Old Dotch's Marvel UK Blog

The blog for those who remember fondly the weekly comics by Marvel UK in the 1970s and 80s. I'll be looking at various interesting issues from the run and discussing what made Marvel UK comics so great. Please feel free to contribute any feedback and let me know if there are any issues or characters that you would like to see featured.


Friday, 29 January 2010

Mighty World of Marvel #1 Oct 7, 1972

And what better a way to start than at the beginning, with The Mighty World of Marvel #1. Cover dated October 7th 1972, this was the first of thousands of issues that Marvel UK would publish over the next few decades. And what a start it was! With a line-up to die for, featuring arguably Marvel’s biggest strips from the US monthlies, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. The cover art for issue one was by John Buscema, one of Marvel's top artists and I believe that this lets us know how important the Marvel UK launch was to the company. The early Marvel UK issues had cheap newsprint covers as opposed to the glossy covers that adorned the American and later UK issues. The stories themselves were all in a mixture of black and white or black and white with a green shading. Whether or not this green shading added much, I’m not sure; it certainly is a little strange when reading a comic for it to jump from black and white to black and white and green from page to page. Scattered sparingly throughout the comic are, however, spectacular pages of full colour, in my view a much better standard of colour than was used in the US comics of the day. Check out the colour pages from issue #1.

A great pin-up using Kirby's famous cover art from Fantastic Four #1

The centre pages had this great Spider-Man splash announcing, with Marvel's usual modesty and understatement, "THE WORLD'S GREATEST FREE GIFT OFFER!" A pretty neat marketing scheme to encourage us to buy MWOM regularly, as there would be coupons printed in the first ten issues that had to be collected in order to qualify for the free gift. This is why it is difficult to get copies of these early Marvel issues without holes having been snipped in them. The amazing thing about this offer was that Marvel didn't even let the reader know what gift was on offer! Just a series of teaser clues, the first of which was "IT'S BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX!" Can you guess what it is yet? All will be revealed...

Also on the centrespread was a special message from none other than Stan Lee, written in the style of his US soapbox columns, ie wildly over the top self promotion. As the blurb said, we had now "ENTERED THE MIGHTY MARVEL AGE OF COMICS AND THE EXCITEMENT IS JUST BEGINNING!"

The free gift in this issue was a Hulk t shirt iron on transfer. If you look at the way this is described on the cover:

You'll see that it doesn't mention the Hulk's name at all! Not much confidence that the comic buying youth of 1972 would have any idea what the Hulk was, how times have changed.

The strips featured in this issue read like a collection of Marvel's greatest hits, check out the splash pages for the three features:

It doesn't get any better than that, and of course the comic proved to be a runaway success. These strips had all been printed in the UK before, of course, some by Alan Class in a haphazard and random form in his anthology titles such as Astounding Stories and Creepy Worlds and, with a greater degree of continuity in Odham's Power comics. But this time, Marvel was in charge and the ability to use the Marvel trade mark gave these new printings a stamp of authenticity that the previous editions lacked.

Finally, have a look at the back cover of this issue, featuring the last page of Spider-Man's origin tale. A great use of colour showing the iconic Steve Ditko image of Spider-Man apprehending Uncle Ben's killer. Wow! No wonder we all came back for more!