Monday, 3 September 2012

1990: THE COMPLETE SPIDER-MAN (Marvel UK)


This is the first issue of Marvel UK's November 1990 launch: THE COMPLETE SPIDER-MAN.  Although it only ran for 24 issues (published every four-weeks), I would argue that this is one of the most important Spidey comics ever published in the UK.  Humour me.

It seems unbelievable now but this was the first Spider-man comic (save for one-shot specials) published by Marvel UK since SPIDER-MAN AND ZOIDS folded in February 1987.  Yup, Marvel's wholly-owned British subsidiary couldn't find a regular home for the company's flagship hero (and media and merchandising powerhouse) for almost four years.  The same hero who had held down his own weekly between 1973 and 1985 (and again between 1986 and 1987) and, in 1980, headlined three regular British titles (his own, SPIDER-MAN POCKET BOOK and, briefly, MARVEL TEAM-UP weekly).  

Not only did TCSM mark Spider-man's return, it also pointed the way towards the Panini-published Collectors' Edition series (and Titan's DC-reprint versions) found of the shelves of WH Smith today.

TCSM collected almost-concurrent US reprints from the four core US Spidey titles (WEB OF SPIDER-MAN, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN and the just-launched SPIDER-MAN by superstar creator Todd McFarlane) in a 100-page full-colour US-sized format.

Priced at £1.75, and widely available in British newsagents, it also represented better value-for-money than original US imports which were getting harder-to-find outside of specialist comic book stores.  I'm not sure how much the imported monthlies were selling for at that time ("advance" imports in comic book stores arrived several months earlier than the copies that went to newsagents but - not unreasonably - you paid a premium for that) but I'm 99% certain that TCSM was much better value (albeit with less collectable value as a back issue).  

TCSM was bulkier (100 pages against today's 76) than today's UK reprints, and lacked the card-stock covers, but its very easy to see how it pointed the way to the first of the Collectors' Editions, launched by M-UK in 1995.

The cover-mounted free gift on the first issue was a fabric patch, similar to the Trek one free with STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION issue 1. 

For the record, the reprints in the first issue were: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 330 (March 1990), SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN 161 (February 1990), WEB OF SPIDER-MAN 62 (March 1990) and, of course, SPIDER-MAN 1 (August 1990).

TCSM was cancelled after two years to make way for THE EXPLOITS OF SPIDER-MAN, a traditionally A4-sized four-weekly which mixed current material with back-catalogue reprints (along with SPIDER-MAN 2099 and Marvel UK's MOTORMOUTH).  TEOSM, in turn, gave way to THE ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN COLLECTORS' EDITION in 1995.

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