Over on his Boys Adventure Comics Blog, downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf has highlighted the inclusion of a strip from Le Lombard‘s Franco-Belgian Tintin comic magazine in a short-lived Marvel UK comic. It’s an example of European reprint by the company, better known for re-publishing Marvel superhero strips, as well as its hugely successful titles such as Death’s Head II, The Real Ghostbusters, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, and Transformers.
“Jasmin, The Little Japanese Princess” appeared in Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails girls comic, a title that ran for just 13 issues in 1988, based on a character property created by American Greetings Corporation, who were also the creators of Strawberry Shortcake (published as a comic by Marvel US, and, later, IDW), Care Bears, also a Marvel UK title, and Popples, among others).
Marvel UK presumably published Lady Lovely Locks because the character – which still has a cult following – had been licensed as a doll by Mattel and had a short-lived 20 episode animated series from DIC. As with other licensed titles, the company has some leeway with their take on the character, expanding the cast list to include Prince Peppermint and Princess Sweetherb, who were never toys or part of the animated show.
“Jasmin, The Little Princess” was actually “Nahomi“, a long-running strip for Tintin magazine created by Belgian comic artist Didier Crisse (“Crisse”), and Michel de Bom (“Bom”) that ran from from 1980 to 1987.
(That “Nahomi” had been published in English has come as a complete surprise to Didier Crisse when we contacted him. “And by Marvel, too! That’s very cool,” the artist, today working on Gunblast Girls for Europe Comics, commented. For those of you who want to know the rest of Jasmin, or Nahomi’s story, check out the French collection, Nahomi : L’intégrale, published in 2009).
Someone at Marvel UK clearly had a good eye for great European strip to reprint, and it wasn’t the only time.
Michael Carroll notes here, for example, the extensive amount of European reprint from the Dutch title Tina in one of Marvel UK’s rarest girls comics, Bea, published in 1988, edited by the redoubtable Sheila Cranna, who was also editor of Marvel UK’s Sindy and Doctor Who Magazine, and, as head of the company’s small magazine department is a person I owe much to for being the person who ultimately took me on board at Marvel UK, after being introduced to the company by Richard Starkings.
Working alongside Steve Cook, later the designer on 2000AD, I have fond memories of him heading off from Redan Place on Sindy-inspired photo shoots in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere, but I’m afraid I’m unable to shed any light on Bea, and whether if it did indeed make it to a second issue, or the circumstances behind its cancellation. Perhaps there was some problem between Marvel UK and Tina’s publishers, Oberon.
Dan Abnett, who began his comics career as an editor Marvel UK, continued to mine the European Comics scene for high quality material when it came to STRIP, initially an EPIC magazine-inspired of creator owned characters and reprint from a variety of sources, including “Storm” by Don Lawrence, and “Thorgal” by the Belgian writer Jean Van Hamme and the Polish graphic artist Grzegorz Rosiński, today published in English by Cinebook.
STRIP also featured that rare beast, a Marvel UK commissioned strip re-published abroad – “Genghis Grimtoad“, created by John Wagner, Alan Grant, with art for this iteration by Ian Gibson.
“Genghis Grimtoad” was serialised in STRIP, its remaining episodes completed after the title was cancelled for The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad graphic novel, re-published in Europe by Splitter-Verlag as Chroniken von Genghis Grimtoad.
Some later Marvel UK-created superhero strips also enjoyed publication in Europe thanks to Marvel Italia and others – and a few strips even enjoyed longer runs than their Marvel UK originals, as we’ve noted here on our “Genesis 1992” page where known.
I have vague memories of some European strip, including The Towers of Bois-Maury (Les Tours de Bois-Maury, by Hermann) originally published in 1985 in the UK by Titan Books, being considered for the line-up of Meltdown, another short-lived anthology from Marvel I edited that was wholly reprint, alongside the weekly HAVOC.
Both HAVOC and Meltdown were instigated by incoming Editorial Director Paul Neary and launch in mid 1991. HAVOC ran for just nine issues, reprinted a variety of Marvel strips including Deathlok, Conan the Barbarian, Star Slammers and more.
We discussed using European strips in the monthly companion title Meltdown, but my feeling was that despite my admiration for both “Storm” and “Thorgal”, their inclusion in STRIP hadn’t proved as popular with most readers as other elements, so Paul went instead with material that would have sat comfortably in the pages of 2000AD, instead.
(Let’s just skip over the fact that had Meltdown and Marvel UK survived, Akira might still not have completed its reprint run at around eight pages a month).
Ultimately, Meltdown, which lasted just six issues, reprinting The Light and Darkness War by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, Arthur Suydam’s Cholly and Flytrap, The Last American by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Mike McMahon, Akira, and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, by Grant, Wagner and Jim Baikie, plus various articles on music and computer games and features on comic creators such as John Bolton.
Unknown to the buying public, while both titles didn’t do too badly by today’s standards in terms of sales, they were actually road tests for what Paul Neary really had planned for Marvel UK’s adventure and superhero comics, trying out two formats to see what did better on the UK news stand.
(In a way, looking back, think they were tests for me, too, to see if Paul could put up with me working alongside him as an editor).
Both titles proved short-lived, cancelled without warning to readers, even though Issue 10 of HAVOC was trailed in the final issue (cheating fans to the “cataclysmic conclusion” to Star Slammers, for example). As Jon Carpenter notes here on Starlogged, the last issue of Meltdown was used as part of promotions to plug the launch of the Genesis 1992 project.
Reaction to HAVOC paved the way for the fortnightly comic Overkill, which I also edited, reprinting many Genesis 1992 stories as well as some originated material, including an insane schematic of Mys-TECH Headquarters realised by Vincent Danks.
I’m looking forward to seeing just how much European material gained a British news stand airing when Rob Kirby‘s book on Marvel UK is finally published. Meanwhile, I’d highly recommend checking out Richard’s Boys Adventure Comics blog, Michael Carroll’s Rusty Staples and Jon Carpenter’s Starlogged sites for other posts on this subject.