Sunday, 28 February 2016

February 28th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's been a very exciting week for us all, with the UK selecting its entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Tragically, my unspoken demand for the job to be given to William Shatner went unheeded.

I can only look to find solace by reminiscing as to what our favourite comic company was giving us in this week of exactly forty years ago.

Marvel UK, Avengers #128, Daredevil

That's a very odd cover, which looks like it's cobbled together from a bunch of totally unrelated images.

Most of them look to have been drawn by John Buscema but the Black Panther certainly doesn't. He looks like he might be the work of Marie Severin but don't quote me on that.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #71

Hooray! I remember the map of the Black Panther's hidden kingdom. I was especially taken by it revealing the location of the valley where all the dinosaurs live.

I do always wonder why maps of the UK never show where all the dinosaurs live. It's very inconvenient for me.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #71

Dracula's being overly theatrical again.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #159, the Gibbon

It's the news I've been praying for! I can save 75p on a Sea-Monkeys kit!

But, back in the 1970s, surely they must have only cost about 50p in the first place?

In other news, I've always had a soft spot for the Gibbon, even if he was inherently hopeless.

Mighty World of Marvel #178, Hulk vs Abomination and Rhino

On their letters pages, Marvel UK were in the habit of including panels from stories they'd not yet reprinted. Because of that, I spent many a long month anticipating the Abomination/Rhino team-up. How could our favourite behemoth possibly hope to survive such a partnership?

Quite easily, as it turned out.

But I'm sure I don't need to tell you how excited I was when I finally got the chance to read it.

Marvel UK, The Titans #19, Sub-Mariner

I never had this issue but I've read that Sub-Mariner tale somewhere online. Wasn't it written and drawn by Bill Everett?

Thursday, 25 February 2016

World's Finest #218, Capricorn gets Batman and Superman's goat.

World's Finest #218, Batman and Superman sit atop a car in a ticker tape parade as a note from Capricorn taunts them, Nick Cardy cover, DC Comics
There are some extremely unlikely combinations in this life.

And I can't think of any of them.

Fortunately, I don't have to because one of the most unlikely of them is staring me straight in the face right now.

And that's Superman and Batman.

Given that one of them has all the super-powers in the world and the other doesn't have any, it always seemed a bit odd to me that they'd bother to team up.

Just what would Superman gain from teaming up with DC's equivalent of Daredevil?

And just what help would Batman think he'd be to the world's most omnipotent man? Basically, he'd be there just to stand around saying, "Ooh yes, you're doing very well, Superman."

I only ever got one chance to discover the answer to this question when I was a youth.

And that's because I only ever had one issue of World's Finest.

World's Finest #218, Superman arrives
That issue was issue #218 and it made it clear to me in just thirteen pages what that answer was.

The answer is that they team up because they're useless.

It all kicks off when Batman discovers a mystery extortionist called Capricorn is on the loose in Gotham City. He's blackmailing Commissioner Gordon. He's blackmailing the mayor. He even ends up trying to blackmail Bruce Wayne.

As it turns out, he's not much of an extortionist because he's demanding nothing from them. He just seems to want them to know that he knows what they know.

This lack of actual criminality doesn't stop Batman being determined to bring him to justice.

And so it is that, for no noticeable reason that I can see, he calls in Superman who seems to have nothing better to do with his time than chase around after people who've not actually broken the law.

Then again, as far as Batman's concerned, the law seems to be whatever Batman says it is. As he and Superman break into the house of their only suspect, a man called Fabio, Bats makes it clear he can break into houses whenever he deems fit to, as long as the suspect has a criminal record and Batman wants to get into his house. When Fabio tries to defend himself from such literally unwarranted intrusion, Batman gives him a punch in the face and arrests him for trying to prevent intruders getting in.

World's Finest #218, TSOKK!
Needless to say, it turns out Fabio isn't the wrongdoer (even though Capricorn's not, at this point, legally a wrongdoer either) and they've invaded completely the wrong house and smacked a man in the jaw for nothing. And now, thanks to that, they're starting to look a bit stupid in front of everyone.

World's Finest #218, Superman and Batman drop inIt's at this point that Capricorn finally decides to commit a crime and kills Fabio, in order to make our heroes look even stupider.

You can't help feeling sorry for Fabio. There he is, minding his own business when, suddenly, Batman and Superman are blowing up his house and someone he's never met is out to kill him.

Suitably buttressed by this dramatic turn of events, Batman and Superman fling themselves into the hunt with renewed vigour.

And get absolutely nowhere with it.

They end up finding him entirely by accident, as Bruce Wayne inadvertently bumps into him in a health shop and eventually works out that the man who looks like a goat and buys goats' milk and then sends him a letter to let him know who he is, might be Capricorn.

Having now found his house, they swoop, only for him to escape with no difficulty at all by hiding in a water main whose lead walls Superman's X-Ray vision can't penetrate.

World's Finest #218, CapricornThus, Batman and Superman's latest case ends in total failure.

I can honestly say that I could conduct a criminal investigation more effectively than this pair of wallies.

Do they fingerprint the blackmail letters?

No they don't.

Do they try to find out where the letters were posted?

No they don't.

When Capricorn escapes them, do they check out his known contacts?

No they don't.

Do they look into his history for any possible clues to his whereabouts?

No they don't.

Knowing he has an illness, do they check his medical records?

No they don't.

Do they arrange for, "Wanted," posters to be printed?

No they don't.

They just give up on it all and literally sit there feeling sorry for themselves.

And don't even get me started on the fact that the pair of them happily turn a blind eye to the various criminal misdemeanours they now know have been committed by various members of the Gotham City elite.

World's Finest #218, Capricorn goneSo there you have it. Basically, if you're having trouble with criminals, don't call in Batman and Superman. You'd be better off investigating it yourself.

In fact, you'd be better off calling me in. I've seen Father Dowling. I know how these things are done. All I need do is find a nun who's a mistress of disguise, expert lock picker, safe cracker, pick pocket, poker player, pole dancer and cocktail maker - and talks like Flo Steinberg (always bring it back to comics) - and I've got it cracked.

Still, on the upside, the adventure was drawn by Dick Dillin and Dave Cockrum, so at least our heroes look better while failing than I would.
World's Finest #218, Alfred the Butler - master of disguise

I'm sorry but how on Earth can that possibly be Alfred in disguise?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

February 21st, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Has there ever been a more epoch-making date than February the 21st, 1976?

Not for British comic lovers, there hasn't.

Why?

Because  it was the date The Super-Heroes disappeared from our newsagents.

It was also the date that Spider-Man Comics Weekly got a brand new name.

It was also the date the wall-crawler got turned on his side and took a very long time to get the right way up again.

Even more sensationally than that, it was the date my local newsagent started stocking The Mighty World of Marvel again, meaning that, after several months of only getting one Marvel UK comic a week, I was suddenly getting two.

How did I cope with such head-splitting excitement?

Frankly, I don't remember but I'm sure I was very pleased.

Marvel UK, Avengers #127

Hooray! If the cover's to be believed, Conan's finally joined the Avengers and is charging into action with them.

Now Red Wolf's in trouble.

And so is any menace from prehistory, as well. Those giant man-apes won't know what's hit them when Yellowjacket shows up.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #70

What a magnificently beautiful cover.

It clearly has nothing at all to do with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes but it's a fine looking thing, nonetheless and would have convinced me to buy the book even if I wasn't already in the habit of reading it.

Not only that but the cover promises us Ka-Zar and the Black Panther too.

What kind of lunatic could even dream of saying no to such a package?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #70

Someone's clearly got very cross with Dracula.

Super-Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #158

This is it! The big one!

It's always claimed the Titans landscape format was unpopular with readers and newsagents and therefore failed. But the fact that Spider-Man Comics Weekly was switched to the same format after eighteen weeks of The Titans' existence would suggest that, at the time, Marvel UK saw the format as having been a major success.

Marvel UK, the Titans #18, Morbius

The original landscape comic, meanwhile, continues on its own merry way.

Mighty World of Marvel #177, the Hulk

And this is the other it! The most exciting thing that happened to me in this week! The return of Mighty World of Marvel!

Its return made such an impact on me that its Hulk tale of giant monsters on a mysterious island is still burned into my memory.

Disappointingly, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil tales are not burned into my memory, as I haven't got a clue what they were.

I'm wondering if the FF tale was the conclusion to the introductory Annihilus tale?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

2000 AD - January 1978.

Hooray, I've reached my favourite ever year!

That year is 1978.

I associate 1978 with Saturday afternoon wrestling, the Wonder Woman TV show and I Am Your Automatic Lover by Dee D. Jackson.

None of these things give me any reason to like 1978.

On top of that, checking Wikipedia tells me that January 1978 seemed to be a month of nothing but global misery.

And yet, despite all this, still it manages to be my favourite every year.

I don't have a clue why. Just as I don't have a clue why I prefer Pickled Onion Monster Munch to Roast Beef Monster Munch.

It seems that some preferences simply defy logic.

What else defies logic?

Outer Space does.

And that sounds like a perfect cue for Dan Dare and his chums.


2000 AD #46, Dan Dare
Clearly inspired by Christmas having been but days ago, Dan's up against a man with a crucifixion fetish.

But more thrillingly than that, there's the chance to win a Star Wars LP!

I've no idea what this Star Wars LP could be, Was it John Williams' original soundtrack?

Or had the mighty Meco followed up his legendary hit single by launching an entire album of discofied Star Wars tunes?

I'd like to think that, whatever it was, it featured Carrie Fisher singing that song from the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Tragically, I suspect that it doesn't.

2000 AD #47, Dan Dare

It's an exciting time for us all, as Magneto makes his senses-shattering debut in the pages of 2000 AD.

The Internet tells me this issue also sees the start of a strip called The Visible Man.

I recall there having once been a strip about a man with transparent skin, meaning we could see his bones, internal organs and nervous system in every panel. I'm assuming he was the Visible Man.

Leaving aside that it's a gruesome concept for a strip, you have to feel sorry for the artist who had to draw an entire nervous system in every panel.

2000 AD #48, Dan Dare

Dan Dare's still having to deal with the Planet of the Magneto People.

I am getting the feeling, from these covers, that this wasn't the fastest-progressing story of all time. In fact, the combined effect of the covers is to give the impression of his ship being stuck in some sort of space lacuna.

I must confess that, "Space lacuna," is a phrase I never expected to use in my lifetime.

Mostly because I don't know what it means,

2000 AD #49, Dan Dare

And Dan Dare's still dealing with the Magneto People.

In other news, I have no memory at all of the Supernova game. I'm going to have to Google it to see if I can find any pictures of it.

...

I have now Googled it.

Having done so, it seems it was a Top Trumps style game, involving pictures of spaceships.

While the concept of a 2000 AD Top Trumps game rings a bell for me, I must confess that, having seen the cards online, I have no recollection of them at all.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

February 14th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this week of 1976, Slik hit the Number One spot on the UK singles chart with Forever And Ever - and Joe Dolce was nowhere to be seen. How Midge Ure must have felt he'd triumphed over the Antipodean ukulele botherer.

Little did he know the chart-based nightmare that'd await him just five years later.

Fortunately, as we buried our faces in that week's Marvel UK output, we could live in blissful ignorance of the spaghetti-strewn mayhem to come.

Marvel UK, Avengers #126

Can it be true? The Vision about to be killed by common or garden hoods?

As he can make himself as hard as diamonds, I suspect not.

I'm not so sure about the Scarlet Witch's chances though.

Conan, meanwhile, is looking somewhat constipated.

Mighty World of Marvel #176, Hulk

Hooray! It's the first part of probably the strangest Hulk story I ever read as a boy.

Even more hooray! The publication of this issue meant there was only one week to go before The Mighty World of Marvel finally reappeared on the shelves of my local newsagents - and did so almost permanently.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #69, Conquest

I don't recall this cover but I do recall the contents. Didn't Ricardo Montalban fling himself from a window in order to protect Caesar from something or other?

I like how horrified he is to discover there's a gang of apes waiting to beat him up when he lands. I can't help feeling he's somewhat overrating his ability to survive a fall from a thirteenth floor window.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #69

It's the confrontation we've all dreamed of seeing.

Quincy vs Dracula.

What a TV movie that would have made. It would surely have been Jack Klugman's finest hour.

The terrifying thing is you could actually imagine them making it.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #157

Spider-Man's still hanging out with Dr Strange.

Marvel UK, the Titans #17, Hulk vs Captain Marvel

I'm assuming this is the Gil Kane pencilled tale where the Hulk menaces a university professor for some reason I can't remember.

"Fantabulous," is a word you don't hear anymore.

Come to think of it, you never did hear it but it was one of those words you always felt like you used to hear.

Marvel UK, the Super-Heroes #50

If the internet's telling me the truth, this was the last issue of The Super-Heroesalthough I do seem to recall it being revived as a monthly title in the 1980s.

As the cover features various people whose strips the comic had published in its fifty weeks, I assume it was already known that it'd be the last issue?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Forty years ago today - February 1976.

They can't accuse me of not knowing how to have a good time. I've just been re-sealing my bath.

But what about in this month of forty years ago? Were Marvel comics giving us tales that could match even that excitement?

Here's where we find out as I give them a plug.

That was a pun.

And I didn't even have to faucet.

Avengers #144, Hellcat makes her debut

My razor-sharp senses tell me that Hellcat makes her fearsome debut this issue.

This is indeed good news but I am interested by the cover's claim that we wanted her.

Just how did they know we wanted her? Did people write in saying, "I want Hellcat, even though I've never heard of her, what with her never having so far existed!"?

Conan the Barbarian #59, Belit

My razor-sharp senses also tell me that this issue features the origin of BĂȘlit.

I must confess I've totally forgotten what that origin was.

I'm guessing it may have all been somewhat in the Tarzan envelope but I could be wrong.

Captain America and the Falcon #194, Trojan Horde

I have no clue at all as to what's going on here.

Daredevil #130, skeleton voodoo

And I have no clue at all as to what's going on here either.

It is, however, a very memorable cover.

Fantastic Four #167, the Thing and the Hulk team up

Hooray! I do have a clue what's going on here.

Why?

Because I actually had this issue. It came into my possession on a Sunday morning and, as I've said a zillion times before, I've never encountered a comic on a Sunday without liking it.

I believe this was the first time I learned of the existence of that big arch in whatever city it is that it's in.

It's made me always want them to build a big arch in Sheffield.

Bizarrely, they never have done.

Incredible Hulk #196

The Hulk's still convinced that the Abomination is his best friend.

Invincible Iron Man #83, the Red Ghost and his super-apes

Is the flying buzzsaw the third of the Red Ghost's super-apes?

He was always my favourite of the Red Ghost's super-apes, if only because of the sheer unpredictability of his next choice of shape.

In retrospect, it does strike me that he had a remarkable knowledge of mechanics for a baboon. Seriously, how many baboons know how a buzzsaw works?

To be honest, I'm not a baboon and I don't know how a buzzsaw works. I have officially been outwitted by a baboon. That's the kind of man I am.

Amazing Spider-Man 153, the Deadliest Hundred Yards

As reprinted in the 1977 UK Spider-Man Annual, we get a strangely atypical tale of kidnap and American College Football.

Sadly, in order to make it fit it into that annual, great chunks of the tale were edited out, including half of the all-important Mary Jane college dance scene, meaning that great chunks of the tale made no sense.

Mighty Thor #244, the Time-Twisters

The Time-Twisters are still causing trouble in the age of Zarrko.

I do believe that Jane Foster's wielding that blade because she's been possessed by the spirit of Sif.

Presumably this means she'll wave a sword around a lot and go on about being a warrior born, without actually being any noticeable use in a fight.

X-Men #97, Havok vs Cyclops

Dave Cockrum's classic early run on the X-Men continues.

I think this tale may have been the first one in which I encountered Erik the Red.

I also encountered an airport in it but I'd already encountered the concept of airports before.

Mostly in stories written by Chris Claremont.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

February 7th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Pray for me, Dear Reader. In the absence of anything that resembles inspiration, I'm about to visit Twitter and see what the top two trending subjects on it are. Then I'm going to see if I can work them into the introduction to this look at what Marvel UK were giving us in this week of forty years ago. In this way shall I link burning topicality with fuzzy nostalgia.

Here I go.

Hmn. It seems the top two trending subjects are, "De Gea," and, "Fellaini."

Let's see. Were this week's comics so bad that it could be viewed as a felony?

Or were they the gear?

I can't help feeling I may have had to cheat a bit there.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #156, Dr Strange

Spider-Man's still trying to sort out Flash Thompson's problems - with the aid of Dr Strange.

It's typical. I can't get a single super-hero to show up to solve my problems. Flash Thompson, on the other hand, manages to get two to show up for his. No wonder there's none left over for me, if he's hogging them all.

Marvel UK, Avengers #125, Conan

I can't help feeling this cover's a little misleading. I suspect that the Avengers don't really show up in the Hyborian Age.

It'd be great if they did. After all, what sort of lunatic wouldn't want to see the Avengers vs Thulsa Doom?

It was Thulsa Doom that Conan used to fight, wasn't it? Or was it Thoth Amon? I always used to get them mixed up.

If the Avengers did show up to fight Thulsa Doom, they could have thrown in a line about him being yet another incarnation of Dr Doom and thus add yet more confusion to the Dr Doom/Rama-Tut/Kang/Immortus  timeline.

Mighty World of Marvel #175, Hulk

I suspect that the Hulk is still battling the Bi-Beast, the Harpy and Modok.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #68, Conquest

It's another of those wayward-aiming showdowns.

I don't have any recollection at all of this cover, whereas I normally recognise all Planet of the Apes covers on sight.

Could this mean I never had this issue?

If so, it means I didn't get my hands on a single Marvel UK comic this week.

It's a catastrophe besides which the loss of the planet to a gang of apes pales into insignificance.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #68

What's this? That bounder Dracula's posing a threat to the Houses of Parliament?

Hold on a minute. Why's anyone trying to stop him?

Marvel UK, The Titans #16, Banshee

I detect that the Banshee may be present in this week's issue.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #49, Thing and Man-Thing

I must confess I never liked the Molecule Man. There was something about the zigzags on his face that put me off him.

Admittedly, the fact that he was evil didn't help endear him to me either.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fifty years ago today - February 1966.

February 1966 was one of the most important months in human history. Seeing, as it did, the birth of Rick Astley.

Could Marvel Comics' output of that month possibly live up to that moment, in terms of global significance?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers #25, Dr Doom

I think this is the only Avengers tale I've ever read that features them battling Dr Doom.

Bearing in mind his high profile in the Marvel universe, it seems surprising he didn't show up more often in their mag.

Then again, I only recall him fighting Spider-Man once and the Hulk once and Daredevil once and Thor once. Clearly, Stan the Man liked to use him sparingly in mags that didn't star the Fantastic Four.

Daredevil #13, Ka-Zar Origin

I'm actually not that sure what's going on on that cover but I do remember enjoying the first meeting of Marvel's least super super-doers.

I especially liked the Plunderer's magic guns, even though I can't recall what it was they actually did.

Fantastic Four #47, Hidden Land

It's one of my all-time faves, as the FF find the Hidden land.

It's a tale I first read in an issue of Marvel's Greatest Comics and, with its use of Dragon Man, the Inhumans, the Alpha Primitives and the Seeker, plus Sue Storm changing her hairdo whilst on her way into battle, it made a huge impact on me.

Journey Into Mystery #125, Thor vs Herculed

I'm so dim that, up until today, I'd always assumed the mystery villain Thor's squaring up to on this cover was the Demon. It's only just dawned on me that that shadow can only belong to Hercules.

Amazing Spider-Man #33

It's that issue where Spider-Man spends about a thousand pages trying to lift some machinery off himself.

If you've ever wanted to see how this cover would look with moving water, you can, by clicking on this link here, which'll take to an animated gif of it created by Kerry Callen.



Strange Tales #141, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD

Nick Fury's still doing spy stuff.

Tale of Suspense #74, Captain America vs the Sleeper

Captain America's still up against the Sleeper - a foe that managed to look ever more silly as the tale progressed.

It basically ended up as a giant head riding around on a flying mechanical manta ray above the countryside. I'm no military expert but it always seemed to me that that wasn't an obvious design for a world-conquering super-weapon.

Tales to Astonish #76, Sub-Mariner

Not having read it, I don't have a clue what happens in this one but, from the cover, I'm assuming that Atlantis must be imperilled.

X-Men #17

That's a very dramatic cover.

Sadly, I've forgotten who their mystery visitor was. Was it Magneto? Was it the Juggernaut? Was it Professor X?

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