Thursday, 4 June 2020

June 4th, 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.

Unrelenting dullness claimed the world in this week of forty years ago. I shall, therefore, plough straight on with my look at what our favourite Marvel UK mags were up to within that time-frame.

Clearly, in such uneventful times, we needed their thrills and spills more than ever.

Which is convenient, as there were more of the things than ever before.

Doctor Who Weekly #34, Daleks

My knowledge of this week's contents is sorely lacking.

Clearly, from the cover, the Daleks are involved and it would seem we get a text article about the Tom Baker era story The Creature From the Pit.

Come to think of it, I've no recollection of the events of The Creature From the Pit. I think I always get it mixed up with The Face of Evil.

Other than that, I can say nothing.
Spider-Man & Hulk Weekly #378, Spider-Lizard

Hooray! Spider-Lizard is loose on the streets of New York!

And nothing can stop him!

That is the sum total of my knowledge of this issue.

Forces in Combat #4

When it comes to this book, I do know Nick Fury's still fretting that the P.O.W. he's rescued from the Germans is a raving psychopath.

He's fretting to such a degree that the pair come to blows.

And his opponent's willing to cheat!

I'm not really sure who this week's cover star is. Is he meant to be Skull the Slayer?

The Empire Strikes Back Weekly #119

Because the excitement never stops, we get the latest installment of the box office sensation that's sweeping the world's cinemas. I do believe we're currently on the ice planet Hoth.

Man-Wolf's still on the spaceship that's been captured by aliens.

We get a tale called The Forest For the Trees, reprinted from Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1. Frankly, I've no idea what that's about.

In this week's Tales of the Watcher, a communist general's in search of an alien spacecraft that's landed on a mountain...

...unaware the spacecraft is the mountain.

Marvel Superheroes #362

The Avengers accompany the Guardians of the Galaxy to Earth, to confront... ...The Enemy!

"The Enemy?" That's a bit vague. Could they not think of a better name?

However, I'm assuming the seated figure on the cover is Henry Peter Gyrich and not, "The Enemy."

Elsewhere, Cyclops is wanted for murder, as the original X-Men tangle with The Living Pharoah.

And the Champions find themselves battling a villain called Rampage who I vaguely remember to be a not totally unsympathetic villain.

There also seems to be a feature dedicated to the Sub-Mariner.

Star Heroes pocket book #3, the Micronauts

The Micronauts are in this book.

That is the limit of my knowledge.

Chiller pocket book #4, Dracula

Dracula is in this book.

That is the limit of my knowledge.

However, it's pretty clear that things are looking bad for our hero.

Fantastic Four pocket book #3, the Inhumans

I, at least, know what happens in this one.

The Seeker having made his getaway, the FF follow his trail to the Andes where they discover the Hidden Land and have their epic conflict with the Inhumans and Maximus the Mad in a tale that makes no sense at all but is still magnificent.

Spider-Man pocket book #3, Ka-Zar

I do believe I see Stegron on the cover; in which case, this is a tale I've never read.

I am, therefore, going to assume it's reprinted from an issue of Marvel Team-Up.

Frantic #4

More mirthful satire comes our way from a comic that could save us 30 pence.

I wouldn't want to be cruel by saying you could save even more by not buying it.

Savage Sword of Conan #32

It would appear Conan's up against the hordes of Salome. I could pretend to know just who the hordes of Salome are but I don't.

Anyway, King Kull's up against the snake man of Teyanoga.

Thulsa Doom would appear to be involved in one of these tales but, as I've said a gazillion times before, I can never remember if he's a Conan villain or a Kull villain.

Starburst #22, Chewbacca

Coverage of The Empire Strikes Back is, inevitably, provided but, also, the works of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.

I think that, overall, I'd find the John Carpenter feature more appealing.

Does Chewbacca wear that oxygen mask in the film? I've no recollection of it or of where in the movie it would appear.

Rampage #24, Firelord vs the X-Men

Bruce Banner finds himself stranded on a crescent-shaped island, with an old man. It would appear to be a veritable paradise.

As it wouldn't be much of a Hulk tale if it was, I shall assume it's not a paradise at all.

Personally, I'd like it to turn out to be the island that had all the giant monsters living on it, from way back in Herb Trimpe's days.

Sadly, I fear it won't be.

Meanwhile, Clea finds herself kidnapped in the park, by some bloke but soon sorts him out by hitting him over the head with his own statuette.

Firelord's looking for a scrap with Phoenix, for reasons I can't recall.

Instead, we get a protracted flashback to a fight between the new X-Men and the original X-Men, which I think is down to Professor X's dark subconscious taking over, or something.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The Marvel Lucky Bag - June 1970.

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

Grab your bucket and spade because it's officially summer!

How do I know that?

Because the Number One spot on the UK singles chart for the whole of this month in 1970 was held by Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime, the track that cheerfully told us all to go drink-driving.

Over on the album chart, more sober things were afoot, as Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled War dominated that summit for the entirety of June.

Meanwhile, the cinemas of the world were being exposed, for the first time, to Two Mules for Sister Sara, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Kelly's Heroes.

Obscure movie release of the month was The Strawberry Statement which was, it seems, a film about the Student Revolt, inspired by James Simon Kunen's book covering the Columbia University protests of 1968.

Captain Marvel #20, the Rat Pack

If I remember correctly, Rick Jones decides the best man to help he and Marvy finally escape each other's company is Bruce Banner.

How he concludes that a man whose specialty is building bombs is the best-qualified man to free the pair of them from the Negative Zone, I've no idea. I'd have thought Reed Richards might be better suited for that.

But it does, inevitably, mean we'll have the chance to see Mar-Vell fight the Hulk, thanks to Banner's famously calm temperament.

But, before he can do that, the hero has to deal with a bunch of thieving criminals.

Chamber of Darkness #5

In this month's thrilling issue, a pilot, who survived his plane crashing, comes to realise the incident has left him inconveniently dead, we get an adaptation of HP Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, and a Denny O'Neil tale called The Beast From the Bog.

Maybe it's just me but it always feels strange to see a Denny O'Neil credited tale in a Marvel comic.

Silver Surfer #17

"There's NO other choice! It's SHIELD -- or ME!"

Somehow, that doesn't seem a very Silver Surfer kind of thing to declare.

Regardless, inside the comic, under orders from Mephisto, our hero attacks SHIELD's HQ, not realising the villain has landed Shalla-Bal a typing job there.

Sub-Mariner #26, Red Raven

Subby decides to revive Red Raven, who's been found lying dormant in a tube.

Unfortunately, it turns out the winged wonder's gone completely mad and wants to destroy humanity.

Needless to say, the Atlantean Prince has something to say about that.

I've always had a soft spot for Red Raven, as he was one of the first Marvel characters I ever encountered. It saddens me to see him suffering such a fate.

Our Love Story #5, Allan Stone

It's the chance to sob our hearts out, once more, to pillow-drenching tales of love and romance; this time, inflicted upon us by Allan Stone, amongst other knee-trembling heartthrobs.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 22: Metamorpho in 1st Issue Special #3.

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

1st Issue Special #3, Metamorpho
It is a fact undeniable to the rational mind that the art of Comic Reading is a branch of Quantum Physics.

This is why it's possible to both remember you once owned a comic and to simultaneously not remember you once owned that comic.

The third edition of DC's 1st Issue Special is a perfect example of that. For decades, I was aware I'd first encountered the word, "Daguerreotype," in the pages of a comic which starred Metamorpho the element man.

And, yet, it somehow never struck me that that meant I must have once owned a comic which starred Metamorpho the element man.

It's a paradox to make Schrödinger himself quail.

Regardless, mere weeks ago, in my internettings, I stumbled across this very comic book cover and realised, more-or-less at once, that I'd seen it before.

That was because I'd once owned it but had, by some means, completely expunged it from my memory until then.

From what I recall, our hero has a challenge on his hands as he tries to hunt down a French phantom that's showing up in various parts of Washington, doing criminal damage and trying to get the government to buy its inventions.

It all has something to do with the American War of Independence and the US government's foolish refusal to buy the phantom's innovative contraptions, back when it was still a living man.

And, now, that phantom seeks revenge.

Beyond that, I could say nothing of the book's contents, other than an ancient daguerreotype photo of the Capitol Building proves to be the clue that allows Metamorpho to wrap up the case and get back to his primary job of canoodling with his girlfriend.

However, it would appear to feature the artwork of Ramona Fradon, an artist whose work I was previously convinced I'd never encountered during my youth.

But what other comics lie out there, in the wilds of reality, that I still have no recollection of ever having owned?

And will I ever stumble across them?

Thursday, 28 May 2020

May 28th, 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.

It's not often the theme tune to an American sitcom makes it to Number One on the UK singles chart.

But that's what happened exactly forty years ago this week because, to the possible surprise of all, the main song from M*A*S*H*, which went by the name of Suicide is Painless, climbed to that very pinnacle.

If I remember right, it was because a Radio One DJ (Possibly Noel Edmunds) took to playing it on his show, prompting people to rush out and buy it.

Over on the album chart, somewhat lighter fare was ruling the roost, as Paul McCartney's McCartney II smashed straight in at Number One to prove there was yet life in the old dog.

There was also life in Nottingham Forest football club who, on this very night in that year, retained the European Cup, with a 1–0 win over West Germany's Hamburger SV. This meant the European Cup had been won by an English club for the fourth successive year.

Also feeling triumphant, no doubt, were the creators of Pac-Man, as this week saw the release of what would go on to become the highest-earning arcade game of all time.

Doctor Who Weekly #33, Daleks

Hooray! The Daleks make the front cover again!

This is thanks to Genesis of Evil, a reprint of an old TV Century 21 strip from 1965, which tells us the origin of the Daleks - an origin which bears little resemblance to the one we were given in 1975's Genesis of the Daleks.

However, despite this epoch-making event, the Dogs of Doom is still the main story.

We also get another Lee/Ditko classic from Strange Tales #73. In it, a scientist ignores all warnings and builds a time machine - only to find himself trapped in an infinite loop in which he keeps building his time machine over and over again.

To finish off the issue, we get yet more of that tale about the Yeti.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #377

I'm assuming we're getting more of the origin of She-Hulk and issue #1 of Spider-Woman.

What the Hulk's up to, I can't say for sure but suspect he's now reached the Gardener storyline.

The FF may still be having trouble with HERBIE.

It also looks like Spidey's well on his way to becoming Spider-Lizard.

Forces in Combat #3, Machine Man

This week, Machine Man gets to hog the cover.

When it comes to the insides, as far as I can make out, the man the Howling Commandos are rescuing from a German POW camp is still gunning Germans down, ten to the dozen - even after they've surrendered. I suspect they should have just left him in that camp.

Elsewhere, Wulf the Briton's still in colour and has accepted a challenge to fight Rome's greatest gladiator!

But the thing that really leaps out is this issue contains eight stories. That's far too many for an early 1980s Marvel UK weekly. Even Dez never tried to cram that many into one book.

Empire Strikes Back Weekly #118

After 117 issues, Star Wars Weekly is no more.

From now on, it's to be known as Star The Empire Strikes Back Wars Weekly. It's a title that just rolls off the tongue.

This means, of course, that we get the beginning of Marvel's adaptation of that brand new movie, as presented by Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon.

We also get a three-page article about the making of the film.

But it's not all dedicated to the movie of the moment, thanks to John Jameson still being trapped on a hijacked spaceship and having turned, once more, into the Man-Wolf.

Apparently, Lunatik features in this tale. I don't have a clue how that'd happen.

We also get a Tale of the Watcher in which an alien spaceship lands on Earth but, ultimately, leaves, disappointed that humanity never realised it was actually alive.

But, of course, the most exciting thing to come out of this issue is we get a set of Star Wars Letraset action transfers!

As I had this comic, that means I must have had them as well.

Why, then, do I have no recollection of them?

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Werewolf by Night #11 - Comes the Hangman!

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

Werewolf by Night #11
As very long-term readers will know, I always view Werewolf by Night as being the most consistently forgettable book I've ever encountered. Many issues did I own. Zero stories do I recall.

And here's another issue, from my salad days, whose contents I've totally forgotten.

Granted, its battle against forgettability isn't helped by having, possibly, the most generic cover any werewolf comic could ever fear to have.

But that's just the outside. What happens when I plunge inside?

This is what happens.

Some people called The Committee are electrocuting Phillip Russell's nipples.

Phillip Russell is the father of our hero, and they want info out of him about his son.

Meanwhile, his son Jack's in the process of moving into a new home in an apartment block where every female inhabitant lusts after him, upon sight.

Werewolf by Night #11, splash pageUnfortunately, Jack's clearly the absent-minded type because so wrapped up is he in making his flat a desirable place to live that he forgets he's going to turn into a werewolf the moment the sun sets and, with no plan in place as to what to do when that happens, he heads down to the beach to get away from people.

This turns out to be a mistake because no sooner has he completed his transformation than a bunch of beach-partying body-builders decide he's trying to crash their fun and set out to beat him up.

At last, after eleven issues, the werewolf has finally encountered someone he can win a fight against - a group of people from a walk of life that's notoriously terrified of getting bruises - and only the arrival of the police saves the partyers from a fate no better or worse than death, which is death.

But, if things are bad for body-builders, things are even worse for the criminal under-dregs of Los Angeles, as there's a madman on the loose.

He's the Hangman - and he makes the Punisher look well-balanced.

His mind warped from watching too many movies, he's in the habit of rescuing females from street criminals and then locking those females in his dungeon, for their own good.

Werewolf by Night #11, HangmanInevitably, it's only a matter of pages before werewolf and psychopath bump into each other and, thus, begin a fight that's not exactly epic but does climax with the villain hanging the werewolf from a street lamp

To Be Continued!

If Werewolf by Night tales are always forgettable, I do tend to find them strangely enjoyable.

The protagonist's never impressive, being, as I've said before, the Hulk without the strength and vocabulary and this issue he's even less impressive than normal.

Thanks to a clear urge to portray him sympathetically, writer Marv Wolfman goes to great pains, via both thought balloons and captions, to point out the werewolf doesn't want to fight or hurt anyone and is only ever acting in self-defence, even though Gil Kane and Tom Sutton are drawing him to look the most savage and sinister I've ever seen him.

For instance, at the climax of his battle with body-builders, we're informed by Wolfman that the werewolf's only attacking a cop in order to snatch his gun from him, when the pictures show no sign of him snatching the gun and depict the policeman, at the end of it all, clearly dead, on the ground, with his gun still in his hand. I can't help feeling this is the equivalent of a parent telling their child that their suddenly disappeared pet has gone away to live on a farm.

Werewolf by Night #11, transformation
But it could be argued that it's probably best to read this issue without reading the words and just concentrate on the pictures, which are great.

They're great because Gil Kane's always a reliable story-teller and Tom Sutton was born to do horror.

Thus, we get a visual depiction of the beast as a creature that could readily tear men's throats out.

The bad guy's also appealing. He may have those hints of the Punisher about him but even that character would view him as a lunatic cursed with a totally delusional take on the world. Why is his main method of killing people the use of a scythe, when he's called the Hangman? I've no idea but it does, at least, lend him an air of menace.

So, a werewolf vs a madman with a gardening implement, what more could you want of a comic?

Nothing. That's what.

It's just a shame that a werewolf is such a terrible protagonist for a comic because he can't actually do the things a werewolf is meant to do.

Like murdering people.

Werewolf by Night #11, scythe

Thursday, 21 May 2020

May 21st, 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.

Big lumps of rock.

Have you ever found yourself looking at one and wondering what primal urges led someone to put it there?

If so, you aren't alone and, on this night in 1980, BBC Two's Chronicle took a look at the subject, concentrating on a stone circle newly-found in Aberdeenshire, comparing and contrasting it with the better-known circle at Avebury.

BBC One, meanwhile, was looking at a somewhat less mysterious British icon, as The Risk Business asked whether there was a future for the double-decker bus.

It is, of course, to George Lucas' eternal shame that neither stone circles nor double-decker buses featured in The Empire Strikes Back which was released that very week.

No doubt, we were all going to see it...

...provided we could actually afford to. This was, after all, the week in which UK inflation rose to a positively vertiginous 21.8%.

In the United States, Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington State, killing 57 people and causing $3 billion worth of damage.

Back in Britain, that week, Joy Division's singer Ian Curtis was found hanged, having killed himself.

Star Wars Weekly #117

As far as I can make out, in a Michael Golden drawn tale, Leia and Luke find themselves trapped inside a living spaceship that's out to obliterate them.

Back in the Marvel Universe, Man-Wolf's also on a spaceship, and also in a fight for survival, although he's now back in his guise of John Jameson.

John Jameson is, as we know, an astronaut. So, presumably, he'll feel far more at home on there than his shaggy alter-ego did.

In this week's Tales of the Watcher, an unpleasant man travels to an alien planet, in search of its legendary treasure but discovers the treasure's actually a fountain of youth whose waters he's unknowingly imbibed, causing him to quickly revert to infanthood.

Doctor Who Weekly #32

This week, the Doctor visits an alien zoo, which is nice for him.

I don't know whether that ties in to the main story which is still The Dogs of Doom.

We get a text article about the notorious Horns of Nimon.

And there's an adventure reprinted from Tales to Astonish #33 in which a scientist builds a time machine to escape the perils of the modern world - only to discover that every era has its perils.

It sounds to me like he'd have been better off investing in a history book, rather than a time machine.

We also get an article about The Master, a text story involving K-9, and a strip about a Yeti.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #376

Because you the reader demanded it, Marvel's top two super-hero weeklies have failed and now merge to produce a comic which reunites the original stars of Mighty World of Marvel, as well as introducing Spider-Woman and the savage She-Hulk!

How can we resist so much spidery-hulky goodness?

We can't!

At least, that's the hope of Marvel UK.

Forces in Combat #2

Hooray! We can win two Raleigh bicycles!

They'd better be Choppers or I'll feel highly disappointed when mine arrives.

All I know of this week's contents is the Howling Commandos have organised an escape from a prisoner of war camp - an escape which keeps being jeopardised by the fact that one of the people they're trying to rescue is a trigger-happy maniac who just can't resist shooting at Germans when he's supposed to be hiding.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

2000 AD - April 1982.

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

April 1982 was a landmark in the annals of the British Empire.

It may have seemed, to most people, like it no longer existed and was a half-forgotten thing from the history books but we got two reminders that it was still out there.

First of all, by proclamation of the Queen, Canada patriated its constitution, finally gaining full political independence from the United Kingdom and even launching its own bill of rights.

That was all very peaceful and civilised but there was a more sinister blow to the Empire when, that month, Argentina took it upon itself to invade the Falkland Islands, by landing forces near Stanley, thus beginning an infamous conflict whose events would affect the future of both countries.

It sounded like the world could do with a little peace.

And the girl Europe knew only as Nicole clearly agreed because, that April, she won the Eurovision Song Contest with her tune of that name, although its official title was Ein Bißchen Frieden. Somehow, things always sound less angry when said in English than they do when said in German.

In the cinema, we were all being terrorised by the remake of Cat People, complete with a theme song by David Bowie.

Over on the singles chart, three tracks held the Number One slot, that month.

The first was Seven Tears by the Goombay Dance Band.

The second was My Camera Never Lies by Bucks Fizz.

Bucks Fizz had, of course, won the previous year's Eurovision Song Contest and their victory meant this year's competition was held in this country.

The third and final Number One of the month was Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Apparently, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder are officially classified as one-hit wonders, as they never had another hit together.

Over on the album chart, April kicked off with Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast at the summit, before it was dethroned by Status Quo's 1982. The Quo may have only known three chords but they did, at least, know what year it was.

However, the veteran rockers' triumph was short-lived and they were quickly robbed of it by Barry Manilow whose Barry Live in Britain finished the month in the top spot.

But wait!

What's this?

Look at those pictures below!

Four issues of 2000 AD - and not a single Judge Dredd cover between them? What madness is this?

No madness. Merely a blow to the senses. The good judge was indeed inside the comic, as were Robo-Hunter, Rogue Trooper, the Ace Trucking Co and the Mean Arena. We can only assume Dredd was too busy fighting the Apocalypse War to pose for any covers.

Robo-Hunter seemed to be up against some sort of Hound of the Baskervilles analog, although, given the hero's nature, I'm sure the, "Beast," turned out to be more digital than analogue.

We only got two Future-Shocks that month, which was a shock in itself, especially as Tharg was celebrating the book's fifth birthday by wishing the readers a happy fifth birthday. Clearly, Tharg had got a bit confused there.

Yet again, we got the chance to win a bag of KP Griddles.

Yet again, I suspect there is no one alive who even remembers KP Griddles.

2000 AD Prog 258, Ace Trucking

2000 AD Prog 259, Robo-Hunter

2000 AD Prog 260, Happy Birthday, Tharg

2000 AD Prog 261, Robo-Hunter