Marvel U.K.

History:

Publications: The Mighty World of Marvel; Spider-Man Comics Weekly; The Avengers; Planet of the Apes; Dracula Lives!; The Super-Heroes; Savage Sword of Conan (weekly); The Titans; Captain Britain; Fury; The Complete Fantastic Four; Rampage (weekly); Savage Sword of Conan (monthly); Star Wars; Rampage (monthly); Hulk Comic; Marvel Super-Heroes; Dr.Who Weekly; Superhero Fun and Games; Frantic Magazine; Chiller Pocket Book; Spider-Man Pocket Book; Conan Pocket Book; Hulk Pocket Book; Star Heroes Pocket Book; X-Men Pocket Book; Titans Pocket Book; Young Romance Pocket Book; Fantastic Four Pocket Book; Forces in Combat; Marvel Team-Up; Future Tense; Valour; Savage Action; Captain America; Marvel Action; Marvel Classics Comics Pocket Book; Blake's Seven; Marvel Super-Adventure; Blockbuster; Marvel Madhouse; Worzel Gummidge; Kim; Scooby Doo and his TV Friends; Rupert Weekly; Incredible Hulk; Monster Monthly; Fantastic Four; The Daredevils; Thor; Top Cat TV Comic; The Original X-Men; Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi; Indiana Jones; The Thing is Big Ben; Transformers; Captain Britain; Acorn Green; Care Bears; Secret Wars; Spider-Man and Zoids; Doctor Who Adventure Comics; Muppet Babies; Action Force; Madballs; Thundercats; Alf; Droids; Flintstones and Friends; Galaxy Rangers; Real Ghostbusters; Visionaries; Marvel Bumper Comics; Punisher Magazine; Incredible Hulk Presents; Popeye; Slimer; It's Wicked; Strip; Fantastic Max; The Complete Spider-Man; Overkill; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Police Academy; Rupert and Friends; Havoc; Meltdown; The Exploits of Spider-Man; Doctor Who Classic Comics; Conan the Adventurer; Marvel Action Hour

U.S. format: Dragon's Claws; Death's Head; The Sleeze Brothers; Knights of Pendragon; Death's Head II; Warheads; Motormouth; Hell's Angel; Codename Genetix; Incomplete Death's Head; Mys-Tech Wars

Characters:

Power Pack Comics

Marvel Comics has a long history of creating superhero characters. Prior to the formation of Marvel's British branch, they licensed their American stories to be reprinted in the U.K. in the titles of British comic companies. In the mid-1950s Marvel (then still Timely Comics, but increasingly misidentified as Atlas) revived it's three main headline heroes from the Second World War: Captain America, the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner. L. Miller and Sons became the first UK company to reprint Marvel strips in Britain, in titles such as "Human Torch"; though the superhero revival in the US proved short, abruptly ending L. Miller's reprints of same, the UK company carried on with reprints of Atlas Comics' horror titles, continuing on into the 1960s. As Marvel's superheroes gained new life in the early 60s, L. Miller began reprinting some of those tales too. However, L. Miller apparently didn't have an exclusive license, and rival company Alan Class also began reprints (Class also reprinted ACG, Charlton and Tower comics around this time).

In 1966 Odhams joined the melee of reprints, starting with Smash! It launched on 5th February 1966, but it wasn't until #16 (21st May 1966) that the Marvel reprints began, with the Incredible Hulk. The second U.S. reprinted strip in Smash! wasn't a Marvel one, but Batman, from his syndicated newspaper strip. In #27 (6th August 66) the Hulk was joined by the FF - but only for two weeks. Simultaneous with appearing in Smash!, the FF also started up in her elder sister title, Wham! (#112, 6th August 66) - during the two weeks that the FF was appearing in both titles, each title carried the same reprinted story, after which the FF story continued on in Wham! (until #183). Of more significance was the appearance of an original Hulk strip, "The Monster and the Matador", in Smash! #38 (22nd October 1966), which was apparently hastily produced as a filler when the reprint material fell through. This marked the first U.K. produced strip set in the Marvel universe, and introduced the character of villainous matador, el Supremo.

El Supremo

In January 1967 Pow! was launched, followed a month later by Fantastic. The percentage of Marvel reprint content grew with each new title in the line. In April Terrific was launched, bringing the line to five. Together these five titles were collectively known as "The Power Pack", and each gained the sub-title "A Power Comic". Odhams also published Eagle at this time, and included Marvel's Tales of Asgard in that title for a while. Around the same time World Distributors began printing hardback Annuals, apparently beginning with the Marvel Story Book Annual in 1967; this contained new text stories for the Marvel heroes, as did, apparently, many of the company's subsequent Annuals.

It wasn't to last. In November 1967 Wham! dropped its sole Marvel story, the Fantastic Four, reverting purely to original UK strips. In January 1968 Wham! gave up the ghost and merged into Pow!, becoming Pow! and Wham! and continuing the numbering from the younger title. A month later Fantastic and Terrific merged to become Fantastic and Terrific (numbering carried on from Fantastic), the first UK title to be composed entirely of Marvel reprints. In September Smash! and Pow! (having dropped Wham! from the title) combined, becoming Smash! and Pow! (with both exclamation marks in the title), and only two months later, in November, this new title amalgamated again, to become the awkwardly named "Smash! and Pow! incorporating Fantastic." From five titles at the start of the year, the Power Pack collapsed into one. On 8th March 1969, issue #162 of S&PiF printed the last of its Marvel reprints, as I.P.C. had absorbed Fleetway and Odhams; they soon transformed Smash! into a standard British title, virtually indistinguishable in style from all their other comics. In 1970 Marvel reprints surfaced in the ailing TV21, which by then had lost most of its lucrative TV licenses (with only Star Trek remaining); however, their Marvel content was a somewhat unusual mix - Spider-Man and Silver Surfer were reprinted alongside western strips Ghost Rider and Ringo Kid and humour comic Homer the Happy Ghost. When I.P.C. bought TV21, they again dropped the U.S. reprints, and merged the title into Valiant.

Marvel UK is born

In 1972, Marvel created it's British branch with the intention of printing its own titles, rather than licensing their characters out to other companies. Initially these titles were weekly titles, like most UK comics (and anthologies, unlike their US counterparts). More importantly, they were reprints of the ever growing US back-catalogue. With very few British specialist comic shops, US titles were generally available in larger newsagents such as W.H.Smiths and (in Scotland) John Menzies, but such titles arrived in the UK several months after their US publication, and there was no guarantee each month that a given title would be available. So at this point, black-and-white reprints in a UK title were a viable alternative for comic fans. The first, launched in October 1972, was The Mighty World of Marvel. It featured reprints of Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. Around the end of the year Marvel Annual became the first British published Marvel Comics Annual.

On the 17th February 1973 Spider-Man was spun off into his own title, Spider-Man Comics Weekly, which he initially shared with Thor. The third Marvel U.K. title was The Avengers, launched on the 22nd of September. Avengers became Avengers starring Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu from #28. 26th October 1974 saw the simultaneous launch of Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives!. Soon Planet of the Apes started to catch up with the US title and thus was in danger of running out of reprint material, so between #24 and #30 the title ran redrawn Killraven stories, revising the text and art to replace Martians with Apes to create Apeslayer. Though not strictly an original story, it marks Marvel UK's first foray into not just reprinting US material.

Apeslayer

In 1975 on the 8th March, The Super-Heroes is launched, with Silver Surfer and X-Men reprints. 8th April sees the launch of Savage Sword of Conan Weekly. Avengers merged with Savage Sword of Conan Weekly as of #95 of the former title and #18 (I think) of the latter. The Titans was launched on 25 October. 1976, February. At some point this same year, The Super-Heroes is merged into Spider-Man, adopting the latter's numbering, and becoming Spider-Man and the Super-Heroes, while Planet of the Apes merges with Dracula Lives, then later into Mighty World of Marvel Weekly, as does Avengers. However the most notable event of 1976 was the launch of Captain Britain on October 13th. It includes the first brand new material featuring a new Marvel hero specifically produced for the British market: Captain Britain, although it is produced using US talent.

Captain Britain (First Run - the 1970's weekly)

Around December 1976 The Titans is merged with Spider-Man Weekly, taking numbering from the latter, and becoming Super Spider-Man and the Titans. The last issue of Titans is #59, the first of the merged title is circa #199. Fury launched on 16th March 1979, and later that year Captain Britain merged with Spider-Man. The CB strip runs in the new Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain Weekly between #231 and #247, thereafter finishing with reprints of the US Marvel Team-Up story where Spidey and CB take on the assassin Arcade, though it's worth noting that John Byrne provided some new bridging art not used in the US title. Around September Fury is cancelled. The Complete Fantastic Four launched on 28th September, and Rampage Weekly launched on October 19th, followed by Savage Sword of Conan Monthly on 1st November.

Meanwhile, over the Pond

Over in the U.S., the Invaders series sought to tell new superhero stories set in the Second World War. Needing British superheroes to fight alongside the American ones, Roy Thomas created several. Though strictly speaking U.S. creations, I'm including them here because they were "adopted" by British writers when the U.K. original material started expanding.

Spitfire

Union Jack (W.W. I)

Union Jack (W.W. II)

Baron Blood

Union Jack (modern)

Marvel UK comes of age

Star Wars launched on 8th February 1978, while Rampage Weekly merged with Marvel Super-Heroes after 34 issues. The Complete Fantastic Four cancelled with #37, the last issue dated 7th June 1978. Rampage Monthly begins in July 1978, and then, in January 1979, Mighty World of Marvel was retitled Marvel Comic. Around 1979 Dez Skinn was asked to look at the failing Marvel UK line, and provide a report on how to fix the problems it was experiencing. He observed that part of the problem was that Marvel had used up a lot of their best stuff, swiftly reprinted in titles with weekly schedules, and as a result was now regurgitating less saleable products. After a meeting with Stan Lee (over in the UK for a visit), Dez became the new editor of the entire Marvel UK line, cutting costs, making their weekly titles more closely resemble those of Britain's DC Thomson to encourage readers of those comics to try the Marvel ones, and commissioning an increasing amount of home grown material. Dez launched Hulk Comic on 7th March. It featured the return of Captain Britain in a new Black Knight strip, as well as UK-original Fury, Agent of SHIELD strips, and Night Raven - the highest content of original material yet. Though the UK-originated material lessens as the run continues, the Black Knight carries on to the end of the title's run.

Hulk Comic (The Black Knight Otherworld Saga)

Hulk Comic (Other strips)

Meanwhile Marvel Comic goes monthly and becomes Marvel Super-Heroes as of September and #353. Seven months after Hulk Comic another Marvel title launched with new, U.K. originated material. Dr.Who Weekly (later Monthly, then Magazine) debuted on October 17th 1979, and contained brand new strips produced in the U.K.; it continues (as the monthly Dr. Who Magazine, and now published by Panini) to this day. Though a licensed product and set outside the mainstream Marvel Universe, several characters who appeared there would cross-over with Marvel superhero-types, including the Doctor himself.

Doctor Who Strip Characters

At some point this year Superhero Fun and Games is also launched; it later cancels with #18. During 1980 a number of short lived titles were launched: notable amongst them was Frantic Magazine in March, which saw the first professionally published work of Alan Davis, in a strip called The Crusader.

Crusader

Other 1980 debuts included the "Pocket book" titles: Chiller Pocket Book, Spider-Man Pocket Book, Conan Pocket Book, Hulk Pocket Book, Star Heroes Pocket Book, X-Men Pocket Book, Titans Pocket Book, Young Romance Pocket Book and Fantastic Four Pocket Book. Hulk Comic (aka Hulk Weekly) ended with #63 on 15th May, merging a week later with Spider-Man to become Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly. Two characters from the new strips in Hulk Weekly continued with new exploits in other titles - Captain Britain got his own strip back as a result of his successful supporting role in the Black Knight strip, returning in Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly, sent by Merlyn to an alternative Earth (see below), while 1930s vigilante Night Raven returned in a series of text stories across a number of titles, beginning with Savage Action. Along the way he was reinvented by Alan Moore, who turned him into a tortured immortal, carrying out a battle with his villainous nemesis over decades.

Night-Raven text stories

The same time that Hulk Comic cancelled, 15th May, a new title, Forces in Combat, was launched. By 19th June and #121 (possibly earlier), Star Wars Weekly had become Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. In September and with #44, Doctor Who Weekly became Dr.Who Monthly, while 18th September saw the launch of Marvel Team-Up. November sees several new titles, all reprint volumes - Future Tense, Valour, and the aforementioned Savage Action.

In February 1981 Captain America Weekly launched, while in March Marvel Team Up was merged into Spider-Man. On 1st April, Marvel Action launched. At some point, with many of the other Pocket Book titles now cancelled, Marvel Classics Comics Pocket Book was launched, as was licensed title Blake's Seven Monthly. Valour ended with #19, and a week later merged with Future Tense, while Forces in Combat ended with #37 and merged with Future Tense. Also this year, Rampage Monthly published a number of UK originated strips around #40.

Time-Smasher

In May Marvel Super-Adventure is launched, followed by Blockbuster and Marvel Madhouse in June. In July Marvel Action finishes with #15. A week later it merged with Captain America Weekly. September 1981, and Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly begins a brand new Captain Britain strip,

Earth-238 - The Crooked World Saga

while Frantic cancels after 18 issues. September, and Future Tense becomes a monthly with #39, only to cancel a few months later with #41. In November Marvel Super-Adventure merges into Captain America Weekly after 26 issues. At a date unknown to me, Worzel Gummidge launches, based on a British TV show and aimed at younger readers.

U.K. Annuals around this time also started to produce new material and new characters, at least in text stories in said Annuals.

Seth Youngblood

Bluebird

Sleeper

Lightmaster

1982, February sees the last issue of Blockbuster Monthly (#9), which merges into Rampage Monthly. April and Savage Action cancels with #15. Night Raven strips transfer to Marvel Super-Heroes. April, and Captain America Weekly cancels with #59. Kim, Scooby Doo and his TV Friends and Rupert Weekly are launched at some point Around this time Dracula Summer Special released. After 15 issues Worzel Gummidge merges into Rupert Weekly to form Rupert Weekly with Worzel Gummidge. Incredible Hulk Weekly is launched (not the same as the previous Hulk Weekly), and lasts 27 issues. Monster Monthly is launched, but only lasts 8 issues. August, and Marvel Super-Heroes' Captain Britain strip ends, in preparation for his transfer to the upcoming The Daredevils title. October. Marvel Madhouse is cancelled after 17 issues. 6th October. Fantastic Four is launched.

1983. The Daredevils is launched in January, with the U.K.'s national hero enjoying new adventures produced by the definitive creative team of Alan Moore and Alan Davis. They took Captain Britain to new heights of storytelling excellence, and introduced us to Captain U.K., the Fury and the Special Executive, amongst others.

Jaspers' Warp (Moore's Run)

Mean while Rampage Monthly merges with Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly, keeping the latter's higher numbering. Issue #54 is the last, pre-merger, issue. March and #395 of Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly sees the last of the Night Raven text stories, before they transfer to The Daredevils. 20th April. Fantastic Four is cancelled, after #29 issues, while Thor is launched. Marvel Super-Heroes ends with #397, the May issue.

A new Mighty World of Marvel launches, continuing the New X-Men strip from Marvel Super-Heroes. Blake's Seven Monthly is cancelled after 23 issues, and Kim after 59 issues, Scooby Doo cancels after 68 issues. Top Cat TV Comic is launched, as is The Original X-Men, which lasts 17 issues. Star Wars comic cancels with #171. It relaunches as Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, renumbering from #1, as of 22nd June. In November, after 11 issues, The Daredevils Monthly merges into Mighty World of Marvel Monthly.

1984. Thor cancels after 39 issues. Dr.Who Monthly retitles to Dr.Who Magazine as of February and #85. Rupert Comic is cancelled after 100 issues, while Top Cat TV Comic cancels after 33 issues. Indiana Jones launches, as does The Thing is Big Ben, which runs for 18 issues. After the departure of writer Alan Moore, artist Alan Davis was joined by Jamie Delano in chronicling Captain Britain's further adventures. Soon after this, Spider-Man Weekly #608-610 ran a non-reprint strip for the first time since Captain Britain's original title merged with it, with the wall-crawler having an adventure in London, meeting a couple of new characters along the way.

Thunderclap

Assassin-8

On 20th September 1984 Transformers Weekly was launched. Swiftly using up the available American material, Marvel U.K. began to intersperse home grown tales between the reprints, and also introduces Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers. Meanwhile Mighty World of Marvel Monthly cancels, and Captain Britain regains his own title, Captain Britain in January 1985

Captain Britain (second run - 1980's monthly)

while Night Raven transferred to Savage Sword of Conan Monthly. At some point this year Indiana Jones cancels after 11 issues, while Acorn Green and Care Bears are launched, as is Secret Wars, which lasts 80 issues. Spidey Comics (the most recent name change for the Spider-Man weekly comic) comes to an end with #666, the longest running Marvel UK title. Savage Sword of Conan Monthly #85 to #92 carry new Night Raven text stories, before the title cancels with #93. 1986, and Captain Britain Monthly cancels after 14 issues, Spider-Man and Zoids is launched (it will carry some early Grant Morrison work), while Transformers #113 sees the first appearance of one of Marvel U.K.'s best known characters, a creation which would jump across titles and universes several times.

Death's Head

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ends in June with #155. Doctor Who Adventure Comics free giveaways are produced. 6 issues are printed, reprinting stories from Doctor Who Magazine. Muppet Babies is launched, lasting 56 issues.

1987. Spider-Man and Zoids (now called Zoids Collected Comics) is cancelled, after 51 weekly issues and 4 monthly ones. Action Force is launched - after 50 issues it is relaunched as Action Force (Vol.2), for a further 15 issues. Around this time Action Force and other titles carry various short, original British humour strips, including some from Lew Stringer and from writer/artist duo Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett. Madballs (lasts 8 issues) and Thundercats are also launched.

Combat Colin

Captain Wally

Snail Man

Macho-Man

Fantastic 400

Jet Lagg

Hulk the Menace

Spider-Hound

C.Y.R.I.L.

Secret Artist

1988. Alf, Droids, Flintstones and Friends, Galaxy Rangers, Real Ghostbusters and Visionaries are launched. Not based on TV shows, Marvel Bumper Comics is launched, lasting for 31 issues, as is Punisher Magazine, lasting for 30 issues. In the U.S., Captain Britain returns as a member of Excalibur. Since that series often had British writers and artists working on it, several of the characters who debuted in it remain entry-worthy for this site.

Excalibur Characters

Meanwhile Marvel UK is trying out printing it's new material closer to the American format. Dragon's Claws is launched, the first Marvel UK title to use the American comic size and format, soon followed by Death's Head, and in 1989 the Sleeze Brothers mini-series, running for 6 issues.

Moving to a U.S. format

Back in the old format, on October 7th 1989, Incredible Hulk Presents launches, including a new Dr. Who strip. Other new titles include Popeye, Slimer and Wicked, as well as the more adult Strip. 1990. January. Incredible Hulk Presents ends after 12 issues, Real Ghostbusters cancels after 128 issues, Strip cancels after 20 issues, while Fantastic Max and The Complete Spider-Man are launched. Meanwhile the success of Dragon's Claws and Death's Head sees the launch of Knights of Pendragon. Deeming the new style to be a success, Marvel U.K. did a major relaunch. They planned a slew of new, superhero heavy, titles, to be published in two formats: in the U.S. they would be printed as if they were regular Marvel titles under the Marvel U.K. imprint, while in the U.K. the same stories would be printed in the anthology title Overkill. Given the sheer number of comics launched, and the varying quality of same, that proved to be an unwittingly accurate appellation.

The Big Push

1991. Thundercats ends after 129 issues, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Police Academy, Rupert and Friends are all launched, as is Havoc (lasting 9 issues), and Meltdown. In December Knights of Pendragon finishes after 18 issues.

1992 January. Meltdown cancels after 6 issues. Transformers is cancelled on 18th January, having lasted 332 issues. In March the arrival of the Death's Head II mini-series signals the start of the new Marvel UK push. Knights of Pendragon Volume 2 and Overkill are launched, followed soon after by Warheads, Motormouth, Hell's Angel. The Complete Spider-Man cancels after 24 issues, to be replaced by The Exploits of Spider-Man. Star Trek: The Next Generation ends after 24 issues. Doctor Who Classic Comics is launched.

1993. Codename Genetix, Incomplete Death's Head, Mys-Tech Wars all start. Overkill ends in April after 52 issues. I won't continue to list the new US-format Marvel UK titles, as they are already fairly familiar to the US audience.

1994 Doctor Who Classic Comics folds after 27 issues. Conan the Adventurer launches, and lasts 3 issues. Marvel Action Hour launches, and lasts 4 issues.

In 1995 Marvel stopped publishing it's own comics in the UK, and handed over a license to Panini, who have followed with monthly colour anthologies. Exploits of Spider-Man ends after 40 issues. Essential X-Men is launched. After 5 issues Panini takes it over. Astonishing Spider-Man is launched. After 6 issues Panini takes it over. Spectacular Adventures of Spider-Man is launched. This is still ongoing, and for a long period produced new material. A new Rampage Monthly briefly produced new material, and the comparatively new Marvel Heroes also did so, while Spider-Man and Friends produced stories firmly aimed at the younger market. However, in 2011 an edict was handed down from Marvel U.S. to halt all U.K. originated material in Panini's Marvel Universe titles, ending a long history of such material.

Meanwhile U.K. creators have firmly established themselves working for Marvel US, including some titles and characters set in Britain.

Clan Destine

Druid

Elsa Bloodstone

Baron Blood

MI13

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