Marvel Comics must have been a strange place to work during the 1960s. That was the decade that gave us the second big burst of comics popularity, with Stan Lee creating series like The Fantastic Four, The Avengers and The X-Men. It was an astonishing burst of raw creativity. You simply cannot fault Stan Lee for a lack of imagination. You do sometimes have to wonder about his judgement though.
Take the Marvel fan club. They could have called it a fan club, and everyone would have understood that. They could have given it a superheroic name, and their young audience would doubtless have loved it. But they wanted none of that. For reasons best known to themselves they called it The Merry Marvel Marching Society. Yes kids, for only $1.50 you get to pretend that you're all part of a marching band! You can sort of see what they were trying to do, getting their readers to think that they're part of a unified whole, a movement, all making a big noise about the wonders of comics. Sort of. Except that it's completely barmy.
But Marvel loved the name so much that it made it into the theme tune to their superhero cartoon shows. For a generation, superheroes would become associated with the sound of marching band music, all twirling batons and ra-ra-ra. It was the naffest thing ever. Almost.
You see, your $1.50 didn't just let you pretend you had a trombone in your pocket. You got a sticker, a badge, a certificate and a membership card. You got a letter of welcome, and you got The Voices of Marvel
, a single sided record. What's the best thing about the amazing Spider-Man? It's not the web-slinging, and it's not the motley parade of bad guys. It's certainly not Peter Parker. The undisputed star of Spider-Man is J Jonah Jameson, the irate editor of the Daily Bugle, and he works so well because everyone who wrote his lines wanted to be the wisecracking Spider-Man but knew deep down that they were his brash, cigar-spitting boss. When Marvel attempted humour, it was at best crashingly awful, and at worst something that you stared at in pity and horror. It was obnoxious and deeply uncool, and weighed down with the most alien cultural baggage.
It is with great pleasure that I can tell you that The Voices of Marvel
is the Marvel office staff performing 5 minutes of comedy. It may be the worst thing you will ever hear. Cherish it.Marvel Comics - The Merry Marvel Marching Society(alternate download)Marvel Comics - The Voices of Marvel(alternate download)