Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Alan McKenzie, the Facilitator of FOOM and... Sea Monkeys!

As another follow-up to the FOOM memorabilia that I've been posting over the past few weeks, I present the cover to the very first issue that arrived inside the lurid green, Hulk-faced envelope that arrived through my letterbox in March, 1973.

I have to admit that when I first saw this cover, I was just a little bit disappointed. The boy that I was at the time, wanted something a bit more comic-related, but when I opened the magazine, I just loved everything inside it. Seeing this cover 38 years later as an adult, I can totally appreciate it as another brilliant piece of Steranko graphic design. The fact that Stan and his fabulously verbose Shakespearean text graces the cover is completely justified, for he is and always will be, Stan the Man.

Me, Alan McKenzie and Jane Hindmarsh at Marvel UK, circa 1984 
I've gained an immense amount of pleasure re-discovering these FOOM issues, and I'd forgotten just how much they'd inspired me as a kid. I happened to mention this to my long-time collaborator and friendly neighbourhood neighbour, Alan McKenzie, just the other day and he told me that it was actually him who'd mailed out all the FOOM issues back in the day.

To me this actually seemed pretty friggin' cosmic. The thought that a young Alan McKenzie had actually pasted my hand-written address label onto the back of that Hulk envelope and put it in the post to another kid who would then, ten years later, turn up for the design job in his editorial office at Marvel UK was a little bit, yeah... cosmic. Just to get the facts straight, I emailed him about it and he replied...

Hi, Steve,
Yep ... I did a few stints of holiday work at Marvel UK during my student days. This was when the offices were still in Holborn. I’m pretty sure the first stint I did was at Easter. Then I did the Summer and the next couple of holidays. I was doing all the mailouts. I remember some of the items I did – Sea Monkeys (honest!), Spider-Man Spinners (frisbies!) and of course FOOM packs.

I remember we ran out of Hulk envelopes (the FOOM thing was a massive success). So the tail end of the mailout went out in plain manilla envelopes. AM

Well, with this in mind, alongside that extensive list of eager kids who'd entered the FOOM Create-a-Character-Contest, who now seem to actually be working in the comics business throughout the land, it really does seem that birds of a feather flock together. Perhaps Stan was onto something; might it just be possible that he has inadvertently created a sort of comics cabal; a Prieuré de Sion for the modern age?

Read the cover and think about it...

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