A post from my old and now gone Marvel blog about the never-published MARVEL RETREAD FUNNIES #1
Today’s entry comes to us from Mike Carlin via Steve Wacker, and is one of the “Marvel Mystery Comics”: comics that Marvel produced, but never printed and distributed. This time out, we’re looking at MARVEL RETREAD FUNNIES #1 and only from 1983.
Two things of note were going on at around this time. The first was that Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL was a phenomenon, the hottest comic book on the racks by far. And especially hot was issue #181, the story in which Bullseye killed Elektra. For the first time. For real—until she came back a few issues later.
The second thing was the blossoming of the direct sales market of comic book specialty shops, which was beginning to become a force. At this point, maybe something like 20% of the sales of comics were coming from the direct market, but there were indications that this marketplace could support specific projects deliberately aimed at its customers, in a way that the more mainstream “newsstand” market couldn’t. Marvel’s first experiment with doing a comic book which was solely released to the direct market, DAZZLER #1, sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 copies, a very encouraging sign.
So over the next few years, Marvel experimented with aiming different titles at this particular market. KA-ZAR, MOON KNIGHT and MICRONAUTS, books whose newsstand sales had been drying up but which had strong direct numbers became direct sales only. And a number of wacky experimental titles were tried, including the MARVEL FUMETTI BOOK (which featured photo-stories of the Marvel creators and editors clowning around), the GENERIC COMIC BOOK (a play on the generic brands that had begun to appear in supermarkets, featuring an unnamed Super Hero fighting a Super-Villain), and the MARVEL NO-PRIZE BOOK (cataloging and making mockery of the dopiest mistakes made in the comics over the years.)
And another, similar project was MARVEL RETREAD FUNNIES, which attempted to capitalize on the heat surrounding Miller’s DAREDEVIL. Basically, writers Mike Carlin and Jim Owsley (better known these days as Christopher Priest) took the artwork from DAREDEVIL #181 and redialogued it funny, in the manner of Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” Editor Larry Hama had been playing around with these sorts of redialogued strips in CRAZY Magazine, but this was the first time it had been tried as a complete book unto itself.
I have no idea why the book wasn’t published after all the work on it had been completed, but I can hazard a guess that either Frank or DD-editor Denny O’Neil complained about it, and it wound up getting dropped from the schedule. Which is too bad, as it was really a harmless piece of fluff (though it was absolutely trading on the buzz from DAREDEVIL.)
Not long after, a couple of kids from New England came up with their own Frank Miller DAREDEVIL parody that they published for the direct market out of their garage. They called it TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.