Thursday, 2 February 2023

February 3rd, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

It is time to once more climb into our Time Submersible and discover just what nightmare horrors swim within the trenches and reefs of that ocean we know as, "The Past."

Mighty World of Marvel #18
As far as I can make out, during a fight with the Leader's humanoids, the Hulk falls into the sea, reverts to Bruce Banner and gets captured by a Russian sub.

Except it's not a Russian sub because I do believe that, as so often with Marvel UK, all references to both Russia and communism have been excised for the benefit of UK readers.

Back in the Land of the Free, Spider-Man must defeat the high school menace of the Living Brain, a robot that not only has fists of steel and castors of chaos but may possess the means to calculate his secret identity!

I do believe it's in this story that Peter Parker discovers he no longer needs to wear spectacles.

This week's letters page contains a missive from an Allan Moore but not the Alan Moore.

And, finally, it's one of my early Marvel faves, as, thanks to Reed Richards' financial incompetence, the Fantastic Four go bust and have to pay the bills by starring in a movie produced by the now mega-rich Sub-Mariner who's determined to milk the situation for all it's worth.

And, of course, there's yet more mystery and mischief being woven around the subject of FOOM.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 47.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

The Steve Does Comics Megaphone
Image by Tumisu
from Pixabay
I've no idea how but this month seems to contain an endless parade of Tuesdays.

But that's good news for all lovers of free speech, as it means we get even more of the feature that's so big the internet can barely keep a lid on it.

That feature is, of course, the one in which the first person to comment gets to decide what the topic of the day might be, 

Might it be arts, carts, cards, cars, marts, Mars, bars, darts, smarts, parts, films, flans, plans, books, bagels, cooks, nooks, crooks, ducks, drakes, pixies, rocks, socks, blocks, music, mucous, fairy tales, fairy lights, Fairy Liquid, fairy cakes, Eccles cakes, myth, moths, maths, magic, tragedy, comedy, dromedaries, murder, larders, Ladas, mystery, mayhem, molluscs, Moorcock, May Day, mangoes, bongos, drongoes, bingo, Ringo, Pingu, Ringu, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Doris Day, Marvin Gaye, Marvin the paranoid android, Brookside Close, Ramsay Street, Coronation Street, Albert Square, Scarlet Street, Dead End Street, chickenpox, the Equinox, parallelograms, rhomboids, androids, asteroids, The Good Life, the Next Life, pomegranates, raisins, grapes, currants, blackcurrants, figs, waves, granite, marble, marbles, maples, staples, fables, stables, sofas, eggs, pegs, legs, dregs, moons and supermoons, Supertramp, Supertrams, streetcars, desires, sodas, sausages, eggs, whisky, broth, Bath, baths, Garth Marenghi, Garth Brooks, Garth Crooks, Bruno Brookes, Bruno Mars, Mars Bars, wine bars, flip-flops, flim-flam, flapjacks, backpacks, see-saws, jigsaws, dominoes, draft excluders, blockheads, blackheads, dunderheads, deadheads, webheads, flowerpots, flour bags, shower bags, shower heads, mop heads, Deadheads, Bill and Ben, Ben and Jerry, Margo and Jerry, Tom and Jerry, flour pots, bread bins, bin bags, body bags, body horror, shoddy horror, doggy bags, bean bags, handbags, glad rags, silk, milk, mink, coal sacks, cola, cocoa, dodos, Dido, Soho, Solo, silos, windows, day-glo, Hey ho, sago, winnebago, bagels, eagles, beagles, seagulls, glue, Gloy, Oi, Joy, Bostik, pancakes, Eccles cakes, Bakewell Tarts, Fabulous Wealthy Tarts, Mr Kipling, Rudyard Kipling, pizzas, pastas, pastors, baking soda, sci-fi, Wi-Fi, Hi-Fi, sewage, saunas, suet, Tomorrow People, yesterday's men, Forever People, Party People, purple people-eaters, Blobs, Globs, slobs, snobs, Sheila Steafel, steeples, Silurians, Sontarans, Sea Devils, sins, suns, sans, sense, sludge, slumps, sumps, pumps, sunshine, slime, soup, sandwiches, servants, Sultanas, Santana, Sultans, grapes, grappling, grippling and sandcastles?

It might be but that would be one huge debate.

Still, until you - or someone very like you - comments below, we're not going to know just what that topic will be.

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Monster of Frankenstein #1.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

Marvel Comics Monster of Frankenstein #1
This very evening, the British TV channel known as Legend is showing Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, mere nights after it showed Bride of Frankenstein.

Truly, this surfeit of Modern Prometheusness can only be a cue for me to look at another stab at bringing the monster to life.

And, this time, it's one from fifty years ago.

It's strange to think that when I first saw the Universal take on the tale, that film was only forty years old but seemed far more ancient then than this take does now - even though this take is, at present, fifty years old. What madness is this?

The take is, of course, Marvel Comics' Monster of Frankenstein #1, a natural bedfellow for the company's early 1970s Dracula and Werewolf comics. Several years ago, I reviewed issue #15 of this series but have reason to believe the first issue's a very different beast to that book.

Monster of Frankenstein #1, encased in ice
Rather peculiarly, we begin with sea captain Robert Walton IV and his quest to find the monster. Why he's seeking it, we aren't told, only that his great-grandfather had also encountered it. Presumably, his great-grandfather being the sea captain of the same surname from the original novel.

This Walton clearly has an unerring sense of direction because no sooner have we met him than he's found his quarry, encased in a block of ice in the Arctic where it, presumably, resides beside the blocks of ice that hold the Thing From Another World and Captain America.

No sooner have the vaguely rebellious crew got the ice cube aboard than Walton starts to explain its back-story to the cabin boy. 

Monster of Frankenstein #1. It's alive!
From this narration, we learn of the monster's creation by Victor Frankenstein and of how the scientist, having created it, instantly decided to destroy it.

Needless to say, the creature didn't greet that plan with good grace and proceeded to murder Victor's brother and frame an innocent for the deed, causing her execution.

Deciding cowardice is the better part of valour, Victor flees to the mountains but the monster catches up with him and, now confronting him, is about to reveal what it's been up to since he last encountered it.

But that's where our flashback must end, as Walton's ship is suddenly gripped by the mighty fists of a storm that threatens to sink it and its crew.

At this point, the vaguely rebellious crew becomes determinedly rebellious and demands to throw the creature overboard.

But unbeknown to them all, even as they clash, in the ship's lower quarters, the storm's turmoil has shifted the block of ice too close to an open fire and, now, that ice is starting to melt...

As we all know, the original novel's a classic but how does this interpretation stand up?

It's OK but it does suffer from the decision to tell the tale of the monster's creation in flashback.

Monster of Frankenstein #1, face at the window
Granted, that's what the original novel does but there's a reason no one ever makes a Frankenstein movie that's faithful to the book. 
Thanks to this decision, it means neither the scientist nor his creation feel like they're the tale's protagonist and we never really get to know them or their motivations. Despite the comic being set at sea, this lends a distinctly dry feel to proceedings.

It also seems, at times, as though story elements have gone missing. For instance, we're told of the murder of Victor's brother William and the subsequent trial of Justine Moritz for the slaying but, apart from a single panel, early on, we've never been introduced to these characters, giving them an air of the shoe-horned.

Mike Ploog's artwork is suitably Ploogy and he admirably captures the sense of being storm-tossed, although this story is the first time it's ever struck me just how similar to Herb Trimpe's his style could be at times.

Meanwhile, Mike Gary Friedrich's script is, in all honesty, unremarkable. His dialogue often dominated by attempts to plaster over gaps and cracks in the visual story-telling.

So, overall, it's an unexceptional comic about which I don't have a lot to say.

I will comment, however, that its cliffhanger does make me want to read the next issue. So, I suppose that, in that sense, the comic's succeeded in doing its job.

Monster of Frankenstein #1, cliffhanger

Thursday, 26 January 2023

January 27th, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

This week in 1973 brought a mix of violence and peace to the world.

The former was delivered when George Foreman took on Joe Frazier and won the heavyweight world boxing championship. A triumph that led to a lengthy career as a grill salesman.

The latter came with the end of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, thanks to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Granted, it wasn't much of a peace, seeing as the war continued for a further two years without American involvement.

I can pass no judgement on who did or didn't win that war but I do know that, elsewhere, there was triumph for the Sweet who kicked Little Jimmy Osmond off the top of the UK singles chart, thanks to their blockbuster hit Blockbuster

While, on the British album chart, victory arrived for their fellow Glam Rockers Slade whose album Slayed? reclaimed the top spot from the neither glamorous nor rocky Gilbert O'Sullivan.

Mighty World of Marvel #17, Spider-Man vs the Vulture
The Hulk's still up against the Leader's horde of Humanoids.

Whether he's still having that fight with them on top of that train, I couldn't say but I can say the Chameleon's still involved in it all, in some way.

Back in New York, Spider-Man's in the heat of battle with the Vulture who's invaded the Daily Bugle's printing presses.

And the Puppet Master continues his quest to infiltrate the Fantastic Four by getting his stepdaughter to dress up as Sue Storm.

As far as I can recall, the FF manage to completely fail to notice that not only is she not Sue but that she also happens to be blind.

Even more mysteriously, we also get a one-page promo for FOOM.

But what can this mysterious FOOM even be?

And will MWOM try to milk the mystery for as long as it did with the early issues' multi-part poster?

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 46. Which films have you seen the most?

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

The Steve Does Comics Megaphone
Image by Tumisu
from Pixabay
There's only one day of the week named after a pagan war god!

And that's Tuesday!

Does that mean today's red-hot topic of debate is to be that of pagan war gods?

I've no idea.

No one has. You see, right now, not one person on this planet knows just what's going to happen next.

That next might be the arts, carts, cards, cars, marts, Mars, bars, darts, smarts, parts, films, flans, plans, books, bagels, cooks, nooks, crooks, ducks, drakes, pixies, rocks, socks, blocks, music, mucous, fairy tales, fairy lights, Fairy Liquid, fairy cakes, Eccles cakes, myth, moths, maths, magic, tragedy, comedy, dromedaries, murder, larders, Ladas, mystery, mayhem, molluscs, Moorcock, May Day, mangoes, bongos, drongoes, bingo, Ringo, Pingu, Ringu, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Doris Day, Marvin Gaye, Marvin the paranoid android, Brookside Close, Ramsay Street, Coronation Street, Albert Square, Scarlet Street, Dead End Street, chickenpox, the Equinox, parallelograms, rhomboids, androids, asteroids, The Good Life, the Next Life, pomegranates, raisins, grapes, currants, blackcurrants, figs, waves, granite, marble, marbles, maples, staples, fables, stables, sofas, eggs, pegs, legs, dregs, moons and supermoons, Supertramp, Supertrams, streetcars, desires, sodas, sausages, eggs, whisky, broth, Bath, baths, Garth Marenghi, Garth Brooks, Garth Crooks, Bruno Brookes, Bruno Mars, Mars Bars, wine bars, flip-flops, flim-flam, flapjacks, backpacks, see-saws, jigsaws, dominoes, draft excluders, blockheads, blackheads, dunderheads, deadheads, webheads, flowerpots, flour bags, shower bags, shower heads, mop heads, Deadheads, Bill and Ben, Ben and Jerry, Margo and Jerry, Tom and Jerry, flour pots, bread bins, bin bags, body bags, body horror, shoddy horror, doggy bags, bean bags, handbags, glad rags, silk, milk, mink, coal sacks, cola, cocoa, dodos, Dido, Soho, Solo, silos, windows, day-glo, glue, Gloy, Oi, Joy, Bostik, pancakes, Eccles cakes, Bakewell Tarts, Fabulous Wealthy Tarts, Mr Kipling, Rudyard Kipling, pizzas, pastas, pastors, baking soda, sci-fi, Wi-Fi, Hi-Fi, sewage, saunas, suet, Tomorrow People, yesterday's men, Forever People, Party People, purple people-eaters, Blobs, Globs, slobs, snobs, Sheila Steafel, steeples, Silurians, Sontarans, Sea Devils, sins, suns, sans, sense, sludge, slumps, sumps, pumps, sunshine, slime, soup, sandwiches, servants, Sultanas, Santana, Sultans, grapes, grappling, grippling or sandcastles.

Or something even better than that. That's because it's the senses-shattering return of the feature where the topic du jour is decided by you, the always-eclectic reader.

Therefore, feel free to scroll downwards, downwards, ever downwards and suggest a topic in the comments section below. From that point on, we'll see in just what direction the winds of fate deem fit to blow us.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

The Marvel Annual for 1972/1973. At last, a mystery solved!

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

Fleetway Marvel Annual 1972/1973
The autumn of 1972 was a momentous time in the life of any UK comics fan.

One reason for that was the launch of The Mighty World of Marvel, a brand-new periodical which introduced us to the wonders of the House of Ideas.

But the second reason was the arrival of an annual we'd all be getting in our stockings that Christmas.

Granted, if we did find it in our stockings, we'd struggle to get our legs into them, as it was a sizeable beast, cramming a whole multitude of Marvel reprints into its 100-plus pages.

Who'd created those interior tales was no mystery at all. As any fool knew, they were brought to us by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Jack Kirby, Barry Smith and Steve Ditko.

But, in truth, there was one enigma. A mystery that could foil the wit of Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher, Father Dowling, Nancy Drew, both Hardy Boys, Velma, Shaggy, Freddie, Daphne, Scrappy and Scooby, all combined.

And that was the question of who painted its fabby cover?

Incredible Hulk #2, Cannon flinging
Clearly, it was based on a panel from The Incredible Hulk #2, in which the green goliath battled the terrifying Toadmen.

However, that picture was by Jack Kirby, and this new one clearly wasn't.

For many a year, I've assumed the artist to be perhaps Mediterranean. This was based entirely on the uniforms of the soldiers, especially their helmets which, to my eagle eyes, didn't have a British or American look to them.

Thus it was that I wondered if the artist was Rafael López Espí, the man who produced a seemingly infinite amount of material for Marvel's reprinted output in Spain. In Britain, his greatest claim to fame was having painted the legendarily magnificent posters one could, for a spell, buy from the back covers of the company's UK mags.

However, it seems I was wrong to suspect that.

For, verily, at last, I seem to have an answer.

Or, at least, the Albion British Comics Database does - by naming the artist as James E McConnell, a man who also contributed covers to the likes of Super Detective Library, Thriller Picture Library, Cowboy Picture Library, Look and Learn, Lion and Ranger, as well as Hurricane annuals.

James E McConnell
According to Wikipedia, McConnell was born in 1903 and died in 1995 and, over the years, painted more than 1000 covers and frontispieces.

As if that wasn't enough, he also contributed artwork to the American Roll of Honour in the American Chapel of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

I can't find any sign of him having done any other super-hero work - or of him ever having worked again for Marvel. So, it seems his presence on that annual's cover was a unique honour for us all indeed and, thus, an event to be treasured.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

January 20th, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

This week in 1973 was a good one for two men who would be king.

Or at least President.

It was, after all, the week in which Ferdinand Marcos became President for Life of the Philippines, while Richard Nixon was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States.

I can exclusively reveal that, despite whatever ambitions they may have had, neither of them went on to spend the rest of their lives as President.

When it came to music, Little Jimmy Osmond's Long-Haired Lover from Liverpool was still at Number One on the UK singles chart.

But perhaps more intriguingly, the Number Two and Three slots were taken by the Sweet's Blockbuster and David Bowie's The Jean Genie, giving us a battle to see which of two singles using the same riff could triumph over the other. My money's on the Sweet because their record had a siren on it and you can't go wrong with a siren.

Over on the UK album chart, there was no question about who'd triumph because, that week, Back to Front by Gilbert O'Sullivan ascended to the top of the pile, even toppling the mighty Slade, in the process.

The Mighty World of Marvel #16

I do believe we get the tale in which the Hulk fights one of the Leader's indestructible humanoids, atop a speeding train. Somehow, this all leads to Bruce Banner being charged with treason.

I also believe the Chameleon's involved in it all but I fail to recall in what way.

And, while that's going on, Spider-Man finds himself battling the Vulture who's escaped from jail and gone on yet another crime spree. I think this might be the tale that sees the feathery fiend invade the Daily Bugle's printing presses.

In another part of New York, the Fantastic Four are having their first-ever encounter with the Puppet Master who's concocted a deadly plan involving his stepdaughter and her remarkable resemblance to Sue Storm...