Beginnings of Marvel UKMarvel UK was the British division of Marvel Comics, founded in 1972, initially to reprint material originally published by Marvel US (previously, some Marvel material had been reprinted in Britain in the five Power Comics published by Odhams Press, and (rather oddly) in the pages of D.C. Thomson's girls' comic Romeo). Its first ongoing title was The Mighty World of Marvel, which ran 329 issues from 7th October 1972-17th January 1979 before becoming 'Marvel Comic', and later 'Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly'. Spider-Man Comics Weekly followed on 17th February 1973 (Spider-Man having been earlier introduced in MWOM), and from there, Marvel UK published a host of titles both weekly and monthly, including The Titans, The Super-Heroes, Avengers, Dracula Lives, The Complete Fantastic Four, the popular and long running Star Wars Weekly/The Empire Strikes Back/Star Wars Monthly, Doctor Who Weekly (later Doctor Who Magazine), Rampage, Marvel Super-Heroes, Savage Sword of Conan, Captain America, Planet of the Apes, Fury, Forces in Combat, Future Tense (originally a weekly, later a monthly), Valour, Blockbuster, Monster Monthly, Marvel Madhouse, Frantic, Marvel Action, Marvel Team-Up, and Marvel Super Adventure. In the mid 1970s, several issues of random Marvel UK weeklies were also bound together in three volumes of The Marvel Collection. During the period from 1975-1977, Neil Tennant was employed as Marvel UK's London Editor (much of the work was actually done in New York) Anglicizing dialogue and pointing out where artwork needed to be altered for the (at that time) generally rather younger British market (since Marvel UK tended to reprint material fairly indiscriminately from both the mainstream superhero comics and the more adult black & white magazines, nudity sometimes reared its ugly head!). Sadly, he failed to find much success in the industry, and eventually went on to sink into relative obscurity, and a presumably rather less fulfilling career as some sort of singer with a group called 'The Pet Shop Boys'.
Original UK materialThough for the first few years of the company's existence it was restricted to US reprints (aside from Apeslayer, which we don't talk about), in October 1976, Marvel UK got its first original character (albeit one created in America, specifically for the British market) in Captain Britain, who starred in 39 issues of his own title before moving into the pages of Spider-Man, and from 1979, under new editorial director Dez Skinn (who was hand picked by Stan Lee to run the franchise), they began publishing UK originated material in titles such as Doctor Who Weekly and Hulk Comic (the latter featuring British versions of American characters such as the Hulk, Nick Fury, Ant Man and the Black Knight alongside Captain Britain and the British created Night Raven) as well as reprints. Rampage gave us Timesmasher, the strange story of time travelling weirdo Kilgore Slaughter. A handful of UK originated stories, by Alan Moore, Steve Moore and Steve Parkhouse also appeared, in the pages of Star Wars, simply because they were running out of American material to reprint.
In 1978, Marvel US briefly granted a licence to Portman Distribution to reprint some of the material from their black & white horror magazines in two titles, Castle of Horror and Tales of Terror, without informing Marvel UK. Predictably, Marvel UK made a complaint, and the licence was revoked.
Expansion in the 80sThe eighties also marked the launch of a line of digest sized 'Pocket Books' including Chiller (a horror anthology), Marvel Classics Comics and Star Heroes (a sci-fi anthology, which was later turned over to the X-Men) and a move towards more monthly titles mostly aimed at a slightly older demographic (including Rampage (also originally a weekly), Blockbuster, Savage Action, Future Tense, Frantic, the TV tie-in Blake's 7: A Marvel Monthly (another title with 100% UK originated material), Dez Skinn's movie magazine Starburst, The Daredevils (featuring Captain Britain, Night Raven, the Special Executive and various other features by Alan Moore, as well as American Daredevil reprints) and, a couple of years later, Indiana Jones (starring the then popular movie hero ), since the weekly line which it had founded on was faltering somewhat largely thanks to the increased availablity of the US monthlies which the weeklies were reprinting from. Another move intended to give the company a larger market share was an attempt to woo younger readers with titles such as Rupert (starring classic childrens character Rupert the Bear), Scooby Doo and His TV Friends and Worzel Gummidge (the latter actually featuring first in a monthly and then a weekly) but none of them were notably successful. The early eighties also saw the introduction of short humour strips by Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett into the letters pages of many of both the weekly and monthly titles, including Hulk the Menace, Jet Lagg, The Fairly Amazing Spider-Hound and the long running Doctor Who?; these strips were all nominally set on Earth 33 1/3. Later additions to the weekly line included Thor, X-Men (these two later combined to become Thor and X-Men), Incredible Hulk, The Thing is Big Ben, Transformers, Defenders of the Earth, The Real Ghostbusters, Action Force, Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars (which later became Secret Wars II), ThunderCats and the Marvel Bumper Comic, and there were also a handful of US format monthlies launched in the late eighties including Death's Head, Dragon's Claws, Knights of Pendragon, Sleeze Brothers and another Action Force title. The short lived Strip! magazine attempted to cater to an older and supposedly more sophisticated audience. From 1980, Marvel for a time offered a back issue service run by independent mail order retailers Dangerous Visions which was intended to strengthen reader loyalty by enabling readers to acquire issues they had missed.
Marvel UK's 90s LineIn the nineties, Marvel would attempt to cash in on that market with a range of monthly titles in the US format, sold in comic shops in both the UK and the US and reprinted in the high street in Britain in the bi-weekly (later monthly) magazine Overkill. Titles in the range included Death's Head II, Motormouth, Hell's Angel, Warheads, Plasmer, Digitek, Black Axe, Shadow Riders, Battletide, Super Soldiers, Gene Dogs, Wild Thing, Cyberspace 3000, Dances With Demons, Codename: Genetix and Dark Guard (and the short lived Marvel Frontier Comics Unlimited). They also published Doctor Who Classic Comics, which reprinted both Marvel Doctor Who strips and earlier Doctor Who material originally published in TV Comic and elsewhere, and continued to publish licenced material such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and reprinted American material for older readers in Meltdown and Havoc, as well as for their traditional younger readership with titles including a new X-Men fortnightly.
The characters created for the Marvel UK line were later incorporated into the mainstream Marvel Universe by the parent company, and were revived in January 2014 for the crossover 'event' Revolutionary War, presumably in order to retain the trademarks (20 years having now elapsed since the range ended).
End of Marvel UKMarvel bought a part of Panini in 1995, merging it with Marvel UK, but the UK division was eventually wound up by Marvel in 1999; they sold off Panini, who retained the licence to use the Marvel UK name, and they continue to publish several monthly 'Collectors Editions' under that name, as well as trade paperback collections of old Marvel UK material (including five volumes reprinting every original UK appearance of Captain Britain, as well as Death's Head and Doctor Who). For several years, Panini also published new material based on the Marvel characters in titles such as Marvel Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man, but this practice was eventually halted by an edict from the Disney Corporation after they bought Marvel Comics (Disney decreed that all Marvel based strip material must originate in America). Panini also continued to publish Doctor Who Magazine, the Marvel UK logo being dropped in 1999.