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The M.M.M.S wants you!

September 7, 2013

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No, Doc, I actually never did. Not until now that is. Of course, the “M.M.M.S.” stood for The Merry Marvel Marching Society, as every loyal Marvel fan knew. And the reason I didn’t join was, well, was because I hadn’t been born yet.

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from “What If?” #11, written/drawn by Jack Kirby

The M.M.M.S. was the newly created Marvel Comics Fan Club that debuted in 1964 (I was born in ’67) and it was yet another brain storm from one of comics most prolific writers, the one and only Stan Lee, and featured members of the infamous Mighty Marvel Bullpen.

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from “What If?” #11, written/drawn by Jack Kirby

Stan, with publisher Martin Goodman’s help most likely, concocted this idea for a fan club to cash in on the current growing popularity of Marvel Comics. For the cost of $1.00 ($7.26 in today’s market- and our $1.00 today was worth a whopping 13¢ back then) you were promised a gaggle of goodies.

On the comics cover-dated Jan ’65 (which had a lead time of a few months, they actually came out Nov ’64), like Fantastic Four #34, this small blurb appeared in the letters page:

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And then the following month, the first ever full page M.M.M.S. ad ran. Just imagine how glorious this must have looked to a comic book reading kid. Hell, it still looks glorious even now.

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The ad was broken up into 3 basic sections: the top portion showing a blazing red membership button. Note how Stan also aimed the button toward college kids as well. There was a reason for that. Always marketing the brand Stan was, and he gave his readers what they wanted no matter how old they were.

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Also included was “a whole mess of absolutely useless” M.M.M.S. stickers. I don’t know if bashful Benji would have approved that comment, what with his pretty mug gracing the front and all. The middle portion showed a nifty membership card, and official M.M.M.S. certificate, which would have been personally signed by Stan “The Man” himself. (Stan now charges $50 at cons to sign stuff…talk about inflation!)

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The card was a pretty substantial piece, printed on heavy card stock and measuring 2 1/2″ x 4 1/4″. Judging by Greg Hennessee’s signature, I’d guess his age at anywhere from 8-12.

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On the reverse side was The Merry Marvel Pledge, and you couldn’t help but hear Stan’s voice in your hearing whilst reciting it. And if you look closely, you’ll see Greg was the 30,392nd club member. That sounds like quite a lot of members to me…

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The bottom portion contained what was possibly the best membership gift of all…a record! And not just any average record (a 7″ flexi-disc actually) but a record containing the voices of members of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen themselves! What kid in the swingin’ 60’s could resist that?!?

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Another one of Stan’s never ending brainstorms, this recording contained the voices of most of all the creators whom the reader only knew previously by name. Names like Jack “King” Kirby, “Adorable” Artie Simek and “Swingin'” Sam Rosen. To finally hear their voices made everything come full circle. The beauty of this is what set Marvel apart from the “brand x” comics of the time. The creators were now speaking directly to their fans, and now more than ever the fans felt they were a part of the mighty Marvel family.

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The audio can be heard here

The participants were (in order); Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky (who mentions “Shy” Steve Ditko who for unknown reasons did not appear), Artie Simek, Sam Rosen, Chic Stone, Wally “Kid Daredevil” Wood, Dick Ayers, Don Heck. Others mentioned were Al Hartley who worked on the Patsy Walker book at the time. (Patsy Walker first appeared in teen/humor type comics in 1944, and turned into the Hellcat in 1976 where she’s still around today) Stan Goldberg, George Bell, Vince Colletta, Larry Lieber (Stan’s brother) and Bob Powell. The record only plays on one side and is approx. 5 min. In length.

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Later on, in 1967 a second 7″ flexi-disc was released entitled “Scream Along With Marvel”.

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This record had some actual production quality to it (i.e.: Stan spent a few bucks this time) and there were singers and a marching band accompaniment. There were 2 songs; “The Marvel Super Heroes Have Arrived” and the “M.M.M.S. Theme Song”. Both songs lasted a total of 3 minutes all together.

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The audio can be heard here

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A few more full page ads ran over the next few months in the books until there was some new merchandise to offer…

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And soon enough, the next batch of goodies offered with $1 paid membership was the Marvel Comics “Official Swingin’ Stationery”.

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The stationery set included stuff like scribble pads, envelopes and a replacement order form all wrapped up in a cool orange folder.

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Photo taken from eBay auction

The back of the folder was autographed by all the current Marvel super heroes, including Odin and the Thing’s blind girlfriend Alicia Masters, oddly enough. Cuz you know, she’s blind.

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Photo taken from eBay auction

And shown below, quite possibly for the first time, is the original stationery art work in all it’s glory. Note the signatures: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams.

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Photo taken at the Baltimore Comic Con, Sept. 7, 2013

New items were being added as the fan club grew. Next up appeared this very interesting blurb, stuffed in the center column of the Bullpen Bulletins Page:

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That next month, some of the most desired and rare Marvel Comics collectibles ever were created; the M.M.M.S. posters.

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The Spider-Man poster was released first, and the rest of the 8 piece set were soon to follow. The original Spidey poster was a whopping 6′ tall and was based on a Steve Ditko design.

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Photo taken from eBay auction

The set of 8 posters was released a few months later and featured Cap, Thor, Doc Strange, Torch, Spidey, Hulk, Namor and ‘ol Shellhead. They were now 12″x16″ and only cost another measly buck to own.

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Photo taken from eBay auction

At that same time, Marvel also began selling t-shirts and other merchandise that weren’t apart of the M.M.M.S. grab bag. But if you were a member, you most likely got your mom and dad to buy you most of that stuff too. Smaller ads for the club continued to run on the letters page, as shown below:

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And in 1966 the Merry Marvel Messenger #1 newsletter was released.

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Photo taken from eBay auction

In ’69, the M.M.M.S. turned into The Marvelmania International fan club, which lasted until ’71. But that did not mark the end of the idea of a Marvel Comics fan club, as FOOM was looming on the horizon of ’73. But…that’s another story for another blog. Stay tuned true believers, there’s more to come…

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From → miscellaneous

3 Comments
  1. Dave, do you know if 1966 was the only year the MMMS posters were printed?
    I am thinking of bidding on a set on eBay, but want to know if that’s where they’re from.
    Thanks

    Gregg

    • I’m pretty sure, but can’t say for certain. you would know for sure once you had them in hand tho. The quality of paper would be drastically different if they’re repros. Good luck on bidding! They’re rare either way I don’t see them too often for sale

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