Friday, 6 March 2015

March 1975 - Marvel Comics, Forty Years Ago Today.

Hold onto your tripod, tiger, because there's a very nice picture on the Internet today of how Mars looked when a fifth of it was covered by an ocean.

This has nothing at all to do with today's post, which is about what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to exactly forty years ago.

Then again, March is named after Mars. And, no doubt, Marvel is too. And I'm writing about March and Marvel. So there's a sort of link there if you're really determined to find one....

Avengers #133, the Celestial Madonna Saga

Meanwhile, somehow unconcerned about the fate of Mars, the Celestial Madonna Saga rumbles interminably onwards.
Conan the Barbarian #48

That's a very dramatic cover but I do find it somewhat disappointing that there's no sign of Red Sonja on it, despite it trumpeting her return.
Captain America & the Falcon #183, Death of a Hero

I've definitely read this tale - and in the not too distant past - but can't actually remember what happens in it.
Daredevil #119, the Crusher

The Crusher is back.

Wasn't he from Cuba or somewhere?

Or am I thinking of someone else?

Or perhaps I'm just imagining things?
Fantastic Four #156, Dr Doom

I take it, from the advertised presence of the Silver Surfer, that this isn't the one where the FF help the Latverian Underground overthrow Doom and install democracy?

Democracy? Pshaw! They don't want to mess around with that sort of nonsense. We have that sort of thing in this country. It's rubbish. They shut down the local library for the day, so people can vote. How am I supposed to borrow a book if the library's closed?

There you go. Proof positive that Democracy is the enemy of reading skills. Ban it! Ban it now!

And I'm sure Dr Doom would agree with me.
Incredible Hulk #185

I must confess this isn't one of my favourite Hulk tales from this era. It's alright but I'm not sure I ever longed for Thunderbolt Ross to get his own answer to the Spider-Slayer.

Still, it does have a satellite dish, so at least he'll be able to watch some nice TV shows while he's in it.
Iron Man #73, Crimson Dynamo

I don't believe I've ever read this tale.

I do note that it's tagged Fury In A Far-Off Land. I wonder how many Marvel stories have managed to have that tagline over the years? It must be up there with Lo, There Shall Be An Ending!
Amazing Spider-Man #142, Mysterio is back from the dead

How can you not love a cover like that? Though I suppose the fact that we all know that Mysterio's a master of illusion does somewhat lessen its ability to stun the senses. Let's face it, if it had been Betty Brant who was removing her own head, that'd be a whole other matter.
Thor #233, Earth vs Asgard

It's another one I have little recollection of. Does this happen sometime around the Orrin/Odin saga of which I have vague memories?

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

March 1965 - Marvel Comics, Fifty Years Ago Today.

We've all seen that picture of that weasel riding around on that woodpecker and of that dress of endlessly debatable colouration but I've no doubt that even such concerns shrivel into feeble insignificance besides whatever Marvel's heroes were up to exactly fifty years ago this month.

Avengers# 14

I'm not sure if I've read this one.

Is it the one where the Wasp needs an operation and the only man who can do it is an alien in a rubber mask?

Whatever happened in it; apparently, it's for, "The new breed of reader."

I dread to think what that might be.
Fantastic Four #36, The Frightful Four

The Frightful Four make their dastardly debut.

I am always impressed by the strength of Medusa's follicles. She has to have the strongest scalp on Earth.

I do love how useless the Thing is on this cover, just standing there, watching, while the Frightfuls attack him, and not even making an effort to warn his team-mates.
Journey into Mystery #114, Thor vs the Absorbing Man

Hooray! It's the debut of one of my favourite villains; the Absorbing Man. For me, this is where Thor's great era began.
Amazing Spider-Man #22, The Circus of Crime

Sadly, this definitely isn't where Spider-Man's great era began, as the Circus of Crime make their return, having, I think, dumped the Ringmaster.

Bearing in mind their early M.O. of arriving in town, putting on a show and then robbing their audience, I do always wonder what actual name the Circus of Crime used to travel under.

I mean, I assume their posters didn't say The Circus of Crime or the The Masters of Menace on them, as they'd never attract an audience if they did. So, what is the official performing name of the Circus of Crime?
Strange Tales #130, Dr Strange vs Baron Mordo

By the dread Dormammu! Dr Strange at last becomes the cover star, while the Thing and Torch are relegated to the role of bit-part players.
Tales of Suspense #63, Origin of Captain America

I, of course, have vivid memories of the origin of Captain America. Sadly, my memories of the Phantom are far fuzzier. Was he a saboteur who kept attacking Tony Stark's factory?
Tales to Astonish #65, Giant-Man and the Hulk

In yet another attempt to make him work as a character, Giant-Man gets one of the worst costumes in the history of super-heroes.
X-Men #10, Ka-Zar

Everyone's favourite jungle lord makes his senses-shattering debut.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dan Dare - at last, your chance to meet the Mekon.

Fibre Glass Mekon, Atkinson Museum, Southport
It's exciting news for all fans of Dan Dare, the pilot of the future.

The other day, I got an email from Sara Teiger of the Atkinson Museum in Southport which now has a permanent exhibition devoted to him and his creator Frank Hampson who I believe was educated in the town.

Amongst the items on display are models of some of the main characters' heads, including a large colour bust of Dan Dare and a metre tall replica of my role model the Mekon.

It seems the models were used by the artists when they were drawing the strip, so they could get the characters right from all angles.

Other items on show include a spaceship and a Mars space station, plus original artwork, alongside 1950s and 60s Dan Dare merchandise.

But wait! What's this? As if that wasn't enough excitement for the keen nostalgist, there's also a display dedicated to Meccano, Dinky Toys and Hornby Trains creator Frank Hornby.

Dan DareHow can two men called Frank both come from the same area, both have a second name beginning with, "H," and both be so vital to the development of human civilisation? It fair boggles the mind.

Or, as I inadvertently said when reading this post out loud to make sure it flowed properly, "It bear foggles the mind."

I don't know what bear foggling is but I demand the government stamp it out right now.

How many bears have to be foggled before someone finally does something about this terrible practice?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

March 1st, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It may now be March but what of the March of Time? What events were transpiring exactly forty years ago today at Marvel UK Towers?

One thing I've just noticed is that all their mags now cost a walloping eight pence, not just Dracula Lives and Planet of the Apes. I can remember when you could get Marvel comics for five pence. Where will this madness end?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #107, the Schemer

Maybe it's me but I don't recall the Schemer ever managing to be this dynamic in the actual story.

For that matter, I don't remember him having any death-gas either.
Might World of Marvel #127, the Hulk and Psyklop

I take it the Daredevil story's the one where Matt Murdock dresses as Mike Murdock dressed as Daredevil dressed as Thor in order to tackle the Cobra and Mr Hyde, before then walking around on a tightrope, hundreds of feet up in the air, in order to make it look like he's not blind.

I think we've all had similar experiences in our lives.
Marvel UK, the Avengers #76, Sons of the Tiger

 I loved loved loved this tale when I was a kid, especially the Sons of the Tiger segment, which was my first and last and only experience of them.

And let's face it, who wouldn't be drawn in by the tagline, "Fifty fingers of death!"? It's like the world's most kick-ass advert for Twix.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #19

The Cowering Gil Kane Blonde makes what I believe to be her Dracula Lives debut.

What with appearing on all those Conan covers as well, she must be raking it in in overtime payments.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #19

Hold on a minute. That's not the Lawgiver. The Lawgiver's an orangutan and that's clearly a gorilla. What are they trying to do - make a monkey of us all?

For that matter, those gorillas have remarkably hairless arms and legs for apes.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Amazing Spider-Man #6 - The Lizard video review.

Amazing Spider-Man #6, the Lizard
I always insist you can't go wrong with purple and green.

And issue #6 of The Amazing Spider-Man certainly didn't, using those colours to give us one of my favourite Steve Ditko Spidey covers of them all, as we first encountered that swamp-spawned terror of the Everglades; the Lizard.

Thus it is that I must bring you my video review of that very issue.

Can anything match the terror of Curt Connors' reptilian alter-ego?

Only my attempts at video editing, which always give the impression that I've got stuck into it with a meat cleaver.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

February 22nd, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hark! What's that stopping and starting sound I hear?

Why, it seems to be a song that keeps stopping and starting.

That can only mean one thing. Not that my CD player's broke but that it's forty years ago this week that Cockney Rebel's famously segmented track Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) leapt to Number One on the British singles chart.

But did the heroes of Marvel's UK department have anything to smile about?

Or were they themselves, like Cockney Rebel, being repeatedly halted in their tracks?

Marvel UK, Avengers #75, Dr Strange

Is this the story where Dr Strange teams up with first the Sub-Mariner and then the Hulk to sort out the whole Nameless Ones saga, with the aid of Barbara Norris? Thus making it a kind of unofficial debut epic for the Defenders?

I've never been sure if Strange was wearing a mask during this era or if he'd just turned his face blue. I always preferred to think it was the latter.
Mighty World of Marvel #125, Hulk

After last week's interruption by the Inheritor, the Hulk gets to do his Conan thing in Jarella's kingdom.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #18

It might be a perfectly nice night out but, right now, Dracula's feeling a little cross.

Admittedly, it's not a little cross. It's a middling-sized cross but my joke wouldn't have worked if I'd said, "Dracula's feeling a medium cross."

Granted, my joke didn't work anyway but at least I made the effort.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #18

This is another Planet of the Apes cover I redrew when I was a boy, in the belief that I could improve on it.

I believe I was led to do so by having seen a reproduction of the original American version of the cover which was done for one of the black and white mags and therefore painted.

My version wasn't painted. It was in pencil. It possibly didn't look as good.
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #106, The Kingpin

Spidey literally gets the rug pulled out from under him, as the Schemer storyline rumbles on.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The origin of the Fantastic Four - video review.

Fantastic Four #1 - Origin
Yesterday may have been Pancake Day but today is an even more epoch-making one, as I upload my second video to Sheffield's 38th greatest living blog.

I must admit it was a troubled shoot, stricken by a temperamental star, noisy wildlife and lighting difficulties. But, like a trooper, I battled on and finished it.

So, here it is, a motion picture that's bound to go down in cinema history and be spoken of in the same breath as the likes of Tank Girl and Tommy Wiseau's The Room.

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