Saturday 11 November 2023


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hail, fellow Crivvies!  I have to admit that many of my posts have been rather 'anaemic' of late, mainly due to me being distracted by some medical problems, so thank goodness for contributors like Doctor Andrew May (no, he's not my doctor), who once again has stepped into the breach to supply you all with something worth reading and looking at.  You're getting spoiled with this guest post and I'm taking a risk publishing it as you'll probably never be satisfied with anything I write ever again.  (Never mind, I can always fall back on my 'Babe Of The Day' posts.)

Anyway, be sure to tell Andrew how much you enjoy his efforts to entertain you, and please note that every cover image featured here is supplied by Andrew from his own personal collection.  (Remember to click on any image to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.)


The two comics pictured above share the same cover date, January 1974, and I purchased both of them when they originally came out, but the one on the left is priced in pence and the one on the right in cents.  This reflects two different ways that British readers could obtain US Marvel comics in the 1970s.  As Kid has mentioned previously on this blog, the only difference between the two versions lies in the cover; they were printed at the same time on the same equipment in the US, but copies destined for the British market were priced accordingly.  These were then shipped over en masse as surface freight and distributed to UK newsagents.

The problem for avid collectors (as I was at the time) was that you couldn't count on your particular local newsagent stocking every issue of your favourite comic month after month.  To avoid the emotional stress of losing out, you had the more reliable alternative of buying "cents" copies from UK dealers who imported them on an individual basis.  Since these came over by airmail, they had the additional advantage of arriving about 2 months earlier than the newsstand versions.  On the other hand, they had the major disadvantage that they were quite a bit more expensive.  In the case illustrated above, for example, the pence comic is only 6p yet the cents copies were sold on a "1c = 1p" basis, i.e. 20p in this case.  Hence the dilemma: you had to weigh up the pros and cons to decide which titles to pre-order and which to entrust to the vagaries of newsagent distribution!

Unlike Kid, I hardly ever remember when and where I bought a particular comic.  In the case of Fantastic Four #142 pictured above, however, I can say with certainty that I bought it in London in the course of a school trip to the Science Museum.  I vividly remember, as I was reading it in the coach on the way home, our physics teacher making a profoundly ignorant comment to the effect that I was "too old for such things" (this was shortly after my 16th birthday).

As for imported "cents" copies, my main source of these throughout 1974 and 1975 was the Andromeda bookshop in Birmingham - about 12 miles from where I lived in those days, and which I visited at least once a month.  Its main speciality was science fiction - a subject I was just as fanatical about as comics - but along with huge numbers of US paperbacks and magazines they also imported Marvel and DC comics.  This was where I bought all the cents comics pictured below - but not the above copy of Marvel Two-in-One #1, which predates my discovery of Andromeda.  That occurred a few weeks before Christmas 1973, and - because cents copies generally arrived a couple of months before their cover dates, I'd guess I got the January 1974 issues in November 1973.

These would have been acquired by mail order from one of the listings in Fantasy Advertiser (which was the closest thing we had to eBay in those days).  Looking through my remaining, much depleted, hoard of comics just now, the only other cents copies from those pre-Andromeda days that I still have are a few issues of Spider-Man - including #129, which featured the first appearance of The Punisher, and is now considered "important" enough to have been reprinted in facsimile form recently.

Although I was happy to wait for a pence copy of The Fantastic Four issue pictured above and also the one after it, my newsagent failed me with #144 (March 1974), which created a gap in my collection.  I promptly vowed never to miss another issue, so from #145 onwards I pre-ordered it on a monthly basis from Andromeda - along with Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Avengers, though I didn't hang onto my collections of the latter two titles.

It seems like I've been writing for ages with no pictures, so it's high time for some more.  Below are two comics from August 1974: Spider-Man #135 (cents) and Thor #226 (pence).  You'll notice a price hike in both cases, to 25c and 7p respectively - and that the banner in the latter case now reads "Marvel All-Colour Comics" instead of "Marvel Comics Group".  I guess that was to make them stand out from the line of weekly black-and-white comics that Marvel was selling in the UK at the time.

I said a moment ago that I didn't hang on to all the Hulk comics I purchased in those days.  Fortunately, I'm not a complete idiot (not all the time, anyhow) and I did have the foresight to retain the three issues (#180-182) featuring the first appearance of Wolverine.  Below is #181 (which has also been given the facsimile treatment recently) alongside another comic from the same month (November 1974) that, speaking personally, I enjoyed a lot more - Spider-Man #138, featuring The MindwormGerry Conway was my favourite Marvel writer during that period - and, as a science fiction fan, this particular tale reminded me of the similarly titled short story by Cyril Kornbluth.

I'd guess that, during the two years 1974-75, at least three quarters of the comics I bought were pence-marked newsagent copies, for blatantly obvious economic reasons.  But looking at my remaining collection now, more than half the comics I've chosen to hang on to are cents versions - presumably because these were the ones I wanted badly enough to spend more money on.  Around a dozen of them are "Giant-Size" format, which I particularly liked.  The first of these that I acquired is pictured on the left below - Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 (May 1974), which consisted of 52 pages for 35c.  I think this was originally conceived as a rotating anthology series, but then they changed their minds and the next issue (in August 1974) was simply Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2 - with a slightly tweaked format of 68 pages for 50c and a great cover by Rich Buckler.  For variety, though, I'm also showing you Giant-Size Avengers #1 (also from August 1974), mainly because I particularly like the cover by John Romita.

Finally, below are two more covers I really like, in this case by Frank Brunner: Doctor Strange #4 (pence) and #5 (cents).  I would have bought the latter comic first, because (as explained earlier) cents copies generally arrived in this country a couple of months before pence copies.  But then I saw #4 in a newsagent (probably around the time of its cover date, October 1974), and bought that as well.  All my subsequent Doctor Strange issues are pence copies, too, so it looks like I decided it wasn't in the "unmissable" category. 

Andrew would be interested in knowing which comics fellow Crivvies chose to hold onto for decades and for what reasons, so feel free to chat about your long-cherished items in our comments section. 


And thanks again, Andrew, for taking the time and trouble to write this guest post while I sit back and stuff my fizzog with tea and toast.  I'm sure everyone appreciates your sterling efforts in producing such a fascinating article.


Phil S said...

At the time I chose pence because they were cheaper and I had no access to a reliable cents source. In fact I had no way to guarantee a regular supply of any issue! I was just glad if I got issues in sequence.

Kid said...

Yeah, distribution was spotty in the UK in the '60s and '70s, PS. I didn't get the 'Kryptonite Nevermore' series of Superman issues in their sequential order at the time, and the same goes for the Kirby DC mags (and others). However, it was fun trailing round various newsagents looking for them, because what you couldn't get in one, you might get in another. Happy days.

Andrew May said...

Many thanks for posting this, Kid, and for tidying up the images so they look much more professional than the ones I sent you! And thanks for correcting a minor mix-up over cover artists. One thing I didn't mention in the article (because I'd forgotten about it) is something that both Phil and yourself allude to, namely the "thrill of the hunt" in tracking down elusive but cheap comics in newsagents. The pleasure of finding a copy in that way was much greater than just picking up a comic you'd pre-ordered. That's why I only went for cents copies in the case of comics I really didn't want to miss.

Kid said...

As you'll probably know from reading the blog, AM, it sometimes took me decades to acquire issues I'd missed at the time so the 'thrill of the hunt' often had its limitations due to the erratic nature of UK distribution back then. Of course, that made it more of a big thing when I did find a 'next issue' comic, but the sense of disappointment was also greater when I couldn't. Swings and roundabouts, eh? Thanks again for writing such an interesting post that I'm sure will resonate with loads of Crivvies.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Kid. One thing I mentioned in an email to you, but is worth saying here as well, is that this post was really just a thinly veiled excuse for showing off a few highlights from my comics collection. So maybe other readers would like to follow suit, if you're really keen to have more guest posts?

Kid said...

You mean you haven't written your next guest post already, AM? The way things are going, it looks like the posts I write will be guest posts 'cos they're few and far between at the moment. And there's nothing wrong with showing off your comics collection; I do it all the time on this blog, whether they're worth showing off or not.

Andrew May said...

I waited for a few hours before replying in the hope that someone might leap into the breach, but so far no one has - which is a pity, because it's really interesting to know which comics people choose to hang onto for decades, and for what reasons. As for me, I've actually been toying with the idea of resurrecting my own blog, which still exists although I haven't posted anything new for years. Maybe that will be my New Year's Resolution next year! In the meantime, if I think of anything else relating to old comics, toys or similar, I'll certainly send it your way, Kid - I really appreciate the opportunity to post things here.

Kid said...

I think with it being a Saturday, regular readers and commenters will be 'out and about', AM, but I'm sure McScotty and Colin Jones (and maybe even Ian Baker) will respond tomorrow or next day. In fact, I've found it helps to ask a specific question on a post, so I'll add one based on your comment above. And thanks for your contributions to Crivens, they're much appreciated.

Colin Jones said...

I bought all my U.S. Marvel comics from WH Smith's so they were all in pence. As for holding on to comics - I got rid of all my comics around 1984 and didn't keep any which doesn't make for a very interesting comment I'm afraid!

Terranova47 said...

An interesting report on the past.

I left the UK in 1974 to move to NYC where I was married to a New Yorker. For the first year or so while waiting for a Social Security Number I couldn't work in the US so bought and shipped comics back to a London comics dealer. Thus filling in gaps of US comics not impoerted into the UK.

Around 1976 after the first issue of Howerd the Duck came out it shot up in value. Shortly afterwards a British dealer brought copies with the UK cover price to a NY comics convention and US buyers were not interested in owning a 'foreign' edition?

Kid said...

Are there any that you wish you'd kept, CJ, and did you have any of the ones shown in AM's post? (And your comments are always interesting.)


Considering that the interiors were exactly the same as the US editions (mainly due to the fact that they WERE US editions) and that only the covers were slightly different (price, banner at top), you'd have thought that the variations weren't such a big deal, T47. After all, they were still printed in America and on the same plates.

Funnily enough, when I replace a long-gone issue, I prefer it to be a 'UK' one if that was the version I had at the time. (Though I won't turn up my nose at a US version if that's all that's available.)

Andrew May said...

That's an interesting recollection from the opposite side of the Atlantic from Terranova47. Given that so many non-US comics really were licensed reprints, I can see how people might have believed our pence-marked comics were "mere" reprints. Personally, I don't recall making any distinction in my mind as to the quality or desirability of the two versions - it was just that pre-ordering a cents copy was a safer way to acquire something you really wanted. Apparently this didn't apply to Howard the Duck #1, though - I've just checked, and my copy is a pence one (9p in fact).

When I mentioned "leaping into the breach", Kid, I was really talking about offering to do a guest post, where people can show us pictures of their old comics. Just naming them in a comment doesn't have the same nostalgic impact! Obviously this doesn't apply to Colin if he got rid of all his original comics, but what about ones you missed so much you went out and rebought later? Or books or toys, if not comics? So there's no excuse for not doing a guest post, if Kid really is keen to have a few more!

Kid said...

I have two HTD #1s, both pence copies, but I also have the Facsimile Edition which is obviously a 'cents' copy, though dollars and cents copy would be more precise as the price reflects what it costs nowadays.

Yes, guest posts always welcome, AM, from just about everybody. Not everyone has my email address obviously, but they can submit a post via the comments section and I'll cut and paste it into the blog. I'll also supply images of comics to illustrate the posts.

Colin Jones said...

It would have been nice to have kept a few Marvel UK comics, Kid, especially the early POTA ones featuring the adaptation of the first apes film in POTA #1-11 (I had #5,6,7,9,10,11).

I didn't own any of the comics shown by Andrew but I read Hulk vs Wolverine in MWOM and the Giant-Size Hulk vs Thing comic was reprinted in the 1979 Marvel Superheroes Summer Special which I bought.

Kid said...

And if anyone's interested, CJ, they can see those covers on my POTA cover gallery (part 1). Incidentally, the asking prices by sellers on those MWOM issues reprinting Wolvie's first appearance are ludicrously astronomical. I still have the '79 Marvel Superheroes Summer Special I bought at the time, as well as the Giant-Size Hulk vs. Thing comic, which I got not too long after.

Kid said...

(Actually, 1-10 are on part 1, #11 is on part 2.)

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