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The Halfpenny Marvel was a story paper of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For the American comic company, see Marvel comics
The Halfpenny Marvel was the first of Alfred Harmsworth's storypapers aimed at putting the "penny dreadfuls" out of business by producing "pure, healthy literature" at a cheaper price. Begun in 1893, the magazine was named The Halfpenny Marvel Library. The magazine was renamed the Halfpenny Marvel after three issues. Early issues contained a long, complete tale and as many as three or four shorter ones (of very short length). These short stories would later be replaced by installments of serial stories. An editorial page also appeared in most (but not all) issues, and dealt with upcoming stories as well as providing the reader with interesting facts. In the late 1890s the editorial page was used by "Pimple the orfis boy", providing comic relief with his badly-written tales.
The stories were in the Boys Own genre, and often involved travel in foreign lands and the British Empire, often with quite jingoistic content, even by the standards of the day. Occasional issues featured detective stories, and Volume 1, Issue 6, published in December 1893 introduced Sexton Blake to the world in a story named 'The Missing Millionaire'. However the character was quickly moved to the Union Jack and it is there that his character was properly developed. Stories most often stood alone, but occasionally a character would recur in multiple issues, though the stories would be complete in each one.
Early covers were two-colour, often orange and black. However, before long only one colour was used on the cover, most often dark blue.
In 1898 the magazine was renamed as The Marvel, though still cost a halfpenny. In 1904 the paper was re-launched by Amalgamated Press (with a new issue 1) as a one-penny paper, still named The Marvel. The magazine folded in 1922.
The Halfpenny Marvel is referenced by James Joyce in the short story "An Encounter", part of Joyce's Dubliners. This magazine, as well as "Union Jack and Pluck are mentioned as highly popular among Dublin schoolboys of the time, who are especially attached to the Wild West stories published there. In one scene, a teacher is extremely annoyed when catching a pupil reading during the lesson an issue of The Halfpenny Marvel containing a story entitled "The Apache Chief".
- R. B. Kershner (1 February 2014). Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature: Chronicles of Disorder. University of North Carolina Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4696-1621-6. Retrieved 27 November 2015.