Thursday, June 30, 2016

If I Had A Pound... The UK Edition!

Martinex1:  Here in the States we are headed into a long holiday weekend and capping it off with a celebration of  Independence Day on Monday the 4th with family parties, barbecue, and fireworks.   But today in recognition of our long-standing friendship with our partners across the pond, here is a special edition of If I Had a Buck...focused on the wonderful comics from the United Kingdom.

Honestly I know very little about comics from the UK.   I own a handful of examples of Captain Britain, Knights of Pendragon, and Death's Head, and I've read a few more including the great Night Raven.  But I have always been fascinated by the format, the reprints, the weekly output, the re-envisioned covers, and the toy give-aways.   Unfortunately these are hard to find in my neck of the woods, although ebay has made that a little easier.  

So I am hopeful some international allies and BABsters could fill us in on the best and the worst, the great and the gory, the incredibles and the ignorables.  Point us in the right direction as everybody makes their selections.

Four comics for a Pound Note, and three cheers for Freedom everywhere!


Redartz said...

This is pretty unfamiliar, but intriguing, territory for me. I mentioned recently that I considered these British editions rather exotic with their multiple features and different cover art. Martinex1, that's quite a range of issues you offer today! Makes choosing pretty tough, as they are all new to me. But here goes:

Spider-Man Comics Weekly (have to see how my favorite web-slinger is presented in a British edition)
Night Raven- have never heard of it, but that cover sold me.
Avengers and Savage Sword of Conan- what an odd combination, but I love it...
Planet of the Apes- hey, it's PotA; 'nuff said!

Finally, a question for our friends across the Atlantic: What about DC comics? I've seen and heard about Marvel editions, but what was the availability of stories from DC?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Redartz, I never saw a DC comic till I was about 16 so they weren't available where I lived but apparently they could be acquired - but there was no "DC UK" to match Marvel UK. As British comedian, Al Murray, said a few years back: "Marvel gave us our own superhero but DC didn't care, so f**k DC" :D

William said...

I bought a back issue of Power Man and Iron Fist #50 at a comic shop a few years ago and I didn't notice until later that it was the UK version. As far as I can tell Iit is indistinguishable from the American comic except for the price of 35P instead of 35¢ (or whatever the equivalent is) in the upper left corner box. It is the only British edition of a comic that I own.

Now on with the game at hand.

I don't think I just want any reprints of American Marvel Comics, because I can get those here.

So with that in mind, I would definitely take that CAPTAIN BRITAIN. I love that original version of his costume. Much more dynamic and interesting than what they eventually changed it to. The 2-part Marvel Team-Up CB appeared in with Spidey (that had the two of them battling Arcade) is still one of my favorite comic stories.

Next I'll take THE KNIGHTS OF PENDRAGON, because it just sounds so bloody British, and I'd like to see what it's all about. Plus I love the cover image of the woman about to strike up a fag ("fag" being British slang for a cigarette). What did you think I meant??

For my pick number 3 I'll take MARVELMAN! When I was kid I was a huge fan of the original Captain Marvel, and this is the English equivalent, so I'd be really curious to check it out.

And lastly I'll take NIGHT RAVEN. I think I read an issue of that somewhere back in the day, and as I recall I really liked it. He was a cool pulp hero in the tradition of The Shadow. And I'm a sucker for that straight up hero vs. gangsters (good vs. evil) stuff.

Edo Bosnar said...

Interesting choices. I'm going to go with ones I'm generally curious about, which, I'm assuming, don't contain reprints of stuff already published in the US:
Night Raven (because yeah, cool cover)
2000 A.D. (because I've never, ever read any of these, or any Judge Dredd for that matter)
Dr. Who Classic Comics (because I'm a tabula rasa as far as the good Doctor goes, and what could be more British?)
Death's Head (because I want to sample some of that Marvel UK stuff from the '90s, and this one has an amusing cover)

Martinex1 said...

I do recommend Night Raven (from what I read). He is a pulp type here in the vein of the Shadow, who was made indestructible but battles constant pain due to the experiment. Really quite good and not sure why it didn't transfer to a US audience. I've only read some so not sure how consistent it is.

I also really liked Death's Head - the first Death's Head series.

Rip Jagger said...

I've always been rather interested in Marvel UK. Captain Britain was a real draw and I found a bound collection of the stories in some shop many years ago and enjoyed them. When Marvel published collected volumes of all the adventures a few years ago I was quick to grab them up. As I recollect those had the Black Knight adventures which eventually fed back into the Avengers stories. Dane Whitman was a fave from his first appearance and I missed him when he was pretty much exclusive to the UK brand. Night Raven is really good, and for fans of V for Vendetta (I'm one) a really important read. The Knights of Pendragon was a darn fine comic, just adult enough for me (not quite Vertigo) and pretty smartly done.

The early issues of Marvel Man in Warrior are awesome and I was pleased to get them again recently when Marvel published them again. Garry Leach's rendition of the character was rather revolutionary at the time, though now it seems more typical. Warrior was a great magazine, though I long ago traded my set off. Glad to have those stories back.

Rip Off

Steve Does Comics said...

Redartz, there were a number of British comics in the 1960s that reprinted DC Comics super-hero material - mostly Batman and Superman - but, by the 1970s, they'd ceased publication. Fortunately, by the 1970s, it was easy to find original DC comics in Britain. In fact, it was probably easier than finding Marvel comics.

As for the comics on offer, I'd go for Marvel Man, Night Raven, 2000 AD and The Daredevils, as they all featured original material.

As for other British comics, I'd recommend Starlord which was a more grown-up sister mag to 2000 AD, TV21 which featured beautifully drawn strips mostly based on Gerry Anderson TV shows, The Trigan Empire which featured beautifully drawn tales based in an outer space sci-fi version of the Roman Empire, and Vulcan, an odd little Scottish comic that featured a whole host of quirky British super-heroes. There was also a girls' comic called Misty which featured tales of a supernatural bent and seems to have been an influence on a fair number of British comic creators.

As far as I'm aware, the best-selling comic in Britain has always been The Beano which is a humour comic aimed at youngish children, although it has probably more adult readers than logic would suggest it should have. I think it's currently coming up to its 4,000th issue. One of its main stars is a character called Dennis the Menace who was created at the same time as the American Dennis the Menace but bears no resemblance to him and is a lot more anarchic and anti-social than him. In the 1950s, it was selling two million copies a week, which must have meant that one in every twenty people was buying it.

When it comes to reprints of American material, the champion of that art had to be Alan Class whose comics repackaged a whole slew of 1950s and 1960s Marvel stories, during the 60s, 70s and 80s. They only ever seemed to be available at bus stations and railway stations and were clearly aimed at people about to set off on long journeys, who needed reading material on the way.

It is amazing to think that, when I started reading comics, you could get twenty for a pound and, nowadays, you couldn't even buy the front cover of one for a pound.

Anonymous said...

Where to start with British Marvel?

Some factoids:

1) The covers are often re-imagined or re-cut in interesting ways because there was more space available and, I guess, a lot more time to think about it. A good example is Avengers 82, which re-colours the all-red cover of Avengers 57 to some effect. I like the red one but I also like this. This link is to our friend stevedoescomics:

2) Also, they were reprinting 3 US issues per comic, so if Shang Chi or Doc Strange had a better cover than the Avengers, they’d use that.

3) A lot of the covers were re-drawn by great Marvel artists, e.g. Mighty World of Marvel had completely new covers drawn by Jim Starlin.

4) Neil Tennant, of Pet Shop Boys fame was, bafflingly, the editor of Marvel UK for a time.

5) Some of the artwork had to be retouched because you outrageous Yanks had heroines in costumes too scanty for our young British sensibilities. (Imagine it now!)

6) Something else that was really cool was that they just reprinted stuff wherever it actually fitted. So, for example, the first Defenders stories were just printed in the Hulk slot. The first 3 issues of Avengers were printed as Hulk stories and then from #4 they went into their own title. When things like Dracula and Frankenstein did crossovers, they just printed the Frankie issue as part of the Drac run. There were so many comics which it took me years to find because the UK reprints just came in perfect continuity but in the originals they were crossovers or continued later. Doc Strange used to be printed in the Avengers comic anyway, so when Doc Strange & Avengers crossed over, they didn’t cross at all for us, but but when they reprinted Avengers 61, they had to redraw the Vision as Thor because the Vision had not yet been introduced into the Avengers strip, which ran in the same comic.

Hi Redartz – I only ever saw the US editions of UK comics. To my knowledge, there was no DC equivalent, but there were summer specials & annuals produced under license.
Hi William – what you have is a US-printed edition of PM/IF with a UK variant price in pence, distributed monthly in the UK. What Martinex has here is actual reprints of US stories, completely reprinting US stories, usually 3 to a comic, weekly and usually in black & white. They are bigger, have more pages of story, give you 3 or 4 different heroes stories per issue, are weekly, do not have adverts every other page….all killer, no filler. They were actually superior to the originals in many ways….except that they were black & white, which was a complete deal breaker for me.

Hi Martinex - One great thing you have missed is our annuals – these are hardback prints of classic stories (well, some not so classic), usually 3 or 4 US Marvel comics. Imagine going down to your local store (wherever the spinner racks lived in your town) and finding, for a couple of bucks, a hardback edition which reprinted in colour the Adams Xmen Sentinel story or the Steranko Captain America issues. Talk about gold!

I’ll cheat and take: Captain Britain #12 ( first appearance of Psylocke), Avengers #4 (which reprints Journey into Mystery #83); Avengers Annual 1975 – which reprints the Magneto issues from around #110….I so wanted them! And Mighty World of Marvel #1 an object of desire for any UK fan.

Thanks for the nod, Martinex. You are indeed, a diamond.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve - wow, I forgot about Alan Class.

So, for the rest of the class, these are UK reprints of usually spooky or SF tales from the likes of Strange Tales, JIM, TTA, TOS. The funny thing about those is that I read and enjoyed them and read super hero comics as well, and I even noticed that the artists (Kirby, Heck & Ditko etc) were the same as the early Marvel artists, but I never twigged that Atlas was pre-Marvel Marvel at the time.


Anonymous said...

I have picked up the odd UK comic on my (infrequent) holidays over there, but most of them hit the bin a long time ago. I remember having a couple of early X-Men reprints--one with a white cover and one with a green cover--which I bought in 1983. I wasn't really an X-Men fan, but they were the only characters I recognized! I still have a couple of issues of War Picture Library...I used to have more, but they're long gone.

As for today's question, I'd probably take the Spidey, the two Avengers (with MOKF and Conan backups), and the Marvelman, since I've always been curious about it.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Richard, on those hardcover British annuals, they could be acquired at some comic-book shops in the US, particularly those that had mail-order catalogs. I had two of them (ordered from one of those catalogs): the very X-men and Captain America annuals you mentioned which reprint the original Thomas/Adams Sentinels saga and the Steranko issues of Cap. Don't recall how much I paid for them, but it wasn't much - I really pinched pennies when I ordered comics in the mail, and I wouldn't have paid more than 2 or 3 dollars for them. And you're right, they were wonderful books, printed on quality paper with nice colors. I really regret not having those any more...

Martinex1 said...

Thanks all for commenting. Learned a lot today.

Steve Does Comics - I am going to have to look for some of those Dennis The Menace comics. It reminded me that years ago I saw a DTM that had a totally different character and I had no idea what the deal was - I bet that was it.

Richard, that Neil Tennant tidbit is great. Hard to believe he was in charge back in the mid 70s. I've heard of another Editor named Dez Skinn and that he worked closely with Stan Lee, but I believe that was toward the end of the 70s and some of the changes were received well and others were not. I am curious if the Editors there were as well known as the likes of Stan or Shooter. I've heard about "Dez Says"...was that like Stan's Soapbox? And it is very interesting how in the UK they matched up the titles' continuities. That Vision/Thor anecdote is wild. I'd like to see that.

Rip, your comment about V For Vendetta is very true. I will have to look back at Night Raven again.

Somebody here (and I apologize that I cannot recall who) once mentioned that Marvel UK converted Killraven into Planet of the Apes stories. Do I have that right? Was that in the POTA books or somewhere else? Did KillRaven fight or interact with the actual POTA characters? How did that work?

Also I just want to mention the size of the books. When I first got a Captain Britain mag, I thought it was a little unwieldy from what I was used to, but it grew on me - the art is very clear. The paper seemed to vary from the US a bit, but I think the printing may have been a bit better. Hard to judge, but something is different other than just the size. They don't fit in my standard comic boxes though!

Cheers all.

Martinex1 said...

One more question...if somebody knows... Is the Super-Hero Omnibus that I share a hardcover like the Annuals that others described? And was the Tumbler particularly popular in the UK? I was surprised to see him on the cover. I assumed he was just a character within, but really wasn't sure how he got the spotlight.

Anthony said...

Redartz said...

Colin, Steve and Richard- thanks much for the information! I figured there must have been some DC availability, but never heard about much other than Marvel UK.

And thanks, Martinex1, for an interesting conversation today. I've got to find one of those UK books somewhere and add it to my pile...

Anonymous said...

Ah - BAB the Brexit edition! :)

Well, lemme see, I'd pick Captain Britain, Marvel Super-Heroes Omnibus, the Hulk issue with Jarella and the Avengers issue with Shang Chi. No idea if that's under a pound but those are my picks!

- Mike 'how many pence in a pound?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Steve Does Comics said...

Martinex, from my point of view, I knew the names of the Marvel UK editors, including Nifty Neil Tennant but knew nothing about them apart from their names.

Dez Skinn was the exception. He was already well known to UK comics fans when he took over the reins, thanks to having published and edited a sci-fi mag called Starburst. He was in the Stan Lee envelope, in terms of making sure that everyone who read the thing knew exactly who was publishing and editing it. It was not unknown for him to put photos of himself in his mags.

Skinn was controversial character because he totally ruined the weekly mags, replacing the glossy covers with matt covers, shrinking panel sizes in order to cram more material into the available pages, and giving them a more juvenile and more British feel. For long-established readers, it felt like an act of vandalism.

On the plus side, he also launched a bunch of monthly titles that were of a far higher quality. He also hired British creators to create new material, rather than just relying on reprints.

Martinex1 said...

Thanks Steve and Anthony. Very interesting stuff on Dez Skinn and Apeslayer. Much appreciated.

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