Friday, March 02, 2012

Marvel UK: Captain Wally and Snail-Man

Back in 1985 sales of the British Spider-Man weekly were in need of a boost. The solution, Marvel UK decided, was to pitch it at a younger readership as sales of other comics were strong in that area.

The result was The Spider-Man Comic, a 32 page weekly with half its pages in full colour, featuring reprints of Spider-Man stories from Spidey Super Stories, an early-learner comic that Marvel US had been publishing. Other reprints included Fraggle Rock and Willy the Wizard (which had been called Wally the Wizard in the USA, but Marvel UK changed it to 'Willy' avoid unexpected laughter. Yes, quite.) Reprints of The Dukes of Hazard from TV Comic also started running a few weeks later.

The editor was Sheila Cranna, whom I'd worked for on my very first regular strip, Robo-Capers, for Transformers. Sheila asked me to come up with some ideas for the comic's revamp and I submitted two superhero-spoof characters, Captain Wally and Snail-Man. Happily Sheila liked both and I was commissioned to produce a full page Captain Wally every week along with a half page Snail-Man.

Here's the first Captain Wally...


...and the first Snail-Man...


As you can see, both characters were set in a very English suburban environment. This formula had worked well for children's comics for years, usually with Dennis the Menace style strips, so I thought it'd make superheroes look even more ludicrous than they are by placing them in that setting. Adding to that, neither characters had any independence in their lives. Wally lived with his parents whilst Snail-Man lived with his brutally domineering Aunt Maim, thus further emasculating the concept of the strong super-hero.


With the third Captain Wally strip I had Cap meet the Hulk. As far as I was concerned, this titanic meeting of Captain Wally and The Incredible Hulk is firmly set in continuity... even though I'm sure Marvel never saw it that way.


Sheila Cranna was a pleasure to work for and I thoroughly enjoyed producing these strips every week. I was still fairly new to the business and certainly learning the ropes (some of the artwork here is a considerably rough and wonky) but I was very pleased to be working on a comic that I used to buy as a kid. (Even though it had changed considerably they retained the numbering so it was still the same comic that had launched as Spider-Man Comics Weekly in 1973.)

During its run Captain Wally included some two and three part serials, which I'll show at a later date. It also introduced Macho-Man, who I'd later revamp a bit for his own series in Marvel UK's Secret War comic. Here's his first appearance from The Spider-Man Comic No.649...


For issue 650 I wanted to do something a bit different and, somehow, mention the comic's impressive long run. Sheila was happy to allow me two pages that week and I had Captain Wally and Snail-Man having a Marvel team-up...



Sadly, all things come to an end, some earlier than expected. With issue 651 the comic was tweaked again, becoming Spidey Comic. Jenny O'Connor became the editor and was instructed to make cuts in the budget, meaning that Captain Wally and Snail-Man made their final appearances in issue 653. This was quite a blow at the time as it was my first experience of losing work. (Fortunately things soon picked up thanks to other Marvel UK strips and IPC's Oink!)

Although the strips only ran for 20 weeks they were very important to me as they were amongst my first regular professionally-published strips and helped me gain more confidence in my work. Sheila Cranna pretty much allowed me to do what I wanted with the pages, and as what Marvel UK were looking for were traditional UK kids strips with a daft edge I was more than happy to oblige.

Most of the covers of The Spider-Man Comic featured composites of panels although I think the cover shown at the top of this post is a very early Barry Kitson job. (Apologies to Barry if I'm mistaken.) The two covers that stood out to me though were by Jerry Paris, (and he also lettered them I think). Here they are...



More from Captain Wally and Snail-Man at a later date!

5 comments:

Peter Gray said...

i love them you are great at this type of strip..what with Brickman and many others..
Look forward to seeing more..

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Peter!

Wil said...

The cover to that issue at the top of the page is absolutely fantastic in its awfulness :) I love it, right down to its rather random price of 27p.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I don't know how well those cover designs attracted readers but the fact they had another redesign a few weeks later suggests it wasn't quite working. :)

Anonymous said...

One of my comic joys is finding one of your "superhero/adventure"" funnies you know what's funny with these type of strips - had never read this comic (as also noted the awful cover design alone put me off 0- afraid I never found it in anyway attractive) or seen your strips before this - McScotty

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...