Saturday, May 21, 2011
No more Heroes
As you may have already heard elsewhere, Panini UK will no longer be allowed to produce new material featuring Marvel characters. This is a decision made by Disney, who acquired Marvel in 2009.
At first glance this seems like a poor business decision. For the past several years Panini have been commissioning brand new strips for their boys adventure comics Marvel Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man. Each story was approved by Marvel US, the comics have proven to be very popular, the strips are kid-friendly, have introduced many new readers to the Marvel universe, and it created material that Disney could export to other territories if they'd wished.
However it seems that Disney now only want Marvel strips to be produced in America which will then be exported for various homogeneous international editions. (Pretty much as already happens with the standard Marvel material that Panini use in their 76 page Collectors Editions.) I guess this cuts out the middle man and gives Disney more control but it may also present problems. Readers of Marvel Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man are accustomed to a writing style tailored for children, in strips that vary from 7 to 11 pages in length. Will the Disney/Marvel material fit the same specifics or will Panini find they have to run 22 page stories or chop them up into shorter episodes they were never designed for?
Of course the worst aspect of this is the loss of work for many UK freelancers who were contributing to those titles. People like Ferg Handley, Andie Tong, Jon Haward, Mike Collins, Simon Williams, John McCrea, Gary Erskine, David Roach, Lee Townsend and many more. Bear in mind that Marvel Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man were the only two boys adventure comics left in the UK other than DC Thomson's Commando and one realizes that this is a major blow to British comics. (One can only hope that Strip Magazine in October and The Phoenix next year can turn things around.)
The issue of Marvel Heroes (No.36) out now is the last one to feature UK originated material. The end of an era is appropriately marked with a Captain Britain/Captain America team up by Ferg Handley and Mike Collins. (Mike having worked on the first UK originated Spider-Man strip in Marvel UK's Spider-Man Nos.607-610 in 1984.)
Next month, Marvel Heroes changes its title to Marvel Super-Heroes but continues the numbering. The ad promises "Brand new comic strip adventures". New to the UK that is, but not originated here.
All is not lost though. Panini UK have licenses to properties other than Marvel, and new strip material will continue in Doctor Who Magazine and no doubt we'll eventually see new non-Marvel titles too. They're down but not out.