Tuesday, 30 September 2014

1982: G.I. JOE Launch Ad (Marvel USA)


From June 1982, the MARVEL USA Launch Ad for G.I.JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO.  I doubt anyone, at this point, anticipated they were about to unleash a blockbuster….

1993: NIGHT RAVEN: HOUSE OF CARDS House Ad (Marvel UK)

More NIGHT RAVEN!  A MARVEL UK House Ad, published in the American comics, promoting the second edition of the HOUSE OF CARDS Graphic Novel.  This appeared in titles dated February 1993.  


A MARVEL UK House Ad from 1993, announcing the imminent launch of the new, quarterly, FRONTIER COMICS UNLIMITED, an anthology spin-off from M-UK's Frontier Comics imprint.

FC aimed to be something more akin to DC's Vertigo line: more edgy output that may, or may not, feature established Marvel characters.  

The line, edited by Michael Bennent, was made up of the Conan-alike BLOODSEED (announced as a four-issue limited series, of which two appeared, with a further two issues scheduled for 1994.  They never appeared), IMMORTALIS, DANCES WITH DEMONS and CHILDREN OF THE VOYAGER.  All of the above were four-issue series.

Not mentioned here are two original strips, Evil Eye and The Fallen which, presumably, were slated as possible contenders for their own FC books or, at the very least, return engagements in the quarterly.

Unfortunately, the Frontier Comics line was one of the first things to be jettisoned when the GENESIS EXPLOSION started to turn swiftly into an IMPLOSION.  Fortunately, with the exception of Paul Neary's own Bloodseed, the existing series were all wrapped-up (not a privilege given to many of the M-UK books as the situation swiftly deteriorated) but the line was shuttered and all future projects abandoned.  The first issue of Unlimited was hastily rebadged FRONTIER COMICS SPECIAL (they forgot to change the small print) and issued as a one-shot.  

MARVEL AGE MAGAZINE covered the launch of the line here and there was also coverage in the short-lived UK fanzine COMICS SPECULATOR NEWS (yuck!) here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

1991: ALIEN NATION: THE SKIN TRADE (Adventure Comics)

ALIEN NATION: THE SKIN TRADE (cover-dated between March and June 1991) was the third of Adventure Comic's ALIEN NATION limited series, based on the 1988 movie and the 1989-90 TV series.

Published in black & white, it borrowed the premise (a ship of alien slaves crashes in the desert outside Los Angeles and, upon release, the 'Newcomers' must integrate into a society they find equally alien) from the screen incarnations but none of the characters, giving the creative teams free reign to explore new ideas without (necessarily) having to frame them in a police procedural plot device.  

The first four-parter was THE SPARTANS followed by A BREED APART (neither of which I have to hand to scan).


NIGHT RAVEN: THE COLLECTED STORIES, another early 1990s (1990 to be precise) outing for the MARVEL UK character, reprinted (as the name suggests) the strips from 1979's HULK COMIC (and reprinted in 1985's CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly) in one A4 graphic novel behind a new David Lloyd front page.

Oddly for a noir character, M-UK decided to colour the strips for this book.  Whether this was to create some value-added appeal to readers or make it more desirable to the book trade is unclear.  However, the end results are rather nice and sympathetic to the original art.  

Unfortunately, it doesn't also collect the myriad of prose stories (some by Alan Moore) that weaved through the UK monthlies (somehow managing to dodge cancellation each time until landing in THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN) throughout the early eighties.


The "lost" issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE: When Ben Grim met the Space Knight.

This, the penultimate issue of the run, was published in early 1983 (the May cover-date being, of course, several months ahead of the on-sale date) and is, today a mainstay of the 50p boxes.  If you see a copy: grab it.

It's clearly not demanding high dealer prices (ahem), or generating lots of reader demand, but it is the only issue of T-I-O that hasn't (and won't be, for the foreseeable future, anyway) reprinted.  The final ESSENTIAL TWO-IN-ONE volume simply skips the issue.

That's because Rom is trapped in a limbo that means that Marvel had long since lost the rights to the character despite firmly implanting him inside the Marvel Universe for the duration of the license (75 issues and 3 annuals).  That sales-boosting integration has also been preventing anyone else from acquiring the reprint rights: they'd also have to negotiate with Marvel to use all the MCU characters that pop up throughout the run.

This was reprinted in issues 15-16 of THE THING IS BIG BEN, making it Rom's last in-continuity UK appearance.  His SECRET WARS II crossover episode was omitted from the British run, possibly because Marvel had already handed back the license.  

Friday, 26 September 2014


A MARVEL UK House Ad (from THOR issue 13, 13 July 1983) touting the free Thing pin-badge freebie cover-mounted to that week's SPIDER-MAN weekly.

The badge made a triumphant comeback as the free gift affixed to the 10th issue of THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL the following year.

1985: CARE BEARS Launch Ad (Marvel UK)

Soft, cuddly and full of love: the MARVEL UK House Ad trumpeting the launch of the CARE BEARS comic, part of a multi-media merchandising and media tsunami to shift the cuddly toys.  

The weekly launched in October 1985 and was something of a pre-school blockbuster for the Annex of Ideas, clocking-up an impressive 147 issue run (plus annuals and specials).  In comparison, THE GET ALONG GANG (which established the formula for this sort of offering) fell out after 93 weeks and ACORN GREEN (which lacked animated support) mustered only 36 issues.

Although not of much interest to collectors of M-UK fare, this is significant because it shows why the company so decisively turned its back on its own characters in favour of licensed properties throughout the second half of the eighties.  

The flexi-disc (quaint technology from the past) was rarity for the British Bullpen.  The monthly incarnation of WORZEL GUMMIDGE had featured one in 1981 and M-UK repeated the trick with the launch issue of ACORN GREEN the following year.  

The strips were a mixture of reprints from the US Star Comics book and newly commissioned material from the folks at Redan Place.

The back-up strip was (initially) Strawberry Shortcake.  The CB animated series was part of the roster of toy-based cartoons served up by TV-am.  

1991/ 1992: NIGHT RAVEN: HOUSE OF CARDS (Marvel UK)



One book: two editions: MARVEL UK issued two different versions of the original NIGHT RAVEN graphic novel HOUSE OF CARDS only a year-or-so apart.

The 1991 first print was an A4 sized affair.  The second, published as part of the GENESIS 92 wave of material pitched specifically at the US market (although it wasn't part of the G92 sub-universe of characters), was a US-sized 'bookshelf' (aka "the Dark Knight format" for old 'uns) squarebound edition.

In my experience, it's actually the 1992 version that is the harder to find today.  I've only ever seen one copy… and this is it!

Whichever the version, it's well worth seeking out.

The character, of course, made his debut in 1979's launch issue of HULK COMIC.  Although the strip (latterly reprinted in 1985's CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly and again, this time in colour, in a graphic novel compilation) couldn't escape Hulk's diminishing origination budget, the character did continue to appear in as series of prose adventures which ran across the M-UK monthlies (skipping from title to title as each was, in turn, canned) and included contributions from Alan Moore.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

1984: CAPTAIN BRITAIN Monthly House Ad (Marvel UK)

From the SPIDER-MAN WINTER SPECIAL 1984: a rare half-page colour House ad for the (launched-slightly-later-than-billed) CAPTAIN BRITAIN monthly.
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