Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Thing is Big Ben: Thing comics from the UK

It's no surprise that many American based comic book companies publish foreign and foreign language editions of some of their books. Many books have audiences outside of the US, so it only makes sense for Marvel, DC and others to reach out and try to sell their stories to different countries.

I don't usually collect foreign editions of books, because they're often hard to find, expensive and overwhelmingly numerous. But "The Thing is Big Ben", the United Kingdom's awkwardly titled collection from the 1980s, is a title that I've had my eye on for a while, for obvious reasons. I finally found a batch that was reasonably priced, so I placed the order and got a few issues.

The book consists of reprinted and repackaged stories from around the late 1970s. The Thing has the lead story, but each of the books also contains tales from other characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. The first volume of "The Thing" was being published at the same time in the US, but this UK version contains reprinted Marvel Two-in-One stories from a few years prior. It's interesting that they started with later stories, near the end of Two-in-One, rather than just starting at the beginning (when the stories were better). I wonder what the publishing arrangement was - if the UK folks only had access to older material or if someone involved really enjoyed the latter 25% of Marvel Two-in-One.

The covers are also an interesting part of these books. Many of them are similarly reprinted covers from Marvel Two-in-One, but some of them feature original art, such as the first issue with the Thing gleefully advertising the free hat offer, or the above new image from artist Terry Austin.

The books are sized at just a little bit smaller than current magazines. They're very flimsy and are printed on newsprint. Even the covers are the same paper stock, which gives the books a newspaper feel from cover to cover. Curiously, the color scheme changes from spread to spread. The first two pages of the above story are colored as you'd expect...

...but the next two pages are printed with shades of just one non-black color. This rotates throughout the whole book, which is interesting, to say the least. If this happens simply as a cost-saving measure, why not print the entire first story in full color, then print the remaining pages in black, white and blue? It's an odd choice.

"The Thing is Big Ben" published 18 issues in the mid-'80s, and it followed the same format throughout its run. So far, I've been able to track down eight of these books, so I've got a little more than half to go. I wonder if these are as easy (and as cheap) to find in the UK as issues of "The Thing" are to find in the US. If there's anyone from that part of the world reading this blog, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this reprint series!

No comments: