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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Chilling GhoulishTales Of Terror

This post from 2014 highlighted a lot of the problems in "the old days" when the UK still had publishing houses. The post later received a comment that I'll add at the end!


I was going through old posts the other day when I found this one. I read through it and realised I had made a HUGE error!
So, to correct that, here is an up-dated, better illustrated posting!

Above: Myron Fass (by Jeff Goodman) and his shirt and, yes, I believe that is the famous gun under his vest!

Back in the 1970s I was young,foolish and so desperately wanted to be a comic book publisher.  One day a friend working at BBC TV Pebble Mill phoned me and said:”Stan Lee is going to be on Pebble Mill At One-can you get to Birmingham?”

Pebble Mill At One was a chat/features show that went out at 1p.m. each day and Stan Lee was only “guaranteed” for that show’s duration.  Could I get there?  Yes!

Well,that was the plan.  There used to be an old newsagents/tobacconist on Newfoundland Road before it became part of the motorway into Bristol.  The owner at the time,Reg,didn’t like distributors of magazines and comics for reasons I never learned.  When I asked I was told,in amongst the coughing,”Theyz all a buncha bastids”.

Anyway,I got a good few of my Charlton Comics in there and Reg loved horror comics.  I mentioned going to Pebble Mill and Reg told me he had to “pop up to” Leicester on that day to pick up new issues of a comic -he could drop me by Pebble Mill?

Above: A Myron Fass publication that I submitted articles for -no idea if they were published!

Now, up to this point my original article was correct but I then found my notes and I realised the huge error I had made. T & P were distributors and someone there -I have "Mar" in my notes so it could be Martin?- gave me the number of some contacts. These were at Moore Harness Ltd and Portman Distribution Ltd.

Time for some more about the UKs very, uh, "murky", comics going ons.

Castle of Terror and Tales Of Terror caught my eye because they were UK comic magazine format and were both in 1978 and published by Croydon based Portman Distribution. A number of Marvel comic weeklies had been cancelled -Dracula Lives!, Planet Of The Apes, etc.. So my assumption was, since they seemed to utilise a fair bit of that material, that these were somehow Marvel sanctioned and legit.

But in later conversations with Marvel UK folk (oh, if only I'd done that years before!) it seems the deal to publish this material was agreed upon between Portman and Marvel in the United States, totally bypassing the new Marvel UK.  Marvel UK complained to head office and the deal was scrapped. I think both titles only got as far as issues 4 or 5.  Monster Monthly was Marvel UKs response but that didn't last very long.

Now, Portman I spoke to and I, uh, purchased two titles...but no content! Obviously I had not realised that at the time because I was told "We don't really feel comfortable publishing comics".  Yes, I was a ***** idiot.

But Moore Harness, a Surrey based company, were publishing less high quality titles such as Chilling Tales Of Horror and Ghoul Tales and, it seems, they wanted to shift them along to someone else. Me.

I shook hands. I paid the money.

I was in a cold sweat.  By today’s standards £100 isn’t much but in the 1970s it was a small fortune.  I sold loads of items and duly got the rights.  However, printers then asked for more and more money as they claimed this-and-that had to be “tweaked in house”.  So, I was there with comics but it would be too expensive to print.

I asked Alan Class about his printers and he gave me the details.  Their rates were very reasonable.  Then, out of the blue, I heard from Portman and then Moore Harness: it seemed I’d have to also negotiate with the original publisher in the United States.  This was a shock to me.  I thought all the work belonged to those companies and no one ever mentioned a US publisher.  Apparently, one of those notorious oversights that happened in UK comics.

If I was in a sweat before.... 

I wrote a long letter to MF Enterprises and I sat back nervously awaiting a reply.  One week turned into two and then three.  I really thought I’d sold a great many things and paid out money for nothing.  It was a depressing month.

On the fourth week the telephone rang at 2 a.m. -either someone was ill or had died [no one ever calls that time of night about anything else!].  I’m assuming that it was a loud New York [?] voice that greeted my nervous “hello?”.  Apparently, I was talking to Myron Fass who told me he’d gotten my letter and read it through and told me I’d gotten a “shitty deal” (and I AM toning down the exact words).  I was regaled by talk of pulp SF publishing and how he’d made a good $4 million dollars on a magazine about the Kennedy Assassination and how he was making "fast bucks with porn books."

At this point I ought to point out that I was wondering why he was telling me all of this and was he impressing me before telling me to take a hike?

Then came the crunch.  Mr Fass said he’d read what I’d sent him (a proposal of how I intended to use the strips and so forth) and it looked good –a brief moment of thinking he was going to offer to publish the title was soon dashed.  He said he’d noted I was going to add a super hero strip into the comic to draw in fans of that genre (a bad idea that I'd never try today!) and asked if I had a super hero comic strip?  I said I was still looking.  There was a laugh and a “Kid, yer ****** lucky!” ["kid"??].

He then told me how he had a super hero that had been a hit in the 1960s called Captain Marvel.
Here I immediately thought of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel.  I asked if he meant that character?  I was told that the Captain Marvel he’d published was far more popular and original.  After five minutes of talking from him I had agreed to pay a sum for the horror strip rights in the UK and Captain Marvel.

The money was sent and then I hit the major snag.  I was told Marvel Comics would sue if I used the name Captain Marvel.  In fact, when I tried to clarify the position I learned that DC comics owned Captain Marvel [Fawcett's] and they would sue.
I was young,inexperienced and out of money and in it deep.

So,I still have the horror pages and I have the Captain Marvel pages [though issue #1 pages are missing after 30 years] but never used them.

Oh, and just to point two things out regarding murkiness...Moore Harness and Portman seem to have shared a similar cover artist on their titles (?) AND both companies (supposedly unconnected) had their titles edited by a Theodore S. Hecht.
Intriguing, no? 

 Captain Marvel (1966) 2-A by M.F. Enterprises

Of course, I only learned in the 1990s about the man known as Myron Fass.  The business partner beating, gun-toting, wheeler-dealer.  I have to say, though, at the time he was very nice but loud, as I expected Americans to be.

I was in awe.

In fact,I wonder whether I had a lucky escape.  I was typing this and wondered whether there was anything on the internet about him.  There is!  So,to learn more of the legend visit:


Below: Myron Fass: "YAHOO! That dumb kid bought it!"

So I saw a comment appear one day and this is it:

"Jack Crandall" was Myron's pseudonym when he did not want to be identified. I'm Jeff Goodman, former editor for Myron, who was randomly Googling Myron and found this website. Actually, Myron DID own the rights to "Captain Marvel" and you could have successfully published it."

I checked with HM Copyright Office and, yes, I could and still can publish the material I bought.  So if I ever get back to publishing new stuff you know what will be top of the list!

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