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.