Saturday, 17 August 2019

SECRETS OF THE UNKNOWN - REVEALED!


Cover art copyright MARVEL COMICS

Regular readers may remember me telling the story of how I once gave a friend all of my ALAN CLASS comics sometime in the late '70s.  Not too long after, I reclaimed one back from him, but that apart, he owned all of them for just over 30 years, whereupon (unsolicited by me) he gave most of them back to me.  At least one was missing, and I knew it was missing because I remembered the cover and sitting on a bench  to pore over the contents on my way home from the hospital shop where I'd bought it (the comic, not the bench).

Anyway, I recently managed to obtain a replacement for the missing issue, and have just finished adding it to a cover gallery of Alan Class comics that I posted a few years back.  However, unless you go looking for it, you won't see it, so I thought I'd show the cover here for your convenience.  Originally, the Class titles had 68 pages, and the same issues that first came out in the '60s were reprinted in the '70s and '80s, though with a reduced page-count of 52, which meant some stories had to be omitted.

It's a safe bet that the '60s version of the above comic contained The MAGIC Of MORDOO as mentioned in the jaggy cover blurb, but it's missing in the '70s incarnation.  You'd think they'd have left that one in and omitted another tale, but someone obviously wasn't paying proper attention at the selection-for-rejection stage.  Although the interior printing is pretty poor, it has a couple of JACK KIRBY illustrated stories, plus another half-dozen tales, three of which are illustrated by STEVE DITKO, two being MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER strips, of which there are four altogether.

It's always possible that I'm forgetting a few, but I reckon I've now got just about every Alan Class title I ever owned, bar one.  (CREEPY WORLDS #130, which I bought in 1972 or '73.)  I now have 14 issues altogether, 12 of them being my original copies I bought as a teenager (though, as I said, there was a 30-odd year gap in my possession of them), and once I track down that absent issue mentioned above (at a reasonable price hopefully), I'll be able to write 'finis' to that particular chapter in my life.

Or maybe I'll buy a few more.  I'm sure there must be issues out there that I'd have bought had I known about them at the time.  Have you got a favourite Alan Class title?  Why not reminisce about it in the comments section?

6 comments:

Hackney Steve said...

It's difficult to have a favourite Class title 'cos they all seemed so random - no one title had it's own identity. I never actually bought a Class comic, but I was always given them as a kid by relatives/friends, so have owned and discarded (aargh!) loads. I only have one issue in the collection now, but thankfully it's one that I also previously owned and enjoyed in the '70's...

As an adult fan, it amazes me that they could potentially have had Marvel, Charlton and ACG reprints all in one issue! But it raises questions that you may know the answers to? How did Class have the rights to reprint Marvel superhero strips at the same time as Power Comics did? Did Class have to stop the superhero strips once Marvel UK started up in '72? I know that the Marvel monster & mystery strip reprints continued throughout the '70's, but was Class restricted as to which Marvel strips it could use at any time, based on what Marvel was officially publishing over here?

These were titles (much like Marvel UK's own) that comic shops/marts had zero interest in the '80's. They couldn't give them away - now, 30 odd years later, these 'worthless' copies have their own mystique - and prices to match!



Kid said...

I read somewhere that Alan Class lost permission to reprint Marvel stories when the Power Comics started, HS, but I suppose he got around that by simply reissuing the same comics with the same numbering over and over again. His comics weren't dated, so it would perhaps be assumed that they were old stock should they ever be seen by Odhams or Marvel UK.

Or perhaps because he'd paid for the rights to reprint certain stories, as long as he stuck to those stories, perhaps he was allowed? Who knows? And the printing of some of his later reissues was terrible at times. He used to advertise for missing back issues on the back covers, presumably so he could print them again using the comics themselves as the source.

When the printing was a bit better and they had 68 pages, they were actually quite good value for money, but some of the dealers' prices these days is ridiculous - especially as they're only b&w reprints on cheap paper, with some stories (Thor's origin from JIM #83 for example) missing their final panel if it named the original US mag the tale had first appeared in.

Dave S said...

I think I have owned less than 5 Alan Class comics in my entire life, however one of them did make a big impression on me, and if I may bore you with the details I'll tell you about it.

I bought Secrets of the Unknown #229 on the last morning of a holiday in Blackpool in 1986 as some reading material for the bus journey home - I bought it from a stall on the front not far from Blackpool Tower, and a few days earlier had treated meself to Transformers #19 and #20 (the US series) and Iron Man #211 from a shop called ThunderBooks, the first comic speciality shop I ever visited.

My main memory of reading it is being captivated by one of the later stories as the bus trundled through the outskirts of Blackpool (which probably means I didn't read the stories in order).

I foolishly gave away my copy of the comic at some point but always remembered how spellbound I'd been by that one story, and years later was in a second-hand bookshop (Eddie's Books and Cards in the old Argyle Market in Glasgow) and saw an old paperback with a title that I recognised as being from that same comic story: Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak. Of course, I though, the comic strip must have been an adaptation of the book. I bought it, read it and loved it and then set out to re-acquire the comic so I could see how similar the versions were.

Imagine my surprise to find that there was no Donovan's Brain story in SOTU 229. There is a story called Murdock's Brain, by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, whioh turns out to have little in common with Donovan's Brain, so it looks like I completely misremembered the original story. It turns out Donovan's Brain was made into a film, so I may have read or seen something about this in the intervening years and got the memories confused.

The upshot of it is though that I discovered a book that I've now re-read several times and always enjoyed. It's a nice, creepy little horror story told almost in a hardboiled crime style, and I also now own SOTU #229 again, so I can always go back and read Murdock's Brain whenever I feel like it.

Kid said...

Now that's the kind of comment I like to read, DS. Now that you've set the standard, all your comments will have to be as richly detailed from now on, or Criv-ites will feel shortchanged. It's always a good feeling when you re-acquire a comic from your early days, isn't it? The past somehow seems not so distant - for a brief while at least. I think I'll probably buy some more Alan class titles. Despite their imperfections, they had their own distinct charm.

Dave S said...

Kid, I dug out that comic earlier today and looked over it again. Murdocks Brain is the second story in it, after a Peter Cannon Thunderbolt tale which is credited to'PAM' which I now know to be Pete Morisi.

Stan Lee said on more than one occasion, I believe, that if Joe Maneely hadn't passed away so young, he would probably have been Stan's main collaborator at Marvel in the 60s. I find it interesting to wonder what would have happened in that scenario. I can't imagine Jack Kirby being a second-stringer to anyone at Marvel then- with his speed and versatility, he'd be almost always assured of work.

Maybe Larry Lieber and Kirby would have been teamed up to work on the superhero books that Lee and Maneely couldn't do. Steve Ditko may have then been further down the pecking order meaning we may have gotten Kirby's Spider-Man, complete with webgun, instead of the Spidey we know today. With Ditko relegated, there may be no Dr Strange- if Stan wanted à magician hero, he might simply have told Kirby to bring back Dr Droom instead.

I'll stop rambling now. For a while, anyway.

Kid said...

I doubt that Marvel would have been Marvel without Kirby, DS. Maneely's style didn't have (in my opinion) the power and the impact that Kirby's art had, and Jack also added a lot into the mix in his chats with Stan. I can't see Joe casually throwing a Silver Surfer into a story. He was a good, solid craftsman, but his style was more traditional, and his layouts didn't have the variety that Jack's had. Marvel really needed Lee, Kirby, and Ditko to be what it was, and without any one of them, it wouldn't have been the same and probably just wouldn't have survived for long.

Or maybe it would've been even greater and more successful far sooner than it was. We'll never really know. I think Stan is being complimentary about Joe because they were friends, but it's always possible that Maneely might have surprised everyone. Looking at his Black Knight strips though, I just can't see the FF drawn in his style catching on.

And you feel free to 'ramble' whenever you want for as long as you want. Without comments like yours, this blog would be far less interesting.

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