Back in the early 1960’s, in the UK and Ireland, comics were not the world – conquering communications medium that they are now regarded as. After the pleasures of the easily accessible, more locally produced children’s comics[bought at the newsagent shop with the daily newspaper], any imported from,for example, America, were more of an “underground” pleasure in that they had to be sought out from obscurity and were erratically distributed.In Ireland and the UK, unlike in America, distribution was, at best, spotty. Many comics were loaded into  ships’ holds as bundles of ballast that eventually filtered through to small family -run Mom and Pop shops in towns across the country. They ended up on spinner racks or in a haphazard bundle in the corner of the shop. They were treated as cheap goods for children  to be bought with the newspapers and cigarettes.They had certainly not become the world -straddler that inspired film directors to make large amounts of money nor indeed re-branded as “graphic novels” to  conjure up critical  intellectual reviews in the quality newspapers.


mmf-3003 60 PER


Tony Rochewas the  originator of Comics fandom in Ireland and the UK back in the mid 1960’s when I too was caught up and contributed my comics  enthusiasm to his two comics fanzines, “Merry Marvel Fanzine” and  later “Heroes Unlimited” . The MMF came to my attention in the letter pages of “WHAM” comic.

Wham # 140 Feb. 1967

Wham had been launched  as  a rival to the Beano comic and featured some great artwork from ex -Bash Street Kids artist Leo Baxendale among others. By the time Tony Roche’s letter appeared in issue #140 in February 1967, the comic had begun to feature reprints of Marvel Comics characters such as the Fantastic Four.

Tony Roche’s letter in Wham #140 Feb.1967 on the launch of the Merry Marvel Fanzine.This is the momentwhen tony reached out to comic fans throughout the UK and Ireland.

Tony’s enthusiasm for comics spilled off the page and he mentioned that he was starting a new “fanzine” dedicated to the form.That is where I came in. I was fourteen ,and quite  infected by comics madness ever since my uncle Paddy had bought me the Topper and The Dandy weekly comics, as a boy.I was already a “collector”, reading every kind of comic that I could find. There were all manner of American DC comics around such as Batman , Superman , the Flash and Green Lantern.  The fat annuals and “80page Giants” were a great way of finding older “origin” stories.Dell, Gold Key , Charlton produced solid comics work too but they hadn’t the more glamourous characters even though they featured excellent artwork.  Then there was this strange little dowdy company ,”Marvel”. with its oddly coloured covers and cheap inner paper.These comics were radically different . I had been buying the Alan Class  thick reprint collections  at a shilling each, before I  ever realised that much of these tales  were old Marvel horror stories drawn by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko.  I was already reading the, then very rare Marvel comics and  had come across Spider-man #9 and several other titles and was ready to get involved further. So “Merry Marvel Fanzine” was arguably the first substantial attempt at a magazine about comics anywhere in Ireland or the UK.

In the beginning , known comics fandom seemed to consist of about only thirty five of us enthusiasts . That would have been the extent of the first print runs.From such small beginnings……..


You can link to a FLIPBOOK of   a complete issue of MERRY MARVEL FANZINE # 2 here :

The first fanzine in the UK and Ireland, subsequently  ran for three issues from  1966/ early 1967 and  then the successor “HU” was laid to rest after issue number seven in the Summer of 1969.

After this came a plethora of zines each taking advantage of the new technologies. The Merry Marvel  Fanzine and Heroes Unlimited, created and edited by Tony Roche and aided and abetted by  the likes of Ken Simpson, Ges Cleaver, and Paul Neary  were, by general consensus, the first comic fanzines in the UK and Ireland, though, and like their creator are increasingly very difficult to find anywhere. I became one of a small group of subscribers, supporters  and letter writers. Fortunately , as a natural collector, I kept the majority of mine and bought back most of the remainder at some quite high prices . I haven’t now got my old issue of  MMF #1 [ the long foolscap issue] so if anyone is interested in sharing scans of this first issue, let me know! I still remember , as a fourteen year old fan , painstakingly one-finger typing out a copy of MMFANZINE #1 on a rackety old Remington typewriter so that fellow comics  fan Eugene Murray could  have his own personal copy and share in this great new discovery.The original was printed in that old blue fuzzy ink . Unfortunately Eugene’s copy could only be reproduced in black and white. There were no handy scanners or photocopying machines in the library back then. Dedication was a requirement!!


I have now  uploaded  “Flip Book ” versions my two issues of the “Merry Marvel Fanzine” and the full seven issues of “Heroes Unlimited”. You can find links to them above but in the meantime  here are some covers and pages to give a flavour of our teenage passions.I’ll scan and add as many as possible in the future , time and patience permitting. Tony  dropped out of sight after Heroes Unlimited(See below for an update)  , probably pursuing other teenage interests like girls and music, but my own artistic leanings were to take me to art college three years later where I re-acquainted myself with comics through imported copies of classic underground comix and Dez Skinn’s door opening”Fantasy Advertiser”.

The first wave of American underground comix was all but spent by then but such was the alternate underground press that copies were coming through from  the Real Free Press in Holland and UK versions were being produced too.I picked up a copy of a UK produced version of Robert Crumb’s “Fritz the Cat”, whilst an art student  in Leeds. An excellent bookshop named  “Books” was the initial source . This excellent shop stocked all sorts of literature and was where I found a treasure trove of  bundles of underground comix and books on art.


It was situated just off the student campus. I happened upon an advert for Dez Skinn’s “Fantasy Advertiser inside this comic. That was my re-connection . FANTASY ADVERTISER ADVERT IN FRITZ THE CAT COMIC045

At this time I’d begun attempting some comic strip ideas myself, spurred on by the idea of those underground comix ,which required much  less space and materials  to produce than large oil paintings…..

 Tony was long out of circulation by this time.I hadn’t seen him for about six or seven  years by then and had , at this stage ,personally evolved into a long-haired hippy Fine Art student.He  still remains ,in large measure, some fifty years later, somewhat like Steve Ditko creator of Spiderman, an enigma. A part of my teenage past. Not entirely forgotten though.

It doesn’t take much, but Dez Skinn’s [Who started off his career in those same little fanzines and  subsequently became Mister Comics UK, the Stan Lee of UK Comics and the originator of most of the comics spawned here  in this past thirty years.}


kind  words of praise [ …see comments below….] has encouraged me to upload some of these fanzines in their entirety so if you flip the tabs above  you will find drop-downs for various issues of HEROES UNLIMITED as I find time to upload them.Recently, whilst browsing with Dave in Liverpool’s Waterstones, I came across Teal Triggs  “FANZINES” and therein was the cover of a hand-coloured copy of  HEROES UNLIMITED # 2.

HU #2 COVER001

I wonder was that one of Ges Cleaver and Robert Poole’s artistic jobs on Paul Neary’s artwork. It’s a funny old world out there.



You will find more detail of my involvement in MERRY MARVEL FANZINE and HEROES UNLIMITED in a nostalgic ramble  over four web pages at the following link ….the comics


and hopefullyas I scan and upload a selection of individual issues in the future, you’ll be able to check them out on the individual  dropdown tabs above in this section.

Also of interest is this link which appears to further bring the story up to date, especially page 17-22 which references my own memories .

Below  here is my own copy of “Merry Marvel Fanzine  #2 ” which has somehow become part of the focus for Dublin’s bid to bring the World Con to Dublin in 2019…

mmf2 competition page012 HU # 6 PAGE THREE004

8 Responses to COMICS AND FANDOM

  1. Dez Skinn says:

    Brilliant stuff, Harry. There may not be many left who care, but this stuff needs to be recorded for posterity and I for one am glad you’re doing so!

  2. hi there
    i am so trying 2 get in touch & hope you can help me find any copys of MMF.
    i am in love with the “not so imperious rex” cover………
    i tried 2 email you, but it bounced back….. / didn’t work….
    anyway, all the best & please let me know, what my chances are 2 find a copy
    thank you so much

  3. Tony Roche says:

    Dear Harry. Tony Roche here. Great to see all my back pages on your blog. I have been retrieved from oblivion by Peter Hansen and will be appearing on a panel about the early years of British Comics Fandom at the Film and Comic Convention in Earls Court, London on Sunday July 13th at 2pm. It would be great to see you there, and if you could be accompanied by a copy of HU4 (which I no longer have) that would be even better. Best, Tony.

    • paddykool2 says:

      Hello Tony …A revelation! It’s lovely to hear from you so suddenly after all these years and to find you hopefully hale and well. On the date you mentioned I will be in Liverpool attending a Neil Young concert with a few friends and my daughter and her partner, so I’ll not be making it to London anytime soon .I am just about to set out for a friend’s 60th birthday bacchanal so it may be something of a lost weekend starting any minute now. Would you believe I recently re- created my Heroes Unlimited collection .I was missing one issue and had to stump up an astonishing £70.00 on e-bay for the pleasure of re-uniting!! I know …mad or what? It took me about ten years even finding it…. A guy was recently selling off MMF #1,2 and 3 …starting bid at £299.00. Tony we need a time- machine to get back to the 1960’s and stash away a few hundred of those little babies!!! Hope to hear from you again .Best, Harry

  4. James Bacon says:

    Harry, myself Padraig O’Mealoid and Chris Garcia are working on another issue of Journey Planet with Tony Roche, just about the Irish Comic Fanzines, can we get in touch directly? Many thanks. James

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s