Thursday, 23 October 2014

1990: ROBOCOP MOVIE ADAPTATION REPRINT (Marvel)


Marvel USA re-released their adaptation of the first ROBOCOP movie, in the run-up to the sequel, in July 1990.

The previous edition had been a low-fi black & white magazine one-shot (which was also released across the Atlantic as a MARVEL UK special) but, for this edition, the Bullpen made it a premium item by colouring the material and issuing as a Prestige/ Bookshelf/ 'Dark Knight' format square-bound premium item.

The adaptation of the sequel, which also appeared as a limited series, was issued in the same format a month-or-so later. 

1993: COMIC WORLD REPORTS THE INDUSTRY CRASH





This is how the British magazine COMIC WORLD reported the industry crash in late 1993.  This issue would have gone on sale around November that year.  

Included in the coverage is MARVEL UK's 'Genesis Implosion", the first stage in the two-part sequence of events that led to the closure of the entire US-focused line... and the mothballing of all the characters created for it.  

The management's spin on the decision is an interesting bit of PR... suggesting that the numerous projects placed on hiatus needed further 'quality control' work.  Presumably this was part of the British Bullpen's push to emphasize quality over their previous dash-for-growth.  

A couple of months later, CW was reporting the 'Genesis Massacre'.  

1974: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES Launch Ads (Marvel UK)


It was forty years ago this week...  Here are some MARVEL UK House Ads for their two October 1974 new weeklies: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

1984: THE A-TEAM TV COMIC Advert (Polystyle)


Apparently not even the persuasive power of the Big Man himself could save the long-floundering TV COMIC... but at least he tried.

The British perennial (launched in 1951... predating ITV by some four years) had looked unloved since the previous decade but publisher Polystyle had attempted to breath some new life into a tired looking product by snapping-up the rights to Universal shows like TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY and THE A-TEAM.  

Ironically, this full-page prompt (which adorned the back page of 1984's THUNDERBIRDS special) probably stayed on the shelves longer than TV COMIC itself did.  The last issue (1,697) appeared in newsagents in June 1984... and copies of the Special presumably remained on sale into September or later.  

Mister T and co. quickly gravitated to their more obvious home... the pages of LOOK-IN (ITV, of course, enjoyed considerable success with the show so it seems surprising that ITV Publications ever allowed the license to go elsewhere) which didn't stop MARVEL UK churning out two specials (in 1985 and 1986) reprinting the US adaptation of the show. 

Polystyle bounced back, ever so briefly, with BEEB the following January.  Their new weekly tried (and failed) to transplant the LOOK-IN formula to the Corporation's stable of shows and presenters.  Not even the powers of David Icke and the improbable combination of Gary Glitter and Roland off Grange Hill could make that one fly...

1992: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Issue 2 (Phoenix)

 

After MARVEL UK fumbled the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION ball by misjudging the market with their fortnightly/ monthly, Phoenix stepped in with this compilation of DC reprints in late 1992.

I don't know much about Phoenix (who may, or may not, have evolved out of the Trident operation that had been repackaging Dark House material, apparently with some success, like THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS) and I'm not sure how long this venture ran for.  Although, for some reason, I seem to think this title was surprisingly (considering the TV show was still airing in the UK) short-lived.

There was also a contemporary magazine, FINAL FRONTIER, that started out reprinting articles from the US editions of STARLOG but eventually settled down to running lots of photos (and adverts for merchandise sold via mail order by the publisher... possibly the real motivation for keeping the title going) and sketchy articles and making it clear that Paramount had nothing to do with the venture.

There was another comic-based title, focused on Classic Trek, that once again drew from the DC run of the license.  

The reprints in this second issue (if I have the first... I don't have it to hand) hail from the third DC TNG Annual (The Broken Moon), The Modala Imperative mini-series (which combined classic and TNG in a not-possible-on-screen adventure) and another outing (M-UK had already used it) of the opening installment of the DC limited series, created before the show had aired (and, at times, it shows). 

1974: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES Launch (Marvel UK)


Regular reader Colin Jones (Hi Colin... and thanks!) tipped me off yesterday that it was 40 years ago this very week that MARVEL UK launched these two iconic new weeklies: PLANET OF THE APES and DRACULA LIVES.  

Not only are these both stonking reads but they were also landmark issues for the Annex of Ideas:

  • These were the fourth and fifth (following THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL, SPIDER-MAN and THE AVENGERS) weeklies launched in the UK.
  • They were the first of the British weeklies to feature contemporary, made-the-same-decade, strips as the main attraction.  THE AVENGERS weekly had already, riding the martial arts craze, included Masters of Kung Fu and and Iron Fist.  The tight turnaround between the two sides of the operation created scheduling problems later (hello Apeslayer!).
  • Both of them were a departure from Marvel's usual super-powered stable.  Marvel UK's next experiment, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, in March 1975, didn't fare so well. 
  • POTA was the first time that Marvel had adapted a screen property.  The POTA TV show (which mustered more enthusiasm in the UK and other international markets than it did on CBS in the States) premiered around the same time and, although Marvel didn't have the strip rights, they could benefit from the free marketing.  
  • Horror was also something new for the Annex of Ideas.  The black & white format, and larger pages, actually benefited the strips and gave them a Hammer noir atmosphere.  Surprisingly, the contents didn't seem to ever generate any negative publicity in the British press.  Something that, maybe, IPC's nervous management should have noted when they got cold feet over SCREAM a decade later.  
  • This was the first time that British Marvel had launched two new titles simultaneously and, as such, marked a significant expansion for the small operation. 
  • For the record, DRACULA LIVES clocked up a run of 87 issues before merging with its stable (coffin?) mate.  POTA eventually ran for 123 issues before folding into THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL (allowing Marvel to burn-off the last of the licensed strips). 
  • DRACULA LIVES, without benefit of a merger, became DRACULA LIVES FEATURING THE LEGION OF MONSTERS from issue 60 with, MWOM style, the interlopers given prominent billing on the masthead. 
I've covered POTA in several previous posts (including cover galleries and the "missing" prelude to ESCAPE FROM THE POTA) and I've always planned to do more with DL once I've unboxed my collection from storage.

This is also an appropriate place to mention that Titan Books have a new hardback overview of the whole saga in shops now (not to be confused with their excellent art book devoted to the two recent revivals).  I've not had a chance to study the text in detail (so much scanning... so little time) but it looks a highly agreeable addition to anyone's bookshelves and, probably, the most significant new tome on the saga (except for the excellent SIMEON SCROLLS fanzine and the two Hasslein volumes) since the 2001 book boom.  

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

1977: THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL and DRACULA LIVES (Marvel UK)




The end of PLANET OF THE APES the previous week left the way clear for THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL to, belatedly, add Tomb of Dracula reprints to the line-up.  The strip had, despite the DRACULA LIVES masthead continuing to appear post-merger of the POTA weekly, been absent from the British line-up for months. 

So, issue 247 (cover-dated 22 June 1977) included this two-page text feature refresher before picking up the action...

1993: SHADOW RIDERS House Ad (Marvel UK)


This House Ad for SHADOW RIDERS (a four-issue MARVEL UK mini from 1993) perfectly sums up M-UK's marketing strategy during the Genesis Explosion:  

1. Cover-enhancements galore.  To attract attention on crowded shop shelves, and generate some speculator buzz (all those oodles of perceived extra value), every new launch had to be somehow augmented to shift more copies.  This was deemed particularly desirable if it allowed the publisher to crank-up the cover price sufficiently to raise the profit margins compared with a standard-format copy.  

2.  M-UK did love those circulation-tweaking guest appearances by hot Marvel stars from across the pond.  Cable and Ghost Rider were shipping a lot of copies of their own books (and any others that Marvel New York parachuted them into) so it made sense for the British Bullpen to purloin them as well.  Except, funnily enough, any characters from the States who turned-up in the UK-verse seemed to suffer collective amnesia (very much the same ailment that struck anyone who interacted with the ULTRAVERSE characters post-merger) and never spoke of their adventures again.  

3.  There's no mention of the creative team attached to the book.  By the end of the year, M-UK's marketing would change track and start putting far greater emphasis on the "hot" (to use the WIZARD MAGAZINE parlance) teams working on their books.  For the record, this was from Freeman, Prentice, Dearsley, Peters and editor Stuart Bartlett. 

1991: ALIEN NATION: PUBLIC ENEMY (Adventure Comics)





ALIEN NATION: PUBLIC ENEMY was the sixth (and final) limited series (including the colour APE NATION series), based on the film/ TV show combo, published by Adventure Comics.  It appeared between December 1991 and March 1992.

By that time, the show had been off the air for almost two years and, with no obvious sign of a revival (five TV movies, from Ken Johnson and the original creative team, did go into production several years later) Adventure (a subsidiary of Malibu) obviously felt interest and sales had dropped to a level where further excursions were deemed a non-starter.

Monday, 20 October 2014

1978: STAR WARS WEEKLY PIN-UP PAGE (Marvel UK)


Another bit of fiendish re-purposing, and dramatic license, courtesy of MARVEL UK's STAR WARS WEEKLY in late 1978: The cover art from the 5th US issue (with doom-laden speech bubbles omitted), which was never used for the British edition, reworked a black & white full-page pin-up. 
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