Marvel UK rarities, including “Dracula Lives” No. 1 cover, offered in latest Excalibur comics auction

How many downthetubes readers recall those times when Marvel’s superhero stories were converted into action-packed weekly comics for the British newsstand by Marvel UK, some tales reworked more than others to heighten the thrills and spills each issue?

Did you ever wonder how much work went into this task, and how it was achieved?

Super Spider-Man #289 - copy of the comic and "Thor" introductory page, and Mighty World of Marvel excised Daredevil page

Well, now’s your chance to own a slice of Marvel UK history, as another treasure from the archives of the company’s former Art Director Alan Murray throws up another production gem, offered in this week’s Marvel, DC & Independent Comic Books Excalibur Auction, taking place on Saturday 5th August.

Nestling within a huge range of classic American comics on offer, it was downthetubes reader and comics archivist Norman Boyd who drew our attention to this Marvel UK art board, used for scanning and printing during the production; and Simon McOwan drew our attention to other items owned by Alan in the auction, which include the artwork for the cover of Dracula Lives No.1.

The art board lot includes a Daredevil page that was removed from the story in Mighty World of Marvel #88, and an example of an introductory Thor page used in Super Spider-Man #289, together with a copy of the published comic, cover dated 23rd August 1978.

Super Spider-Man #289 - copy of the comic and "Thor" introductory page
Super Spider-Man #289 – copy of the comic and “Thor” introductory page

It’s another of a number of items Excalibur are selling on Alan’s behalf, who was interviewed by Robert Menzies in David Hathaway Price’s excellent, free to read FANSCENE No.4, including a very rare Star Wars Jawa figure with a vinyl cape, sold last month for £21,000, used in a Marvel UK promotion, that sale attracting wide press attention.

The boards illustrate how, back in the 1970s (and beyond) Marvel Comics in New York provided Marvel UK with black and white bromides of their strips for use in various weekly comics.

To enhance their appearance in black and white, Zipatone was added to replace lost colour, the UK office then deciding which pages and panels of the story to use in the British versions of stories featuring various superheroes.

To further enhance the British publications, sometimes, as with this page, where the story opened with a continuation of a longer story, new introductory pages – the comic would include a recap of previous events. This would ape the kind of storytelling readers would expect in rival British comics of the time, such as 2000AD.

In the early days of Marvel UK, artwork changes were made by a variety of artists in the United States, but changes on later comics were made under Alan Murray’s oversight by a small design studio. Rob Kirby’s upcoming book, From Cents to Pence, will reveal who some of the US names were – and he’s previously indicated, in comments on this post fro example, that some surprising people were involved.

In Super-Spider Man No. 289, the episode of “The Mighty Thor” continued the story “”Hellfire Across the World!”, first published in The Mighty Thor #223 in the US, the page utilising panels from the episode published in Super-Spider Man No. 288, some panels missing from the offered art board.

Super Spider-Man No. 288 - Full "The Mighty Thor" recap page, art by John Buscema
Super Spider-Man No. 288 – Full “The Mighty Thor” recap page, art by John Buscema

The item, spray gum and all, gives Marvel fans an insight into the editorial and physical paste up process required to produce these much loved weekly comics by both Marvel US and Marvel UK.

The Daredevil page dropped from Mighty World of Marvel No.88, published in 1974, was clearly in favour of focusing on the action-packed storyline from Daredevil #13, a story featuring the origin of Marvel’s answer to Tarzan, Ka-Zar, published in the US in December 1965.

In the American original, the action cuts from action in the Savage Land to a scene with Matt Murdock’s attorney partner Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, Foggy celebrating winning a legal case, Karen agonising over Matt’s disappearance, both unaware the blind lawyer they know is Daredevil. The Marvel UK team must have thought the scene unnecessary, and it isn’t inserted in later issues, either.

Also in the auction, from Alan’s collection, is a copy of Dracula Lives #1, with the Dracula poster free gift, and the coloured artwork board used for scanning and printing during the production of the issue, launched back in October 1974.

Dracula Lives #1 and art board
Mighty World of Marvel No. 3 - Mole Man Poster

We’re also offered a Mole Man poster and coloured art board, featured in Mighty World of Marvel #3, published in 1972, and annotated notes for a Marvel Mastermind quiz, the questions compiled by “long-time Marvelite” Dez Skinn, back then editor of House of Hammer magazine, who was instrumental in regenerating Marvel UK in the late 1970s – the man who brought us Doctor Who Weekly, which is Doctor Who Magazine today.

Marvel Mastermind quiz (Marvel UK, 1975)
  • 1975 runner-up certificates signed by Stan Lee and artist Herb Trimpe - Runner Up Certificate signed by Stan Lee and Herb Trimpe

The annual Marvel Mastermind competition ran in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel in the 1970s.

This Lot also includes two unused 1975 runner-up certificates signed by Stan Lee and artist Herb Trimpe, together with the original quiz script by Dez, with annotations from Neil Tennant, later of Pet Shop Boys fame, who was production editor at the time) of the questions for the 1976 competition.

Alan Murray joined Marvel UK early on, in February 1973, and his first was on Spider-Man Comics Weekly No. 7, cover dated 31st March.

“At the peak, there were three artists with me art directing and producing artwork, he told Robert Menzies in his free-to-read FANSCENE No. 4 interview. “We had part-time staff who came in for the marketing and to send out merchandise. At maximum, you had about six people for the whole operation.

When the [comic] mergers started, we weren’t producing as many as seven and the staff decreased to suit. When we moved back to Sevenoaks it was back to Neil [Tennant] editing, me producing artwork and George Mina, my assistant artist. George was working with us in Holborn, then came with us to Sevenoaks. We eventually became surplus to requirements when Dez Skinn took over.”

Alan returned to freelancing after his Marvel UK days and enjoyed a long career in design.

Check out the item here on the Excalibur Auctions web site

Marvel, DC & Independent Comic Books, Saturday 5th August 2023 | Viewing Thursday 3rd August – 9.30 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 16.30 | Friday 4th August – 9.30 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 16.30

Limited viewing is also available in the hour before the auction on Saturday 5th August from 9.00 until 10.00 – this is strictly by appointment due to the limited amount of space available


This rare Star Wars Jawa figure, from the first group of 12 Star Wars figures ever made, was sold for £21,000 in July 2023 by Excalibur Auctions, attracting widespread press attention. "It was not believed to exist on a Palitoy card until around 2015," notes collector Simon McOwan. "It was thought to be a myth!"
This rare Star Wars Jawa figure, from the first group of 12 Star Wars figures ever made, was sold for £21,000 in July 2023 by Excalibur Auctions, attracting widespread press attention.
“It was not believed to exist on a Palitoy card until around 2015,” notes collector Simon McOwan. “It was thought to be a myth!”

Check out the interview with former Marvel UK Art Editor Alan Murray in FANSCENE No. 4, which is free to read online here

• We’re so looking forward to Rob Kirby‘s account of the history of Marvel UK in From Cents to Pence, a long-in-gestation book, now at proof stage, to find out more about the early days at Marvel UK – but if you’d like a taster, head over to Rob’s blog, “A Distant Beacon“, where he offers up many more revelations about that era.

BBC News: Star Wars rare Jawa figure sells for £21,000 at auction

Daredveil #13 – Marvel Comics Wiki

With thanks to Norman Boyd, Rob Kirby and Simon McOwan

Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, US Comics

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2 replies

  1. Alan is a gentleman of the old school. Rob Kirby introduced us at London Super Comic Con in 2012. It was a real treat to spend time with him then and at the Portsmouth con a few years later when I conducted the interview.

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