In late September 1972 Marvel launched its own UK imprint (commonly known and referred to as Marvel UK) with a weekly title called Mighty World Of Marvel. It was the start of a highly successful venture onto the British comic book market which would (re-)introduce a whole array of Marvel characters and a number of black and white weekly titles throughout the 1970s.

The Mighty Avengers were introduced into the ranks of Marvel UK in August 1973 in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel #46, starting out with the classic Stan Lee & Jack Kirby origin tale from Avengers #1, and almost immediately moved on to their own weekly title in September 1973, introducing a new production format at they did. Unlike Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly (launched in February 1973) The Avengers featured glossy covers which really embellished the newsstand appearance of the all black and white content. For the first 27 issues the 36 pages of each issue ran a full Avengers story (reprinting one US issue in its entirety) backed up with one of the early 10-page adventures of Doctor Strange from Strange Tales. This formula was changed with The Avengers #28 in March 1974 when The Avengers began to feature three characters and storylines from the Marvel Universe as Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, joined Earth's Mightiest Heroes and the Sorcerer Supreme.

So let's take a closer look at The Avengers #65, which went on sale in the UK the week ending December 14th 1974.


The Avengers
"At the Mercy of Magneto!"

Originally published in Avengers #49 (February 1968) as
Original story title: "Mine is the Power!"

Script - Roy Thomas
Pencils - John Buscema
Inks - John Buscema
Lettering - Artie Simek

Original page count: 20
Reprinted pages: 10 (+ UK produced splash page)


All of Marvel UK's titles of the mid-1970s followed the general UK comic book market setup of a weekly interval of publication. Featuring three distinct characters and storylines in one issue - such as was the case with The Avengers since March 1974 - meant that the original material had to be cut up and serialized in order to fit this format. As a rule of thumb, the content of one US issue was thus spread out over two weekly issues in the UK.

This instantly caused a shortage of original US cover artwork and also required new splash pages where the UK reprint actually consisted of the second half of an original issue. Editorial and the pencilling staff involved in this process displayed some ingenuity in tackling this task. One frequently used solution was to take a single panel from an original interior page and blow it up to full page size, adding title and credit panels - and this is exactly what readers turning over the cover of Avengers #65 found: the last panel on page 11 from the original US Avengers #49 turned into a splash page. The result is actually well done and quite dramatic, requiring a size reduction of the word balloons and some subsequent pencilling touch-ups plus a new credit panel. Comparing the two images reveals that the choice of blacks, whites and greytones in the Marvel UK reprints was sometimes rather odd and could both clarify and obscure details at the same time.


As with virtually all 1960s material from Marvel, the story is snappy and the plotting advances at speed. In this case, readers had previously (in UK Avengers #64) learned that the gods have mysteriously vanished from Asgard whilst Hercules is attacked by Typhon (who, however, bears little outward resemblance to the "monster of all monsters" from Greek Mythology).

  At the same time, back on Earth Magneto takes mutant members of the Avengers Wanda (i.e. the Scarlet Witch) and Pietro (i.e. Quicksilver) to his secret lair and then on to the UN. This is where Avengers #65 kicks in as Magneto demands the creation of a separate nation for mutants. Hawkeye, Goliath and the Wasp get to grips withe situation although Wanda is wounded... and elsewhere Typhon banishes Hercules to an unknown realm and, sitting on the throne of Zeus, makes it know that his next conquest shall be Earth..

This cliffhanger was also the ending of the original US Avengers #49, so Marvel UK editorial, having produced a new splashpage, at least had no extra work on this side of the story.

However, once again the transfer of the US colour version to the blacks, whites and greytones of the UK reprint appears rather strange. In this case, it becomes apparent that what was a solid piece of armour with a full breastplate in the US version looks more like a naked torso with a number of rather odd rings on the arms of Typhon. Clearly the result of some reworking (Marvel UK often used the term "hues" in credit boxes in order to replace the "coloring" found in the original material version) and not a technical oddity as a result of a general transfer from, in this case blue to greytones, its exact motivation seems no less mysterious than the vanishing act put up by the gods in Asgard.

The vast majority of UK readers was, of course, unaware of this at the time, and so all they would see in this final panel was the plot cliffhanger and the announcement in typical Marvel house style that the next issue would be "incredible".

The Avengers instalment is followed by a Bullpen Bulletin page (discussed in detail further below), and after that break (assuming you read your Avengers #65 in page order) it's all change as the focus turns to martial arts.

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
"In the Jaws of Death!"

Originally published in Master of Kung Fu #23 (December 1974)
Original story title: "River of Death!"

Script - Doug Moench
Pencils - Al Milgrom
Inks - Klaus Janson
Lettering - John Costanza / Charlotte Jetter

Original page count: 18
Reprinted pages: 9 (+ UK produced splash page)


The story (which was told over two original issues, Master of Kung Fu #23 and #24 - making this part 2 of 4 in the UK reprint format) has Nayland Smith and Shang-Chi trailing Fu Manchu to South America where the evil genius seeks to acquire the plans for a secret Nazi weapon, held by a former Gestapo agent who fled to Brazil after the war. Working their way up the Amazon they are attacked by Si-Fan assassins, and Smith is knocked overboard into the alligator infested waters - this is where the instalment in Avengers #65 starts out.

  The splashpage needed for the Marvel UK reprint was pasted up from the final panel on page 11 of the original material, midway through Master of Kung Fu #23. The figures of Shang-Chi and Smith featured in this letterbox panel were slightly tilted upwards left and the background extended to fit the splashpage format, complete with added credits.
Shang-Chi fights off the creature and takes Smith back on board the steamer where they find that their guide and ship owner, Strawn, shot all the assassins. Soon Smith, Shang-Chi and Strawn learn that Fu Manchu was never on the vessel they were chasing but is, instead, travelling by helicopter to meet the former Gestapo agent - who turns out to be none other than their guide Strawn, attempting to kill both Shang-Chi and Nayland Smith (who saw through the disguise and hoped Strawn would lead them to Fu Manchu). To be continued...
  Triggered by the full-blown (and mostly Bruce Lee-fuelled) "karate craze" of 1972/73, the House of Ideas - which at the time was in a phase of pronounced genre expansion - acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer's Oriental villain Fu Manchu and used him as an antagonist for their original creation Shang-Chi, son of Fu Manchu and Master of Kung Fu.

Introduced in the UK in Avengers #28 in March 1974, this was thus by all means contemporary material - quite unlike the Avengers and Doctor Strange stories featured in Avengers #65 which both had originally been published in 1968.

In fact, due to the weekly publication schedule and the resulting reprint of two US issues in one single month, the Shang-Chi stories had actually caught up with the original material. Although December 1974 was the cover date for Master of Kung Fu #23 - meaning that this story had in fact been in the hands of readers in the US in September 1974 - this was quickly becoming too close for Marvel UK's editorial workflow.

The Avengers would thus see another two issues of Shang-Chi (equalling one more US issue and ending the Amazonas storyline) before the UK reprint schedule had to take a break, introducing Iron Fist as a stand-in feature for the second time after issues #52-59.


Dr Strange
"...While a World Awaits!"

Originally published in Doctor Strange #173 (October 1968)

Script - Roy Thomas
Pencils - Gene Colan
Inks - Tom Palmer
Lettering - Artie Simek

Original page count: 20
Reprinted pages: 10


The third feature of Avengers had been a regular feature since the very first issue. Usually featured on the last pages, the Dr Strange stories had since made their way through the early 1960s stories of the Master of the Mystic Arts from Strange Tales (which had been rather convenient as they only had a page count of 10 per original issue, nicely fitting the UK reprint slot) and arrived at the classic Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer material from the second half of the decade.

  The only instalment in Avengers #65 to start out with an original splashpage, the - as befits a classic Dr Strange story - aptly melodramatically titled "... While a World Awaits!" finds Dr Strange defending the Doorway of Dimensions from Dormammu, Umar and their army of minions seeking to gain access to Earth's dimension.

Meanwhile, in the Master of the Mystic Arts' Sanctum Sanctorum on Bleeker Street in New Yor City, Strange's (just as mystic) servant Wong answers the door to find an old colleague of his employer. Doctor Charles Benton has called on his old friend to finally talk him out of a life of being a recluse and a mystic and to take up work for him as a medical consultant. Little does he suspect that at that very moment, Dr Streange needs all the mystic powers he can get as he is struggling at the Doorway of Dimensions, bound in mystical chains, while Dormammu seeks to finally break open a portal to Earth...

Cutting a classic late 1960s Dr Strange story in half in the middle of an original US issue proved no problem for the Marvel UK editorial, as both Thomas and Colan had a knack for setting up a cliffhanger-like storytelling rhythm for the last panel of almost every single page. All that needed doing therefore was the addition of a small box, usually at the bottom of the final panel, telling readers that this was the end for now and what would await them in the next Dr Strange installment. Comparison with the original colour panel in question from Doctor Strange #173 only shows (once more) a noticeable tendency for the greytones to take on a characterization of their own.



The Avengers #65 was edited by Matt Softely (who in reality was Maureen Softly) and printed in Ireland. It features a full page Bullpen Bulletin as well as one and a half Avengers Assemble! pages of letters, illustrated with vignettes showing members of the Avengers in action. In addition, the readers' attention was drawn, by means of an in-house ad, to the fact that Marvel UK had just launched two new weekly titles: Dracula Lives and Planet of the Apes.

The Bullpen Bulletin, apart from reminding readers that there were "2 MORE MARVEL GREATS ON SALE THIS WEEK" by highlighting covers of the UK flagship title Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Weekly, gave readers insight and information on some of the individuals behind their favourite comics, all in the original tone of the friendly chatter you would exchange with friends and reinforcing Stan Lee's philosophy of making readers feel they were members of a club. Much of that information also made it clear that the comic you were reading had its roots across the Atlantic. But then the letters page of Avengers #65 highlighted this "international connection" even more.

  First off, the letters page ran a few lines which must have been unintelligible to virtually 100% of the readership, coming as it did from one Henryk Zeligowski who wrote in Polish. Apart from the fact that one simply wonders how copies of Marvel UK's Avengers could even reach Poland in 1974, it simply showed yet another facette of Marvel's international standing (so far flung that editorial got the spelling wrong and put down Henryk's hometown as Wrockaw instead of Wroclaw - you can't win 'em all).

The international tone continued as one reader asked for information on a mystery Marvel comic he had found at a newsagent (and which turns out to have been a US copy with British price of Daredevil #78 from 1971) and another complained about problems finding the original US comics shipped to the UK market, to which editorial interestingly enough replied

"From almost every quarter, we receive letters from grateful Marvelites stating that life is beginning anew for them because once again they are able to lay their eager hands on those US editions. We KNOW they're here within these shores because we're SENDING 'em here."

Further letters display praise for the Avengers as a whole while others single out their favourites. It was never uncommon to find opposite views on one and the same letters page, and Avengers #65 is yet another point in case as one reader demanded dropping the reprints of Dr Strange whilst another reader was singing the praises of the Thomas & Colan stories. And to all this, as usual, editorial both in the US and the UK at that time would point out that Marvel was a democracy and that readers needed simply to voice their likes and dislikes for things to happen. Naturally, this was one of the few ways a comic book publisher had at the time to assess the popularity and hence commercial success of his products and the way they were set up.

One page in total was taken up by third party advertisements, split in two halves, coming from Meccano and Airfix, two regular advertisers in the Avengers during that period of time. And finally, on the back cover and thus in full glorious colour, readers could get badges with their favourite Marvel heroes by mail order - directly from Marvel Comics Ltd, which at that time had their offices in Room 109 at 52 High Holborn in Central London.


And finally, a word concerning the cover of Avengers #65. Taken from the original cover of US Avengers #49 (pencilled and inked by John Buscema and lettered by Sam Rosen, colourist unknown) it was truly embellished by the Marvel UK cover artwork staff under the editorial reigns of Jim Salicrup.

Although a matter of taste, adding more light and colours to the Buscema artwork made it appear much more alive than the very dark original cover, highlighting (pun intended) the fact that Magneto is pulling the strings of Quicksilver in his scheming.

The same (truly classic) cover was re-used in November 1976 by Williams Verlag for the German language reprint Die Rächer #48 as well as by Marvel itself for the Avengers reprint title Marvel Triple Action #41 in May 1978.

But apart from colour and highlighting differences, both the German version and the Triple Action reprint version use the same rendering of Magneto's eyes and redrawn upper lip and nose tip which had been introduced on the UK Avengers #65 cover, making Magneto appear much leaner and certainly more menacing. Even back in the 1970s, Marvel was truly an international affair.




First published on the web 22 February 2015
Text is copyright (c) 2015 atw