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Tuesday, 15 January 2013
DISCOVERING MARVEL U.K. - GUEST POST BY NIFTY NICK CAPUTO...
Images copyright MARVEL COMICS
You lucky Criv-ites - do I have a super treat for you! Nifty NICK CAPUTO has kindly agreed to write a guest post for this blog. I thought that all my weary readers would welcome a respite from my usual incomprehensible nonsense and appreciate some quality content instead. So let's not waste a second - over to you, Nick!
When asked if I would do a guest post for 'Kid' Robson's blog, I considered what would make a worthwhile topic. Kid often muses over his comic collecting child-hood, taking us on a tour of not only the comics, but of a time and place in his life. I thought I would continue a little in that direction, jogging my memory banks to recall my first encounters with Marvel's British reprint line.
Although there may have been a passing comment in the Bullpen Bulletins about Marvel's British division, the first time I really took notice was in the pages of Marvel's house fanzine, FOOM #11, September 1975. The Mighty World of Marvel, The Avengers & The Savage Sword of Conan (now there was an odd combination) and The Super-Heroes. The new covers attracted my attention, being nicely designed with art by Dave Hunt and Keith Pollard. A reply to a fan letter explained that these mags were reprints produced for Britain. A later issue showed how what was originally a Killraven story in the States was altered to become a Planet of the Apes tale.
Since the comics were produced weekly, as opposed to monthly or bi-monthly as in the States, material was used up at a much faster rate, leading to desperate measures at times. In that same period (mid '70s) I bought my first Marvel U.K. mag from a dealer at a comic con. It may have been The Super-Heroes #1 along with #31, featuring a cover of the X-Men welcoming The Cat and Ant-Man to their pages, with art byKeith Pollard. This was the same cover I'd originally seen in that issue ofFOOM.
I was fascinated by these reprint titles and sought them out from time to time, though there were not that many to be found at local conventions in New York. Also around that period I received an overseas letter from a teenager who lived in England. He'd seen my letter in Marvel Team-Up #39 (my first published letter, which was a thrill in itself) and was looking for pen pals. He wrote a little bit about himself and his interest in comics, asking if I'd be interested in trading any U.S. comics for some from the U.K.
I should explain to younger readers that corresponding by mail was often an inexpensive way to keep in touch with other fans. Today we're blessed with instant communication by the click of a mouse, but it wasn't always so. 'Phone calls were expensive and the World Wide Web wouldn't become a reality for another decade or two. I recall I was sent some Captain Britain comics (which featured new material!) along with some non-Marvels like 2000 A.D., which he quite fancied. We corresponded for some time and I still have those letters buried away somewhere. I wonder if he remained a comics fan.
I can't quite recall when I learned of an even earlier line of British reprints including Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic and Terrific, titles that reprinted Marvel's superhero characters in the 1960s. There wasn't a lot of information in '70s and '80s fanzines about them, and it wasn't until the advent of the internet that I was able to get a detailed history of both Odhams Press and Marvel's U.K. division.
While the earlier Odhams' line used stats of covers that were from Marvel's original publications, Marvel's '72 U.K. line alternated original covers with new material, drawn by an array of talented artists who were instantly recognizable since they were also prolific in the States. One such artist was none other than Jim Starlin, who pencilled many fine covers early in his career for The Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly, often inked by seasoned old pros like Joe Sinnott, Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito.
Starlin's talent was noticeable early on, and although he's never discussed these U.K. covers, I was thrilled and surprised to discover them, along with others by pros such as Rich Buckler, Ron Wilson, Herb Trimpe, Larry Lieber, Pablo Marcos, Keith Pollard, and also occasional work by veterans like John Buscema, Gil Kane, Sal Buscema and Dick Ayers. Inkers included Joe Sinnott, Frank Giacoia, Mike Esposito and John Tartaglione.
In recent years (thanks to Kid's blog, especially) I learned that a young Barry Smith drew pin-ups for early Odhams' Marvel reprint titles before he came over to the States and began working on X-Men, Daredevil and a certain sword-wielder named Conan. I've also been lucky enough to have corresponded with Tony Isabella in the past few years and was able to learn a little more about his involvement. Aside from writing a ton of comics for Marvel in the 1970s, Tony was also in charge of putting the British weeklies together.
My interest in Marvel's British line of comics has led me down other, equally fascinating roads. I've read about Alan Class, who reprinted many pre-hero Marvels, as well as stories from companies like ACG and Charlton; seen foreign reprints from Spain, Germany, Australia and France (which produced many beautiful covers based on the originals) and I've even had some articles translated in Marvel Italia, so I guess I've come full circle, actually being published in a foreign Marvel reprint comic!
In my role as indexer for the GCD, I've been able to use my skills at distinguishing artists' styles, crediting many of Marvel's U.K. cover artists. Over 35 years have elapsed since I learned of Marvel's British division. I'm older, hopefully wiser, but haven't lost my enthusiasm for the comics medium, which is yet full of surprises.
I'd like to give Nick a huge vote of thanks for taking the time to grace my humble blog with his fascinating reminiscences. You'll find Nick's own excellent blog by clicking here. And below is the letters page from MTU #39, featuring Nick's first ever Mighty Marvel epistle.