Shiny Shelf

Marvelman Family’s Finest

By Jim Smith on 20 July 2010

When Marvel finally solved the riddle of the Sphinx and put together a deal that all parties agreed gave them ownership of the Marvelman character, everyone assumed that their primary interest in doing so was to get the Alan Moore written ‘Marvelman’ series from ‘Warrior’ back in to print.

However, the first real consequence of Marvel’s acquisition of the character (assuming that the death of The Sentry, a Marvelman like character if ever there was one, doesn’t count) is the first issue of this six issue series reprinting stories from the 1950s.

I’ll admit I was slightly foxed by this decision. After all, what I (and many others) want is a nice hardback to replace that tatty pile of second hand issues of ‘Warrior’. How could a load of generic 1950s kids comics be worth reprinting? (Beyond the, obviously worthwhile, objective of allowing Marvelman’s creator Mike Anglo to benefit from his own character for the first time in an age.)

All the stories in this issue are written by Anglo and drawn by a variety of artists that I, for one, am unfamiliar with. They form an interesting historical counterpoint with the far better known, if technically unavailable Moore run.

(After all, ‘Warrior’ itself is now as old as these stories were when ‘Warrior’ was being published.)

The disparity between the Marvelman that people like me would recognise and the one that Anglo created is incredibly well, er, illustrated by the contrast between the skinny, brooding Christ-like figure on Marko Djurdjevic’s superb cover and the wide, hearty, clear eyed adventurer seen in the interior art.

It would be absurdly generous to describe any of these stories as “great”, but they have a certain clarity and, yes, inventiveness that is endearing and worthy of praise. “Marvelman Family and the Giant Marrow” has a hallucinatory quality, as the family travel to the domain of the Vegetable King and stop him disrupting the Hogsworthy Village Agricultural Show. No, really. (This story benefits, as does the charming “Introducing Kid Marvelman!” from art by one Don Lawrence that is surprising detailed and energetic for the period.)

What makes the reprints in this series so interesting is not that they ostensibly inspired Moore’s magnum opus, it’s more that Mick Anglo and his artists were creating an American style comic book in Britain.

Marvelman is (in theory) set in America, albeit an America seemingly derived from films set twenty years before the stories were written. Yet the art, a lot of the iconography and much of the storytelling is far more reminiscent of British boys’ comics of the ‘Victor’ and ‘Hotspur’ kind than it could ever be of the Silver Age DC stories being published at the same time.

Or to put it another way, Mick Anglo’s Marvelman finds a writer offering a profoundly British angle on superhero comics, a genre that is almost uniquely, American.

Which is also exactly what Alan Moore’s did. Which rather proves the validity of reprinting them, I think. No?

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2 Responses

  1. Jim Smith says:

    Fair enough.