Author Rob Kirby brings us the current status of his much-anticipated book about Marvel UK, From Cents to Pence – and reveals a Captain Britain rarity…
Firstly, a quick update, and then a poser to end on.
Since January (and, admittedly, aided tremendously by Lockdown #3) I’ve been adding in a considerable amount of material to From Cents to Pence not originally featured, and some upgrades to iron out some inconsistencies that became apparent once I began revisiting my reference files, largely untouched since 2007!
I’d forgotten just how much work was involved when I originally compiled the indices to almost everything published by Marvel in the UK since 1972 (and since 1967 by World Distributors and TV21), so it’s only now that I’ve nearly reached a point where I can start proofreading it all, before moving back to finish off all that remains, the last few chapters of the book and some of the Doctor Who Magazine content.
I’ve also made some unexpected discoveries with regards to some of the foreign material that John Freeman has kindly flagged up on here on downthetubes over the past year or so, as well as discovering some originated material published during the past few years that I was entirely unaware of.
In the meantime, here’s a poser guaranteed to get you rummaging through your collections of Marvel’s 1970s weeklies!
Captain Britain originally appeared in the first weekly issue of Captain Britain (cover dated 13th October 1976). This new comic was a major step up for Marvel UK, in terms of strip origination.
Where it had previously only commissioned new covers and new introduction pages to better retell Marvel’s US monthly stories in smaller weekly segments in the pages of titles such as Mighty World of Marvel, Captain Britain included all-new strip to deliver the origin and adventures of the character.
As with any new strip material for Marvel UK’s early titles, this new content was created by Marvel’s New York offices, in the case of Captain Britain, under the supervision of US editor Larry Lieber. It was then shipped to the UK for final assembly by the small editorial team based in High Holborn, London, which included Owen McCarron.
The initial creative team on Captain Britain comprised London-born writer Chris Claremont, replaced by Gary Friedrich from #10, penciller Herb Trimpe, and inker Fred Kida, the pages then shipped to the UK for publication.
Each issue of the comic featured new “Captain Britain” episodes created for each issue – initially produced as eight page instalments, until the team realised that the eighth colour page was actually the cover – with the splash to the first issue made into a poster, and the final pages of story in issues two and three left in black and white and marked as a “page for you to colour”.
In addition to “Captain Britain”, the title also featured reprints of “Fantastic Four” (from US #110 onwards, written by Stan Lee pencilled John Buscema, inked by Joe Sinnott) and “Nick Fury” (from Strange Tales #159 onwards, featuring art and story by Jim Steranko).
The first two issues of the comic were bundled with free gifts, a cardboard Captain Britain mask in the first and a boomerang in the second – but it’s a curious editorial addition to Captain Britain #7 we’re interested in here.
Captain Britain #7 was unique in two ways, both in relation to any other issue in the 1976/77 series, and indeed to any other Marvel UK weekly at the time.
Firstly, it contained a staple of other British comics, the pull-out, cut and fold booklet – in this case, an edited, black and white reprint of Howard the Duck’s first appearance, perhaps answering readers demands that Howard feature somewhere in the weeklies.
More importantly, and the reason for this posting, is that #7 gave 100 lucky readers the chance to win one of five Stan Lee-signed copies of Bring on the Bad Guys, with the other 95 receiving an undisclosed prize instead.
As pictured, turning to the regular “Fun Page” feature by Owen McCarron, readers needed to focus their attention on a special box in the bottom right corner, just in case their copy contained an additional special message.
You’ll have guessed where I’m headed with this, I’m sure! What was the message?
I’ve never seen a copy to learn if it was indeed an expensive over-print, as the text implies, but in Captain Britain #17 it was revealed that the message was ‘Excelsior‘, although whether all hundred copies were purchased at the time and every single copy mailed in to High Holborn to win a prize isn’t clear.
However, just in case they weren’t all given up, I thought that you might fancy checking out your copies of #7, just in case you have that special message inside.
While you’re rather too late to redeem the original prize, of course, if anyone does have the special page lurking in their collection and can provide a high quality scan for us, they can at least bask in seeing a very rare page from a comic in their collection in print for all to view.
Who knows, maybe there’s still a copy or two somewhere across the globe. After all, issues of the series were imported into the US and Canada, and no doubt across the Antipodes too.
Our thanks to Rob for bringing us the latest on From Cents to Pence. Rob has been hugely supportive of our much smaller efforts to document Marvel UK projects, providing plenty of information, for example, to add to our “Marvel UK: “Genesis ’92” – Looking Back and What Might Have Been” resource
This crosspost includes additional reporting by John Freeman
This item was updated to include the answer to the question “What was the message?” thanks to Captain Britain fans on social media
• Captain Britain went to black-and-white with issue #24 (cover dated 23rd March 1977) and was cancelled entirely with issue #39 (cover dated 6 July 1977), although the “Captain Britain” serial was immediately transferred to Marvel UK’s Spider-Man comic, which was then retitled Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain
• The early Captain Britain stories are collected in Captain Britain Volume 1: Birth Of A Legend, published in 2007 by Panini Books; and, more recently, Captain Britain: Legacy of a Legend, published by Marvel in 2016
• Copies of Stan Lee’s original edition of Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of Marvel Villains are available from various secondhand dealers trading on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)