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Marvelman, often billed as England's first original superhero (although he wasn't), was certainly a harbinger of Britain's silver age or, perhaps, the final exhalation of America's golden age. By 1953, in the United States, superheroes were on the ropes, their day it seemed, was done. Even the survivors enjoyed nothing like the popularity that had been theirs in the early-1940s.
Also, in 1953, National Periodicals verged on legal victory. Superman, Man of Tomorrow and champion of National Periodicals Publications, after a long legal harangue, seemed ready to knock out the Big Red Cheese, Captain Marvel, challenger from Fawcett Publications. The successful introduction of Superman in issue one of Action Comics ensured the survival of comic books as a medium, the financial growth of National, and the character's imitation.
In 1939, Roscoe K. Fawcett's editorial director, Ralph Daigh, asked editor Bill Parker, "to supply a written description of a unique superhero to be featured in a comic book," so that Fawcett publications could capitalize on the growing demand for superheroes. The result, Captain Marvel, out did even Superman becoming the best-selling superhero of the 1940s.
National filed a plagiarism suit against Fawcett stating Captain Marvel was so close an imitation of Superman that he infringed on their copyright. Legal battle raged between the companies through the 1940s and into the 1950s until legal weight began to fall with National.
With avenues of appeal still open but their outcome obvious after the first court ruled for National Periodicals, Fawcett Publications settled out of court in late-1953. Fawcett agreed to cease publication of all Captain Marvel related titles. However, Fawcett's decision to give up the legal battle came when all of the company's superhero titles were reporting greatly diminished sales was no circumstance.
Between April and November 1953, the comic books giving home to the Marvel Family, Master Comics, Captain Marvel Jr., Whiz Comics, and Captain Marvel Adventures. Finally, Fawcett's last bastion of super heroes, The Marvel Family, fell in January 1954. Some of Fawcett's other comic books continued under the Charlton banner but Fawcett, for the time being, was out of the comic book business.
In England, a relative backwater of the comic book market, L. Miller & Sons, Limited, holder of the British license to reprint Fawcett's comics, viewed a dismal future. Len Miller began reprinting Fawcett's material perhaps as early as 1942. At various times the Miller line of reprints included monthly versions of Hopalong Cassidy, Tex Ritter, Rocky Lane, Lash Larue Western, Gabby Hayes Western, Tom Mix, Nyoka the Jungle Girl, Captain Midnight, Spysmasher, Fawcett's Funny Animals, and Captain Video, Don Winslow of the Navy, as well as Master Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Marvel Family, Whiz Comics. and the only title that seems to have been unique to Britain, Family Favourites Comic Weekly. There were, no doubt, other reprint titles as well. These comics, black and white reprints with color covers, were of varied size, quality, and length.
While superhero comics crashed in America after World War II, their English counterparts sold briskly. On August 19, 1953, Miller and Son launched weekly versions of Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. with glossy color covers and 32 page black and white interiors. Their success was immediate; the titles rapidly became Miller's best sellers demanding approximately 256 pages of material monthly.
L. Miller and Son, Ltd.'s future seemed bright until news of Fawcett's capitulation reached England in about November 1953. With their fortunes tied to comic books soon to be forced out of existence, the company may have faced financial calamity. At best, their best selling comics, seemed to be doomed. However, far from the scrutiny of National's lawyers Len Miller, determined the Marvel Family's demise would not effect sales of his comics. Miller needed heroes like Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. to sustain reader interest but with enough difference to prevent legal action. He enlisted the aid of writer/artist Mick Anglo and his Gower Street Studios to produce over 250 pages of comic story every month.
The "Club Page" in both of Miller's "Marvel" titles carried the shocking announcement of the immanent retirement of their respective lead characters in issue number 19, December 23, 1953. Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman both wanted to live normal lives, "like any other boy or girl," so they were giving their powers back to old Shazam. However, the editor found splendid "chaps" to replace them, Marvelman and Marvelman Jr.
"What, another member of the Marvel Family!," exclaimed Captain Marvel Jr. from his Club Page. Oh yes, that was exactly what Miller and Anglo had in mind. The next four issues of both "Marvel" titles continued to build toward the replacement of their main characters. Marvelman Jr., however, did not survive. Replaced by Young Marvelman, Marvelman Jr. did not pop up again until 1963.
Readers learned that their memberships in either the Captain Marvel or the Captain Marvel Jr. Clubs would automatically be transferred to Marvelman or Young Marvelman, respectively. The official date of transfer was to be January 31, 1954. Interestingly, this date corresponds roughly to the last cover date of a Marvel Family title in the United States.
British issue number 24, January 27, 1954, of both Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. carried subtle title changes teasing readers with what was to come. The former title became The Marvelman, Captain Marvel and the latter, The Young Marvelman, Captain Marvel, Jr. The back covers of both comics carried full page advertisements reminding readers, for example, "Don't Forget the Young Marvelman Adventures start NEXT WEEK order your copy NOW!" By issue number 25, February 3, 1954, the comics were simply titled Marvelman and Young Marvelman.
Modifications made by Mick Anglo changed the characters little. Capes disappeared, logos and hair color changed, secret identities shifted, but, basically, the characters, powers, and origins remained the same.
Blond Marvelman, secretly Micky Moran newspaper copy boy for the Daily Bugle, wore dark blue with red boots and gloves. He sported a red belt and collar, both with yellow circles and on his chest was a red circle around two yellow "M"s. Marvelman's powers, given to him by mysterious "Astro-physicist" Guntag Barghelt who controlled the "key harmonic" of the universe, were the same as Captain Marvel's. On the verge of death, Guntag treated Mickey in a special machine and entrusted him with the key, the word KIMOTA (atomic misspelled backward), to him because he was, "completely honest, studious, and of such integrity that he would only use it for the powers of good."
Young Marvelman, secretly Dicky Dauntless delivery boy for Transatlantic Messenger Service, also blond, wore a red costume, yellow boots and gloves, blue belt and collar with yellow circles, and on his chest, a dark blue circle around a yellow "YM." Presumably, the ghost of Guntag Barghelt gave control of the "key harmonic" to Young Marvelman to be triggered by the name of his hero, Marvelman.
A third title, monthly Marvelman Family staring Kid Marvelman, added to the Miller line in October 1956. Kid Marvelman departed most radically from his predecessor, Mary Marvel. Mary Batson was replaced by Johnny Bates, a dark haired nine-year-old boy. Marvelman Family enjoyed lesser success and was cancelled with issue number 30 in November 1959.
Dr. Sivana, Captain Marvel's evil nemesis, became Dr. Gargunza for Marvelman. Sivana Jr. was Young Gargunza, the elder villain's nephew. Both characters appeared many times during Marvelman and Young Marvelman's ten-year run. Both heroes fought occasional Nazis (including Hitler himself), plentiful communists (often East Germans), and a host of normal criminals as well as villains from history and mythology.
Backup features were common in both titles. Among them were the long running features "Billy Brig and the Pirates" and "Johnny Galaxia" (a Spanish reprint) in Young Marvelman, "Davy Crockett" in Marvelman, and "Captain Zip Morgan of the Space Patrol" in both. Others included "Flip & Flop," "Long & Shorty," "Space Pilot," "Young Joey," "Friendly Soul," and "Terry O'Rorke." War stories also appeared in both titles beginning in about 1959.
Miller's line began to increase again by the late-1950s. Titles Spellbound, Mystic, War Comics, Battleground, the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Popeye were added. The company distributed the Harvey line of comics in England. Both Marvelman titles enjoyed healthy runs (both ended with issue 370 in February 1963) before being overcome by increased U.S.competition.
In 1982, Quality Comics revived Marvelman in the pages of Warrior in an acclaimed series penned by Alan Moore. Moore's genius lent itself well to the task. His treatment of the powerful character's silly Golden Age roots revealed them to be a government experiment in super power and mind control. Unfortunately, after 21 issues, pressure from Marvel Comics succeeded where National's victory over Fawcett failed, Warrior dropped Marvelman. In 1985, Quality exported Marvelman to the United States as Miracleman. This run from Eclipse Comics periodically continued into the early-1990s with new material by Neil Gaiman.
Captain Marvel (Becomes Marvelman) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No. 1, August 19, 1953- January 27, 1954. A weekly 32 page (including covers) black and white comic book with semi-glossy color cover. Reprints of American comic stories. 19- Captain Marvel Club page announces the imminent retirement of Captain Marvel and his replacement by Marvelman. First mention of Marvelman, December 23, 1953. 20- Editor's letter echoes the announcement made in the previous issue, December 30, 1953. 24- Title changed to The Marvelman Captain Marvel. Both editorial and club pages refer to the next issue when Marvelman would take over the title. Full-page back cover advertisement for the Marvelman comic, January 27, 1954. Captain Marvel Annual (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1953, softcover. One annual issue. Some full-color pages. Captain Marvel Colouring Book (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1948, softcover. One issue. Captain Marvel Painting Book (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1953. Color covers, oversized panels to color or paint. Captain Marvel Jr. (Becomes Young Marvelman) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No. 1, August 19, 1953- January 27, 1954. A weekly 32 page (including covers) black and white comic book with semi-glossy color cover. Reprints of American comic stories. 19- Captain Marvel Jr. Club page announces the imminent retirement of Captain Marvel and his replacement by Marvelman Jr. First mention of Marvelman Jr. (later changed to Young Marvelman), December 23, 1953. 20- Editor's letter echoes the announcement made in the previous issue, December 30, 1953. 24- Title changed to The Young Marvelman Captain Marvel Jr. Both editorial and club pages refer to the next issue when Young Marvelman would take over the title. Full-page back cover advertisement for the Young Marvelman comic, January 27, 1954. Captain Marvel Jr. Annual (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1953, softcover. One annual issue. Some full-color pages. Captain Miracle (Invincible Captain Miracle, #6) (Mick Anglo, Gower Street Studio, Ltd.?) No. 1, October 1960- No. 9, June 1961. Relettered Marvelman reprints. Marvelman (Formerly Captain Marvel) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No. 25, February 3rd, 1954- No. 370, February, 1963. A 32 page (including covers) black and white comic book with semi-glossy color cover. Weekly No. 25-335, monthly No. 336-370 (monthly issues reportedly reprints). 25- origin and first appearance Marvelman, Feb. 3, 1954. 101- introduction Kid Marvelman, July 20, 1955. Marvelman Annual (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1954-1961, 1963. Nine mostly annual issues. Some full-color pages. 1954-56- softcover. 1957-60- hardcover. 1961- card covers, spiral bound? Only appearance of Marvelman with cape/features of Captain Marvel. 1963- card covers, spiral bound? Marvelman Family (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No. 1, October 1956- No. 30, November 1959. A 32 page (including covers) black and white monthly comic book with semi-glossy color cover. Marvelman Family Annual (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1963, softcover? One annual issue. Some full-color pages. Marvelman Jr. Annual (Formerly Young Marvelman Annual) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1963, softcover? One annual issue. Some full-color pages. Second mention of Marvelman Jr. as a character. See Captain Marvel Jr. number 19 for first mention. Marvelman Magic (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No numbers. During the mid-1950s probably three Marvelman Magic paint books were produced. Marvelman Special (One shot) (Quality Magazines, Ltd.) No. 1, 1984. Magazine sized, reprints 1950s-1960s British Marvelman stories. First/only modern Marvelman solo title as Marvelman. Miracleman (Eclipse Comics) No. 1, August 1985. British edition of the American title. Identical to U.S. version except for a full page advertisement for Quality Comics. Warrior (Quality Magazines, Ltd.) No. 1, March 1982- No. 26, February 1985. Magazine sized black and white anthology title with color covers. 1- first modern appearance Marvelman, March 1982. 1-18, 20, 21- Marvelman or related stories. 2- Marvelman cover. 4- Marvelman cover. 7- Marvelman cover. 12- Young Marvelman story, cover cameo. 16- Marvelman cover. 17- Marvelman Family story. 21- Last original Marvelman story in England, left unconcluded. Young Marvelman (Formerly Captain Marvel, Jr.) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No. 25, February 3rd, 1954- No. 370, February, 1963. A 32 page (including covers) black and white comic book with semi-glossy color cover. Weekly No. 25-335, monthly No. 336-370 (monthly issues reportedly reprints). 25(1)- origin and first appearance Young Marvelman, Feb. 3, 1954. 37(13)- first Marvelman/Young Marvelman team up, April 21, 1954. 42(18)- Adolf Hitler appearance, June 5, 1954. 57(33)- origin and first appearance Young Nastyman, September 18, 1954. 100(76)- Gargunza and Young Gargunza team up, July 16, 1955. Young Marvelman Annual (Becomes Marvelman Jr. Annual) (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) 1954-1961. Eight annual issues. Some full-color pages. 1954-55- softcover. 1956- hardcover? 1957-60- hardcover. 1961- card covers. Spiral bound? Only appearance of Young Marvelman with Captain Marvel Jr.'s cape. Young Marvelman Magic (L. Miller and Son, Ltd.) No numbers. During the mid-1950s probably three Marvelman Magic paint books were produced. Two were . . . Young Marvelman Magic: the Reindeer Young Marvelman Magic: In Space
Miracleman (Eclipse Comics) No. 1, August 1985- No. 15, November 1988; No. 16, December 1989- No. 23, June 1992; No. 24, 1994- present? 1- first American appearance Marvelman as Miracleman, August 1985. Reprints from British Warrior magazine and one 1950s Marvelman Family story slightly altered as a framing device. This initial story was also reprinted in the British Marvelman Special # 1. Miracleman 2D (One shot) (Eclipse Comics) No. 1, December 1985. Reprints British Marvelman Special. Signed, numbered, and limited to 100 copies. Miracleman 3D (One shot) (Eclipse Comics) No. 1, December 1985. Reprints British Marvelman Special processed for 3D. Miracleman Apocrypha (Eclipse Comics) No. 1, November 1991- No. 3, March 1992. Miracleman Family (Eclipse Comics) No. 2, May 1988- No. 2, September 1988. British 1950s-60s Marvelman stories reprinted in color. Miracleman Graphic Albums (Eclipse Books) No. 1, 1988- No. 4, 1992. Collected British and American Marvelman/Miracleman stories reprinted. Book One: A Dream of Flying Book Two: The Red King Syndrome Book Three: Olympus Book Four: The Golden Age Miracleman Apocrypha Total Eclipse (Eclipse Comics) No. 4, January 1989- No. 5, April 1989.