1978 - 1979



Continued from 1975 - 1977: EXPANSION, MERGERS - AND CAPTAIN BRITAIN !

This is a revised version of a text originally compiled in 2009.
Special thanks to Robin Kirby for some valuable corrections and additional input.

All dates given are cover dates unless specified
Click on covers for larger images


On its home market USA, Marvel had been careening towards a wipe-out financial crash by mid-1977 when, virtually out of the blue, the House of Ideas was, according to Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief at the time), saved by the release of the first issue of their adaptation of George Lucas' Star Wars in July 1977 - an assertion also made by many others in the industry at the time (Kirby, 2011).

"We had been losing money for several years (...) Actually a lot of credit should go to Roy Thomas, who - kicking and screaming - had dragged Marvel into doing Star Wars. If we hadn't done Star Wars (...) we would have gone out of business. Star Wars single-handedly saved Marvel... and that kept us alive." (Shooter in: Thomas, 2000)

The book was a giant success in the US and ran for a staggering 107 issues before being cancelled in July 1986, so it was no surprise that Marvel UK - which had its own serious market problems by the beginning of 1978 - would also turn to galant jedis and laser swords in the hope of finding and boosting a new readership. And so, on February 8th 1978, Star Wars Weekly made its debut on the stands of British newsagents.

And the hopes invested in this new weekly would be fulfilled very much in the same way as seen with Marvel's US Star Wars monthly. The UK weekly would run for 117 issues before being renamed Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back with issue #118 (29 May 1980).


Star Wars Weekly #1
(8 February 1978)

The title then went monthly as of issue #140 in November 1980 before being renamed Star Wars in July 1981 with issue #159. The monthly magazine (it had by that time long moved away from being a pure comic book and featured a large share of photo material and interior text) was finally cancelled with issue #171 in July 1982. However, the one problem with Star Wars Weekly was that although it sold well, it did not really generate a new readership which would also be or become interested in Marvel UK's line of superhero themed titles.

Whilst SSW did alleviate the financial worries of Marvel UK to a certain degree, the pressure on the superhero weeklies remained high, and this time the almost inevitable cancellation took place as a double take in June 1978.


Complete Fantastic Four #30
(19 April 1978)

Complete Fantastic Four #37
(7 June 1978)

  Both Rampage and Complete Fantastic Four ceased to appear at the newsagents after 34 and 37 issues respectively - to a large part as victims of their own publication formula which, due to full US issue length reprints, ate up over three years of US continuity in less than a year alone (Kirby, 2011).

Whilst the Fantastic Four were duly transferred to Mighty World of Marvel as of issue #298 (14 June 1978) in the established tradition of previous mergers and cancellations, Rampage followed the previous example of Conan and reappeared as a monthly magazine - Rampage Monthly - in July 1978. Just like Marvel's US range of magazine-format black and white publications, the painted covers of Rampage Monthly promised content aimed at a more adult readership - in the case of Rampage Monthly, however, the covers belied the contents, which continued the reprints from the weekly with the Defenders and Nova (a character specifically aimed at pre-teen readers) as backups.

Rampage Monthly #1
(July 1978)


Rampage #34
(7 June 1978)

Mighty World of Marvel #298 merges the Fantastic Four
(14 June 1978)

The rest of the year showed no outward signs of any further upheavals, but behind the scenes the waters were nearing boiling point as Stan Lee himself was growing increasingly concerned and disappointed about the downward sales figures of Marvel UK. Something had to be done, and so the New York offices hired the editor of UK Mad Magazine and House of Hammer, Derek "Dez" Skinn, to write a report on why Marvel UK was now doing so badly (Khoury, 2001).

Taking note of Skinn's findings, the spiritus rector of the House of Ideas came right to the point:

"Stan Lee asked me if I [Skinn] would like to institute the changes I had recommended." (Khoury, 2001)

Skinn took up the offer and hence the editorial reigns at Marvel UK's offices - which had moved from London to Sevenoaks, Kent in 1977 (Kirby, 2011) - in late autumn 1978 and started out with a bang:

"I brought in my own team from previous ventures." (Khoury, 2001)

This meant that editor Nick Laing had to move out, following in the footsteps of Neil Tennant who had quit previously (Kirby, 2011) but always displayed a very active enthusiasm in his job. However, in the end he ran up against the fact that promotional endeavour and grabbing the general public's attention don't automatically trigger gratification through sales figures.


Mighty World of Marvel #300 (28 June 1978)


"When Stan Lee (...) came to London, Neil organized a book signing for his book "Bring On The Bad Guys" and got 2,000 people to turn up: 'He [Stan Lee] was thrilled; he didn't think anyone would come.' When artist Herb Trimpe came to London he arranged for a specially drawn picture of The Incredible Hulk to appear on the cover of London magazine "Time Out": 'I used to enjoy sorting out things like that.'
When the winners of Marvel Mastermind - a competition in which you had to answer lots of interesting questions like "what is Spiderman's father called?" and then think of the best sentence in which each word begins with a different letter from the word MASTERMIND - were chosen he'd get their pictures in the local paper."

Looking to move, Tennant found a job with Macdonald Educational publishing house, who were "quite excited to have someone who worked in comics" (Price, A.N.), and so went off to ultimately find fame and fortune with the Pet Shop Boys after 1981.

The December 1978 production run of Marvel UK was the first to list Skinn as editor, and he quickly began to implement his new concepts and ideas whilst moving the bullpen back to London, although this time to Kentish Town (Kirby, 2011). Addressing readers under the heading of Dez Says (which harked back at Stan's Soapbox), Skinn introduced the collective label of "The Marvel Revolution" as a clear signal to the readership and the market that Marvel's UK imprint was on a mission to reposition itself.

In terms of real life events Skinn's "Marvel Revolution" could not have launched at a more difficult point in time as the UK was facing the 1978-79 "Winter of Discontent", during which widespread strikes by local authority trade unions coincided with blizzards, deep snow and the coldest temperatures since 1962–63 to make many people's everyday lives fairly miserable up until February 1979 (Hay, 2010). These circumstances stopped publication of the weeklies for about a month, precisely after the first Marvel Revolution print run should have been distributed - resulting in "old style" and "new style" issues appearing on the shelves at sheer random as whatever got through the picket lines was dumped at the newsagents' doors. Marvel tried to disguise the gaps by dropping dates and even issue numbers on the covers, but naturally the contents revealed the jumps in the storylines they carried (Kirby, 2011).

The extent of Marvel UK's accumulated market weakness was displayed by the fact that one of the first moves by Skinn was to rename Marvel UK's flagship weekly Mighty World of Marvel to simply Marvel as of January 1979 - a clear sign that the brand MWOM had lost most of its previous selling power.

The end of an era: Mighty World of Marvel #329 -
(17 January 1979)

Market share threat: pence priced UK import (Fantastic Four #186, September 1977)

  Various descriptions of what Skinn did and why are scattered over the world wide web, but they are all characterized by a high degree of repetitive statements and an invariably high weakness with regard to reliable source indication - although Skinn's own website now has more background information and Kirby's From Cents to Pence (to be published) will provide further improvement. What is clear though is that the new editor was hired by Stan Lee for one purpose, and that was to turn around Marvel UK and make it profitable again.

Leaving aside possible details leading up to decisions which Skinn made in this process, the resulting changes which arrived on the newsagent stands really speak for themselves. It is obvious that one of the main conclusions arrived at was that after a couple of years of simple reprints of US material for the UK market, the titles put out by Marvel UK had lost favour with a growing share of the potential readership. This was further aggravated by the fact that UK priced copies of the original colour Marvel comic books were available throughout Britain by that time, although the distribution of certain titles was curbed at times when the character appeared as a UK reprint. This market protection move did not win Skinn any favours amongst the US import fans, and caused a flare of outrage in fanzines when Uncanny X-Men was taken off the import schedules because they regularly appeared in Rampage (Kirby, 2011).

The downgrading of Mighty World of Marvel to a simple Marvel Comic was accompanied by a downgrade in the quality of paper used for the hitherto glossy covers. The resulting new look was a much closer resemblance to the outward appearance of "traditional" British comic books, indicating that Skinn had arrived at the conclusion that potential buyers shied away from Marvel UK's weeklies because they looked unfamiliar. The same transformation process was simultaneously applied to Super Spider-Man, which continued the numeration but simply became Spider-Man Comic and was given a more Britsih overall appearance.


Taking over the numeration from Mighty World of Marvel: Marvel Comic #330
(24 January 1979)

Market share threat: pence priced UK import (Avengers #182, April 1979)


Super Spider-Man #310 -
(17 January 1979)

  Besides Spidey, the title featured the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Thor, the Sub-Mariner, and Nova, whilst Marvel Comic showcased the Hulk, Dracula, Conan, Skull the Slayer, Shang-Chi and Daredevil - six and a half years after the launch of Marvel UK, the House of Ideas' own character offerings for the British market had virtually collapsed into only two remaining weekly titles.

But even with such a reduced production output, Skinn was constantly reminded of the reasons for his call to action. After only five issues into its new image run, Marvel Comic #335 had to be stitched together in an emergency move as the regular material was not ready in time to meet the printing schedule. As a result, readers who picked up the issue only found fill-in stories featuring the Angel, Conan, Wolverine, Hercules and Cyclops. The problem persisted and readers had to wait until Marvel Comic #337 to be able to read on from where the stories had left off two issues ago.


Spider-Man Comic
(24 January 1979)

It was not an ideal way to launch a "Marvel Revolution" (Skinn's promotional umbrella slogan for the relaunch of the weeklies), but these woes were temporarily overruled by the launch of a new weekly title.
In March 1979 the Hulk, long-time supremo of the Mighty World of Marvel and a constant favourite with British readers, received his very own title in the form of Hulk Comic #1.

Making the comics look more like their British competition on the newsstands was, on the face of things, simply adapting the packagaing. However, the concept of "Britishness" was indeed the core element of Skinn's approach and the changes he made as editor, and it ran far deeper than just concerning itself with glossy or non-glossy covers. Above all, Skinn wanted homegrown content in the titles to increase their appeal to their home market.

Hulk Comic was launched to fill the void. Apart from very early 1960s Ant-Man reprint material, the title featured original black & white Hulk, Black Knight, Nick Fury and Night Raven stories. The new Hulk material produced in Britain for the weekly was drawn by Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon and was heavily influenced by the contemporary Hulk TV series (to which most covers made explicit reference in an aim to cash in on the show's popularity) and thus deviated somewhat from the Hulk as portrayed in the US material of the time. The original material depicting S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top agent Nick Fury was also drawn by Steve Dillon, who was seen as a great talent in spite of his very young age of a mere 16 years only.


Hulk Comic #1
(7 March 1979)


Hulk Comic #20
(18 July 1979)

  Also included was a new Black Knight strip (the character originated in Atlas comic books from the 1950s) which also featured the return of Marvel UK's first attempt at producing original material for its home market - Captain Britain.

Not content with featuring new original material produced in the UK but featuring established US Marvel characters and bringing back "Britain's very own superhero", Skinn went all out and threw in a brand new character created entirely by Marvel UK for Hulk Comic #1 - Night Raven.

Conceived and fleshed out by Skinn himself in collaboration with Richard Burton, the initial Night Raven stories were scripted by Steve Parkhouse (who already had a lengthy working experience in UK comic books) and pencilled and inked by David Lloyd (whose later work would include V for Vendetta) and, later on, John Bolton (Kirby, 2011).


Hulk Comic #22
(1 August 1979)

Both the general style as well as the storytelling of the Night Raven feature showed a heavy influence of pulp fiction characters of the 1930s, which was also the period of time in which the plots were initially taking place before the vigilante and crime fighter was moved from prohibition-era America to contemporary times - a common procedure sooner or later applied to virtually all non-Western characters as Marvel liked to keep its Universe neat and simple in terms of timeframes.

Hulk Comic was truly pioneering work launched by Dez Skinn, but as is the case so often, it would need to falter first and then be re-discovered at a later stage before reaching its full bloom. In the case of Hulk Comic, this meant that the original UK produced stories and artwork were mostly discontinued after twenty issues and gave way to US material reprints again. The British Nick Fury stories featured in Hulk Comic #1-19, Night Raven in Hulk Comic #1-20, and the Hulk in Hulk Comic #1-6, 9-20 and 26-27. Only the Black Knight managed to hang on longer (Hulk Comic #1, 3-30, 42-55 and 57-63) and, as an oddity, Hulk Comic #48-49 ran original UK material featuring Ant-Man.



Spider-Man Summer Special (1979)

  In between, Marvel UK reverted to reprinting its own original material from the first issues of Captain Britain as of Hulk Comic #31.

What had thus started in January 1979 as the British "Marvel Revolution" and gained real speed with the launch of Hulk Comic #1 in March was virtually all over again by July and issue #20. However, the weekly publication schedule made sure that there had been enough original material produced and offered to the readers to make a lasting impression and nurture the concept and understanding that there could, indeed, be more to a British imprint of Marvel than to only reprint US material. Skinn had proven his point, attracted a lot of new attention from the market, and opened up opportunities for artists who would later become highly successful, such as Alan Moore, John Wagner, Pat Mills, Steve Moore, Dave Gibbons, John Bolton, and David Lloyd.

It had been a success in many respects, but the market was still something else, and so July 1979 not only saw the exit of most of the original British material in Hulk Comic but also what seemed like yet another of those cancellation/mergers.


Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly and Marvel Comics #334 (1 August 1979)

  As Marvel Comic ceased publication after issue #352 the title was merged with Spider-Man Comic, consequently retitled Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly and Marvel Comic as of issue #334.

When the reference to the cancelled title was dropped after only three weeks, it seemed as though the last trace of Marvel UK's first weekly published in Britain - which had been so programmatically named Mighty World of Marvel - was erased by the end of August 1979.

However, as the September production schedule rolled around, it became clear that Skinn had in fact launched another major change for Marvel UK's line of superhero titles.

Re-appearing for September 1979, Marvel Comic, following the brief guest appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly, was now titled Marvel Superheroes and was to be published as a monthly, rather than a weekly, comic book.


Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #337
(22 August 1979)

The "Marvel Monthly" continued the numbering from Marvel Comic and when it hit the newsagent stands in September 1979, Marvel Superheroes #353 featured black and white reprints from US Avengers, X-Men and Ms. Marvel stories. These features would remain on board for the remaining 3 issues published in the Bronze Age decade, with sources including the US Super-Villain Team-Up apart from regular Avengers and X-Men titles. Marvel Superheroes would enjoy a lengthy run of 45 monthly issues before being cancelled after issue #397 in May 1983.

Hulk Comic #43 was the last issue to appear in 1979, featuring an original black and white Black Knight story as well as black and white reprints showcasing Hulk, Ant-Man, Silver Surfer and the Defenders. Hulk Comic was published for a total of 63 issues before being cancelled in May 1980.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #355 was the last issue to be published in 1979, and the title went on to become the longest continually published and numbered comic book by Marvel UK, although changing its title frequently.


Marvel Superheroes #353
(September 1979)

It dropped the Weekly in April 1980 (Spectacular Spider-Man #372), became Spider-Man & Hulk Weekly in May 1980, Super Spider-Man TV Comic in October 1981, plain Spider-Man in October 1982 to coincide with issue #500, The Spider-Man Comic in May 1985, and finally Spidey Comic in August 1985 before bowing out at long last with issue #666 in December 1985.

Rampage Magazine #18 was published in December 1979 (having changed its name from Rampage Monthly with issue #6 in December 1978), and the title would eventually see a total of 54 issues before cancellation in December 1982.


Marvel Superheroes
(December 1979)


Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly
#355 (final 1979 issue)


Hulk Comic
(final 1979 issue)

However, the days when the superhero titles held the key to the commercial success of Marvel UK were long a thing of the past. In fact, the presence of the House of Ideas on the UK comic book market wasn't even depending on traditional Marvel comic book characters anymore by the end of the 1970s. Whilst Marvel UK shared the financial boost of the Star Wars title with Marvel USA, the British side of the business even went one step further by launching Doctor Who Weekly #1 on 17 October 1979, based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who (first produced in the UK in 1963, it only reached the US television screens as late as 1978). Given official approval by the BBC as copyright holder, it tapped into an enormous fan pool of readers outside the traditional Marvel or even comic book readership and quickly provedto be a complete success. After going monthly in September 1980, it saw several smaller changes to its title over time (this was, after all, a Marvel UK publication) but has been continually published since and celebrated its 30th anniversary in October 2009 (currently published by Panini as holder of the Marvel publishing rights in the UK).

Skinn left Marvel in 1981 to launch and co-own a London west end design group, Studio System, working for various high profile clients before returning to the comic book industry where he revived Starburst Magazines Ltd (renamed Quality Communications) and launched the anthology title Warrior. Skinn's personal view and recollection of his time at Marvel UK is precise and brief:

"Arm-twisted by Stan Lee to turn around the fortunes of his then-ailing UK publishing division. Revamped & refocused entire line (under the promotional umbrella of "The Marvel Revolution"), added new comics and magazines (Doctor Who Weekly, Hulk Comic, Frantic, Starburst, a line of pocket books, etc). Only stayed a year or so because I fulfilled my function to make the company viable once more and didn't wish to simply replicate & dilute the successes or become a paper-pushing production editor. Moved on to other challenges." (Skinn, A.N.)

Marvel UK's presence on the British comic book market during the Bronze Age period was to a large extent tied to its first and flagship title, Mighty World of Marvel. Since the relaunch of the title as plain Marvel Comic in January 1979, the label Mighty World of Marvel had vanished from the newsstands. However, following the cancellation of Marvel Superheroes in May 1983, a second volume of MWOM was launched in June 1983 which ran for 17 issues until bowing out in October 1984.
For a period of almost twenty years, the ominous title was not seen on the British comic book market and was, by all practical means, a ghost from the past. However, in February 2003, Panini Comics (who had obtained the license for Marvel UK back in 1995) revived the title as a so-called "Marvel Collectors' Edition", featuring colour reprints of normally three complete US Marvel comics from all eras (Silver Age to current) spread out over 76 pages. Again, the highly popular Hulk acted as lead character.

The new MWOM ran for 86 issues up to September 2009 before being relaunched with issue #1 in October 2009 (technically making it volume 4) in order to promote the World War Hulk storyline. In March 2012 the title had been vacated by its long-time mascot the Hulk who left for his own title.

In July 2014 the numbering of MWOM was reset to issue #1 when the Marvel Now! stories began to be reprinted, relaunching The Mighty World of Marvel in its by now 5th volume. A good 40+ years after its initial launch, The Mighty World of Marvel is thus still - and once again - a synonym for Marvel UK.


Mighty World of Marvel (vol 5) #17 -
(21 October 2015)



HAY Colin (2010) "Chronicles of a Death Foretold: the Winter of Discontent and Construction of the Crisis of British Keynesianism", in Parliamentary Affairs 63 (3), 446–470

KHOURY George (2001) Kimota! The Miracleman companion, TwoMorrows Publishing

KIRBY Robin (2011) personal communication

PRICE Markie (A.N.) Neil Tennant - The Marvel comics years, available online at Absolutely Pet Shop Boys and accessed 21 October 2009

SKINN Dez (A.N.) Personal statement available online at and accessed 21 October 2009

THOMAS Michael (2000) Jim Shooter Interview, accessed 5 May 2008 and available online at


The illustrations presented here are copyright material
and are reproduced for strictly non-commercial and appreciative review purposes only.
Text is (c) 2009-2015 Adrian Wymann

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first published on the internet 4 November 2009
reposted 1 March 2014
last updated 11 October 2015