It's hard to believe but, sometimes in life, even Christmas can let you down.
The Christmas of 1978 was one such occasion because, although the rest of that festive period might've been fine (I think Blake's 7 was launched that very Christmas), that year's Spider-Man Annual was a thing of genuine disappointment to my youthful mind.
For one thing, it only featured one story - which wouldn't have been too bad had it been a classic.
But it wasn't.
It was the tale where our hero and the Human Torch go off to co-star in a Hollywood movie before teaming up to fight Mysterio and the Wizard.
The first and biggest problem with it was how it looked. After years of Steve Ditko, John Romita, Gil Kane, Jim Mooney, John Buscema and Ross Andru on the strip, the art on this tale seemed a remarkably basic and juvenile thing. The artist's not credited anywhere in the book but my Spider-Sense tingles whenever I think of the name, "Larry Lieber." I must therefore conclude it was indeed Stanley's brother who was responsible.
There was also the problem that, with Spidey and the Torch going to Tinseltown, the regular cast were nowhere in sight, meaning the human drama that'd made the strip great was absent. Instead we got a tale that was, at heart, Spider-Man and the Human Torch fighting each other for thirty-odd pages before joining together to finish off Mysterio and the Wizard who'd had a vague plan to trick our heroes into battling and killing each other.
This was the other problem. Leaving aside that their plan made no sense (since when do Spider-Man and the Human Torch set out to kill their foes?) Mysterio and the Wizard just came across as a pair of idiots.
I didn't really care about the Wizard seeming like a fool. In my book, outside the Frightful Four, he'd never been anything but a minor leaguer, but Mysterio had always been one of my favourites. OK, so he was just a fraud but at least he was a stylish fraud.
The rest of the annual was taken up by pin-ups, reproductions of classic covers and a Marie Severin cartoon. All of which were very nice but, let's face it, no one ever picked up a Spider-Man annual hoping it'd be full of pin-ups.
Sadly, it was the last Marvel Annual I ever read and it was a shame therefore that the grand tradition of Christmas super-herodom would bow out of my life on such a low.
Still, as one hero leaves, another set enter and at least the BBC ensured I had Blake's 7 to keep me company.
Lees Hall, Gleadless.
6 months ago