Friday, June 25, 2010

Marvelous House Ads, Part 1

Karen: As a kid, I not only devoured every Marvel story, but I enjoyed reading the letters pages and bullpen bulletins too. And besides those, there were always those great Marvel in-house ads, whether they were for posters or other toys, or just announcing new titles or characters. Marvel had a real identity, a real flavor, and it was typified by those ads.

Doug: Couldn't agree with you more. In addition to the little treats you mentioned, I enjoyed the Silver and early-Bronze Age habit of including artwork from the issue that the letters referenced. You know it's funny, but I guess how we usually organize one of our review posts looks somewhat like the letters pages to which I'm referring! Like many Marvel fans, the seemingly-personal interaction between fans and the Marvel personalities was really fun, and a sense that DC tried to match, but just couldn't. 

Karen: To the side here is an ad from 197o featuring some amazing posters you could order from Marvelmania. Man, I wish I had gotten these babies, especially the Galactus and Silver Surfer one! They are truly some great work by Kirby. I love how we get the headshot of the Thing telling us all about the posters. And the price! $1.25...oh my.

Doug: Isn't that what just kills you? I know it's relative to today's economy, but when you see what Marvel was asking for some of these goodies, it boggles the mind. I wasn't yet reading comics when this ad would have seen the light of day. Did you happen to notice that the Kirby FF art shown in the poster at right was recently used as the cover to the "lost issue" that would have been Fantastic Four #103 but was finished/patchworked by Big John Buscema and became FF #108? See to the left... That issue was about as strange to look at as the Tales of Suspense story involving Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner where Gene Colan started it and Kirby finished it. Not many other artists' styles matched the King's very well.

Doug: I also enjoyed that many ads had an emcee (sort of). In the case of the ad above, it's Bashful Benjy. In other ads I can recall from the Silver Age, it was the Hulk and even good ol' Doc Doom. Great stuff -- really light-hearted and even a little self-deprecating.

Karen: Moving into 1971, we still have posters for sale, but look who the artist is now: Steranko! The times were a'changing, to be certain. You got all 4 black and white posters ("for coloring"! No!!!) for a mere buck. Unbelievable. Although I have to say I'm not all that impressed with his Spidey, but the others are just wow!

Doug: Talk about a contrast in styles! And you and I noticed the same thing: Marvel seems to now be marketing the artist as much as their characters. Yes, you can not only have a Spidey poster, but a Spidey poster by Steranko! Sadly, longtime Bullpen stalwarts like Kirby, Heck, Colan, and Buscema never got that marquee treatment. They should have. But as to your comment on the times a'changing, they sure were. There was a new dynamism on the shelves when Neal Adams and Jim Steranko (et al.) blew in.

Karen: In Marvel titles dated August 1970, we got this tantalizing ad for a new title called Conan the Barbarian. Look at how this is put together -we get a small shot of Conan, and the very dramatic sword and flames. It's just enough to pull you in. It was also an example of Marvel showing a willingness to take chances and try out new ideas. As the banner says, "Mighty Marvel is on the move again!" They most definitely were, and I can't heap enough praise on Roy Thomas for the creative guidance he brought to Marvel in the 70s.

Doug: It's certainly eye-catching and with the exception of Arkon's appearance in the Avengers, way different from anything Marvel was producing at the time. Of course Conan would spawn many a companion/imitator mag (both color and B&W).

Karen: And then there were less successful ventures, such as The Cat and the whole mini-line of female-oriented books circa 1972. Although the original Cat did generate both Tigra and the Hellcat, who have been reliable supporting characters for many decades. All in all, Marvel's attempt to draw in female readers with titles like The Cat, Night Nurse, and Shanna the She-Devil was a dismal failure.

Doug: Valid points. And by the way, that may be the ugliest rendition of the Cat I've ever seen.

Karen: After Marvelmania folded, Marvel came up with its own fan club in 1973: FOOM! FOOM, which stood for "Friends of Ol' Marvel", was dearly loved by yours truly. The membership package included a card, stickers, and an outstanding 2' by 3' poster by Steranko featuring a ton of Marvel characters. Oh yeah, you also got a magazine produced in-house with lots of news about upcoming Marvel books, which was published quarterly. Just as Marvel had made readers feel like they were "a part of something" in the 60s, they continued this effort in the 70s with things like FOOM. Heck, I still have my magazines and poster!

Doug: Lordy, how I wanted to be a Friend of Ol' Marvel. But I don't recall that I ever even asked my mom to sign me up. Which is strange, because I did join the KISS Army. Today I sometimes look for issues of FOOM on ebay. I've never bought one, but I am curious. And hey, like I said above -- check out Benjamin J. talking to the reader!


ChrisPV said...

One of my greatest regrets in life is being born too late to join FOOM.

Karen said...

Ah Chris, it was glorious....

Anonymous said...

" Sadly, longtime Bullpen stalwarts like Kirby, Heck, Colan, and Buscema never got that marquee treatment. They should have."

Around the same time as the Steranko posters, there was an offer to buy big black and white posters featuring self portraits adorned by the characters most associated with them - by Kirby, Colan, Trimpe, Romita and Buscema (John). The artwork's occasionally turned up elsewhere, so you'd probably recognise the time I'd been reading comics for only a few months, but oh how I coveted those goodies. Unfortunately I was but an ignorant child living half a world away who knew nothing about international money orders etc.

Mind you, MArk Evanier's indicated that the fellow behind Marvelmania was not exactly on the up and up, and eventually absconded with a lot o'loot, leaving many orders's possible that nobody ever got their hands on these they ever turn up on eBay?

B Smith

PS My belated congrats on your recent anniversary, and by all means may it long continue!

Doug said...

B --

Thanks for the congrats -- we have some things in the works for our 2nd year.

I've seen the posters to which you refer, and probably should have referenced them. I guess my point was that Steranko's name was splashed all across the ad, leaving no doubt in my mind at least that it was him being promoted and not the company's characters. The posters mentioned do turn up from time to time in a history or biographical article, and are always a joy to see.

Thanks for the comment!


Tony said...

I am a long-time Steranko fan, and as far as I know, only the Captain America poster was printed (in full colour and large size). The SHIELD posted was printed in 8 by 11 inch size. The Hulk and Spidey posters were never printed, until later, when Steranko printed them himself in a Supergraphics book called STERANKO PORTFOLIO ONE, but not as posters, just as pages in the book.

Tony said...

A fan recently re-mastered the Hulk and Spidey posters with coloring suggestions provided by Steranko. Click on my name to see them.

Karen said...

Interesting news, Tony. I know marvelmania had a lot of problems, so I guess it's not surprising if some of these items never actually materialized. I can say that I've never seen any of these Steranko posters myself. I've seen the Kirby ones at conventions though.


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