Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Panini Comics - a major birthday, and a sudden change...

It should be a joyous time, but the New Year anniversary I'd marked in my diary has suddenly been overshadowed.

January 1st 2020 marks the 20th Anniversary of Panini's take-over of the Marvel UK line. Prior to that, the Marvel UK operation had been merged with that of Panini UK for several years, but was still ultimately owned by Marvel. Having successfully managed to escape Chapter 11 protection in the US (for reasons far too long and complicated to go in to here), Marvel was forced to divest themselves of various acquisitions during 1999 as part of the deal, and this included the sale of Panini. It was also agreed that Marvel UK was to be retained by Panini, who would then promote and license material throughout Europe and other territories. The only sign of the handover was a slight change in the wording of the copyright indicia in all of their publications, from Doctor Who Magazine all the way through to Marvel Legends, and normal publication continued uninterrupted.

I remember being surprised at the time about the Panini move, as even then they'd become almost solely identified with their collectable sticker and album business, but it quickly became clear they had the organisation and resources to run a comics line, as they've also done successfully right across Europe for many years now. Even so, its been another tough year in publishing in many sectors, and sadly Panini seems to be affected too.

To begin with 2019 was the first year since 1967, when there were no Marvel-themed hardback Annuals placed on sale in the late autumn by Panini (or any other publisher). Following that unexpected discovery, there was then the sudden cancellation of The Mighty World of Marvel, just as it was promoting a relaunch with a new #1. This would have featured stories taken from The Immortal Hulk US title amongst other strips.

Unfortunately, I have more sad news to report today.

Picking up the latest edition of Marvel Legends in WHSmiths today (they sometimes put new issues out on sale on a Wednesday here), I noticed that the squarebinding (which the title had been the last in the Collectors' Edition line to adopt in July 2018 after Deadpool Unleashed kicked off the format back in spring 2017) had been dropped, as had the price, which has slipped back down to just £4.50 again. Then I realised that the issue felt thinner too, and a quick look at the contents - as issues still remain unpaginated - confirmed that the comic is now only 52 pages, with Iron Man nowhere to be seen. The cover also advertises a free, centre-stapled fold-out A3 poster, perhaps intended as a way to (ever-so-slightly) soften the shock.

The 76 page Collectors' Edition format has also been an unusually enduring one too, and was due to celebrate its own anniversary in October this year. Until now, only 1997's Marvel Heroes Reborn had been presented in a 52 page format, and that was only for its first 16 editions.

Although there's been no announcement of this reformatting yet on the Panini Facebook page (but then it is New Year's Day, after all, so that's not a criticism), I'm expecting to see the latest edition of The Astonishing Spider-Man in the same format as well, when it gets put out on the shelves tomorrowAnd then there's those occasional bumper-sized 100 page editions to consider. Will these shrink instead to that previously standard 76 page size, or will they die out altogether? Hopefully not.

Apologies for being the bearer of less than glad tidings, and also for the lack of images in today's posts. I'm presently unable to access any images to upload on here to brighten things up a bit, but can always add something retrospectively.

Wishing you all a peaceful and very happy New Year, wherever you are in the world.


  1. That's a shame. I hope it doesn't ultimately lead to the total demise of the Panini 'Marvel UK' line.

  2. Well, so far Astonishing Spider-Man has stayed at 76 pages for £4.99, but I suspect all the titles will shrink down at appropriate story junctures. Yes, I hope that doesn't happen either.