn’t know anything about, anyway!”

Stan: “Well, I’ve been keeping it a secret from you, Ted! [laughs] The, um… Don’t ask me why, but for some reason somebody came to me and said, ‘Hey, Stan, why don’t you do a team-up book where Superman and Spider-Man will be in the same book’. Well, my first reaction was, ‘You’re crazy!’, then I thought of it a little bit, and ‘Boy, wouldn’t that be something’, but then I said, ‘Ah, nah! We could never do that!’, and then I thought, ‘Well, why couldn’t we do that?’ Well, to make a long story short, I called the Publisher of the Superman company, a guy named Carmine Infantino – and I hope he appreciates me giving him this valuable free publicity – and I said, ‘Hey, Carmine’… and many people don’t know this, but Carmine and I years ago used to work together – he used to draw strips for us, and he was very good, he was a good artist. Anyway, I said, ‘How about if we do a book with Superman and Spider-Man’, and he said the same thing I had said, ‘Ah, you’re crazy, we can’t do that!’, and then he thought a little and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t that be something!’. Well, we decided, just for fun, maybe the world is ready. You see, I’m happy about it for this reason. Superman was the first superhero. He’s been around for a billion years. Everybody knows about him – they know about him in Australia, China, all over, and he’s almost become a generic word like Kleenex [mild audience laughter] – Spider-Man is new! We’ve pulled him up by his bootstraps. Our little company – and we are a little company compared to Warner Brothers, which owns Superman – our little company has been struggling to make the world aware of Spider-Man and our characters. I might add, you might be interested in knowing, that Spider-Man and Marvel Comics are now the biggest-selling company in America. We out-sell the Superman books [huge cheers and applause] Thank you! But we are still… we are still comparatively a little company, so I thought what a kick this’ll be – finally even the Superman company has to admit and recognise that Spider-Man is as famous, and they have to want Spider-Man with Superman in order to interest their audience, so for that reason I love the idea, you see!”

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

From Cents to Pence! – A story (now) told in 50 chapters (and no more than that, I promise)!

Okay, I think you’re long overdue an update on progress with the book (and how no one pulled me up on the typo in that title-heading, I don’t know – it should have read 46, of course). Now I was all set to write “post-lockdown”, but that’s now become now in-between lockdowns, alas. Thanks for all your comments, and apologies I've only just come back to the blog... but I have been rather productive, so I hope you'll forgive me.

Anyway, it’s all good news for once. As I promised in my last post (and was it really all the way back in January), I’ve worked through much of that material during the time I mentioned while I was furloughed, as well as exploring a few extra tangential research topics that I wasn’t expecting to touch, and completing a rather nifty lengthy archive audio transcription as well. As to what that might be from, well, I suggest you keep an eye on the post directly following this one – yes, two in one week to make up for the dearth of posts this year!

Right now, that leaves me with two main areas to complete, which I’m cracking on with at the moment. Both of which involve the last four or five chapters in the main. And that should be it! The upshot of my current writing on those latter chapters dealing with the Panini era – and that audio transcription creating the need to divide a chapter as well – is that there are now no less than 50 chapters. I’m going to ensure that they don’t get too big that they need subdividing, as 50 is a rather tidy number to work with… and it also fits so neatly with the subject matter at the start of the final chapter that you’d think it was always planned that way! 

Anyway, here’s a more exact chapter breakdown as the book should now appear (and should you so wish, you can play compare and contrast with that previous listing as it stood back in January)... well, should the fancy take you, anyway ;)

1: A brief history of Marvel in America, with a view to highlighting how the early years of Stan Lee’s career pointed the way towards the formation of a British magazine division.

RIVALRY (1951-1971)
2-4: Marvel in British comics from 1951 up to 1970; Developments at Marvel in America that lead up to the start of the British project.

Power Comics house advert from Terrific before the retrenchment began

SYNERGIES (1972-1978)
5-20: The secret origin of British Marvel; The confluence of initially unrelated business decisions that led to the formation of the UK wing, and how Stan Lee, Albert Landau and (yes) Chip Goodman became involved; a tale of two cities – how it was all run under the watchful gaze of Sol Brodsky and Ray Wergan; the backstory behind all the comics they produced from 1972-8.

REVOLUTION (1978-1980)
21-27: The Marvel Revolution! – the inside line on the whys and wherefores of the re-shaping of the UK line in 1979 and the comics they produced.

INDEPENDENCE (1980-1988)
28-36: Title-by-title, through Paul Neary's post-'Revolution' publishing explosion and the start of the ‘Marvel UK’-branding; The third coming of Captain Britain; Their huge success in licensed (toy) comics.

One of several slightly-bigger-than-US sized comics from the mid-1980s - Droids and Alf were others.
Not be confused with any other Dennis, of course!

DUALITY (1988-1994)
37-44: From Marvel UK’s first toe-tip into publishing comics also sold in America, right through to the last knockings of the Overkill-era of UK created American colour comics (which also includes an in-depth title-by-title look at many of the titles that didn't quite happen during that period), and all the UK comics released during that period.

TURBULENCE (1992-1999)
45-47: How Marvel UK was merged with Panini’s UK operation under Marvel America’s control, as the company on both sides of the Atlantic re-orientated after the direct market crash; The birth of the Collector’s Editions.

CONTINUITY (1999 to present) 48-50: The sale of Marvel UK to Panini in the wake of Marvel America’s Chapter 11 deal; The expansion of the Collector’s Editions; Bringing the story up to date.

While you’re digesting all that, I’ll start preparing the next post!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

From Cents to Pence! - 2020 update: a story (now) told in 36 chapters!

Since returning to work on From Cents to Pence! with a vengeance in 2018, various discoveries have lead to the expansion of several chapters, and in some cases where they were becoming too unwieldy - and as noted in an earlier post here - sometimes cleaved them in two (or more). In the past year this has happened several times again, increasing the previous of 34 chapters up to 46 in all. As you can imagine, this alone has it made it a busy year, so this has been the first opportunity I've found to finally fill you on what I've been up to over the past year or so.

Oh, and there was also an article on the secret history of Transworld, and its connection to Marvel, that Roy Thomas kindly ran in the Stan Lee tribute edition of Alter Ego (#161) a month or so ago, itself a prequel to an earlier piece that appeared in Back Issue (#63) a few years ago (both from the ever-expanding TwoMorrows Publishing stable). I've included links to the sale pages for both of these issues, should you wish to get a taster for what's to come in From Cents to Pence!

The most recent cause for a further, more modest, expansion in the number of chapters - after those caused by Captain Britain updates and a huge development of the Overkill era - was the discovery of an on-line archive for the entire run of The Real Ghostbusters. I'd been previously unable to say much about the comic, as it wasn't a title that I'd bought at the time, mainly because it contained no mainstream Marvel Universe material unlike the supporting strips in the Transformers and Thundercats etc., and of course I had no idea that I'd start working on any such book until a few years later, and by then it was far too late.

I've almost finished slotting in all of the TRG material now - from a considered overview of the comic's changing contents, its creators, and some previously published extracted interview material - so I should soon be able to return to the final two outstanding areas: the most recent Panini chapters at that end (which need tidying up and extending to a conclusion reaching the end of 2019), and an overhaul of the Doctor Who content to introduce some more personal research on another less-written about side of the magazine (the results of a year-and-a-half-long on-and-off analysis of the title and all the Specials).

For now, here's how the 46 chapters fall, still replete with newly uncovered information from personal archives and copious interviews with the personnel involved with the British division from its origins in both the New York and High Holborn/Sevenoaks Bullpens (and then back to London again through the Kentish Town/Redan Place/Arundel House years before heading back to Kent again)...

1-4: A brief history of Marvel in America; Marvel in British comics up to 1970.

5-19: The secret origin of British Marvel; The confluence of initially unrelated business decisions that led to the formation of the UK wing, and how Stan Lee, Albert Landau and (yes) Chip Goodman became involved; a tale of two cities - how it was all run under the watchful gaze of Sol Brodsky and Ray Wergan; the backstory behind all the comics they produced from 1972-9.

20-26: The Marvel Revolution!; The inside line on the whys and wherefores of the re-shaping of the UK line in 1979 and the comics they produced.

27-43: Title-by-title, from Paul Neary's post-'Revolution' publishing explosion to the 'Marvel UK'-branded years, and from Captain Britain right through to the last knockings of the Overkill-era of UK created American colour comics (which also includes an in-depth title-by-title look at many of the titles that didn't quite happen during that period).

44-46: The Panini years - the story to date.

Anyway, that's the outline of the history portion of the book as it now stands (and apologies again for the lack of any images here). Hopefully I'll have more news soon... and well before the end of 2020 at that!