Thursday, October 1, 2015

More Bang For Your Buck--At Least On Paper

Marvel Fanfare, the 1982-91 anthology series, was first described on the Bullpen Bulletins page as "Comics the way you always dreamed they'd be presented--with no ads, in vivid colors, on slick, high-quality paper." That really did little to give you an idea of just what kind of comic you're going to be reading--but given its $1.25 price tag, over twice the amount you'd pay for a regularly published Marvel comic, your expectations would understandably be high. Yet the reality was that your money was paying for the high-quality paper, more detailed coloring, and of course the lack of advertising in the book--not necessarily for story and artwork that were above the norm. I don't know of any comics reader who browses the store racks while breaking down cover price allocations in their head in such a manner, or any manner--which may help to explain why "Marvel Fanfare," despite its elevated production values, met with relatively little fanfare.

The book published new stories (either fresh from the drawing board or non-released inventory material) featuring both high-profile and under-the-radar characters--a description which could also be applied to the wide array of writers and artists which Editor Al Milgrom brought aboard to contribute and to showcase their work. Yet it was a rare day when you'd put down a Marvel Fanfare issue and feel as if you'd just read a future classic or an otherwise exceptional piece of comics work. On the other hand, if you were looking for something a little more out of the ordinary featuring Marvel characters, you would likely have been pleased by the format of the series.

The original volume of Marvel Fanfare lasted 60 issues, its almost 10-year run explained by its bi-monthly publication schedule (on occasion even taking several months to release an issue). Five years after its initial run ended, the title would receive another opportunity to catch on with readers, this time at a substantially reduced price than comparable titles on the sales rack and produced on less expensive paper. Published monthly, the book closed shop after just six issues.

If nothing else, Marvel Fanfare can be remembered for some work that was off the beaten path from that which appeared elsewhere in Marvel publications. (Picture an entire issue by Barry Smith featuring the Thing falling victim to an elaborate April Fool's Day prank by the Torch, for instance.) Following are a few of the more eye-catching covers from the series, with work by Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Byrne, and John Buscema--as well as a Spider-Man/Silver Surfer insert by Byrne.


Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

I've seen a few of these in various quarter boxes, and some of those covers, especially by Byrne, look really good.

If at all, do you have any favorite issues or stories from this series.
The only one that stands out to me, is hearing about the Captain America story by Frank Miller about Cap confronting some flag-burners, or a guy that burned a flag and I think defending his rights to, or something like that. It had a memorable cover though of Cap with a tears in his eyes holding a burning flag.

Comicsfan said...

Dale, I think once I saw the direction this title was headed in, I pretty much lost interest in picking it up, to be honest. At the time, I was already collecting and reading several titles a week, and my plate was full--and there were other reasons it didn't grab me, aside from its price tag. For one, the fact that I was reading these stories in Marvel Fanfare, and not, say, Fantastic Four, or X-Men, or Captain America, made me less willing to give them a chance to stand on their own feet. Compare that perception to the experience you have when reading titles like Marvel Team-Up or the Giant-Size books, which maintained a closer connection to their characters' main titles, and it's difficult to sit down with MF and keep an open mind as to its story offerings. Again, some readers may have found it to be worth the effort--I just couldn't say the same for myself.

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

I hear ya man. I always loved Marvel Team-Up, especially the reprints I'd buy in Marvel Tales. The stories were pretty entertaining, at least the ones I bought were, and the team-up guests, all good choices.
Kitty Pryde, Havok, the Beast, Namor, the FF, Prof. X, damn were those are fun reads.