Marvelman, a British Golden Age superhero comic book, emerged onto the scene in 1954, filling the void left by the discontinuation of Captain Marvel. Published by L. Miller & Son in the United Kingdom, the character’s journey spans multiple phases, from its creation in the challenging post-World War II era to its revival and transformation into Miracleman in the 1980s. This article will explore the creation, publishing history, success, decline, and eventual revival of Marvelman, showcasing its enduring legacy.
Publication Period: 1954 – 1963
Revival: 1982 (Warrior), Renamed to Miracleman in 1985
Rights: Licensed by Marvel Comics since 2009
Marvelman, a British Golden Age superhero comic book, was created by Mick Anglo as a replacement for Captain Marvel after Fawcett Publications ended the latter’s titles due to legal action by DC Comics.
Marvelman was published by L. Miller & Son in the UK from 1954 to 1963. The character transitioned from Captain Marvel, inheriting the numbering of the Captain Marvel series.
Marvelman was a weekly comic with 28 pages, retaining the same dimensions as US comic books. Each issue featured two 8-page Marvelman tales, a third back-up feature, humor strips, and editorial content.
Marvelman surpassed the sales of Captain Marvel, leading to spin-offs, a fan club, and annuals. The Marvelman Family monthly series ran for 30 issues, featuring Marvelman, Young Marvelman, and Kid Marvelman.
Decline and Cancellation
British sales declined after the ban on importing American comics was lifted in 1959. In 1960, the title switched to monthly status with reprints, and the final issues were dated February 1963.
Ownership of Marvelman remained in limbo until 2009 when Mick Anglo’s rights were confirmed. Marvel Comics licensed the character, reprinted vintage material, and continued under the name Marvelman.
In 1982, Marvelman was revived in the anthology comic Warrior and later continued by Eclipse Comics in 1985, renamed as Miracleman. Modern reception to the original material has been mixed.
Creation and Publishing History
In the aftermath of World War II, with the British economy recovering, a ban on importing American comics led to a surge in indigenous comic production. L. Miller & Son, seizing an opportunity, licensed characters like Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. from Fawcett Publications. However, after a legal case against National Comics in 1952, Fawcett discontinued their superhero material, leaving L. Miller & Son without a critical source.
Len Miller approached artist Mick Anglo to fill this gap, creating Marvelman and Young Marvelman. The transition from Captain Marvel to Marvelman occurred in 1954, with Marvelman #25 introducing Micky Moran as the new hero. Like its predecessor, the comic was a weekly publication, maintaining the dimensions of US comic books. Each issue featured Marvelman tales, humor strips, and backup features.
Artists from Anglo’s studio, including James Bleach, Norman Light, and Don Lawrence, contributed to Marvelman. The character’s origin involved Micky Moran gaining superpowers from an astrophysicist, allowing him to transform into Marvelman by uttering the word “Kimota.”
Marvelman’s success exceeded Captain Marvel’s, leading to spin-offs like Marvelman Family. The character’s adventures ranged from battling the villainous Doctor Gargunza to encountering historical figures and mythical characters. The series embraced self-contained stories, occasionally featuring serials across multiple issues.
Decline and Cancellation
Despite Marvelman’s initial success, lifting the ban on American comics in 1959 led to declining British sales. In 1960, the title switched to a monthly format with reprints, and the annuals diminished in size and quality. Mick Anglo departed in 1961, and the final issues of Marvelman and Young Marvelman were published in February 1963.
L. Miller & Son ceased publishing comics in 1963, and Alan Class Comics later acquired the company’s assets. The character Marvelman spent years in publishing limbo, with questions about ownership and copyright. In 2009, it was revealed that Mick Anglo had retained the rights to the character, leading to a licensing agreement with Marvel Comics.
Legacy and Revival
Marvelman’s legacy endured through a revival initiated by Quality Communications founder Dez Skinn and writer Alan Moore. The character returned to the pages of Warrior in 1982, later renamed Miracleman in 1985. Eclipse Comics continued the revival in the United States, addressing objections from Marvel Comics by renaming the character.
Reprints of Marvelman’s original material began with Marvel Comics licensing the character from Mick Anglo in 2009. The series was released under the original Marvelman name, with Miracleman retained for the material produced from 1982 onwards.
The character’s legacy extended to fan clubs, annuals, and overseas publications. Marvelman’s success paved the way for Miracleman and various reprints, allowing new generations to discover the character’s rich history.
Reception and Modern Impact
Modern reception to the original Marvelman material has been mixed. Alan Moore, the acclaimed writer behind the character’s revival, acknowledged the early stories’ simplicity and highlighted their historical significance. Reviews of the vintage material have varied, with some critics pointing to its dated nature, while others appreciate its contribution to British superhero comics.
Reprints of the original Marvelman material have received a diverse reception recently. While some fans appreciate the historical value and nostalgic elements, others criticize the stories as outdated. The character’s impact on the comic book landscape is undeniable, influencing subsequent generations of creators and contributing to the ongoing evolution of the superhero genre.
Marvelman’s journey from its creation in the 1950s to its revival and reprints in the 21st century reflects the dynamic nature of the comic book industry. The character’s initial success, decline, and subsequent revival underscore the resilience of iconic superheroes. Marvelman’s legacy lives on through its historical significance and the ongoing exploration and reinterpretation of the character’s stories. As Marvelman continues to be reprinted and rediscovered, its impact on the world of comics remains an essential chapter in the broader narrative of superhero storytelling.
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What is Marvelman?
Marvelman is a British Golden Age superhero comic book initially published by L. Miller & Son in the United Kingdom between 1954 and 1963. Mick Anglo created the character as a replacement for Captain Marvel after Fawcett Publications ended the latter’s titles due to legal action by DC Comics.
When was Marvelman created?
Marvelman was created in response to the British ban on importing American comics in the post-World War II era. The character was introduced in 1954 by Mick Anglo, who devised Marvelman and Young Marvelman as replacements for characters from Fawcett Publications.
How did Marvelman transition from Captain Marvel?
Marvelman transitioned from Captain Marvel in L. Miller & Son’s Captain Marvel #24. The storyline revealed that Billy Batson had decided to retire, and Micky Moran took his place as Marvelman. This led to the debut of Marvelman #25 on February 3, 1954.
What was Marvelman’s content?
Marvelman was a weekly comic that retained the exact dimensions of US comic books to avoid resizing costs. Each issue was 28 pages long, printed in black and white on newsprint, with only the covers in color. It typically contained two 8-page Marvelman tales, a third backup feature, humor strips, and an editorial section.
Who were the creators of Marvelman?
Mick Anglo initially handled the strip, later involving other artists from his studio, including James Bleach, Norman Light, and Don Lawrence. The studio adopted a system similar to the “Marvel method,” where artists had creative input. The British comic industry of the time did not credit creators extensively, but artists like Ron Embleton, George Stokes, and Denis Gifford were identified as contributors.
Who were Marvelman’s notable villains?
Marvelman’s most lasting villain was evil scientist Doctor Gargunza, a reinvention of Captain Marvel’s arch-enemy Doctor Sivana. Another recurring antagonist was the fictional Eastern bloc country of Boromania. The character faced various challenges, including time travel adventures encountering historical figures, and mythical characters.
Was Marvelman successful?
Yes, Marvelman was a success, exceeding the sales of Captain Marvel. It led to the creation of several spin-offs, including the Marvelman Club fan club and Marvelman annuals. The character was exported to other countries, and Mick Anglo also created similar characters for Spanish and Brazilian publishers.
What led to Marvelman’s decline and cancellation?
Sales began to decline after the ban on importing American comics was lifted in November 1959. In 1960, Marvelman switched to a monthly status with reprints, and the quality of annuals decreased. Mick Anglo left the title in 1960, and the final issues of Marvelman and Young Marvelman were dated February 1963.
Who owns the rights to Marvelman?
In 2009, it was revealed that Mick Anglo retained the character’s rights despite the industry standard of work-for-hire. Marvel Comics licensed the character from Anglo in 2009, allowing the return to the Marvelman name for reprints of the vintage material.
What is Marvelman’s legacy?
Marvelman was revived in the comics anthology Warrior in 1982 and later renamed Miracleman in 1985. The character’s legacy includes a revival by Alan Moore, continued by Eclipse Comics. Marvel Comics acquired the rights in 2009, leading to reprints and using the Marvelman name for the vintage material.
How has the original Marvelman material been received?
Modern reception to the original Marvelman material has been mixed. Some critics find the stories simplistic in art and script, while others appreciate the nostalgic and historical value of the vintage adventures. The character’s return has sparked renewed interest in the original material, although opinions on its quality vary.
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