Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Reader, I must come clean. The only thing I've ever been a member of is the human race - and that's only thanks to an administrative error.

But, of course, if I were, as a child, going to have joined anything, it would've been Marvel's very own fan/social club FOOM.

How impressed I was by the adverts featuring that Jim Steranko poster and the fancy badge with the wings on it that one could get if one only dared cut out the coupon from an actual comic and send off one's membership fee.

In the end, I didn't join FOOM...

....but I did have three issues of their magazine.

They arrived all at once, several months after I'd sent off for them. I'm pretty sure they were waiting for me when I got back from my summer holiday to wherever it was I'd gone on holiday.

But that's enough heart-warming reminiscing. Let's see what my mighty memory can recall of them and their contents.

FOOM #12, The Vision

My vast intellect tells me this one may have been dedicated to the Vision.

I seem to recall it featured an interview with Jarvis the butler.

Despite the fact he clearly doesn't exist, I think he detailed the Vision's relationship with the Scarlet Witch.

Bearing in mind his position as an underling, this seemed a very presumptuous thing for him to be discussing in public and one can only hope he was suitably disciplined for such a lack of discretion.

There may also have been in interview with Steve Englehart, about Mantis and the Celestial Madonna storyline. Or I could just be imagining that.

FOOM #13, Daredevil

My vast intellect tells me this issue may have been devoted to Daredevil.

I seem to recall it making the then shocking to me revelation that Daredevil had always been one of Marvel's slower sellers. Like a fool, up to that point, I'd assumed Marvel didn't have any slow sellers and that every title they had simply crushed all opposition like bugs.

I recall it reproduced the Gene Colan/Tom Palmer page in which DD gives up on Karen Page and goes off with the Black Widow.

I'm also pretty sure it featured the alternate Gene Colan cover for issue 43, which seemed far better than the somewhat stiff Jack Kirby cover that was actually used.

Daredevil #43, Captain America, unused cover, Gene Colan pencils

FOOM #14, Conan and Red Sonja

Crom! It's an issue devoted to Conan and Red Sonja!

I believe it featured an interview with Roy Thomas about the characters, and possibly also an interview with John Buscema in which he said he felt Frank Frazetta's version of the character looked a little too savage for his liking.

It was also where I first learned of Red Sonja's origin, which even then seemed like a terrible idea for an origin.

Among other goodies, I recall one of these issues having a feature about Woodgod and also a page from the X-Men that detailed Storm's origin.

There was also a pencilled Jack Kirby Invaders cover featuring a giant Red Skull.

On top of this, each issue featured a section that was like the Mighty Marvel Checklist page on steroids.

All this in mind, I can declare owning three issues of FOOM to have been better than receiving a poke in the eyes with three sharp sticks, and therefore well worth cutting a coupon out of one issue of Mighty World of Marvel for.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Forty years ago today - April 1974.

Reader, I must level with you. There are times when I can't help wondering whatever happened to the Connells, that mysterious group who had a classic one-hit wonder nineteen years ago with the song 74-75.

I mostly can't help wondering it whenever I see the numbers 74 or 75.

I am currently seeing the number 74.

And that can only mean one thing.

It's time to look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in April of that very year.

Avengers #122

The Avengers are still having ludicrous amounts of trouble defeating Zodiac, despite the bad guys barely being able to muster a super-power between them.

Wasn't this image used as the cover to one of Marvel UK's 1970s' annuals? Or am I going mad?

Conan the Barbarian #37

Do I detect the hand of Neal Adams in this cover?

Then again, do I also detect the hand of Tony DeZuniga?

Either way, it's an oddly static thing, lacking our hero's usual eagerness to leap headlong into the fray.
Captain America and the Falcon #172, the Banshee

It's time to journey up the nostrils, as Gil Kane gives us our heroes vs the Banshee.
Fantastic Four #145, Ternak

I must confess to knowing nothing at all about Ternak. Did he make any future appearances?
Incredible Hulk #174, the Cobalt Man

Hooray! The Cobalt Man's still causing trouble for the Hulk.
Iron Man #67, the Freak

The Freak is back.

For some reason, every time I see the Freak in an Iron Man comic, I have the irresistible urge to sing Rick James' Super Freak. That in turn makes me want to start randomly shouting, "Hammer Time."

If you ever meet me, you can't say you haven't been warned.
Amazing Spider-Man #131, Dr Octopus marries Aunt May

It's the story you never thought you'd see!

Mostly because it's ridiculous.

Aunt May's IQ drops even further as she decides it'd be a good idea to marry Dr Octopus.

But, of course, he only wants her for one thing.

Her nuclear power station.
Thor #222, Hercules

It's up-the-nostrils-time again, as Gil Kane gives us Thor and Hercules.
X-Men #87

Is this the one where the Mutant Master is defeated when his chair explodes?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Fifty years ago today - April 1964.

Ex-Genesis front-man Peter Gabriel once sang, "Red rain is pouring down all over me." And we certainly know that feeling right now, as the UK is deluged with sand blown in from the Sahara.

How we've battled today, through the newly created sand dunes, merely to make a few yards' progress. "Water! Water!" I've cried. "Must have water!"

It's been like the human drama of Carry On Follow That Camel made real.

Well, I say that. So far, I've not seen any signs of it whatsoever.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of exactly fifty years ago building their plans on shifting sands?

Or were they instead aiming to cement victory over their deadliest foes?

Amazing Spider-Man #11, Dr Octopus

Dr Octopus is back and causing all kinds of mischief on a boat.

And that cover has to feature the wordiest caption ever to appear on the front of a comic.

But is this the one with Betty Brant's brother?
Daredevil #1

Hooray! The Man Without Fear makes his debut.

After fifty years of existence, he's still the only human being I've ever encountered who has a billy club.

For that matter, he's still the only human being I've ever encountered who I've ever heard use the term, "Billy club."

In fact, he's probably the only human being I've ever encountered who even knows what a billy club actually is.
Fantastic Four #25, The Hulk vs the Thing

It's the fight we've all been waiting for, as the Thing takes on the Hulk while the rest of the gang hand in their sick notes.
Journey into Mystery #103, Thor vs the Executioner and Enchantress

The Executioner and the Enchantress make their debuts.
Strange Tales #119, the Human Torch vs the Rabble Rouser

It's the Rabble Rouser!

To be honest, I don't have a clue who the Rabble Rouser is.

I'd assume, from his name and the front cover, that he's a less celebrated equivalent of the Hate Monger. Though, looking at him, there are hints of the Molecule Man about him.

No disrespect to the Torch but I'm more interested in Dr Strange and what lies beyond the Purple Veil.
Tales of Suspense #52, Iron Man vs the Crimson Dynamo

The third greatest super-villain ever to feature in a Wings song makes his senses-shattering return.

Perhaps more importantly, the Black Widow makes her first appearance.
Tales to Astonish #54, Giant-Man and the Wasp

Giant-Man's desperate quest to find a super-villain who's not completely forgettable brings him face-to-face with El Toro.

Sadly, I suspect his quest is not yet over.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #18 - Gullivar Jones on Mars, Part 3.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Gullivar Jones and Phra
The last we saw of Gullivar Jones, he was still stuck on Mars and about to be fed to a giant sea monster called Phra, by a bunch of spider-bat-men who clearly have too much free time on their hands.

I think we've all been there.

The pair of them having been grabbed by Phra, he and the captive Wing-Man Chak are taken to Phra's secret lair where, while the monster's napping, Jones switches on a handily-placed computer that promptly tells him the entire history of Mars.

It seems that, long ago, disaster befell that world's inhabitants and so they fled their cities and went their separate ways, before evolving into the many and varied forms that now inhabit the planet.

That dealt with, Jones soon makes short work of the newly awoken Phra, and he and Chak walk off to have a sulk about things.

It's clearly an issue for major changes, as, after producing just two instalments of the strip, the original creative team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane are gone, replaced by George Effinger, Gerry Conway and Ross Andru.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Phra
To be honest, I 'm not sure I know who George Effinger is but Gerry Conway's fingerprints are all over the story, with Jones speaking in the same sort of way Conway usually had Peter Parker speaking.

It has to be said, this is vaguely annoying. It's one thing for a socially inept youth in New York to be talking like that, it's a whole other thing for a military veteran on an alien planet to be doing so.

Creatures on the Loose #19, Evolution - Martian style
As he did with The Amazing Spider-Man, Ross Andru makes the strip's move away from Kane virtually seamless, as his style's not a million miles distant from his predecessor's and, in this issue, there are places where he seems to be deliberately aping Kane's style. Either that, or Kane did some uncredited touching-up on some of the panels, in the name of consistency.

To be honest, as giant menaces go, Phra's something of a wash-out, being stupid, clumsy, ineffectual and lazy in equal parts. The truth is he spends most of the story asleep before being blown up. Clearly, you just can't get good monsters these days.

On the other hand, it is nice to see him appear on the cover's top left corner box, rather than Jones being there - a pleasing nod to the title's origins as a monster mag, rather than a super-hero one.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Chak the Wing-Man
Something that's become blatant by this issue is that the good guys all look like Earth people and the bad guys decidedly don't. This feeling's strengthened when it's revealed that Chak, the only nice Wing-Man we've encountered so far in the strip, just happens to have a human head, and his pterodactyl face is in fact a mask designed to conceal his true appearance. You can't help feeling that, in the interests of tolerance and open mindedness, it would have been nice for him to be depicted as having a pterodactyl head just like his more morally dubious brethren.

But that's enough of him. The person you have to most feel sorry for is poor old Princess Heru. Just two issues after Gullivar Jones was announcing his undying love for her, he seems to have now forgotten all about her.

As the last time we saw her, she was being abducted to be handed over to a ravenous ravisher, of ruddy complexion and no-doubt ruddier mind-set, such behaviour on Jones' part seems most ungallant, to say the very least.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sub-Mariner comics I have owned.

As I clamber over the petrified forests of Middlewood, people often say to me, "Steve, we all know you like trees that have turned to stone thanks to the remorseless passing of aeons so huge it leaves one in awe at the unimaginable age of the planet Earth - but who'd win a fight between Flipper and Skippy?"

I, of course, respond, "You half-witted nincompoop! Flipper would win! Why? Because he lives in the sea, like the Sub-Mariner does - and the Sub-Mariner's well hard!"

Long-suffering readers will not be surprised to learn I took such a stance; as I have in the past stated my childhood desire to be the Sub-Mariner. The combination of flying and swimming was always going to appeal to me, as I could do neither.

Nor could I breathe underwater.

Nor did I have a flat head.

Clearly, this all meant Subby was the man I could never dream of being.

But that didn't stop me dreaming of being him.

And thus it was that, in my formative years, I'd grab any comic I saw that starred him.

In total, that was five.

And these are they.

Savage Sub-Mariner #45, Tiger Shark

My razor-sharp senses tell me Tiger Shark is involved in this tale - and the Human Torch.

Other than that, I must confess I can recall nothing at all of the issue's contents.

Still, it has a Gil Kane cover - and Tiger Shark was always one of my favourite villains - so what should I care?
Savage Sub-Mariner #48, Dr Doom

Colour me shocked! Dr Doom's up to no good!

Am I right in thinking the Sub-Mariner's lost his memory in this issue? Is he not sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy? Is Doomy out to trick him into wrong-doing?

I do believe that, somewhere in this issue, Doom says it's half a decade since he was last in Latveria, which, when I was ten, seemed a very very long time. In fact, I struggled to believe it was possible he was even still alive after such a phenomenally long time.

I had a similar experience when Patrick Troughton returned to Dr Who after four years' absence. "How can he still be alive after all that time?" I reasoned.

What an idiot I was. But such is the difference between how adults and children perceive the passage of time.
Savage Sub-Mariner #68, Force

Hooray! After an unfortunate accident, Subby has his new suit that allows him to live outside water.

And he finds himself up against a man called Force.

I happily declare myself to be amongst those who far preferred his new costume to his old trunks.

And you can read my review of this issue, right here.
Savage Sub-Mariner #69, Spider-Man

Despite what the cover promises, there's not what you'd exactly call an epic clash between Spidey and the Sub-Mariner in this issue.

In fact, Spider-Man's guest appearance is so fleeting that it's obvious he's only in it so he can appear on the cover and boost sales of a mag that was only months away from cancellation.

And you can read my review of this issue, right here.
Sub-Mariner Special #2

Of the Sub-Mariner issues I had, this was the jewel in my crown; a great big thick comic that reprinted a trio of Subby's adventures from the Gene Colan years.

I seem to recall that Warlord Krang or some-such is up to no good in it and, just for a change, has kidnapped Lady Dorma.

What was it with Subby? First he wanted to get his leg over with Sue Storm who was always getting kidnapped, and then he wanted to do the same with Lady Dorma who was always getting kidnapped. When it came to women, he clearly liked them useless, helpless and drippier than seaweed.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #17 - Gullivar Jones on Mars, Part 2.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones, Mars
Last week, we saw how newly-discharged Earth soldier Gullivar Jones came to be on Mars, doing the John Carter thing.

This week, it's time to see what progress he makes now he's got there.

And it has to be said, he doesn't make a lot.

Having been dumped, unconscious, on a funeral barge as it makes its way down a Martian river, Gullivar recovers just in time to fight some giant caterpillars and then get captured by some spider-bat-men who then proceed to offer him and a captive pterodactyl man up as a snack for their giant god Phra.

According to Wikipedia, the reason Gullivar Jones never caught on like John Carter did was because, in the original book, he was a bit of a failure, losing fights, left, right and centre while getting pushed around by events rather then pushing them around.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones

And you can certainly see signs of it here. He starts off unconscious, then gets bitten by a giant caterpillar then loses consciousness then loses a fight with the spider-bat-men and then finishes off by being offered up as a takeaway. He might have super-strength while he's on Mars and have combat training but he does come across as a man in severe need of a good rescuing.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones

On the plus side, it's all non-stop drama and, as before, Gil Kane's art is excellent, making the strip memorable and worth reading for that alone. We also get a suitably cliff-hanging ending with what looks like the sort of monster Marvel loved to throw at us at every opportunity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So, at least it seems we have reason to look forward to next issue.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones, Phra

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #16 - Gullivar Jones on Mars.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars
It always seemed to me that there was one obvious drawback to getting super-powers.

Which was that, to get them, you first had to actually do something.

For instance, you had to steal a rocket ship and fly it through cosmic rays. Or you had to build a gamma bomb and then let it explode at you. Or you had to attend a science show and let spiders bite you.

If you wanted lots of powers, you had to do all these things and take refuge from aliens, in a cave, whilst banging a stick against a wall.

Reader, you know by now that banging a stick against a wall is beneath the dignity of a man of my quality, no matter how strong it might make me.

You can imagine, therefore, just how impressed I was, as a child, with Gullivar Jones.

After all, he managed to get his super-powers just by walking down the street.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones meets his destiny
Admittedly, he then got sent to Mars - which is a bit of a downside - and had to fight big red lobster men but he did at least get to snog a princess, so it wasn't all bad news.

I first came across Gullivar Jones in the pages of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes, a mag that seems to be getting a zillion and one mentions round here lately.

And I was impressed at once.

Not only did it have the lazy person's guide to getting super-powers but it was drawn by Gil Kane in a genre I always felt suited him best.

But of course, those tales were just reprints. Gullivar Jones made his real Marvel Comics debut in Creatures on the Loose #16 and what happens in that issue is that Jones, having just quit the army, is leaving the officers' club for the last time, when a man on a flying disc descends from the heavens, declares Jones is going to be a saviour and sends him back through time to Mars to fight evil wherever he finds it.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones

You will of course be aware this is remarkably similar to John Lennon's claim that the Fab Four got their name when a man descended on a flaming pie and told them to call themselves the Beatles. Whether it's the same man in both cases, I'm not at all sure.

To be honest, anyone with any sense, upon arriving against his will on Mars, would promptly burst into tears and be too busy sobbing to do anything.

But Gullivar Jones isn't just any man.

He's an interfering busybody.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones and Princess Heru
And so, the instant he arrives, he leaps into action to rescue the aforementioned princess from the aforementioned lobster men and then gets to road-test her tonsils before she's snatched by pterodactyl people and he's left, out cold, on a funeral barge and heading towards his doom.

This of course all makes Jones sound like a rip-off of John Carter but the magic of Wikipedia tells me he was originally created by Edwin Lester Arnold in 1905 and therefore predates Carter by a good seven years. The fact that Carter's had a string of books and a movie made about him, and Jones hasn't, only goes to show there's no justice in the world.

In terms of characterisation, in this issue, we get to learn next to nothing about Jones, and even less about the Princess, so it's all a bit shallow - and, to be honest, feels more DC in that regard than Marvel. But it's beautifully drawn and zips along. And, most of all, with its strange alien world to explore, it holds out the promise of more action, adventure and bizarreness to come in the very next issue.

Does it produce that bizarreness?

We'll have to find out next weekend when I take a look at that very next issue.

And, if Brian Blessed isn't in it as a hawk man, I shall very disappointed with them.

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