Being both a movie buff and avid comic-book reader had its perks in the ’70s and ’80s, especially when Marvel Comics rolled out its “Marvel Super Special” comic-book magazine series.
Once I was hooked by the oversized Marvel Special Edition adaptation of STAR WARS in two parts (I remember my parents buying me what felt like a newspaper-sized comic to read on the ferry between Cape Cod and Nantucket), I was always hungry to devour another adaptation of one of my favorite movies in between a steady diet of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Daredevil, Morbius The Living Vampire, Submariner, and X-Men comics. My collection included adaptations of everything from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK to CONAN THE BARBARIAN, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Out of all the adaptations, I distinctly remember DRAGONSLAYER being the only Marvel Super Special comic I read first before seeing the movie.
Here’s a sampling of the Marvel Super Special comics that I still own — with an adaptation of TIME BANDITS that I pored over again and again and the second cover of the oversized STAR WARS adaptation that I loved — thrown in for good measure.
Debuting in 1977 with an original 40-page KISS adventure that saw the band battling it out with none other than Doctor Doom and Mephisto, the Marvel Super Special magazine series (first called “A Marvel Comics Super Special!”) ran for 40 one-off issues through 1986, mostly adapting movies and select TV shows (an adaptation of the craptastic TV-movie KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK was sadly not part of this series).
Only one Marvel Super Special adaptation that was produced never got released, and that was of Universal’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. The Marvel team blamed frustrations with constant script changes and a lack of likeness rights for the characters. The movie is notoriously silly, not in a good way, and that silliness reportedly translated into even more ridiculousness on the page. Incidentally, my older sister had the soundtrack to that film, and I remember trying to like it given the super-’70s pedigree, but ultimately seeking out the real-deal — and astronomically superior — Beatles album instead to compensate for my aural frustration.
Also of note, the KISS Marvel Super Special debut issue boasted that it was printed using real KISS blood drawn from Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (while in full makeup and costume, naturally). Talk about a publicity stunt!
I’ve assembled the lion’s share of additional Marvel Super Special covers for your viewing pleasure below. Most of these were off my radar when they were released, seeing as I was a bit sequestered from easily accessible pop culture during my high school years. Yes, I was a boarding school kid, which made a trip to the local newsstand or comic book store a very rare occasion. But looking at the wonderful selection of titles, I’m tempted to seek out a few.
I’ve already chased down the Marvel adaptation of DUNE, and now think I need to add several more to my collection, especially OCTOPUSSY, BUCKAROO BANZAI, BLADE RUNNER, JAWS 2, and CONAN THE DESTROYER. Dare I track down XANADU?
And while I’m on the subject, there are a few more comic-book adaptations of films and television that have caught my eye over the years that were not part of the Marvel Super Special comic-magazine series but deserve honorable mention here. Some of these I’ve read, some I’ve simply admired. I especially love the efforts to continue the storylines into an ongoing series that stray from the TV and film source material, such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, LOGAN’S RUN and PLANET OF THE APES.
For the record, Jack Kirby’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY comic-book series holds a special place in my heart. That Issue #1 is the first comic book I ever bought with my own money when I started to get an allowance at eight years old. It was that or candy, and I went for the colorful comic. However, I also seem to recall shrewdly managing to still be left with five cents so I could buy a Bazooka bubble gum (with bonus mini-comic inside!).