Friday, 5 June 2015

From Cents to Pence! - a story told in 34 parts

While I'm straining every sinew to finish work on From Cents to Pence (and, oh for a hidden cache of a few extra hours in a week!), I thought you might find it interesting to discover how the 34 chapters (count them) actually break down now, 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.

5-17: 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.

18-22: 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.

23-31: Title-by-title, the Marvel UK years from Captain Britain through to the last knockings of the Overkill-era of UK created American colour comics, plus the lowdown on some of the titles that didn't quite happen over the years.

32-34: The Panini years - the story to date.

Anyway, that's the outline of the history portion of the book. I'll get back to finishing off the first 17 chapters ready for proofing now...


  1. Very happy that this is still ongoing. Take as much time as you need: your target audience is probably in its 40s to 50s yes, so you still have ten years before you start to lose market. As this is likely to be the definitive work you may as well get something you are really happy with.

    Have you considered a chapter on movie connections? I know that any such connections might be tenuous, but that would be the way to get sales: find something that is easy for a busy news site to use without much editing. And these days news sites only care about the movies.

    I'm trying to think of obvious comic book movie angles. Did Alan Moore do any Marvel UK stuff? I know Alan Davis did - could you argue that Marvel UK trained the talent that saved comics in the 1980s? Or did the opening of the UK offices give the company a morale boost in the early 1970s when everybody thought superheroes had no future? Or did any failed movies have links to the UK? Or failing the movie angle, I trust that you will milk the Dr Who angle for all it's worth.

    On the other hand, if this is purely a labour of love and you have a busy "real life" then you might just be glad to say "it is finished" :)

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the kind words, although it could well be argued that I've already spent as much time - nay, if not more - than I need on this 'labour of love' seeing as this whole thing first got started back in 1990 or so!

      There isn't a chapter on 'movie connections' as such, but because the book moves through the story more-or-less chronologically this means that both Planet of the Apes and Star Wars get chapters to themselves due to the importance of what they published in relation to the British division and how it was organised.

      I realised some time back that I should broaden the way it was being written to widen reader appeal so it wasn't just appealing to dedicated fans, so while they'll get a kick out of a lot things, hopefully lapsed readers will see it, open it and see something unexpected that brings back memories and encourage them to dive in too. I've included a few sociological/topical asides to place events in context, but this isn't a thesis, so they're only there to clarify (for instance, the switch to decimalisation will be new to US readers, while still interesting to UK readers due to its effect on the imports of the colour comics at the time).

      And, as you're suggesting here, there are a lot of angles, and specific fan groups, that FCTP can be marketed too, from Doctor Who right through to the Transformers and Thundercats, so there's a lot of ground covered and plenty for all to enjoy :)

      Did Alan Moore do Marvel UK stuff? Indeed he did, working initially with Alan Davis on Captain Britain after Dave Thorpe left the series, as well as doing a series of Doctor Who back-ups, various text features and I seem to recall him doing a Star Wars strip too.

      But yes, it has been difficult balancing work on this with the day job and everything else, so I been making concerted efforts to tidy up the text and, well, get it finished at last :)

  2. Take as long as you need, Rob, I can wait!

    1. Hi John,

      Bless you, although see my answer to Chris on this topic, I think :)

  3. Hi Rob

    Hope the proof reading is going well.

    Thinking back to 1972 when the UK Mighty World of Marvel comic first appeared I quickly became annoyed that it wasn't long before I could no longer get current "proper" copies of Spiderman, FF etc from my local newsagents. Instead of walking round the corner to the spinner rack I now had to get on a train to London every couple of months and visit the Westminster Comic Marts !!! I think the only comic shop then was in London too!!

    And I seem to recall that well after Smash had reverted to a "normal" comic the Mighty Thor then began to appear in some other IPC title in the early 1970s. Or is my mind playing tricks?


  4. Hi Dave,

    Yes, it is... at least, when I get a run at it :)

    I have certainly reflected on the fan reaction to the loss of some of the imports as the UK comics took their place - it was quite vehement in some of the fan press of the time. And I can understand that. But setting up British Marvel was a huge financial commitment from Marvel. So, in truth, there were various strands of opinion about what to do, from only shipping across some imports through to almost all the imports. In the end it was a balancing act as to how much could be brought in without hurting the UK product. I've certainly given it due space, supported by commentary from some of those in the loop at the time.

    Don't forget that certain US titles were prominently advertised in the UK comics - Marvel Classic Comics and the Treasury Editions - so they were hardly trying to hide the fact that the US comics were available, even if the distribution was spotty, and the title range limited.

    I'm not aware of Thor appearing in any IPC title after the fall of the Power Comics, so I'm afraid that it may well be a trick of the mind. He may well have been featured in the Alan Class comics however, as Marvel material was still being licensed out to other publishers even after the UK wing had been set up (i.e. Portman). Sounds crazy today in this era of distinct territories, but it just hadn't been thought through at the time. Expect a fair few pages in all on this subject too :)

    Oh, and Tales of Asgard featured in The Eagle for a while at a time when Marvel reprints were constantly propping up failing UK comics. Is it any wonder Stan Lee wanted them to do their own UK product - and it was him wanting to do it. It was absolutely Stan's idea to set up a British division, for reasons that have only become clear in the past half-a-decade. There's a whole other side to this story that, until now, has yet to be told...

    1. Hmm yeah..must have been Tales of Asgard I was thinking of.

      Of course the advent of Marvel UK just meant I had even MORE comics to buy. Planet of the Apes was a particular favourite, often more for the backup strips than the title stories. And I recently discovered I still own a stack of Marvel Pocketbooks from the late 1970s/early 1980s with classic Tomb of Dracula and Man Thing. I always found those digest-sized comics difficult to track down. In fact finding stockists of the full range of Marvel UK books in the 1980s was often just as patchy and unpredictable as had been efforts to collect consecutive issues of the original 1960s/1970s Marvel comics (at least in my part of the universe)


    2. Blimey, sorry your comment has been sitting in my inbox for so long! Yes, I loved the Pocket Books too.

      We were well served with newsagents here, so it was unusual to have trouble getting everything, even if you didn't have issues reserved or delivered to home with the family newspaper(s).

      The Winter of Discontent was a whole other matter of course, luck would play a big part as to whether everything eventually showed up in your town. I managed to only miss one issue at the time, probably only because I didn't get there quick enough. I was visiting almost daily once it became clear that issues were being delivered in any old order as the distributor was clearing all the backlog out into the shops.

  5. Hi.

    Any updates on this? I've wanted a copy of this book since I first heard about it a couple of years back. I'm a bit eager (a big understatement) to read it.



    1. Hi Darren,

      Only to say that I'm back on it after a six month lay-off - too much going at work and elsewhere, and something had to give. And this isn't the kind of project, at least not at the proofing stage that you can dib into only once in a while :)

      Hopefully, I'll have more to say soon.

      For now, keep watching the blog - I'll try to post a bit more often again now.