Sunday, 2 August 2015

August 2nd, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This is all very exciting for me. If the Avengers issue shown in this post features the debut of Adamantium and its use by Ultron, that means that this week of 1975 was the week when I set off on my summer holidays to Blackpool.

My main memories of that journey are of the Vision turning against his colleagues, Thor setting off to fight Galactus - with the aid of bird men - and the introduction of Psycho-Man to the pages of the Fantastic Four. The coach seats had those shiny metal ashtrays on the back of them that you could take apart and put back together again and Don Estelle and Windsor Davies were on the radio. With entertainment like that, you didn't even need to go to Blackpool. You could have just spent two weeks on the coach and still felt you'd got your money's worth.

There was also plenty of Alan Class consumed on that journey - including a tale of a man who gets turned into a totem pole, something to do with a Mexican cliff diver, a scientist who's attacked by plants, and something called They Drive By Night.

If the Avengers issue didn't feature that Ultron story, ignore everything I've just said because that means it wasn't until a week later that I set off on holiday.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #129

It's the senses-shattering return of the Green Goblin - and the start of the legendary drugs story that changed the history of American comic books.

On top of that, we get Thor vs Galactus.

What sort of mad lunatic wouldn't want to get their hands on a comic like this?

Marvel UK, Avengers #98

I have no memory at all of the Butlin Super-Joker feature and therefore conclude that I was not a Butlin Super-Joker.

I also have no memory at all of a robot pterodactyl showing up in an Avengers tale, nor of a real pterodactyl showing up in an early Conan tale. I therefore suspect that this cover may be somewhat misleading.

Mighty World of Marvel #148, Hulk vs Namor

The Defenders are still experiencing teething troubles, while Daredevil goes mad and decides to try and slap Captain America around.

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

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #41

I know this is meant to be a supremely dramatic cover but Dracula's pose does give the impression that he was halfway through a session with his psychiatrist when he found himself so rudely interrupted.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #41

Beneath the Planet of the Apes AND The Day of the Triffids? In one comic? Surely Marvel UK were spoiling us with such fare.

Marvel UK, Super-Heroes #22, the Silver Surfer

I didn't have this issue but I do have the feeling, from what I've read elsewhere on the internet, that this tale may involve SHIELD in some capacity.

Other than that, I can not even speculate as to the contents.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Charlton Comics' Yang #5 - Video Review.

Charlton Comics' Yang #5, Bigfoot
Grab your shurikens, Grandma! It's time for my latest video review as I take a look at Charlton Comics' stab at leaping on the early 1970s' Kung Fu craze.

Looking at the covers on the Grand Comics Database, it would appear that my household at one point possessed half the issues of Yang that ever existed.

Clearly it must have made a greater impression than all logic might suggest it would have done.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

July 26th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

I've recently seen the latest James Bond trailer. A fact which has nothing to do with the rest of this post but I can't think of a relevant introduction for it, so I thought I'd best mention something completely random and hope I can turn it into a viable link.

It looks like a very nice trailer, though I must confess I've still not managed to see any of the Daniel Craig Bond movies and therefore have no idea as to whether they're any good or not.

I've also never seen any of the Harry Potter films.

I can't help feeling I'm being remiss in my duties to British cultural imperialism.

There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to take refuge in that other brand that's as British as fish and chips and look at what our favourite comic company was up to in this week of exactly forty years ago.

Good grief, I actually managed to turn it into a viable link. I'm starting to think there are no miracles I can't perform when armed with a keyboard.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #128, London

And blow me down if Marvel UK haven't gone more British than ever.

Intriguingly, on the original US cover for this story, the Houses of Parliament were visible in the background, while, on this UK reprint, they've mysteriously disappeared.

I suspect this may be because someone feared that UK readers would know the Houses of Parliament are not next to Tower Bridge. But I could be wrong.

Marvel UK Avengers #97, Goliath and the Swordsman

The Swordsman's back - and still no doubt using the flat of his blade.

Someone really needs to tell him how you're supposed to use a sword. It's like the Punisher using a gun that fires nothing but ping pong balls.

Marvel UK Dracula Lives #40

Dracula's up to his usual villainy.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #40, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

How on Earth can he not see those apes? They're not even trying to hide from him.

The Mighty World of Marvel #147, The Defenders

The Defenders make their dynamic debut, with the help of a Neal Adams cover.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #21, the Silver Surfer

I have no idea what happens in this one. Have we reached the story with the Inhumans in it yet?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

2000 AD - June 1977.

Hold on tight - because it's time for us to once more leap backwards into the future and find out what IPC's greatest ever comic was giving us in June of 1977. What thrills did it have? What spills?

2000AD #15, MACH 1

The last time I was in the Himalayas, a Sherpa asked me if I'd seen an abominable snowman since I'd got there. My reply? "Not yeti."

To be frank, I don't know if that joke makes any sense at all to anyone but it was the only one I could think of that had anything to do with this cover, so it'll have to do.

2000AD #16

Who could forget Barry Manilow's immortal words, "Bermuda Triangle. Don't go too near."?

Clearly, the denizens of 2000 AD could, as they find themselves in a right mess.

That cover reminds me of that legendary film Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, where the shark leaps about eleven thousand feet up out of the water and attacks the Jumbo Jet.

2000AD #17, Flesh

There's a sight you don't see every day.

But it's always good to see the return of Exposition Man. I do feel I should have one of my own; "Steve's crossing the road! He's entering a shop! He's looking at the price of yogurt!"

2000AD #18, Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd; a man with a head for law-enforcement.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

July 19th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1975, the Bay City Rollers were sat supreme at Number One on the UK singles chart, with Give a Little Love. I remember sinking into a deep trough of despair at the time, when this happened, and standing outside a shop, peering in through its windows and praying their careers would die.

Obviously, now that I'm much older, such frustration is gone and I can now appreciate the Bay City Rollers and their contribution to Popular Music.

Well, alright, I can't. I can merely mock their memory, in a graceless manner unbecoming of me. But, after forty years, I do at least feel that I can afford to be magnanimous and finally forgive them their sins. Plus, nostalgia has a strange way of lending charm to even the most unlikely of things.

I do get the feeling though that the heroes of Marvel UK's mags weren't being quite so forgiving of their tormentors' sins.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #127, London

Blinky blonky blimey, governor, Spider-Perisher's in London and fighting those blighters who are out to blow up Her Majesty's Big Ben, like dirty rotten cads, what ho?

As you can hear, I do have a quite superb British accent, having been practising it for many years.

In other news, I am quite impressed by terrorists who drive around in Rolls Royces.

Marvel UK, Avengers and Savage Sword of Conan #96

It's more action than the human mind can possibly hope to even dream of accommodating, as the newly merged mag flings everything it can at us.

Mighty World of Marvel #146, Hulk vs Hulk

The Hulk's well and truly back in Jarella Land.

I've got a feeling that this issue may have had an advert for Dinky Toys' Space: 1999 Eagle on the back but I couldn't swear to it for certain.

If it does, it was the first time I learned of that show's existence.

If it doesn't, it wasn't.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #39, Dracula vs Werewolf By Night

Given the total lack of fighting skills, tactical nous and intelligence of Jack Russell's hairy alter-ego, it's hard to see how a fight between him and Dracula could be anything but a one-sided smackdown but, nonetheless, that tussle reaches its second issue.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #39, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

What a nice cover. It was always a treat when Marvel UK decided to reprint one of the US originals instead of commissioning a new one.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #20, the Silver Surfer vs the Overlord

I've no idea what's going on here but the bad guy does have an air of the villains in Marvel's adaptation of Gullivar Jones about him.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.

Worlds Unknown #7, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Apart from Rod Stewart, has there ever been a more famous sailor than Sinbad; that daring explorer who never turned down a chance to tangle with giant eggs?

There are those who'll tell you he was Chinese. There are those who'll tell you he was from the Middle East. There are even some mad fools who'll tell you he never existed at all.

One thing's for sure, all our childhoods would have been an awful lot duller if not for the inspiration he gave to Ray Harryhausen.

But Sinbad wasn't alone in enlivening our youthful lives.

So did Marvel Comics.

And so, when it happened, it seemed only appropriate that the worlds of Marvel and Harryhausen should at last be combined as Worlds Unknown #7 gave us an adaptation of Harryhausen's classic film The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Here's what's going down in Sinbadland. Sinbad is sailing around when one of his men spots a small, flying creature and, for no good reason, tries to shoot it, causing it to drop the strange metal object it's been carrying.

Not bothering to ask any philosophical questions about the ethicality of shooting at things that are doing you no harm, and then stealing what they're  carrying, Sinbad soon finds himself in the city of Marabia where he slaps around the object's rightful owner and then finds himself being recruited by the local, golden-masked king, to help thwart an evil wizard called Koura who, as we all know, was played in the film by the legend that is Tom Baker.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Needless to say, for reasons I'm not totally clear about, this sets Sinbad and Koura on a sea-born race to reach an island and learn whatever its secret is.

But that's not before Koura brings the wooden figurehead of Sinbad's ship to life and gets it to steal our hero's charts.

It's at this point that issue #7 terminates and we learn that we're going to have to wait for issue #8 to find out how it all ends.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Obviously, we all know how it all ends, because we've all seen the movie.

In fact, we've seen it frequently. Mostly every bank holiday Monday, because it's on TV every bank holiday Monday and has been for about thirty five years.

Therein may lie the adaptation's Achilles heel.

Which is that we've all seen the movie and can therefore directly compare it to the comic.

And it's in this direct comparison that the fatal flaw in the concept of adapting a Ray Harryhausen movie is revealed.

That's that the central pleasure of any Harryhausen film dwells not within its plot and characters. It dwells within seeing rubber models come to life and fight people. Sadly, in a comic, that thrill's lost, as there are no rubber monsters in it, just drawings on a page; drawings of monsters and drawings of people. Hence there's no gap between the real and fantastical elements and the enchantment is lost.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
There's also the problem that there's very little difference between a Sinbad tale and a Conan tale and, by this stage, Marvel had been doing Conan tales for years - but with the advantage that they weren't tied to a movie script and could therefore make the strip far more dynamic, in the mighty Marvel style, with a freedom that a faithful movie adaptation inevitably lacks.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.It's written by Len Wein, and it's drawn by George Tuska and Vince Colletta and, while the art's not off-putting (Tuska makes things less cartoony than he sometimes does), nor is it particularly gripping. Restricted by the need for faithfulness, the thing does often feel as wooden as Sinbad's murderous figurehead.

In the end, it's not terrible, it's all competently done but it does feel rather by-the-numbers and thus lacks the atmosphere and magic of the movie.

But the main appeal for me lies in seeing Brian Clemens get a first-page credit.

As a producer and writer, Clemens was of course strongly involved in such treasures as The Avengers, The Persuaders, The Protectors and The Professionals, not to mention Adam Adamant Lives and the cinematic oddities that were And Soon The Darkness, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Captain Kronos. And if that isn't enough to make him deserve being immortalised in a comic, I don't know what would be.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

July 12th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

July 12th was an exciting Friday for all fans of Marvel UK.

Why?

Because it was the week The Savage Sword of Conan disappeared completely from the newsagents of Britain.

Admittedly, that in itself wasn't particularly exciting - especially if you happened to be from Cimmeria and had been rooting for your local hero.

However, it did mean Conan suddenly moved into the Avengers' mag.

As I read The Avengers every week and had never even seen an issue of Savage Sword of Conan, this was very exciting for me - especially as it featured tales from Barry Smith's peak period on the strip.

It was, however, the first time Marvel UK had suffered the indignity of having to merge two comics due to poor sales. But, if we'd momentarily feared that it signalled the start of a bleaker new era for the company, we could always rely on their remaining mags to divert our thoughts from such musings.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #126, the Beetle

Help! Help! They're kidnapping Marisa Tomei!

Meanwhile, Lee and Kirby's attempt to make sense of Thor's origin continues apace.

Marvel UK, The Avengers and Conan #95

This is it! We suddenly have a comic that features the Avengers, Conan, Dr Strange and Shang-Chi. There may be no common thread linking those four strips but what kind of lunatic wouldn't want a combination like that?

What with the Avengers' Adamantium Ultron storyline and the Dr Strange Shuma-Gorath tale, I'm trying to work out if this meant there were any issues in this period when The Avengers, Conan and Dr Strange strips were all simultaneously drawn by Barry Smith.

Mighty World of Marvel #145, The Hulk

"Don't count on it, baldy!"? Are they sure he now has the mind of Bruce Banner? I don't recall Bruce Banner ever talking like that.

I do, however, believe this signals that the Hulk is back in the land of Jarella.

The bad news is that the Jester's back in the land of Daredevil.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #38, Dracula vs Werewolf by Night

I had the original US version of this tale, which was nicely pleasing for me.

Sadly, I can't remember anything at all that happens in it.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #38

Yeah! That's right! I'm going to strangle you into taking me to Ape City, whether you like it or not! Even though you were almost certainly going there anyway, what with it being the only inhabited place on Earth known to the simian denizens of the Planet of the Apes movies!

Meanwhile, Marvel's adaptation of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad continues. A tale I aim to be reviewing in the not-too-distant future, provided I can find my copy.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #19, the Silver Surfer

I'd love to know what the story is behind this cover. It's always struck me as being very un-Marvel-like. It does have a relaxing elegance to it though.

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