Which is best?

How would you rather die?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

2000 AD - December 1978.

What kind of madness is this?

As all keen readers will know, Prog 92 of the galaxy's greatest comic was cover-dated November the 25th.

However, as can be seen below, Prog 93 is cover-dated December the 30th, meaning the mag appears to have disappeared for four weeks.

Just what nightmare menace could have occurred to create such an anomaly? Did the artwork vanish into another dimension for a month? Did IPC's batteries run out of Thrill Power? Was Tharg abducted by aliens?

Scouring the internet tells me that, this being the 1970s, the comic fell prey to industrial action during that spell, causing its disappearance from the racks and shelves of the nation's newsagents. What the industrial action was about, I could not tell you.

Nothing too landmarky seems to have occurred within the pages of this issue but, looking at the cover, I do have to say I am surprised by the attitude of its spokesman. Frankly, given a choice, I'd far rather be stung to death by giant scorpions than be drowned.

But, of course, these things are subjective. Therefore I've added a poll to the top of this very page, where you can vote on which method of death you'd prefer.

Don't forget to vote.

One day, your life might depend on the outcome.

2000 AD, scorpions

Thursday, 12 January 2017

January 12th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1977, BBC Two was spoiling us all by showing  the legendary ratings smash Trade Union Studies at peak viewing time.

Elsewhere, BBC One was showing that episode of The Goodies where they decide to make millions from selling string.

But it has to be said that even this was overshadowed by one event - because, as Colin Jones has pointed out to me, on the 10th of this month, ITV showed the first episode of Children of the Stones and, suddenly, even Trade Union Studies seemed dull and mundane in comparison.

I re-watched Children of the Stones, on YouTube, a couple of years ago and it still has a certain appeal even when you're grown up and it's no longer 1977. Needless to say, it gets the Steve Does Comics thumbs-up, along with its spiritual brothers Escape Into Night and Timeslip. 

But what of Marvel UK? Could it rise to meet such a challenge head-on?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #14

Children of the Stones may have got its power from Avebury but Captain Britain got his powers from Stonehenge. That raises the obvious question; "Which is best? Stonehenge or Avebury?" Don't forget to vote in our exclusive poll at the top of this page.

Meanwhile, that's a very Ross Andruesque villain, even though the cover's not drawn by him.

But how exactly did Captain Britain's parents die? I can't remember ever reading anything that touched upon the subject.

Of course, this has now led me to try and think of super-heroes who have two living parents. Needless to say, I'm struggling to come up with any names.

Mighty World of Marvel #224, Hulk vs the Locust

Is this first issue of Sal Buscema's lengthy run on the Hulk? I have a strong feeling it might be.

I seem to recall the Locust having a somewhat over-inflated opinion of his prowess and not exactly being a major challenge for the Hulk.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #205

I could be wrong but I have a suspicion this cover is for the Longest Hundred Yards tale that, only weeks earlier, had appeared in that year's Spider-Man Annual. The irony being that the scene depicted on this cover was excised from that annual in order to make the story fit the available page count.

I seem to recall the advertised cut-out model being a rooftop backdrop upon which we could add cut-outs of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. I remember getting great pleasure from assembling it at the time - and also from shooting the Green Goblin off of those rooftops, with my Dinky Toys UFO Interceptor. All of this raises the obvious question; "Why has there never been a Spider-Man/UFO crossover? Why?"

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #117

Battle and Beneath both rumble along.

But the exciting news is that we get the backdrop to our Apes cut-out, which, in this case, depicts the Statue of Liberty lying around on the beach.

But what of Captain Britain and Mighty World of Marvel? If Super Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes published cut-outs this week, does that mean those two other mags did likewise?

And, if so, what did those cut-outs depict?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Forty years ago today - January 1977.

The internet informs me that nothing at all interesting happened in January of 1977.

Well, admittedly, it tells me that Commodore launched the world's first all-in-one home computer and that Apple Computers was incorporated and that Indira Gandhi called for an election and that the Sex Pistols were dropped by their record label but I don't care about any of that. Not that I'm shallow but all I care about is what was happening in comics at the time.

This is what would have been happening in comics at the time, had they actually been published in the month that was written on the front of them.

Incredible Hulk #207, the Defenders

The Defenders are still knocking around, so I assume we're still going through the aftermath of the death of Jarella.

While that may be a tragic circumstance, my first thought upon looking at this cover, is that I never liked the costume Valkyrie was wearing in this era. It always looked a bit cold to me and I could never understand what was holding it on. Also, metal is surely not the most flexible of things to make your clothing from.

Avengers #155, Dr Doom

I have no memory of this story whatsoever, even though I'm sure I must have read it and, with The Sub-Mariner vs Wonder Man, Dr Doom up to no good and the Whizzer blundering around, it looks like the sort of tale that would embed itself in the mind.

Conan the Barbarian #70, Belit

It would appear that BĂȘlit is still alive. Call me negative but I'd sort of taken it for granted that she'd popped her clogs by now.

Captain America and the Falcon #205

As so often with Captain America in this era, I've no idea at all as to what's going on in this issue.

As so often, it all looks a bit too sci-fi for Captain America and the Falcon to be dealing with.

Daredevil # 141, Bullseye

Didn't Bullseye once try to fire Daredevil from a circus cannon? Now he's trying to fire him from a giant crossbow. I am spotting a pattern to his behaviour.

Fantastic Four #178, the Brute

It's that rare thing, a Fantastic Four issue that I didn't have, from this era .

But hooray! The Brute is on the rampage and causing nothing but trouble for our heroes!

Iron Man #94

Iron Man's still fighting a one-legged pirate.

Even though I've never read it, I can't help suspecting this isn't one of the classic Iron Man tales of the 1970s.

Amazing Spider-Man #164, the Kingpin

That no-good rat the Kingpin is out to steal Spider-Man's life force, so that he can give it to his son, who probably won't even be grateful for it, judging by his previous behaviour.

Spectacular Spider-Man #2, Kraven and the Tarantula

There's one thing you can say in favour of the launch of Spectacular Spider-Man, it gave Marvel UK twice as much material to reprint as its weekly mags rapidly caught up with their US counterparts. For the Marvel UK editor at the time, it must have been a Godsend.

Having said that, it can't be an auspicious sign that this cover rings no bells with me. In fact, I'm all but certain it's the first Spider-Man cover I've reproduced, since I started this feature all those moons ago, that stirs no recollections for me whatsoever.

Thor #255, the Stone Men From Saturn

This is more like it! As I've said before, Thor's origin tale is my favourite Marvel Silver Age debut. Therefore, I'm delighted to see the return of the Stone Men from Saturn.

I hope one of them uproots a tree at some point and boasts about how strong he is. They won't feel like the Stone Men  from Saturn if they don't.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

January 5th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On the morning of this day in 1977, BBC One was showing Daktari.

To be honest, all I remember about Daktari is there was a cross-eyed lion, called Clarence, in it.

I can't remember if Clarence used to do anything. Maybe he used to rescue people from wells, like Skippy did. Maybe he used to foil smugglers. Maybe he just used to chew people's heads off. Maybe he used to sit around doing nothing and yawning all day long, as lions tend to do. Anyway, whatever he did, that's what was on.

But what of this blog? Can the rest of this post hope to match up to an intro of that quality and informed lucidity?

Strap yourselves in tight because, somehow, I have a feeling it can!

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #13, Dr Synne

Having seen a bunch of Marvel movies over the Christmas period, I wonder if we're ever going to see Captain Britain show up on the big screen? And who could ever play him?

As for that cover, Dr Synne's suddenly looking remarkably like he should be a character in a Captain Marvel story.

The Grand Comics Database tells me this cover was drawn by sometime Captain Marvel penciller Al Milgrom. This would explain it all.

But it's good to see the good captain showing a little moxie for once. Last week, he was declaring himself defeated before he'd even begun. This week, he's not even phased by being on fire.

Come to think of it, he should be phased by being on fire. Generally, being on fire isn't a good thing.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #116

We're still working our way through both Battle and Beneath in the UK's greatest ever Apes-based comic.

I've taken a sneak peak at the contents of this week's issue and it is striking how mutated the humans are in the adaptations, compared to how they looked in the original movies. Needless to say, I prefer the comic book versions of them.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #204, the Shocker

It's the fight that no one demanded! The Liberty Legion vs the Invaders!

Was the Whizzer in the Liberty Legion? And Miss America or whatever she was called? Didn't one of them have stripey trousers? Was he called The Destroyer? Was Red Raven a member?

I'm assuming the original Vision and that bloke with the flaming skull weren't members or, between them, that lot would've totally annihilated the Invaders.

Come to think of it, I think the bloke with the flaming skull may have been called The Flaming Skull. Either that or he was called The Bloke. I think it was one of those two options.

Mighty World of Marvel #223, Hulk vs Doc Samson

Hooray! Captain Marvel's back! And in Marvel's flagship comic, no less!

I assume this means we're now reaching the peak of the Thanos/Cosmic Cube tale I loved so much.

Not that I'm a megalomaniac but you cannot imagine just how much I'd love to get my hands on a Cosmic Cube.

For a start, if I had one, I'd force them to call it the Cosmic Cube in the movies, instead of, "The Tesseract." Truly, my reign of terror would know no bounds.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Fifty years ago this month - January 1967.

Hooray! It's the first day of a brand new year!

That can only mean one thing!

That it's the time for making fresh starts and resolving to do things we've never done before, in bright new ways we've never previously considered!

And that can only mean one thing!

That I carry on doing exactly what I was doing before.

In January 1967, however, two things did happen that were brand new. Dr. James Bedford became the first person to be cryonically preserved with the intent of future resuscitation, and Milton Keynes was founded.

Clearly, those were heady days. But what of our favourite Marvel heroes in the comics that bear that historic cover date? Could any of them live up to the excitement of the foundation of Milton Keynes?

Avengers #36, the Ultroids

Didn't this story involve the Avengers having to find a surgeon to operate on the Wasp or the Scarlet Witch or something? How this led to them fighting aliens, I cannot remember or even guess at.

Daredevil #24, Ka-Zar

I seem to recall this involving some sort of plot to frame Zabu for some crime or other.

I've no doubt that where there's a plot to frame Zabu, that dastardly Plunderer can't be far away.

And possibly a submarine.

Fantastic Four #58, Dr Doom

It's one of my all-time favourites, as Dr Doom continues to abuse the Silver Surfer's powers.

Amazing Spider-Man #44, the Lizard

I'm fairly sure this is only the Lizard's second ever appearance.

Bearing in mind his status as one of Spidey's arch-foes, it seems amazing that, after his debut, he disappeared without trace for around four years. I mean, even the Chameleon managed more appearances than that.

Strange Tales #152, Dr Strange

I don't have a clue what happens in this one but, in line with the festive season, Dr Strange seems to be being attacked by Christmas trees.

I suspect that might be Umar who's waggling her fingers around but I couldn't swear to it.

Has it ever been explained why Umar doesn't have a fiery head like her brother does?

Tales of Suspense #85, Iron Man vs the Mandarin

Can it be? Can Tony Stark really be helpless in the clutches of the Mandarin?

Well, no, it can't be true. It's all a trick to lure us into buying the comic but it was quite a dramatic tale anyway, with what I recall to be a stylish car teleportation scene.

I saw Iron Man 2 on the TV again last night. It was alright.

I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier the night before. I felt that was the better of the two movies.

Tales to Astonish #87, the Incredible Hulk

I have a feeling that thing on the cover might be one of the Leader's leftover humanoids that's causing trouble for our hero.

Thor #136

Thanks to Odin, Jane Foster fails her goddess test by being scared of a creature that it's made clear all Asgardians are terrified of. Yes, Odin's being a pain in the backside again.

Still, if I remember right, at least we get to meet Sif in this story.

X-Men #28, the Banshee

Other than that the Banshee appears in this tale, I don't have a clue what happens in it. It's always intriguing to see a red cover though.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

December 29th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

If the internet's to be believed, nothing at all interesting happened anywhere in the world on this day in 1976.

Nor was there anything interesting on the TV.

Therefore, I shall plunge into my latest adventure in blogging, with the air of carefree abandon that can only manifest itself in the eternally perplexing limbo between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #12 Dr Synne

Captain Britain showing the fighting spirit that's made him a legend.

After all these years, I still don't have the slightest clue who Dr Synne is. I assume he's not related to the character played so ably by Peter Cushing in the Hammer movie Night Creatures. That character used to ride around on a horse disguised as a skeleton. I doubt if any of Captain Britain's early foes ever had the style to ride around on a horse disguised as a skeleton.

Mighty World of Marvel #222, Daredevil

It's a rare John Buscema cover for Daredevil.

Come to think of it, it's a rare Daredevil cover for The Mighty World of Marvel. It was always a pleasant change to see someone other than the Hulk being allowed on the front of the book.

Then again, it was always a pleasant change to see a decent cover of any kind on The Mighty World of Marvel. No doubt, next week we'll see a return to covers that look like they've been drawn by people holding their pencils with their feet.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #115, Beneath

I still have no recollection at all of Conan ever having appeared in the pages of Planet of the Apes. I suppose it made sense for him to be there though, what with the equally loin-cloth loving Ka-Zar already being present.

In retrospect, the fact that our favourite monkey mag was having to recycle Planet of the Apes movie adaptations it had already reprinted should have been a warning that Marvel UK was running out of new Apes material to put in the comic and that its days were therefore numbered but, somehow, I don't think that occurred to me at the time.

Super Spider-Man with the Titans #203

I remember the Liberty Legion as being a less interesting copy of the Invaders.

Needless to say, this made me very uninterested in them indeed.

I do wonder why, instead of standing there, narrating his life story to rats, Spider-Man doesn't just escape up that ladder to his left. Clearly, he's been taking defeatism lessons from Brian Braddock.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day, 1976.

Hold on.

What's that?

I seem to hear the sound of sleigh bells...

...and hooves on my roof tiles.

Now there's a rustling in my chimney.

And a sudden thud from my living room.

It can only mean one thing!

I'm being burgled by Bullwinkle!

Quick! Hand me my shotgun! Once I've finished shooting him in the face and disposing of the body, I'll take a look back at just what was going on on Christmas Day of 1976, in the season of goodwill to all.

As mentioned in a previous post, Johnny Mathis was Number One on the British Top 40 with When a Child is Born.

At midday, BBC Two was showing Horizon: The Mystery of King Arthur and his Round Table, a scientific investigation into the infamous, "Table," hanging from the wall of Winchester Castle. Whatever the claims one way or the other, to me, it's always looked suspiciously like it's meant to be a giant dartboard.

Later, that self-same station gave us a cartoon version of The Snow Queen and an adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Not to be left behind in the intellectual stakes, that morning, BBC One gave us Hong Kong Phooey.

Later, on that channel, Angela Rippon appealed on behalf of the deaf, Top of the Pops gave us the year's greatest hits and Billy Smart gave us his circus.

The big afternoon movie was Oliver.

The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show guest-starred Elton John.

And the big evening movie was Airport, back in the days when you could watch it without wondering when Leslie Nielsen was going to show up.

ITV, that morning, gave us Dr Dolittle.

But the real surprise for me is that, that afternoon, ITV put their own music show Supersonic up against Top of the Pops. I wasn't aware that Supersonic was even still going in 1976, let alone that it had Christmas Specials. Next they'll be revealing that there were Christmas editions of Lift Off With Ayshea.

ITV's big afternoon movie was Please Sir and their big evening film was Waterloo with Rod Steiger.

But all of this, of course, was of little importance to any wise youth. All that such a person would want to know on such a day was what adventures was Marvel UK giving us?.

These were the adventures they were giving us.

Marvel UK, Avengers Annual 1977

This one reprints the Avengers' first encounter with Nuklo and reveals the (possibly) true origin of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, not to mention the return of the Whizzer

The book also features a tale in which Conan fights a giant crocodile, plus the concluding part of the Avengers' Wild West battle with Kang. As we hadn't yet read the first part of that tale in the pages of Marvel UK, and several pages were cut out to make it fit the annual, a certain degree of comprehensibility was lost as regards that particular outing.

Marvel UK, Titans Annual 1977

The Titans weekly comic may have been dead but that didn't prevent it having an annual.

This one features the Sub-Mariner versus a glob monster from outer space, which, if memory serves me, was originally intended as part two of an Aquaman story that then got recycled for Subby. Possibly the most memorable part of it is that it approvingly quotes Hitler, which is not something you see every day in children's literature.

We also get the horror of the Original X-Men vs Frankenstein's Monster, a Werner Roth drawn feature on the various X-Men's powers and a Frank Robbins drawn tale in which Captain America tackles Dr Faustus on a Jumbo Jet. It was in this story that I first discovered the American Emergency number is 911, not the 999 that we're all familiar with in this dear country.

If there'd been any sanity in the world, this annual would have been in landscape format but, sadly, it was  published in portrait mode.

Marvel UK, Mighty World of Marvel Annual 1977

From Marvel UK's flagship title, the Hulk sees the return of the Missing Link - as a good guy, we get the middle issue of Daredevil's first encounter with the Death-Stalker, featuring a guest appearance by the Man-Thing,

We also get a George Perez drawn Fantastic Four vs Hulk tale and, in another yarn, the Fantastic Four fight Galactus in order to protect the Silver Surfer. The day is saved by Agatha Harkness doing her thing.

The Hulk story is the only one of these that's a complete tale but, somehow, that didn't seem to matter at the time. All that mattered was that I was getting plenty of Marvel with my turkey.

Marvel UK, Spider-Man Annual 1977

This is the one in which Spider-Man, "teams up," with Doc Savage to thwart a woman from another dimension, plus the one in which he teams up with the Punisher to tackle Moses Magnum, and the one with the American Footballer whose daughter's been kidnapped by evil gangsters. All the tales are drawn by Ross Andru.

Sadly, as with the aforementioned Avengers/Kang tale, the last of those epics had several pages excised to make it fit the book, a fact that leaps out at you when you read it. The worst part of this crime is that most of those excised pages featured Mary Jane.

So, that was Christmas in the Marvel UK world, done and dusted.

"But hold on a minute! What's this blithering idiocy?" I hear you cry. "What kind of a round-up is that? Where's Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes annual that I've been waiting all year for?"

Planet of the Apes Annual, 1976/77
Sadly, although there was a Planet of the Apes annual that year, it wasn't produced by Marvel. Of its contents, I can tell you nothing, as the internet has refused to yield answers but this means that, unless I've been misinformed, we only got four Marvel UK annuals that year.

However, for me, personally, I got so much more - because this was the Christmas when, as well as the books above, I was given the first three Marvel Origins books.

Four Marvel UK annuals and three Marvel Origins books? This had to be the most Marvellous Christmas in the history of humanity!
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