Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sheffield's Most Wanted. Part 18: Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. Marvel Super Special #3.

Marvel Super Special, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, movie adaptation It's back! That legendary feature where I talk about comics I never had as a youth but always wanted.

And that means it's time to get cinematical!

How well I recall the adverts for Marvel Super Special #3. Then again, it's hard to forget them, as they seemed to be a regular feature on the backs of Marvel UK's mags for months - if not years - on end.

But, even without that, how could anyone have forgotten them, seeing as the book featured a movie close to the hearts of all of us who love to make mountains from mashed potatoes?

In retrospect, exactly why I wanted this adaptation, I'm not sure, bearing in mind that I'd already seen the film and it was therefore hardly likely to contain any surprises for me.

I suspect my interest was almost entirely down to Bob Larkin's thrillingly dramatic cover and the never-ending appeal of flying saucers and little grey men. Not to mention the flat-topped mountain whose shape so reminded me of the slag heaps of South Yorkshire and the North Midlands that I was so familiar with in my youth. You see? If Steven Spielberg had grown up where I did, that film would have had a whole lot less mystery and glamour.

Then again, if he'd grown up where I did, E.T. would have been called Ee! Tea! and been a much different experience.

All that aside, my critical faculties tell me there's an obvious problem with doing a comic book adaptation of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

And that's that the whole movie hinges on a piece of music.

Bearing in mind that the one thing that comics can't do is music, how could it possibly be viable to do a comic book adaptation of it?

I have no idea.

Given that I've still never seen a copy of the thing, I fear the matter will have to remain as great a mystery to me as the true motives of the alien visitors who kidnap me from my bed every night and subject me to their nightmarish experiments.

I wouldn't mind but they're experiments in comedy improv.

Reader, words cannot express the dread horror of it all.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

August 18th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In August of 1976, the UK finished the Montreal Olympics with three gold medals. As I type this deathless prose, we have twenty one gold medals.

Does this mean the past was rubbish compared to the present?

Yes it does.

Does this mean we were downhearted in 1976?

Of course it does.

Does this mean I wasn't interested in the 1976 Olympics?

Of course it does.

Fortunately, I didn't need sporting glory. Why would I? I had the power and majesty of Marvel UK to keep me going.

Marvel UK, The Titans #44, Fantastic Four vs the Maggia

It's that tale where the Fantastic Four find themselves up against the Maggia - and having all kinds of trouble with them.

Maybe it's just me but the very idea of the Maggia turning up in the FF's book seems like near-heresy. Surely the people who took on Galactus, Annihilus and Dr Doom shouldn't be lumbered with fighting a bunch of small-time gangsters who can't even beat Daredevil.


Mighty World of Marvel #203, the Hulk

Zzzax is back!

And I still don't have a clue how many times the letter Z should feature in his name.

Neither does he, I suspect.

Neither does the Hulk, I suspect.

Then again, the Hulk probably doesn't know how many times any letter should feature in any name.

That aside, I always liked Zzzax. He had an appealing air of menace about him.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #184

It's a tale of pulse-pounding drama, as the Tarantula continues his reign of terror.

Perhaps more importantly, Harry finally finds out Peter Parker's secret identity.

Surely no good can come of that.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #96

Happy Herb Trimpe gives us the cover to a story I have no memory of.

All I know is that here we are, in the future and they still haven't got round to building a psychedrome.

What on Earth are the fools playing at? Why are they wasting all that money on the Olympics when they should be building a psychedrome?

I still remember our childhood chant, "Psychedromes, not velodromes!" Have they forgotten it already?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

2000 AD - July 1978.

July 1978 was about as sci-fi a month as you could get, as the world's first test tube baby was born in Manchester. Truly we knew at that moment that we were getting closer to the year 2000 with every moment that passed.

And we didn't even have to wait to discover just what that landmark year would be like - as, each week, we had a publication that told us with chilling accuracy.

Writing this post is an exciting event for me because, for once, an issue of 2000 AD contains a story I actually remember. That's because Prog 71 brings us the start of Ant Wars in which titanic titular termite-like terrors go on the rampage.

Why they're so gigantic, I don't recall but I have no doubt that DDT or radiation or some such other unpleasantness turns out to be to blame.

Meanwhile, even as that's happening, Progs 71 and 72 are cheerfully getting IPC into legal trouble thanks to the unauthorised misuse of the McDonalds, Burger King and Jolly Green Giant trademarks. It's a dispute that'll see reprints of the story banned until a 2014 EU law declares that trademarked characters can be used for purposes of satire, enabling the issues to finally appear in TPB form in July 2016.

Prog 73, meanwhile sees the first appearance of the dinosaur Satanus in Judge Dredd's strip. How, exactly, did a bunch of dinosaurs end up being in the Cursed Earth? Were they normal animals that had somehow mutated into dinosaurs? Had they been created by scientists? Were they robots? Were they a figment of Judge Dredd's imagination? Had they somehow time travelled to the future?

Elsewhere, The Suit is apparently a M.A.C.H. Zero story, which is odd as I don't remember M.A.C.H. Zero ever having his own series. I just remember him turning up in M.A.C.H. One's strip. I recall him as having basically no brain and no conversational skills. So, just how he managed to carry his own strip, I have no idea.

Prog 75, meanwhile, gave us the Cursed Earth board game which I vaguely recall.

But only vaguely.

2000 AD Prog 71, Ant Wars

2000 AD Prog 72

2000 AD Prog 73

2000 AD Prog 74, Judge Dredd vs dinosaurs

2000 AD Prog 75, Judge Dredd

Thursday, 11 August 2016

August 11th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1976, the BBC's Sky at Night show was broadcasting and analysing photos sent from Mars by NASA's Viking 1.

Sadly, Viking 1 was a big letdown, as it turned out its pillaging function wasn't working and it just sat there taking holiday snaps.

On top of that, it had no eye for a decent photo. The pictures it sent back contained no Martians and it made the Red Planet look like one of those Sussex quarries that Dr Who was always trying to pass off as alien worlds. Who would have guessed that that show would prove to be so scientifically accurate?

Fortunately, if Mars was letting us down, we at least had the output of Marvel UK to keep us thrilled.

Marvel UK, The Titans #43, The Fantastic Four vs everyone

Hooray! It's that one where the Fantastic Four come up against robot duplicates of all their greatest foes - and of the Mole Man.

To be honest, it's not a great tale, as the robots can't fight their way out of a carrier bag and the Mad Thinker and the Red Ghost - who're behind the scheme - manage to blow themselves up.

What a pair of idiots.

I assume the Sub-Mariner tale is the one where he and the Thing tussle over the Serpent Crown, and Betty Dean shows up and bemoans the fact that she's now the horrifically old age of, erm, fortyish.

The Sub-Mariner in this era had some of my favourite John Buscema art ever.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #95

I really don't have a clue what's going on now. I assume that's the Last Gasp Magick Man who's being abducted?

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #183, the Tarantula

The Tarantula makes his stabby debut.

I always had a soft spot for the Tarantula. He might not have been very good at being a super-villain but he had an appealing costume and you had to admire his optimism in thinking he could take on a super-powered foe, when he himself had no powers at all.

Has there ever been a good super-villain whose talent is jumping around? The Kangaroo was rubbish. Batroc was rubbish. Leapfrog was rubbish. The Toad was rubbish. I am starting to spot a pattern here.

Mighty World of Marvel #202, Vision vs Super-Skrull

It's a nightmare come true. It's the week when The Mighty World of Marvel finally increases in price to 9p. No wonder the government had to go to the IMF for more money in 1976. They clearly wanted to be able to carry on buying all four of Marvel UK's mags.

Meanwhile, it's the fight we all wanted to see, the Vision vs the Super-Skrull.

Well, admittedly, they never quite get round to having a fight, as the Vision acts like a big sad quitter and departs the scene but it's all beautifully drawn and it's always fun to see the Super-Skrull up to no good.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Forty years ago today - August 1976.

Even as I type these breathless words, I'm watching Roger Moore in The Man Who Haunted Himself, a film I've not seen in decades.

Well, Roger Moore might be being haunted by himself but, right now, I'm being haunted by just one question; "What were my favourite Marvel heroes up to in this month of 1976?"

Here's where I find out.

Avengers #150

It's a, "Spectacular 150th anniversary special!"

It's amazing to think that that means that, with this issue, the Avengers had been around for a hundred and fifty years. At the time, it must have seemed like barely more than ten.

It's just a shame the cover tells us nothing of what happens inside such a landmark issue.

Conan the Barbarian #65

To be honest, that's not the most compelling Conan cover I've ever seen. Plus his head is too large, which makes him look like a mere hot-headed youth rushing into a scrap he's sure to lose, rather than a battle-hardened warrior who no one can stop..

Captain America #200

Captain America celebrates his two hundredth issue by celebrating America's two hundredth birthday.

Amazing to think that this means that his home country was just fifty years old when The Avengers comic was launched. It means there were very probably people who fought in the American War of Independence who read that very first Avengers issue. First Benedict Arnold and then Loki; their minds must have reeled that such treachery could exist in our world.

Daredevil #136, about to be hanged by the Jester

Things are not looking good for everyone's favourite horn-headed crime fighter.

Fantastic Four #173, Galactus is back

It's all building up to the fight we've all been waiting for - Galactus vs the High Evolutionary. I loved this storyline when I was a youth, even though I thought the High Evolutionary didn't get enough screen-time when it came to the big fight.

It was in this tale that I first discovered that the population of the Earth was three billion people. They can't say comics aren't educational.

Incredible Hulk #202, Jarella is back

Jarella's back.

I have a feeling this isn't going to end happily.

Iron Man #89, Daredevil

I don't think I've ever read this one, and I therefore have no idea as to what the Blood Brothers' plan is.

Amazing Spider-Man #159, Dr Octopus and Hammerhead

Spidey's still having trouble with Doc Ock and Hammerhead.

X-Men #100, Old vs New, Dave Cockrum

Hooray! This issue was my first ever exposure to the New X-Men!

I first read it on a beach. I didn't have a clue who they were or what was going on in it but I knew at once that I loved them in a way that I'd never loved the Original X-Men.

Thor #250, Mangog is back

Yet another Marvel hero celebrates a landmark issue this month.

I think this is the third time Mangog's been on the loose now and the third time he's tried to draw the Odin Sword. You'd think he'd have come up with another plan by now. Possibly getting his hands on the Cosmic Cube or the Infinity Gauntlet or both or something.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

August 4th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Doctor, grab that syringe - because I may be in urgent need of tranquilisers.

Why? Because I'm about to watch a very old edition of Robot Wars Extreme.

But, way back in 1976, we wouldn't have dreamt of watching robots bashing each other up. We were far too busy watching the stars of our favourite comic company bashing each other up instead.

That's the difference between the past and the present. And that's the brave new world of sci-fi Space Ageness we currently inhabit.

Mighty World of Marvel #201, Hulk vs Hammer and Anvil

You couldn't accuse this of not being a landmark issue. Hammer and Anvil make their fearsome first appearance, Crackajack Jackson makes both his debut and his exit and the Hulk learns how to read and write.

More importantly than all that, I'm pretty sure this is the issue where the Hulk first discovers he likes baked beans.

Marvel UK, Titans #42, Fantastic Four vs the Inhumans

I do believe this is a tale where the Torch goes on the rampage in the Great Refuge, in an attempt to find Crystal.

I think he might encounter a talking yeti along the way.

Other than that, I can recall little of the tale, other than that the Torch is very annoying in it.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #94

What a striking and memorable cover. You can click here to find out if it made the legendary list of my favourite Planet of the Apes covers way back when I blogged on that very subject.

But, hold on. I detect a 9p price tag, meaning The Mighty World of Marvel is now the only Marvel UK publication that's still available for 8p.

According to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, 9p in 1976 equates to 58p in current prices, while 8p equals 52p.

At the time, 9p equalled 16 cents  and 8p equalled 14 cents.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #182, the Molten Man fighting on a train

Spidey's still having trouble with the Molten Man.

Even more excitingly, Dr Strange is having trouble with Dracula in a tale drawn with sorcerous style by Gene Colan.

I seem to recollect that tale not having a happy outcome for the good doctor.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Fifty years ago this month - August 1966.

They can't accuse this blog of not being ahead of its time. It's still only July but I'm already looking at comics with an August cover date on them.

Admittedly, it's an August 1966 cover date but what's a mere fifty years to a man of my quality?

Avengers #31, Goliath fights the metal tentacles of a huge machine

If my memory betrays me not, the Avengers are still in a scientifically advanced hidden land in the Andes which doesn't appear to have any connection with the Inhumans' recently introduced scientifically advanced hidden land in the Andes.

Daredevil #19, vs the Mob

My memories of this one are vague, to put it mildly. Is this the issue where we first get hints of the Masked Marauder's true identity?

Fantastic Four #53, the FF recoil before the power of Klaw in his origin

In a sensational development, we get the origin of both the Black Panther and Klaw, in one titanic tale.

It's a classic story but I'm not sure what that entity is on the cover. It seems to bear no resemblance to anything that's actually inside the comic.

Amazing Spider-Man #39, Peter Parker is carried, bound and captive, by the Green Goblin, first cover by John Romita

New penciller Jazzy John Romita arrives with a bang as we get a classic cover and then the reveal of the true identity of Spidey's greatest foe.

Strange Tales #147, Nick Fury helpless before AIM

This tale clearly has something to do with A.I.M.

Don't ask me what.

I don't have a clue.

Tales of Suspense #80, the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube

In which, even when armed with the Cosmic Cube, the Red Skull still can't get within a million miles of beating Captain America. What a complete and total wally.
Tales to Astonish #82, Sub-Mariner vs Iron Man

Subby and Iron Man are still slugging it out.

I could be wrong but I suspect this tale is drawn by Jack Kirby instead of the two characters' usual artist Gene Colan.

Thor #131, Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

I think this is the build-up to Thor meeting Ego for the first time.

With that, and Tana Nile's huge big wide head thrown in, how could anyone not love the strip during this era?

X-Men #23

Not quite on the same level as the aforementioned Thor epic, the X-Men tangle with a bunch of foes whose presence on a cover has never convinced anyone to part company with their money.

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