Sunday, 29 November 2020

Tomb of Darkness #13.

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

***

Tomb of Darkness #13
When I think of Code-approved horror in monthly slices, I always think of DC and Charlton.

Marvel was for super-heroes. Even their big horror titles, like Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night, were super-hero yarns in everything but name.

But even the House of Ideas sometimes dipped its toes in the waters of full-colour anthologised horror, and Tomb of Darkness was one of those bouts of splishing.

As far as I know, #13 was the only issue of this mag my younger self ever owned. So - reacquainted with it - when I open it, what do I get? Will 13 be lucky for some?

First, there's The Man in the Tomb. The town's most exclusive masonic lodge has a problem when the local gangland big cheese shows up and demands it let him join, so he can impress his girlfriend with how classy he is.

As the lodge's initiation ceremony involves convincing new recruits they're about to be decapitated, I'm not sure membership of it really suggests classiness.

Tomb of Darkness #13
Nonetheless, undeterred, he's determined to join and, having the sense not to threaten to behead a man who's holding a gun, the members, instead, lock him in a local tomb, telling him he can free himself, with a key, any time he wants to but he has to stay overnight if he's to complete his initiation.

Their genius ploy is that, while he's entombed, they can flee to another part of town where he'll never find them and they'll be rid of him.

Unfortunately, in his escape attempt, the gormless gangster manages to drop the key and now has no way out. With the lodge having fled to another part of town, there's no one to liberate him, and his doom is surely set.

Tomb of Darkness #13, Alone
Next, 
Alone sees a famous actor become so fed-up of constant adulation that he wishes he could be left alone.

For no good reason, his wish is granted and he, indeed, finds himself alone in a world in which he's unable to see, hear or touch the people he knows must be there.

This is an odd one. Clearly, we're supposed to see him as a jerk who deserves everything he gets but, in truth, he comes across as suffering from a massive dose of social anxiety; and needing professional help, rather than salutary lessons.

Tomb of Darkness #13, Stop the Presses
Third, 
Stop the Presses delivers us a journalist who endures as much bullying from his editor as he can before he murders the man.

But not until after he's written up the story for his newspaper.

Finally, the comic delivers The Gal Who Talked Too Much. A long-suffering husband, whose wife never shuts up, agrees to slip her a Mickey Finn, so she can be entombed, alive, in a time capsule, for future generations to know what a human being was like.

Sadly, for the husband, it turns out the scientist who arranged that also arranged for her to drug him, and now he's trapped in the time capsule, for the rest of his life with, his nagging wife.

How terrifying are these tales?

Not muchly.

Tomb of Darkness #13, The Gal Who Talked Too Much
Even by the standards of 1970s horror comics, they're mild, being reprints from the 1950s when restrictions on mainstream comics were even more stringent than they were twenty years later. These are definitely tales for the very faintest of hearts.

And, unlike those DC and Charlton books, there's no host to tie the stories together, giving a sense of half-heartedness to the venture that contrasts with the more involved efforts of those other two publishers.

Egads, there's not even a letters page!

The longevity of many of DC and Charlton's books - and the sheer quantity of titles - would suggest there was a healthy market for such things. So, why Marvel lacked the will to seriously pursue it is anyone's guess.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

November 26th, 1980 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

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

***

Who shot JR?

It wasn't me. I have an alibi.

And I had one 40 years ago.

And that's a good thing because this was the week, in 1980, the TV show Dallas revealed the culprit behind the attempted murder of its supreme villain.

And that culprit was...

...Kristin.

Frankly, I don't remember who Kristin was but I'm sure she was a very memorable character.

Even more memorable were ABBA.

And, also that week, their track Super Trouper hit the very peak of the UK singles chart, dislodging Blondie's The Tide is High in the process. This meant the Swedish superstars held the top spot on both the UK singles and album charts, their LP of the same name having already seized the summit of the latter listing.

Team-Up #11, Spider-Man and Iron Fist

Here's a cover that's familiar to Marvel UK readers.

That's because it had also appeared on the front of The Avengers #73 in 1975. 

In both comics, Spidey teams up with Iron Fist to tackle a villain from the future who's living his life backwards.

Needless to say, it all ends badly for the wrongdoer when he regresses into being a single cell and then nothing.

This is, of course, the second time Spider-Man's come up against a foe who's done that.

He must be starting to feel it's becoming a habit.

Of the rest of the issue, I can say nothing because I know nothing.

Valour #4, Doctor Strange

Dr Strange is still confronting the dweller in darkness.

But he's got an even bigger problem on his plate - because the blurb at the cover's summit announces that this issue includes Merlin but then describes him as the world's Number One wizard.

What? Even more Number Oney than Dr Strange? Does Marvel UK have no respect for the master of the mystic arts?

The touted Merlin tale is, of course, the Doug Moench and John Buscema one I touched upon in The Marvel Lucky Bag for July 1980.

Future Tense #4, Star-Lord

Now the Micronauts have a problem.

That's because Bug's been captured by an insect expert called Odd John.

Personally, I'd have little faith in a man who has the word, "Odd," in his name.

And it turns out I'd be right, as, barely has he captured him, than the oddster turns the minuscule hero into a murderous monster.

Can his buddies rescue him?

And can they do it before he kills them?

Elsewhere, the crew of Seeker 3000 are having equally perilous trouble with a computer.

Star-Lord's fighting the reptile aliens who caused the death of his mother.

And, while the High Evolutionary sleeps, the Man-Beast sets about ruining the newly created Counter-Earth.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #403, the Cobra

Spidey steps in to put a stop to the Cobra's feeble crime-spree.

Meanwhile, the Hulk and Jarella return to her own world.

Except, hasn't Marvel UK already featured her death? A long time ago? Perhaps it's a What If? tale?

Perhaps it's not and they're reprinting it totally out of sequence?

In all honesty, I do not know.


Forces in Combat #29, Machine Man

It looks like Machine Man has his hands - and feet - full, tangling with Alpha Flight.

Other than acknowledging that ROM's in this issue too, there's little more I can say of this book and its contents.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

War of the Worlds!

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

*** 

War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The War of the Worlds, that stark warning by HG Wells that the British might not rule the world forever, unless we get our act together and make sure we're all diseased up to the eyeballs.

Happily, the British government has learnt that lesson and is making sure no germ-fearing Martian would ever dare set foot in the UK right now.

Still, the tale has an allure that even time itself cannot diminish.

At least, that seems to be the case, judging by how many versions of it have been created over the years.

This site's comments section recently demanded I do a feature about that story and, so, here it is.

I'm fairly certain I first became aware of War of the Worlds through the 1953 Hollywood movie which transferred the tale to the United States and brought it forward to the Nuclear Age, so that even mankind's mightiest weapon of the 20th Century could be shown to be useless against such invaders.

War of the Worlds movie poster, 1953Even to this day, I love that movie. We may be able to see the strings on the Martians' war machines but, with their nod towards manta rays and cobras, they remain things of beauty as they glide around, sedately slaughtering all they encounter.

And who can forget the remarkable sound effects that film employed? So remarkable that they've been recycled in various productions over the years.

But, of course, that wasn't the first dramatic adaptation of the book.

That was Orson Welles' radio version from 1938, which, legend has it, terrified the people of North America who didn't realise it was a drama and reacted with mass panic.

At least, that's the claim. Apparently, the number of people taken in, and the scale of their panic, has been greatly exaggerated, possibly by Welles himself, and it's doubtful that more than a handful of people really fled their homes or decided to start shooting at water towers in the belief they were under attack.

Still, it was enough to make Welles' reputation and pave the way for him to find even greater celebrity.

Hollywood made a second stab at a movie, in 2005, when Steven Spielberg pitted Tom Cruise up against the monsters. Although the film's a masterclass in how to direct such an adventure, its plot and characters were, for some of us, less than involving and many find it difficult to have affection for the film, despite its technical virtuosity. 

Almost simultaneously, Pendragon Pictures released their own version which, almost uniquely, stuck to the original story. The film, though, had a budget of approximately £5, starred no one you'd ever heard of and was likened, by critics, to the work of Ed Wood.

Speaking of quality, we shouldn't forget that those purveyors of fine films Asylum also gave us their take on the subject. I haven't seen it but it seems to have gained the same rapturous critical reception that all their productions do.

Inevitably, TV has refused to be left out and 1988 offered up a series starring Jared Martin, a man some of us used to know as, "The bloke with the tuning fork in Fantastic Journey." It would be true to say it was a venture carried out on the cheap, with the Martians having mysteriously gained the budget-saving power to adopt human form, and footage from the 1950s movie being recycled wherever humanly - or inhumanly - possible.

2013 presented us with The Great Martian War 1913-1917, a TV docudrama which rewrote World War One as a battle between Earth and the Martians, incorporating footage from the real-life conflict. 

British TV finally made a stab at its own adaptation in 2019 when the BBC gave us a three-part series that didn't have anything like the funds necessary and was often reduced to having characters tell us what had happened elsewhere, rather than being able to show us. It also used a terrible framing narrative that meant the series was repeatedly flashing back and forwards in a way most viewers seemed to find annoying.

In the same year, Fox and France's Canal+ also had a go at making a TV version; this time, set in modern-day Europe and starring Gabriel Byrne. It seems to have gone down better than its British counterpart, judging by the fact that a second season's been commissioned.

Amazing Adventures #18, War of the Worlds, Killraven
But this is a comics blog and, of course, comics have been willing to tackle the torment as well.

Probably most famously, Marvel gave us Killraven, a man who could change his name at will and thwart talking apes whenever necessary but, mostly, stuck to his usual name and fighting Martians.

Spectacularly verbose, the strip could, at times, be a tough read but, under the care of Don McGregor and Craig Russell, it was always memorable.

Not satisfied with that crack at the tale, Marvel also gave us a straight adaptation of Wells' original, in the pages of Classics Comics #14.

But, arguably, the most offbeat version was Jeff Wayne's distinctly onbeat musical adaptation that, despite keeping the 19th Century setting, brought the book well and truly into the Disco Age.

Released in 1978, and packed with stars like David Essex and Justin Hayward, the double LP soon charged its way up the UK album chart, going on to achieve 9x Platinum status.

Not only that but, in Australia, it went 10x Platinum and, in New Zealand, the thing went 13x Platinum!

Jeff Wayne, War of the Worlds albumCould nothing stop this musical behemoth?

Yes! The Atlantic could!

Because, despite its juggernaut performance in those other realms of the Anglosphere, in the United States, it peaked at 98 on the Top 200, making it, surely, the greatest example of an album failing to cross the Atlantic the world has ever seen. One can only assume it was rammed by the Thunder Child, mid-journey.

So, there you go; War of the Worlds.

After all these myriad adaptations, cash-ins and rip-offs, my favourite version of the tale remains the 1953 movie.

Granted, that might be because I've never actually read the book. I remember making an attempt to do so, during childhood, but losing patience with it when I discovered it didn't have any pictures. That's how sophisticated I am.

But you may have other ideas about what's the best version.

Then again, you may have encountered versions of the tale that I haven't mentioned.

Or you may just have thoughts on the subject in general.

If so, let your voice ring out loud in the comments section, as those church bells rang out when everyone suddenly realised the Martians had corked it.

"Those church bells rang out when everyone suddenly realised the Martians had corked it." Yes, I'm pretty sure that was the last line of the book.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

November 19th, 1980 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

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

There aren't many bands would write a song about their lighting rig but, then, there aren't many bands like ABBA.

Thus it is that, forty years ago this week, Super Trouper, the album named after ABBA's spotlight, smashed straight in at Number One on the UK album chart, scattering all before it like chaff.

Over on the singles chart, though, the Swedish superstars had to settle for second place, as Blondie's The Tide is High kept the title track of their album away from the top spot.

At least, for now...

Valour #3, Conan the Barbarian


Conan battles to gain control of what I think might be the Zamboula tribe.

Needless to say, he has to fight someone for the honour.

Needless to say, he triumphs because he's Conan and he always triumphs.

Elsewhere, Moon-Boy reminisces about how he once brought his new friend Devil Dinosaur back to meet his tribe and, upon being greeted with nothing but fear and hostility, decided to vacate his tribe, forthwith, and make a new life for himself with his T-Rex.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #402

The Cobra's about to break out of jail - and only Spider-Man can stop him!

Let's be honest, that's not really true. I suspect even Ant-Man could stop him. Once more, must I recall my old adage that any super-villain who can be defeated by being locked in a cupboard isn't a great super-villain.

Elsewhere, Jessica Drew turns up in a town called Jude, seeking to thwart a network that's smuggling wanted criminals out of the country.

But, when she gets there, she quickly discovers the Hulk's also in town - and he's in no mood for subtlety.

Just who that strangle-happy eagle man is, on the front cover, I cannot say.


Future Tense #3, Paladin


The Micronauts find themselves in a hen house. It's the sort of excitement you experience when you're based on a line of toys.

In other news, it's the Chinese New Year but Paladin's in no mood to celebrate. He's too busy looking to avenge the death of a female friend who's just been murdered, right in front of him.

Meanwhile, the High Evolutionary's succeeded in creating Counter-Earth but, unknown to him, a certain lupine lawbreaker's watching, with plans of his own...


Marvel Team Up # 10, Marvel UK, Spider-Man and the Valkyrie

Other than the fact Spider-Man's still teaming-up with the Valkyrie, in order to tackle Meteor Man, I have little knowledge of what happens in this one.

I do, however, have good reason to believe this issue features a What If? tale that explores what would happen if the world knew Daredevil was blind.

Presumably, the Masked Marauder would have shot him in the head, with a bullet, rather than zapping him with his optic blasts, and Daredevil's career would have been fairly short.


Forces in Combat #28

And we finish with one whose contents really are an enigma to me.

However, it looks like things have all gone badly south for ROM.

And that means there's no one around to save his friends from the attack of the Thornoids!

Sunday, 15 November 2020

2000 AD - October 1982.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon.
*** 
October 1982 delivered bad news to all who wanted to travel in time.

That's because it was the month in which John DeLorean was arrested for selling cocaine to undercover FBI agents. Now where were we going to get our chronology challenging cars from?

Fortunately for him - and Michael J Fox - he was subsequently found not guilty, on the grounds of entrapment.

Far away from all that, in Florida, Walt Disney World opened its second theme park, the EPCOT Center. To this day, I don't know what the EPCOT Center actually involves but it all sounds super-sciencey.

Elsewhere in the world of technology, Sony launched the first consumer CD player, so that, at last, all those people who'd rushed out to buy compact discs now had a way to actually play them.

As I've previously reported on the launch of compact discs, I can only assume there was a period of several months in which it was possible to buy the things but not to play them. To me, this seems like quite bad planning.

Speaking of launching things, October saw Halloween III: Season of the Witch launched upon an unsuspecting public. The public was especially unsuspecting, as the film had nothing at all to do with the first two Halloween movies, leaving some ticket-buyers feeling distinctly swindled.

It is, however, the only Halloween movie I like.

Also in the cinema, we could see The Wizard of Oz but not the Judy Garland version. This one was an animated Japanese adaptation of the original book, which sounds like an intriguing prospect.

The UK singles chart during that spell was dominated by just two tracks.

The first was Musical Youth's Pass the Dutchie which began the month at Number One, while the second was Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? by the band the world knew as Culture Club which ended the month at Number One.

Over on the album chart, it was also a tale of two acts. They were, however, very different from those bossing the singles chart.

The first was Dire Straits who kicked-off the month on top, with Love Over Gold but eventually had to make way for the Kids from Fame and their eponymous album of the same nomenclature.

But what of the Galaxy's greatest comic?

As always, we had Robo-Hunter, Judge Dredd, Ace Trucking, Rogue Trooper and Tharg's Future Shocks.

And it seems Robo-Hunter was going football crazy, though I don't know in what way. I can only assume this was a turn of events inspired by the Spanish World Cup, held a few months earlier.

But, with Prog 287, we got the start of an entirely new strip, called Harry Twenty on the High Rock. It would seem its titular star was sentenced to 20 years in an orbiting prison but decided to escape.

I must admit I've no recollection of this strip at all but it was drawn by Alan Davis. so I am, at least, certain it must have looked good.

2000 AD Prog 288, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 287, Harry Twenty

2000 AD Prog 286, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 285, Robo-Hunter

2000 AD Prog 284

Thursday, 12 November 2020

November 12th, 1980 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

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

Hi. I'm not the kind of girl and neither is Debbie Harry.

I know that because she told me so, way back, this week in 1980, when she and the rest of Blondie hit the very top of the UK singles chart, with their cover of the Paragons' The Tide is High.

What a lovely song that is but with a terrible video.

Over on the British album chart, meanwhile, it was Barbra Streisand who ruled with an iron fist, thanks to her Barry Gibb produced album Guilty.

Forces in Combat #27

Total ignorance reigns, within my head, about the contents of this week's issue.

I would assume the cover image belongs to that strip about the ghost who takes people over in World War II but I could be totally wrong about that.

More alarming is the front cover news that ROM's inert and helpless. It's bad enough being helpless but to be inert as well...
Valour #2, Thor

For an actual once, I have information about the contents of a comic.

I do believe that, this issue, Moon-Boy rescues the youthful Devil Dinosaur from a bunch of hungry ape-men, and a beautiful friendship is born.

Conan kills a man called Yorubo to become chief of the Bamula tribe.

Dr Strange is, possibly, up against a menace known as the dweller in darkness, while Clea finds herself threatened by a couple of creatures that resemble shadows.

We get a tale of Asgard in which Odin prevents his kingdom from being captured by Ice Giants, and traps Ymir in a ring of fire. There's no news as to whether it has to share it with Johnny Cash.

And we finish off with more of the Wally Wood narrated tale The Bold and the Brave.

As though that weren't enough, we also get Part 2 of our, no doubt, much-coveted Devil Dinosaur jigsaw.

Future Tense #2, Seeker 3000

The Micronauts find themselves back on Earth and having to fight a bunch of toys animated by a young girl.

We get Adam Warlock's first-ever meeting with the High Evolutionary, although Adam's still in his cocoon, at this point, and calling himself Him.

The crew of Seeker 3000 are up to something or other.

Paladin's battling someone called Phantasm.

And we get more of the origin of Star-Lord.

Even more excitingly, we get Part 2 of a spaceship we can build for ourselves!

Egads! Once I have my hands on that, the galaxy itself will be mine to conquer!

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #401

Here's an oddity. The cover proclaims it to be the 400th issue, when it's actually the 401st, and it's dated October 12th when it should be dated November 12th. Good to see the Marvel UK proofreaders doing their job there.

As for the insides, from what I can recall, a bunch of bored rich people decide to defeat the Hulk, with a chess-based challenge. I'm sure that'll end well for them.

I'm not aware of what this week's Spidey tale is but it would appear that, yet again, She-Hulk and Spider-Woman are absent from the book.

Marvel Team-Up #9, the Fantastic Four

I do detect this issue features the tale in which Franklin Richards is possessed by Agatha Harkness's evil son, thanks to Reed not being in the habit of locking the door to the Negative Zone.

Elsewhere, Spidey and Valkyrie team-up to tackle the Meteor Man, a villain who's getting a remarkable number of mentions on this site, of late.

And it would appear we get a story in which Spidey and DD unite to combat a trio of the web-spinner's deadliest foes.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

The Marvel Lucky Bag - November 1980.

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

Two films the world will never forget came out in November 1980.

One was Raging Bull, the story of middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, and the other was Heaven's Gate, the story of... ...well, I'm not sure what it's the story of but it infamously bankrupted the studio that made it, so I assume it must have been quite ambitious.

This post, however, is not ambitious.

Moon Knight #1

Moon Knight gets his very own comic, as brought to us by daring Doug Moench and bashful Bill Sienkiewicz.

I don't think it's one I've ever read but it appears Bushman's returned and Moon Knight sets off to look for him.

Tragically, I don't have a clue who Bushman is. His name gives the impression he's an Australian gentleman with corks hanging from his hat but I suspect he's not, because that would make him an even worse villain than the Kangaroo.

I'm now just hoping there's a comic where the Kangaroo, Boomerang and Bushman team-up. What a thrillingly cliched collection of Antipodean antagonists that'd be.


Marvel Team-Up Annual #3, Hulk, Iron Fist and Luke Cage

Marvel Team-Up gets its third annual - but one that doesn't appear to star Spider-Man.

Never mind. We've got Machine Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Hulk, which does feel like over-egging your pudding somewhat.

I'm not sure what happens in this one but it all looks lively enough.


Marvel Spotlight #9, Captain Universe

Having made his debut in The Micronauts, Captain Universe gets his own strip in Marvel Spotlight.

I'm not really familiar with the character but I am getting a very 1950s Charlton comics vibe from him, especially the vibe of Captain Atom.


Ghost Rider #50, Night Rider

Ghost Rider celebrates his 50th issue by teaming up with Night Rider.

I'm really only posting this one because the cover reminds me of that scene in the Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider movie where Johnny and the original Ghost Rider race at full pelt, for hundreds of miles, to intercept the latest supernatural threat to mankind and, when they finally get there, the original Ghost Rider promptly leaves, making you wonder just why he bothered to make the journey.

Anyway, in this one, Johnny's trapped in the Wild West and teams up with Night Rider to tackle some bandits before returning to the present to prevent an exploding dam from flooding a native American burial ground.


Spider-Woman #32, Werewolf by Night

I don't know if the comic's any good but that's a cover that'd make me buy any book.

Our heroine encounters Marvel's werewolf in a tale written by Michael Fleisher.

I know not whether Michael's beloved trope of cannibalism makes an appearance but I would have thought a werewolf tale would give him plenty of opportunity to use it.


X-Men #4, Dr Strange

Not only do we get the X-Men teaming up with Dr Strange, we also have the origin of Nightcrawler, as his teammates try to rescue him from his foster mother's hell.

Unless I'm mistaken, Mystique makes no appearance in this tale. Clearly, it was too early for the truth to be told.


ROM #12, Jack of Hearts

Marvel's attempts to make Jack of Hearts a thing now leads to him appearing in the pages of ROM.

This is all I know.

I am, however, confident that, by the end of this tale, Jack has still not become a thing.


Defenders #89, A death in the family

It's bad news all round, as Hellcat's mother dies and Nighthawk's assets are frozen by the IRS.

This leads to the gang moving into a house in the suburbs where they experience a taste of suburban life.

We get a quick look at Hellcat's past in the fashion industry but the highlight of this issue is, of course, a brief appearance from Millie the Model.