Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mighty World of Marvel Annual 1975.

Mighty World of Marvel Annual #1975, the Incredible Hulk
Dads. Are they psychic - sometimes sensing their future blunders and taking action to make amends for them before they've even committed them?

A couple of years before he completely forgot to give me the Avengers 1977 annual for Christmas - meaning that, when he finally remembered, I got it in the Spring - my dad, for no reason I've ever been able to determine, gave me the 1975 Marvel Annual, weeks before Christmas. Clearly Christmas was a movable feast in his eyes.

Why he did it I shall never know but I know it was on a Thursday because Top of the Pops was on and David Essex was singing I'm Gonna Make You A Star, with a little help from The Goodies.

Well, David Essex was a big fat liar and never did make me a star but my future bitterness over his broken promises was the last thing on my mind right then because I suddenly had a Marvel annual to keep me warm through those long dark cold winter nights. This was the first Marvel annual I had after the 1972 Fleetway Marvel Annual that had so disappointed me at the time and this more than made up for it. Not only had I not read any of the stories before but blow me down if they weren't in full colour too.

So, what did we get for our 90p?

Well, we got lots of Hulk. First up we got a double-length helping of him and his encounter with Captain Omen's undersea kingdom that owed nothing to Captain Nemo. Clearly Steve Englehart had the same kind of mentality that I had when it came generating names.

When it came to the tale itself, I was most struck by Captain Omen's bright red metal tentacles the Hulk thought were giant worms, the wide-bodiedness of his crew, the salivary goodness of Aquon and most of all  the shocking denouement as the crew of Omen's ship exploded in the lower air pressure of the surface world. Never before had my youthful mind reeled before such titanic terror. There were other things that grabbed me  too; the fact that General Thunderbolt Ross had been captured by the Russians, and that one of Captain Omen's crew kept a leaf as a sacred relic of the surface world.

This was followed by the Hulk's first punch-up with Zzzax, the creature from the Dynamo. I like Zzzax. Zzzax always referred to himself in the third perzzon and was as stupid as they came. This is how a Hulk villain should be. Through the story I also got a bit of a lesson in electricity from Hawkeye, thanks to which I've never been tempted to use my electric toaster in the bath.

Finishing off the annual we had what for me was its highlight; the Hulk's first-ever encounter with the Silver Surfer. The Hulk's determined to force the Surfer to take him into outer space, where he can escape the puny humans who hound him. The trouble is the Surfer's not allowed to go into space, thanks to the orders of Galactus. Violence follows - the ironic ending being that, after discovering where the Hulk came from, the Surfer's about to cure him, with his cosmic powers but the Hulk thinks he's about to attack him. The Hulk hits the Surfer in preemptive "retaliation" and the Surfer takes his board home and leaves.

Mighty World of Marvel Annual #1975, the Incredible Hulk
Sandwiched in between all this green goodness were a series of pin-ups, mostly the covers to the issues from which the annual's tales originated. There was also a very curious pin-up of the Hulk landing in what seems to be a courtyard, as a bunch of oddly-dressed men run away and a strange looking tank waits  in the background. I don't have a clue who did it. It's clearly not by what you'd call one of Marvel's top rank artists. The issue also features what for me's quite a special pin-up, a reproduction of Marie Severin's  cover to Tales To Astonish #99. Unless there's something wrong with the version on GCD, the one in the annual's clearly been re-embellished noticeably and it looks genuinely epic, which is why I'm reproducing it here.

So David Essex didn't make me a star and my dad never again displayed anything that resembled psychic powers but I had an underwater kingdom and a rider of the space ways to keep me happy and, in the often blighted days of the early 1970s, that was enough.

PS. Don't forget the breathless results of our Captain America vs Daredevil poll are in, fresh from the burning inferno of democracy -- and it's not good news for one of them.

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