Saturday, July 10, 2010

Marvelman Family's Finest No.1

Last year Marvel Comics bought the rights to the classic British superhero Marvelman and whilst speculation is still rife as to their position on the 1980s material, the company have just issued a comic reprinting some of the 1950s strips.

Despite the dark brooding figure on Marko Djurdjevic's cover, Marvelman Family's Finest No.1 gathers together five lighthearted short strips from the years 1954-57 from the pages of Marvelman Nos. 72, 102, and 222, Young Marvelman No.57, and Marvelman Family No.3. The artwork is by Mick Anglo, George Parlett, Don Lawrence and Norman Light and the format is similar to the Marvelman comics of old; glossy colour covers and black and white pulp paper interiors. There's also bonus features showing the development of Doug Braithwaite's variant cover, and a 1950's cover gallery.

Although it holds a curiosity value for comic historians I'm at a loss to understand exactly who Marvel think their core audience for this comic is. The problem as I see it is that although Marvel declare this an "All Ages" title on its barcode I can't really imagine many children enjoying it, assuming that children even visit the comic shops where distribution of this comic is limited to. (Sorry folks, you won't find this in your local newsagent.) The strips are very dated, and perhaps too unsophisticated for modern children and, if the online reaction so far is anything to go by, the same aspects will also put off the 20-plus fan market I think, which is Marvel's usual target audience these days.

That said, if one approaches the stories with a sense of post-modern irony one should get a kick out of it. The plots are completely barmy. In the lead story Gargunza decides that he's going to eliminate mountains from the Earth because they're "a curse to mankind". You see, "They get covered in snow, which melts, and the water rushes down, flooding towns and villages".

In another story two gardeners argue about the size of their marrows, prompting the King of he Vegetables to cause chaos on the surface world.

Were these stories deliberately written tongue in cheek for fun, or hacked out with little thought to the plots and dialogue? I suspect it's the former, and 50 years later we can now appreciate their humour in a new light. That's what these strips are all about; completely lighthearted daftness and Marvelman Family's Finest is a nice alternative to the grim and gritty tone of most current U.S. comics.

Marvelman Family's Finest No.1 (of 6) is $3.99 from comic specialist stores.


iceblood said...

"Bah, mine is a good six inches longer".

They really don't write them like that anymore.

Completely ridiculous and I think I shall buy it.

Kimota said...

I was also surprised to see how Marvel was marketing this archive material. All the promo art and covers accompanying the series are definitely aimed at a Miracleman-starved audience who are going to be very disappointed with the contents.

all those Marvel fans wondering who this guy is when Marvel announced the purchase last year are going to think their favourite publisher has completely lost the plot in proclaiming Marvelman one of the greatest superheroes of all time, which they did in an effort to build the hype.

It would have made far more sense to release the Marvelman Primer (due in a couple of weeks) first to outline the background and how these stories relate to the Miracleman work everyone is expecting (and won't get to see for a while yet as there are still issues to be sorted there).

crow said...

Maybe it's Alan Moore being playful and getting Marvel to jump through hoops in anticipation to them publishing his run of Marvelman?

It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to buy one issue of the comic let-alone six!

Although, the originals do have a certain 'charm', in a mad/eccentric English kind of way... In context: no different to some pretty nonsensical DC comics from the 1950s maybe?

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think they have quite the charm of Fifties DC comics. I was trying to be kind to the strips in my review but the most glaring thing about Marvelman is he's a knockoff of Captain Marvel (obviously, as he replaced CM on UK newsstands) but the strips are a weak imitation really. If the classic Captain Marvel strips don't appeal to fans today what chance does an imitation like Marvelman have? I hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Let's throw a curve ball at this...

Reprinting some obscure black and white 1950's material would be a very cheap and easy way to see if anyone has a problem the term "Marvelman", being used again wouldn't it....?

Will Dockery said...

Seems to be building a bit of momentum here, with the third issue. Pat, the comix shop owner (& the only shop within 40 miles), told me that he's sold all four copies he stocked of the current issue already!

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