Back Issue # 86 (magazine review).

February 27, 2016 | By | Reply More

Although I missed out on Back Issue # 81 which explored DC Comics reprints so can’t compare them, with Back Issue # 86, there is an exploration of the reprints from Marvel Comics. Over the years, I’ve known fans who collected reprints simply because they were cheapest way to get the early stories. I did something similar with ‘Marvel Tales’ when it went for a second run in the 1980s so I could get a descent run of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. It’s a shame really that there is no coverage at all about UK reprints which is largely how many British fans got involved, although I doubt it would be of interest to American readers, although it is equally convoluted. I had a conversation with Marvel UK editor Bernie Jaye at the time who asked why UK reprints sales would suddenly drop and I said that the readers had discovered the American originals in colour and switched over. The fact that they jumped past the early stories being irrelevant when they could get US reprints in colour anyway.


Marvel Comics US reprints were done for all sorts of reasons, including maintaining copyright as much as circulating old stories. This was originally as much a venue for western, horror and romance stories as super-hero material and all with new covers. Some things like cutting pages for the specific number then printed or even to fit with particular formats, like ‘Howard The Duck’ in Treasury format, will make you think and probably want to compare. If you can’t spot the difference then it shows how good you are at following the story content. It also created various headaches for the reprint editor in keeping the story continuity. One of the best stories is Jo Duffy explaining how editor-in-chief Jim Shooter sorted out that editorial content (that’s comicbook pages) was too expensive and found that it was being billed along with advert pages and so restored comicbooks from 17 back to 22 pages an issue. The reprints also corrected mistakes made in the original and you have to love the original fluffed line shown here where Captain America admitted defeat even before going to battle.

Just in case you think that this issue would end there, we then look at Marvel’s King-Size issues that were tried for a few months and then dropped. This was tried with all the top selling titles and resurrected a dead comic with a revised team called ‘The X-Men’. Something I hadn’t realised was that when Gil Kane drew King-Size X-Men # 1 modified Wolverine’s mask that Dave Cockrum modified his accordingly in the pages he was drawing. Of course, in the back of these King-Size issues were reprints to bring the page numbers up. When the ‘King-Size’ issue were brought to an end, the extended stories continued in the various annuals.

One thing that did come up a lot from all this information is the answers to where some of these characters issue runs actually started from as it wasn’t always with the first issue or having a title change from something that was carry reprints. These days, if you earnestly don’t need these early issues then it’s a little easier to look up. A magazine such as this ‘Back Issue’ does make this a lot easier if it’s on your shelf.

Lest you think or your memory forgets, Simon & Schuster did a range of Marvel reprint books back in the 1970s although I’m surprised that writer Stephen Fredt didn’t remember or know the nickname of third book, ‘The Superhero Women’ as ‘Bring On The Broads’. He does point out how Stan Lee does credit his co-creators with all the introductions for all of these books.

The number of reprints through other publishers and, towards the end here, by Marvel itself, is eye-stretching. Some I still actually own because of them being oddities being so small and cheap, like those Pocket Books that were distributed in the UK, and others I only heard about it. As the common theme was to catch new readers at the time, we has to assume they were successful. If anything, it does add knowledge of them not just doing the super-hero titles this way. What is also fun is seeing original comicbook covers having little tweaks like characters changed or removed to match what was needed for the reprints.

Although I was aware that a couple of the 1980s reprints had extras like pin-ups, I wasn’t aware quite how many had extra stories or framing devices. Saying that, the number of new covers, some of which are shown there, is going to make things interesting for those of you wanting to track down all the work of particular artists. As with all reprints, there are checklists for all content in case you missed any and can’t afford the originals. If anything, with all these reprints, you do get spoilt for choice as to which to own but reading here, you can select those that serve your needs best and probably cheaper than some of the current Masterworks.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to treat a magazine devoted to reprints but came away from this issue of ‘Back Issue’ a lot more knowledgeable and informed than I thought I was going to be. I also got a lot more insight into how Marvel did their marketing which was more by guesswork and often not to oust their competitors from the shelves. If you were brought up in the time period when these comics and books were put out there, then you will certainly have some of them in your collection.

GF Willmetts

February 2016

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 100 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.95 (US). Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.46 (US))

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Category: Comics, Magazines

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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