Ad for 1970s Marvel Comics

Typically garish house ad for Marvel magazines from late-1974—this one from Master of Kung Fu #20. DC always did these things with more panache tending to put an accent on the power of the cover to sell its books. Marvel, as here, goes for hype and sheer volume of wordage. “Marvel does it again!” indeed.

The bizarre mixture of characters and genres on display reminds me of some of Marvel UK’s desperation when forced to merge disparate titles. This resulted in oddities such as Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives weekly. Best of the bunch is probably the Savage Sword of Conan magazine, which had some beautiful Smith and Buscema art during the early days—the latter having his work drowned in the inks of various Filipino artists such as Alfredo Alcala. Now, some might say that was inappropriate, but I reckon the mixture produced some spectacularly beautiful results. Planet of the Apes suffered from some weak artwork for its adaptations in the early issues, though Mike Ploog’s work for the back up stories was great. Deadly Hands of Kung Fu sported some fabulous Neal Adams covers, though the image here is by the rather less fabulous Ron Wilson and taken from the first Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu. And the less said about the Sons of the Tiger the better, I reckon.

So, a bit of a mixed bag, but at least the Marvel magazines were offering some alternatives to the publisher’s super-hero output. By this point sales of comics generally were so low, both Marvel and DC were trying any-and everything to boost readership. Nothing really worked, and it wouldn’t be until the end of the decade that the direct sales market offered some life support.

Image ©2012 Marvel Characters, Inc