"Captain America joins... The Avengers!"
(22 pages)
Reprint minus page 6, originally published in Avengers #4 (March 1964)
Story - Stan Lee
Pencils - Jack Kirby
Inks - George Roussos
Lettering - Art Simek

"The Origin of Dr. Strange"
(8 pages)
Full reprint, originally published in Strange Tales #115 (December 1963)
Story - Stan Lee
Pencils - Steve Ditko
Inks - Steve Ditko
Lettering - Sam Rosen

The cover is composed of artwork from various sources


Avengers Weekly #1 (UK, 22 September 1973)



Mighty World of Marvel #46 introduced the Avengers
(18 August 1973)



On the last Saturday of September 1972, a new comic book appeared on British newsagent stands. Cover dated "week ending Oct. 7, 1972", Mighty World of Marvel #1 heralded the beginning of Marvel UK (as the House of Ideas' British imprint would soon be known as).

The first issue of Mighty World of Marvel (which would quickly acquire the affectionate acronym of MWOM) started out with the origin stories of the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, and quickly proved to be the huge success Marvel no doubt had hoped for. A little more than four months and 19 issues after the launch of MWOM, Marvel UK made its next move to increase its share of the British market by launching their second weekly on February 10th 1973 - Spider-Man Comics Weekly (SMCW for short).

Thor was introduced as the back-up feature in SMCW whilst Daredevil took the place of Spider-Man in the pages of MWOM, adding yet more superheroes to the growing ranks of Marvel UK - and these were expanded further in August 1973 when the Avengers were introduced in Mighty World of Marvel #46, starting out with the classic Stan Lee / Jack Kirby origin tale from Avengers #1.




Marvel UK's two weeklies - Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly - were selling extremely well all over the UK.

It therefore wasn't long until a third weekly title, along with more Marvel characters, hit the news agents.


  Only a mere month after having made their debut in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel, the Avengers, were moved to their own title - aptly named The Avengers and hitting the UK's news stands the week ending on 22 September 1973.

Since the adventures of this team of superheroes had kicked off four weeks prior in the pages of Mighty World Of Marvel, the reprints of their US material simply continued into The Avengers with the now classic story from Avengers #4 (March 1964), which famously marked the re-introduction of Captain America (an expanded synopsis of the storyline can be found here).

As a consequence, readers who picked up the first issue of this new weekly without ever having read a single copy of MWOM would be at something of a loss as to who and what exactly this group of superheroes were - and for obvious reasons, the original splash page from the US Avengers #4 didn't really provide any help in that direction either.

However, editorial at Marvel UK did provide something of a hint through the title headlines that were being added to every single page at the time - which in this case read "The Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Banded Together In One Fighting Team!".

The Avengers were joined in their own title by Doctor Strange, adding yet another character to the growing ranks of Marvel UK.

  Doctor Strange (or Dr. Strange, as he was named in his early days) had featured in UK reprints published by Odhams Press in the early issues of Terrific! back in 1967 (the same publisher also reprinted some Avengers material in issues of Smash! in 1966).

However, since the vast majority of readers who picked up the new weekly Avengers in September 1973 would know nothing about Stephen Strange, it made sense to launch him into the fold of Marvel UK not with his actual first appearance from Strange Tales #110 (July 1963) but rather with his origin tale from Strange Tales #115 (December 1963).

Back in 1963 Stan Lee had been playing catch-up with this origin feature, since the Sorcerer Supreme had already featured in five previous issues of Strange Tales. And in typical Marvel style, readers were let in on the fact that "we forgot to give you his origin" - "it could only happen to the off-beat Marvel Comics Group!"

Whilst this served the purpose of establishing the "club atmosphere" for readers of Marvel comics at the time (after all, what's a little slip-up amongst friends), it clearly would have made no sense to readers of Marvel UK's Avengers #1, since this was the very first time they encountered Doctor Strange. Accordingly, the fairly large text box on the introduction page was dropped and the entire page reworked in order to avoid having too much empty space.

It was all part of editing the US material for the UK weeklies, which featured various approaches and tasks. At the time of publication of Avengers #1, editorial oversight was in the hands of Peter L. Skingley - who was, in fact, Petra L. Skingley. Seemingly the common publisher's wisdom of the time dictated that "boys comics" should have male editors, even if by "pen name" only.




Editorial at Marvel UK had a number of options at hand to adapt the original material for their use in the UK weeklies, and most issues ended up with more than one tweak - as is indeed the case for Avengers #1.


Usually this meant dropping an entire page (or two) of the original material, but what sounds like a fairly drastic thing to do was actually also established practice at Marvel US in the 1970s, because many of its 1970s reprint titles by then had a lower page count than the 1960s issues they featured. This editorial measure therefore differed fundamentally from e.g. the still common practice in the early 1970s to cut scenes from movies for what in essence were reasons of censorship.

Nevertheless, it did of course affect the integrity of the work. On the other hand, a lot would be going on within the 20+ pages of a 1960s comic book story, and if done properly, the omission would hardly be noticeable. Case in point: the omission of page 6 from Avengers #4 (March 1964) in Marvel UK's Avengers #1 (September 1973).

Comic book stories from the Silver Age would often feature "plot loops" which would insert a little sub-story before getting back to the course of the main events, and the page that had to be dropped for lack of space in Marvel UK's first issue of The Avengers does precisely that. The team is somewhat uncertain about the authenticity of Captain America and voices their concerns (panel 1), leading Cap to give a demonstration of his capabilities (panels 2-5) which results in a "we're convinced" conclusion (panel 6).


Avengers #4, page 6
(March 1964)

To some degree, the cropping of panels falls into this category of editorial adjustments as well. This editorial measure was deemed necessary in the early days of Marvel UK in order to better fit the original material onto a British comic book page - the size of which (21.6cm x 28cm; 8.5" x 11") differed from the standard US comic book page (18.1cm x 26.7cm; 7.1/8" x 10.5").

  The resulting cuts in panel height could be just that (usually simply cutting off the bottom part of a line of panels) or involve major work including the repositioning and reworking of word balloons, as illustrated by panels from US Avengers #4 and UK Avengers #1.

In comparison to some reprints of Marvel material by UK publishers in the 1960s (who would at times completely rearrange panels and pages with wild abandon), this editorial intrusion is clearly a very minor form of "mutilation" - which also is by no means unique to comic books, as many film aficionados can attest to when it comes to aspect ratios.

Ultimately, however, this editorial effort was deemed unnecessary and subsequently dropped completely - not the least because it was an extremely tedious job, which in 1972 and 1973 was assigned to a young Dave Gibbons (later to gain fame as an artist in his own right for e.g. Watchmen).

"I got a call from a guy called Rob Barrow [who had] heard from a lady called, I believe, Pippa Melling who was the de facto editor of the about-to-start MWOM. The production prints they'd received from the States still had US spelling. Rob knew that I'd done lettering for Fleetway and thought I would be just the man. I met up with Pippa in the offices they then had in High Holborn and agreed the details (...) I worked on high quality prints mounted on heavy board, using strips of patch paper to do the corrections. A fiddly business (...) I had to cut the patch with a scalpel held at an angle, to chamfer the edges and prevent shadow, then go round each edge with white-out, just to make sure (...) I would get pages through the mail, do the corrections and mail them back, usually under a tight deadline. I can't remember when or how I stopped, but I would guess that they took to doing the corrections in the US." (Dave Gibbons, in Stringer 2007)



Adding material as an editorial measure usually meant small added tweaks, although this would include splashpages specially produced for the British weeklies in New York once Marvel UK's titles went on to feature three or more characters in one issue, necessitating segmentation of the original material.

An example for a smaller editorial tweak actually serves to smooth the transition of the original material over the gap created by dropping page 6 from Avengers #4 (March 1964) - the addition of a word balloon with Thor wondering "But how is this possible?" is answered by the first text panel of the next page: "Slowly, almost haltingly, the incredible tale begins to issue forth from the lips of the mighty man with the tragedy-haunted eyes..." - although for some reason editorial felt the need to change "the incredible story" to "an incredible story" (which admittedly sounds better stylistically). At this point in time there was quite a lot of effort put into textual details such as this one - an approach which would fall by the wayside rather quickly once more material was published.

Avengers #45 (UK, July 1974), Avengers #39 (April 1967), Avengers #49 (UK, August 1974)


Avengers #1
(UK, September 1973)

Avengers #4
(March 1964)

Early splash page additions (required to segue readers into a segment of a story originally published within one single issue) were simply made by turning using a panel from the story (in the case of UK Avengers #45 even featuring the nice added touch of a credit panel which, for obvious reasons, is lacking in the panel lifted from US Avengers #45). Later splash pages would be more elaborate productions, sometimes featuring fully original artwork.

the other end of the affair (cutting away and leaving an original storyline to be continued in next week's issue) was obviously a much easier editorial task - sometimes applied with a bare minimum text panel, and sometimes a tad more elaborate, even attempting to imitate Marvel's amicably and quippy style.

Avengers #32 (UK, April 1974), Avengers #33 (October 1966), Avengers #50 (UK, August 1974), Avengers #42 (July 1967)



In some (albeit rarer) cases, it was necessary to cut and paste the original material in a "mix and match reprint" approach. In the example shown here, page 14 of Spider-Man Comics Weekly #47 (January 1974) never existed in that form in the original Amazing Spider-Man #53 (October 1967).

Amazing Spider-Man #53 (October 1967)

  In order to fit the original material to the page count of SMCW #47 and in addition to dropping two pages outright, editorial took the first panel of the original page 17 and spliced it onto page 18 as the first panel of that page, thus turning two original pages into one reprint page.

On the surface of things, UK readers "only" missed out on some social interaction between Peter Parker and his friends - but on closer inspection this included the information that Aunt May was looking for a boarder (a fact which would prove to be a major plot linchpin).


Spider-Man Comics Weekly #47
(UK, January 1974)

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #47 is an example of the rougher kind of editing that sometimes took place at Marvel UK, effectively making readers miss out on almost 3 out of 20 pages of the original story as presented in Amazing Spider-Man #53. It must have been clear to the powers in charge from the outset that this would not work as a regular approach - and as of Spider-Man Comics Weekly #50 (January 1974), the reprints were presented in segments of between 9 and 12 pages of material from an original US issue.


The fact that Marvel UK's titles were published weekly also required a number of editorial patches with regards to the somewhat frequent references to previous events and storylines and when and where they were published.


Avengers #1
(UK, September 1973)

  The tweaks editorial had to effect in this respect could include any or all of the following:

- references to time (e.g. change "as seen in last month's issue" or "to be continued next month" to weekly references), or

- references to issues (sometimes this would just require changing an issue number, but most often the title had to be changed too, as in this example from UK Avengers #1 which originally referenced a story from Fantastic Four Annual #1 reprinted by Marvel UK in Mighty World of Marvel #36-38).

Sometimes references also simply had to be dropped because they referred to material not (yet) reprinted in the UK.


Avengers #4
(March 1964)



There are a number of well-known differences between US and British spelling, and (at least initially) Marvel UK went to great lengths to adapt the original material accordingly.


Avengers #1
(UK, September 1973)

  One example from Avengers #1 changes the US "realization" to the correct British spelling "realisation", and the individual doing those alterations in 1972 and 1973 was, again, then 23-year-old Dave Gibbons.

"I did all the anglicizing of spelling in the first year or so (...) As it generally involved lengthening words ("colour" for "color", say), I often had to redo whole lines of copy." (Dave Gibbons, in Stringer 2007)

The reputation of comic books in the early 1970s still found itself on shaky grounds at times, and Marvel UK clearly didn't want to get caught promoting wrong spelling and, to a lesser degree, grammar.


Avengers #4
(March 1964)




Stan Lee was heavily into an "international dream" (Kirby, 2019) for Marvel, but nobody had originally planned or intended for the House of Ideas to publish its material in the UK themselves. It was only when a collaboration deal with London based comic book distributor Martspress Ltd (Beal, 1997) fell through - leaving Marvel with a substantial investment at risk - that the (somewhat forced) decision was made to go it alone (Kirby, 2019). It would quickly turn out to be yet another success story.

Marvel UK, as the British imprint would become known as, not only established a sense of order and chronological continuity (which had been sorely lacking in the licensed UK reprints of the 1960s) for readers, but also - and perhaps most importantly so - the feeling of authenticity.

This was truly the House of Ideas at work, and readers in Britain now got their real share of Merry Marveldom - not only its visual house style, but also its friendly and chatty (often tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes waaaay over the top) editorial style as established by the Maestro Supreme Stan Lee. It all was essential in creating a sense of community.

Having the original and not a watered-down copy was a first for British comic book readers - and it struck a welcome sentimental chord with seasoned readers accustomed to the US publications. The "Bullpen Bulletins" became a feature of the UK weeklies as much as they were an integral part of Marvel's US comic books, and during the first two years of Marvel UK also contained an anglicised version of Stan Lee's famous "soapbox". Inspired by the way how William Gaines and his EC Comics reached out to and involved readers of their titles in the early 1950s, Stan Lee understood (possibly like no other) the magic of creating something of a club atmosphere and making readers feel that they were actually part of something special.

"I didn't want us to be doing these books in a vacuum, because you know comic books had no advertising budget, no promotion. There were no ads on television, on the radio, in newspapers - you just printed your comic book and it was out there, and I was (...) on a crusade, a mission, to let the world know about the marvelous world of Marvel. So in that sense, I guess I was a little bit of a huckster." (NN, 2003)

Just as their American counterparts, Marvel UK's titles also featured regular in-house advertising - which always served a double purpose at the House of Ideas, since presentation played a huge role in accentuating the "wonderful world of Marvel". Accordingly, the issues of Mighty World of Marvel preceding the launch of The Avengers all carried ads promoting the new weekly title.


Mighty World of Marvel #51
(29 September 1973)

And as had been the case when Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly were launched, the first issue of Avengers featured a welcoming message. However, things were a bit different this time around. There was no double page spread but rather just two thirds of page 13, and there was no mentioning of who was actually addressing the "adventure lover" holding the comic book. It feels somewhat odd that the name Stan Lee isn't mentioned in this context - possibly an editorial slip-up.

The style in which readers were being greeted to this new weekly comic book did, however, sound very much like Lee's banter and hyperbole.

"The Avengers mag came into being because you wanted it. In an avalanche of letters you asked for it, you clamoured for it, and finally demanded it."

Taking into account that there would also be first time readers who knew nothing about Marvel nor the other two weeklies, they were duly informed that

"when you slapped your six pence down on your newsagents' counter and asked for number one of The Avengers you weren't just buying a comic book. You were paying your entrance fee to a way of living, Marvel-style. Marvel is going places and you're one of us now, so stay with us because we want you with us every step of the way."

Keeping up the British comic book tradition of free gifts in the first few issues of a new title (Mighty World of Marvel #1 came with a Hulk iron-on transfer, Spider-Man Comics Weekly #1 with a printed paper bag advertised as a Spider-Man Mask, and Avengers #1 again with transfers), readers were promised "the greatest free gift ever offered" with the next week's second issue of The Avengers. The "Wonder Weapon" turned out to be a flat cardboard gun which used a rubber band to fire flat cardboard discs...

The Avengers also brought changes to the entire line of Marvel's UK weeklies, introducing glossy colour covers - as well as a drop in page count from 40 pages to 32.



The line-up of The Avengers continued with two features (the Avengers and Dr Strange) until Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, was added to the fold as of Avengers #28 (30 March 1974), resulting in what would become the defining and typical format of Marvel UK^s weeklies: original material from one US issue cut into segments and spread out over two (or more) UK issues.
Following the failed attempt to launch a weekly title featuring Conan the Barbarian, he was transferred to the pages of The Avengers as of issue #95 in mid-July 1975 - a change in line-up that came at the cost of Dr Strange, who would only make sporadic comebacks in Marvel UK's weeklies after this demise.

By that time, the UK comic book market was overshadowed by a British economy in free-fall. Following a rise in inflation to more than 20% (Wanninski, 1975), the value of the British pound sterling began to slide and the ensuing political crisis left Britain in a state of gloom and a climate of mistrust (Burk, 1992). Marvel UK was rolling with the punches too, and one consequence was the cancellation of the Avengers weekly title following issue #148 in mid-July 1976; both the Avengers and Conan were carried over into the pages of Mighty World of Marvel - which as a result ran no less than five different features per issue.

But instability was the general tune of the time, and the Avengers would only last a mere 13 issues in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel before ceding their place to Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, as of MWOM #212 (October 1976) and being transferred to the pages of Super Spider-Man and the Titans.


The Avengers, like many other A list features, would subsequently find themselves moving in and out of Marvel UK's titles and re-titled weeklies throughout the remaining years of the decade.


  There's more on the 1970s history of Marvel UK here, and some closer looks at specific titles and issues here.
  There's more on the behind-the-scenes workings for marvel UK both in the UK and in the Marvel Bullpen here.
  There's more on a Marvel US example of editorial dropping pages of original material for a reprint here (Marvel Super-Heroes #60, October 1976, reprinting Incredible Hulk #106 from August 1968).


BEAL George (1997) "Obituary: Leonard Matthews", The Independent, 5 December 1997

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

KIRBY Roy (2019) "Stan Lee, Al Landau, & the Transworld Connection", Alter Ego (vol. 3) #161

NN (2003) "Stan Lee Interview", contained as extra feature on the double disk DVD release of the movie Daredevil (personal transcript)

STRINGER Lew (2007) "Marvel UK: The early years", Blimey! The Blog of British Comics, published online 13 March 2007

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



The illustrations presented here are copyright material and are reproduced for strictly non-commercial and appreciative review purposes only.
Text is (c) 2023 Adrian Wymann

Page uploaded to the web 6 August 2023