The magazine format did not fall under the purview of the comics industry's self-censorship Comics Code Authority, allowing the titles to feature stronger content than mainstream color comic books, such as moderate profanity, partial nudity, and more graphic violence.
In addition to original content, many issues included reprinted material, including a number of horror stories from Marvel's 1950s predecessor Atlas Comics that originally were published before the 1954 introduction of the Comics Code.
The magazine line was Marvel's second attempt, following the two-issue superhero entry The Spectacular Spider-Man in 1968, at entering the comics-magazine field dominated by Warren Publishing and smaller publishers like Eerie Publications and Skywald Publications. The magazine format did not fall under the purview of the comics industry's self-censorship Comics Code Authority, allowing the titles to feature stronger content than mainstream color comic books, such as moderate profanity, partial nudity, and more graphic violence. The first title was Savage Tales, which debuted in 1971 and was immediately cancelled. Roy Thomas, a Marvel writer-editor who become the company's editor-in-chief in 1972, recalled that:
...there were several things that led to Savage Tales being cancelled after that first issue. [Publisher] Martin Goodman had never really wanted to do a non-Code comic, probably because he didn't want any trouble with the [Comics Magazine Association of America] over it. Nor did he really want to get into magazine-format comics; and [Marvel editor-in-chief] Stan [Lee] really did. So Goodman looked for an excuse to cancel it.
After having sold Magazine Management in 1968, Goodman left in 1972, the same year the company's new owners revived the magazine line. In addition to Savage Tales, now with a new lineup of content, Magazine Management released the new titles Dracula Lives!, Vampire Tales, and Monsters Unleashed, as well as Monster Madness, a humorous fumetti magazine (all published under the Marvel Monster Group brand); Tales of the Zombie; the prose digest Haunt of Horror; and the satirical-comics magazine Crazy. Editor Wolfman said, "We used to farm the books out to Harry Chester Studios [sic] and whatever they pasted up, they pasted up. I formed the first production staff, hired the first layout people, paste-up people." 1974 saw the debut of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Monsters of the Movies, Planet of the Apes, Savage Sword of Conan, and Marvel's short-lived entree into underground comix, Comix Book.
By late 1974, Magazine Management was publishing 11 black-and-white comics magazine market with 11 regular titles. Al Hewetson, editor of rival comics-magazine publisher Skywald Publications, blamed his company's demise on
...Marvel's distributor. Our issues were selling well, and some sold out. Such returns as we received were shipped overseas, mainly to England, where they sold out completely... When Marvel entered the game with countless [black-and-white horror] titles gutting [sic] the newsstand, their distributor was so powerful they denied Skywald access to all but the very largest newsstands, so our presence was minimal and fans and readers simply couldn't find us. ... [We] had a business lunch with our distributor in the fall of '74 and we were given very specific information about the state of affairs on the newsstands — which had nothing to do with Warren's or Skywald’s solid readership base.
Despite this victory, in 1975 the Marvel magazine line was revamped. All the horror titles were cancelled (although several would then get an all-reprint, extra-thick "Annual" #1). The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes, Savage Sword of Conan, and Crazy continued, and quite a few new titles were announced, promoted, and listed in the regular subscription ads, but almost none were released as ongoing publications. Marvel Super Action and Marvel Movie Premiere became one-shots, while Sherlock Holmes and Star-Lord surfaced in the Marvel Preview anthology. Some of the material intended for a self-titled magazine for the martial-arts superhero Iron Fist, whose four-color feature was at this time still appearing under the Marvel Premiere title, saw the light of publishing day in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #10. Masters of Terror and Doc Savage did manage two and eight issues respectively. The line would never again consist at one time of more titles than could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
1977 saw the debut of Rampaging Hulk (which later changed its title to The Hulk!, which ran through 1981). Starting with 1981 cover-dates, the line bore the name Marvel Magazine Group on such new titles as the Howard the Duck magazine as well as on such surviving titles as Savage Sword of Conan - the longest-lived magazine title, which lasted 235 issues through 1995.
Upon the line's demise, former editor Wolfman asserted that "Marvel never gave their full commitment to it, that was the problem. No one wanted to commit themselves to the staff."
Initially, the only company brand on the magazines was the "three C's" Curtis Circulation Company logo (Curtis being Marvel's distributor and an affiliated company). The Marvel Comics brand and logo did not always appear on the cover or in the indicia; the only obvious relation to Marvel being the publisher's name, Magazine Management, a name that the four-color comics stopped using in 1973 but was retained for the black-and-white magazines. Nonetheless, Marvel characters appeared regularly in the magazine line, and many of the magazine titles were featured in the four-color comics' house advertisements. The Curtis imprint was reduced to "CC" in 1975.
Ongoing series (by initial publication date)
Savage Tales (1971, 1973–1975) — starred such sword-and-sorcery characters as Conan, Kull, and John Jakes' barbarian creation, Brak. Edited by Stan Lee (issue #1) Roy Thomas (#2–6), Gerry Conway (#7–11), Marv Wolfman (#11), and Archie Goodwin (#11).
Monster Madness, the first title in the Marvel Monster Group, presented black-and-white stills with humorous word balloons added by Stan Lee. The title ran three issues, from 1972-1973. Goodman had published a similar magazine, Monsters Unlimited, in the 1960s, and Magazine Management later released one issue of a political satire magazine in the same format, The Wit and Wisdom of Watergate, although that magazine had no apparent connection to Marvel Comics.
Haunt of Horror (1973, 1974–1975) — originally published for two issues in 1973 as a prose digest with some spot and full-page illustrations, edited by Gerry Conway. The title was revived with a new #1 in 1974 in the black and white comics magazine format. The magazine version was edited by Roy Thomas (issues #1 & 2), Marv Wolfman (#2–4), Tony Isabella (#3 & 4), David Anthony Kraft (#5), and Don McGregor (#5).
Dracula Lives (1973–1975) — published 13 issues and one Super Annual. Running concurrently with the longer-running Marvel comic Tomb of Dracula, the continuities of the two titles occasionally overlapped, with storylines weaving between the two. Most of the time, however, the stories in Dracula Lives! were stand-alone tales. The title published Dracula stories by various creative teams, including a serialized adaptation of the original Bram Stoker novel, in 10- to 12-page installments written by Thomas and drawn by Dick Giordano.
The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (1974–1977) — published in response to the mid-1970s "Chopsocky" movie craze. Edited by Roy Thomas (issues #1 & 2), Tony Isabella (#3–6), Don McGregor (#7, 8, 10, 11, 16), David Anthony Kraft (#9 & 10), Archie Goodwin (#12–15, 18–25), and John Warner (#26–33).
Monsters of the Movies (1974–1975) — covering classic and contemporary horror movies, Monsters of the Movies included interviews, articles and photo features. The magazine was an attempt to cash in on the success of Warren'sFamous Monsters of Filmland (Another similar title with a similar goal was Monsters Unleashed.) The Monsters of the Movies staff was roughly composed of half freelancing West Coast horror fans, and half members of the Marvel bullpen located on the East Coast. The West Coast editor was short story author and popular culture historian Jim Harmon. Over time, tensions developed between the West Coast and East Coast staff cliques, a factor that may have contributed to the series ending after just nine issues. A postmortem by assistant editor Ralph Macchio, appeared the following year in the pages of Marvel Preview #8: The Legion of Monsters (1976) (one of Marvel's final stabs at launching a magazine starring horror characters), and seemed to blame the West Coasters for the failure, and left ill feelings among them in its wake, especially as Macchio was not even on Marvel's staff during the events he described.
Planet of the Apes (1974–1977) — published 29 issues with adaptations of all five Apes movies, plus original stories set in the Ape Universe, and articles about the making of the movies and the short-lived TV series. Edited by Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella, Marv Wolfman, and Don McGregor. Marvel reprinted in color the first two film adaptations in the newsstand-distributed comic book Adventures On The Planet Of The Apes over eleven issues in 1975. Stories from the magazine were also reprinted in England by Marvel UK in a weekly title of 123 issues from 1974–1977.
The Savage Sword of Conan (1974–1980; 1980–1995) — didn't have the Marvel name on its cover until 1980, where it continued to have it until the title's cancellation in 1995.
Doc Savage (1975–1977) — eight issues featuring the "Man of Bronze" were published from 1975–1977. Edited by Marv Wolfman (issues #1 & 2), Archie Goodwin (#2–4), and John Warner (#5–8).
Gothic Tales of Love (1975) — like The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu, Gothic Tales of Love, which published three issues in 1975, was a prose magazine with some spot illustrations; it didn't contain any comics. Each issue featured three "book-length thrillers" by contemporary Gothic romance writers.
Kull and the Barbarians (1975) — edited by Roy Thomas, three issues were published of the sword-and-sorcery title starring the Robert E. Howard hero Kull of Atlantis. The storyline, which involved Kull going on a quest to regain his lost kingdom, picked up from the cancelled Marvel title Kull the Conqueror. (After the cancellation of Kull and the Barbarians, the storyline was picked up again in the Marvel title Kull the Destroyer.)
Marvel Preview (1975–1980)/Bizarre Adventures (1980–1983) — a showcase book, notable for publishing first and/or early appearances of Marvel characters like Blade (issue #3), Star-Lord (#4), Dominic Fortune (#2), Satana (#7), and many more. Issue #3 contained the Blade story that originally was going to be in Vampire Tales #12, had that title not been cancelled. It also featured the first teaming of the celebrated X-Men creative trio of writer Chris Claremont, penciller John Byrne, and inker Terry Austin (in issue #11, featuring Star-Lord.) After 24 issues the name was changed to Bizarre Adventures and published for ten more issues before folding in 1983. Edited by Roy Thomas (issue #1, 9, & 19), Marv Wolfman (#2 & 3), Archie Goodwin (#4–6), John Warner (#5–8, 10, 11, & 14), Ralph Macchio (#8, 10–19, & 21–24), Roger Slifer (#12), David Anthony Kraft (#13), Rick Marschall (#14–18), Mark Gruenwald (#19), and Roger Stern (#20), Lynn Graeme (#20–24).
Masters of Terror (1975) — published black-and-white reprints of stories from early 1970s Marvel horror and suspense titles. The title lasted two issues and was edited by Tony Isabella.
The Rampaging Hulk (1977–1978)/The Hulk! (1978–1981) — edited for its first nine issues by John Warner (issues #1–4), Roger Slifer (#5–7), and David Anthony Kraft (#8 & 9); then continued with issue #10 as The Hulk! (in "MarvelColor"), and then became an official Marvel title for its last three issues. As The Hulk! (from 1978–1981), it was edited by David Anthony Kraft (#10), Rick Marschall (#11–18), and Lynn Graeme (#19–27). Backups features included "Bloodstone", :Man-Thing", and "Shanna the She-Devil".
The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu (Summer 1975) — martial-arts magazine with no comic book elements. Instead, The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu contained instructional features by comics illustrator/martial artist Frank McLaughlin, and a reprinted discussion of the film Enter the Dragon originally published in three parts in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. The magazine carried no advertising. Editor John Warner explained in the magazine's editorial page that The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu was a test release for an all-articles companion to Deadly Hands.
Marvel Movie Premiere (1975) — edited by Marv Wolfman, Archie Goodwin, and John Warner, Marvel Movie Premiere featured Wolfman and Sonny Trinidad's adaptation of the 1975 movie The Land That Time Forgot.
Marvel Super Action (1976) — edited by Archie Goodwin, featuring the Punisher on the cover, the second appearance of Howard Chaykin's Dominic Fortune, Bobbi Morse's first appearance as a costumed heroine, here called the Huntress but soon rechristened Mockingbird, and Doug Moench and Mike Ploog's first "Weirdworld" story. The last, according to the editorial, was pulled from inventory when the magazine was reduced from an ongoing series to an advertising-free one-shot. Marvel revived this title for an all-reprint color-comics series in 1977. It reprinted Captain America stories in the first 13 issues, then Avengers stories for the rest of its 37-issue run.
^Welles, Chris (10 Feb 1969). "Post-Mortem". New York Magazine. pp. 32–36. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
^The "three C's" logo was also used for some of Magazine Management publisher Martin Goodman's men's humor cartoon magazines such as Best Cartoons, Cartoons & Gags, Cartoon Laughs, Popular Cartoons, and Popular Jokes during the 1970s. Most of these magazines contained single-panel cartoons, but many of them also contained short "Pussycat" stories by Jim Mooney and others. Other so-called Curtis magazines included the Sensuous Streaker one-shot and Nostalgia Illustrated, which lasted for nearly a year. None of these magazines were advertised in Marvel comic books.
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