Friday, 31 January 2014


Wouldn't it be great if Annuals were kept in print the same as most
other books?  Just imagine going into a bookshop and being able to buy
the latest printing of the 1958 EAGLE Annual for boys, or the 1968
FANTASTIC Annual - or any Annual you please, in fact.  I don't know
if he was joking at the time, but LEO BAXENDALE once claimed in the
pages of one of his WILLIE The KID Books (second, I think) that they
were going to be kept in print forever.  If this was indeed the intention, it
must've been dependent on the books being a huge success, which, sadly,
didn't seem to be the case as there were only three of them.  (Must've
had a three-book deal, I guess, which would've been renewed at
regular intervals had they been bestsellers.  It was not to be.)

One of my favourite Annuals was the MARVEL Annual for 1973,
which went on sale late, in November of '72, as opposed to August or
September.  I first saw it in the window of a great shop that used to be in
my town - W & R HOLMES - and I bought it at the earliest opportunity.
It 's odd that it was released later, so could it, perhaps, have been an after-
thought in the minds of Marvel?  Although it's always possible that it was
published at the same time as the other Annuals and held back a bit, on
account of some of the stories also appearing in the early issues of its
weekly counterpart - The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL.

On reflection 'though, it seems likely it was prepared prior to
the release of the weekly as, inside, it refers to (according to DEZ
SKINN in a 1979 magazine article) the comic's proposed title, The
WONDERFUL World Of Marvel, which was probably changed for
any one of three possible reasons.  Firstly, that it was too long;  secondly,
to avoid any problems with DISNEY who had a television programme of
a similar name (ironic in that Disney now owns Marvel);  and thirdly, that
'Mighty' just sounds better!  (It seems that there was still some indecision
over the name when the cover was prepared, as the book was simply
called Marvel Annual.)  Although ads in the comic showed a picture
of the cover with a 1973 date on it, the actual published
cover was undated.

Funnily enough, that same year ('72), another Annual was on sale
WHAM! & POW! - whose weekly comics had once featured some
of the very same characters as the Marvel Annual.  Considering that the
title had been Pow! & Wham! when the comics combined back in 1968,
perhaps the '73 Annual (and the subsequent '74 one) was only released to
redress the injustice of the superior Wham! being subsumed by its lesser
stable-mate, Pow!  The combined weekly had expired in 1968, and given
that the contents of the later Annuals bore absolutely no resemblance
to their parent comics, one wonders why they were produced at
all.  (Presumably, the previous Annuals sold well.)

Curiously, the Marvel Annual bears the FLEETWAY symbol,
although I'm unsure if it would've featured in any brochures of Fleetway
books for '73.  Obviously it was produced at the behest of Marvel, as IPC
had the means to publish and distribute Annuals, whereas, at that time,
Marvel didn't.  (IPC/Fleetway also produced the '74 Annual, still bearing
only the name Marvel - "The Mighty World of" part of the title finally
turned up on the edition for 1977, issued at the end of '76.)

It's interesting that both the Marvel and Wham! & Pow! books
had 128 pages (including covers), but that Wham! & Pow! had 30 in
full-colour whereas Marvel was mostly black and white with 16 pages
of spot-colour.  As both Annuals were priced at 65 pence, I can't help
but feel that readers were being a little short-changed in regards to the
Marvel book, which would certainly have benefitted from the inclusion
of full-colour.  Marvel must have supplied brand-new proofs to IPC
for the book, because I once saw some of the original ODHAMS
proofs from the '60s in the IPC art vaults and they were all
resized two pages-to-one, unlike the '73 Annual.

Perhaps keeping Annuals in print in perpetuity is nothing but a
pipe-dream, but, with the advent of the internet, while actual print
editions might never be republished (although it's been done with the
RUPERT Annuals), there's no reason at all why online versions of
them couldn't be made available (at a modest price), allowing readers
to print their own copies.  What do the rest of you think?  Don't be
shy about having your say in the Criv-ites' comments section.


Mr Straightman said...

Gerald Duckworth had a pretty dismissive attitude to the Willy books even as early as 1980, when the six year old me wrote to them to get copies of the first and third books, having picked up the second one in a discount shop. "We only have a few copies left and we have no plans at present to keep them in print" was the gist of their letter. Shame really.

Kid said...

I wrote to them in the early to mid-'80s to try and buy Book 3 and a Willie badge, but they had none left. They didn't really seem interested, to be honest.

Colin Jones said...

I didn't know that we nearly had the Wonderful World of Marvel - 'Mighty' does indeed sound better. I've always regretted that I didn't discover Marvel comics until November '74 so I missed the first two years but thank god for the Apes TV show or I might never have gotten into Marvel. As for annuals, I was never much interested in the Marvel annuals for some reason - maybe because I was already a big fan of the weeklies and the annuals seemed a bit pointless. The annuals I got were things like The Beano, Dr. Who, Star Trek and Space 1999. It would be fun to read them again, it had never occurred to me until you said it, Kid !

moonmando said...

Great storylines and amazing artwork.
Oh`for the days of pre-mobile phones,smart tvs,computers and all the rest of the electronic paraphenelia that fill our daily lives with much nothingness.
Having said that,i would`nt be typing this to you now,would i?

Kid said...

Colin, that's what eBay was invented for - re-acquiring the Annuals of your youth (and toys and comics). Happy hunting.


Not only wouldn't you be typing a comment to me, Moony, you'd have no reason to, as I wouldn't have a blog for you to respond to. And as we all know, my blog is a boon to humanity. Now excuse me while I have my reality pill.

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