Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Forty years ago today - February 1976.

They can't accuse me of not knowing how to have a good time. I've just been re-sealing my bath.

But what about in this month of forty years ago? Were Marvel comics giving us tales that could match even that excitement?

Here's where we find out as I give them a plug.

That was a pun.

And I didn't even have to faucet.


My razor-sharp senses tell me that Hellcat makes her fearsome debut this issue.

This is indeed good news but I am interested by the cover's claim that we wanted her.

Just how did they know we wanted her? Did people write in saying, "I want Hellcat, even though I've never heard of her, what with her never having so far existed!"?


My razor-sharp senses also tell me that this issue features the origin of BĂȘlit.

I must confess I've totally forgotten what that origin was.

I'm guessing it may have all been somewhat in the Tarzan envelope but I could be wrong.


I have no clue at all as to what's going on here.


And I have no clue at all as to what's going on here either.

It is, however, a very memorable cover.


Hooray! I do have a clue what's going on here.

Why?

Because I actually had this issue. It came into my possession on a Sunday morning and, as I've said a zillion times before, I've never encountered a comic on a Sunday without liking it.

I believe this was the first time I learned of the existence of that big arch in whatever city it is that it's in.

It's made me always want them to build a big arch in Sheffield.

Bizarrely, they never have done.


The Hulk's still convinced that the Abomination is his best friend.


Is the flying buzzsaw the third of the Red Ghost's super-apes?

He was always my favourite of the Red Ghost's super-apes, if only because of the sheer unpredictability of his next choice of shape.

In retrospect, it does strike me that he had a remarkable knowledge of mechanics for a baboon. Seriously, how many baboons know how a buzzsaw works?

To be honest, I'm not a baboon and I don't know how a buzzsaw works. I have officially been outwitted by a baboon. That's the kind of man I am.


As reprinted in the 1977 UK Spider-Man Annual, we get a strangely atypical tale of kidnap and American College Football.

Sadly, in order to make it fit it into that annual, great chunks of the tale were edited out, including half of the all-important Mary Jane college dance scene, meaning that great chunks of the tale made no sense.


The Time-Twisters are still causing trouble in the age of Zarrko.

I do believe that Jane Foster's wielding that blade because she's been possessed by the spirit of Sif.

Presumably this means she'll wave a sword around a lot and go on about being a warrior born, without actually being any noticeable use in a fight.


Dave Cockrum's classic early run on the X-Men continues.

I think this tale may have been the first one in which I encountered Erik the Red.

I also encountered an airport in it but I'd already encountered the concept of airports before.

Mostly in stories written by Chris Claremont.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

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

Pray for me, Dear Reader. In the absence of anything that resembles inspiration, I'm about to visit Twitter and see what the top two trending subjects on it are. Then I'm going to see if I can work them into the introduction to this look at what Marvel UK were giving us in this week of forty years ago. In this way shall I link burning topicality with fuzzy nostalgia.

Here I go.

Hmn. It seems the top two trending subjects are, "De Gea," and, "Fellaini."

Let's see. Were this week's comics so bad that it could be viewed as a felony?

Or were they the gear?

I can't help feeling I may have had to cheat a bit there.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #156, Dr Strange

Spider-Man's still trying to sort out Flash Thompson's problems - with the aid of Dr Strange.

It's typical. I can't get a single super-hero to show up to solve my problems. Flash Thompson, on the other hand, manages to get two to show up for his. No wonder there's none left over for me, if he's hogging them all.

Marvel UK, Avengers #125, Conan

I can't help feeling this cover's a little misleading. I suspect that the Avengers don't really show up in the Hyborian Age.

It'd be great if they did. After all, what sort of lunatic wouldn't want to see the Avengers vs Thulsa Doom?

It was Thulsa Doom that Conan used to fight, wasn't it? Or was it Thoth Amon? I always used to get them mixed up.

If the Avengers did show up to fight Thulsa Doom, they could have thrown in a line about him being yet another incarnation of Dr Doom and thus add yet more confusion to the Dr Doom/Rama-Tut/Kang/Immortus  timeline.

Mighty World of Marvel #175, Hulk

I suspect that the Hulk is still battling the Bi-Beast, the Harpy and Modok.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #68, Conquest

It's another of those wayward-aiming showdowns.

I don't have any recollection at all of this cover, whereas I normally recognise all Planet of the Apes covers on sight.

Could this mean I never had this issue?

If so, it means I didn't get my hands on a single Marvel UK comic this week.

It's a catastrophe besides which the loss of the planet to a gang of apes pales into insignificance.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #68

What's this? That bounder Dracula's posing a threat to the Houses of Parliament?

Hold on a minute. Why's anyone trying to stop him?

Marvel UK, The Titans #16, Banshee

I detect that the Banshee may be present in this week's issue.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #49, Thing and Man-Thing

I must confess I never liked the Molecule Man. There was something about the zigzags on his face that put me off him.

Admittedly, the fact that he was evil didn't help endear him to me either.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fifty years ago today - February 1966.

February 1966 was one of the most important months in human history. Seeing, as it did, the birth of Rick Astley.

Could Marvel Comics' output of that month possibly live up to that moment, in terms of global significance?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers #25, Dr Doom

I think this is the only Avengers tale I've ever read that features them battling Dr Doom.

Bearing in mind his high profile in the Marvel universe, it seems surprising he didn't show up more often in their mag.

Then again, I only recall him fighting Spider-Man once and the Hulk once and Daredevil once and Thor once. Clearly, Stan the Man liked to use him sparingly in mags that didn't star the Fantastic Four.

Daredevil #13, Ka-Zar Origin

I'm actually not that sure what's going on on that cover but I do remember enjoying the first meeting of Marvel's least super super-doers.

I especially liked the Plunderer's magic guns, even though I can't recall what it was they actually did.

Fantastic Four #47, Hidden Land

It's one of my all-time faves, as the FF find the Hidden land.

It's a tale I first read in an issue of Marvel's Greatest Comics and, with its use of Dragon Man, the Inhumans, the Alpha Primitives and the Seeker, plus Sue Storm changing her hairdo whilst on her way into battle, it made a huge impact on me.

Journey Into Mystery #125, Thor vs Herculed

I'm so dim that, up until today, I'd always assumed the mystery villain Thor's squaring up to on this cover was the Demon. It's only just dawned on me that that shadow can only belong to Hercules.

Amazing Spider-Man #33

It's that issue where Spider-Man spends about a thousand pages trying to lift some machinery off himself.

If you've ever wanted to see how this cover would look with moving water, you can, by clicking on this link here, which'll take to an animated gif of it created by Kerry Callen.



Strange Tales #141, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD

Nick Fury's still doing spy stuff.

Tale of Suspense #74, Captain America vs the Sleeper

Captain America's still up against the Sleeper - a foe that managed to look ever more silly as the tale progressed.

It basically ended up as a giant head riding around on a flying mechanical manta ray above the countryside. I'm no military expert but it always seemed to me that that wasn't an obvious design for a world-conquering super-weapon.

Tales to Astonish #76, Sub-Mariner

Not having read it, I don't have a clue what happens in this one but, from the cover, I'm assuming that Atlantis must be imperilled.

X-Men #17

That's a very dramatic cover.

Sadly, I've forgotten who their mystery visitor was. Was it Magneto? Was it the Juggernaut? Was it Professor X?

Sunday, 31 January 2016

January 31st, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this week in 1976, ABBA went to Number One on the UK singles chart, with Mamma Mia.

I can think of no link between this fact and the comics Marvel UK were bestowing upon us in that very same week.

I can, however, say that I hated Mamma Mia the movie.

On the other hand, I loved Muriel's Wedding.

On the other hand, I've never seen Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I haven't seen ABBA: The Movie in at least twenty years but I remember Lou Carpenter being in it, so it must have been good.

Thus concludes my review of movies that wield ABBA songs like Obi Wan Kenobi wields his lightsabre.

Anyway, Marvel UK in this week of exactly forty years ago.

Were our heroes calling out, "S.O.S."?

Or were their foes instead meeting their Waterloo?

Marvel UK, Avengers #124, Red Wolf

To be honest, despite what it says on the cover, I don't remember demanding the return of Iron Fist. But I would have done if it'd occurred to me, as I was always partial to his adventures.

Then again, I was always partial to Shang-Chi's adventures as well.

Shang-Chi? Iron Fist? How could I possibly be forced to choose between them?

As for the main story, I'm not altogether sure just what a wolf is going to do against the combined might of the Vision, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. I think Red Wolf might be being a bit over-ambitious there.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #155

The story's clearly the Dr Strange/Flash Thompson/Vietnam one but I have a feeling that this cover is a reworking of one originally done for a story that featured the Red Skull.

Marvel UK, Planer of the Apes #67, Conquest

What a rather belting cover. I seem to remember including it in my post listing what I thought were the twelve best Planet of the Apes covers.

In other news: for a moment, I got all over-excited there. I misread the cover blurb as saying, "Apeslayer gone berserk!" You can't help feeling Conquest of the Planet of the Apes would have ended dramatically differently if Apeslayer had been around.

Mighty World of Marvel #174, Hulk vs Harpy

That's a very strange portrayal of the Bi-Beast. In fact, other than him having two faces, it bears no resemblance to him at all.

More excitingly, I think there were now only two weeks to go before my Mighty World of Marvel drought finally ended and my local newsagent started stocking it again.

Marvel UK, Titans #15, Nick Fury

I assume the, "Them," in question are the organisation otherwise known as AIM?

I seem to recall that robot turning up in the pages of Captain America as well. It might have looked a bit silly but it clearly knew how to cause trouble.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #48, Bloodstone

I think I may have read this Bloodstone tale in the back of The Rampaging Hulk comic of which I was a big fan.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #67

The family drama runs deep in the pages of Dracula Lives.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Atlas Comics' Destructor #3.

Atlas Comics, The Destructor #3, the Huntress
As I blunder around the streets of Sheffield, destroying anything that gets in my path, people often say to me, "Steve, you're so destructive that I can't believe this city's even still standing!"

And I tell them, "Hang around for another five minutes and it won't be!"

But I have to admit that even my powers of destruction are nothing besides those of a man so destructive that they actually named him after that quality.

Issue #3 of The Destructor was the earliest issue of the title I ever owned as a youth. Which means I never got to see his origin.

But, from what I can make out in this tale, he seems to be Atlas Comics' equivalent of Wolverine, being likewise blessed with animal senses and super-fast healing.

Unlike Wolverine, he appears not to be in need of a padded cell. Which is clearly a good thing as, unlike Wolverine, he has the strength to lift up buildings with his bare hands.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
And he's clearly going to need all that strength - because he's annoyed a criminal organisation called The Combine, by bashing-up their henchman Deathgrip, meaning they're out for revenge.

To get it, they set a woman on him, called The Huntress who turns out to be no match for our hero, who duly defeats her and scares a bunch of gangsters while he's at it.

The thing that strikes you is this is a blatant retread of that early Spider-Man tale where Kraven the Hunter shows up and chases Spider-Man around a park before Spider-Man gives him the good chinning he's been asking for.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
Sadly, The Huntress is a strangely ineffectual foe. Without the weapons the boss of The Combine has given her, the fight wouldn't even last ten seconds and she insists on spurning two nailed-on chances to kill The Destructor, purely so she can show off by defeating him more than once.

She also seems to have no control at all over her lackey who just does what he wants as she futilely watches and tries to convince him not to. You can't help suspecting she might not be quite the top-of-the-range assassin that everyone in the tale keeps saying she is.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
But, of course, the most interesting thing about the issue is that, although written by Archie Goodwin, it's drawn by Steve Ditko, giving us a chance to compare his 1970s super-hero form directly with his 1960s Spider-Man work.

How does it stand up?

Quite nicely. Although it's not as stylish as his early '60s Marvel work, it shows he still has the ability to compose panels of elegant and effortless simplicity.

Sadly, like a number of his later Spider-Man tales, it gives us a story that can only be called, "Straightforward." Villain captures hero. Hero fights villain. Hero wins. All of which means it has a clear visual charm but nothing in the way of twists and turns to keep a reader gripped.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3There's a bit of character development early on, as it turns out The Destructor's civilian identity of Jay Hunter is also the chauffeur of a crime lord he's vowed to destroy, setting up what's clearly going to be a tangled love-life with the crime lord's daughter.

However, there's not quite enough of his personal life present for my liking. And the fact that his personal life is so closely tied to his crime-fighting life makes you wonder just how far it can be developed before it starts to feel constrained and repetitive.

Despite its limitations, it does seem like one of the more thought-out Atlas comics and so ranks well above the likes of Ironjaw and The Brute but it doesn't feel very inspired and, after having re-read it for the first time since my younger days, I'll still have to stick to my long-standing belief that The Phoenix was the Atlas super-hero who had most potential, even if The Phoenix never actually got anywhere near achieving that potential.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

January 24th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Holy Heliospheres, Batman! It's been an exciting week for all lovers of infamous planets, with the claim that somebody or other's finally discovered the mysterious Planet X that's long been rumoured to orbit the outer fringes of our solar system. This is good news for all fans of Kurrgo, who know him to be ruler of that dread globe.

But what of the heroes of our favourite mags in this week of 1976?

Were they feeling spaced out?

Or were they simply out of this world?

Marvel UK, Avengers #123

The Lethal Legion might be doing their best to get all the attention but I'm more intrigued by the claim that Dr Strange is meeting the greatest star of all.

Just who could this mystery person be?

Please tell me it's Elvis Presley. The thought of Dr Strange teaming up with Elvis Presley to fight the Chthonic Forces gives me far more pleasure than it every rightly should.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #154

It's that one where Flash's Vietnam experiences come back to haunt him, and Dr Strange somehow gets dragged into it all.

And where Dr Strange is, can Elvis be far behind?

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #66

It's a dramatic cover.

But a more militarily-minded man than me might point out that that gorilla's pointing his gun above his intended victim's head, therefore making him yet another of those terrible aimers who seem to exclusively inhabit Planet of the Apes covers.

I'm starting to wonder if there was some sort of rule that they weren't allowed to show someone pointing a gun at someone on a cover and they therefore had to contrive ways to avoid it while still trying to create a sense of impending doom.

Mighty World of Marvel #173, Hulk vs Bi-Beast

Hooray! The Bi-Beast makes his Hulk debut! And what a fab cover that is.

I missed this issue but was fortunately already familiar with him thanks to the book The Horrific World of Monsters which I got one Christmas in the early 1970s.

You can read my thoughts on that mighty tome by clicking on this very link.

Marvel UK, The Titans #14, the New Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel's still making his transformation into the New Captain Marvel.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #66

If you ever had any doubts that Dracula's a cad and a bounder, now you have your proof.

Marvel UK,  The Super-Heroes #47, Thing and Iron Man vs Thanos

I suspect this may be the first appearance of Thanos in a Marvel UK comic.

Come to think of it, he seems to be holding the Cosmic Cube. Does that mean it's also the first Marvel UK appearance of that object as well?

The Cosmic Cube was always a baffling thing to me. I only found out where it came from a few years ago when I finally got to read the Captain America tale in which it made its debut.

Come to think if it, Modok was a mystery to me too and I only got to find out where he came from at the same time.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

2000 AD - December 1977.

December 1977 was a pivotal moment in the history of humanity.

Why?

Because it saw the release of none other than Saturday Night Fever. I'd love to claim it revolutionised my life and turned me into the disco king I am now.

But it wouldn't be true. At the time, I was being led a whole other merry dance.

A merry dance led by one comic.

And that comic was 2000 AD.

2000 AD #41

Argh! Run! Run! Mangog is here!

Apparently, this issue features the start of a strip called Bonjo From Beyond The Stars. I must confess it's a strip I have no memory of.

2000 AD #42

For some reason, this one reminds me of the cover to that Avengers tale where Psyklop has captured and shrunk the Hulk, even though it bears no resemblance to that cover other than that there's a big insect-type villain and small people.

It seems this issue sees the start of Dredd's adventure on Luna-1 and the formation of the Harlem Hellcats.

2000 AD #43

Up until they invented texting, I was never sure why phone keypads had letters on them as well as numbers. I'm still not convinced I know why but it seems they made it easier to arrange both monsters and murders.

The internet informs me that M.A.C.H. Zero makes his debut this issue.

2000 AD #44

Hooray! It's Christmas in Mega-City One!

More importantly, Walter the Robot gets a cover appearance.

It's an exciting time for us, as the comic dumps the, "Supercovers," and gets back to featuring its regular stars.

2000 AD #45

No sooner has Judge Dredd made the front cover again than Dan Dare emulates the feat. It is something of a surprise to discover the entire galaxy shares the same New Year's Day. What were the chances of that?

That flag does have more than a hint of the American Confederate flag about it.

Then again, it has more than a hint of the Union Jack about it too. Just what were the editors of 2000 AD trying to tell us?

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