Sunday, 28 June 2015

June 28th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Granny, get your wellies on! It's Glastonbury Weekend!

And that can only mean one thing.

That I've been wading knee-deep in mud and enduring foul and unsanitary conditions at every turn.

Which is a bit worrying, as I've been watching it on TV, in my living room.

To be honest. I can't say Glasto has set my candle alight this year. I did my best to give Florence and the Machine a go - as I do every year, feeling the woman must be doing something right or she wouldn't keep getting invited back - but, just like every year, the secret of her popularity eluded me. Paloma Faith had bags of enthusiasm but possibly not bags of good songs. Burt Bacharach has plenty of good songs but I'd rather see other people perform them. The sight of Kanye West all alone on stage, seemingly performing to himself and himself alone, possessed an air of almost tragi-comic futility that suggests that, if the performance hadn't existed, Samuel Beckett would have had to invent it.

Still, there's all tonight's action to look forward to and if the current weekend does let me down I've always got a different weekend to fall back on.

That's the weekend of exactly forty years ago, way back when Kanye West was only boasting of being the greatest living sperm on Earth.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #124, the Prowler

The Prowler's STILL stopping Spidey from getting to that airport.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #93,  Dr Strange

Thanks to the magic pencil of Lord Barrington Windsington Smithington, Dr Strange is still up against Nightmare.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #36

I generally try to avoid making definitive statements on the internet, as they're always instantly proven wrong by people who know more than I do but that genuinely has to be the worst-drawn cover I've ever seen on a professionally produced comic.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #36

Those naughty apes are still causing trouble for fun-loving astronauts everywhere.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #17

Conan battles dutifully on but cancellation is now only weeks away.

Mighty World of Marvel #143, the Hulk

Unless I miss my ever-loving guess, this is the start of the Captain Axis/Shaper of Worlds tale.

Long-standing readers will be amazed to hear me declare this to be one of my favourite Hulk tales. Something I so rarely do.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #17, Silver Surfer vs the Fantastic Four

I genuinely have no knowledge of this story at all.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi Holy Hotpoints, Batman! I've recently managed to install a washing machine in my dread domain without flooding my Kitchen of Mystery!

Such a triumph can only mean one thing.

I have to review a comic that features a washing machine.

But which comic?

Which?

Where in all the world can I find a comic that revolves around such a device?

There can be only one place.

And that's Howard the Duck #21 which is one of only two issues of that mag I ever owned.

You can find my review of the other issue right here but, as for this comic, I got it in one of those polythene-wrapped triple-packs that Marvel experimented with in the 1970s.

What the other two comics that came in that triple-pack were, I don't recall but those packs always seemed to contain comics written by Steve Gerber and/or Steve Englehart, so they may well have been The Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy or Omega the Unknown.

As for Howard, what happens is this. Having killed a vigilante called Sudd, in the previous issue, Howard and his restaurant-owning boss are fleeing an angry mob.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister SoofiThey escape but Howard's then captured by the head of a cult dedicated to cleaning up the nation's morals and is shoved into a washing machine in an attempt at brainwashing him into being a suicide bomber for Family Values.

Needless to say, against a character as immune to reform as our hero, such actions are futile and Howard is totally unchanged by the experience and lives to be a misanthrope another day.

The first thing that strikes you about the issue is that it's drawn by Carmine Infantino. While I've always liked what little I've seen of Infantino's 1960s work on Adam Strange and Batman, I'm not oblivious to the fact that 1970s and 1980s Infantino has his critics. For some reason, by then his characters had become strangely wide and a visual flatness and angularity had crept into his style, often making it difficult to look at.

But to be fair to him, in this issue, his artwork softened and given greater visual depth by Klaus Janson's inking, it's possible to appreciate his composition and story-telling skills and to be reminded of the genuine - and at times sophisticated - talent that lay behind those oddly wide figures and angular flatness.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi
On the writing front, Steve Gerber gives us what we expect from Steve Gerber. The thing that strikes you is that the satire works best when he's not being overly humorous, and it's hard not to feel the comic would have worked better had Howard's wise-cracking been completely expunged from the strip and the whole thing played far straighter.

In total, it's a startlingly thin tale. Basically, Howard and his boss run down an alleyway, go back to Howard's home, have a chat and then Howard is grabbed and put in a washing machine.

Howard the Duck #21, LeeThis is actually a good thing, as it allows the story time to breathe and the tale becomes dominated by Howard's getting-to-know-you chat with his boss, during which nothing of any import is actually said. This might sound like a bad thing but I've always had a liking for stories where nothing much happens.

But there is one thing that's always baffled me about the tale.

Howard the Duck #21, The Sinister Soofi revealedAnd that's the identity of the villainess of the piece.

We're never shown her face but her and Howard's comments at the finale are seemingly meant to refer to a real-life person with whom we're already familiar.

Sadly, not being American, I don't have a clue who that woman is. I assume she's some sort of US equivalent to Britain's Mary Whitehouse but have no idea if this is so.

So if you happen to know who she's meant to be, feel free to reveal that dread fact in the comments box below - and, at last, a near-forty year old mystery will be solved for me.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

June 21st, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hooray! It's the Summer Solstice, that thrilling time of year when we all head off down to Stonehenge to dance around the sarsens and invoke the Old Gods.

But I'm not going this year.

Apart from the fact that the Old Gods didn't bother inviting me, there's only one set of old gods I'm interested in.

And those are the ones in the pages of Marvel UK's mags of exactly forty years ago.

Granted, they're not technically gods and they're not that old but I won't let that stand in my way.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #123, the Prowler is back

The Prowler makes his not-necessarily senses-shattering return, as Spidey faces a battle to get to the airport on time.

Marvel UK, the Avengers #92, the new Goliath

Hawkeye goes through a tumultuous transmogrification, as Gene Colan takes over the strip and we get a brand new Goliath.

I'm wondering if that Dr Strange blurb heralds the reprinting of the Barry Smith drawn tale about the return of Nightmare?

Mighty World of Marvel #142, the Hulk and Ant-Man

Ka-Pow! It's that one where the Hulk gets to fight rats.

I first acquired this issue in a city centre stationers which had a subterranean tunnel linking it to the biggest toy shop in Europe.

I know this because it's impossible to forget having bought a comic in such a stationers.

That's why all stationers should have a tunnel linking them to the biggest toy shop in Europe.

As should all houses.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #35

A tale with which I must confess to being totally unfamiliar.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #35, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

We get to the start of Marvel's adaptation of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which I seem to recall as having been drawn by the mighty Alfredo Alcala and having featured much more gruesome-looking mutants than the original movie did.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #16, Elric

Conan and Elric are still having an encounter.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #16, Silver Surfer vs the Inhumans

Is this the one where Jack Kirby took over for one issue and made the Surfer turn, "Bad," at the end of the tale?

Sunday, 14 June 2015

June 14th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this very day in 1975, the Soviet Union launched the mighty Venera 10 space probe to land on and explore the surface of Venus.

Well, planets and stars are all very well but there's only one set of stars any sensible child was interested in in 1975. And those were the stars of the most cosmic comic company of them all.

And that can only mean one thing.

That it's time for Steve Does Comics to fire a probe at the surface of Planet Nostalgia and see what strange lifeforms are waiting for it there.

Mighty World of Marvel #141, Hulk vs Chameleon

It's the start of one of my favourite Hulk tales, as the green Goliath finds himself shrunk to the size of a doll and up against the hordes of Hydra.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #122

Iceman and Spider-Man are still battling political corruption, in the mighty Marvel manner.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #91, Dr Strange

I don't have a clue what this advertised new direction is in the life of Dr Strange.

Is it him abandoning the blue mask and going back to looking like a normal human being again?

Or is it some other landmark event, which I've totally forgotten about?

I quite liked the mask. It gave him an alien air that I felt suited the strip.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #34

Ah yes.

He hunts the deadliest prey of them all.

Bats.

Does anyone actually hunt bats?

Not in Britain they don't. It's illegal.

Then again, so is shooting people.

And he's managed to do both.

So, there you go. Well done to him.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #34

The Planet of the Apes is still Mark Twaining it up.

I've just been watching the pilot episode of the 1970s TV show.

I do feel sorry for the actor who had to play the dead astronaut in it.

How excited he must have been when his agent told him he'd landed a part on a brand new TV show.

How disappointed he must have been when he found out it was playing a dead body.

I wonder if you have to audition for the part of a corpse. And, if so, how you are expected to go about it?

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #15, Elric

Two of Fantasy's greatest heroes bump into each other.

I'm still not sure about Elric's hat though.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #15, the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer's out to kill everyone connected with SHIELD?

I know it's not the greatest TV show of all time but I do think he's overreacting somewhat. Surely he could just change channels until he's calmed down.

Friday, 12 June 2015

2000 AD - May 1977.

In May 1977, a little known film called Star Wars was released.

You couldn't help but feel sorry for it. After all, how could it possibly hope to get noticed when it was competing for our attentions with whatever it was the world's greatest sci-fi comic had to offer in that month?

But just what was that comic offering in that month?

There's only one way to find out.

And that's to climb aboard a sturdy Wookie, do the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs and fling ourselves back in time to the days when the year 2000 seemed a lifetime away and no one dreamt that one day we'd have to face the horror of Jar Jar Binks,

2000AD #11, Martian Warrior

This is easily my favourite 2000 AD cover that had so far been published.

In fact, as a youth, I liked it so much that I wrapped my Physics exercise book in it to protect that book from wear and tear. I like to think I had the most stylish Physics exercise book in all of northern England.

Admittedly, it did mean I also had a copy of 2000 AD #11 that didn't have a cover on it, which probably wasn't such a good thing.
2000AD #12, Mekon

I take it from the blurbage that this is the first appearance of the Mekon in the pages of 2000 AD?

2000AD #13, Tharg

I must confess that, as a youngster, I was never totally convinced that Tharg really existed.

What a fool I was. After all, how could the galaxy's greatest comic have been put together each week if its editor wasn't real?

And it's nice to know he was out of his alien head, even if he said so himself.
2000AD #14, Flesh

What an oddly cute looking giant spider. It's sort of like a cross-eyed hamster with eight legs.

It's also  the size of a Tyrannosaurus. I think that at last we now know why the dinosaurs died out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Forty years ago today - June 1975.

In this month of forty years ago, the world saw the first ever underwater photographs of the Loch Ness Monster - and the release of the movie Jaws. Coincidence? Or a terrible warning of the dangers of ever going in any body of water larger than your bath?

I don't have a clue. Instead, I shall take retreat in the shallow waters of super-herodom and see what our favourite Marvel characters were up to while all this aquatic action was transpiring.

X-Men #93, Quicksilver

Is this the one that features the Avengers vs the X-Men on Magneto's island hideaway? If so, it proves that occasionally I do actually know what goes on in some of these comics.

Avengers #136, the Beast

Judging by the cover, I've a feeling this may be a reprint of that Beast solo tale where he goes a bit mad.

If it is, I assume there were deadline problems with the planned Avengers tale?

Conan the Barbarian #51, Unos

Unos the Man-Witch. Not to be confused with Unus the Untouchable.

Captain America and the Falcon #186, the Red Skull

The Red Skull still causing trouble for our heroes.

Daredevil #122, Blackwing

I have no idea what goes on in this one but it seems to feature a man riding around on a giant bat, which is a thing that has to be worth a look.

Fantastic four #159, the Inhumans

Who would have thought that, forty years after this comic was published, the Inhumans would be on TV, at war with SHIELD and led by that woman who used to be in Neighbours?

Incredible Hulk #188, the Gremlin

It's the debut of the world's only poetry-spouting triceratops.

Iron Man #75, the Black Lama

Not that I'm totally hopeless but I've only just noticed that it's the Black Lama and not the Black Llama. To be honest, I think I prefer the thought of a villain being called the Black Llama. It has a certain uniqueness to it.

Amazing Spider-Man #145, the Scorpion

The Scorpion makes his first appearance in the strip since the days of Steve Ditko. It does seem amazing that it took Marvel so long to bring him back.

Thor #236, the Absorbing Man

Meanwhile, the Absorbing Man makes his million and oneth appearance in the pages of Thor.

I don't think I've ever read this tale. I'm trying to guess what Thor turns him into in this issue in order to defeat him. He's already turned him into helium and into water in the past. What dread transformation can be next for Crusher Creel?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

June 7th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

"Holy mackerel!" I hear you cry. "Just what topical subject are you going to reference this time and attempt to tenuously link to forty years ago, as a desperate launch pad for your latest post?"

No topical event whatsoever. That's because this week is unique in having had no topical events take place at all.

Admittedly, there was a Champions' League final but, as no one was arrested for corruption during it, I feel it rather let us all down on the scandal front.

Therefore I'll just leap straight into my Time Pit of Terror and plunge downwards into 1975 to discover just what our favourite Marvel subsidiary was up to in this very week of forty years ago.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #121, Iceman

"Thor vs Mangog! Iron Man battles Moleman!"

I think I know which of those two contests is the more likely to get my pulse racing.

Marvel UK Avengers #90, Man-Ape

It's one of my favourite John Buscema era Avengers tales, as the Man-Ape makes his iconoclastic debut.

I've no idea what happens in the back-up strips.

Mighty World of Marvel #140, Hulk vs Silver Surfer

The FF vs the Sentry? The Hulk vs the Silver Surfer? How could anyone not want to read this comic?

I think Daredevil may have been up against that bloke with the T-Ray in this issue, which was one of my favourite DD tales from this era. In which case, it's a hat-trick of 1975 fabbiness from Marvel UK's flagship title.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #33

I'm assuming this is still the not-at-all Mark Twain influenced story I remember so well from my childhood.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #33

Just where do people get those flaming torches from at the drop of a hat? Is there a shop that sells them especially for such occasions? I think I may have previously mentioned the shop in Sheffield that used to sell battle axes and vacuum cleaners. I wonder if it sold flaming torches as well?

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #14, Web of the Spider-God

Conan's having spider trouble.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #14, Silver Surfer vs Mephisto

It's yet more Mephisto mayhem for the Surfer.

I don't know much about the later Lee/Buscema Silver Surfer stories. Did the Surfer come up against Mephisto pretty much every issue in them?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Fifty years ago today - June 1965.

Holy offside trap, Batman, the world of football's been rocked this week with what seems like virtually everyone who's ever worked for FIFA being arrested.

But just how arresting was Marvel Comics' output in this month of exactly fifty years ago?

Here's where we dribble off up the wing and find out.

Avengers #17, the Minotaur

I must have read this tale in Essential Avengers Vol One but can recall absolutely nothing at all of it or of what happens in it.

I don't even remember the Minotaur.

Was he man?

Was he machine?

Was he monster?

Was he a strange amalgam of all three?

Was he even a he?

Daredevil #8, the Stilt-Man

Hooray! The Stilt-Man makes his debut and sets out to elevate himself into the highest ranks of Marvel villaindom.

Sadly, he fails miserably but you can't help but have a soft spot for him, however impractical his powers.

And he did at least lend himself to dramatic covers.

Fantastic Four #39, Dr Doom and Daredevil

For me, this is where the FF's great era begins, as our heroes have to battle on without their super-powers as Dr Doom takes control of the Baxter Building.

Journey into Mystery #117, Thor

I believe this is the one where Thor fights the Demon in a somewhat one-sided smackdown, as they say in Asgard.

Amazing Spider-Man #25, the Spider-Slayer

The Spider-Slayer makes its first appearance.

Maybe it's just me but I have always felt that any story featuring the Spider-Slayer can be safely avoided without fear of missing anything interesting.

Strange Tales #133, Dr Strange, the Human Torch and the Thing

Dr Strange is back to getting fifty percent of the cover space. Surely it can't be long before the Torch and Thing are finally driven from the cover, never to return.

Admittedly, I've been saying this every month for about three years but one day I'll be proven right.

Tales of Suspense #66, Iron Man and Captain America, Red Skull, Attuma

"If one picture is worth a thousand words, just imagine what these TWO pictures are worth!" declares the blurb.

I suspect that would be two thousand words.

But now I can't get Telly Savalas' music career out of my head.

What a terrible price to pay for loving comics.

Tales to Astonish #68. Giant-Man and the Hulk

I genuinely have no idea what happens in either of the tales in this issue. I do like the drawing of Giant-Man though.

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