Sunday, 24 July 2016

New movie trailers! Wonder Woman and Dr Strange!

No one could accuse me of not keeping my ear to the ground when it comes to the latest movies. Hence it's only taken me five years to get round to watching the first Thor movie, which I enjoyed a fair bit, especially the portrayal of Loki.

Therefore, it's come to my attention that, yesterday, new trailers for two upcoming comic book movies hit YouTube and certain other places. One was the new plug for Wonder Woman and the other was for Dr Strange.

So, let's take a look at those trailers. If you don't want to be spoilerised, don't read on past this point.

Having taken a look at them, I am intrigued by the fact that Wonder Woman takes place in World War One, which somehow feels a more interesting setting than the World War Two milieu that I grew up with and it clearly provides for some dramatic shots.

On the other hand, I hope the entire film isn't just going to be, "Wonder Woman fights World War One," which may prove to be something of a waste of the character's potential for getting into fantastical scrapes.

I also worry that, apart from the vaguely annoying ending, I don't see a lot of characterisation going on in the trailer. I hope we're not going to get a totally by-the-numbers portrayal of our dashing dominatrix and her flyboy boyfriend.

The Dr Strange movie, I'm not sure about. I do feel that Benilux Slumberparty should have been allowed to keep his English accent, as Dr Strange is one of the few Marvel heroes who could work as an Englishman. Plus, I can't hear him do, "American," without thinking of Hugh Laurie in House.

Also, the visuals look to be somewhat lacking in the weirdness I'd like to see from a Dr Strange movie. I see, for instance, no echoes of the visual style of Steve Ditko which so defined the strip.

Initially, I didn't like them replacing the Ancient One with a not-so-ancient Briton but, in retrospect, he was a somewhat clichéd concept, so it may not be a bad idea after all.

The lack of a certain flame-headed demon does, however, disappoint me.

As for which film I feel most tempted to see, I must confess it's the Dr Strange one, as I have more interest in the character than I have for Wonder Woman, even though I probably find the Wonder Woman trailer more intriguing.

That's just my opinion. What's yours? Feel free to use the comments section below to let the world know.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

July 21st, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Holy historians, Batman! Doing these posts is starting to resemble watching one of those time-lapse videos on YouTube, which depict the decline of the Roman Empire via the medium of maps. In this week of 1976, Marvel UK now found itself down to publishing just four comics a week. Could this nightmare mean the end was nigh for the plucky publishing powerhouse?

Fortunately it didn't. Little did we know that, even as circumstances seemed to be growing increasingly straitened, brave new ventures and expansions were just around the corner.

But, for now, what few comics we had were packed with more action and drama than the human mind could hope to withstand.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #92

I'm assuming The Night Staker Dracula tale is the one that was clearly based on the Kolchak TV movie of a noticeably similar title.

Was the Man-Thing tale the Mike Ploog drawn one with the ghostly clown hanging around in the swamp and making other characters act out something or other for reasons that escape me?

On other matters, does one detect a Larry Lieber cover?

Mighty World of Marvel #199, Hulk vs Wendigo, Avengers merger

Opening this issue for the first time was a very exciting moment for me, as The Avengers merged with MWOM and I got my very first taste of Neal Adams' stint on the Kree/Skrull War, as Ant-Man decided to go for a journey around the inner workings of the Vision.

How I was impressed by Adams' fluid draftsmanship, his daring layouts and the embellishments of Tom Palmer.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #180, Dr Octopus marries Aunt May

It's one of the least likely storylines in the history of fiction, as Dr Octopus decides to marry Aunt May in an attempt to get his hands on her nuclear power plant. Heaven only knows what Steve Ditko would have made of it all.

That Iron Man tale vaguely rings a bell. I have a feeling it may have been drawn by Gentleman George Tuska.

Marvel UK, The Titans #40, the Fantastic Four meet the Creature From The Black Lagoon

The FF take on a creature from space. One that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. By this point, Jolly Jack was making no attempt to disguise from where he was deriving inspiration.

I think this was another issue that I somehow found myself possessing two copies of, meaning I was free to colour one of them in with my coloured pencils. If Marvel UK'd had any sense, they'd have marketed their comics as colouring books and used the monochrome as a selling point.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

2000 AD - June 1978.

June 1978 was clearly an exciting time to be alive. Not only did we see the start of the World Cup in Argentina, the release of the movie Grease, cartoon cat Garfield make his first appearance and the discovery of Pluto's moon Charon, it also featured the debut of the stage musical Evita.

My awesome knowledge of Spanish tells me that, "Evita," means, "Little Eva." Little Eva had a hit in the 1960s, with The Loco-Motion, a song that appears to be exhorting us to dance like a train. Evita tunesmith Andrew Lloyd Webber went on to write Starlight Express which featured actors pretending to be dancing trains.


Or proof of something altogether more sinister?

As for 2000 AD, June was a momentous month for that mag too, as alien aardvark Tweak made his senses-shattering debut in the pages of Prog 69 and our lives would never be the same again.

The cover of Prog 67 is intriguing. Does this mean M.A.C.H. Zero has now become the protagonist rather than the antagonist? That fellow in the bandages, on the front of Prog 68, looks familiar. Was he some kind of hybrid of Frankenstein's Monster and Deathlok? I still don't remember anything at all about Death Planet.

This concludes my look back at what happened in 2000 AD in June 1978, which I must confess was more of a look back at what happened everywhere except within the pages of 2000 AD. Remember, no other blog gives you posts like this, because no other blog is so clueless about its primary subject matter.

2000 AD Prog 67, MACH Zero

2000 AD Prog 68, Harlem Heroes

2000 AD Prog 69, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 70, Death Planet

Thursday, 14 July 2016

July 14th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1976 was a bad week for Marvel UK, as, following in the footsteps of Savage Sword of Conan and Dracula Lives, yet another of its comics saw its last ever issue. Suddenly, the company would be giving us just four comics a week, compared to its earlier peak of seven.

But does that mean we had reason to be downhearted?

Of course it did.

Not that I knew it. At the time, I was somehow oblivious to this gradual whittling away of the company and still saw Marvel UK as an unstoppable behemoth with an endless and glorious future ahead of it.

Mighty World of Marvel #198, Hulk vs Wolverine

A certain future X-Man makes his full debut.

I remember having earlier read Iceman's origin in an Alan Class comic.

Admittedly, when I say, "Remember," all I can actually remember is him confronting some angry people outside his parents' house.

Or perhaps that was Cyclops' origin. Or the Angel's. Or possibly Marvel Girl's. Or maybe Professor X's.
Marvel UK, Avengers #148, Fantastic Four

The last ever issue of The Avengers sees our heroes bow out in style, with Neal Adams wielding the pencils.

Next week, they'll be in The Mighty World of Marvel instead. Or, as it became known later, The Mighty World of Marvel with the Avengers and the Savage Sword of Conan incorporating Fury and Planet of the Apes with Dracula Lives.

How I recall walking into my local newsagent's and asking for a copy of that comic. In fact, the title was so long that I still haven't managed to finish asking for it yet. I think the newsagent's getting a bit bored of waiting for me to finish. Not to mention the queue that's built up behind me over the last forty years.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #91, Mount Rushmore

Every work of fiction I've ever encountered that features Mount Rushmore has involved there being a secret base hidden in the caves behind the eyeballs.

Sadly, Googling it has revealed to me that there are no caves hidden behind the eyeballs. Why can real life never be as exciting as fiction?

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #179, Hammerhead

Hooray! It's the Spider-Mobile!

I don't care if its existence made no sense - given that Spidey could get around New York faster without it and all it did was make it easier for the police to find him  - I always had a soft spot for it.

Marvel UK, The Titanss #39, The Mad Thinker

Yet another of the Mad Thinker's infallible schemes that's guaranteed to fail.

What I never understood about the Mad Thinker was that even he called himself mad. If he knew he was mad, why did he have so much faith in his own judgement?

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Forty years ago today - July 1976.

In July 1976, NASA's Viking 1 probe landed on Mars, taking the legendary Face on Mars photo on its way. But, while this was going on in Outer Space, what was happening with our favourite Marvel heroes back on the planet Earth?

Avengers #149, Orka vs Thor

Isn't this the story in which Thor flattens Orka while revealing he normally doesn't hit his foes as hard as he could, for fear of hurting them?

Given the threat posed to him by most of his foes, I find this claim very hard to believe.

Conan the Barbarian #64

June 1976 saw the launch of the ITV children's drama series The Feathered Serpent, starring Patrick Troughton and Diane Keen as the world's most Anglo-Saxon Aztecs.

One month later, this comic hits the newsagents.


Or part of a grand cosmic plan beyond our understanding?

Captain America and the Falcon #199

I know nothing of this tale but it certainly looks action-packed.

Daredevil #135, The Jester

Isn't this the second time Daredevil's been accused of murdering the Jester?

Fantastic Four #172, the Destroyer

It's that one where Galactus is using the Destroyer as a herald.

I have a feeling it might have been Thor who put this idea into his head.

If so, it seems a strange thing for Thor to be helping Galactus with.

Incredible Hulk #201

"The most unexpected barbarian of all!"

I assume that's because, whoever he is, no one's ever heard of him before.

Personally, I always expect barbarians.

In fact, I'm positively amazed when they don't show up.

Iron Man #88, the Blood Brothers

The Blood Brothers are back.

Amazing Spider-Man #158, Dr Octopus and Hammerhead

Aunt May's weak heart survives yet another incident that'd inflict a heart attack on the healthiest of people.

Thor #249

Looks like Thor's finally got the sense to give Odin the slap he's been asking for ever since his first appearance.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

July 7th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's been an exciting week for all football fans, as Wales have taken on Portugal in a European Championship semi-final.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of exactly forty years ago having to leave the field equally thwarted in their ambitions? Or were they instead dispatching their enemies faster than you can say, "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?"

Marvel UK, Avengers #147, Conan

Just two issues of The Avengers to go but there's still no rest for Conan as he encounters yet another Lovecraftian horror from beyond the other side of sanity.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #90

If I remember right, Terror on the Planet of the Apes was the title of the first Jason and Alexander story. I therefore conclude that this is also a Jason and Alexander story.

I don't have a clue what the Ka-Zar tale is, as I don't remember him ever having problems with a volcano - except for in that tale where World War II is still being acted out by people old enough to know better. As that story was reprinted in a much earlier issue, I assume this is not the tale in question.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #178, the Punisher

It's a landmark issue, as the Punisher makes his shoot-first-ask-questions-later debut.

I believe the Jackal also makes his debut.

This was the issue in which I first noticed that Gil Kane was no longer drawing the strip. I was so observant.

Mighty World of Marvel #197, Hulk vs Wendigo

The Hulk gets caught up in a dastardly plot involving the Wendigo and a curse.

I suspect a certain future X-Man may be putting in an appearance before long.

Marvel UK, The Titans #38, the Fantastic Four

I remember this tale as involving a man with a monocle and a killer camera. I also remember it as not being a classic.

I assume the Captain America tale is the one with Baron Zemo and a deadly death-ray equipped satellite with which he aims to take control of the world.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Fifty years ago this month - July 1966.

In July 1966, the British government was forced to take emergency action to prevent a potentially disastrous collapse of its currency. It's great to see how much the world has changed since then.

But what were our favourite Marvel heroes up to at that very moment?

Were they making a sterling effort in their quest to defeat evil?

Or were they merely taking a pounding?

Avengers #30, Goliath

It's that one where Goliath stumbles across a scientifically advanced lost race in the Andes.

Hold on a minute. Wasn't the Inhumans' Great Refuge originally in the Andes? It's almost like Stan Lee was reusing the same ideas over and over again and hoping no one would notice.

I do appreciate any cover that has Goliath on it.

Daredevil #18, the Gladiator

Hooray! My favourite Daredevil villain makes his buzzsaw bearing debut, as he decides to prove his super-villain mettle by defeating... ...Foggy Nelson.

Fantastic Four #52, the Black Panther

The Black Panther makes his feline first appearance.

Looking at that cover, I've come to realise that, after forty-odd years, that cape is starting to grow on me.

Amazing Spider-Man #38

History is made as we get Steve Ditko's last ever issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.

It's no doubt a sign of just how hasty his departure was that the cover had to be cobbled together from panels that appear inside the comic.

Strange Tales #146, Dr Strange, Eternity

If this month gives us Steve Ditko's last work on Spider-Man, I'm assuming that means this is his last issue on Dr Strange as well.

I believe this is the one where Dormammu decides to have a fight with Eternity. What a complete and total wally he is.

Tales of Suspense #79, Iron Man vs Sub-Mariner

It's Iron Man vs Subby in a tale in which the first half is drawn by Gene Colan and the second is drawn by Jack Kirby. It would be true to say there's a fair old clash of styles involved.

Tales to Astonish #81, Hulk vs Boomerang

Hooray! The Boomerang makes his senses-shattering debut!

How can the world's mightiest and indestructibliest mortal possibly hope to overcome a man armed with the power of boomerangs?

Thor #130, Pluto

Thor's off to rescue Hercules from the clutches of Pluto and his hordes of Hades.

"Thunder in the Netherworld," does always sound like it should be a euphemism but I don't know what it should be a euphemism for.

X-Men #22, Count Nefaria

By the looks of it, our mighty mutants are about to find themselves facing a bunch of villains who no one else could be bothered to fight.

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