Thursday, 19 July 2018

July 19th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week of 1978 doesn't appear to have been the most thrilling of weeks in which to have been alive - and this day wasn't the most thrilling of days.

In fact, the nearest thing I can find to an event of interest from it is that, on this evening of that day, BBC One's Wednesday Film was Tarzan the Apeman starring Denny Miller.

I must confess to being totally unfamiliar with the life and work of Denny Miller but he appears to have turned up in a whole slew of genre TV faves over the years, including The Six Million Dollar Man, V, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers.

Clearly, in the face of that level of mightiness, that week's Marvel UK mags were going to have to work hard to compete.

Super Spider-Man #284, the Green Goblin

Bart Hamilton's fake Green Goblin makes his pumpkin-smashing debut.

From what I can make out, the Avengers tale in this issue is the one in which the Beast joins the team and the Stranger does all kinds of things with exploding balls in a baseball park before turning out to be the Toad in disguise.

The Captain America tale seems to be the one in which he and that scientist with the gorilla's body find themselves in the subterranean lair of the Mole Man.

I have mentioned, ad nauseum, over the years, that this was the first Captain America story I ever read, way back in the scorching hot summer of 1972.

Mighty World of Marvel #303, the Hulk and Dr Strange

The Hulk and Doctor Strange are having all kinds of problems with Paragon and the Beehive scientists. Every time I type that phrase, I have an unstoppable urge to declare, "No. Beehive!" in the voice of Kenneth Williams. You can't accuse this site of not being sophisticated.

As for the rest of the contents, all I can say is that the Invaders tale features the nightmarish menace of Warrior Woman, awesome product of the Axis attempt to create a super-soldier.

As if that wasn't enough, they're also up against Master Man, the other awesome product of the Axis attempt to create a super-soldier.

Needless to say, the presence of these baddies somewhat gets in the way of our heroes' latest attempt to abduct Adolf Hitler.

Star Wars Weekly #24

I really can't say anything about this week's contents. I know that Star-Lord is one of the back-up strips and that the Tale of the Watcher is a story entitled Run, Roco, Run. What that's about and how much resemblance it bears to Run, Lola, Run, I have no idea.

But who cares about that?

Not me!

Surely the real thrillingness of this issue is reserved for the back cover, upon which we get a full-page feature dedicated to the Green Cross Code Man telling us how to cross the road safely.

Clearly, that message stood me in good stead, as, to this day, I have still managed to not get run over.

Upon reflection, I suppose it is appropriate that we should get a Green Cross Code Man feature in this book, bearing in mind that both he and Darth Vader were, famously, played by the same man.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

2000 AD - June 1980.

This week of 1980 was a crucial one for all readers of this blog, as, without it, Steve Does Comics wouldn't even exist.

That's because, on June the 23rd of that year, Tim Berners-Lee began work on ENQUIRE, the system that would eventually lead to the creation of the World Wide Web almost exactly ten years later.

If that was thrilling news for those with one foot in the future, there was bad news for those with one foot stuck in the past - especially those who could only count in multiples of six - because, on June 30th, the pre-decimal sixpence coin was withdrawn from circulation, never to return. Wasn't the sixpence virtually indistinguishable from the 5p piece? What monetary madness was this?

It's a good thing we had these things to keep our minds occupied because we certainly weren't getting all the 2000 AD we needed to fill our time. The dread reality was that June 1980 was the second consecutive month in which only two issues of the galaxy's greatest comic were published.

However, judging by the covers of the two issues that were unleashed that month, it's clear to see The Empire Strikes Back was starting to make its impact upon the world. It is interesting to see the cover of Prog 165 talking about, "Star Wars 2." Does this mean there was a time when describing the film as The Empire Strikes Back would lead to people not knowing what you were referring to? What a strange and unfamiliar land the past truly was.

2000 AD Prog 165, MACH Zero

2000 AD Prog 166, the Empire Strikes Back

Thursday, 12 July 2018

July 12th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's a tragedy that could destroy the mind of the strongest of men, because England have crashed out of the World Cup, having made the fatal mistake of scoring early, thus giving themselves the maximum possible amount of time in which to mess up.

Of course, the moment we scored, I knew we were doomed. It's a golden rule in life. Never score first. It only gives the opposition  a reason to try and beat you.

Happily, thanks to my iron mental fortitude, I haven't responded by giving up on this life and have, instead, flung myself into the task of seeing what was going on in the world of forty years ago.

In terms of news and broadcasting, not a lot was going on.

Plenty was going on on the UK singles chart but it was the same plenty that had been going on the week before.

But what of our favourite comics? Could they inject a little more intrigue than that into our lives?

Star Wars Weekly #23, Doom World

I really don't have a clue what's going on in this one but, sadly, I suspect that Doom World is not a theme park dedicated to the life and works of Doctor Doom.

Why no one has ever built such a thing, I have no idea.

Mighty World of Marvel #302, the Incredible Hulk

This is a weird one. Given that the cover features people watching a missile, I'd assumed the man with the moustache to be Tony Stark.

Further research, however, informs me that he is, in fact, Doctor Strange, a man not normally known for his interest in ballistics.

I do wonder, though, just why someone would put a pilot inside a missile. Wouldn't riding in a missile guarantee instant death upon reaching one's destination?

As for the tale, I do know it was drawn by Herb Trimpe and involves Strange mind-probing a mysterious cocoon.

From this, I conclude it must be the Hulk tale which introduces Paragon, the second attempt by the Beehive scientists to create the perfect human being, after their earlier creation of Him went so disastrously wrong.

You have to hand it to them; for a bunch of geniuses, they have a remarkable ability to not learn from their mistakes.

Super Spider-Man #283

Is this the one in which Aunt May and the Rocket Racer's elderly female relative - who might be his aunt, his mother or his grandmother - are in the same hospital as each other while the Rocket Racer and Spider-Man separately bemoan their lot in life?

It would be nice to claim this glimpse into the Rocket Racer's personal life made him a more intriguing and relatable character. The only problem with that being that, no matter what the writers did, he was a man in yellow sunglasses, riding a rocket-powered skateboard. It didn't matter how they tried, there was no way they were ever going to manage to make that not annoying.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - July 1978.

Once more a second Tuesday of a month has come around. And that can only mean it's time for me to find out what mischief the less high-profile Marvel mags that bore the cover date of exactly forty years ago were getting up to.

To be honest, they weren't getting up to much. Even the ones I've selected for this post aren't exactly screaming, "Buy me," in my direction.

Captain Marvel #57, Thor

I genuinely have no idea what happens in this one, other than that Thor shows up.

Is it all caused by a misunderstanding? Has one of them turned evil? How does the captain fare against a thunder god?

Sadly, I can furnish no answers.

Marvel Treasury Edition #17, the Incredible Hulk

I think we all love a good treasury edition - and this looks to be a great treasury edition, featuring, as it does, the Hulk's first encounter with the Glob, his battle with Draxon the dictator, his first meeting with Havok and Lorna Dane and his first trip to Counter-Earth.

If anyone wouldn't want all that in one comic, I can only despair at the insanity that must be gripping their soul.

Nova #20

This story would appear to feature a robot version of Sherlock Holmes; a character I vaguely remember from when I used to read the strip.

But I am intrigued that Nova would appear to have just found the dead body of his father but his only thought is keeping his identity secret from his own brother, rather than being at all bothered by the more pressing matter of his father's demise.

Those super-heroes, they know how to have their priorities straight.

Savage Sword of Conan #31

I do believe that's a Howard Chaykin cover, which is not a thing you see every day on the front of a Conan mag.

Spider-Woman #4, the Hangman

I possess no memory of Brother Grimm but I do think I recall the Hangman originally being a villain in the pages of Werewolf by Night.

Needless to say, I'm highly impressed that I actually remember something which happened in Werewolf by Night, a comic whose sheer forgettableness I've often celebrated in the past.

Marvel Comics Man From Atlantis #6

This all looks a lot more exciting than the TV show which spawned it, although it's hard not to suspect we're about to see a tale that owes more than a little to The Land that Time Forgot.

Yogi Bear #5, jelly mine

Yogi and Boo Boo discover a jam mine.

But, hold on. Wasn't that the plot of a Goodies episode? What fruit flavoured lunacy is this?

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Forty years ago today - July 1978.

The World Cup keeps getting ever more exciting for those of us of an English persuasion. How ironic, therefore, that, forty years ago, England hadn't even qualified for that year's World Cup. How the time and tide of history can change.

But one thing never alters.

Whatever the decade, we can still thrill to the adventures of those with powers beyond the norm.

Avengers #173

I have little to no memory of this tale but it appears the Collector's abducting Avengers, presumably for his usual purposes.

This issue seems to feature a guest appearance by virtually every Outer Space related character Marvel possessed at that time.

Conan the Barbarian #88

A far smaller cast greets us within the pages of Conan. Apparently, the battling barbarian and his mates enter a city, restore some woman to the throne and then she betrays them. Will Conan never learn not to trust a beautiful woman?

Daredevil #153, the Cobra and Mr Hyde

Mr Hyde and the Cobra are back - and, no doubt, failing once more to defeat a hero they should be able to annihilate with no effort at all. Like the Circus of Crime, they should probably settle for taking on Howard the Duck.

Fantastic Four #19, the Invincible Man

I'm willing to bet that's not the original Invincible Man but some kind of impostor.

Then again, perhaps it's a skrull pretending to be the Super-Skrull pretending to be Sue and Johnny's father.

Then again, the internet tells me that, in this issue, the FF are reunited, thanks to Dr Doom. Whether it was his intention to reunite them, I couldn't say. So, perhaps he's the one in the Invincible Man costume.

Then again, perhaps he's not.

Incredible Hulk #225

I remember nothing of this tale, other than that it features the Leader and Omnivac who I remember being the Leader's not always reliable computer.

Iron Man #112

Iron Man's still having problems with Galactus' Punisher.

Despite seemingly being set in Detroit, this story would appear to feature any Outer Space character who hasn't already shown up in this month's Avengers tale.

Amazing Spider-Man #182, the Rocket Racer

Hooray! It's the news we were all praying for! The Rocket Racer is back!

I believe this is the story which goes on to introduce the world to the power and majesty of the Big Wheel.

Two villains of that quality in one story? How could we ever hope to cope with such excitement?

Spectacular Spider-Man #20, the Lightmaster

The Lightmaster is back and kidnaps the White Tiger, in the belief that his secret identity of Hector Ayala is actually the true identity of Spider-Man, which means he'll now have two super-heroes to fight, instead of one.

Thor #273, the Midgard Serpent

Apparently, reporter Harris Hobbs gets to go to Asgard again, thanks to Loki hiding him in an adamantium computer. You would've thought Hobbs would have learnt his lesson, after his previous visit.

But how this relates to the Midgard Serpent, I have no idea.

Captain America #223

Cap finds himself up against Animus who, I believe, is a beautiful woman with impressive cleavage who, for some reason, can transform herself into a weird caveman with a big club and a huge head. I don't have a clue how any of that is achieved.

More importantly for all Captain America lovers, I notice the Falcon's disappeared from the masthead. Does this mean he no longer features in the comic? What catastrophe is this that's befallen both us and he?

Thursday, 5 July 2018

July 5th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Supporting Marvel UK in the 1970s really was a roller coaster ride. One week it was up. One week it was down. And you could never know which it was going to be.

Happily, July, 1978, found it on the up again, as our favourite comics company gave us a whole new book to read and was suddenly producing five titles a month.

But what would that new title be?

What?

What!?!

There's only one way to find out.

But, before we do that, I feel morally obliged to give a plug to the UK singles chart of this week in 1978. Having just taken a look at it, I have to say it must have been the greatest singles chart of any week ever. It was so busting with banging tunes, it's a miracle it didn't explode under the strain.

Seriously, just just take a look at that lineup. If there's nothing on it that floats your boat, that boat must have hit a rock and be lying at the bottom of the English Channel, with no chance of being salvaged even if Captain Nemo fills it with a balloon and inflates it.

Star Wars Weekly #22

I've no idea what happens in this one, other than that Luke and his droidal chums are up against a very nicely-drawn sea monster that I like to think is the same one that turned up in Doctor Who's Terror of the Zygons, and that it was achieved by use of the same hi-tech green screen as that one was.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #9, the Slithering Shadow

I do believe The Slithering Shadow was originally a Robert E Howard tale.

I also believe that, as I've read every Robert E Howard Conan story, I must, therefore, have read it.

Which makes it odd that I don't have a clue as to just which Howard tale it is.

I don't think it's the one with the obelisks and the toad monster. The cover image would suggest it's not the one in the sewers with the octopus thing. I'm therefore at a total loss.

Regardless, I've no doubt that a damsel will need rescuing, a monster will need murdering and a sorcerer will need a good sword up him.

Mighty World of Marvel #301, the Incredible Hulk

This is another comic whose contents I'm not totally sure of, but I would assume the FF are still up against Gorr the gorilla.

It would seem the cover from this issue was reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #20, which is an honour indeed for a cover originally produced for a Marvel UK mag.

Marvel UK, Rampage Monthly #1, the Hulk attacks soldiers, with a tank

This is it! The big one! Marvel UK's future publishing direction starts to become more clearly defined, as, presumably inspired by the sales of Savage Sword of Conan, Rampage makes the move to a monthly schedule.

Looking at that cover, its lineup isn't that strong. It's basically just the one from the weekly mag, with the black and white Hulk tales thrown in but, soon, it will add the New X-Men to its roster and instantly become indispensable to all lovers of great comics.

Super Spider-Man #292, the Punisher and the Hitman

As demanded by you the Steve Does Comics reader, J Jonah Jameson is to be found dangling from the Statue of Liberty - or at least dangling from Spider-Man who's dangling from the Punisher who's not dangling from the Statue of Liberty.

I suppose it's one way of preventing our hero from simply blocking the Hitman's gun, with webbing, which would somewhat instantly put an end to his menace.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - July 1968.

I'm all rared up and ready for England's do-or-die game against Colombia in the World Cup but, fifty years ago, I'd have had no World Cup to watch. Whatever would I have done with my time?

I know. I'd have randomly looked at the contents of Marvel's less high-profile titles that bore this month's cover date.

Capt Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders, Baron Strucker

In a stunning development, Captain Savage steals Nick Fury's arch-enemy, as he comes up against Baron Strucker.

I can say little beyond that, as I've never read a single story that contains the good captain. However, I have no doubt he'll triumph over the monocled marauder just as surely as Fury always did.

Doctor Strange #170, Nightmare

I'm fairly certain I've read this one. Needless to say, that doesn't mean I can actually recall anything about it.

Apparently, Strange and Nightmare are battling for supremacy within the mind of the Ancient One.

Captain Marvel #3, the Super-Skrull

Things aren't looking good for Marvel's greatest space spy.

Didn't he also get captured and strapped to a slab by the Super-Skrull in the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War? It's starting to look like a recurring theme.

Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #2

I know that's a highly dramatic cover Jim Steranko's given us but all I can ever think when I see it is, "Why's Nick Fury fighting Bender from Futurama?"

It would appear that Nicholas is up against possibly the maddest scientist ever to stalk the pages of a comic book. Happily, Fury defeats him by recruiting the services of a giant robot gorilla from a visiting film production. Is it just me or do all synopses for SHIELD tales from this era
seem to be completely loopy?

Spectacular Spider-Man #1

Hooray! It's the start of a brand new, giant-size title for everyone's favourite wall-crawler. Given Spider-Man's enduring popularity, I've no doubt at all that it'll be a raging success and...

...oh. Well, never mind.

I do believe this issue contains the Richard Raleigh/Smasher storyline which thrilled us all in the pages of Spider-Man's regular mag, several years later.

I must confess that, although I've read that  reworked version more than once, I've still never read this original take on the tale. I do always wonder in what ways it differs from that version.

Sub-Mariner #3, Triton

It's the meeting that had to happen, as Triton and the Sub-Mariner team up to fight Plantman and the Leviathan. I think my knowledge of Plantman comes entirely from his appearance in a Hostess Twinkies ad.

As for this issue, he launches it by destroying London, with some sort of rampaging seaweed. I'm starting to get the feeling he might not be a nice man.

I've never read this tale but it's drawn by John Buscema and written by Roy Thomas, so it's bound to be great.

Marvel Comics, Groovy #3

I know nothing of Groovy. To be honest, up until now, I didn't even know it had ever existed. I can say, though, that, judging by that cover, it looks to be very much of its time.

Anyway, it clearly wasn't of its time sufficiently enough to hook readers, as this, its third issue, was the last one of its run.

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