Sunday, 22 April 2018

The greatest Fantasy films of all time.

Ray Harryhausen, Golden Voyage of Sinbad
As you may know, this site is so determined to get to the truth that even Woodward and Bernstein can only recoil in envy at its activities. Thus it is that, in recent weeks, I've sought to discover just what are the best horror and science fiction movies mankind has ever seen.

Needless to say, candidates were many and marvellous.

But, despite my love for those genres, the truth is that horror and sci-fi are but two legs of the speculative fiction tripod. The other leg is Fantasy - and that means that, in the interests of completeness, I should tackle the subject of what are the greatest Fantasy movies of all time.

I must confess that this is a difficult subject for me, as, if a Fantasy movie doesn't feature sandals and isn't set in a place warm enough for the characters to not need a coat, it's going to struggle to hold my attention.

The Wizard of Oz is a recognised classic but there's clearly something wrong with me, as I've always preferred Return to Oz. Then again, I'm also the only human being on Earth who preferred Babe: Pig in the City to the original Babe movie. The Princess Bride is a much-loved film but, other than Peter Falk being in it, I can't comment on it, as I can't remember it.

The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films actively repel me and the Jim Henson non-muppet films, like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, have me wishing Miss Piggy would show up.

But maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Maybe the best Fantasy movies are the ones that aren't about people but are about drawings, like Disney's Snow White, Bambi and Dumbo.

All this considered, I would say my favourite Fantasy movies would have to be Jason and the Argonauts, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Mysterious Island and basically anything else that Ray Harryhausen ever made. I also have a soft spot for Edward Scissorhands. After that, I'm kind of struggling.

But perhaps you're not struggling. Perhaps you're champing at the bit to put me right and point out all the great Fantasy movies I've forgotten.

Then again, you may want to point out that I'm talking rubbish in not liking the films that I've confessed to not appreciating.

If so, you are free to say so, in the comments section below.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

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

Forty years ago this week, the World Snooker Championship was well underway at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I do believe this was the first snooker world championship I ever watched on TV, with Ray Reardon ultimately winning the title, possibly by beating Perrie Mans in the final.

I've only just found out that, in order to build the Crucible, they knocked down the hotel in which Sheffield Wednesday FC was founded, Yorkshire County Cricket Club was founded and the first ever rules of football were drawn up. Suddenly, I'm starting to see why the venue wasn't initially liked by the locals. Fortunately, the popularity of snooker transformed it into the revered cultural institution it is today.

Of course, there were those who said it was madness to watch such a thing on a black and white TV but I was used to seeing monochrome things that had been meant to be seen in colour, thanks to having spent the previous six years reading the output of Marvel UK.

And that subtle link can only mean one thing.

That it's time for me to take my cue and look at what was sitting on the newsagents' racks in the week leading up to this date in 1978.

In the face of insurmountable odds, will our favourite heroes go to pot?

Or will they merely chalk it up to experience?

Mighty World of Marvel #290, Incredible Hulk.

In fairness, that blurb's right. I haven't forgotten it. Unless I miss my ever-loving guess, the Hulk is about to encounter Captain Barracuda, a man I know only from having read this tale. I remember that he had a submarine that was shaped like a fish. This suggests, to me, a certain degree of idiocy.

Meanwhile, Daredevil is still having trouble with people putting things in the water supply, in order to turn everyone into copies of the Man-Bull. Whoever's to blame, I can't help feeling that's rather irresponsible of them.

Elsewhere, Captain Marvel's returned to Earth, only to discover that Rick Jones has been captured by Dr Minerva who, I think, despite all early signs, ended up turning out to be a good guy. I could, however, be wrong.

Nick Fury is up against Baron Strucker. Baron Strucker is definitely a bad guy.

Star Wars Weekly #11, Darth Vader

I genuinely don't understand what's going on on that cover. Darth Vader seems to be watching Luke Skywalker's plane on a monitor but, despite only being on a monitor, the plane is somehow shooting people who are in the room.

How is that possible?

It reminds me of the time in my childhood when I was worried the Ice Warriors might climb out of the TV and attack me. Fortunately, thanks to TVs nowadays being too flat for monsters to hide in, such a thing is no longer possible.

Rampage #27, the Defenders

The Defenders have travelled to another world, in an attempt to assist the Guardians of the Galaxy in their quest to rid the Earth of the despotic rule of the Badoon.

I do believe that, in this one, the Valkyrie does herself a mischief by stabbing a swamp monster, unaware that it's a female swamp monster and, therefore, thanks to the Enchantress's magic, she herself instantly suffers a matching stab wound.

The Complete Fantastic Four #30, Gaard

The FF are having trouble with Gaard.

I have little to add to that, because I've never read the story. I am aware, though, that Gaard turns out to be an alternate version of Johnny Storm.

Did any other Marvel characters have more problems with alternate versions of themselves than the FF did?

Super Spider-Man #271, Razorback

Razorback makes his senses-shattering debut in the pages of Marvel UK. I do believe the malevolent Man-Beast is involved, in his guise as the Hatemonger.

I'm going to guess, based purely on memory and instinct, that this issue also features part of the Celestial Madonna storyline and that Thor may be up against those giant planets that literally hoover up normal-sized planets. I say this without any evidence to back it up and, so, could be completely wrong.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

2000 AD - March 1980.

March of 1980 was not a good month for lovers of illicit broadcasting because it was the month in which legendary pirate music station Radio Caroline went off air after its ship Mi Amigo ran aground and sank off the Thames Estuary.

How well I recall listening to Radio Caroline in my teenage years, trying to make out what it was actually playing as, thanks to the miracle of night-time atmospherics, radio broadcasts from such far-flung lands as Russia, Turkey and Romania would overpower its signal, drifting in and out like rude but casual visitors. How big and mysterious those ghostly signals made the world seem back then. How much smaller modern technology has made it become.

But lovers of the enigmatic need fear not, because there are still mysteries in this world.

And one of them is what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to thirty eight years and one month ago.

Somehow, I suspect it's still going to be a mystery, even after I've completed this post.

Interesting to see that Prog 154 features Judge Dredd's Hall of Heroes. I have absolutely no idea what that involved. Was it a collection of Judge Dredd's heroes? Were they just general, all-purpose heroes? Were they my heroes? Were they your heroes? Were they real? Were they fictional?

Whoever they were, Prog 155 tells us their hall involves 2D holograms, which sounds very futuristic, although I was under the impression that the whole point of holograms is that they're 3D. That's definitely what they told us on Tomorrow's World whenever they went on about them.

Also on that cover, it's nice to see you can, "Vape a space-invader," which conjures up images of aliens being made to use e-cigarettes. How the English language can change in thirty eight years.

Prog 156 launches the epic tale of the Judge Child. I remember the title but recall little of the actual story. Did Dredd have to guard him, or did he have to stop him? Did he have to do both?

Prog 157 was, apparently, not for sale on Earth. And yet my local newsagent was happily selling it. I have a good mind to report him to the authorities.

Finally, Prog 158 gives The Fiends of the Eastern Front a rare cover appearance. After all these weeks, I still recall nothing of their strip.

2000 AD Prog 154, Robo-Hunter

2000 AD Prog 155

2000 AD Prog 156, Judge Dredd, the Judge Child

2000 AD Prog 157

2000 AD Prog 158

Thursday, 12 April 2018

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

This week in 1978 was a bit boring. I can find nothing of any interest that happened in it, anywhere in the world. Nor was there anything good on BBC television on the 12th of April. Clearly, denied any kind of stimulation, we were all going to have to take refuge in the contents of our favourite comics.

And, forty years later, I'm going to do it again.

Star Wars Weekly #10

I really don't know what's going on on that cover. Where are they? It's clearly not the Death Star. And why are they all stood in a box?

Whatever's going on, I'm sure there's a good reason for them to be in it and I'm sure that, whatever that reason is, it can only spell curtains for the evil empire.

Rampage #26, the Defenders

The Defenders would appear to be up against a rampaging electric eel monster.

More importantly, the Guardians of the Galaxy have shown up, thanks to being trapped in the present.

With such a development, surely an interplanetary epic can only be just around the corner.

It would appear that the original issue of Giant-Size Defenders from which this tale originated also featured a reprint of Daredevil's very first meeting with Nighthawk, from back in the days before Nighthawk turned good.

It also seems to have featured that Captain Marvel Hostess Twinkies ad in which our hero comes up against Nitro. That was always my favourite Hostess Twinkies ad. I'm not sure what it says about me that I had a favourite Hostess Twinkies ad.

The Complete Fantastic Four #29, Thing vs Thing

My knowledge of this tale is almost non-existent but it would appear that Arkon is still loitering around and  that we get our first sighting of  the legendary Gaard.

Obviously, when I say, "Legendary..."

Mighty World of Marvel #289, Hulk vs The Circus of Crime

It's true! The Hulk is doomed! He's being attacked by the Circus of Crime! What possible hope can the world's mightiest mortal have against two acrobats and a clown?

We all like an optimist but I think the Ringmaster sometimes takes the art of positive thinking a little too far.

Super Spider-Man #270, Brother Power and Sister Sun

Brother Power and Sister Sun are still causing chaos for our web-spinning hero.

What exactly were their powers? I can't remember. I am sort of assuming that they have the power of the sun but wouldn't that mean they'd simply be able to incinerate Spider-Man? A feat they clearly failed to perform.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1978.

Just two nights ago, I took a look at what Marvel's big hitters were up to in the books that had an April 1978 cover date. But, as we all know, Marvel didn't get to be the behemoths that they are by only publishing popular comics. They also brought out more low-profile, less-celebrated or just plain quirkier fare. And, as I do every month, it's time for me to look at a small selection of that other output.

Devil Dinosaur #1

A hero like no other hits the Marvel universe, as Devil Dinosaur and his own personal Rick Jones, Moon-Boy, begin their rampage around prehistory, in a tale that any paleontologist would, no doubt, be horrified by.

It's a strange thing. I've never read a single issue of Devil Dinosaur and yet I am oddly aware of him and his origin.

Doctor Strange #28,the In-Betweener

Up until now, I was unaware that the In-Betweener had ever appeared outside of stories that featured Adam Warlock. Knowing what little I do of him, I do find it hard to believe Dr Strange could take him on in a fight.

Kull the Destroyer #26

Seeing the blurb on the cover has just made me realise that, at this time, the Marvel universe possessed at least four different versions of Atlantis; the one in The Sub-Mariner, the one in Kull, the one in The Eternals and the one in The Man From Atlantis. What kind of water-logged madness was this?

Machine Man #1

Jack Kirby had clearly gone into creative overdrive. Not only do we get the launch of Devil Dinosaur this month, we also get the unveiling of a brand new comic for Machine Man.



Marvel Premiere #41, Seeker 3000

I think I can remember this being reprinted in the pages of Marvel UK's Star Wars Weekly, although, beyond Tom Sutton drawing it, I recall nothing at all of the strip itself. I am assuming it held strong hints of the works of Gene Roddenberry but I could be totally wrong in that suspicion.

Marvel Preview #14, Star-Lord

Star-Lord was another space-roaming strip that found its way into the pages of Star Wars Weekly.

I recall slightly more of it than I do of Seeker 3000 but, in truth, not a lot more. I remember John Byrne drawing it and I remember Carmine Infantino drawing it. I remember our hero having a living spaceship.

Anyway, it's a Jim Starlin cover, so that seems like a good enough reason to feature it.

Power Man (and Iron Fist) #50

It's issue #50 of Power Man and he celebrates the milestone by losing full control of his own comic and having to share it, from now on, with Iron Fist.

On the positive side for him, I am led to believe that, in this tale, he's finally been exonerated of the alleged crimes that forced him to cunningly disguise his true identity by changing his name from Lucas to Luke. It's no wonder the law-enforcement agencies had struggled to see though a brilliant ruse like that one.

Rampaging Hulk #8

I do believe that, in this issue, the Hulk finds himself up against a Krylorian who, for some reason, has disguised himself as Iron Man. This accidentally leads to the involvement of the real Iron Man, Thor, the Wasp and Ant-Man, giving us a meeting of the original Avengers before they officially met in Avengers #1.

Spider-Woman #1

Not content with giving us brand new mags for Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur, Marvel also gives us the adventures of Spider-Woman.

I remember her stories being reprinted in one of Marvel UK's mags but, other than a scene in which she was crying at a graveside, I recall nothing at all of her activities. Was she literally supposed to be a spider who'd been turned into a woman, or is my imagination just running away with me?

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Forty years ago today - April 1978.

April 1978 saw the debut of a show that changed the world, as Dallas was launched upon our unsuspecting minds and, within two years, had us all wondering who shot J.R.

It was Kristin.

No one's told me that. I've just worked it out, with my encyclopedic knowledge of the show and incredible deductive powers.

Thinking about it, I don't even remember who Kristin was or why she shot J.R. In fact, I can't even remember her being in it. I do remember she was played by Mary Crosby who I do believe was related to the Bing of the same surname.

Well, people may have wanted to kill J.R. but he didn't know how lucky he was. Marvel's greatest heroes had to put up with people trying to kill them every single day of their lives. It's a miracle they didn't end up with a complex.

Avengers #170, Jocasta

Jocasta is back.

I wish I could say more about it than that but that's pretty much all I'm certain of. Is this the story in which Ant-Man takes on the rest of the Avengers, with his devastating ant powers, or am I thinking of another story completely?

Conan the Barbarian #85

At last we get the origin of Zula!

I say, "At last," but I think this was only his second ever appearance.

Needless to say, I don't remember what his origin was. I'm going to have a stab at guessing that it involved the death of his parents and him being raised by a wizard before killing the evil king who was to blame for the death of his parents. It's a comic. The death of parents has to be involved.

Fantastic Four #193, Darkoth is back

Darkoth is back.

Apparently, this issue sees the Thing's attempts at testing an experimental plane be foiled by Diablo. Contrary to the impression given by the cover, it seems that Darkoth is actually on Benjy's side in all this.

Incredible Hulk #222

I remember this one. From what I can recall, it was a Jim Starlin/Alfredo Alcala epic about a giant, mutated child in a cave who eats people.

Needless to say, he bites off more than he can chew when he decides to nibble on the Hulk. With its themes of cannibalism, caverns and malformed children, it all seemed noticeably darker than Hulk tales normally did.

Iron Man #109

This one means nothing to me but it would appear that it features the return of the Crimson Dynamo, although, sadly, not the original Crimson Dynamo.

Amazing Spider-Man #179, the Green Goblin and Silvermane

Spidey is still having trouble with the fake Green Goblin and Silvermane.

I have no idea how Silvermane is alive in this tale, given that, the last time I encountered him, he'd been de-aged into non-existence. That seems like the kind of fate you don't come back from.

Spectacular Spider-Man #17

As far as I can make out, the villain facing Spidey and the Angel in this tale is, in reality, the Iceman, heavily disguised and under the control of some wrongdoer or other.

The Angel's red and white outfit was always my favourite of the costumes he wore. I'm not convinced his gloves and boots should have been yellow though.

Thor #270, Blastaar

Blastaar is causing problems for the stormy super-doer. He does seem to be shooting our hero square in the genitals. In fairness to Thor, he doesn't seem to be letting the total destruction of his reproductive organs bother him.

X-Men #110, Warhawk

Unless I miss my guess, this is one of those Dreaded Deadline Doom fill-in issues that were always a major letdown when you encountered them. In this case, it was especially annoying, given the highs the strip had been giving us in the preceding issues.
Captain America and the Falcon #220, the Ameridroid

I genuinely don't have a clue what's going on with this one. I've never even heard of the Ameridroid. Nor do I know why anyone would create such a thing.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

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



At last, the day that all music lovers have been desperate for has arrived to hit us, smack in the canvas, as, in this week of 1978, Brian and Michael hit the UK Number One slot, with their timeless tune Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs, only the second act that I can think of to have hit the UK top slot by singing about an artist. The other was, of course, Don McLean, way back in 1971, with his delicate ballad Vincent.

I wish I could say Brian and Michael's effort shared the haunting beauty of that song but the truth is I've just been on YouTube to listen to their hit again, for the first time in years and, frankly, it's terrible. Still, despite that, thanks to having no taste at all, I have a strange fondness for it.

I do recall once hearing Sheffield's equivalent of L.S. Lowry, Joe Scarborough, remark that, "Old man Lowry," as he always called him, would have hated the song because he hated people saying he painted matchstick men. Poor old Brian and Michael. I'm sure they did their best.

But while Lowry may have been a highly sought-after artist, nothing can compare to the artistic skills of those who worked for Marvel Comics and it's time to see just what works of art were being removed from the shelves of newsagents on this day of that week of that month of that year.

Mighty World of Marvel #288, Hulk vs the Circus of Crime

It's always good to see a Jim Starlin cover on the front of Mighty World of Marvel, if only because it brings to mind the heady days of 1972 when he used to be Marvel UK's main cover artist. Granted, this one is a second-hand cover but it's still a corker.

In the back-up strips, the Black Widow has to battle Man-Bull alone, thanks to Daredevil having been shot.

I do recall that she doesn't exactly set the world on fire in her attempt and gets a great big horn stuck in her for her troubles. This was a major disappointment for me, as I would like to think the Black Widow has some actual fighting skills.

Meanwhile, someone is turning the people of San Francisco into replica man-bulls. It's all go-go-go when you're a costumed crime-fighter.

Elsewhere, Captain Marvel is up against Mercurio and his power to both freeze you and incinerate you simultaneously.

And even more elsewhere, Nick Fury and his howling commandos are up against Baron Strucker.

Star Wars Weekly #9

In the wake of Obi-Wan Kenobi's demise, our heroes continue their battle with the forces of darkness.

Rampage #25, the Defenders

I genuinely don't know what this story is. Looking at the covers of the original Defenders comics, this issue should feature the first Defenders/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover but the cover suggests it's a totally different tale whose original source is totally unknown to me.

The Complete Fantastic Four #28

All I know about this tale is that it features Ben Grimm and Sue Grimm from an alternate dimension.

Still, it's always nice to see the Thing taking on a dinosaur, even if it looks like it just wants to be left alone.

Super Spider-Man #269, Brother Power and Sister Sun

Brother Power and Sister Sun make their senses-shattering debut and Flash Thompson discovers that Sha Shan is being forced to help her husband run a cult. She didn't have a happy life, did she? She just seemed to blunder from one crisis to another. I just feel like writing a story now, called The Sha Shan Redemption.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #6

With the usual Marvel UK logic, issue #6 of the happy Hyborian's British mag reprints issue #17 of its American equivalent. It's things like that that helped to keep us all on our toes.

I have to say the cover on this version is printed a lot lighter than it was on the US mag. Whether that's a good thing or not, I'm not altogether certain. On the one hand, it is now possible to actually see the picture. On the other, it does rob it of much of its power and intrigue.

As for the insides, the main story would appear to be another John Buscema/Alfredo Alcala smorgasbord of artistic excellence.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...