Sunday, 5 July 2015

July 5th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1975, 10cc were Number One on the UK singles chart, with I'm Not In Love.

I suppose it's a classic of sorts but I'm not sure I'm a fan of it. To be honest, I always found that woman on it a bit creepy.

Who was she even supposed to be? Was she his girlfriend? His mother?

For some reason, I've always had it in my head that she was his kinky cyber-nurse from a future too weird to imagine.

Reader, that future is here

But the kinky cyber-nurse isn't.

Therefore, I'll occupy myself by looking back at what Marvel UK were flinging at us in the week when we were being so strongly reminded that big boys don't cry.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #125

I'm assuming this is that Beetle tale where John Romita gets to re-tell Spidey's origin.

But, let's face it, that pales into insignificance before the consciousness-expanding greatness that is Thor's true origin, where they finally try to make sense of the whole Don Blake/Thor situation - and actually succeed!

Marvel UK, Avengers #94

It's the story where we finally notice that, despite him having been around for years, we've never previously found out what Hawkeye's real name is.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #37

I've never read this one but I like to think it's a tribute to the legendary movie Horror Express.

I have no reason for thinking it might be. I just like the thought that it could be.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #37

It's all getting macho on the Planet of the Apes.

Macho on the Planet of the Apes would have been a great title for one of those, "movies," that were cobbled together from episodes of the TV series.

Granted, it's possible that the world may not agree with that sentiment.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #18

That's no thing in a temple. That's the dread Cancellation Monster that's closing in on our hero. I could be wrong but I think this may be the last ever issue of Marvel UK's Savage Sword of Conan.

Mighty World of Marvel #144, Hulk vs Captain Axis

It's the news we've all been praying for. It's the death of Mike Murdock. I remain amazed that fireworks weren't set off around the nation when it happened.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes, Silver Surfer vs the Stranger

The Stranger's back, and causing no end of trouble for our pewter powerhouse.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fifty years ago today - July 1965.

Melting Meteorologists! It's been the hottest day in over a decade, here in Perfidious Albion!

But how hot were things getting for our favourite Marvel heroes, way back in the month when I Got You, Babe was released, Bob Dylan first went electric, Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative Party and Help hit the cinema screens?

There's only one way to find out...

Avengers #18, the Commissar

In the immortal words of Austrian pop legend Falco, the Commissar's in town.

And this is the first tale featuring the Kooky Quartet that I ever read. To this very day, I still recall the tale's shock denouement.

Granted, it wasn't that big a shock, bearing in mind it was the exact same denouement Stan Lee gave us in about fifty percent of the tales he wrote in the 1960s, but, still...

Fantastic Four #40. Daredevil and Dr Doom

Dr Doom's still causing trouble at the Baxter Building.

Journey Into Mystery #118, Thor vs the Destroyer

It's one of my Thor favourites, as our long-haired hero comes up against a foe who seems to be genuinely unstoppable.

Amazing Spider-Man #26, the Crime-Master

On the other hand, I'm not so keen on this one, as the webbed wonder finds himself as the meat in a Green Goblin/Crime-Master sandwich.

Strange Tales #134, the Watcher

A genuinely strange and disturbing cover for the Thing and Torch.

Tales of Suspense #67, Iron Man and Captain America

I'm assuming this is the one where Iron Man thinks he's dreaming that he's up against a bunch of his old foes, when he's not dreaming at all.

Or something like that.

Count Nefaria was involved. That's all I'm sure of.

Meanwhile, it looks like it's joined by the one where Captain America falls victim to the Red Skull's mind-control methodology.

Tales to Astonish #69, Giant-Man and the Hulk

I have no idea at all as to what happens in either of these tales. I do, though, love the title Oh Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting?

X-Men #12, the Juggernaut

The X-Men get themselves a higher class of foe than usual, as the Juggernaut shows up.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

June 28th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Granny, get your wellies on! It's Glastonbury Weekend!

And that can only mean one thing.

That I've been wading knee-deep in mud and enduring foul and unsanitary conditions at every turn.

Which is a bit worrying, as I've been watching it on TV, in my living room.

To be honest. I can't say Glasto has set my candle alight this year. I did my best to give Florence and the Machine a go - as I do every year, feeling the woman must be doing something right or she wouldn't keep getting invited back - but, just like every year, the secret of her popularity eluded me. Paloma Faith had bags of enthusiasm but possibly not bags of good songs. Burt Bacharach has plenty of good songs but I'd rather see other people perform them. The sight of Kanye West all alone on stage, seemingly performing to himself and himself alone, possessed an air of almost tragi-comic futility that suggests that, if the performance hadn't existed, Samuel Beckett would have had to invent it.

Still, there's all tonight's action to look forward to and if the current weekend does let me down I've always got a different weekend to fall back on.

That's the weekend of exactly forty years ago, way back when Kanye West was only boasting of being the greatest living sperm on Earth.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #124, the Prowler

The Prowler's STILL stopping Spidey from getting to that airport.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #93,  Dr Strange

Thanks to the magic pencil of Lord Barrington Windsington Smithington, Dr Strange is still up against Nightmare.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #36

I generally try to avoid making definitive statements on the internet, as they're always instantly proven wrong by people who know more than I do but that genuinely has to be the worst-drawn cover I've ever seen on a professionally produced comic.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #36

Those naughty apes are still causing trouble for fun-loving astronauts everywhere.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #17

Conan battles dutifully on but cancellation is now only weeks away.

Mighty World of Marvel #143, the Hulk

Unless I miss my ever-loving guess, this is the start of the Captain Axis/Shaper of Worlds tale.

Long-standing readers will be amazed to hear me declare this to be one of my favourite Hulk tales. Something I so rarely do.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #17, Silver Surfer vs the Fantastic Four

I genuinely have no knowledge of this story at all.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi Holy Hotpoints, Batman! I've recently managed to install a washing machine in my dread domain without flooding my Kitchen of Mystery!

Such a triumph can only mean one thing.

I have to review a comic that features a washing machine.

But which comic?

Which?

Where in all the world can I find a comic that revolves around such a device?

There can be only one place.

And that's Howard the Duck #21 which is one of only two issues of that mag I ever owned.

You can find my review of the other issue right here but, as for this comic, I got it in one of those polythene-wrapped triple-packs that Marvel experimented with in the 1970s.

What the other two comics that came in that triple-pack were, I don't recall but those packs always seemed to contain comics written by Steve Gerber and/or Steve Englehart, so they may well have been The Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy or Omega the Unknown.

As for Howard, what happens is this. Having killed a vigilante called Sudd, in the previous issue, Howard and his restaurant-owning boss are fleeing an angry mob.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister SoofiThey escape but Howard's then captured by the head of a cult dedicated to cleaning up the nation's morals and is shoved into a washing machine in an attempt at brainwashing him into being a suicide bomber for Family Values.

Needless to say, against a character as immune to reform as our hero, such actions are futile and Howard is totally unchanged by the experience and lives to be a misanthrope another day.

The first thing that strikes you about the issue is that it's drawn by Carmine Infantino. While I've always liked what little I've seen of Infantino's 1960s work on Adam Strange and Batman, I'm not oblivious to the fact that 1970s and 1980s Infantino has his critics. For some reason, by then his characters had become strangely wide and a visual flatness and angularity had crept into his style, often making it difficult to look at.

But to be fair to him, in this issue, his artwork softened and given greater visual depth by Klaus Janson's inking, it's possible to appreciate his composition and story-telling skills and to be reminded of the genuine - and at times sophisticated - talent that lay behind those oddly wide figures and angular flatness.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi
On the writing front, Steve Gerber gives us what we expect from Steve Gerber. The thing that strikes you is that the satire works best when he's not being overly humorous, and it's hard not to feel the comic would have worked better had Howard's wise-cracking been completely expunged from the strip and the whole thing played far straighter.

In total, it's a startlingly thin tale. Basically, Howard and his boss run down an alleyway, go back to Howard's home, have a chat and then Howard is grabbed and put in a washing machine.

Howard the Duck #21, LeeThis is actually a good thing, as it allows the story time to breathe and the tale becomes dominated by Howard's getting-to-know-you chat with his boss, during which nothing of any import is actually said. This might sound like a bad thing but I've always had a liking for stories where nothing much happens.

But there is one thing that's always baffled me about the tale.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi revealedAnd that's the identity of the villainess of the piece.

We're never shown her face but her and Howard's comments at the finale are seemingly meant to refer to a real-life person with whom we're already familiar.

Sadly, not being American, I don't have a clue who that woman is. I assume she's some sort of US equivalent to Britain's Mary Whitehouse but have no idea if this is so.

So if you happen to know who she's meant to be, feel free to reveal that dread fact in the comments box below - and, at last, a near-forty year old mystery will be solved for me.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

June 21st, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hooray! It's the Summer Solstice, that thrilling time of year when we all head off down to Stonehenge to dance around the sarsens and invoke the Old Gods.

But I'm not going this year.

Apart from the fact that the Old Gods didn't bother inviting me, there's only one set of old gods I'm interested in.

And those are the ones in the pages of Marvel UK's mags of exactly forty years ago.

Granted, they're not technically gods and they're not that old but I won't let that stand in my way.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #123, the Prowler is back

The Prowler makes his not-necessarily senses-shattering return, as Spidey faces a battle to get to the airport on time.

Marvel UK, the Avengers #92, the new Goliath

Hawkeye goes through a tumultuous transmogrification, as Gene Colan takes over the strip and we get a brand new Goliath.

I'm wondering if that Dr Strange blurb heralds the reprinting of the Barry Smith drawn tale about the return of Nightmare?

Mighty World of Marvel #142, the Hulk and Ant-Man

Ka-Pow! It's that one where the Hulk gets to fight rats.

I first acquired this issue in a city centre stationers which had a subterranean tunnel linking it to the biggest toy shop in Europe.

I know this because it's impossible to forget having bought a comic in such a stationers.

That's why all stationers should have a tunnel linking them to the biggest toy shop in Europe.

As should all houses.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #35

A tale with which I must confess to being totally unfamiliar.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #35, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

We get to the start of Marvel's adaptation of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which I seem to recall as having been drawn by the mighty Alfredo Alcala and having featured much more gruesome-looking mutants than the original movie did.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #16, Elric

Conan and Elric are still having an encounter.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #16, Silver Surfer vs the Inhumans

Is this the one where Jack Kirby took over for one issue and made the Surfer turn, "Bad," at the end of the tale?

Sunday, 14 June 2015

June 14th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this very day in 1975, the Soviet Union launched the mighty Venera 10 space probe to land on and explore the surface of Venus.

Well, planets and stars are all very well but there's only one set of stars any sensible child was interested in in 1975. And those were the stars of the most cosmic comic company of them all.

And that can only mean one thing.

That it's time for Steve Does Comics to fire a probe at the surface of Planet Nostalgia and see what strange lifeforms are waiting for it there.

Mighty World of Marvel #141, Hulk vs Chameleon

It's the start of one of my favourite Hulk tales, as the green Goliath finds himself shrunk to the size of a doll and up against the hordes of Hydra.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #122

Iceman and Spider-Man are still battling political corruption, in the mighty Marvel manner.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #91, Dr Strange

I don't have a clue what this advertised new direction is in the life of Dr Strange.

Is it him abandoning the blue mask and going back to looking like a normal human being again?

Or is it some other landmark event, which I've totally forgotten about?

I quite liked the mask. It gave him an alien air that I felt suited the strip.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #34

Ah yes.

He hunts the deadliest prey of them all.

Bats.

Does anyone actually hunt bats?

Not in Britain they don't. It's illegal.

Then again, so is shooting people.

And he's managed to do both.

So, there you go. Well done to him.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #34

The Planet of the Apes is still Mark Twaining it up.

I've just been watching the pilot episode of the 1970s TV show.

I do feel sorry for the actor who had to play the dead astronaut in it.

How excited he must have been when his agent told him he'd landed a part on a brand new TV show.

How disappointed he must have been when he found out it was playing a dead body.

I wonder if you have to audition for the part of a corpse. And, if so, how you are expected to go about it?

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #15, Elric

Two of Fantasy's greatest heroes bump into each other.

I'm still not sure about Elric's hat though.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #15, the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer's out to kill everyone connected with SHIELD?

I know it's not the greatest TV show of all time but I do think he's overreacting somewhat. Surely he could just change channels until he's calmed down.

Friday, 12 June 2015

2000 AD - May 1977.

In May 1977, a little known film called Star Wars was released.

You couldn't help but feel sorry for it. After all, how could it possibly hope to get noticed when it was competing for our attentions with whatever it was the world's greatest sci-fi comic had to offer in that month?

But just what was that comic offering in that month?

There's only one way to find out.

And that's to climb aboard a sturdy Wookie, do the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs and fling ourselves back in time to the days when the year 2000 seemed a lifetime away and no one dreamt that one day we'd have to face the horror of Jar Jar Binks,

2000AD #11, Martian Warrior

This is easily my favourite 2000 AD cover that had so far been published.

In fact, as a youth, I liked it so much that I wrapped my Physics exercise book in it to protect that book from wear and tear. I like to think I had the most stylish Physics exercise book in all of northern England.

Admittedly, it did mean I also had a copy of 2000 AD #11 that didn't have a cover on it, which probably wasn't such a good thing.
2000AD #12, Mekon

I take it from the blurbage that this is the first appearance of the Mekon in the pages of 2000 AD?

2000AD #13, Tharg

I must confess that, as a youngster, I was never totally convinced that Tharg really existed.

What a fool I was. After all, how could the galaxy's greatest comic have been put together each week if its editor wasn't real?

And it's nice to know he was out of his alien head, even if he said so himself.
2000AD #14, Flesh

What an oddly cute looking giant spider. It's sort of like a cross-eyed hamster with eight legs.

It's also  the size of a Tyrannosaurus. I think that at last we now know why the dinosaurs died out.

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