Thursday, 15 August 2019

August 15th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This day in 1979 was not a special day for television.

But the day after was - because, at 8:30 pm that evening, BBC One gave us a show called The Persuaders.

No, it wasn't that thing which starred Roger Moore and Tony Curtis and featured the greatest theme tune in television history.

Instead, it was a documentary which looked at the world of advertising and marketing. It featured a segment devoted to Disney's plans to launch a $20 million space epic called The Black Hole, at the time, Disney's most expensive movie ever.

However, the real news that mattered was the show also featured a segment about the launch of Marvel UK's Hulk Comic and included an interview with the man himself, as Dez Skinn talked about the venture.

And he had ITV's technicians doing their best to help him in his quest for publicity because this week of that year saw the start of their legendary strike which shut that whole network down for over two months and famously led to Doctor Who getting the biggest viewing figures in its history.

That strike meant there were suddenly only two TV channels available to the British public - and Dez was on one of them! And the other one was BBC Two, which no one ever watches! With a break like that, it could, surely, only be a matter of time before Dez was as big a household name as Stan himself!

Star Wars Weekly #77

Hooray! We get the return of Star-Lord, in a tale entitled Less Than Human, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz. I suspect this must be my earliest introduction to that man's talents.

We also get a Tales of the Watcher treat about an astronaut who finds himself on a planet filled with giant bugs. But, when his rocket returns to Earth, where, exactly, is its pilot?

We also get that Guardians of the Galaxy tale in which our heroes find themselves on a world that resembles New York - only for it to turn out to be a lunatic asylum. It might seem like clumsy satire now but it seemed clever when I was fifteen.

Tragically, as far as I can make out, the return of the Guardians means it's curtains for Adam Warlock who seems to have been given the push to make way for the Lord of Star.

Hulk Comic #24

The Hulk no sooner disposes of Groot than he finds himself up against the Blip who he, understandably, mistakes for Zzzax. That foe dispatched, he finally learns the identity of his true foe.

Ant-Man and the Wasp come up against Egghead's deadliest weapon yet - an anteater!

Merlin's tackling the evil king of somewhere or other.

The Eternals are still faffing about, getting nowhere in particular.

Rick Jones is in a life or death battle with Annihilus and becomes separated from his Hulk alter-ego, thanks to Mr Fantastic.

And I don't have a clue what Nick Fury's up to.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly and Marvel Comic #336, Carrion

Reed Richards is still invading Latveria, as Doc Doom gets Alicia to carve his statue.

Thor's going on a subterranean journey with Ulik, while Odin's on Earth, having taken on mortal form for reasons I can't remember.

Whatever his reasons, I think we can guarantee this development will end up endangering the whole planet because it's a scheme cooked up by Odin and we all know how they always go.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - August 1979.

Where would you want to be in August 1979?

You'd want to be at the cinema.

For a start, we got the release of the epic masterpiece that is The Concorde ... Airport '79 in which various people seem to be determined to blow the plane out of the sky!

Elsewhere, we had the film the world knows as More American Graffiti, a movie I've never heard of but it would appear to feature most of the original cast and be set a few years after the first film.

The original was, of course, a George Lucas offering and there was another Lucas movie popping up at your local picture house because, that month, Star Wars was re-released. I don't know if any changes had been made to it for this re-release, or if it predated Lucas' tendency to keep fiddling about with things until they're broken.

That month also saw the release of Apocalypse Now and Monty Python's Life of Brian, two films which bear no noticeable resemblance to each other.

Machine Man #10

After an absence of several months, Machine Man's book is back.

But will its star be back for long, as some politician or other wants him destroyed as a threat to all humanity?

Marvel Team-Up #84, Spider-Man and Shang-Chi

Spidey, Shang-Chi, Nick Fury and an amnesiac Black Widow set out to recapture SHIELD's Helicarrier from the clutches of Viper, the Boomerang and Silver Samurai. Personally, my money's on the day being saved by the Widow suddenly regaining her memory, just as the others are about to be killed.

Shang-Chi's in three books this month. Hes also in his own comic and What If? It seems someone at Marvel's determined to give him a boost.

Sensational Spider-Man Marvel Treasury Edition #22

It's one of those Treasury Editions we all used to love but that weren't always the easiest thing in the world to get your hands on.

Spidey and Strangey take on Xandu. Apparently, in this tale, the two heroes swap powers. I'm not sure I like the sound of that. Do I really want to see Dr Strange doing Spider-Man things? It seems a little undignified.

After that, we get the first appearance of Stegron, with guest slots for both Ka-Zar and the Black Panther. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever read a comic in which Spider-Man and the Panther both appear.

Next, the web-slinger teams up with Captain America to tackle the Grey Gargoyle.

Power Man and Iron Fist #58, the Eagle

At first, looking at this cover, I assumed the Foolkiller had got himself a new costume and we were going to get our heroes fighting Marvel's most annoying psychopath. But it turns out he's actually a Zorro knock-off who's determined to sort out the pair's current, crooked, employer.

Tomb of Dracula #70, final last issue

After seventy issues, Marvel's most successful horror star finally bows out when Quincy Harker blows himself and Dracula up with his exploding wheelchair.

This month sees both both Dracula and the 1950s Captain America blown to smithereens, making it a great one for people who are into that kind of thing.

Marvel Premiere #49, the Falcon

The Falcon gets a starring role as he tries to capture the murderer of an overseas writer who took the trouble to lay down a remarkably convoluted cryptic clue as to the identity of his killer.

It's all reminiscent of that Spider-Man/Nova tale where the victim makes sure to arrange the pages of a calendar in the right order, in order to give a clue as to who his murderer is.

Defenders #74, the Foolkiller

Holy smoke. Having previously thought the Foolkiller was up against Power Man and Iron Fist, I discover he can't be because he's too busy battling the Defenders.

You would've thought that dealing with a man who's basically just a moron with a gun would be quick work for one of the world's mightiest super-teams but, then again, it took them about twenty issues to polish off Lunatik - and he was just a moron with a stick.

Marvel-Two-In-One, the Thing and Deathlok

The Thing has to try and stop Deathlok, in a tale which seems to involve the return of Nuklo.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Forty years ago today - August 1979.

The past.

Where is it?

What is it?

Does it reside in the hearts, the minds and the souls of all who have ever lived?

No. It resides on this page, right below this sentence I'm typing.

Incredible Hulk #238

I think the only thing I know about this issue is that Betty and Glenn get their divorce sorted out - just in time for Betty to discover her dad's had some sort of breakdown and is now in a wheelchair.

Oh, and Glenn may be getting more and more unhinged, by the second.

Spectacular Spider-Man #33

Despite all his experiments always ending in disaster, Curt Connors has been at it again - and accidentally created a new reptilian menace to threaten all mankind.

What's Connors' response to this?

Does he swear never to experiment ever again?

No. He turns himself into the Lizard, so he can fight the new menace, thus doubling the number of menaces on the loose.

And they say Hank Pym's unstable.

Thor #286, the Eternals

Thor's hanging around with the Deviants and, by the looks of things, it's not going well.

Luckily, it seems that Kro is worthy of lifting the hammer.

Erm, what?

X-Men #124

Arcade's captured the X-Men and brainwashed Colossus into turning against them.

Needless to say, it'll take more than mere brainwashing to make the Soviet scrapper murder his closest friends.

Captain America #236, Dr Faustus

Unless I'm very much mistaken, this issue sees the 1950s Captain America blow himself up, having already shot dead the 1950s Bucky. Blimey, that's all a bit grim.

In other news, both Cap and Daredevil survive last issue's bi-plane flight and succeed in thwarting Dr Faustus' plan to drop mind-control gas all over New York.

Fantastic Four #209

Hooray! It's the moment we've all been waiting for, as HERBIE the robot makes his debut for the team.

Needless to say, it's not long before unexplained deaths start happening whenever he's around.

Ben spots that this is suspicious.

Reed doesn't.

Invincible Iron Man #125

Iron Man's killed some politician or other, thanks to his repulsor rays going out of control - and the increasingly boozetastic Tony Stark's out to find the people responsible.

But not until after Captain America's given him a three minute crash-course in how to be a human fighting-machine.

Amazing Spider-Man #195

The Black Cat meets a watery grave.

Or does she?

But she's not the only one popping her clogs, because Aunt May joins her in the afterlife.

Or does she?

Who is the mysterious manager of her nursing home and what does the burglar who killed Uncle Ben want with the Parker residence?

This issue answers neither of those questions.

Conan the Barbarian #101

Conan gets over the death of BĂȘlit by murdering some bloke and killing a giant spider.

So, business as usual, really.

Avengers #186, the Scarlet Witch

Some evil force has taken over the Scarlet Witch and turned her into a hyper-powerful menace, in a John Byrne drawn storyline which bears no resemblance at all to the Dark Phoenix saga.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

August 8th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

America. It has to be the most discovered continent in the history of the world. If it's not Columbus claiming to have discovered it, it's the Vikings. If it's not them, it's the Chinese. If it's not them, it's the Welsh. Then again, there are claims that the Romans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Indonesians, and just about everyone else who ever built a boat, discovered it.

I'm amazed to discover that I didn't discover it too.

And then, of course, there are the ancestors of the people who were living in the Americas when Columbus arrived. They definitely discovered it, or their descendants wouldn't have been there when Columbus showed up.

Thus it is that, on this night of exactly forty years ago, a BBC documentary called Adventure: The Brendan Voyage was looking into the long-standing claims that the first European to set foot in America was actually the medieval Irish monk Saint Brendan, purported to have made the trip nearly a thousand years before Columbus.

Could such a man have possibly crossed the Atlantic, in just a small leather boat?

Commonsense would say no.

Fortunately, not everyone has common sense. Some have the far more valuable trait of get up and go - and a leather boat. Therefore, in the late 1970s, three men set out to cross that  sea, in a replica of the vessel that, legend says, Brendan used to make the voyage.

Did they make it?

Yes they did.

And BBC Two was telling us how.

Star Wars Weekly #76

I have even less idea what happens in this week's issue than I do normally. Clearly, the Guardians of the Galaxy are in it and so is Adam Warlock. Beyond that, I can say nothing.

No doubt, Luke and his droids are in the deadliest of peril, though.
Hulk Comic #23, Groot

Fortunately, when it comes to this comic, I have far more idea.

Having washed Taboo down the plug hole, the Hulk's up against Groot the talking tree, with not a trace of Rocket Raccoon in sight.

Egghead's out to avenge himself upon Ant-Man by capturing the Wasp. He aims to do this by using an exhibition about wasps as bait. As Egghead himself argues, how could a woman called the Wasp possibly turn down the chance to see an exhibition about wasps?

Clearly, he doesn't know much about Janet van Dyne.

Or perhaps he does, because she does indeed go to the exhibition!

The Black Knight's still in another dimension, trying to do something or other to help bring Captain Britain back to life.

Nick Fury's still tripping.

Rick Jones is in the Negative Zone, being attacked by Annihilus and trying to turn into the Hulk, in order to fight him, in the latest instalment of What If?

The Reject is still on the loose in the Deviants' underwater city.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly and Marvel Comic, Carrion

And we're back to near-total ignorance because I don't know what's in this week's issue of Marvel's newest venture.

But I do know what's not in it.

And that's Conan and Dracula, who've been dropped in the great merger. Within week's, the Avengers will also be leaving, to claim a home in a new magazine.

There's no doubt about it, Marvel UK's centre of gravity's now tilting very heavily towards monthly mags, rather than weekly comics.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - August 1969.

August 1969 began with the Rolling Stones' Honky Tonk Women at Number One on the UK singles chart. That was soon dislodged from the top spot by the unique oddity that was In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans, a dire prediction of what lay in store for mankind. The record itself had quite a good future, spending several weeks at Number One and holding off the challenge from Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising, along the way.

Sadly, the duo's future wasn't equally good. After topping the chart in both the US and UK, they've never made the Top 100 in either country since. A feat no other act has ever replicated.

No sign of them at the summit of the British album chart either. That month started with According to My Heart by Jim Reeves at Number One, which was soon deposed by Jethro Tull's Stand Up. The Tull were then removed from the throne by From Elvis in Memphis before fighting back to reclaim their crown and finish the month at Number One again.

It is surprising to look back and see how big Jethro Tull actually were. I always think of them as a two-hit wonder novelty act. I, clearly, think wrongly.

When it came to the cinema, that month saw the release of The Learning Tree, a film I've never seen nor even heard of but I refuse to believe a learning tree can be as awesome as a Singing Ringing Tree.

That month also saw the release of Alice's Restaurant and Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? The latter being from the same producer who gave us Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It would appear the two Alices were not related.

Captain Marvel #15, That Zo might live

Inter-galactic dimwit Captain Marvel finally starts asking questions of the all-powerful Zo, having previously vowed to do anything he wants, without first asking just what it is he actually wants.

It turns out that what he wants is to destroy the Kree homeworld, so that's OK then.

Needless to say, it's at this point Mar-Vell starts to suspect that mindlessly obeying Zo might not be a good thing after all.

But can Marvy thwart Zo's terrible plan?

Only time - and the next issue - will tell.

Silver Surfer #7, Frankenstein

Inter-galactic dimwit the Silver Surfer allows Frankenstein's latest descendant to make an evil copy of him, so he can rule humanity.

Needless to say, this leads to a bucketful of whingeing from the Surfer, a big fight and an increase in the distrust between himself and humanity.

Sub-Mariner #16

The Sub-Mariner enters the deadly Sargasso Sea, in order to prevent Tiger-Shark doing whatever it is he's doing, and then has to deal with a bunch of hostile sailors, from various points in humanity's past, who've been rendered immortal by the sea's strange mists and now want to take over the world, with the aid of an old U-Boat packed solid with germ warfareness.

Anyone who's ever seen She knows exactly how this story's going to end.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Fifty years ago this month - August 1969.

Mud. It's not just a band that wasn't as good as the Rubettes. It's also a concept. A concept they can fill entire fields with. And August 1969 was a great month for lovers of that substance  - and possibly others -  because it saw not one but two epic outdoor music festivals.

They were Woodstock and the second Isle of Wight Festival. Needless to say, both have gone down in the annals of legend.

And they're not the only musical things from that month to have done so, because the Abbey Road zebra crossing began its journey to greatness right then as well, thanks to the Beatles having their photograph taken on it, with the camera of Iain Macmillan.

Things, however, were were not so rosy for the the coin known as the halfpenny, which ceased to be legal tender that month, as the nation hurtled towards decimalisation.

It was madness. At this rate, even the mighty shilling would be scrapped. And, without the shilling, how were we ever going to pay for our comics?

Avengers #67, Ultron

Barry Smith bows out as Avengers artist - for now - as Ultron gives the team a good hiding then formulates his plot to kill the scientist who created the Adamantium from which he's currently constructed.

I believe this is officially Sal Buscema's first ever Avengers cover, although I suspect he may have had some involvement in brother John's cover for the previous issue.

Captain America #116, the body swap one

Unless I miss my guess, Captain America and the Red Skull have swapped bodies, leading Cap to call on the Avengers for help.

Needless to say, they take one look at him, in the Red Skull's body and decide to beat the living daylights out of him.

For some reason, it didn't occur to him to take off his Red Skull mask before knocking on the front door.

Daredevil #55, Coward

I didn't only have a copy of this tale in The Mighty World of Marvel. I also had an Alan Class comic that reprinted it.

I do believe Mr Fear is back and causing our hero all kinds of problems.

I also think the phobic fiend has a flying disc similar in style to those used by the Trapster and Wizard. I'm not sure where he got that from.

Fantastic Four #89, the Mole Man

Speaking of problems, the FF's new house causes nothing but trouble, as it turns out it's not a house at all. It's a machine for turning everyone in the world blind, so the Mole Man can invade it.

Even robbed of their sight, the FF prove too much for the subterranean schemer.

Incredible Hulk #118, the Sub-Mariner

It's that tale which showed up in Origins of Marvel Comics. Lady Dorma rescues Bruce Banner from drowning and it all leads to a misunderstanding that can only be resolved by Subby and the Hulk bashing each other in the face.

Iron Man #16, the Unicorn

Iron Man and the Unicorn team up to give the Red Ghost the punch in the gob, he so deserves.

I do believe the Ghost has a brand new army of super-apes who turn out to be too good for him. That does pose the question of whatever happened to the originals.

Maybe they were too good for him, as well.

Amazing Spider-Man #75

The saga of the mysterious tablet finally comes to an end with the death of Silvermane.

And, of course, it all leads to the return of the Lizard.

Thor #167, Loki

I'm really not too sure what happens in this one.

Is it the story in which Don Blake needs to perform surgery on Sif but then has to run off to fight Loki, halfway through the operation, causing the other surgeons to think him a little irresponsible?

Then again, the last I heard, Don Blake was just a bog-standard GP. How on Earth is he allowed to do major surgery?

X-Men #59, the Sentinels

The X-Men are up against the Sentinels again.

I do believe this is the one in which the robots end up flying into the sun.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

August 1st, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This night in 1979 saw one of the oddest sporting clashes of all time, as BBC Two broadcast a football match between West Bromwich Albion and the People's Republic of China. As West Bromwich has a population of 78,000 and China is home to 1.4 billion people, this seems a somewhat unlikely fixture.

Admittedly, the game was in 1979 and the respective populations would have been different back then but I suspect that, even in 1979, West Bromwich didn't have a population the size of China's.

Anyway, West Bromwich Albion won 4-0. It's David and Goliath all over again.

But the big news is that, that morning, BBC One was broadcasting The Flashing Blade, a show I have spectacularly fond memories of, despite not being able to remember a thing about it. It's strange how you can love a show whose contents have totally faded from your consciousness.

I do recall there were Iberians in it and horses but that's about the limit of my recollection. Apparently, in today's episode, the Spanish commander holds the Duke responsible for Recci's escape.

I don't know what any of it means but it sounds like the Duke's in trouble.

Star Wars Weekly #75

Speaking of trouble, it looks like we're back in that cantina and it's no friendlier than it was the first time we entered it.

I wonder if the band have learnt a new song yet, or if they're still playing the same tune over and over again.

Elsewhere this issue, the Guardians of the Galaxy are up against that big space frog that eats planets at a voracious rate.

Warlock finds himself in a tale that introduces us to Constable Trueheart.

I say that but I don't have a clue who Constable Trueheart is.

This week's tale of the Watcher informs us of a world whose nearest neighbour is a prison planet - a prison planet which turns out to be Earth!

Hulk Comic #22, the Black Knight

The Hulk's still fighting Diablo the smoke Monster but, no sooner has he sorted him out than he has to deal with Taboo the mud monster.

The Black Knight's gone into some magical kingdom or other to try and bring Captain Britain back from the dead.

Ant-Man and the Wasp complete their first mission together, thanks to getting ants to do all the work for them. I'm pleased to report that neither character comes across as being particularly sane in this tale.

Meanwhile, the Reject's still on the rampage in the Deviants' underwater city.

In the pages of What If?, cured of being the Hulk, Rick Jones teams up with Captain America, then stumbles across those pesky nega-bands that can only mean nothing but trouble.

And I do believe Nick Fury's still tripping on hallucinogens.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #334

Here it is, the start of a brand new era for Marvel UK, as we get the birth of the catchily titled Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly and Marvel Comic. Not only is it a new title but it gives us a walloping nine strips. It's madness! Madness!

In the main strip, Carrion's on the rampage in the ESU library and out to kill Peter Parker, having already clobbered Hector Ayala.

And Reed Richards is on the rampage in Latveria. His powers restored, thanks to Dr Doom launching him into space, Reed launches a one-man attack on that villain's kingdom.

Savage Sword of Conan #22, Marvel UK

I know little of this issue but have no doubt Conan, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane are all up to the sort of thing they're always up to.

I'm pretty sure Jewels of Gwahlur is a Robert E Howard tale and that I've read it. I struggle, however, to recall anything about it.

I know the Red Sonja tales have now reached the Frank Thorne era.

Rampage Magazine #14, the Hulk

I remember this one!

Or at least I remember the X-Men tale. It's that one where the demonic Kierrok's unleashed when Cyclops blows the lid off an obelisk, in a fit of temper over Thunderbird dying.

I do believe this is the tale in which we first learn that Storm has claustrophobia.

I also think it's the tale that introduces us to the X-Men's new housekeeper Moira Mac Taggert, and her machine gun.

As for Dr Strange, I don't have a clue who Xander the Merciless is. I have Googled him. He seems to look a bit like Omega the Unknown.

Starburst Magazine #12, Moonraker

Britain's greatest sci-fi mag looks at probably my least favourite Bond movie - Moonraker. A film so bad that I can't even remember its theme tune.

We also get a look at The Spaceman and King Arthur, which was released in some territories as Unidentified Flying Oddball. I can't help feeling they were right to dump that title.

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