Friday, 31 January 2014
WHAM!, POW!, & MARVEL - AN ANNUAL EVENT...
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 afterthought in the minds of Marvel? Though 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 stablemate, 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, though 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 (though 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.
Posted by Kid at Friday, January 31, 2014