Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fantastic & Terrific

Pin up time!!!

The following images have virtually nothing to do with the Australian Newton Comic range that I've been covering, in fact they've nothing to do with them at all. However I thought I could use a break before I finish that series of indexing, and seeing how a pile of people over on the Jack Kirby mailing list have been talking about the UK comics, and in particular the pin-ups that they contained, well I figured I break the Newtons up with a post showcasing some of those pin-ups.

I'll freely confess that I don't know a lot about these comics. I do know that they came to Australia back in the day and as such they aren't as hard to find here as other parts of the globe. Indeed the English magazines/comics were often shipped to all parts of the then British Empire (now Commonwealth) and as such if it was released in the UK then the odds are excellent you'll find copies in places such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Here we paid about 10 cents for a copy. For the later Mighty World Of Marvel (which I'm going to try and finish a run of) we paid a whopping 15 cents. Outrageous!

The following scans come from two magazines that became one. According to Denis Gifford's brilliantly essential The Complete Catalogue Of British Comics (long out of print) Fantastic ran from February 1967 through to November 1968. It managed an incredible 91 issues, however it was a weekly publication. In February 1968 it merged with Terrific, thus becoming Fantastic & Terrific. In November of 1968 it then was absorbed into the Smash title, which had begun in February 1966 and ran until April 1971. That title was then absorbed into Valiant, which ran from October 1962 and ended in October 1976 when that title was absorbed into Battle, you get the drift? The UK titles are a mess to work out without Gifford's book.

As an aside, Gifford is one of the reasons I do what I do. The first book about comic books that I ever bought was Gifford's The International Book Of Comics (which I luckily replaced earlier this year) followed rapidly by Lupof and Thompson's All In Color For A Dime. I liked the latter, I still adore the former and Gifford's book on British Comics is, as I said earlier, both brilliant and essential for anyone attempting to know what was released in the UK from the dawn of time through to the mid 1980s. It has listings, what they published or reprinted and, well either beg, buy, borrow or steal a copy.

Back to where we were. Terrific, well you know about that one already. Terrific started in April 1967 and ran for 43 issues until it was absorbed into the Fantastic title in February 1968. That leaves a finite amount of comics out there of both titles, so if you're wanting to unravel the mysteries, well start searching. I'll freely admit that I don't know a lot about these UK titles, but what I don't know I want to know and I will try to track that information down. In hindsight one of the highlights of the UK Marvels were the pin-ups and covers featuring local UK artists. The later Mighty World magazines also had locally made strips, but I digress. The local content on these early strips would come artists such as Barry Windsor-Smith, but the lack of record keeping and signatures on the art itself makes artist spotting a challenge.

And before you ask, The Mighty World Of Marvel had two lives. The first ran from October 1972 and ended in January 1979. Along the way it had several name changes and there's 329 issues of that title - I must be bloody insane for thinking I want them all. The title was re-started in June 1983 and wrapped up after 17 issues in October 1984. That might be the better option to collect. A lot of those 1970s UK Marvels also featured art and contributions from the likes of John Romita, John Romita Jr, Mike Esposito, Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Alan Moore, Barry Windsor-Smith, Larry Leiber, John Buscema, Pablo Marcos, Mike Nasser, Dan Adkins, Ron Wilson, David Wenzel, David Hunt, Marshall Rogers and Neal Adams. An equal amount of the earlier 1960s titles also reproduced stories with unaltered splash pages, often missing their title/credit boxes and often re-drawn ever so slightly, of touched up.

I'd like to close with these comments from David Johnston. It kind of sums up the enthusiasm that a lot of people have towards these comics; "Around 1976, Most, if not all, the Marvel weeklies went landscape! This meant they could reprint, at a reduced size, two pages side by side on one page! They could rattle through around six or seven different stories a week (!) using this method, plus this meant the covers had to be resized to fit, with extra drawn around the edges, or just brand new covers drawn to size. Each issue had an original centre spread pin-up which measured near enough two feet wide! Plus because they were sprinting through the episodes in small contained segments, they had to provide new, original splash pages for the cut up stories! That was a lot of commissioned artwork. Talk about value for money?"

Couldn't agree more. Now if you can recognize the following artists then let me know.


Appeared in the appropriately titled Fantastic & Terrific #75, cover dated 20 July 1968.

I'm thinking this is probably a Kirby pin-up from an issue of The Fantastic Four (USA). Anyone want to confirm or deny?


Appeared in Fantastic #46, cover dated 30 December 1967.

This issue had the UK produced strip Johnny Future, who's realistic art was a jarring contrast to the rest of the book with it's cartoony art.


Appeared in Fantastic & Terrific #52, cover dated 10 February 1968. Technically this is the first issue of the merged title.

Barry Windosr-Smith?

God, I love these comics. There's an ad in this issue for a free toy gun and it's a hoot! I'll scan and post it later, but you have to love any ad that starts with, "Aiming to have fun with a gun?" and then goes on to extol the virtues of hunting down your pals and shooting them. Brilliant!


Appeared in Fantastic #43, cover dated 9 December 1967.

This is where the art spotting comes into play. I doubt that this image, nor the two that follow, originated from any of the USA titles. I expect that these, along with the bulk of the pin-ups shown here, were the product of local UK artists.


Appeared in Fantastic #40, cover dated 18 November 1967.

Australians will especially remember Anglo Ace, who appears in an ad in this issue. I can remember some Italians at school who used to call me 'Anglo Ace'. It wasn't until much later that I discovered they meant it as a racial slur, but hey, who cares?


Appeared in Fantastic #32, cover dated 23 September 1967.

Great stuff. Iron Man. Thor. Johnny Future. Did it get any better? Who cares if it did - for that moment in time it was a good as it'd ever get.


Appeared in Fantastic #22, cover dated 15 July 1967.

Due to the pose I'm guessing that this also originally appeared in one of the USA Marvels. Anyone care to confirm or deny?


Appeared in Terrific #24, cover dated September 23, 1967.

Terrific promoted itself as 'The Best Of British Comics'. A lofty claim but as the title boasted Giant Man & The Wasp, The Avengers, Dr Strange, the locally produced Don Starr series and a heavily edited Ditko monster story, it went a long way to living up to it's hype.


Appeared in Terrific #25, cover dated September 30, 1967.

This book featured a very unique cover - one which I'll scan/post later down the line. How could you not love a strip, in this case Don Starr, that starts with this as a caption; "Having gone a whole year without a holiday, having been knocked on the head, shot at, kicked in the ribs and generally maltreated, special security agent Don Starr felt he deserved a break. Instead...Two men with guns whisk him off in a car to a mansion deep in the country." As Kramer once said, "That's gold, Jerry." And what is Don saying in the first panel? "I'd still like to know what's going on." Wouldn't we all Don...


Allan said...

Mighty World of Marvel never had locally made strips in its first run. All material additional to the reprinted US stuff was produced in America at the Marvel offices. The UK address was merely a drop-off point for fan-mail and for co-ordinating the printing (which was done locally).

UK-generated material started when Dez Skinn was appointed editor around 1977-78 and he relaunched several titles. This included Hulk Comic which was largely all UK material, drawn by the likes of Dave Gibbons and 16-year old Steve Dillon (on Nick Fury).

BTW, only two Marvel UK titles went landscape: Titans and Super Spider-Man.

Barry Smith did apparently work on the some of those Fantastic/Terrific reprints prior to his departure for the US with fellow artist Steve Parkhouse. Comparing his X-Men #53 debut with some of the images you post here, I'd guess its possible some of them are by him.

As an aside, the numbering of the first run of Mighty World of Marvel was continued as Marvel Super-Heroes Monthly -- which is where the Alan Davis Captain Britain first appeared.

David said...

Yep, that Mr Fantastic is a definite Kirby, from FF 35?
Interesting to see these pin-ups again after so many years. To my eye,
Cyclops, Kraven and Giant Man all have touches of Barry Smith. In
fact, I'll stick my neck out and say Cyclops is definitely Smith. I
also think the Mandarin pin-up is of British origin.
By the way, there was/is a third volume of Mighty World Of Marvel,
published by Panini, it reprints current material alongside older
material. Apparently Panini were toying with the idea of producing new
UK originated material for their comics - whether they did or not
though, I have no idea. I think the third volume of MWOM might still
be running.

David J.

Mike Lake said...

The first of those pin-ups is of course a reprint of a Kirby page from a US comic. All the others are indeed Barry Windsor-Smith originals! He was very young then!

Incidentally Barry also contributed two illustrations to a football story in a UK comic Annual.Full pen and ink. Really vey nice too. It was a few years after those Fantatic/Terrific
pin-ups, done as a favour to his friend the editor of the Annual, I think. Anybody want to see these repro'd? Nothing to do with Jack Kirby though!

Mike Lake

Anonymous said...

First, this stuff is Fantastic (or Terrific!). The Mr. Fantastic image is taken from a pin-up in FF Annual 2. The Mandarin is from the splash page of the Iron-Man story in Tales of Suspense # 63.

I see Smith in the Cyclops, El Tigre and Giant-Man pin-ups, not 100 % certain of the others.

BTW, amother artist who did work for the British Weeklys was a young Jim Starlin. I've noticed his work on early issues of the Mighty World of Marvel.

Nick Caputo

Anonymous said...

Taking a second look, I agree with Mike Lake that Barry Smith is the culprit on all the pin-ups. The figures are crude and stiff, but the design work in the backgroundsand the poses are similar, leading me to believe this is Smith. Maybe someone out there can ask him?

Nick Caputo

FHNavarro said...

The complete incomplete Barry Windsor-Smith Checklist