Saturday, 9 June 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Back in the early 1980s, Glasgow's CENTRAL STATION still looked much the same as it had in years gone by.  If you were a movie-maker, with the addition of a few appropriate props and actors dressed in period attire, it wouldn't have been too difficult to transform it into a train station from a bygone era.  It was on the counter of a suitably old-fashioned newsagent's kiosk on the station platform in 1982 that I first clapped eyes on MARVEL TALES #138, featuring a reprint of SPIDER-MAN #1.  I bought it right away of course.  And thus, for me, the Marvel Age of Comics had returned!

I soon acquired the previous ish which had reprinted AMAZING FANTASY #15, and henceforth made sure to obtain all subsequent issues.  (Though not always in sequence or in the month they were published.  In fact, one or two issues took me years to track down.)  As most people will know, a lot of Glasgow's old architecture is nigh-identical to (and pre-dates) that of certain parts of America, so whenever I bought a copy of Marvel Tales in the City from that point onwards, even though the strips were around twenty years old, they never seemed dated, due to the fact that the DITKO cityscapes through which ol' Spidey crawled and swung were practically the same as those of my place of birth.

These copies of Marvel Tales were the next best thing to having the original issues and allowed the then-modern reader to imagine what it must have been like to live through the original Marvel experience of the '60s.  True, some slight changes were made to the covers (sometimes flipping an image or subtly altering a figure's position to accommodate the bar-code box), but unless one was performing a side-by-side comparison with the originals, most readers wouldn't have been aware of these subtle amendments.  (In fact, some of the variations were due to being printed from proofs of the artwork as originally drawn, made before they had been altered for their initial '60s printings.)

Here then, for your enjoyment, are a few Marvel Tales covers, which, to me, conjure up memories of the '60s and the '80s at one and the same time.  Despite the superior printing of the OMNIBUS editions which Marvel currently publishes, I'm sure you'll agree that nothing can quite beat the thrill of holding an actual comicbook in one's eager hands.  There's something about the glossy cover and interior paper (especially the smell) - plus all the ads - which is difficult to surpass. 

The illo below is one that particularly rings my bell, having first seen it in 1967 as the cover of POW!, a UK weekly by ODHAMS PRESS that reprinted Marvel stories alongside home-grown funnies and adventure strips.  I acquired the '82 reprint from a newsagent's under the bridge at the back of Glasgow Central - and one look whisks me thirty years back in time faster than I can blink.  (Interestingly, a good many years ago, I purchased a DOCTOR DOOM figure which closely resembles Steve Ditko's 'individual' interpretation of the character as depicted on the cover and in the interior artwork.)  

Enjoy whatever memories the above covers may conjure up for you - if you were lucky enough to have had them at the time.  It's hard to believe that thirty years have now elapsed since these '80s reprints were published, far eclipsing the twenty year period between them and the original '60s issues.  It just doesn't seem possible.  Ah, how time flies, eh?

For Part Two, click here.


Nick Caputo said...


I have fond memories of these issues of Marvel Tales. Although I had many of the original issues, or reprints of them I still bought each issue when they came out (actually 2; one for my friend Frank, who was not as involved in comics as I, but collected the early Marvel's, had a particular fondness for Ditko, and was always astute with his comments about the stories).

It was nice to read these books on a monthly basis, as they originally appeared (well, the first few Spidey-s were bi-monthly, but you get my drift.) I particularry remembered how quickly the time passed as we moved along to Ditko's final reprinted issues.

I also liked the fact that Marvel Tales had a letters page. it included a lot of reminiscing about fans first encounter with those early Lee-Ditko Spidey's. It truly is hard to believe that decades have passsed since they were published.

Kid said...

'Post Office of the Past' was the page that reprinted the letters pertaining to whatever tale was in that month's issue - plus a brand new letters page for current readers to leave their comments. Two for the price of one, eh?

They had another go in the early '90s (using the same proofs) with 'Spider-Man Classic', but it only lasted 16 issues.

Nice to hear from you, Nick.

Nick Caputo said...

although the printing on those commics left something to be desired, the editor took more care with the reprints than usual, including the afforementioned letters page and special features like the unpublished cover to ASM # 10. Even the new coloring by Andy Yanchus was well done.

It's too bad they didn't reprint the FF in the same manner at that time. It would have been interesting to read those early stories on a monthly schedule.

Kid said...

Nick, not long after they started reprinting the Spidey tales, they mentioned in a letters page (I seem to remember) the possibility of doing the same thing with the early FF stories on a monthly basis. When I read that, I was wishing my life away, waiting for Marvel to get around to it. As you know, unfortunately it never happened.

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