While Dave Gibbons drew the cover for Issue One (above), it was Judge Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra who drew almost all of the stunning covers for the title, which took its name from the Sergeant Fury character and strip it reprinted as its lead.Created under the watch of then Editor in Chief Neil Tennant (before he found wider fame in the Pet Shop Boys), Fury is perhaps an odd title for Marvel UK. It was their first attempt at publishing a war comic, the company clearly aware of the sales success of rival titles Battle and Warlord at the time.
“Allegedly Neil Tennant felt that Marvel UK needed a war comic to compete in this area,” Lew Stringer noted on his blog back in 2014, pointing out how closely the comic’s masthead echoed its rivals. “The result was Fury.”(Looking back, given the number of reprint titles Marvel UK launched in the mid-70s, including The Complete Fantastic Four, Dracula Lives and the hugely successful Planet of the Apes, it’s clear the company was also seeking to offer yet another alternative to rival companies publications such as 2000AD, which was quickly finding its feet at the time.
“Flooding” the news stands in age when launching a new title had none of the attendant hidden costs to greedy distributors was a tried and trusted technique to grow market share, and although it didn’t go down well with some newsagents or Marvel fan at the time, it wouldn’t be the last time MUK did it. In the 1990s, Marvel UK would find itself used to provide new comics for the US market, such as Death’s Head II and Warheads, in part to try and dampen the success of Image Comics by offering more Marvel to the direct sales market).The choice of reprint material for Fury – which included “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos” and “Captain Savage and the Leatherneck Raiders” failed to grab readers more used to Battle‘s grittier stories and I recall being unimpressed by the first issue, the strip choice failing to appeal. Some of the shorter strips were reprints of 1950s war stories, which looked dated even to my then young eyes.
“Despite its totally misleading but wonderful cover paintings … once you cracked the covers and saw the mishmash of content – including creaky 1950s reprints – it just didn’t look very British,” notes Dez Skinn, who was brought on board at the company in 1979 and went on to transform its output and also notes how quickly the British weekly format burned through potential reprint material. “One UK weekly would alone eat through over 1,600 pages a year of material,” he notes. Thus, even a successful title might come an untimely end, because there was no desire on the part of the New York parent to allow much origination and keep a comic afloat.
More than anything, this is another Marvel UK title that reflects how much the company needed to be publishing material specifically created for a British audience – something not that far off, with Dez brought on board and immediately setting about giving the company’s titles a revamp, as well as bringing us Doctor Who Weekly and Hulk Comic, both titles I devoured avidly at the time.
Dez did of course have a bash at a war weekly-styled title himself. Forces in Combat, published in 1980-81, had conflict of all kinds as its theme (its fluid reprint line-up included “Rom Spaceknight”, “Master of Kung Fu” and “Wulf the Briton”) but it had a war weekly look. The title ran for 35 issues before merging with Future Tense.
Lew Stringer’s opinion echoes my own. “Had Neil Tennant been given free reign to develop a truly British war comic then perhaps it would have lasted longer,” he argues.
“As it was, Fury ended after just 25 weeks, merging into Mighty World of Marvel. Tennant left comics to work for Smash Hits, and a few years later became a huge success in the music industry.”
Despite its short life and dodgy content choices, Fury‘s covers were certainly eye-catching and I’m glad Richard Sheaf is giving them an airing on his eclectic and entertaining comics blog.
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