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View Full Version : Was Marvel UK Transformers uncommonly good at this?


DrSpengler
2011-01-14, 10:41 PM
(NOT a Transformers thread, I assure you, so no need to move it, please)


I have sort of a general curiosity about UK comics if some of you guys could be so kind as to humor me.

I've been thinking about making a guide at my TMNT site for the UK TMHT comic and, looking through the books, I noticed that like the Marvel UK Transformers comic, the UK TMHT comic reprinted issues of US material, Archie's TMNT Adventures (broken up into 3 or 4 parts and spread across as many issues) with some new strips mixed in.

The Marvel UK Real Ghostbusters book was similar in that it reprinted the NOW! Comics US Real Ghostbusters issues (broken up, of course) with original strips mixed into the batch.

However, unlike Transformers, Real Ghostbusters and TMHT were terrible at it. The US comics all had ongoing storylines and defined chronology. Marvel UK/Fleetway didn't seem to pay much mind to that and simply reprinted whatever issues they wanted whenever they wanted, ignoring chronology and often skipping large chunks of material. Neither series came close to reprinting all the US material, either.

Then I look at Marvel UK's Transformers comic, which not only reprinted the entire US series in proper chronological order, but (more often than not) made a concerted effort to keep all of its original material from contradicting the US material, actually striving to compliment it, instead.


So I have to ask, was the Marvel UK Transformers book just an uncommon fluke in that it tried so hard to be consistent and complete? I know that a lot of US material (particularly Marvel) that was reprinted in the UK got the same treatment (broken up and spread across multiple issues and with constant gaps of coverage, arbitrarily jumping around a storyline).

Or did most UK comics amalgamating US material with original UK sidestories actually do a competent job, but Ghostbusters and TMHT were just awful at it?

inflatable dalek
2011-01-15, 10:21 AM
Transformers was fairly unique in that respect (and it's not something they cottoned onto immediately either, the first few stories are pretty much outside the US stuff).

Action Force, which is based even more closely on the Transformers model, did try the same thing but with it starting so much later than the US comic did there are huge swaths that aren't technically part of its continuity and they'd apparently reprint issues out of order and with heavy editing to fit in (for a minor example, dialogue in Flint's first US showing is altered to state he's just visiting from the UK rather than being brand new). There are bits of that in Transformers (most notably around Prime and Megs death's in relation to the Prey storyline) but for the bulk of the run the UK stuff can be happening just off stage in relation to the American comics with no problems whatsoever.

I think a factor in the two examples you mention would have been the reprints not being Marvel comics, so chances are they'd have had even less idea of what was coming up than Furman did. IIRC from what I've read the Ghosbusters UK strips were much shorter than the standard 11 page UK stuff, so one off gag strips with little overall plots were probably much simpler to do (and Transformers does a lot more of it in the shorter B&W stories).

The Marvel UK Star Wars comics apparently fit in well with the American stories, though there seems to be much less of them than Transformers and they're generally standalone. I'm not sure about other titles like Thundercats, or even if they had a mix of US/UK stories.

EDIT: One factor in out of order printing of American strips in the various other titles may have been to specifically tie in with the release of toys in the UK.

Cliffjumper
2011-01-15, 01:04 PM
Yeh, Action Force was a bit of a mess - it started off with the US reprints being closely vetted and chosen, but got more slapdash, and by the time it switched to being a monthly it started to get messy, largely dropping the idea of the regional AF units and the like, with the UK stuff tailored more to fit the reprints rather than the original plan of vice-versa.

I think that it's just as simple as there only being one Simon Furman at Marvel... I realise that sounds like mindless fanboy praise, but the truth is he did a Hell of a good job of editing himself and keeping things organised, making sure tweaks were made to the reprints (Krunix and so on), and it's no coincidence the UK continuity started to really unravel when he switched to the US book and didn't have as much time to keep it all so coordinated.

Transformers is fairly rare as a Marvel UK reprint book which just isn't hugely slapdash - Mighty World of Marvel had a reputation for reprinting issues that were years out of sync in the same issue, usually with minimal explanation.

Fleetway have always been dodgy with licenced titles - the G2 book only makes any sense because most people who've read it now have also read the American book and can fill in the blanks, and even then you still have Bludgeon attacking Earth to draw Prime out twice. They tend to struggle whenever they have to fill a book with one thing, which is more prominent from the 1990s onwards - if TMNT/TF had happened to them ten years earlier they'd have just slung it out in Eagle or Tiger.

inflatable dalek
2011-01-15, 01:17 PM
Though in fairness to all these titles, I'm sure for the most part this is only really noticeable in hindsight, I'm sure kids at the time didn't especially notice the difference between the UK and US comics.

Y
I think that it's just as simple as there only being one Simon Furman at Marvel... I realise that sounds like mindless fanboy praise, but the truth is he did a Hell of a good job of editing himself and keeping things organised, making sure tweaks were made to the reprints (Krunix and so on), and it's no coincidence the UK continuity started to really unravel when he switched to the US book and didn't have as much time to keep it all so coordinated.

Yep, it might be a backhanded compliment but it's easy to see why he's mostly worked in editing for the last twenty years. I think it also helped that, perhaps unlike a lot of people working on similar books, he didn't just regard it as just work for hire but an opportunity to get his foot in the door and show what he's got.

I think he was smart enough to realise that people like Alan Moore (who even pre-Watchmen was making great inroads in the American market) had started out on things like Doctor Who weekly and being a tie in didn't stop it giving him the chance to get to move onto "Proper" comics.

Certainly all the other stuff he did in the 80's came as a result of Transformers, and though it's easy to regard his attempts to crack America as a failure he still didn't do too badly for someone who got his break writing about toys.

Fleetway have always been dodgy with licenced titles - the G2 book only makes any sense because most people who've read it now have also read the American book and can fill in the blanks, and even then you still have Bludgeon attacking Earth to draw Prime out twice. They tend to struggle whenever they have to fill a book with one thing, which is more prominent from the 1990s onwards - if TMNT/TF had happened to them ten years earlier they'd have just slung it out in Eagle or Tiger.

In fairness, their Sonic the Comic was awesome (though as that was all homegrown stuff it didn't need to worry about reprints).

I wonder if with G2 Fleetway were thinking of doing all original stories right the way through and poor sales just forced them into American reprints almost immediately or if the plan had always been to go to them after providing a set up that avoided the need for knowledge of the G.I. Joe stuff? If it's the later it is done really, really badly. What's Furman's stance on having written them these days?

Cliffjumper
2011-01-15, 01:32 PM
I believe the most recent statement is the claim to have done them in the G2 TPB, though I personally believe that was royalty-motivated as at the time there could well have been plans to put them out. I'd seriously question he was actually involved in the comic beyond it using reprints of his material - the UK title started up around the time the US one finished, at which point he was still writing relatively prolifically for other US Marvel books.

I believe there was some sort of licensing reason for the original material - something like Marvel's TF licence had lapsed but they still had the G.I. Joe one, but I can't remember whether that got disproved or not... Fleetway's options for starting the thing weren't enviable - assuming they could reprint the G.I. Joe stuff, they either have the first issue or two of their own Transformers comic start off with minimal Transformers (but lots of a line which had been only a minor success in the UK at the time), or they start off with the TF stuff with references to a crossover that readers have never read, or they cut around these references and end up with a confused mess.

But I'd theorise that Hasbro put a bit of money into those UK strips to help it along, with the proviso that it heavily featured the figures that were actually in stores at the time.


In fairness, their Sonic the Comic was awesome (though as that was all homegrown stuff it didn't need to worry about reprints).

Well, so was Robo Machines, Danger Man and other licenced stuff that was just made in-house... It's gelling stuff with reprints that seems to have been the problem.

inflatable dalek
2011-01-15, 02:02 PM
I believe the most recent statement is the claim to have done them in the G2 TPB, though I personally believe that was royalty-motivated as at the time there could well have been plans to put them out. I'd seriously question he was actually involved in the comic beyond it using reprints of his material - the UK title started up around the time the US one finished, at which point he was still writing relatively prolifically for other US Marvel books.

The royalty thing makes sense to me, though it could just as easily been whoever wrote the intro piece to the G2 collection simply took the credits at face value. There's a couple of other bits in various Titan trades that suggest that whilst Furman might have been overseeing them he wasn't writing the text and possibly wasn't even looking at it too closely (the stuff about Death's Head's origin and the dodging of Hasbro copyright over him is, IIRC, at odds with what Furman himself has claimed both before and after. It purports Death's Head was created first to launch Marvel UK's American style comics and when they were delayed he was put in Transformers as a taster, which doesn't seem to have been the case at all).

I hadn't actually realised the UK G2 comic started so late into the run of the American one, I'm surprised Fleetway were interested in the rights to something that was on the brink of cancellation anyway. Unless Marvel US/Hasbro played that down when they sold them the rights.

I believe there was some sort of licensing reason for the original material - something like Marvel's TF licence had lapsed but they still had the G.I. Joe one, but I can't remember whether that got disproved or not...


I could also see it being a case of the rights to G.I. Joe being theoretically avaliable (Marvel UK was basically dead by this point wasn't it?), but it not being considered worth paying up the money for something of such limited use, other than the Transformers issues they'd basically have no interest in any Joe reprints with both previous attempts to launch it here having failed pretty much instantly.



But I'd theorise that Hasbro put a bit of money into those UK strips to help it along, with the proviso that it heavily featured the figures that were actually in stores at the time.

That has a good degree of logic to it. It's a bit of a shame the comic got off to a bad start almost instantly, if they'd done well enough to keep the original material going it could have easily turned into a fun little kids comic. The US reprints really don't mesh with the style of those opening issues at all.

DrSpengler
2011-01-15, 03:38 PM
Ah, well that puts an end to that query.

Obviously, Transformers was my introduction to UK style comic booking (which, no offense intended, seems so mystifying over-complex I just can't figure out the benefits of the approach) and I suppose that left me with something of an improper impression.

I had thought that ALL UK reprints of US material that incorporated homegrown strips were as well-done as Transformers; near-seamlessly mixing in the new material with the old, altering dialogue where necessary, and altogether creating a grander and more in-depth experience for the reader.

Then, as mentioned, I discovered the Marvel UK Ghostbusters and Fleetway TMHT stuff and got a bit confused.


Back to that statement I made in parethesis (just to keep the discussion going), how do you UKers feel about your way of presenting comics vs. America's? At least in regards to the reprinting of American material (the aforementioned Sonic the Comic was all original material and was perfectly coherent because of it). The oversized format is luxurious, and the anthology approach of two or three different 11-page storylines is certainly a neat idea. But storylines getting "to be continued" at seemingly arbitrary points without "cliffhangery" endings (as the average 22-page Marvel comic didn't have 3 cliffhangers in it) must be sort of... irritating. Then the odd mix of color and black and white, even within a single strip, seems sorta bizarre.

Or has a lifetime of reading comics this way sort of dulled you to the experience so you see nothing out of the ordinary.

Hell, do you guys still even *do* comics that way? I think all my examples are 20+ years old, come to think of it. I've seen some of the recent Movie-themed Transformers comics you guys have gotten, reprinting weird chunks of IDW material in tandem with original stuff (didn't All Hail Megatron get reduced down to, like, 5 US issues-worth of content?). But, as I've already discovered, Transformers isn't always a good microcosm of UK comic books, so...


Though in fairness to all these titles, I'm sure for the most part this is only really noticeable in hindsight, I'm sure kids at the time didn't especially notice the difference between the UK and US comics.

I imagine at the very least, though, the thought that went through their head was, "Oh, look, it's another one of those strips with the really bad coloring again."

Cliffjumper
2011-01-15, 04:27 PM
Basically the British weekly (newsprint stock, 10+ serials at two pages per issue) was established in the 1930s if not before - even American comics were still largely anthologies at the time. When 22-pagers about one thing really kicked off in America from the 1950s/1960s, none of the companies had any way of getting them across [some were imported - 'pence editions' but never in great numbers, and they were relatively expensive, months out of date and only had one story in them...), so the British weekly was still basically unchallenged - I guess the attraction of the British format is the "ten chances" syndrome; I doubt anyone liked all ten strips running in Valiant or Eagle or Lion, but there was enough to cover the bases.

the British comics industry took a lot longer to buy into fantasy/superhero stuff too... Right up until the 1980s there was a solid backbone of football, war stories, racing drivers and the like in them... Sci-fi was a bit more common (though not as common as you'd think... the only real success apart from Dan Dare was the Lion clone Captain Condor), but the majority was very down to Earth, In fact, even the sci-fi stuff was usually just WW2 fighter pilot stories moved forward X hundred years

The most stupid thing was that when Marvel opened up their UK branch, instead of putting out full-length full-colour stories, they sliced them up into bits, removed the colour for the most part and published them in anthologies, thus making them the same format as the Fleetway heavyweights. Only thing was the Fleetway stuff is build to be read two or three pages at a time; the Marvel stuff tended to end an installment in the middle of a perfectly ordinary conversation or whatever. So that didn't work...

It took them a long time to learn what was going wrong, and even a lot of the branded 1980s books have an anthology feel to them... There's a weird run early on in the UK comic (around about Enemy Within) where the comic might be called Transformers, but actual TF content is only about 8 pages - there's Machine Man, Planet Terry and general feature pages which make it feel more like a general kids' sci-fi comic.

There are still survivors - 2000AD is still going in the format (though the Judge Dredd Megazine, which runs all-Dredd material, is there as a concession... plus 2000AD is read by exactly the same people who read it 20 years ago, and is basically the exception to any rule you'd care to think of), as is the Beano.

But aside from that it's branded shite, mainly. They still to be A4 sized, but they'll be about whatever brand is being whored... Typically they contain about 10-12 pages of strip and an awful lot of filler - fact files, profiles, competitions, posters, quizzes (the Panini Armada comic is basically par for the course for this sort of thing if you've ever read an issue... If you haven't, I think I've got cover-to-cover scans of one somewhere).

They tend to be very childish, mainly because older readers will go to comic shops which simply import American issues, and they tend to do as well as their brand is doing - the Transformers one is doing alright because of the Bay films being massive, Doctor Who Adventures will do alright as long as Doctor Who keeps lowering the bar on Saturday nights, and so on.

Cartoons are easier to get hold of over here now with satellite TV being relatively attainable for the majority of the population, and TBH a big part of the reason Transformers was so successful in the 1980s was that British TV just wasn't set up to get the cartoon to kids, so they went to the comic for the fix.

The only other thing we have as a halfway are Panini's Special Editions - reprint only books aimed at teenagers, generally three Marvel US comics from about two years ago reprinted in one fat monthly comic... These tend to do alright because they don't pretend to be anything else (right down to telling the reader which comic the original was printed in). As these are generally based on Spider-Man or the X-Men there's so much material avaliable that they never have gaps (and even if things did somehow get tight, as I believe they have done at times when they've decided to skip some US arcs, there's always the option of doing a "From the Vaults!" piece and slinging out some Lee/Kirby shite).

Erm... what was the question again? I tend to babble.

DrSpengler
2011-01-15, 04:50 PM
Actually, that was very educational, particularly the bit about mundane comics being more popular than superhero/sci-fi stuff right up through to the early 80s.

I remember watching "An American Werewolf in London" and this kid in the hospital had a pile of comic books on his bed and they were all romance and war and Laurel 7 hardy stuff; basically the most boring collection of comics I'd ever seen. I wondered about that for some reason; like maybe Joe Dante just had bad taste in comics or something.

I suppose I understand now why in the 80s so many UK writers were working for US publishers (Vertigo seemed to be working exclusively with British people when it was founded). There wasn't much work in the UK for the kinda stuff they wanted to write back then, I presume?

Cliffjumper
2011-01-15, 06:04 PM
No, for any aspiring British writers it was 2000AD and not much else, which is why you get anomalies like Alan Moore writing for Doctor Who, Dan Abnett writing for Transformers or Grant Morrison writing for Action Force... When Marvel did try and cash in on the post-Watchmen/Dark Knight period, they had a string of flops (Death's Head, Dragon's Claws, The Sleeze Brothers, Knights of Pendragon) and basically folded... Ironically the most successful stuff around that boom were Crisis and Deadline, both of which followed the anthology format.

While Fleetway's biggest seller of the 1980s was... The Eagle, more or less the same as it had been in the fifties, but with cops knocked off from Dirty Harry rather than The Untouchables.

The other curious difference is that British comics, even the standard weeklies, were psychotically violent. The war comics didn't really shy away from stuff (Charlie's War being the most obvious example) and even the more fantastical stuff was usually chock-full of death. Action (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_%28comics%29)'s probably the most famous for this, and the Marvel stuff that came in belatedly as competition must've seemed a little... childish by comparison.

I've often thought that one of the reasons GI Joe/Action Force never really took off over here is because the big-money cleaned-up child friendly aspect made it a bit dull and silly compared to something mad like Hellman of Hammer Force or Cadman... Fleetway did their own Action Force comic for a period before Marvel took over the licence, and it's insane. Compare and contrast the approach of Robo Machines to Transformers as well - massive collateral damage, characters bleeding to death, the good guys basically losing...

inflatable dalek
2011-01-15, 08:16 PM
Back to that statement I made in parethesis (just to keep the discussion going), how do you UKers feel about your way of presenting comics vs. America's?

Well, obviously at the time we didn't know there was another way of doing it (even when later readers letters in the TF comic started mentioning American issues I didn't really have much of a clue as to what one was like. I think the first time I saw an American comic was when someone randomly brought me an issue of Batman Year 2 in the early 90's).

I think both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses and it pretty much entirely depends on the individual strip. Though I'd agree the American Transformers strip never really benefitted from the breaking up, especially during the B&W back up period when they went into even smaller instalments. The GI Joe crossover isn't very good to start with, spreading it over four months worth of issues (though it felt much longer at the time) was lethal.

It may also be worth noting that the TF's comic's conceit of being hosted by a character was standard practice at the time, the most famous (and possibly first?) example being old Tharg at 2000 AD.

(the aforementioned Sonic the Comic was all original material and was perfectly coherent because of it).

Well worth tracking down scans of if they're about, it was my brothers comic but I used to enjoy reading as well, lots of fun pacey strips and a surprisingly involved continuity built up for Sonic along with some Sega games you wouldn't expect to work making the transition to comics well (Decap Attack was genius). It's a very good example of the format in its dying days.


Hell, do you guys still even *do* comics that way? I think all my examples are 20+ years old, come to think of it. I've seen some of the recent Movie-themed Transformers comics you guys have gotten, reprinting weird chunks of IDW material in tandem with original stuff (didn't All Hail Megatron get reduced down to, like, 5 US issues-worth of content?). But, as I've already discovered, Transformers isn't always a good microcosm of UK comic books, so...

In addition to what Cliffy said, the current Transformers comic is a bit of an annomoly in the field of quick tie ins aimed at kids, whilst the general lay out and amount of free gifts is the same the comics themselves (there has been the odd run of more juvinile ones) are generally aimed a bit older and there's been more ongoing plots than is the norm. It's still more of a kids comic than the IDW film stuff is trying to be though, but that's a good thing IMHO.

And the quick dumping of AHM, for whatever reason, was hilarious. The final instalment randomly meshes about four issues and it still makes as much sense as the original did, with the benefit of having some pace. Worse than that, the only plot holes are those that were in the original issues, which considering the amount of pages skipped is a bit worrying.


There are still survivors - 2000AD is still going in the format (though the Judge Dredd Megazine, which runs all-Dredd material, is there as a concession... plus 2000AD is read by exactly the same people who read it 20 years ago, and is basically the exception to any rule you'd care to think of), as is the Beano.

2000AD has recovered a lot in the last decade though, when Rebellion took it over from Fleetway (who apparently never really knew what to do with it) it was on the point of cancellation and would have just missed the year it was named after. It may be mostly returned lapsed readers but it's stronger now than it has been in a long time. It'll be interesting to see if the new Dredd film boosts things more (though based on the the pictures so far it's going to be a very low budget affair, just normal cars done up as MEga City 1 vehicles. And for ones who found the Prime with flames debates a bit silly that's nothing compared to some fans reactions to Dredd having slightly smaller shoulder pads than the current comic costume).

Off the top of my head the big surrvivors of the UK comics industry are 2000AD, Doctor Who Magazine (of which the comic is only a small part), the Beano and Dandy (basically gag comics with stories than don't last more than two pages. The Dandy seems doomed having been revamped three times in the last couple of years) and the Spider-Man comic that launched to tie in with the 90's cartoon and is still going strong (and thanks to our fellow fanboy Simon Williams was the only place up till recently Death's Head was likely to show up).

Overall the British comics industry is basically dead, I don't think it ever really recovered from the large scale collapse of Marvel UK back in the 90's and has pretty much been supplanted in kids affections by other things. Yery young kids might pick up the tie in stuff but not many over 12 have an interest, and those that do have can just go straight to the source for American stuff in specialist shops.


The only other thing we have as a halfway are Panini's Special Editions - reprint only books aimed at teenagers, generally three Marvel US comics from about two years ago reprinted in one fat monthly comic... These tend to do alright because they don't pretend to be anything else (right down to telling the reader which comic the original was printed in). As these are generally based on Spider-Man or the X-Men there's so much material avaliable that they never have gaps (and even if things did somehow get tight, as I believe they have done at times when they've decided to skip some US arcs, there's always the option of doing a "From the Vaults!" piece and slinging out some Lee/Kirby shite).

They also have a big following amongst adult fans as well, due to being about the price of two American issues but containing at least twice as much material and the tendancy for arcs spread across multiple, say, Spider-Man titles to get presented together, making it cheaper and easier to read for people who aren't bothered about being a bit behind.

Titan are also doing similar things for DC stuff, there's a Batman and Superman title at least.


When Marvel did try and cash in on the post-Watchmen/Dark Knight period, they had a string of flops (Death's Head, Dragon's Claws, The Sleeze Brothers, Knights of Pendragon) and basically folded... Ironically the most successful stuff around that boom were Crisis and Deadline, both of which followed the anthology format.

Ironically one of the things that helped undo the UK attempt to do Marvel comics was that when they were put on the same shelf in Smith's as the oversized stuff they basically vanished. Throw in some dubious quality and complete disinterest from the American market they were aiming at and they were petty much doomed from the start.

Even Death's Head and Dragon's Claws, arguably the best remembered (if only because of the interest from our fandom) aren't really Marvel comics despite the format. Both could fit in 2000 AD much easier, DH could even easily be taking place in Dredd's world.

Skyquake87
2011-01-25, 10:51 PM
Whilst I'd agree with most of what's been written here, I'd just disagree slightly about Knights Of Pendragon (a nit-picky point, I know. Sorry). In its original incarnation, it was going great guns. It may have got lost on the shelves of UK newsagents due to the size (US format), but it did find an audience and reached issue 18 before sweeping changes made by Paul Neary at Marvel UK saw the title ill-advisedly relaunched as a super team book, losing its 'Englishness' in the process and becoming a bit of a nonsense.

Reading the Genesis '92 Marvel UK stuff back now, (Hell's Angel, Warheads, Motormouth, Death's Head II etc) its quite sad to see the more experimental Vertigo-like edge Marvel UK were working towards at the start of the 1990s jettisoned in favour of generic superheroics. Although met with phenomenal sales (for UK comics, anyway), I can't help wondering if Marvel UK might still have been with us if they'd stuck with producing material aimed at British, rather than American, readers. Gosh that sounds like a horrible diservice to US readers! But then I feel Marvel UK were a little guilty of that very same thing, by dumbing down previous 'high brow' concepts like KOP and DH. We did get the Frontier Imprint late in 1993 which mimiced Vertigo's approach, but it felt like a sop to British readers, rather than something designed to reinforce and diversify their output; elsewhere they were cranking out their own line of mutant books (GenetiX, Genepool), which suggests a greater interest in capturing the American fan's money.

Ah, the Beauty Of Capitalism...! :)