Marvel UK

Marvel UK
Marvel UK
Type Private
Industry Publishing
Genre Science fiction, action, superheroes
Founded 1972 (launch)
Key people Neil Tennant, Dez Skinn, John Freeman, Paul Neary
Products Comics
Parent Marvel Comics
Panini Comics

Marvel UK was an imprint of Marvel Comics formed in 1972 to reprint US produced stories for the British weekly comic market, though it later did produce original material by British creators such as Alan Moore, John Wagner, Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon and Grant Morrison.

Panini Comics obtained the Marvel UK license in 1995.


Publishing history


Reprints of American Marvel material had been published in the UK during the 1960s by Odhams Press under their Power Comics imprint. Titles such as Smash! and Fantastic featured a mix of Marvel reprint material (such as the Fantastic Four) and original non-Marvel work. This lasted till 1969 when the last superhero strip was removed from Smash!, leaving no Marvel titles being reprinted in the UK at all.

Origins: MWOM and Spider-Man Comics Weekly

In 1972, seeing a gap in the popular weekly comics market of the UK, Marvel Comics formed their own British publishing arm, Marvel UK (under the corporate name of Magazine Management London Ltd.). Though publishing comics in England for a British audience, Marvel UK was under the editorial direction of Marvel's New York offices, overseen by the young American writer/editor Tony Isabella.[1]

Starting with The Mighty World of Marvel (commonly shortened to MWOM), Marvel UK started with black-and-white (though early issues of MWOM did feature some colour) reprints of The Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. MWOM proved to be a huge success, and a few months later Spider-Man Comics Weekly was released. Again this carried on reprinted American Spider-Man material originally started in MWOM. The Mighty World Of Marvel, in one form or another, was published continuously until 1984, while the Spider-Man weekly comic (under many different name changes) would continue until 1985.


In 1974 Marvel UK launched Planet of the Apes, reprinting material from the American black & white Curtis Magazines title (an imprint of Marvel); it lasted until 1977 (the final months as a co-feature of MWOM with Hulk).

In March 1975, Marvel UK launched a new weekly title called The Super-Heroes. Although it originally starred popular characters like the Silver Surfer and the X-Men, it eventually began reprinting stories starring such obscure characters such as Doc Savage, Ant-Man, The Cat, Scarecrow, and Bloodstone.

Marvel UK's fifth superhero title, also debuting in 1975 (October), was The Titans, which was notable for its use of a "landscape" orientation. Although this format allowed two pages of Marvel U.S. artwork to fit onto one (magazine-sized) Marvel UK page, reader reaction was mixed, as it made the text small and often difficult to read. The Titans featured well-known characters like Captain America, Captain Marvel, the Sub-Mariner, the Inhumans, and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Super-Heroes lasted fifty issues before being cancelled in early 1976, at which point it was merged into Spider-Man Comics Weekly, (which changed its title to Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes). At this point the book also changed orientation to become a landscape-format comic like The Titans. The aforementioned Titans title ran 58 issues until late 1976, when it too was cancelled. Towards the end of its run, the Avengers were moved over from The Mighty World of Marvel to be The Titans' lead strip. As with The Super-Heroes, with the The Titans' cancellation it was merged with the weekly Spider-Man comic (which changed its title again, to Super Spider-Man and the Titans).

Tennant era

Marvel UK began to establish itself as a major publisher of weekly comic titles (along with D.C Thomson and IPC) under the direction of editor-in-chief Neil Tennant (later one of the Pet Shop Boys). Tennant was responsible for anglicising the dialogue of the comics to suit British readers, and for indicating where women needed to be redrawn more decently for the British editions.[2]

However, with the exception of some new covers drawn by Marvel Comics American staff, no original material had yet been produced by Marvel UK. This changed in 1976 when Captain Britain Weekly was launched, featuring a hero created for the British market by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe. Captain Britain Weekly featured new stories in colour as well as reprints of Nick Fury and Fantastic Four strips as backup. It was initially a success but eventually combined with Marvel UK's Spider-Man reprint title from #39.

Marvel UK began publishing a weekly Star Wars title in February 1978, soon after the film was released in the UK. The weekly issues split the stories from the US monthly issues into smaller installments, and it usually took three weekly issues to complete a US monthly issue. In May 1980 the title became known as The Empire Strikes Back Weekly, and in November 1980 it transformed into a monthly publication. Marvel UK's Star Wars comic also published original Star Wars stories by British creators as well as reprinting the US comics material. Many, but not all, of these original British stories were reprinted in the 1990s by Dark Horse Comics. The format changed back to a weekly in June 1983 with the adaptation of Return of the Jedi (which also became the new name of the publication), and remained so until its last issue in 1986. Prior to the Return of the Jedi comic, the strips in the UK Star Wars comics were printed in black and white, even those taken from the American color versions. The UK comics also reprinted several other supporting strips in each issue from other Marvel properties (such as The Micronauts, Tales of the Watcher, Star Lord, etc.). While the comic was in a weekly format, the supporting strips often made up the bulk of each issue.

Skinn era ("The Marvel Revolution")

By the late 1970s, sales of Marvel UK titles had begun to fall and it was on a visit to the UK that Stan Lee headhunted Dez Skinn to revamp the ailing company. Knowing Skinn had significant experience in British comic publishing, Lee gave him freedom to do what he felt best. Skinn had his own catchphrase in "Dez Sez," which was inspired by Lee's catchphrases from the 1960s.[3] Skinn set out to change Marvel UK as he saw fit, dubbing the changes "The Marvel Revolution".[4] The first major change he brought was to have original material produced by British creators. Many of these creators had already worked with Skinn on his title The House of Hammer a few years earlier, plus some new young talent.

Skinn wrote: “[T]raditional British comics were at the time selling 150,000+ a week, firm sale, no returns. If Marvel and Spider-Man could look British enough for some of that to rub off, everybody would be happy... But fixing the covers to resemble the non-glossy generic look of weekly anthology titles was one thing... Having “splash” pages and then five or six frames a page just didn’t stack up against Warlord, Action, Battle, and the rest with their nine to 12 a page.” So the US artwork was re-sized to fit several pages onto one and emulate the look of the more established UK boys’ weeklies.[5]

Skinn reasoned that Marvel superhero weeklies had been effectively competing with each other in an already crowded market. So while the Spider-Man Comic was to be the flagship superhero comic (with Thor, Iron Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Nova), The Mighty World of Marvel was re-launched as Marvel Comic, in the tradition of UK boys’ adventure titles. Dracula, Conan the Barbarian, and Skull the Slayer joined (or re-joined) established strips Daredevil and Hulk (although the Hulk was replaced three issues after the re-launch by Godzilla, as the Hulk left for his own title).[5]

The Hulk was a popular character – Rampage Weekly which starred The Defenders had been added to Marvel's list of publications under Tennant's editorship as a second vehicle for the green giant – and now with his own TV series Skinn saw the Hulk as the lead feature of another adventure style comic. Hulk Comic started out with originally produced Hulk stories created by Steve Dillon, Paul Neary, and John Stokes, among others, which reflected the green-skinned behemoth as depicted on the TV. Skinn explained: “As with Marvel Comic, I was wanting an adventure anthology title more than a superhero one. Super-heroes had never been big sellers in the UK, we had plenty of legends of the past to spin fantasies about. So I went that route, picking existing Marvel characters who weren’t really cut from the super-hero cloth.”[6] Originally produced stories were included, such as Nick Fury drawn by Steve Dillon, and Night Raven by Steve Parkhouse and David Lloyd. Also included was the Black Knight, a minor Marvel character but revamped to take in Arthurian concepts, as well as featuring the return of Captain Britain from comic book limbo. As well there was the usual US reprint material, such as Ant Man and in later issues the Beast from Amazing Adventures, and even The Defenders were moved in from Rampage Monthly to increase the dose of Hulk action.

Arguably Skinn's most important decision was to launch Doctor Who Weekly in 1979. Based on the BBC TV series (which at that point had already been running for 16 years), Doctor Who Weekly featured original comics stories by John Wagner, Pat Mills, and Dave Gibbons, among many others, plus articles and features on the show itself. It proved a huge success, and by now Skinn had transformed Marvel UK back to being a major publisher of not just weekly comics but monthly titles such as Starburst. Starburst had been created by Skinn before he joined Marvel UK, but was purchased by Marvel when he joined the company.

Skinn was not happy with how creators were treated in regard to ownership of characters,[citation needed] so he left Marvel UK in 1980[7] (eventually forming Quality Communications in 1982). One of his last acts was to give Captain Britain his own strip in the pages of MWOM, as written by Dave Thorpe and drawn by Alan Davis. (Thorpe left in 1982, to be replaced by Alan Moore in one of Moore's first major ongoing strips.)

Pocket Books

In March 1980, as part of the "Marvel Revolution", Skinn launched the Marvel Pocket Books line with four 52-page titles. The line began with Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Star Heroes (featuring TV tie-in Battlestar Galactica and the toy-based strip the Micronauts continued from their previous run in Star Wars Weekly), and Chiller (starring Dracula and the Man-Thing with occasional appearance from other horror-related characters).[8] Following Skin’s belief that much of Marvel’s strongest material was that published in the 1960s and early 70s, many of these titles showcased strips from that period.

Skinn drew on the design of the traditional UK Picture Library titles which boomed in the 1960s to establish a definitive look for the Pocket Books. Skinn wrote that they “emulated the look in their Combat Picture Library covers... that was the look I wanted, to pull the line of pocket books together visually and make them different to any of our other titles...” [9]

The first four titles were later joined by Hulk, The Titans (reprinting the 1960s stories of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man), Marvel Classic Comics (featuring graphic versions of novels), Conan, and Young Romance. Some titles were not a success in terms of sales: Hulk, Conan, The Titans, Marvel Classics Comics, and Young Romance were cancelled after 13 issues, while Star Heroes (which had replaced The Micronauts with the original X-Men from issue #10) was re-launched as X-Men Pocket Book from #14. All other Pocket Books were cancelled after issue 28 in July/August 1982.[8]

Classic Marvel material was by no means completely abandoned after the demise of the Pocket Books. The Hulk strips continued in a newly launched The Incredible Hulk Weekly and similarly the classic Fantastic Four strips resurfaced in a weekly title in October 1982. Both of these eventually folded into Spider-Man Comics Weekly, where the strips continued on and off until it changed into The Spider-Man Comic, aimed at younger readers. The classic Spider-Man material continued in the first few issues of The Daredevils.

Jay era

With Skinn's departure, Bernie Jay took over as Marvel UK's editor-in-chief.[10] By 1982 Marvel UK had almost completely stopped publishing weekly titles and moved mainly to monthly titles such as The Daredevils (featuring Moore and Davis's Captain Britain) and The Mighty World Of Marvel, which by now was firmly established as a monthly title. However, many of Marvel UK's titles wouldn't last long before being combined or cancelled outright due to poor sales. Jay left the company in 1983.[10]


In January 1985 the first issue of Captain Britain Monthly appeared with its titular strip written by Jamie Delano and drawn by Alan Davis. This title lasted 14 issues before cancellation and would prove to be Marvel UK's last major new title for several years. However, new material was still being produced, such as the Zoids stories (written by Grant Morrison) for Spider-Man and Zoids, but not on the scale or diversity had been previously seen.

For the remainder of the 1980s the company published only a small handful of titles that appealed to superhero fans, but had considerable success on the UK newsstands with licensed titles such as The Real Ghostbusters, ThunderCats, Transformers and many others. These all featured original strips as well as some US reprints.

Transformers, in particular, was a major seller for Marvel UK, selling 200,000 copies a week at its height.[citation needed] Its main writer, Simon Furman, would eventually take over the Marvel US version of the title as well, and continues to work on the franchise to this day, though it is no longer published by either branch of Marvel Comics. The Marvel UK Transformer series, running 332 issues, is regarded as the most important collection of Transformers fiction, and on par with Stan Lee's runs on Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.[citation needed] As such, Transformers remains one of Marvel UK's most important historical titles. (The Marvel UK Transformers series was reprinted by Titan Books in the 2000s.)

In 1988, Marvel UK letterer/designer Richard Starkings pushed for the company to publish its own US-format comics,[citation needed] beginning with Dragon's Claws and Death's Head (a spin-off character from Marvel UK's Transformers title).

The Sleeze Brothers (1989–1990) was a creator-owned title by John Carnell and Andy Lanning. It was Steve White who launched the first critically acclaimed volume of Knights of Pendragon (1990–1991), written by Dan Abnett and John Tomlinson with art by Gary Erskine, which mixed superheroes and Arthurian myth. It also featured Captain Britain among many other Marvel Comics heroes, such as Iron Man.

Neary era

Paul Neary became Marvel UK editor-in-chief circa 1990. At the behest of Marvel US, he launched a number of America-style-format comics beginning with Death's Head II (a recreation of Simon Furman's cyborg bounty hunter). The titles were set in the existing Marvel Universe but with more of a focus on cyberpunky science fiction and magic than the traditional superhero fare. Titles such as Warheads (wormhole-hopping mercenaries), Motormouth (later Motormouth and Killpower) (streetwise girl and escaped genetically-modified super assassin hop around the universe having adventures) and a second volume of Knights of Pendragon. These were all linked by plots featuring the organization Mys-Tech, a shadowy group of Faustians bent on world domination. Some of these titles were also reprinted in the UK anthology Overkill.

Neary instituted a deliberate policy to feature Marvel US guest-stars in the Marvel UK stories.[11] However, they would only be featured on eleven pages, and these pages were designed to be able to cut from the main story; the eleven pages without the guest-star were run in Overkill. Where US Marvel characters were featured, all the storylines were approved by the American editor in charge of that book.[citation needed] Some were more responsive than others to the outlines, with editors such as Bobbi Chase offering useful feedback for Marvel UK's editors. Very few Marvel US comics referenced any of the original characters or major events that occurred within the Marvel UK comics.

Nevertheless in the US, these comics were initially immensely successful, with some issues being reprinted to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, despite an impressive lineup of creative talent that included Liam Sharp, Simon Coleby, Bryan Hitch, Graham Marks, Salvador Larocca, Dan Abnett and many others, too many titles were launched too quickly in a market which was already swamped by the early 1990s comics boom.[12] By 1994 Marvel UK had ceased publishing in the US market and was now only printing a handful of titles — mostly reprints — for the UK market, as well as the long-running Doctor Who Magazine.[13]

Panini takeover

With the failure of its US titles the company's assets were bought by Panini Comics, who had been part of Marvel Europe, and had already been reprinting American material across Europe for several years. Casualties of the merger included editor-in-chief Paul Neary and managing director Vincent Conran. (Conran now runs a books company, Bishop and Barncoat, in Cornwall.[14])

Thanks to this licensing deal, reprints of American Marvel Comics material was once again published in the UK by Panini from the mid-1990s. Each book contained approximately two or three Marvel US strips in one issue with possibly a "classic" comic printed as a substitute for a comic in the current run, whilst being priced at a reasonable level. Initially the lineup consisted of only Astonishing Spider-Man and Essential X-Men and followed the continuity of the US comics, however it was approximately two–three years behind the current run in America.

In addition to reprinting the mainstream US comics, Panini also published a monthly (later every three weeks) over-sized comic, entitled The Spectacular Spider-Man, for younger readers to accompany Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which began broadcasting in the UK in the mid-90s. Initially, the stories were simply reprints of the US comics based on the series, but eventually the title moved to all-new UK-originated stories, marking the first Marvel UK material featuring classic Marvel characters to be produced since early 1994.


Since then Panini extended their line to include other characters within the Marvel Universe. In addition to Essential X-Men and Astonishing Spider-Man came Wolverine Unleashed, in which Wolverine's solo comic was reprinted. The comic ran for 54 issues before it was renamed Wolverine & Gambit to allow reprints of the Gambit series, and subsequently Wolverine and Deadpool when the Gambit material had been exhausted and Deadpool was introduced as a replacement in 2004. Marvel Heroes Reborn was released in 1997, to introduce the new Heroes Reborn saga, and expand the range of characters in Marvel UK's lineup. It was initially published with only two strips (or 56 pages) but this was expanded to 76 pages (commonly 3 strips) from issue 17 onwards. Unfortunately, this title was short lived due to continuously lagging sales, and was eventually cancelled in 2000.

Later titles include Avengers United (later replaced by Avengers Unconquered), Fantastic Four Adventures, Marvel Legends featuring Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, a new The Mighty World of Marvel as well as the introduction of the Ultimate Marvel imprint, consisting of Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men (which was originally two titles, which merged since it was reprinting the stories too fast for Marvel US to print them) and Ultimate Fantastic Four (cancelled because of low sales, and because it was only a few issues behind the US title by the end).

Alongside these mainly reprint titles, Panini continues to print Doctor Who Magazine which still features originally produced comics by British creators, something Panini do in their other titles. This includes the first new Captain Britain story by a British creative team in over a decade which was created by Jim Alexander, Jon Haward and John Stokes in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK version) #114 published in March 2005. Also published from 2004 onwards was Marvel Rampage, which like Spectacular Spider-Man was aimed at a younger audience, and similarly featured all-new UK-originated material, this time featuring characters from all across the Marvel Universe. Several of those short stories were written by noted Spider-Man writer Roger Stern.

In March 2006, Marvel Entertainment and Panini S.p.A announced that they had "renewed and expanded their publishing agreement under which Panini retains a master license for producing translated versions of Marvel comics for Europe and selected Latin American countries. The new agreement includes a major expansion of editorial projects in which Panini will originate new content under the creative supervision of Marvel."[15]

Panini Comics also publishes Marvel Legends from December 2006 onwards as a replacement for Batman Legends comic when it lost the licence to reprint DC Comics to Titan Magazines.[citation needed]

Panini also produces a third magazine called Spider-Man and Friends aimed at younger readers below the age of six.



  1. ^ Wymann, Adrian. "The Mighty World of Bronze Age British Marvel (1972-1979) Part One, 1972–194: Setting Up Marvel UK," Panelology! (2009). Accessed June 5, 2011.
  2. ^ Pet Shop Boys, annually (1989). 1989. 
  3. ^ Accessed June 20, 2011.
  4. ^ Accessed June 20, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Accessed June 20, 2011.
  6. ^ Accessed June 20, 2011.
  7. ^ "Dez Skinn Leaves Marvel UK.". The Comics Journal (54): 15. March 1980. 
  8. ^ a b Accessed June 20, 2011.
  9. ^ Accessed June 20, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Marvel UK entry, Who's Who of American Comics, 1928-1999. Accessed May 29, 2011.
  11. ^ Blog comment by Marvel UK editor John Freeman
  12. ^ "Life at Marvel UK," Down the Tubes. Accessed May 28, 2011.
  13. ^ "Newswatch: Marvel UK Consolidates Line, Revamps Overkill". The Comics Journal (165): 22. January 1994. 
  14. ^ South Western News (November 1997) [dead link]
  15. ^ "Marvel Renews & Expands Its Panini Deal: Share A Milo Manara 'Women of the X-Men' Graphic Novel," ICv2 (March 30, 2006).


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