Wednesday, 27 February 2019

MARVEL UK - Anniversary Roll Call: March 2019

This March sees two Marvel UK anniversary's arrive for the price of one.

It was forty years' ago that the next phase of Dez Skinn's multi-pronged Marvel Revolution kicked in with the launch of Hulk Comic (#1, cover dated: 7th March 1979). With the launch unaffected by any industrial action this time - which in certain regions had blighted the relaunch of Marvel Comic and Spider-Man Comic thanks to the haulier's dispute at the tail-end of the 'Winter of Discontent' - a huge financial investment had been placed in the title, which finally delivered on the oft-promised goal of producing a comic with material originated in the UK. The success of the initial issues in support of the popular Hulk TV show - with the lead comic strip closer to that world, to a degree, and superb back-ups in the form of Night Raven, The Black Knight and Nick Fury - was hugely helpful when it came to their next all-originated comic, Doctor Who Weekly, later in November.

Moving on just five years, and by 1984 glossy covers had returned to the Marvel weeklies. yet, 35 years' ago, that year's The Thing is Big Ben (#1, cover dated: 28th March 1984) was an odd exception with it's thick, paper-covered covers. It was also the first, and the only, time that any member of the Fantastic Four would receive their own UK comic, with The Thing's comic running with the final few issues from Marvel Two-in-One Team-Up, supported by other first run reprints from The Invincible Iron Man, as well as from the Kerry Gammill-era of Power Man and Iron Fist (taking over after four weeks of Captain America). 

The only real surprise inside the short-lived comic's 18 issues came from the regular presence of Hunt Emerson's bizarre one page Donald Dogfly strip featuring the lurking menace of Piggy Gruntbeast. As to how that came to appear in the weekly in the first place, and indeed where Piggy was slated to appear next... well, that's yet another story to be told in From Cents to Pence! in the very near future, so keep watching this blog!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

In this month (40 years ago)... The Marvel Revolution marches on!

It seems impossible, but it was 40 years ago this week that the next, and first major, phase of the 'Marvel Revolution' hit Britain (as advertised in a four page section the week before - one page of which is shown here)... or at least it should have done, if not for the 'Winter of Discontent'.

This rapid escalation of industrial action made re-launching strikingly different versions of their two flagship weekly comics - The Mighty World of Marvel and Super Spider-Man (whose final issue is shown below) - absolutely the worst time to be doing a re-branding, but it was too late and plans were too far advanced to change anything by then.

Super Spider-Man #310 - the final glossy covered issue
For a period of several weeks deliveries to newsagents were severely disrupted, and where I lived the final editions of the old style weeklies eventually trickled out after the shockingly different new and slimmed own, paper-covered editions had already begun appearing.

Marvel Comic #330
This was far from a smooth transition, thanks to the haulier's strikes, with issues arriving at any day of the week, and in an entirely random sequence as distributors attempted to clear the backlog from their warehouses. Until the middle of February, the result was continued chaos.

The covers of the comics reflected this period of turmoil, as shown here. After the first 'new-look' issues of both the renamed Marvel Comic (#330, cover dated: 2nd January 1979) and Spider-Man Comic (#311), from their second editions various combinations of issue numbers and/or cover dates began disappearing from the front covers during this period. Fortunately, the London Bullpen realised that there was nothing to stop them adding an issue number above the copyright notice along with the new editorial credits, so there is no difficulty in identifying the correct sequence of these affect issues.
Spider-Man Comic #312 (undated)

In the end publication of both comics, and the similarly afflicted Star Wars Weekly was halted for several weeks, with a five-week date skip between Spider-Man Comic #312 (31st January 1979) and #313 (7th March 1979), for instance, and a four-week jump between Star Wars Weekly #54 (14th February 1979) and #55 (14th March 1979).

This break in publication was never referred to in print and in the confusion was never apparent at the time. It's only when you take a look back across all three weeklies from this period that this time jump is revealed.

Fortunately, the strikes ended, and with a considerable sum of money already invested in their first new title that March, this time the debut of Hulk Comic would suffer no such disruptions.