Marvel launched its own UK imprint operation in late September 1972 with a comic book which would become both its flagship title and its publication credo and motto: the Mighty World of Marvel.

Edited in the US but printed in the UK to a larger format than American Marvel comic books, the 40 page Mighty World of Marvel #1 kicked off a row of highly successful years for what would soon be known as "Marvel UK".

The UK comic book market of the 1970s differed greatly from its counterpart in the US as it was quintessentially keyed at a weekly interval of publication, with predominantly black and white contents and multiple storylines (and therefore often also various different characters) in one issue.

By mid-1974, the success of Marvel UK's first three weeklies had the powers in charge look to further expansion, and this move would - at the height of the popularity and importance of the horror and fantasy genres for the US market - almost inevitably point to additional material which would complement the so far superhero-only publications. The move happened on 26 October 1974 when two new weeklies were launched simultaneously: Dracula Lives! and Planet of the Apes - the latter only two months after Marvel had launched its venture into the franchise in the USA with the black and white magazine format Planet of the Apes #1.

Following up on the release of the 1973 movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the 1974 CBS television series, Marvel was eager to expand into any genre and theme which held the promise of a profitable comic book market version, and thus launched the series with an adaptation of the original 1968 movie starring Charlton Heston. Originally a novel by French author Pierre Boulle (1912-1994), La plančte des singes was published in 1963 and tells the uncanny story of a group of astronauts who land on a planet which seems to be a spitting image of the Earth save one big exception - the status and roles of human beings and primates on this planet are just the opposite of what they are back home. Here, the apes shape and control society and rule over human beings, who are treated as an inferior species.

Marvel's US black and white Planet of the Apes ran for a total of 29 issues and, besides adaptations of all five movies, featured original stories written by Doug Moench and Gerry Conway with artwork by George Tuska, Mike Esposito, Mike Ploog, and many others. This was the prime source of reprint material for Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes (as with most of the British titles the acronym - in this case POTA - became a household label for readers), although the desperate need for more stories at one point even prompted the use of Killraven stories from Amazing Adventures #18-39 (May 1973 - November 1976) under the name of Apeslayer - including aliens redrawn as apes.


UK Planet of the Apes #1
(26 October 1974)

Issue #102 of POTA carries the tagline "and Dracula Lives" - a result of the cancellation of the horror title Dracula Lives! in late June 1976 and its subsequent merger with Planet of the Apes as of issue #88 of that title. Brought about by the necessity to cut costs, Marvel UK stuck to the house style of its American parent company and sold necessity as virtue by featuring the cover headline "And now: The long-awaited merger of Marvel's mightiest mags!".

Planet of the Apes #88 merges Dracula Lives into its pages (23 June 1976)

  This line of thought was underscored further by an introductory page in Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives #88 which reached the conclusion that turning two weeklies into one - featuring the Planet of the Apes stories and Ka-Zar from the origional POTA line-up and Dracula and Man-Thing from the original cast of regulars featured in Dracula Lives! - was "clearly consolidating the Marvel age of comics!".

The stark reality was that by 1976 the British comic book market found itself under the dark clouds of a UK economy in a state of gloom and trauma. On the heels of an inflation rate which had climbed to 20+% in 1975 (Wanninski, 1975), the value of the British pound sterling began to slide during the first quarter of 1976. By September that year confidence in the pound had virtually collapsed, and the British government was forced to seek help from the International Monetary Fund - an unprecented move for a first world country, and one which would not be seen repeated again until the 2011/12 Euro crisis or the near financial collapse of Greece in 2015. Not surprisingly, the subsequent political crisis left Britain in an even deeper state of gloom (Burk, 1992).

Just how difficult life had become for Marvel UK can be glimpsed from the fact that in July 1976 even the Avengers lost their own weekly title and were merged with the flagship weekly Mighty World of Marvel - which thus gained the tagline "and the Avengers". This was the logic behind the usage of the word "merger", and it became Marvel UK's fits-all approach to adjusting the number of weekly titles to a dwindling market.

The mergers created an ever increasing volatility in the line-up of characters featured in Marvel UK's weekly publications. As the number of characters featured in one weekly rose, the page count available to print their storylines grew smaller, resulting in some installments cut down to as few as four pages in one issue.

This was also true for POTA, which by September 1976 carried no less than five different storylines in its 34 interior pages. So let's take a closer look at the black and white content behind the glossy cover of Planet of the Apes #102, which went on sale in the UK the last week of 29 September 1976.


Marvel UK Planet of the Apes
"Quest for the Planet of the Apes -
Part I: Seeds of Future Deaths"

Originally published in Planet of the Apes #22 (July 1976)
Original story title: "Quest for the Planet of the Apes - Part I:
Seeds of Future Deaths"

Script - Doug Moench
Pencils - Rico Rival
Inks - Rico Rival

Original page count: 18
Reprinted pages:7


Quest for the Planet of the Apes is an original storyline penned by Doug Moench for Marvel's Planet of the Apes Magazine, linking up the fourth and the fifth movies (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, adaptations of which also appeared in the same title). The intention was to bridge the gap between the two movies and build a deeper continuity.

Marvel already had plenty of experience juggling around the Planet material and readers were used to the comics differing from the movies here and there, not the least as Marvel's adaptations were based on the shooting scripts rather than the actual movies.

A year after the ravages of a nuclear war, a new community of apes has formed who followed Caesar, their leader, out of "the city" following a revolt and after taking a number of humans as prisoners to act as a work force. Caesar is a moderate and harbours concerns regarding the mistreatment of humans at the hands of apes, which earns him continuous and growing accusations of being a traitor to the cause of the apes from his rival, Aldo. In a quest to determine leadership, Aldo challenges Caesar to journey back to the human city they left - and whoever brings back the "best thing" shall rule. Although knowing full well the dangers of entering the scene of nuclear warfare, Caesar is forced to accept, even though others urge him not to go...


US Planet of the Apes Magazine #22
(July 1976)

The Planet of the Apes material reprinted by Marvel UK differs from their other features in that the source material itself was only published in black and white in the US. The reason for this - to keep a rather long story short - was Marvel's drive to expand their market base at the outset of the 1970s. One way of doing this was to publish more and more comic book titles (which they did, tapping into genres other than superheroes, such as horror, sword & sorcery or martial arts). Another approach was to enter the field of magazine format comics, which did not fall under the scrutiny of the Comics Code Authority and therefore often featured stronger content both in terms of stories and artwork (i.e. moderate profanity, partial nudity, and more graphic violence). While the page count of these comic magazines could vary between 68 and 84 pages, their contents were invariably black & white and predominantly featured horror, fantasy and science fiction material. The comic magazines published by the House of Ideas didn't carry the Marvel Comics brand (not until late in the 1970s, that is) but ran under the imprint of Curtis (taken from Curtis Circulation, Marvel's distributor), shortened to CC as of 1975 (i.e. the same as featured in the issue number boxes of the regular Marvel comic books). In essence, Marvel was attacking Warren Publishing (of Vampirella fame) who dominated the comics magazine market, but in spite of the contributions of writers such as Doug Moench, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman and Archie Goodwin, the magazines never really fulfilled the promises Marvel perceived. In comparison to the competitors' titles, Marvel's comic magazines often never quite made it off the ground and many were cancelled before reaching two digit number issues. As was often the problem with Marvel in the 1970s, a lot less effort went into keeping titles afloat than into launching them.

The efforts of the editorial team for the first segment of POTA #102 were similarly lacking as they quite simply forgot to add any kind of pointer to the next issue in the final panel of this installment...



"Into the Lair of the Lizard Men!"

Originally published in Ka-Zar #12 (November 1975)
Original story title: "Wizard of Forgotten Flesh"

Script - Doug Moench
Pencils - Russ Heath
Inks - Russ Heath
Lettering - Joe Rosen

Original page count: 18
Reprinted pages: 6 (plus Marvel UK splash page)


Starting out with one of the many extra splash pages produced by Marvel's NYC staff for Marvel UK, this example illustrates how these pages were increasingly set up to avoid an all too abrupt entry for readers into what was in fact a mere segment of an original flow of events - as opposed to simply blowing up the final page panel from last week's installment (as had been the standard Marvel UK practice in 1973 and 1974). Often inspired, however, by a preceding single page panel, they were generally unsigned - and of varying quality. In this case, the New York based staffer had redrawn a panel (rather than just producing a stat and pasting it up) while turning it around 180 degrees and adding a group of "lizard men" in the foreground.  

Having Ka-Zar in the pages of POTA made sense, given that he is Timely Comics' 1940's copycat Tarzan, was revived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for X-Men #10 in March 1965, and has a history with "Man-Apes".

Ka-Zar is actually Kevin Reginald (Lord) Plunder, the eldest son of the English explorer Lord Robert Plunder who discovered the "Savage Land", a mysterious place underneath Antarctica which he found to be populated by several human or humanoid tribes as well as dinosaurs and other wild species. Following the death of his mother and the killing of his father by the barbaric Man-Ape natives of the Savage Land, Kevin Plunder was found and raised by the sabretooth tiger Zabu, who possesses near-human intelligence thanks to a mutation caused by "radioactive mists".


  Taking on the name of Ka-Zar (meaning "Son of the Tiger" in the language of the Man-Apes) he becomes an expert in living off the wild land and acts as an unofficial general protector of the Savage Land, preventing outside commercial exploitation and at the same time enforcing peace between the various tribes and serving as a goodwill ambassador to friendly visitors - the first of which were the original X-Men.

The story partially reprinted here comes from his second (of a total of four) own ongoing series which ran for a total of twenty issues between 1974 and 1977.

The 18 pages of an original US issue were commonly split up over three weekly UK issues, and here readers get the middle part of "Wizard of Forgotten Flesh", which features the mysterious lizard men clan with their wizard and an even more mysterious female power monger called Sheesa.

Sometimes, Marvel UK editorial was quite simply lucky - as in this case, where the final panel of the installment left more than ample room to add an additional line of exposition to point readers to next week's installment of Ka-Zar in POTA.

In the case of this issue's Ka-Zar material, Russ Heath's artwork seemed to have rather more umph than the Planet of the Apes material. The man from the Savage Land and his sabretooth companion had been a part of the lineup of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes since issue #2. Adding some original Marvel material to the Planet adaptations, Ka-Zar reinforced POTA's non-superhero character. As such, it was probably either hit or miss for "traditional" Marvel readers, but as with Star Wars it was above all the large fan community which came away from the movies that bought POTA and kept it going for so long.


"...Once More A Man!"

Originally published in Man-Thing (Vol. 1) #8 (August 1974)
Original story title: "The Gift of Death!"

Script - Steve Gerber
Pencils - Mike Ploog
Inks - Mike Ploog
Lettering - Artie Simek

Original page count: 18
Reprinted pages: 3 (plus Marvel UK splash/intro page)


The economically forced mergers of various Marvel weeklies resulted in more features per title with less pages each for their respective storylines. Things were starting to get a little cramped in Marvel UK's titles in late 1976, as the the Man-Thing installment featured in POTA #102 serves to illustrate.

Man-Thing was the feature, together with Dracula, which was continued from Dracula Lives! when Marvel UK's horror themed weekly merged with Planet of the Apes. Marvel's muck monster (conceived by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in late 1970 and fleshed out by Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow in 1971) had made its Marvel UK debut in issue #63 of Dracula Lives! in January 1976, when Marvel UK ran out of Living Mummy material - as was likely to happen, given the weekly publication schedule of what sometimes was original material from a bi-monthly only cycle in the US.

This problem - which quickly haunted all of Marvel UK's weeklies - was slowed down a bit when the "merger weeklies" happened, but really all that the UK editorial crew got was simply a different kind of headache as they now sometimes had to shrink a weekly installment to a page count which hardly allowed the story to move on in a sensible way for readers. The only saving grace was the fact that British comic book readers were actually used to such a setup and hence more forgiving than one can imagine today.


But then they simply had to be, in cases such as this, where the Man-Thing feature pointed readers to next week's issue of POTA after a mere four pages - a featurette at best.
  Such a dissection called for an even larger number of splash pages especially produced for the Marvel UK weeklies, as features with lower page counts also required some form of story recap to provide at least some minimal structure for the readership.

For POTA #102, this resulted in a two panel page which was more like an additional story page than an actual splash page. For obvious reasons, this material was never credited, but some general information did pop up now and then in the bulletin pages of the Marvel UK weeklies.

"Adorable ED HANNIGAN and Mischievous MIKE ESPOSITO, long time workers on these books, have been teaming up on covers drawn especially for the British editions of THE PLANET OF THE APES! And while we're on the subjects of covers, we might as well throw in the name of PABLO MARCOS, who's been doing most of our DRACULA LIVES frontispieces!" (Marvel UK Bullpen Bulletin, 16 November 1974)

Marcos had a long standing involvement with Marvel UK covers, but interior artwork was sometimes seemingly also handed to UK staffers, George Mina being one of them.

The segment of the Man-Thing story originally featured in Man-Thing (Vol. 1) #8 (August 1974) really is too abrievated to be recapped here, but interestingly enough it had been available to readers in the UK previously, in late summer 1974, in its original form, as Man-Thing #8 had been prodcued and exported to Britain by Marvel as a UK pence price variant.

Dracula Lives !
"Gorgolla! The Living Gargoyle!"

Originally published in Strange Tales #74 (April 1960)
Original story title: "Gorgolla! The Living Gargoyle!!"

Script - Larry Lieber (plot by Stan Lee)
Pencils - Jack Kirby
Inks - Dick Ayers
Lettering - Artie Simek

Original page count: 7
Reprinted pages: 7 (plus Marvel UK splash page)


Almost as though Marvel UK wanted to offer readers at least one entire full length reprint of original US material, the Dracula Lives feature offered an old Stan Lee and Jack Kirby monster yarn instead of the usual Tomb of Dracula material. While this did provide readers not only with a full length but also a self-contained done-in-one story, these late 1950s and early 1960s "reprint fillers" were never hugely popular with readers. It was, however, a convenient way for editorial to catch their breath once in a while with the Dracula material as the count was reduced to a first page banner reading COUNT DRACULA, LORD OF THE UNDEAD, presents: - in this case Gorgolla, the Living Gargoyle, a typical specimen of the gallery of monsters drawn by Kirby and labelled with double consonant-heavy names by Stan "the Man".


No editorial touchup other than the initial banner itself was needed, and these monster stories were indeed printed without any alterations as such.

Following this fourth feature in POTA #102 there was even a fifth waiting for readers - a return, so to speak, to the Planet of the Apes...


Marvel UK Planet of the Apes
"...Run for Your Life!"

Originally published in Planet of the Apes #3 (December 1974)
Original story title: "Manhunt"

Script - Doug Moench
Pencils - George Tuska
Inks - Mike Esposito

Original page count: 20
Reprinted pages:6


Coming from the very early issues of the US comic magazine Planet of the Apes, the story reprinted in part here is a part of an original storyline arc penned by Doug Moench and pencilled and inked by Marvel stalwarts George Tuska and Mike Esposito.

Having two Planet of the Apes features in one issue of POTA made things even more cramped than they would already have been with four different feature segments, but the Planet material was simply deemed too successful to do with less.

Successful comic book adaptations such as Star Wars and Planet of the Apes allowed Marvel to tap into a reader segment which it normally would not reach with its original (predominantly superhero) material. Marvel UK thus had to carefully balance out things when it merged such a title as POTA, and the result was that the Simians continued to play a predominant role even after Planet of the Apes merged with Dracula Lives. The covers alone gave a clear indication of who was running this weekly: with less than a handful of exceptions, they would always feature the apes from POTA.

Even the indicia hinted at this, as it stated that the material contained in this comic was based upon "the widely acclaimed" series of motion pictures commencing with The Planet of the Apes from 1967 - a completely unnecessary appraisal which made the House of Ideas look like it was even blowing its marketing trumpet in what commonly is the most technical and matter of fact text segment in any publication.


US Planet of the Apes Magazine #3
(December 1974)

POTA #102 was so filled to the brim with reprint material that there simply was no room to publish any editorial material such as a bullpen bulletin - other issues were somewhat less crowded and also ran a letters page aptly titled "Ape's Fang Mail". But for issue #102, the only in-house material was a 5/6 page advertisement for Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #190. As the title clearly states, this was another weekly resulting from a merger - and, as can be seen from the ad, one of two which Marvel UK published in landscape format for a while (the other being The Titans).
Other than that, readers got a full colour advert (on the back cover) for Kellogg's Frosties which by today's standards is probably somewhat lacking in PC, and the almost standard plastic model kit advert (on the inside front cover) although this time for a brand made in Italy.

The Planet of the Apes franchise was a huge success for Marvel, both in the US and as a weekly in the UK. POTA ran for a total of 123 issues from late October 1974 to late February 1977 when it, too, was merged with another Marvel UK weekly, the flagship Mighty World of Marvel (#231, 2 March 1977). However, only three months later, in mid-June 1977, Marvel UK dropped the Savage Simians from its line completely after their last appearance in Mighty World of Marvel #246 - not the least due to the fact that Marvel UK had, quite simply, run out of material to reprint (Kirby, 2011).

More on Marvel UK in 1976:



Planet of the Apes Marvel UK



BURK Kathleen (1992) Goodbye, Great Britain: The 1976 IMF Crisis, Yale University Press

KIRBY Robin (2011) personal communication

KIRBY Robin (2013) "The Mighty World of Marvel UK", in Back Issue #63, April 2013

SANDERSON Peter (1998) Marvel Universe, Abrams

WANNINSKI Jude (1975) "Goodbye, Great Britain", The Wall Street Journal (April 29 1975 issue)


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