Sunday, 29 January 2017

Your favourite 1970s Marvel hero.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1, John Romita
As we all know, the 1960s were a fertile breeding ground for Marvel Comics, with the creation of a host of all-time great heroes... ...and Ant-Man.

But, if the 1960s were fertile, what did that make the 1970s?

Liberated from the constraints of their previous distribution deal, the company was free to churn out as many titles as it wanted - and it seemed like every month it was unleashing eight million new crime-thwarters upon the world.

Oddly enough, although there were more of them created than in the 1960s, they generally had less impact and few of them attained anything like legendary status. After all, just how many of Marvel's successful movies have been based on characters who first saw the light of day in that decade?

Then again, it's easy to forget that the first successful film franchise featuring a Marvel character was Blade, without whose success, perhaps none of those 1960s heroes would have got their big Hollywood break. So, it seems the 1970s must have got something right.

Therefore I have to ask the question that's been torturing humanity for lo these last four decades. Just who was your favourite Marvel hero who was created in the 1970s?

Marvel Preview #11, Star-LordObviously, when it comes to successes, there was Conan the Barbarian, introduced right at the start of the decade but, given that he was first created in the 1930s, I think Marvel would struggle to take the credit for him.

Then again, there were the likes of Nova, Omega and Skull the Slayer.

The world of Horror gave us a slew of monster protagonists, such as Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Frankenstein's Monster, Morbius, Ghost-Rider, the Son of Satan and Man-Wolf but they weren't really heroes and not all of them were what you could call original.

Outer Space gave us Star-Lord and Monark Starstalker.

The future gave us Killraven and Deathlok.

Science gone mad gave us Woodgod and Man-Thing, while the X-Men gave us Storm, Nightcrawler and a whole host of other mutants.

Homicidal idiocy gave us Wolverine and The Punisher.

Spider-Woman #1
The quest to admit that women don't have to be there just to be told to shut up by their scientist boyfriends gave us She-Hulk, Shanna the She-Devil, Spider-Woman, the Cat and Red Sonja, while the quest to prove they didn't all have to be white gave us Shang-Chi, Luke Cage, Black Goliath, Brother Voodoo and the Sons of the Tiger.

Also, our desire to see bad guys get kicked in the face gave us Iron Fist.

Our need to see the supernatural thwarted gave us Gabriel the Devil Hunter and Bloodstone, an immortal caveman in a safari suit. Who could have thought that such a character could ever fail to catch on?

But there were more, many more, more heroes and heroines than I could possibly ever hope to name or even remember.

In the end, off the top of my head, I have to go for Nightcrawler as my favourite, as I've always wanted a forked tail and teleportational abilities.

You, however, may have other opinions; opinions you feel the need to record in the comments box which lurks below this very post.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

January 26th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time to turn our record players up to full blast because, on January 26th, 1977, David Soul reigned supreme at Number One on the UK singles chart, with Don't Give Up On Us. Needless to say, I always preferred Silver Lady, finding it to be a song with greater dramatic tension.

What does this have to do with what Marvel UK was up to forty years ago?

Nothing.

But the following has everything to do with it.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #1, Captain America

It's the clash we've all been demanding, as the heroes of two great nations combine to have insane amounts of difficulty defeating a pensioner in a rubber skull mask.

Still, the tale does mean we get to see a rare guest appearance by James Callaghan who thus guarantees himself immortality in a way that so few Prime Ministers ever have.

Mighty World of Marvel #226, Daredevil

Daredevil gets yet another front cover, which must be something like his second in around five weeks. No doubt he celebrates this rare honour with a classic tale that other people can remember even if I can't.

I've been scouring the dark recesses of my mind and I have a vague feeling the figures in the cut-out model are the Hulk and the Cobalt Man who's busy firing one of his awesome hand blasts.

While it clearly made sense for the Hulk to be one of the figures, the Cobalt Man seems a fairly random choice, given that he wasn't exactly what you could call a regular character in the pages of Marvel's mags.

Then again, I could be wrong and it might have been a totally different pair of characters who featured as cut-outs.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #119, Battle

Battle and Beneath drag on and on and on.

As always, I have no clue what events the Conan, Ka-Zar and Man-Thing strips feature. Needless to say, this causes me grave frustration and an endless sense of failure from which I can never hope to recover.

Super Spider-Man and the Super-Heroes #207, Sandman

Sal Buscema takes over from Ross Andru who's busy drawing the Superman vs Spider-Man encounter that only a madman wouldn't want to read.

What's concerning is the UK mag is now only about five months behind its American parent series, compared to the ten year gap that existed when Marvel UK was first launched.

Surely such a rapid rate of catch-up can only mean a looming crisis for our favourite comics company.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Timeslip!



Before getting down to the business of the day, I have to announce the results of our vital poll to discover whether you'd rather be drowned or be killed by giant scorpions. Needless to say, it was a hard-fought battle but, at last, the result is in - and that result is this:

Drowning
  5 (29%)
Being attacked by giant scorpions
  12 (70%)

So, there you have it. The vast majority of people on this planet want to be killed by giant scorpions. We can only hope the governments of the world oblige and immediately set about creating a race of such creatures with which to dispatch us in the way in which we've demanded.

But, until that happens, there are other things to contemplate.

Timeslip, Liz and Simon at the fence
And one of them is Timeslip.

During the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s, it seemed like ITV's children's drama department was obsessed with creating its own version of Dr Who.

Needless to say, despite numerous brave attempts, they never quite managed it, although The Tomorrow People was probably as close as they got.

But there were other attempts.

And one of those attempts was Timeslip in which two children find a time portal between the fence posts of an abandoned military base and thus go on to have a string of inadvertent adventures in both the past and future. Did any TV show ever have a more doom-laden or oppressive theme tune than Timeslip? It was like Beethoven himself had been brought in to do the job.

Like the fearless adventurer in Nostalgia that I am, I've recently and repeatedly plunged into the Time Stream to re-watch the show's first serial which is set in World War Two and features Germans capturing the then active military base in an attempt to gain its scientific secrets. Can our youthful heroes thwart them and save the war for Blighty?

The main thought that strikes me upon re-watching it is that the boy Simon is clearly a Reed Richards in the making, having a level of knowledge of cutting-edge science that I suspect few real children have.

Sadly, if he's Reed Richards, his companion Liz is clearly Sue Storm, being completely and totally useless at all times. There's not an escape attempt she can't scupper with her stupidity, cowardice, dithering, panicking, crying and incompetence.

I did remember the show as being tense, dark and dramatic. In fact, watching it now, it all seems rather light and innocent. Even the leader of the Nazis in the first serial is a mostly amiable pacifist who repeatedly refuses to commit acts of violence. In the meantime, it's also made clear to us that Liz and Simon can't be hurt while they're on their adventures. Even being shot in the stomach from a few feet away does Liz no harm at all, other than to set her off crying and panicking again. Knowing that no harm can befall the stars does somewhat rob the show of its promised dramatic tension.

Liz and Simon may be the central characters but the show's dominating presence is that of Denis Quilley's Traynor, a government scientist who clearly couldn't care less about the welfare of the people around him just as long as he gains scientific knowledge from the children's adventures. He's not evil as such, just completely emotionally disconnected from the fate of those around him. Thrown into this mix are Liz's mum and dad, the former of which has a psychic link to Liz that enables her to see the children's adventures and relate them to her husband and to Traynor. Call me a cynic but I get the feeling this element was added in order to help pad out the episodes and guarantee they came in at the right running time.

Speaking of which, it did depress me that numerous comments under the episodes are by people complaining about them being too slow-moving but, personally, I like it in TV shows and movies when nothing's happening and I tend to lose interest when things get exciting, so I disagree with those comments completely and sentence the people making them to sit through the extra extended director's cut of my favourite movie Let the Right One In. That'll show them what, "Slow-moving," means.

I'm currently two episodes into the second serial The Time of the Ice Box which is a very strange affair, featuring a female scientist straight out of the Hyacinth Bucket school of acting and John Barron basically acting exactly the same way he did when he played CJ in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Such sitcom related acting is very strange in a dramatic sci-fi show but also oddly endearing and engaging.

A lucky break the show's had is that, although it was filmed in colour, it seems that 1970s ITV was as bad at preserving its heritage as the BBC and, nowadays, only black and white versions exist of most episodes. This might sound like a bad thing but monochrome does tend to add a certain gravitas to proceedings that colour inherently lacks.

The final quirk of the show worth mentioning is that each serial's introduced by famed TV science reporter Peter Fairley, there to explain the science behind it all and assure us that boffins are even now proving the depicted adventures are possible. To be honest, I'm not convinced he's right but it is quite amusing to see him make the attempt.

All in all, it's not a masterpiece but it is diverting and, with its twists, turns, revelations and developments, it is engagingly intriguing.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. If you have thoughts on it, you're free to share them in the comments box below. In the meantime, if you want a reminder of the show or have never seen it before, Episode One is posted above for your entertainment.
"What is a Time Bubble? You can't see it, of course, but it might help you visualise it to think of a balloon. Supposing some little patch of information – some little patch of history – gets slowed down, and instead of flashing backwards and forwards it floats, gently, as if in a bubble. Supposing you could get into that bubble – that bubble of history – and travel with it. Then you could move forwards and backwards in time at will." —  Peter Fairley.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

January 19th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time to grab your ballot box and grip it tight as you can because yet another exciting poll has come to a conclusion. This time last week, I asked you, "Which is best, Stonehenge or Avebury?" and I can proudly announce that the results are as below:

Stonehenge
  5 (25%)
Avebury
  4 (20%)
It's a draw!
  4 (20%)
They both stink. I've got a rockery in my garden that's better than they are and I don't care who knows it!
  7 (35%)


This means that, as I always suspected, the gardens of Britain are filled with rockeries even more impressive than the nation's most ancientest of monuments. Take that, Stone Age Man, you've been well and truly pwned like the hairy-knuckled buffoon you are.

"But that's enough about prehistory," I hear you cry. "What of history? Recent history? This day in history?"

I'm glad you asked, because January 19th, 1977, was an exciting date for all lovers of niblicks, bogeys and Plus-Fours, as BBC Two was broadcasting International Pro-Celebrity Golf featuring Tony Jacklin and Jimmy Tarbuck v Johnny Miller and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. If the Genome website is to be believed, Sean Connery had already beaten Bing Crosby to draw first blood for Great Britain in this series.

To be honest, thanks to me not being a golf fan, this news doesn't excite me greatly. I do, though, never turn down a chance to type the words, "Efrem Zimbalist Jr." It was names like that that always made American TV seem so much more glamorous than British TV back then.

But what of Marvel UK? Could they possibly rustle up anything that suited us to a tee?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #15, unmasked

I haven't read this issue but I'm going to guess that the shocking identity of the awesome super villain is the Red Skull, which means we must be approaching the period when glossy covers and John Buscema arrived and I started reading the good captain's comic again.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #118

Battle for the Planet of the Apes rumbles on.

I can reveal that this issue's advertised cut-out models are figures of Charlton Heston, Cornelius and Dr Zaius who can all be arranged so that Charlton's threatening the others with a gun.

Needless, to say, as a child, I wasted no time in making sure he did just that.

Mighty World of Marvel #225, Hulk vs the Locust

The Locust is still bugging the Hulk.

I genuinely don't have a clue what the cut-out model is on the back of this comic. Does it feature the Hulk? Does it feature Daredevil, or Luke CageCaptain Marvel or the Fantastic Four?

Sadly, I can shed no light upon the mystery.

I shall have to investigate this further, via the magic of the internet.

...

...

I have now checked via the magic of the internet and it has afforded me no answers to my question whatsoever.

Super Spider-Man and the Super-Heroes #205, the longest hundred yards

No such problems in this instance. If memory serves me correctly, this week's cut-outs are of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin who we can put in front of the rooftop backdrop we cut out from the back cover of last week's comic.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

2000 AD - December 1978.

What kind of madness is this?

As all keen readers will know, Prog 92 of the galaxy's greatest comic was cover-dated November the 25th.

However, as can be seen below, Prog 93 is cover-dated December the 30th, meaning the mag appears to have disappeared for four weeks.

Just what nightmare menace could have occurred to create such an anomaly? Did the artwork vanish into another dimension for a month? Did IPC's batteries run out of Thrill Power? Was Tharg abducted by aliens?

Scouring the internet tells me that, this being the 1970s, the comic fell prey to industrial action during that spell, causing its disappearance from the racks and shelves of the nation's newsagents. What the industrial action was about, I could not tell you.

Nothing too landmarky seems to have occurred within the pages of this issue but, looking at the cover, I do have to say I am surprised by the attitude of its spokesman. Frankly, given a choice, I'd far rather be stung to death by giant scorpions than be drowned.

But, of course, these things are subjective. Therefore I've added a poll to the top of this very page, where you can vote on which method of death you'd prefer.

Don't forget to vote.

One day, your life might depend on the outcome.

2000 AD, scorpions

Thursday, 12 January 2017

January 12th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.



On this day in 1977, BBC Two was spoiling us all by showing  the legendary ratings smash Trade Union Studies at peak viewing time.

Elsewhere, BBC One was showing that episode of The Goodies where they decide to make millions from selling string.

But it has to be said that even this was overshadowed by one event - because, as Colin Jones has pointed out to me, on the 10th of this month, ITV showed the first episode of Children of the Stones and, suddenly, even Trade Union Studies seemed dull and mundane in comparison.

I re-watched Children of the Stones, on YouTube, a couple of years ago and it still has a certain appeal even when you're grown up and it's no longer 1977. Needless to say, it gets the Steve Does Comics thumbs-up, along with its spiritual brothers Escape Into Night and Timeslip. 

But what of Marvel UK? Could it rise to meet such a challenge head-on?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #14

Children of the Stones may have got its power from Avebury but Captain Britain got his powers from Stonehenge. That raises the obvious question; "Which is best? Stonehenge or Avebury?" Don't forget to vote in our exclusive poll at the top of this page.

Meanwhile, that's a very Ross Andruesque villain, even though the cover's not drawn by him.

But how exactly did Captain Britain's parents die? I can't remember ever reading anything that touched upon the subject.

Of course, this has now led me to try and think of super-heroes who have two living parents. Needless to say, I'm struggling to come up with any names.

Mighty World of Marvel #224, Hulk vs the Locust

Is this first issue of Sal Buscema's lengthy run on the Hulk? I have a strong feeling it might be.

I seem to recall the Locust having a somewhat over-inflated opinion of his prowess and not exactly being a major challenge for the Hulk.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #205

I could be wrong but I have a suspicion this cover is for the Longest Hundred Yards tale that, only weeks earlier, had appeared in that year's Spider-Man Annual. The irony being that the scene depicted on this cover was excised from that annual in order to make the story fit the available page count.

I seem to recall the advertised cut-out model being a rooftop backdrop upon which we could add cut-outs of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. I remember getting great pleasure from assembling it at the time - and also from shooting the Green Goblin off of those rooftops, with my Dinky Toys UFO Interceptor. All of this raises the obvious question; "Why has there never been a Spider-Man/UFO crossover? Why?"

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #117

Battle and Beneath both rumble along.

But the exciting news is that we get the backdrop to our Apes cut-out, which, in this case, depicts the Statue of Liberty lying around on the beach.

But what of Captain Britain and Mighty World of Marvel? If Super Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes published cut-outs this week, does that mean those two other mags did likewise?

And, if so, what did those cut-outs depict?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Forty years ago today - January 1977.

The internet informs me that nothing at all interesting happened in January of 1977.

Well, admittedly, it tells me that Commodore launched the world's first all-in-one home computer and that Apple Computers was incorporated and that Indira Gandhi called for an election and that the Sex Pistols were dropped by their record label but I don't care about any of that. Not that I'm shallow but all I care about is what was happening in comics at the time.

This is what would have been happening in comics at the time, had they actually been published in the month that was written on the front of them.

Incredible Hulk #207, the Defenders

The Defenders are still knocking around, so I assume we're still going through the aftermath of the death of Jarella.

While that may be a tragic circumstance, my first thought upon looking at this cover, is that I never liked the costume Valkyrie was wearing in this era. It always looked a bit cold to me and I could never understand what was holding it on. Also, metal is surely not the most flexible of things to make your clothing from.

Avengers #155, Dr Doom

I have no memory of this story whatsoever, even though I'm sure I must have read it and, with The Sub-Mariner vs Wonder Man, Dr Doom up to no good and the Whizzer blundering around, it looks like the sort of tale that would embed itself in the mind.

Conan the Barbarian #70, Belit

It would appear that BĂȘlit is still alive. Call me negative but I'd sort of taken it for granted that she'd popped her clogs by now.

Captain America and the Falcon #205

As so often with Captain America in this era, I've no idea at all as to what's going on in this issue.

As so often, it all looks a bit too sci-fi for Captain America and the Falcon to be dealing with.

Daredevil # 141, Bullseye

Didn't Bullseye once try to fire Daredevil from a circus cannon? Now he's trying to fire him from a giant crossbow. I am spotting a pattern to his behaviour.

Fantastic Four #178, the Brute

It's that rare thing, a Fantastic Four issue that I didn't have, from this era .

But hooray! The Brute is on the rampage and causing nothing but trouble for our heroes!

Iron Man #94

Iron Man's still fighting a one-legged pirate.

Even though I've never read it, I can't help suspecting this isn't one of the classic Iron Man tales of the 1970s.

Amazing Spider-Man #164, the Kingpin

That no-good rat the Kingpin is out to steal Spider-Man's life force, so that he can give it to his son, who probably won't even be grateful for it, judging by his previous behaviour.

Spectacular Spider-Man #2, Kraven and the Tarantula

There's one thing you can say in favour of the launch of Spectacular Spider-Man, it gave Marvel UK twice as much material to reprint as its weekly mags rapidly caught up with their US counterparts. For the Marvel UK editor at the time, it must have been a Godsend.

Having said that, it can't be an auspicious sign that this cover rings no bells with me. In fact, I'm all but certain it's the first Spider-Man cover I've reproduced, since I started this feature all those moons ago, that stirs no recollections for me whatsoever.

Thor #255, the Stone Men From Saturn

This is more like it! As I've said before, Thor's origin tale is my favourite Marvel Silver Age debut. Therefore, I'm delighted to see the return of the Stone Men from Saturn.

I hope one of them uproots a tree at some point and boasts about how strong he is. They won't feel like the Stone Men  from Saturn if they don't.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

January 5th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On the morning of this day in 1977, BBC One was showing Daktari.

To be honest, all I remember about Daktari is there was a cross-eyed lion, called Clarence, in it.

I can't remember if Clarence used to do anything. Maybe he used to rescue people from wells, like Skippy did. Maybe he used to foil smugglers. Maybe he just used to chew people's heads off. Maybe he used to sit around doing nothing and yawning all day long, as lions tend to do. Anyway, whatever he did, that's what was on.

But what of this blog? Can the rest of this post hope to match up to an intro of that quality and informed lucidity?

Strap yourselves in tight because, somehow, I have a feeling it can!

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #13, Dr Synne

Having seen a bunch of Marvel movies over the Christmas period, I wonder if we're ever going to see Captain Britain show up on the big screen? And who could ever play him?

As for that cover, Dr Synne's suddenly looking remarkably like he should be a character in a Captain Marvel story.

The Grand Comics Database tells me this cover was drawn by sometime Captain Marvel penciller Al Milgrom. This would explain it all.

But it's good to see the good captain showing a little moxie for once. Last week, he was declaring himself defeated before he'd even begun. This week, he's not even phased by being on fire.

Come to think of it, he should be phased by being on fire. Generally, being on fire isn't a good thing.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #116

We're still working our way through both Battle and Beneath in the UK's greatest ever Apes-based comic.

I've taken a sneak peak at the contents of this week's issue and it is striking how mutated the humans are in the adaptations, compared to how they looked in the original movies. Needless to say, I prefer the comic book versions of them.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #204, the Shocker

It's the fight that no one demanded! The Liberty Legion vs the Invaders!

Was the Whizzer in the Liberty Legion? And Miss America or whatever she was called? Didn't one of them have stripey trousers? Was he called The Destroyer? Was Red Raven a member?

I'm assuming the original Vision and that bloke with the flaming skull weren't members or, between them, that lot would've totally annihilated the Invaders.

Come to think of it, I think the bloke with the flaming skull may have been called The Flaming Skull. Either that or he was called The Bloke. I think it was one of those two options.

Mighty World of Marvel #223, Hulk vs Doc Samson

Hooray! Captain Marvel's back! And in Marvel's flagship comic, no less!

I assume this means we're now reaching the peak of the Thanos/Cosmic Cube tale I loved so much.

Not that I'm a megalomaniac but you cannot imagine just how much I'd love to get my hands on a Cosmic Cube.

For a start, if I had one, I'd force them to call it the Cosmic Cube in the movies, instead of, "The Tesseract." Truly, my reign of terror would know no bounds.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Fifty years ago this month - January 1967.

Hooray! It's the first day of a brand new year!

That can only mean one thing!

That it's the time for making fresh starts and resolving to do things we've never done before, in bright new ways we've never previously considered!

And that can only mean one thing!

That I carry on doing exactly what I was doing before.

In January 1967, however, two things did happen that were brand new. Dr. James Bedford became the first person to be cryonically preserved with the intent of future resuscitation, and Milton Keynes was founded.

Clearly, those were heady days. But what of our favourite Marvel heroes in the comics that bear that historic cover date? Could any of them live up to the excitement of the foundation of Milton Keynes?

Avengers #36, the Ultroids

Didn't this story involve the Avengers having to find a surgeon to operate on the Wasp or the Scarlet Witch or something? How this led to them fighting aliens, I cannot remember or even guess at.

Daredevil #24, Ka-Zar

I seem to recall this involving some sort of plot to frame Zabu for some crime or other.

I've no doubt that where there's a plot to frame Zabu, that dastardly Plunderer can't be far away.

And possibly a submarine.

Fantastic Four #58, Dr Doom

It's one of my all-time favourites, as Dr Doom continues to abuse the Silver Surfer's powers.

Amazing Spider-Man #44, the Lizard

I'm fairly sure this is only the Lizard's second ever appearance.

Bearing in mind his status as one of Spidey's arch-foes, it seems amazing that, after his debut, he disappeared without trace for around four years. I mean, even the Chameleon managed more appearances than that.

Strange Tales #152, Dr Strange

I don't have a clue what happens in this one but, in line with the festive season, Dr Strange seems to be being attacked by Christmas trees.

I suspect that might be Umar who's waggling her fingers around but I couldn't swear to it.

Has it ever been explained why Umar doesn't have a fiery head like her brother does?

Tales of Suspense #85, Iron Man vs the Mandarin

Can it be? Can Tony Stark really be helpless in the clutches of the Mandarin?

Well, no, it can't be true. It's all a trick to lure us into buying the comic but it was quite a dramatic tale anyway, with what I recall to be a stylish car teleportation scene.

I saw Iron Man 2 on the TV again last night. It was alright.

I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier the night before. I felt that was the better of the two movies.

Tales to Astonish #87, the Incredible Hulk

I have a feeling that thing on the cover might be one of the Leader's leftover humanoids that's causing trouble for our hero.


Thor #136

Thanks to Odin, Jane Foster fails her goddess test by being scared of a creature that it's made clear all Asgardians are terrified of. Yes, Odin's being a pain in the backside again.

Still, if I remember right, at least we get to meet Sif in this story.

X-Men #28, the Banshee

Other than that the Banshee appears in this tale, I don't have a clue what happens in it. It's always intriguing to see a red cover though.

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