Thursday, 27 August 2015

Evel Knievel - As Seen In; Conan the Barbarian #46

Evel Knievel, Marvel Comics ad Sometimes in life, you set yourself challenges you suspect are doomed to failure by their very nature.

Earlier this week, I decided that for my next post I'd grab a random comic from my domestic pile and write about whatever I found within it that wasn't actual story.

Clearly this was a recipe for disaster, as I couldn't guarantee there'd be anything inside, other than story, that was worth writing about.

This in mind, I randomly grabbed Conan the Barbarian #46 and plunged right in.

And blow me down if I didn't find enough potential material in there to keep me in blog posts for a lifetime.

The biggest of those things is on the back cover.

It's an advert.

It's not just any advert.

It's an advert for the Evel Knievel action figure and his assorted stunt vehicles.

In the grim days of the 1970s, if you were British, your knowledge of America came entirely from reading American comics, watching American cop shows in which it was always sunny, and watching short features about American sporting events on ITV's World of Sport. Thus it was that we were introduced to the wonders of competitive tree felling, log rolling, drag racing, beaver wrestling and something Dishy Dickie Davies always called Grid Iron.

It was also through World of Sport that we got virtually our only exposure to a man called Evel Knievel.

Sadly, every exposure we got to Evel Knievel through that means seemed to involve him trying to jump over things we'd never heard of and hurting himself upon impact.

Evel Knievel, it seemed, never had landings.

He only had impacts.

If he ever succeeded in actually jumping over anything, World of Sport resolutely refused to show it, as, every time they featured him, he seemed to end up in traction, having only got halfway across whatever it was he was trying to jump over. You couldn't deny his courage but whether he was actually in the right profession was not at all clear.

But of course, our other exposure to him came from the ads on the back of Marvel comics. How triumphant he seemed in those ads - and how at odds with the image we got of him through television.

I must admit I never wanted an Evel Knievel stunt figure. It may have been because I associated him with nearly killing himself every time he left the house. It may be because he seemed to have the same tailor as Elvis Presley. Or maybe, somehow, he felt like Hostess Twinkies and Cup Cakes in being things that somehow seemed too resolutely American for anyone British to genuinely get.

Still, I can at least say that, thanks to Evel Knievel, I know of the existence of Snake River Canyon - even if I still, to this day, have no idea where it is - and that must surely be something to thank him for.

Conan the Barbarian #46, Shokkoth!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

August 23rd, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On August 23rd, 1975, history was made as BBC 2 showed a double bill of Barbarella and This Island Earth.

It was the first time I'd seen either film and, at the time, they both seemed like masterpieces.

Sadly, these days, only This Island Earth still appeals to me, as Barbarella now feels like a joke that only the director got.

This Island Earth, on the other hand, features a mutant with its brain on the outside. That's my kind of mutant.

No doubt, me having read the comics below on such an auspicious weekend means I shall therefore remember them with greater than normal clarity.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #132, the Green Goblin

Too right I do!

Why?

Because Spider-Man's still battling the Green Goblin, and Iron Man's getting a good thrashing from the Maggia's Whiplash.

I wonder what the Thor story was. Was he still tangling with Galactus or had he moved on to fighting Warlock yet?

Marvel UK, Avengers #101, Ultron

The Avengers continue their battle with Adamantium Ultron.

Mighty World of Marvel #151, the Defenders

The early days of the Defenders continue.

I seem to remember this involving a giant Dormammu. Was it set in that place in Vermont that was always turning up in Marvel comics?

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #44

Marvel's adaptation of Beneath the Planet of the Apes is going down a bomb.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #44

It has just struck me that I don't think I've ever read a story containing The Living Mummy.

Come to think of it, isn't a living mummy just a normal man wrapped in bandages? I think they should rename the strip The Normal Man Wrapped In Bandages. There is such a thing as The Trades Description Act, after all.
Marvel UK, the Super-Heroes #25, Silver Surfer and Doc Savage

Hooray! It's a reprint of the first Silver Surfer tale I ever read.

In my case, I first read it in the pages of TV21, which means it may have been the first story featuring a Marvel character that I ever read.

I do quite like the way the Abomination's drawn on this cover. He doesn't look anything like we expect him to but he really does look quite nightmarish.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

2000 AD - July 1977.

Hold on to your jet packs, future-dwellers because it's that time of month again. The one when I look back at what everyone's favourite UK sci-fi comic was doing exactly thirty eight years and one month ago.

It's always a strange experience for me, as I usually recognise the covers but have no recall at all of the actual stories within.

Still, I shall endeavour to see what sense I can make of the images that Fate has deigned to fling before me.

2000 AD #19

I've no memory at all of this story but do have a very strong recollection of the cover.

I like to think the tale it depicts is in the same mould as the Marvel War Toy story I reviewed all those many months ago.

2000 AD #20

This time, I don't recall the story or the cover but there's a certain Alan Class vibe to it all.

It seems that, at this stage in its history, 2000 AD was suddenly concentrating on using its one-off Future Shock type stories, rather than its regular characters, to lure readers in.
2000 AD #21

That alien on the right looks suspiciously like he may have been inspired by Dr Who's Zygons.

For some reason, the green woman on the left makes me think of Miss Jones in the classic 1970s sitcom Rising Damp. I suspect this may say more about me than it does about the drawing.

2000 AD #22

I really don't have a clue what's transpiring on this cover.

All I can say is thank the Lord we don't have such shenanigans occurring on the Sheffield Supertram. I'm not sure I could stand such drama as we wend our way towards Meadowhall.

2000 AD #23

It's another cover in the Alan Class envelope and means that not one established 2000 AD star made the cover in the whole of July. Has Tharg gone completely and totally bonkers mad?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

August 16th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Last night I could barely contain my excitement, as the Horror Channel was showing that movie where Tom Baker plays an artist who kills his enemies, with Voodoo.

When was that film made?

1972.

What does 1972 have to do with what our favourite comic company was doing in August 1975?

Absolutely nothing but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #131, the Green Goblin

Voodoo? Spidey doesn't need no Voodoo. He can sort out his enemies with his bare hands.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #100

Thanks to the Avengers, Conan hits the 100th issue landmark that his own mag could only have dreamt of.

Mighty World of Marvel #150, the Defenders

The Defenders are still in their early stages - while it sounds like the Jester is in his latter stages.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives  #43

I do wonder if wooden bullets would survive being fired from a gun.

It's like all those murder mysteries where someone's been shot and the cops can't find the bullet and then it turns out it's because the bullet was made of ice and melted in the wound. Could a bullet made of ice actually survive being blasted from a gun?

Only Steve Does Comics asks these questions because only Steve Does Comics doesn't have a clue.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes  #43

Beneath the Planet of the Apes battles towards its explosive conclusion.

I do have to say I was more impressed by the mutants in the comic than I was in the movie. The ones in the movie looked barely mutated at all. The ones in the comic really did look like people who'd just pulled their faces off.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes  #24, the Silver Surfer

The cover creates the impression that the Silver Surfer's, "Deadliest battle ever!" involves him tangling with Doc Savage and the X-Men.

I suspect he's battling with neither of them when you open the comic.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Forty years ago today - August 1975.

If the internet's to be believed, the Perseid meteor shower's going to be lighting up our skies tonight. I have no doubt that, by tomorrow morning, the entire population of the world will be blind and we'll all be fleeing from murderous vegetables that can only be killed by sea water.

In the meantime, here's a look at what Marvel were up to exactly forty years ago.

And, Reader, I can announce that one of this month's issues was a momentous moment in the history of Marvel Comics. One that would affect the future of the company and its universe for decades to come.

Can you guess which one it is before I get to it?

Avengers #138, the Stranger

It's certainly not this issue. Not unless the revelation of the Stranger's somewhat disappointing secret is still haunting you after all these years.

Conan the Barbarian #53

Hold on! What's this? There's no cowering blonde on the cover!

But there's always a cowering blonde on the cover! I've got a good mind to demand my money back!

Captain America and the Falcon #188

I'm totally unfamiliar with the Alchemoid. All I know is that, judging by the cover, he has more than a hint of Marvel's Quasimodo about him.
Daredevil #124

I am familiar with Copperhead but am struggling to remember the actual story.

Fantastic Four #161

Bah! I like to think the Thing could flatten a mere tyrannosaurus, with one hand tied behind his back.

For more Thing vs Tyrannosaurus action, click this link.

Incredible Hulk #190, Glorian and the Toad Men

After more than a decade, the Toad Men make their long-awaited return.

Admittedly, I was probably the only one awaiting their return but I was always a great admirer of their work, even if no one else was.

And you can read my review of their first appearance, by clicking on this very link.

Iron Man #77

The War of the Super-Villains? Who did it involve? Was Paste-Pot Pete involved? If not, I demand my money back.

Amazing Spider-Man #147, the Tarantula

The Tarantula's back and, if memory serves me correctly, working for the Jackal.

Thor #238, Ulik

I love Ulik. Every time Ulik loses, a small part of my soul dies. If Ulik doesn't win this time, I demand my money back.

I seem to be doing a lot of demanding my money back this month. You can tell I'm a Yorkshireman.

X-Men #94, Count Nefaria

And here it is! At last, after years of reprints, a startling new era begins in the strip that would go on to become Marvel's best-seller, as the new team arrive in the monthly title.

I loved the New X-Men so much that, for once, I'm not going to demand my money back. Sometimes, even a Yorkshireman is willing to part company with his cash.

Not that I'll be making a habit of it.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

August 9th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's August 1975! I'm on holiday - in Blackpool! Quatermass and Tarzan are on TV! Comics by a brand new publisher called Atlas are everywhere you look! Ray Stevens' cover of Misty is on the sound system in the big Woolworths by the Tower! Spaceships of Ezekiel by Josef F Blumrich is for sale in the smaller Woolworths not by the Tower, and proving that it is possible to write a boring book about ancient astronauts! In the window of Ripleys' Believe It Or Not, a giant tap floats in mid air, as an endless stream of water flows from it. Those are delights enough for any man. What can even Marvel UK possibly hope to add to them?

Here's where we find out.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #130

Spider-Man's campaign against drug abuse continues.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #99

I know the Avengers' tale is the Adamantium Ultron story and the Conan tale is the one with the big dog in the tunnel but I wonder what the Shang-Chi story is?

Mighty World of Marvel #149, The Defenders

I do remember being very disappointed by the Psycho-Man tale but not by the Defenders or Daredevil stories.

And you can read my review of that Psycho-Man tale, right here.

And you can read my review of that Daredevil tale, right here.

You can't read my review of that Defenders tale, as I've not read that Defenders tale in decades. I shall therefore see if I can track down a copy of it.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #42

I was going to be clever and mention that I have a voice in my head telling me this is the issue where Captain Marvel makes his Marvel UK debut.

Then I noticed that it mentions him on the cover, so my feat of memory's proven somewhat redundant.

I will, however, add that I first read this issue on a bench somewhere near Lewis's department store. As a child, I thought Lewis's department stores were owned by Jerry Lewis. Reader, it turns out I was wrong.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #42

A brain in a fish tank is causing far more trouble for our fangy felon than you would ever have thought likely.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #23

Doc Savage makes his UK debut.

Despite having seen the Ron Ely movie on more than one occasion and having read that story where Spider-Man, "teams up," with the good Doctor, I must confess my knowledge of the Man of Bronze is fairly limited. I don't even know if he was literally supposed to have been made of bronze.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Fifty years ago today - August 1965.

Hold on to your sink plungers, sci-fi fans, because in this month of 1965, Peter Cushing's Dr Who and the Daleks movie was released to a rapt nation. Has there ever been a more important event in the history of mankind?

No there hasn't.

Never before or since had Roy Castle, lava lamps and unfamiliar jazz music been used to such terrifying effect.

But what were our favourite Marvel heroes up to in the face of such competition?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers #19, Swordsman

The Swordsman makes his flat-of-the-blade swinging debut.

Poor old Swordsie. If only he'd known how completely and totally wrong for him everything was going to go for him from this moment on.

Daredevil #9, Wally Wood

Matt Murdock decides to get eye surgery and gets more than he bargained for.

Fantastic Four #41

I'm trying to recall if this is the first time the Thing's turned against the FF since that early Dr Doom tale where he decided he was Blackbeard and wanted to devote his life to being a pirate.

Journey Into Mystery # 119, Thor vs the Destroyer

Thor's still having trouble with the Destroyer.

I think this might be the first ever time we got to see Odin in his jim-jams.

Amazing Spider-Man #27, the Green Goblin

I do think this tale deserves the award for having the worst title ever for a Spider-Man story.

Strange Tales #135, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

After years of clinging on by a thread, the Human Torch and the Thing finally lose their slot in Strange Tales, as that dastardly Nick Fury grabs it for himself.

It has always seemed to me that SHIELD and Dr Strange were very ill-matched bedfellows to have in one comic.

Tales of Suspense #68, Iron Man and Captain America

I suspect Captain America may still be up against the Red Skull and his tank-disintegrating ray.

I suspect the Iron Man tale is the one where he comes up against a bunch of invading Moon men just as his ne'er-do-well cousin is trying to fake an invasion by Moon men. Oh the bitter irony.

Tales To Astonish #70, Hulk and Sub-Mariner

Clearly something was in the air at Marvel Towers this month. Just as the Torch and Thing are banished from Strange Tales, Hank Pym is dumped from Tales to Astonish and replaced by the Sub-Mariner.

Something that strikes me is that both this tale and the SHIELD tale from this month were reprinted in issue #1 of Marvel UK's Titans mag.

Coincidence?

Or all part of a strange plan beyond our comprehension?

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