How Stan Lee launched a publishing phenomenon in Britain
Marvel UK would never have existed without stan lee. Considering himself “the world’s greatest anglophile” – his wife came from Newcastle-upon-tyne, and their daughter JC later relocated to london – he became unhappy with how patchy the Us imports were, and the manner in which homegrown titles Pow! and TV21 re-edited Marvel’s stories for a British readership. Creating a UK comic developed into a new ambition.
after becoming Marvel’s publisher in 1972, stan rescued their investment in an unreleased UK comic, set to contain a mixture of Us reprints and new UK strips. Now featuring only american material, it was refashioned as The Mighty World Of Marvel, with a successful, profitable range of weekly (and later monthly) comics soon following. Now a regular visitor, lee enjoyed increasingly packed press schedules arranged by their london office, later assisted by one Neil tennant, the future pet shop Boy. Interviews would feature variously in Punch and The Evening Standard; on radio shows Hullaballo and Jellybone; and on tv’s Pebble Mill At One and Scotland Today.
Writing exclusive soapbox columns wasn’t enough – stan wanted to meet the British audience. When The Superheroes and The Savage Sword Of Conan launched he spoke to rapt audiences at the ICa on 3 March 1975. on 20 october, the debut of The Titans and Sons Of Origins Of Marvel Comics saw the roundhouse packed with 900 fans. When Captain Britain went on sale the following year, lee embarked on his longest promotional tour yet, taking in Glasgow, edinburgh, leeds, Newcastle and london. Captain Britain itself delivered on Marvel’s oft-expressed promise to produce an exclusive comic strip, set in the UK.
By 1978, British and american comic publishers were struggling. lee asked UK manager ray Wergan to contact British publisher Dez skinn, asking him to draft a report on their options. Impressed with skinn’s radical rethink, stan persuaded him to take over the UK division, and later helped promote Hulk Comic in March 1979. responsibility for Marvel UK then passed to editor-in-chief Jim shooter, as lee moved to Hollywood to form Marvel productions. Marvel UK’s output would then inspire the next generation of British comics’ creators. In his determination that Marvel should publish in Britain, lee left behind a hugely influential legacy in the country he loved. Rob Kirby