Thursday, 28 April 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Marvel Action Hour

Before we get into the review, a little background. In 1994, Marvel put it's new Fantastic 4 and Iron Man cartoons in a block called Marvel Action Hour. In the US, these featured introductions by Stan Lee and had commercial breaks. However, in the UK, they had the Iron Man and Fantastic 4 cartoons, but the BBC had cut out the Stan Lee introductions, replacing them with episodes from the 1982 Incredible Hulk cartoon. So, in order to cash in on this success, Marvel UK released a comic book in the UK format. Enter: Marvel Action Hour!

The comic was first released to the UK public on October 9th 1996. It was published fortnightly and in order to keep the stories going, they cut the full size reprints down from 60 pages, down to 25. The comics were reprints of 1970s Fantastic 4 strips and 1980s Iron Man strips. 

To compensate the idea that 60 pages from 2 full comics needing to be split over 25 pages, they would often split the comics up into thirds, each fortnight, swapping over. For example, Issue 1 featured a full Fantastic 4 story, while reprinting a 3rd of the Iron Man story. Issue 2 picked up the rest of the Iron Man story and then the next 9 pages of the follow up Fantastic 4 story. They would also swap who would be the lead story per comic. 

Not only did the comics feature adverts for other big name comics being printed at the time, like Spectacular Spider-Man Adventures, but it also featured some great full colour reprints of the artwork by John Buscema and Joe Sinnot. However, some of the covers actually featured redrawn artwork by Marvel UK's artists at the time, Jon Rushby and inked by Bambos Georgiou, which lead the comic in with the traditional Marvel UK flair.

So what happened? well, noone's really sure. It lasted 4 issues and then promised and promoted a 5th issue, which never materialised. It was cancelled rather quickly and silently, with no word from Marvel UK as to why. Many fans have theorised that sales were too low to continue. Marvel Action Hour was no longer being aired on the BBC might have had somethign to do with it too. The other major theory is that it was reprinting Fantastic 4 material and well, Fantastic 4 has never been truly popular here in the UK, so it would have been a hard sell. 

As short lived as it was, it has it's place in comic history. Maybe Marvel UK could have done their own thing with it rather than reprint obscure storylines from the 1970s and 1980s Maybe they should have had more than 25 pages. You can find these comics on eBay for about £20 for a full set.