The Merry Marvel Marching Society was Marvel Comics’ first attempt at a fan club for the entire line. It was apparently Stan Lee’s idea and he announced in his Soapbox column in 1964 by giving fans the initials of the club and asking them to guess the name. After the guessing game was over with, the club was formally announced in 1965. For the price of one buck, members got a membership card, a sticker, a certificate, and some other stuff.
Members received the following letter with their membership package:
“Congratulations, favored one!
Your name has been ceremoniously entered in our log book and your dollar has been avariciously deposited in our treasury.
From this day forth, you will stand a little straighter, speak a little wiser, and walk a little prouder. You’ve made the scene! You’re in! You’ve joined the winning team!
But, with such triumph comes responsibility. You must use your valued membership privileges judiciously. You must be true to the Marvel Code of Ethics. Be not arrogant towards those who have shunned our ranks, for they know not what they’re missing. Be not hostile towards unbelievers who march with others, for they’re more to be pitied than scorned. Be not intolerant of Marvel-defamers, for they too shall someday see the light.
And, above all, be not forgetful that you have become our bullpen buddy. Henceforth, you shall never march alone.
Thus, we welcome you to the fold with this sagacious admonition-FACE FRONT. You’re one of us now.
The Bullpen Gang “
The most interesting freebie in the membership package was a one-sided, 33 1/3 RPM flexi-disc called “The Voices of Marvel.”
By Stan Lee’s own account, “To make it very different, something you couldn’t get in any other club, I marched most of the staff across the street to a recording studio, and I remember they were grumbling all the way: ‘Why do we have to do this? We got our strips to do. What the hell are we following Stan for and what’s he got us doing now?’ Anyway, we went up to the studio, and we made a recording. We hadn’t rehearsed, it was all ad lib. I announced what we were, and who we were, and I introduced Artie Simek, our letterer… I think he played the harmonica for a minute. And I introduced Jack Kirby who said, ‘What am I doing here?’ It was funny, it was really funny, and the… the members loved it.”
The spoken word record was apparently scripted by a Lee, and features Jack Kirby, Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky, Artie Simek, Chic Stone, Wally Wood, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, Stan Goldberg, and Sam Rosen. Steve Ditko doesn’t appear, but is the object of a joke, and Lee and Kirby talking about Sue Storm’s hairstyle and Don Heck delivering a Patsy Walker gag are two of the highlights.
It’s a corny recording, but also a nice one, considering how the animosities behind the scenes have unfolded over the years. As a kid of that era, all the behind-the-scenes controversies were invisible, and Marvel grabbed your imagination largely because the company had a voice and personality of its own that made the comics and the characters better. It was a freewheeling voice, irreverant, and this record captures it.
Marvel publisher Martin Goodman put the kibosh on the club a few years later, complaining it was taking up too much time, but one further record was able to sneak in before the club’s demise, which I will talk about next week.
You can also look at the Voices of Marvel record another way — to my knowledge, there was no voice acting career for Flo Steinberg or Don Heck, but maybe this can be considered Stan Lee’s debut? From “Stan the Cameraman” to “Short Order Cook” he voiced them all!