Friday, March 26, 2010

Comic Cuts - 26 March 2010

Another bitty week. The texts for Volume 11 of the StormThe Collection have been sent off, although there's still some introductory text still to write, the scans for Finland have been sent off; I got some book cover scans needed for a Museum display sent off and I knocked out meta-data for 300 images, which was pretty intense work. What I'd intended doing, re-lettering "King Solomon's Mines" was pushed back, so I've only just started—you can see the first page at the head of the column.

The scans are all from original art boards and it's incredible to see the detail that artist C. L. Doughty put into every frame, quite a lot of which was lost in the original printing. Amazing to think that Doughty was 65 years old when he drew this and was still at the top of his game when most people would be thinking about retiring. One project I'm hoping that we can get together is a collection of some of Doughty's historical strips which are amazing.

There's not often a lot of big news about old British comics but this week Marvel have announced the release, in June, of Marvelman Classic Primer, a commemorative one-shot featuring interviews with Marvelman creator Mick Anglo, Neil Gaiman and others who have been involved with the character over the years, plus pin-ups by Mike Perkins, Doug Braithwaite, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, Jae Lee, Khoi Pham and Ben Oliver. Priced $3.99, the one-shot comes with two covers, one by Mick Anglo and one by Joe Quesada.

Before you get excited, there's still no sign of the revived Marvelman returning. Frankly, that's what everyone is waiting for... the return of the ongoing Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham Miracleman series and reprints of the Alan Moore Marvelman. What Marvel are offering, beyond the Marvelman Classic Primer, is July's Marvelman Family's Finest, #1 of an ongoing series reprinting some of Marvelman's greatest adventures for the first time in the USA. There's also the Marvelman Classic Volume 1 hardcover which will reprint Marvelman's earliest adventures in chronological order.

"Now's your chance to learn just why Marvelman is one of the most important characters in comic book history," says the Marvel press release.

This is talking up the original Marvelman way beyond its quality. Marvelman wasn't original—it was an unashamed rip-off of Captain Marvel created only because Captain Marvel folded in the USA—and was often poorly drawn. He was popular in his day back in the 1950s because Britain had virtually no superhero comics due to import restrictions which lasted until the end of the decade. As soon as other superhero comics began distribution, two Marvelman comics, Marvelman and Young Marvelman, only survived using reprints; the third, Marvelman Family, folded immediately.

If you've actually read the originals they can be quite fun but even I wouldn't want to read more than a few at a sitting; there's little continuity and no character growth... that's because they were aimed at little boys of maybe 12 or 13-years old who were looking to swap sixpence for an afternoon's entertainment. I can't imagine any American fan having the slightest desire to see the old Gower Studios Marvelman beyond one issue to see what all the fuss is about.

If this is a first shot across the bows for a second Marvelman revival, I think Marvel are going the wrong way about it. Personally, I'd have done it the other way around: relaunch Marvelman and do the nostalgia magazine once the new character has been established and some curiosity aroused. Come June, I strongly suspect that the arrival of "one of the most important characters in comic book history" will be met with a resounding "Meh".

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