Earlier this week we received news of the death of Mick Anglo, the British comics writer, artist, editor, and publisher, most famous for his association with the creation of the comic character Marvelman. Anglo died, aged 95 on 31st October 2011.
Pádraig Ó Méalóid has kindly produced this extensive obituary for the FPI Blog.
Mick Anglo 1916 – 2011 RIP
Mick Anglo was born Maurice Anglowitz in the Bow area of the borough of Tower Hamlets in London’s East End to Hyman and Rachel (nee Pelter) Anglowitz. He claims he was born on the 14th of June, 1916, even though his birth certificate gives the date as the 19th of June, due to his father registering the birth late – it wasn’t actually registered until the 28th of July, well over a month later.
He was the youngest of a family of five boys, the others being Andrew, Sidney, Stanley and Richard. After school in the Central Foundation Grammar School in Cowper Street in London’s Islington Mick got a scholarship to the Sir John Cass Art School in Aldgate. He left school at eighteen and eventually got some freelance work drawing clothing designs for one of the London fashion houses.
In 1939, at the age of twenty-three, he enlisted in the army at Oxford, becoming an infantryman in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and at one point found himself working as a cartographer at Earl Mountbatten’s headquarters in Sri Lanka. He also did some cartooning work for SEAC, the official army newspaper for the South East Asia Command, and later on for the Singapore Free Press. On the 29th of December 1940 he married Minnie Cedar in the Wembley District Synagogue in Hendon, London. On their marriage certificate, both their fathers are said to be tailors, and it turns out they lived on the same street. Mick’s occupation is given as Fusilier #6468556, with his civilian occupation as commercial artist noted in brackets, while Minnie was a tailoress.
When he got married his surname was recorded as Anglo, as was his father’s, who was by now styling himself Harry Anglo, rather than Hyman Anglowitz, so Mick Anglo was already halfway to the final version of his own name.
(Two of Mick Anglo’s Johnny Dekker books – pics from Micksidge’s Flickrstream)
After he returned to civilian life Anglo went looking for work in comics, and the first company he worked for was Gerald G Swan, followed by work for a lot of others, including Paget Publications, for whom he drew Wonderman, and Martin & Reid, where he ended up working as an editor, and for whom he wrote a number of books, including thirteen American-style private eye novels for which he also drew the covers, featuring the adventures of Johnny Dekker, and including titles like ‘Gowns and Gunsels’ and ‘Lugers and Larceny.’
It would have been around this time that Anglo had his first dealings with L Miller and Son. In an interview with Roger Dicken in Alter Ego #87 (TwoMorrows, Raleigh, July 2009), Mick Anglo describes how he first came upon them:
“As I recall, it was a still drab post-war Britain, and I’d been doing this, that, and the other to keep body and soul together. One day in the early 1950s, my next-door neighbour showed me a couple of bright American-style comics bearing the distinctive triangular logo L Miller and Son, an English company, with a 6d price on them, and he suggested I check them out for some further artistic work. I duly visited their warehouse headquarters in Hackney Road, London, and was fortunate to meet the son, one Arnold Miller, who, it turned out, had formed his own branch of the company to publish original British space comics, as the bulk of the lines up until then were American reprints, such as Captain Video. Anyway, he was raring to do a series under his own banner ABC (Arnold Book Company), and I was very interested, as you can imagine.
I showed him some of my work I’d brought along, though what it was escapes me, and he was suitably impressed. It was then, during discussions, to my surprise I discovered that the boss, Arnold’s father Len, was in fact the same man who once sold me comics as a kid! … After some in-depth discussions re could I create such-and-such and find other artists, etc, things started to buzz, and very soon I formed Mick Anglo Limited, and found myself searching for suitable premises for a studio. Eventually I located some rooms at the top of a rickety flight of stairs in an old building at 164 Gower Street, London NW1, long since demolished, which became the Gower Street Studios.”
Mick Anglo’s first work for L Miller and Son was Ace Malloy of the Special Squadron #50 in August 1952, published under the Arnold Book Company imprint, at which point Anglo was apparently already in his studio at Gower Street. Further work for the Millers followed, both for Arnold Book Company and for L Miller and Son Ltd itself, including titles like Space Comics (1953), starring Captain Vic Valiant of the Interplanetary Police Patrol, and, later on, Space Commander Kerry and Space Commando, both in 1954.
Fate was about to hand him his most significant job, however. This is what he had to say in Alter Ego #87:
“One day in late 1953, I think, the Millers rang me to say, ‘Come over, Mick – urgent – very urgent!’ I went to the warehouse premises, and much consternation! Len was in a right old mood. It seemed that in the USA Fawcett had lost a court fight with Superman comics, etc, and could no longer market their Captain Marvel character; thus Miller, in turn, wouldn’t receive further supplies of the comic plates to print Captain Marvel. They held the license to reprint the comics in Britain, and he was one of their very lucrative lines. This created big problems! … So boss Len needed a substitute real fast and could I come up with something?”
Mick Anglo says that he went back to Gower Street and thought about it, and decided that what they needed to do was create a British copy of Captain Marvel to step into his shoes, and to carry on instead of him. The character Anglo apparently suggested to take Captain Marvel’s place was virtually a carbon copy of him. The name Billy Batson was turned into Mickey Moran, with Moran being a young copy boy for the Daily Bugle newspaper, as opposed to Batson’s position as a reporter for Radio Whiz; the costume was changed from red to blue, and the cloak was done away with, for being too much trouble to have to draw all the time; the dark hair became blonde; the magic word SHAZAM!, given to Batson by the wizard Shazam, was replaced by the word KIMOTA! – a slightly altered backward spelling of the word Atomic – given to Moran by Astro-physicist Guntag Barghelt, making Marvelman’s powers science-based, like Superman’s, rather than magic-based, like Captain Marvel’s; and the transformation was all but complete. All that was needed was a name.
According to Derek Wilson’s article “From SHAZAM! To KIMOTA! – The Sensational Story of England’s MARVELMAN – The Hero Who Would Become MIRACLEMAN” in Alter Ego #87:
“The first name change suggested – and most obvious one – was finally adopted … although other names were seriously considered, including Miracleman and Captain Miracle, which were registered as possibilities.”
“That first name was, of course, Marvelman.”
In a short interview with George Khoury in Kimota! The Miracleman Companion (TwoMorrows Publishing, Raleigh, 2001), Anglo says this:
“Yes, it was my creation except everything is based on somebody else. A bit of this and a bit of that. With Superman, he’s always wearing this fancy cloak with a big ‘S’ on his chest … I did away with the cloak so that I didn’t have to draw the cloak, which was awkward to draw, and played with a gravity belt, and they could do anything without all these little gimmicks.”
Six months after the launch of Marvelman, Mick Anglo formed Mick Anglo Limited, UK company number 537200, which was registered on the 21st of August 1954 – with Anglo having filled out the forms in his solicitor’s office nine days earlier, on the 12th of August – with a nominal opening capital of one hundred pounds split into one hundred shares of £1 each, with ten of those shares being drawn down and allocated, nine to Mick Anglo, and the other one to his wife, Minnie.
The exact circumstances surrounding the creation of L Miller’s Marvelman, however, are still the matter of some conjecture, as is Mick Anglo’s part in it. He certainly did have a part in that creation, but whether as primary and only creator or simply as work-for-hire, following detailed instructions from above, is still not clear, nor is it likely to be, it seems.
What is clear is that Mick Anglo, through Mick Anglo Ltd and the writers and artists at Gower Street Studios, provided the Millers with Marvelman material for the next six years, until the title went from weekly to monthly, and became a reprint title.
Marvelman wasn’t the only superhero title that Anglo created, although most of those that followed were based on his earlier work. There was Captain Universe, AKA The Super Marvel, who was a man called Jim Logan who said the magic word GALAP to be changed into his alternative incarnation, published for one issue in 1954 by Arnold Book Company; Captain Miracle, a man called Johnny Dee with the magic word El Karim, published for nine issues by Anglo Comics starting in 1960, just after Anglo ceased working for the Millers; and Miracle Man, a man called Johnny Chapman with the magic word Sundisc, published for thirteen issues by Top Sellers in 1965. The last two are said to simply be redrawn Marvelman stories, in much the same way that some of the Marvelman stories are said to be redrawn Captain Marvel stories.
As the years went on, Anglo continued to work in UK comics, but more at the production end, as an editor and packager, rather than as a writer or artist, and his output, over all the years, is substantial, and significant. He also wrote several books for Jupiter Books, like ‘Penny Dreadfuls and other Victorian Horrors,’ and ‘Man Eats Man: The Story of Cannibalism.’ It was also for Jupiter Books that he wrote a series of books with the series title of ‘Nostalgia – Spotlight on…’, including Nostalgia – Spotlight on the Fifties, which contains an article called The Age of Marvelman, which contains his version of the story of the creation of Marvelman.
In 2007, Anglo’s Marvelman rights were sold to Emotiv and Company, allegedly for four thousand pounds. What exactly those rights are, and where they come from, has also been the matter of much conjecture, but neither Emotiv, not Marvel Comics, who subsequently bought those rights, have publically clarified any of these issues, nor do they appear to intend to do so in the foreseeable future.
(From Miracleman #1, published 1985, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach)
Much has been said, particularly in the past few days, of Mick Anglo’s place in British comics’ history. For myself, I don’t think he was the huge creative genius that people try to make out he was. He certainly wasn’t the hugely influential, legendary comics’ creator that the American comics media seem to want to make him out to have been.
What he was, rather, was a man who worked hard to make a living in tough times, and who ended up providing employment for not only himself, but many others as well. He was not interested in owning any of the rights to the characters he worked on, but simply in doing the work he was asked to do, and getting paid for it.
His set up was as a comics packager, producing a finished periodical to specifications from a publisher, and this is what he did. In these more enlightened times, that may not seem like much, but at the time it was good honourable work, which he did to the best of his considerable ability. He worked hard at what he was good at. That seems a good enough for epitaph for any of us.