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.


Monday, 1 February 2010

The Titans #1 Oct. 25, 1975

In 1975 Marvel UK launched The Titans upon an unsuspecting comic reading public. Titans had the unique selling point of printing two US comic pages on one page, thereby doubling the amount of strips that could be printed in each issue. This was achieved by formatting the comic in a "landscape" rather than "portrait" aspect where the spine was along the short edge. This meant when you were reading it, the comic stretched about two feet in your hands. This was a unique and bold undertaking by Marvel UK that I don't think I have ever seen replicated elsewhere, before or since. Controversy rages to this day among Marvel fans* as to whether or not this was a good thing. So what was the problem? Well, in order to double the amount of comic strips on a page without increasing the size of the page, the strips were now printed half the size they were before. Shocking, I hear you think, but wait a minute. The normal Marvel UK weekly printed the strips much larger than the original US printings, and if you take a close look at the size of the strips in Titans, you will see that they are actually not much smaller than the original US printings. So, the new format was a kind of Marmite thing; you loved it or hated it. Personally, I couldn't get enough of it. This issue contained 58 pages of Marvel comics squeezed into a 36 page comic. How could you not like that value?

What about the contents of the comic itself? Well there is a lot here for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby fans. The comic kicked off with this 10 page Inhumans strip, from Amazing Adventures #1, written and drawn by Kirby:

A cracking start to the issue with fantastic Kirby artwork inked by Chic Stone. Next up was a classic Lee/Kirby Captain America story, "THE ORIGIN OF CAPTAIN AMERICA", from Tales of Suspense #63. An apt story to feature in this first issue.

This Captain America story started a run of WWII set stories drawn by Kirby which lasted for the first ten or so issues. All great stuff so far. Another Lee/Kirby collaboration next, with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Strange tales #135. Kirby's art this time inked by Dick Ayers. This is the story that introduced S.H.I.E.L.D. My problem with these early Nick Fury episodes is that I can't see past Steranko's version of the character. Still, it is Jack Kirby, I suppose and we should be thankful for that.

Quality wise, things take a decided turn for the worse with the next strip, The Savage Sub-Mariner, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, from Tales to Astonish #70. This was the start of a multi issue story that seemed to drag on and on with no end in sight, definately a low point in this comic and in my view for Stan Lee and Gene Colan, who's art is crying out for a decent inker such as Tom Palmer.

The issue is rounded off with a massive 20 page episode of Captain Marvel, from Captain Marvel #5, in a story continuing from the strip's run in Planet of the Apes weekly. Written by Arnold Drake and with art by Don Heck, I found this story and the subsequent episodes to be pretty weak. The length of the other stories in this issue are roughly nine or ten pages, however Captain Marvel got special treatment and had a complete US issue feature in every issue of The Titans. Personally, I think that this feature was never any good until Jim Starlin took over, more of which later.

There are two Marvel in-house ads for the other weeklies that were available at the time of publication;

These reveal the full line up of Marvel UK's output; a healthy dose of action across seven comics. Looking at them, we can see that at this stage, only one weekly had failed; The Savage Sword of Conan, which had been merged into The Avengers a few weeks earlier. this situation wouldn't last long though,as both Dracula Lives and The Super-Heroes were destined to be closed within a matter of weeks. As well as these ads for the other titles, there was a Bullpen Bulletin page which was basically not much more than a series of ads for other Marvel weeklies written in the style of an editorial.

Towards the back of the comic is this interesting page with an ad for Stan Lee's appearance in London with Herb Trimpe to promote the Marvel UK weeklies. Would have loved to have attended this. Also an ad for the Marvel Art Exhibition, also in London, described as "a feast of comic art", this too looked like a worthwhile event.

No comic in the 1970s would be complete without an ad for Ellisdon's jokes and The Titans #1 did not disappoint in this respect; here is the inside back page:

Also note a coupon which you could give to your newsagent asking him to reserve The Titans for you every week. Also a coupon to order that year's Marvel annuals, as advertised in a great colour ad on the back page:

Spider-Man's confusing advice to "use the coupon on page 12" actually referred to the coupon on page 35. Ah well, if this is all they got wrong, they did not bad.

So, what was good about this issue? The massive John Buscema / Joe Sinnott free colour poster was fantastic. I like it so much, I've got it framed and hanging on my wall. Plenty of Stan lee and Jack Kirby for the fans and really, 58 pages of comics for 9p? A bargain in anyone's eyes.

*Honestly, I read a post on a blog a couple of weeks ago complaining about the Titans landscape format. Move on people, this all happened 35 years ago.

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