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Marvel UK
Type Private
Genre Science fiction, action, superheroes
Founded 1972 (launch)
Key people Neil Tennant, Dez Skinn, John Freeman, Paul Neary
Industry Publishing
Products Comics
Parent Marvel Comics
Panini Comics

Marvel UK was an imprint of Marvel Comics formed in 1972 to reprint US produced stories for the British weekly comic market, though it later did produce original material by British creators such as Alan Moore, John Wagner, Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon and Grant Morrison.

It now forms part of Panini Comics.


Publishing history



Reprints of American Marvel material had been published in the UK during the 1960s by Odhams Press under their Power Comics imprint. Titles such as Smash! and Fantastic featured a mix of Marvel reprint material (such as the Fantastic Four ) and original non-Marvel work. This lasted till 1969 when the last superhero strip was removed from Smash!, leaving no Marvel titles being reprinted in the UK at all.

Seeing a gap in the popular weekly comics market of the UK at the time, Marvel Comics formed their own British publishing arm. Starting with The Mighty World Of Marvel (commonly shortened to MWOM) in 1972 they started black and white (though early issues of MWOM did feature some colour) reprints of The Hulk, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. As is the custom of British weekly titles, the first issue featured a free gift. MWOM #1 featured a Hulk iron-on t-shirt transfer.

The title proved to be a huge success and a few months later Spider-Man Comics Weekly was released. Again this carried on reprinted American Spider-Man material originally started in MWOM. The Spider-Man weekly comic would continue until 1985.

In 1974 they launched Planet of the Apes, reprinting material from the American black & white Curtis Magazines title (an imprint of Marvel); it lasted until 1977 (the final months as a co-feature of MWOM with The Hulk.

In this period Marvel UK established itself (this is also when Neil Tennant was hired as editor) as a major publisher of weekly comic titles along with D.C Thomson and IPC. However, with the exception of some new covers drawn by Marvel Comics American staff, no original material had yet been produced. This changed in 1976 when Captain Britain Weekly was launched featuring a hero created for the British market by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe. Captain Britain Weekly featured new stories in colour as well as reprints of Nick Fury and Fantastic Four strips as backup. It was initially a success but eventually combined with Marvel UK's Spider-Man reprint title from #39.

Marvel UK began publishing a weekly Star Wars title in February 1978, soon after the film was released in the UK. The weekly issues split the stories from the US monthly issues into smaller installments, and it usually took three weekly issues to complete a US monthly issue. In May 1980 it became known as The Empire Strikes Back Weekly, and in November 1980 it transformed into a monthly publication. Marvel UK's Star Wars comic also published original Star Wars stories by British creators as well as reprinting the US comics material. Many, but not all, of these original British stories were reprinted in the 1990's by Dark Horse Comics. The format changed back to a weekly in June 1983 with the adaptation of Return of the Jedi (which also became the new name of the publication), and remained so until its last issue in 1986. Up until the Return of the Jedi comic, the strips in the UK Star Wars comics were printed in black and white, even those taken from the American color versions. The UK comics also reprinted several other supporting strips in each issue from other Marvel properties (such as The Micronauts, Tales of the Watcher, Star Lord, etc). While the comic was in a weekly format, the supporting strips often made up the bulk of each issue.

By the 1970's, Marvel UK had begun to weaken and it was on a visit to the UK that Stan Lee headhunted Dez Skinn to revamp the ailing company. Giving Skinn freedom to do what he felt best and knowing Skinn had huge experience in British comic publishing, Lee saw Skinn as a British version of himself. Skinn even had his own catchphrase in Dez Sez which was inspired by Stan Lee's catchphrases from the 1960's.

Skinn set out to change Marvel UK as he saw fit. The first major change he would bring was to have original material produced by British creators. Many of these creators had already worked with Skinn on his title, The House of Hammer a few years earlier, plus some new young talent.

The first title to show this mix was Hulk Comic which started out with originally produced Hulk stories created by Steve Dillon, Paul Neary and John Stokes among others. Back up strips included reprints of Fantastic Four stories as well as originally produced Nick Fury material drawn by Steve Dillon, and Night Raven by Steve Parkhouse, David Lloyd and John Bolton. Also included was the Black Knight, a minor Marvel character but revamped to take in Arthurian concepts as well as featuring the return of Captain Britain from comic book limbo.

Skinn also revamped other titles such as MWOM and create further new titles in a bid to boost the company. Also published was his Starburst title which had been purchased when Skinn joined Marvel.

Arguably his most important decision was to launch Doctor Who Weekly in 1979. Based on the BBC TV series (which at that point had already been running for 16 years), Doctor Who Weekly featured comic strips by John Wagner, Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons among many others, plus articles and features on the show itself. It proved a huge success and by now Skinn had transformed Marvel UK back to being a major publisher of not just weekly comics but monthly titles such as Starburst.


Skinn was not happy with how creators were treated in regard to ownership of characters , so he left to form Quality Communications in 1981. One of his last acts was to give Captain Britain his own strip in the pages of MWOM as written by Dave Thorpe and drawn by Alan Davis. Thorpe left to be replaced by Alan Moore in one of his first major ongoing strips.

By 1982 Marvel UK had almost completely stopped publishing weekly titles and moved mainly to monthly titles such as The Daredevils (featuring Moore and Davis's Captain Britain) and The Mighty World Of Marvel, which by now was firmly established as a monthly title. However many of Marvel UK's titles wouldn't last long before being combined or cancelled outright due to poor sales.

In January 1985 the first issue of Captain Britain Monthly appeared with its titular strip written by Jamie Delano and drawn by Alan Davis. This title lasted 14 issues before cancellation and would prove to be the last major new title for several years. However new material was still being produced such as Zoids strips (written by Grant Morrison) for Spider-Man and Zoids Weekly, but not on the scale or diversity had been previously seen.

For the remainder of the 1980s the company published only a small handful of titles that appealed to superhero fans, but it had considerable success on the UK news stand with licensed titles such as The Real Ghostbusters, ThunderCats, Transformers and many others. These all featured original strips as well as some US reprint.

Transformers, in particular, was a major seller for Marvel UK, selling 200,000 copies a week at its height. Its main writer, Simon Furman, would eventually take over the Marvel US version of the title as well, and continues to work on the franchise to this day, though it is no longer published by either branch of Marvel Comics. This series, running 332 issues, is regarded as the most important collection of Transformers fiction, reprinted by Titan Books in the 2000s, and is on a par with Stan Lee's runs on Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. As such, remains one of Marvel UK's most important historical titles.

It was Richard Starkings who first pushed for Marvel UK to publish its own US-format comics, beginning with Dragon's Claws and Death's Head ( a spin off character from Marvel UK's Transformers title ).

It was Steve White who launched the first critically-acclaimed volume of Knights of Pendragon, written by Dan Abnett and John Tomlinson with art by Gary Erskine, which mixed superheroics and Arthurian myth. It also featured Captain Britain among many other Marvel Comics heroes such as Iron Man. The Sleeze Brothers was a creator-owned title by John Carnell and Andy Lanning.


When Paul Neary became editor-in-chief at the company he launched a number of US format comics at the behest of Marvel US, beginning with Death's Head II (a recreation of Simon Furman's cyborg bounty hunter). The titles were set in the existing Marvel Universe but with more of a focus on cyberpunky science fiction and magic more than traditional usual superhero fare. Titles such as Warheads (wormhole-hopping mercenaries), Motormouth (later Motormouth and Killpower) (streetwise girl and escaped genetically-modified super assassin hop around the universe having adventures) and a second volume of Knights of Pendragon. These were all linked by plots featuring the organization Mys-Tech, a shadowy group of Faustians bent on world domination. Some of these titles were also reprinted in a monthly UK anthology Overkill.

There was a deliberate policy to feature Marvel US guest-stars in the Marvel UK stories. However, they would only be featured on 11 pages, and these eleven pages were designed to be able to cut from the main story; the eleven pages without the guest-star were run in Overkill. This was a deliberate policy by editor-in-chief Paul Neary. [1] Where US Marvel characters were featured, all the storylines were approved by the editor then in charge of that book. Some were more responsive than others to the outlines, with editors such as Bobbi Chase offering useful feedback for Marvel UK's editors. Very few Marvel US comics actually referenced any of the original characters or major events that occurred within the Marvel UK comics.

Nevertheless in the US, these comics were initially immensely successful with some issues being reprinted to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, despite an impressive line up of creative talent that included Liam Sharp, Simon Coleby, Bryan Hitch, Graham Marks, Dan Abnett and many others, too many titles were launched too quickly in a market which was already swamped by the early 1990s comics boom.[2] By 1994 Marvel UK had ceased publishing in the US market and was now only printing a handful of titles - mostly reprint - for the UK market, as well as the long running Doctor Who Magazine.

With the failure of its US titles the company's assets were bought by Panini Comics, who had been part of Marvel Europe, and had already been reprinting American material across Europe for several years. Casualties of the merger included Paul Neary and Managing Director Vincent Conran. Conran now runs a books company, Bishop and Barncoat, in Cornwall.[3]

Thanks to this licensing deal reprints of American Marvel Comics material was once again published in the UK by Panini from the mid-1990s. Each book would contain approximately two or three Marvel US strips in one issue with possibly a 'classic' comic printed as a substitute for a comic in the current run, whilst being priced at a reasonable level. Initially the lineup consisted of only Astonishing Spider-Man and Essential X-Men and followed the continuity of the US comics, however it was approximately 2–3 years behind the current run in America.

In addition to reprinting the mainstream US comics, Panini also published a monthly (later every three weeks) oversized comic, entitled The Spectacular Spider-Man, for younger readers to accompany Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which began broadcasting in the UK in the mid-90s. Initially, the stories were simply reprints of the US comics based on the series, but eventually the title moved to all-new UK-originated stories, marking the first Marvel UK material featuring classic Marvel characters to be produced since early 1994.


Since then Panini extended their line to include other characters within the Marvel Universe. In addition to Essential X-Men and Astonishing Spider-Man came Wolverine Unleashed, in which Wolverine's solo comic was reprinted. The comic ran for 54 issues before it was renamed Wolverine & Gambit to allow reprints of the Gambit series, and subsequently Wolverine and Deadpool when the Gambit material had been exhausted and Deadpool was introduced as a replacement in 2004. Marvel Heroes Reborn was released in 1997, to introduce the new Heroes Reborn saga, and expand the range of characters in Marvel UK's lineup. It was initially published with only two strips (or 56 pages) but this was expanded to 76 pages (commonly 3 strips) from issue 17 onwards. Unfortunately, this title was short lived due to continuously lagging sales, and was eventually cancelled in 2000.

Later titles include Avengers United, Fantastic Four Adventures, a new The Mighty World of Marvel as well as the introduction of the Ultimate Marvel imprint, consisting of Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men (which was originally two titles, which merged since it was reprinting the stories too fast for Marvel US to print them) and Ultimate Fantastic Four (cancelled because of low sales, and because it was only a few issues behind the US title by the end).

Alongside these mainly reprint titles, Panini continues to print Doctor Who Magazine which still features originally produced comics by British creators, something Panini do in their other titles. This includes the first new Captain Britain story by a British creative team in over a decade which was created by Jim Alexander, Jon Haward and John Stokes in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK version) #114 published in March 2005. Also published from 2004 onwards was Marvel Rampage, which like Spectacular Spider-Man was aimed at a younger audience, and similarly featured all-new UK-originated material, this time featuring characters from all across the Marvel Universe. Several of those short stories were written by noted Spider-Man writer Roger Stern.

In March 2006, Marvel Entertainment and Panini S.p.A announced that they had "renewed and expanded their publishing agreement under which Panini retains a master license for producing translated versions of Marvel comics for Europe and selected Latin American countries. The new agreement includes a major expansion of editorial projects in which Panini will originate new content under the creative supervision of Marvel."[4]

Panini Comics also publishes Marvel Legends from December 2006 onwards as a replacement for Batman Legends comic when it lost the licence to reprint DC Comics to Titan Magazines.

Panini also produces a third magazine called Spider-Man and Friends aimed at younger readers below the age of 6.




External links


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