Remember the Titans

This post appears a month early because I anticipate several Dr. Who posts on our sister blog SFP , what with the launch of the new season and a few significant box sets from Big Finish.

October marks the brain-blastin’ fortieth (!) anniversary of The Titans, Marvel UK’s first landscape black-and-white weekly comic.  The format has been criticised in the past but I think it’s emblematic of the company’s “anything goes” approach in the recession-bound mid-70s. The main drawback was that landscape was “content-hungry”, with two US comic pages reprinted on a single page. Unless a series was a long one, like Spider-Man (with his three mid-70s titles), it would be exhausted rapidly. Therefore, in the nearly-sixty issues of its existence, The Titans showcased numerous features.

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The Titans was heavily promoted in the UK but I don’t think I actually saw any tv appearances by Smilin’ Stan or Happy Herb Trimpe. Either they weren’t networked in the Glasgow area or they were on the “other side” ( ITV) which we watched  less frequently, as a family.

I did read about an ICA art exhibition and a PA at the Roundhouse ( whatever THAT was) but these events might as well have been in Manhattan in those pre-internet days.

My indulgent and hard-working parents’ budget must have been badly stretched in the era of inflation but my brother and I shared a standing order for MWOM, SCW, Avengers-Conan, POTA and the Super-Heroes. Somehow, the eccentric Titans joined that order. I’ve posted often about distribution problems and I missed issues 2, 11 and 12- the later pair being the so-called “emergency issues” (which I only learned about from Kid Robson’s blog). However, I still have vivid memories of issue 1, even if the gorgeous Buscema poster is long gone.

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If memory serves, I don’t think Ghost Rider, Man-Thing , the Panther, Cage or any of the Western strips had been reprinted at that stage.

The contents of the first issue were Kirby-heavy: the Inhumans strip from Amazing Adventures split-book, which is very Fourth World in tone and approach. The first SHIELD story mixed Bondian and UNCLE tropes with sci-fi. Captain Marvel continued from POTA: the moodily atmospheric but still rather humdrum Thomas/Colan stories morphed into the bizarre Arnold Drake/Don Heck run. Oddly,  only Mar-Vell had an entire story reprinted each week. I had read both the Cap and Subby strips in King-Size colour at the turn of the decade but I was still getting something new.

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To be honest, however, I wasn’t wild about the Titans until it began to reprint the X-Men (formerly featured in The Super-Heroes). the Thomas/Roth stories were among my earliest Marvel memories from Fantastic in the late 60s: the Mimic, Banshee, Factor Three and Kukulca’an, who had always sounded amazing.

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Perhaps not so amazing…

Before the end of the Mutant-Master storyline, the merry mutants had decamped to MWOM. The Fantastic Four was the cover feature for over twenty issues before, in turn,  it moved to Captain Britain and was replaced by the Avengers when the assemblers’ own title folded.  I missed at least five issues in the spring of 1976, including the Latverian “Prisoner” homage: further distribution problems?

A couple of months earlier in ’76, the second landscape title was launched:

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I think I preferred some of the features in this title, especially the Thing team-ups from MTIO and, later, the Invaders. It had a scuzzy, 70s feel that was lacking in the Titans, where material was culled from the Sixties, in the main: Cap continued to the Falcon’s introduction; Subby to the reintroduction and death of Toro and SHIELD to the early Steranko adventures.  Mar-Vell staggered on further, from  his reinvention by Thomas and Kane and finally his early 70s-revival with the horrid Wayne Boring stories.

Such were the economic woes of the decade, however, that both landscape titles had merged, as UK comics always did, by December of 1976.

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 The final issue of The Titans

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I was crazy about the Beast-Brood in this issue:

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By 1977, the format was abandoned completely, although, since the surviving Spider-Man weekly carried on the Englehart Avengers for another year, I didn’t mind . The last landscape comic I remember reading was the gimmicky FF 252 from the early 80s. John Byrne’s  “Cityscape” story is an homage (ahem!) to Jon Pertwee’s 1974 adventure Death to the Daleks, where a computerised metropolis expels its citizens and they descend into savagery.

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Complaints about the butchery of the art in the format experiment that was Titans and SS are understandable but they perhaps fail to note the element of novelty. Comics were still for kids and the landscape format was new and also represented value for money: very important in 1975.

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The back page of issue one of The Titans carries an ad for the 1976 annuals, none of which I read that Xmas, although I was given the Avengers annual by a friend decades later.  I had received all three of the 75 annuals so, again, perhaps my mum and dad were stretched too thin that year, on top of the Dr. Who Annual and the wondrous Monster Book .

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Certainly, if they felt I was too old at 12, they’d changed their minds by Xmas ’76, when I got the MWOM annual for 1977.

Neatly, that brings us back to Time Lord posts. Coming up in the future: the Spirit, Hawkguy and the Magician’s Apprentice

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