Secrets of Ireland’s first-ever comics fanzine, featuring art by young Paul Neary, revealed

The cover of Journey Planet #31 features art for Heroes Unlimited - the Merry Marvel Fanzine #2 by a young Paul Neary
The cover of Journey Planet #31 features art for Heroes Unlimited – the Merry Marvel Fanzine #2 by a young Paul Neary

 

In December 1966, 50 years ago now, a 15-year-old Irish teenager called Tony Roche did a remarkable thing. He published the first issue of a comics fanzine called The Merry Marvel Fanzine.

What was remarkable about this was that this was the first comics ‘zine on this side of the Atlantic. They had already existed in the US, but it would be over six months before the first British comics fanzine, Ka-Pow, produced by Phil Clarke and the late Steve Moore, would appear, in July 1967.

By producing The Merry Marvel Fanzine, and subsequently Heroes Unlimited, Tony, all unbeknownst to himself, helped set in motion a tradition of ‘zines and communication between comics fans that continues, unbroken, to this day.

Tony went AWOL in the summer of 1969 – like many another – leaving the fan community to pursue an international academic career, culminating in a Professorship in Irish Literature in UCD. But he has now reappeared, and had opened a treasure chest full of unbelievable goodies, some of which he has allowed us to share, including artwork, articles, his Merry Marvel Marching Society membership card, and a previously unpublished Letter of Comment written by Alan Moore, shortly after his fifteenth birthday.

The origins of this ground-breaking fanzine are detailed in the latest issue of the award-winning, free to download magazine Journey Planet (#31 – December 2016), edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, and Pádraig Ó Méalóid, which includes

  • An oral history of the time from Tony, which traces his adventures, including trips to a New York comic con and the very first British comic con
  • Fan artwork by legendary comics artist Paul Neary
  • An unpublished Alan Moore letter, sent to Heroes Unlimited in late 1968
  • Articles on Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, and The Avengers by Tony Roche from Heroes Unlimited
  • Unpublished correspondence from BBC presenter John Peel to Heroes Unlimited

And more!

Journey Planet #31 can be found online here and the full Journey Planet site is at ourneyplanet.weebly.com

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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