Monday, May 25, 2015

The DAREDEVILS (1983)

By the early 1980s Marvel UK had progressed considerably since the company's early days of reprint weeklies edited from New York and packaged by a London office. Now based in Kentish Town Road, Marvel UK had expanded its staff and its commitment to producing home-grown material. In January 1983 they launched The Daredevils, a 52 page monthly with a mixture of reprint and brand new material.

It's often thought that The Daredevils was intended to rival Dez Skinn's Warrior, which was likely to be the case. (Dez, an ex-Marvel UK editor, had set up Warrior the previous year.) I remember Alan Moore remarking that he and Alan Davis were in the strange position of competing with themselves, as they were doing Marvelman for Warrior at the very same time they were producing new Captain Britain stories for The Daredevils.

The Daredevils No.1 kicked off with a new cover by Paul Neary, and, inside, a new 8 page Captain Britain episode (which would increase to 12 pages in later issues). 

The comic's editor was Bernie Jaye, although Alan had a large influence in suggesting feature ideas which Bernie was happy to accommodate. For example, for the first issue Alan also wrote a six page article on Frank Miller's Daredevil (being a perfect accompaniment to the reprints of Miller's Daredevil strip in the comic), and a regular Fanzine Reviews column. 

I get a little annoyed when I hear some fans today claiming that Alan Moore hates fandom. In fact it's complete bol... well, to put it politely, nothing could be further from the truth, as proven in the pages of The Daredevils. Alan had his roots in comics fandom and was always encouraging new creators. With his Fanzine Reviews pages he went out of his way to promote fanzines he'd often paid for himself. This was a big deal for those of us starting out back then. No other British comic was promoting 'zines in this way, but here was Alan Moore giving us free publicity in a comic sold on the High Street. 

Another regular feature in The Daredevils was Frank Plowright's News Feature, looking at upcoming American comics. It even promoted those published by Marvel's rivals.

Humour was provided in the form of the Earth 33 1/3rd mini-strip by the ever-brilliant Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett.

There was also an Early Artwork feature, with each issue showing the very early work of top creators such as Dave Gibbons, Garry Leach, and David Lloyd...

The first few issues of The Daredevils also featured serialized Spider-Man reprints by Stan Lee and John Romita, although these were dropped after issue 4 to make room for more British material. The comic was rapidly developing into something unique and unmissable; a publication that not only featured comic strips but embraced them with well written articles and features. 



Every issue (except No.3) featured a full colour centrefold poster with new artwork by UK talent. I'll be showing these in more detail in a few days time. 

Issue 6 saw the start of a series of Night Raven text stories written by Alan Moore, with art by David Lloyd on the first chapter and Alan Davis in following issues.

The Daredevils No.7 (July 1983) has a personal significance for me because it's where my first professional comics work appeared. Again, this was due to encouragement from Alan Moore who introduced me to Bernie Jaye at a Westminster Comic Mart. Alan bigged me up, Bernie asked me to submit some ideas to her, I sent off a bunch of What If cartoons and they started appearing from issue 7. I'll always be grateful to Alan and Bernie for giving me my first break. Here's that very first one...

Issue 8 saw the publication of a great Daredevil spoof by Alan Moore, Mike Collins, and Mark Farmer. Grit brazenly parodied the Frank Miller Daredevil strips that were appearing in the same comic. This was Mike Collins' first professional work, again thanks to Alan Moore's input. Here it is...




Sadly, despite The Daredevils being one of the most unique and entertaining comics in the UK, it wasn't to last. With sales lower than hoped, Marvel UK pulled the plug with issue 11, merging it with The Mighty World of Marvel the following month. Disappointed, Bernie Jaye and Alan Moore quit, although some new material did continue for a while in MWOM. Other writers took over Captain Britain, Night Raven, and the comics/fanzine reviews. 

The Daredevils lasted just under a year, but what a year! If you've never seen it, the issues are worth collecting. Marvel UK went on to produce more new material of course (and I went on to do Captain Wally, Robo-Capers, Combat Colin, and more for the company) but they never did another publication with such a great mixture of strips and comics features. 

13 comments:

Martin Gray said...

Great review, great times. There was a real excitement to the Daredevils, and the relaunched MWOM was pretty good too - didn't it have card covers?

Lew Stringer said...

It did initially, yes, then went to paper covers later. And of course the current MWOM has card covers too.

SLOW ROBOT said...

The early issues of the MWOM were fairly perfunctory (and nobbled by some terrible print quality) so the merger of DAREDEVILS was one of those occasions where cramming in material from a defunct companion actually helped the book that continued... even if it did squeeze out the New X-Men reprints.

Lew Stringer said...

I can't remember now if it was the case but it's possible that The Daredevils was outselling MWOM but they wanted to keep the older title going. (Even though the monthly MWOM was a new series.) I know when Alan rang me up to tell me the comic was canceled that he wasn't happy that it was going. Bernie was upset about it too. Marvel UK had something really good there and it would have been good if they'd stuck with it a while longer.

Then again, at the time, superheroes were not huge sellers in the UK. Marvel UK then tried a new Captain Britain monthly which was pretty good but, again, didn't last long. (15 issues or something?)

Jasper Bark said...

Great piece Lew, took my right back to my childhood. Daredevils came out in my first year at senior school, it and Warrior marked my transition into reading comics and guaranteed I would be reading them for the rest of my life, rather than putting them down (as was customary) when I discovered sex, drugs and rock music.

John Pitt said...

Nice post, Lew. Yeah, I had them all and I think it was even better than Warrior. But then again I loved all the 80's UK Marvel monthlies! I especially liked TMWOM vol.2, because at last I was able to get those mini serieses that didn't come into our newsagents.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I preferred its variety compared to Warrior, although Warrior was the more significant comic.

Thanks Jasper. Yes, it was good there were comics around then that kids could graduate to. For me in the seventies it seemed a smooth transition from humour comics to Lion, to Marvel horror mags to underground comics. Sadly there isn't that option available in newsagents today and a gap in the market between Beano and the Marvel reprints.

Colin Brown said...

In 1983, I was lost in the clutches of Marvel U.S. so I never saw these. I can't understand why, as a fan of the two Alans, I haven't looked at their version of Captain Britain before now. However, looking at Amazon, it's confusing as to which is the best collection to go for. The omnibus is out of my price range (especially after just buying Heros the Spartan) and some reviews say that the contents are not Alan Moore's work as described. That might just be the classic Amazon trick of mixing reviews up. Can anyone guide me as to the best collection to get?

Lew Stringer said...

In that case it's Captain Britain vol 4: The Seige of Camelot you need, and Vol.5: End Game. Both available from Amazon, published by Panini.

The first three volumes reprint the Captain Britain strips by Claremont, Trimpe, Buscema etc, and the John Stokes Black Knight strips. Those first CB strips are quite cheesy but fun in their own way. The Black Knight strips have some very nice art by John Stokes. (One reviewer on Amazon complained because they hadn't been colourised but colour would ruin them.) The Alan Davis strips have been coloured. I think they looked better in black and white and at their original larger magazine size.

Colin Brown said...

That's great. Many thanks Lew.

Anonymous said...

The Daredevils was a fantastic comic and, good though I thought Miller's Daredevil series was, it was Moore and Davis' Captain Britain and the other UK-originated material that was the big draw (excuse the pun) for me. Unfortunately, my first issue was something like 8 or 9, so it wasn't long before the MWOM merger. I was fortunate enough to get the full run via The Perfect Mailing Company (remember them?) very quickly and they remain treasured issues in my collection. I haven't got the Panini collections but I did pick up the Marvel US X-Men Archive mini-series which first presented the Moore/Davis CB stories in full colour. I agree with you, Lew, I think the black and white originals are better. What I would love to see is a comprehensive Night Raven collection that encompasses the David Lloyd and John Bolton stories (again, B&W not colour as with the 1990s collection), plus the text stories from Savage Action through to (deep breath) The Savage Sword Of Conan The Barbarian featuring The Mighty World Of Marvel. As always, a great blog Lew, many thanks! Kieron

Anonymous said...

I think the Spider-Man reprints in The Daredevils followed directly on from the Spider-Man pocket book series, which Marvel UK had just cancelled with issue 28. I seem to recall that Spidey's swift exit from the title was down to 'reader opinion', although it was an odd choice and didn't really fit at all with the magazine as a whole. Best wishes, Kieron

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, 'reader opinion' is always a good excuse to use. :) As I recall Marvel UK just wanted to increase the British content and a slight increase (or adjustment) in budget made that possible. Spidey didn't really suit the comic anyway.

Regarding Night Raven, it would indeed be great to see them collected. Sadly, I think it's highly unlikely at the moment due to the production costs of scanning them to print quality and the feasibility of potential sales. The guys at Panini would love to bring all the Marvel UK strips back into print but as the Knights of Pendragon book didn't do so well it's made the company cautious.

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