Thursday 18 April 2024

April 20th 1974 - 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

When it comes to music, TV and current affairs, nothing too thrilling happened in the world, this week in 1974. Therefore, let us fling ourselves into our look at what Marvel UK was offering up during that spell.

The Avengers #31, Shang-Chi vs Midnight

As the cover makes clear, everyone's favourite martial artist is still battling for survival against the menace of Midnight.

Granted, he's not his own father's most popular martial artist. If he was, Midnight wouldn't have been sent to kill him in the first place.

It all climaxes with a dramatic battle on a building site and a perfect demonstration of why you should never leap off cranes while wearing a cape.

This is, of course, the reason I refuse to wear one, even though everyone wants me to.

Elsewhere in New York, the Avengers also have their hands full when the Sons of the Serpent try to blow up visiting Chinese official General Chen and his visiting car.

Clearly, the world's mightiest super-team can't let such an affront to diplomatic relations stand.

And that all leads to Captain America being captured by the viperous villains!

Also up against it is Dr Strange who must fight Baron Mordo's allies while blindfolded, gagged and unable to waggle his fingers around, meaning he must rely entirely on his habitually feeble astral self to do all his fighting for him.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #62, the Vulture is back

Spider-Man may have thought he had his work cut out, a few weeks ago, when he had to combat the New Vulture but, now, he's really got problems, as the original feathered fiend is on the loose and out to prove he can do anything his replacement could.

In Iron Man's strip, the leader of the Communist World sends the newly created Crimson Dynamo to the United States to destroy Tony Stark's latest project - and destroy Iron Man while he's at it.

Fortunately, Iron Man has two things on his side; superior armour and the smooth-tongued ability to convince his foe to defect to a land that can offer more baseball games and brands of cola than you can shake a stick at. 

Thor, meanwhile, finds himself in Hades and helping his love rival Hercules battle Pluto's never-ending minions.

And we finish with a Lee/Ditko shorty, as we encounter a woman who's accused of witchcraft and put on trial.

Ultimately, she's exonerated and released, a free woman but, in a shocking twist that could turn a reader's mind inside out, upside down and back to front, we discover her fiancé is the real witch!

The Mighty World of Marvel #81

Sal Buscema appears from nowhere to provide the finished artwork for this week's Hulk tale, as the Leader, still butt hurt from previous defeats by the brute, decides to revive the Rhino, boost his powers and send him to gatecrash Bruce Banner's wedding to Betty Ross who, thanks to the intrusion, narrowly misses out on the honour of becoming known as Betty Banner.

Speaking of brutes, the Ox is convinced by his cellmate Karl Stragg that if the two of them bust out of jail together, Stragg will make him smarter.

However, the sinister scientist is out to pull a fast one and intends to swap bodies with the bovine bully boy, giving himself the body of a thug and the mind of a scientist!

Can Daredevil put paid to such plans?

Elsewhere, the Fantastic Four are not at all happy about the death of Sue and Johnny's father and decide it's time to go to the Skrull's home galaxy to bring the knuckle sandwich of justice to the individual who killed him.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

2000 AD - March 1986.

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

How desperate are you to see really small things?

If you're inescapably desperate to do it, the 3rd of March in 1986 was the happiest day of your life.

You guessed it. It was the day which saw the publication of the first paper that described the atomic force microscope!

I know. I was excited too!

Things were, possibly, not quite so thrilling in your local cinema but the month did see the release of such offerings as Highlander, The Care Bears Movie II and Police Academy 3.

On the UK singles chart, March began with the Bee Gees penned Diana Ross toe-tapper Chain Reaction at Number One. However, even the supreme Miss Ross cannot stand in the way of a determined Cliff. And so it was that the month ended with Cliff Richard and the Young Ones ruling supreme, thanks to their revival of Living Doll

The British album chart, meanwhile, entered March with Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms in top spot before that was forced to make way for Hits 4 by the 1980s' hottest act Various Artists.

But what of the galaxy's greatest comic?

As so often before, it was giving us a diet of The Ballad of Halo Jones, Sláine, Ace Trucking Co, Strontium Dog and Tharg's Future-Shocks. Meanwhile, Judge Dredd found himself encountering The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman.

2000 AD #459, Judge Dredd

2000 AD #460

2000 AD #461

2000 AD #462

2000 AD #463, Judge Dredd

Sunday 14 April 2024

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1984.

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

The past is once more beckoning us to join it.

And who are we to spurn a good beckoning?

Alien Legion #1

A brand new comic arrives in our lives and I could impress you by telling you exactly what happens in it.

But that would be far too easy.

Or it would be if I had the slightest idea what happens in it.

However, from the title, I'm going to assume it's like some sort of mashup of Star Trek and The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Whatever it is, it's brought to us by the team of Alan Zelenetz and Frank Cirocco and it's a whopping 38 pages long with an additional seven pages devoted to character studies of our newborn cast.

What If? #44, Captain America

What question is the Watcher demanding answers to, this month?

It seems he's demanding to know what would have happened had our favourite patriot not been revived until the 1980s.

It would seem that, among other problems he'd face, he'd be confronted with the nightmare that the 1950s Cap would have been revived before him.

And my instincts tell me that can only cause chaos and conflict.

Generic Comic Book #1

I genuinely can't even guess what this comic is about.

However, I do know it's written by Steve Skeates and this fact is making me suspect it may be of a humorous bent.

Phoenix #1

It would seem we're getting a reprint of the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga but with the original planned ending - and info from the creators as to why it wasn't used.

Marvel Fumetti Book #1

I'm sensing the presence of yet another humour comic.

And I think it might involve the fun-packed setting of the Marvel bullpen under the reign of jovial Jim Shooter.

I can shed little light upon the merits of the tales but there are a lot of them.

For instance, we get stories with titles like Spidey's Edi-Tour, Breakfast in the Bullpen!, Who's the Boss?, The Wet T-Shirt Contest, The Fastest Writer in the World, The Spider-Man Plot Session, Secrets Behind the Comics III and myriad other yarns and features to amuse and bemuse us.

Power Man and Iron Fist #104

Things aren't looking good for our heroes, if we can trust a cover I initially thought reminiscent of the one from Defenders #53 but which, upon closer scrutiny, turns out to bear little resemblance to it.

And it's another story I don't know much about - but I do know it's called The Armageddon Game and features a villain called Doombringer.

I least, I assume he's a villain. It'd be a bit strange for a hero to be called Doombringer.

Thursday 11 April 2024

April 13th 1974 - 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 1974 saw no signs of change at the top of the UK singles and album charts, with Terry Jacks' Seasons in the Sun and the Carpenters' The Singles 1969-1973 retaining their holds on their respective Number One spots.

As a lover of the languidly maudlin, I approve of Seasons in the Sun but other tracks which got my blessing on that week's Hit Parade were:

Everyday - Slade

Emma - Hot Chocolate

Candle in the Wind - Elton John

The Air That I Breathe - the Hollies

Jet - Paul McCartney and Wings

Ma-Ma-Belle - Electric Light Orchestra

Jealous Mind - Alvin Stardust


Devil Gate Drive - Suzi Quatro.

Should one wish to explore the matter further, that chart can be found by clicking here.

While the associated album ranking may be discovered here.

But, apart from listening to that week's chart countdowns on Radio One, there was another treat in store for the dedicated lover of music because, on the evening of the 13th, BBC One broadcast the documentary On Tour With the Osmonds which I'm sure we all tuned in to, even though I've no memory of it whatsoever.

The Avengers #30, Shang-Chi

It's bad news for Shang-Chi. No sooner has he found a nice spot to live in Central Park than his urban paradise is invaded by that hat-wearing fiend Midnight, his childhood friend and ninja who's been sent to murder him, by Fu Manchu.

Will our hero be forced to kill one he once saw as a brother?

And will any explanation ever be given for why he's wearing a hat?

In another part of New York, the Avengers are about to have their first run-in with the Sons of the Serpent, after Hank Pym's friend and associate Bill Foster gets attacked by the rattlesnake related racists.

And, finally, Dr Strange, back on Earth, following his victory over Dormammu, discovers a bomb in his flat.

He soon gets rid of it but finishes the issue blindfolded with his hands bound to prevent them making the mystic gestures they need if he's to perform his spells. Never has the master of the mystic arts been more helpless.

But the magic doesn't end there. Lovers of fine art will be intrigued to know that Rafael López Espí's legendary posters of our favourite Marvel heroes feature on the back of this and other Marvel UK mags, this week, meaning we can get them all for just 90 pence.

For my ancient post  about those posters, feel free to click here.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #61, the Kingpin

I do believe the Kingpin's brainwashing scheme comes crashing to ground, this issue, with Spidey rescuing Gwen and her father from a vat filled with molten death, while Norman Osborn, of all people, performs helpful heroics on the side.

And Jack Frost is still causing problems for Iron Man.

Exactly what those problems are, I struggle to recall but, given that he has a Russian name, and it's an early Iron Man story, I assume it involves launching espionage attacks on Tony Stark's factory.

Over in Hollywood, Hercules has fallen into Pluto's trap and agreed to take his place in Hades.

And, now, only Thor can save him.

But that's not quite a wrap because we finish the issue with a treat, as we get the three-page feature in which Stan Lee and Steve Ditko reveal, at last, how they create an issue of Spider-Man.

It's the one which involves Spidey riding around the statue of Liberty, sat astride a missile. And, despite its comedic nature, it was, for a long time, the only information I had about how comics are produced.

The Mighty World of Marvel #80, the Leader and the Murder Module

It's another Hulktastic classic, as, now possessing the intellect of Bruce Banner, the Hulk must prevent the Leader from stealing the ungainly but unstoppable tripod that is the Murder Module. Will the Hulk's newfound lack of savagery prove to be his downfall?

Elsewhere, Daredevil finally brings his conflict with the Organization to a conclusion by revealing the Organizer is none other than Abner Jonas, just as everyone always thought he was.

It would appear the presence of the Fantastic Four in the early parts of this week's Hulk story means there's no FF tale in this issue.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Forty years ago today - April 1984.

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

I do believe this month is a huge one in the history of Marvel Comics and its biggest heroes.

But how will that event impact upon the lives of those heroes in their everyday books?

Iron Man #181, the Mandarin

Rhodey's still in China and having to tackle the Mandarin without bursting out laughing at his terrible costume.

Granted, it'll be fairly easy to avoid laughing, as the villain's using his mind-control ring to force the hero to slit his own throat.

Also, the Manchurian mischief maker's out to start a nuclear war between his homeland and the United States.

As if that wasn't more than enough drama for any super-doer to have to handle, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

The Amazing Spider-Man #251, Hobgoblin

It's one of those fights that never seems to end, as Spidey confronts the Hobgoblin in the villain's lair and they end up taking it onto the streets outside.

It all climaxes with Hobby driving his van into the river and disappearing, seemingly dead.

But why do I get the feeling he's not as deceased as he seems to be?

In other news, Peter Parker's shocked to discover J Jonah Jameson's quit his editorial role at The Daily Bugle, following his public confession that he was to blame for the creation of the Scorpion.

Also, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

Conan the Barbarian #157

From what I remember, some king or other has offered a huge wodge of cash to any warrior who can rescue his young wife from an evil sorcerer who lives atop a mountain.

Needless to say, Crom's barbarian of choice accepts that challenge.

But it's not an easy one to complete.

And it turns out that things are not necessarily as they've been portrayed.

Why do I feel like we've had a story very like this before?

Daredevil #205, the Gael

A brand new villain makes his debut when Irish hitman the Gael shows up in The Big Apple, planting shamrocks on his victims' bodies.

It all happens when Debbie Harris's niece arrives from Ireland and Daredevil has to protect her from the attentions of the IRA.

The Avengers #242

It's a bit of a downtime issue, as the gang return home to find that, in their absence, Hawkeye's married Mockingbird.

Meanwhile, the Vision once more has the power to move and the Wasp is trying to work out what to do with so many Avengers.

But it's not all rest and recuperation because the team then discover a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

Captain America #292

Issue #292 throws us an odd story in which a man called the Black Crow battles our hero, seeking retribution for the United States' transgressions against Native Americans.

With his seemingly limitless set of super-powers, this foe's clearly too much for Cap to handle but, for reasons I can't recall, they part company as bezzie mates.

Also, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

The Incredible Hulk #294

With his days as a public menace behind him, Bruce Banner sets out to find a cure for cancer.

When his methods have spectacular results, a former mob overlord sends the Boomerang to capture Banner, so the scientist can cure that overlord's cancer.

Bruce is reluctant to do so, thanks to the untested nature of his technique - but he has no choice but to comply because Boomie's holding his girlfriend hostage in a secret location.

Also, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

The Spectacular Spider-Man #89, the Black Cat

The Black Cat decides the reason she's proving such a liability to her boyfriend is that she lacks any super-powers.

Therefore, she strikes a deal with the Kingpin. He'll use his resources to give her unspecified special abilities in return for her doing him an unspecified favour at some unspecified point in the unspecified future.

I'm sure Spidey's going to be delighted about that and it's all going to end well.

Also, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

The Uncanny X-Men #180

Forget the Dark Phoenix Saga. This is what we really want.

It's a thriller and a half as we're treated to a whole issue of Kitty complaining about Storm having a Mohawk, and Storm telling her to belt up about it.

Also, a huge, alien structure's appeared in a park in New York...

Fantastic Four #265

We get two tales in this one.

In the first, the Trapster's in sensational solo action, as he  attempts to take over the Baxter Building and gets beaten up by the team's receptionist.

In the second, it's one big headache for Sue when Reed, Johnny and Ben disappear into a huge, alien structure that's appeared in a park in New York.

Curiously, they triumphantly re-emerge from it but, during their short absence, Ben's quit the group and been replaced by the She-Hulk!

Thor #342

Everyone's favourite thunder god finds himself in a viking village in the Arctic Circle where an ancient Norseman tries to goad him into killing him, so he can enter Valhalla when he dies.

Will Thor be willing to accommodate him?

Sunday 7 April 2024

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1974.

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

Caroline Munro. She might be that nice old lady who presents TalkingPicturesTV's Cellar Club, these days. But, once upon a time, she was the hottest thing in cinema Fantasy. And, if you were an admirer, April 1974, no doubt, resembled paradise.

Because that month saw the release of not one but two movies starring the Berkshire beauty.

Hammer gave us the power and majesty of Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, while some other company gave us the greatest film of the 1970s when it unfurled no less a movie than The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

How we gasped as our favourite non-thieving pirate battled six-armed deities, living statues, centaurs, bat-things and anything else Ray Harryhausen could throw at him, in order to thwart the will of Tom Baker and gain the lust of Caroline.

But it wasn't all sword-swinging hi-jinks. It was, after all, a month which gave us The Sugarland Express, Caged Heat and The Beast Must Die.

It also offered up a never-to-be forgotten gem called Son of Dracula whose producers made the inspired decision to hire not Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing but Ringo Starr. 

I must confess I've never heard of this film before in my entire life.

And, strangely enough, I've never seen it on TV.

Not even on TalkingPicturesTV.

And they'll show anything.

Master of Kung Fu #17

Not content with having taken over Marvel UK's weekly Avengers book, the master of kung fu gets his own US mag which, oddly, begins with issue #17.

As we can see from the cover, our hero must overcome the deadly threat of Black Jack Tarr, brought in by Denis Nayland Smith to massacre Shang-Chi to pieces, following the martial artist's murder of Dr Petrie.

Happily, by the end of the issue, they're all friends!

Astonishing Tales #23, It, the Living Colossus

I'm not totally sure what's happening on that cover but it all looks dramatic, courtesy of garrulous Gil Kane.

Inside, Dr Vault uses his power to summon Fin Fang Foom in a daring bid to defeat the comic's star.

Given Fin Fang Foom's personality, I can't help feeling this is a plan that's destined to go wrong.

Man-Thing #4

I don't know what occurs in this one but I do believe the Foolkiller's involved.

I also think I had this issue. In which case, my not knowing what it involves is a shameful crime against swamp monsters everywhere.

Vampire Tales #4

A stylish cover by Boris Vallejo introduces us to a magazine in which we experience a Morbius tale they call Lighthouse of the Possessed.

We're also told Everything You Wanted to Know About Vampires and are gifted such backup treats as Somewhere Waits the Vampire, A Vampire's Home Is His Castle, Hell House Is Dying, The Vampire's Coffin!, The Drifting Snow and Lilith: The First Vampire. All capable, I'm sure, of sending you to bed, filled with dread and panic.

Tomb of Dracula #19

I'm including this one purely thanks to a cover which makes it look like the king of the undead is lying down ready for a spot of psychotherapy.

Within, we get one of those, "Enemies must forget their differences," stories, as Dracula and Rachel are forced to work together to survive a blizzard in the mountains.

Will it be as good as that Planet of the Apes episode in which Burke and Urko are forced to work together to escape the Bay Area Rapid Transit system?

I cannot say.

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1, Neal Adams

Neal Adams creates a cover we can't ignore, as a brand new publication hits our spinner racks.

Inside, our main tale is a Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin masterpiece as Fu Manchu demands answers from the priests who trained Shang-Chi, wanting to know why his son has turned against him.

We're also treated to a text article about Bruce Lee, as well as ones called What to Do till the Sensei Comes, Catching a Killer Red-Handed!, The Way of the Tiger, The Sign of the Dragon and the Click of the Nielsens! Plus Raising Caine On Thursday Night: What's Right With Kung Fu.

As if that wasn't enough to keep any combat fan happy, we finish off with the the origin of the Sons of the Tiger.

Kull, the Destroyer #13

I don't know what happens in this one but I know it's drawn by Mike Ploog.

Also, Thulsa Doom's in it, seemingly in the guise of someone called King Ardyon.

Also, the backup story's a 1959 reprint in which a restless clerk leaves England for a life at sea, expecting to create an empire for himself.

Only for the shocking twist to reveal that that clerk is called Robinson Crusoe.

Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer

They don't make covers like that, anymore.

And they probably never will again.

The world's most homicidal earth-mover makes his debut when a humble bulldozer's possessed by a deadly alien force and launches into an unstoppable rampage on a small island!

Thursday 4 April 2024

April 6th 1974 - 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

What happened on the 6th of April, 1974?

Napoleon only went and surrendered, that's all!

Granted, he did it in song. But, as we all know, surrendering in song is the best way to do it.

You have, no doubt, already guessed that that night saw Swedish pop sensations ABBA win the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with their bouncy - possibly Wizzard influenced - track Waterloo. An achievement that would propel them to global superstardom.

And they did it in Brighton, England.

Before you feel sorry for Napoleon, remember that he may have surrendered but at least he wasn't finding it hard to die.

Terry Jacks was. 
It's true. This was the very week in which his single Seasons in the Sun climbed to the summit of the British Hit Parade and spawned a parody in every schoolyard in Britain.

On the accompanying album chart, there was no change at the top, as the Carpenters' compilation The Singles 1969-1973 retained its Number One crown.

And things weren't only happening in the world of music. It was, it turns out, the week in which Stephen King's first novel Carrie hit our shops.

In the world of politics, Britain's Local Government Act 1972 came into force, creating such new counties as South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and the West Midlands, amongst many others, creating a situation in which the historic counties and the new counties somehow simultaneously existed.

The Avengers #29, Shang-Chi master of Kung Fu

It's a thrilling moment for me because, having missed last week's issue, this was my first encounter with Shang-Chi.

And what an encounter it is, as, having murdered an innocent man, our master of the martial arts goes looking for Fu Manchu to have it out with him.

That leads to a confrontation with a giant gorilla, and a sumo wrestler called Tak, before the villain of the piece finally puts in an appearance.

If I didn't love Jim Starlin's work before this issue, I certainly did after it and remember copying that cover image of Shang-Chi, with my trusty pencil and sketchpad. Whisper it quietly but it's where I first learnt how to draw toes.

Elsewhere, I think the Avengers are still in that hidden city in the Andes and still making a meal and a half of thwarting whatever its inhabitants are up to. I seem to recall a big flame and metal tentacles being involved.

To finish off this issue, Dormammu consigns Mordo to the Dimension of Demons and is then defeated in combat by Dr Strange. In a sulk, the villain banishes Clea to a place where Strange can never find her, and the sorcerer returns home to an inconvenient bomb planted by Mordo's lackeys. 

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #60, the Kingpin

Our hero's spider-sense, clearly on the blink on that cover.

Inside, the anthropoid arachnid's still dealing with the problem of George Stacy's brainwashing and the Kingpin's plan to do whatever it is he's up to.

Not to mention Gwen's disapprobation of Peter Parker for his role in getting her father's crime exposed to the world.

In Iron Man's latest epic, we get to meet two brand new characters, as Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts each make their debut.

In retrospect, it does seem surprising it took this long for any supporting characters to appear in the strip.

However, the Grand Comics Database informs us that Pepper is bafflingly renamed Kitty, at one point in this tale. 

In between all this, our ferrous-themed fiend-fighter has to deal with the icy menace of the man they call Jack Frost.

As the cover declares, this week, Thor is up against the power of Pluto which does give me visions of him fighting Mickey Mouse's dog.

But, no, it's an even deadlier Pluto - and one who's not even a planet. It's a confrontation caused by Thor's quest to liberate Hercules from the Hades-binding contract the Olympian oaf  has been daft enough to sign without reading, in what seems to be a satire upon the workings of Hollywood.

And we finish off with a three-page tale titled The Fatal Words! in which a man tries talking to his dog and his cat.

The Mighty World of Marvel #79, Hulk vs the Thing

Now, there's a cover that could make the tightest of tightwads part with every penny he has in the world.

Unhappy with his current career as a hounded fugitive and feared monster, Bruce Banner takes a quiet five minutes to conceive a formula that could cure him of being the Hulk but, to make it work, he's going to need the help of the smartest man in New York.

And that leads him to the Baxter Building and a clash with none other than the Fantastic Four.

But will they cure him or kill him?

More to the point, will he kill them?

Daredevil, meanwhile, is, as so often, of late, caught up in the Organization's attempt to pervert the election of a new District Attorney for the Big Apple.