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Comic Book Questions Answered: What Was the Deal With British Versions of Marvel Comics in the 1960s?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.

Today’s question is about British versions of Marvel Silver Age Comics.

Enjoy!

Reader Anthony asks:

I’ve been looking for info on this book(see photo).It has a different price and the month is missing from under the issue #(should be May).I was wondering if you could tell me anything about this issue. It has everything that a normal American issue would have inside (ads,etc) on the inside cover it says- SOLE DISTRIBUTORS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM-THORPE + PORTER LTD.I’ve never seen another like it before.Thanks for any help.

Here is the picture of the cover…

For good measure, here’s the original Tales of Suspense #41….

Well, Anthony, back in the early days of the Silver Age, Marvel Comics would be distributed by a different company in the United Kingdom than the United States in just the manner you described. The dates and the prices on the covers would be changed, but otherwise, the interiors of the comics would be exactly the same, save for the bit where it says SOLE DISTRIBUTORS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM-THORPE + PORTER LTD. Thorpe & Porter, Ltd. printed a number of American comics for the UK audience, including Mad Magazine.

Marvel kept using them until they formed their own branch of Marvel in England in 1972, Marvel UK, and debuted their popular weekly reprint series, The Mighty World of Marvel.

The Thorpe & Porter, Ltd. comics were mostly likely printed at about a tenth of the print runs of the American versions of the comics, but they were printed at the same time, so they are actual original Silver Age Marvel Comics. In reality, they are a neat way to get original Marvel Silver Age comics at probably a smaller price point.

So there ya go, Anthony!!

2 Comments

I discovered comics (specifically Kirby FF & Thor) at the age of ten while visiting a used book shop called The Popular Book Centre, just down the street from Trafalgar Square. My dad was on a sabbatical from Carnegie-Mellon U. and we were living in London during ’71_72. When we returned to Pittsburgh, I had so many of these comics my dad had to wrap them in paper and twine and post them home. Those British editions, with the nine pence price and the diagonal line were the foundation of what grew to be a huge collection.

Further info from the Comic Vine website, which should clear up some confusion.

“In the 1950s Thorpe & Porter was a British publisher who competed with the likes of L. Miller and Son to reprint US titles for the UK market. In 1959 they began publishing the UK edition of Mad Magazine, which occasionally included both new covers and new interior strips produced in the UK. That same year they also became the sole distributors of Marvel Comics in Britain; the comics were still printed in [the USA] and shipped to the UK, but had UK prices on the cover and an additional line in the indicia acknowledging T&P as distributor. However, other companies such as Alan Class and then Odhams were nevertheless allowed to purchase a separate license to reprint US Marvel comics, and World Distributors yet another license to reprint US Marvel comics as annuals.”

The 50s UK reprints were printed in black & white, with colour covers, and often featured strips from several different companies in the same issue. They mostly died out once actual US copies became widely available, except for the Alan Class titles, which kept going till the early 80s. US copies vanished from UK newsagents in the mid-90s when Panini bought the reprint rights and didn’t want competing titles on the shelves. British readers now get their own monthly colour reprints – generally a couple of years out of date – or up-to-date US copies in specialist comic shops.

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