This coming Sunday, September 30th 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of The Mighty World of Marvel No.1, - and 40 years since Marvel UK set up business. (Even though, initially, the comics were edited and designed in New York, with a London office just handling advertising, printing and distribution.)
Marvel UK no longer exist under that name of course. For several years now Marvel have been represented in Britain by Panini UK who have the license to publish UK editions of Marvel Comics (and a great job they do too). However, Marvel UK had a good run and it all kicked off four decades ago with the comic shown in this post.
For whatever reasons I missed the TV advertisements on September 30th for the launch of the comic and the first I knew about it was a few days later when my Mum and I were about to embark on a day trip to Blackpool. Nipping into the bus station newsagent to buy a bottle of pop for the journey I spotted a pile of copies of The Mighty World of Marvel on the counter and my eyes must have popped out of their sockets. A British Marvel reprint comic to replace the much-missed Fantastic which had folded four years earlier! And with a brand new John Buscema cover to boot!
Needless to say, a good portion of the coach journey to Blackpool was taken up reading the comic from cover to cover. The weather was pleasant that day anyway, but I don't think I'd have noticed if it had been lashing down with rain.
Although Odhams had previously published Marvel material in their late lamented "Power Comics", and Alan Class comics had haphazardly reprinted some Marvel classics, Marvel UK had been set up to introduce Marvel to Britain for a new generation. Therefore Mighty World of Marvel was printed Web Offset on matt paper (like Tiger and Cor!!) so it resembled the familiar British format. Like Fantastic, it was an anthology of three strips, reprinting half of each of the original comics, so we were given the first 10 pages of The Incredible Hulk No.1, the first half of Fantastic Four No.1, and the Spider-Man origin story from Amazing Fantasy No.15. (Subsequent weeks would continue this serialised approach, so issue 2 presented the second halves of Hulk and FF and the first half of Amazing Spider-Man No.1, and so on.)
Having 40 pages The Mighty World of Marvel (or MWOM as it was often referred to) was a bit more substantial than the average 32 page UK comic, and its 5p cover price reflected that. (Most UK adventure comics of the time were around 3p.) Like most British comics back then, full colour on every page was out of the question if they wanted to keep costs down, but rather than print in black and white MWOM alternated between green spot colour and pale green paper. (I know some readers hated this but I really liked it. Unfortunately it was dropped several months later and contents became entirely black and white.)
Only 5 pages were in full colour (increasing to 8 a few weeks later). Issue 1 used the colour of one page for a pin-up by recolouring the cover of Fantastic Four No.1.
The centre pages of MWOM were used for self-promotion, and who better to present those pages than Stan Lee himself? (Although there's no guarantee he wrote his own editorial every week.)
The rest of the spread was taken up with teasers for 'The World's Greatest Free Gift Offer', encouraging readers to clip out the coupons over 11 weeks and send them in for a mystery gift. Clues were provided every week ("It's bigger than a breadbox") and eventually it was revealed to be an excellent full colour poster drawn by John Buscema of Spider-Man, Hulk, and the FF. (Yes, I clipped out the coupons and sent away for it, and had the poster on my bedroom wall until I left school and decided I was perhaps a tad too old for superhero pin-ups.)
The free gift in MWOM No.1 was heralded as "A Green-Skinned Monster T-Shirt Transfer". It was of course The Hulk, but bearing in mind this comic was aimed at a brand new readership, the words "Green-Skinned Monster" in the topline may have been more effective.
With such an incredibly strong line up of characters and featuring some of Marvel's most iconic stories, how could it fail? Although I'd read some of the material before in Odhams comics and American reprint comics such as Marvel Tales I bought Mighty World of Marvel avidly every week. I was 13 at the time, perhaps getting a bit jaded by traditional British comics of the day, so this was just the ticket. Seems a lot of other people felt the same, as Marvel UK swiftly expanded with more comics, - Spider-Man Comics Weekly, The Avengers, Planet of the Apes, Dracula Lives, The Superheroes and numerous others. Some were successful, some were complete flops, but Marvel were firmly established as part of the UK comics scene.
|The back page of MWOM No.1|
That second run was short lived, but after a gap of about 20 years Panini UK revived The Mighty World of Marvel for a third series a few years ago, followed immediately by a fourth series. Published every four weeks, that incarnation is still running and the latest issue (Vol.4 No.40) will be published this Thursday. The original MWOM had 40 pages for 5p with only a handful of colour. The current issue has 76 pages in full colour for £2.95. Not a bad evolution for the price.
|The latest issue, on sale September 27th.|
Coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of MWOM on Sunday 30th September will see the launch of another new comic, - the first issue of Aces Weekly, the brand new digital title from a new publisher. More about that in my next blog post.