|Copyright MARVEL COMICS|
I was looking through some '70s back issues of The Mighty World Of Marvel earlier tonight and was appalled by the amateurish manner in which many of them were presented. No wonder the title (along with several other Marvel UK weeklies) was hemorrhaging readers in its middle years. MWOM had started as a mixture of spot colour, full colour, and tones, then withered into a muddy, murky, black and grey mess that ruined the artwork and was sore on the eyes.
As an example, look at the page below. The top two panels have been trimmed (shortened) to make the page better accommodate the slightly different dimensions of the UK Marvel titles, but the bottom border lines haven't been restored - leaving the panels looking as if they just disappear into the 'gutter'. That's taking laziness just a bit too far, wouldn't you say? And it's not an isolated incident; there are several examples of such clumsiness in this one issue alone.
Then there's a Daredevil splash page (below) which has been clumsily 'drawn-up', but is missing parts of the credit box and other bits of detail, giving it an unfinished appearance. Doesn't it look awful? Marvel UK did eventually get its act together and improve a bit, but these pages fare badly when compared against the professional quality of comics by IPC and DCT, with which they shared space on the newsagents' shelves at the same time. Marvel later stopped trimming the artwork and learned to master more subtle shades of tone before doing away with it altogether, but until then, too many issues suffered from inferior production values.
I have very fond memories of those early Marvel UK mags, but when I look back at the makeshift appearance of many of them, I wonder why I wasn't put off by just how shoddily-produced they were. This is Marvel we're talking about - surely they were capable of doing far better than this and giving the readers a higher standard for their money? Remember, they weren't any less expensive than rival periodicals by other publishers, which contained mostly new material, whereas the Marvel weeklies were mainly reprint. (Perhaps Marvel 'weaklies' would've been a more apt description.)
I have to be completely honest and say that I'm surprised that Marvel got away with producing such inferior-looking comics and wonder how they managed to survive for so long. I suppose it's a testament to the artwork of Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Trimpe, Buscema, Colan, etc., that even when it was butchered in such an appalling manner it wouldn't just lie down and die, and that its inherent quality still managed to shine through - barely perhaps, but just enough to show what it was made of. And no doubt the skillful scripting of Lee, Lieber, Thomas, etc., helped 'carry' the poor visual reproduction at its worst.
Even the cover blurbs were sometimes inaccurate. For example, in #81 there are no 'inside news scoops on Marvel', only some info about a competition (hardly a scoop), and Spidey's swap shop is nowhere in evidence. (And wouldn't that belong in SMCW anyway?) I still have a soft spot for these comics, but my appreciation of them is hardly a 'warts and all' acceptance of them. Sometimes I have to half-close my eyes and squint a bit in order to blur their faults and look past their inadequacies. They didn't always do the art and stories justice, far too often depending on the readers' mercy, but they were of their time - and as that time coincided with my youth, I therefore can't help but think fondly of them - despite their imperfections.