Thursday, 17 January 2019

January 17th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

There can't have been many occasions in the history of Marvel UK when every comic published that week was a landmark issue but that was certainly the case in this week of January 1979.

But just what were those landmarks?

And were they good ones or bad ones?

Star Wars Weekly #50

Landmark No.1.

Not only does our favourite space saga reach its 50th issue but the old Kirbyesque corner box is replaced by a segment of the Brothers Hildebrandt movie poster.

We also get out our first ever photo cover - something that'll become a common practice for a brief spell.

When it comes to the insides, we get an article confirming there'll be a second Star Wars movie and that all our favourite stars'll be back for it.

The comic's Illustrated History of Science Fiction has reached the subsection, "Heroes." I've no info on who's covered by it but, bearing in mind his influence on Star Wars, I'll be amazed if Flash Gordon doesn't get a mention.

In the backup strips, the astronaut who's been mistaken for a demon, by a bunch of old-style witch hunters, gets his revenge when his mates show up.

Meanwhile, Adam Warlock's fighting a man called Autolycus, in his attempts to get to the heart of the Universal Church of Truth, and the comic announces the Micronauts' strip will be beginning next issue, mere weeks after it was first launched in the States.

Mighty World of Marvel #329, the Hulk

Landmark No. 2.

It's time for tears as this week brings us the last ever issue of the original Mighty World of Marvel.

Admittedly, it'll be revived at a later date, as a monthly title and, as far as I'm aware, it's still going now but the weekly incarnation, which had launched Marvel UK, all the way back in 1972, breathes its last with this issue.

Bearing in mind its significance, I wish I could reveal details of its historic contents but, other than the Hulk tale, I'm in the dark.

Having said that, I don't know much about the Hulk tale either. He seems to be up against some sort of robot parrot from outer space. I'm assuming this issue reprints the December 1978 dated Incredible Hulk #230 and involves farming and crops and other things a city slicker like me would never understand.

Super Spider-Man #310, the Scorpion

Landmark No. 3.

It's time for even more tears because this is the last issue of the comic that began life as Spider-Man Comics Weekly in 1973.

Granted, it'll be relaunched next week, as Spider-Man Comic but, somehow, despite the strips within continuing seamlessly from this issue, it never felt like it was the same book.

At least the old title goes out in style with a rather appealing Keith Pollard cover.

I do believe the Scorpion's still out to get J Jonah Jameson.

Meanwhile, the Avengers are tackling the Black Talon, the man I can't resist calling, "The Human Chicken," - or at least the Scarlet Witch is, as he's already taken the other Avengers out of the fight.

Elsewhere, the comic trumpets the imminent arrival of the New X-Men in the pages of Rampage Monthly.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - January 1979.

What do we want?

The Past!

When do we want it?


And that can only mean it's time for me to once more investigate what Marvel's less glamorous titles of the 1970s were up to, as I take a look at some of the company's more offbeat offerings which bore the cover date of January 1979.

The Human Fly #17

Unbelievably, the Human Fly's comic is still going.

Not for long, however. As far as I can make out, his comic now has just two issues left to live. All of which proves that you can survive standing around on top of a jumbo jet but you can't survive reader apathy.

When it comes to this issue, it would appear that our hero's latest job, as a human cannonball, leads to nothing but trouble for him.

It would be nice to imagine that it transpires that the carnival he's signed up with is actually the Circus of Crime and that, now, having discovered its true intent, he has to thwart its latest attempt at criminality but, sadly, I've encountered no evidence at all to suggest that any such thing happens.

The Micronauts #1

Hooray! The Micronauts make their microscope challenging debuts, with the tale of what happens when Commander Rann wakes from suspended animation, only to discover that Baron Karza's taken over the whole Microverse.

As I've said before, I never knew what to make of The Micronauts when the strip turned up in Marvel UK's Star Wars Weekly. On the one hand, it was clearly much better than it should have been. On the other, it was about toys.

Did this mean I should like it?

Did this mean I shouldn't like it?

I could never decide.

And yes, I did always misread the villain's name as, "Baron Khazi." I can only blame Carry On films for being a bad influence on me.

But it's interesting to see that Karza is the figure depicted in the corner box, rather than any of the strip's heroes, which is the equivalent of putting Doc Doom in the FF's corner box, or Kang in the Avengers'.

Marvel Treasury Edition #19, Conan the Barbarian

I do believe this Treasury Edition reprints Buscema and Alcala's magnificent Iron Shadows in the Moon - but in colour.

How could anyone not want to own such a thing?

This book also reprints Alex Niño's highly memorable People of the Dark from Savage Sword of Conan #6.

Red Sonja #13

I'm including this purely because it's a blatant homage to Frank Frazetta's painting The Mammoth, a fact which gives me remarkable pleasure.

Not that it does Sonja any good. Like the Human Fly, she has just two issues to go before she meets her doom.

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle #20, Marvel Comics

I really don't know what Tarzan's doing to Zabu there but it's probably best not to consider it too deeply.

Marvel Super Special, Battlestar Galactica

Hooray! Not content with giving us one Star Wars rip-off - with the Micronauts - this month, Marvel gives us a second, as we get an adaptation of the pilot of the TV show that wanted to be Star Wars so badly that it hurt.

My main memory of both this adaptation and the original pilot episode is that whenever those women with four eyes and two mouths appeared, it made my brain hurt as it instinctively battled to turn them into women with two eyes and one mouth.

Strangely, there were two versions of this book published at the same time. One was the version, depicted here which, if I remember rightly, had a magazine-type format, while the other was in the form of a Treasury Edition.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Forty years ago today - January 1979.

The Past. Where is it?

Right here!

And how do we get to it?

Like this!

Avengers #179, Bloodhawk

I don't have the slightest clue who Bloodhawk is but the internet tells me his father was a geneticist who wanted to expand mankind's evolutionary potential and, thus,  experimented on his own unborn child, turning it into Bloodhawk. Unwilling to raise the child, he then abandoned him on a living island.

I think it's a situation we can all relate to.

But I've no idea if the living island is the same one that turned up in the New X-Men's first adventure, or how the Avengers came to be involved in all of this.
Conan the barbarian #94

I was going to complain that those are the smallest lions I've ever seen.

Then I realised they're baboons.

I'm no David Attenborough.

Neither is Conan, judging by the way he's all revving up to slaughter the lot of them.

This story features a character called Lasanga, a name I can't avoid misreading as, "Lasagne."

Captain America #229

Judging by that cover, this one looks to be somewhat overstuffed with characters.

It seems the Blue Streak's revealed to be a spy for The Corporation.

I don't have a clue who the Blue Streak is.

For that matter, I don't have a clue who The Corporation are either.
Daredevil #156, DD vs DD

We now have a cover which seems to feature Daredevil vs Daredevil while Matt Murdock watches on.

It seems this may all be some kind of dream sequence being visited upon a comatose Matt.

Whatever's going on, it does bring to mind those early Iron Man tales when Tony Stark would have to don his old armour, in order to fight some wrongdoer who'd stolen his current armour.

Fantastic Four #202, Quasimodo

I don't have a clue what's going on in this one but I do know Quasimodo was always one of my least favourite villains, so I doubt I'd like this story.

It is, though, strangely charming to see Sue futilely bouncing invisible tennis balls off Quasimodo's head.

Incredible Hulk #231

It's another one where I don't have a clue what happens inside but that's a Herb Trimpe cover, a fact which presses my nostalgia buttons, and it's pleasing to see the Hulk looking so menacing. I, therefore, have no doubt I would have bought it, had I seen it on the comics racks at the time.

Iron Man #118

Now Tony Stark's got problems. A bunch of SHIELD agents want to kill him, in order to gain control of his company and make it start to produce munitions again.

Spectacular Spider-Man #26, Daredevil and the Masked Marauder

Someone at Marvel clearly needs a lot of convincing that the Masked Marauder's not a great villain because he's back again - and, inevitably, he succeeds in blinding our hero.

Thor #279, Pluto, Ulik and Jane Foster

That bounder Pluto's kidnapped Jane Foster and hung her in a pose guaranteed to get the attention of teenage boys.

I assume this is to lure Thor into his dark domain, rather than just being an act of random happenstance.

X-Men #117

Is this the first appearance of The Shadow King?

I have read this tale but not in a long time. Does it involve Professor X in Morocco, coming up against a fez-wearing crime lord who's also a deadly mutant with a massive ego?

Amazing Spider-Man #188, Jigsaw

This cover's noticeably reminiscent of the one from issue #28 in which the Molten Man made his first appearance. I assume this isn't coincidence, although I fail to see any parallels between Jigsaw and the Molten Man.

As Jigsaw's managed to miss Spidey, with four different shots, from a distance of ten feet, it doesn't exactly create the impression that he's a deadly menace.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

January 10th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Spider-Man Comics, January 1979 house ad, Marvel UK, Dez Skinn, marvel revolution
We're well into January 1979. And that means we're just two weeks away from Dez Skinn's Marvel Revolution which'll make our favourite comics company almost unrecognisable.

Already, the ads are appearing for the new mags we'll be getting in our lives. We're enthusiastically told that Spider-Man Comic is coming and that it'll have a whopping six strips in it!

How is this magnificent feat to be achieved? Is it going to have extra pages? Is it going to see a return to the landscape format some of us will forever hold dear to our hearts?

Only time will tell.

But, for now, let's see what treasures Marvel UK has in store for us before these epic changes occur.

Star Wars Weekly #49

As always, as far as I'm concerned, the Star Wars story could be about anything, but I do know this issue also gives us a Tales of the Watcher masterpiece with the magnificent title The Cave of Shaggdorr!

I can't help feeling Sez Dez should have thought better of printing that one.

In another of this issue's back-up stories, an insect-like space creature is captured, in the age of the witch hunts, tried, convicted and sentenced to be burnt at the stake.

From what I can recall, I'm fairly certain the twist is that the, "alien," is actually a human astronaut in a spacesuit which merely resembles an insect and that the planet he's landed on is not Earth at all but one that closely replicates it.

I'm also fairly sure Marvel UK had already published it previously, either in an earlier issue of Star Wars Weekly or in Planet of the Apes.

Mighty World of Marvel #328, the Hulk

Fear for your tractors because the Hulk finds himself up against an insect-like alien.

I'm hoping it's not the poor bloke from that story in Star Wars Weekly. Doesn't he have enough on his plate without having to fight the Hulk as well?

But wait! What madness is this? It's January 1979 and Mighty World of Marvel is giving us a Hulk tale that was cover-dated, "December 1978," when first published in the US.

How is Marvel UK going to get round this problem of having caught up with the American originals? How?

Super Spider-Man #309, the Scorpion

I do believe this is the tale in which the Scorpion becomes convinced he can't get his costume off and decides to kill J Jonah Jameson, in revenge.

Other than that, I know nothing of this issue's contents, which is a bit sad, bearing in mind that the book is rapidly approaching its demise.

I do know, though, that that's not the greatest cover I've ever seen on a comic.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - January 1969.

Hold on to your hats, true believers, because, before launching into my look at what Marvel's less glamourable heroes were up to in the books that bear this date of exactly fifty years ago, I have to make an earth-shattering announcement. Not to be outdone by the rest of the internet, Steve Does Comics now has a Patreon page which, I think, can be found by clicking on this very link.

To be honest, it's rubbish because I don't know what I'm doing but if there's anything you'd like to see added to it, in terms of incentives/rewards/content and the like, feel free to say so in the comments section below.

In the meantime, back to what you actually came here for:

January 1969 kicked off with Marmalade's version of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da at Number One on the UK singles chart.

That was then knocked off the top slot by the Scaffold's Lily the Pink which was then itself knocked off the top by Marmalade's Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.

The reader with a good memory will recall that Lily the Pink had already been Number One the previous month, before being kicked off its throne by Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, meaning both songs had gone to Number One twice and both songs had succeeded in knocking the other off the top slot.

As if that wasn't thrilling enough, there was also another version of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da on the chart that month, which was by the Bedrocks.

The one version of the song you wouldn't find on the chart was the one by the Beatles. Convinced it'd be a Number One, Paul McCartney'd lobbied for it to be released as a single but, fed up of playing it over and over again in the studio, the other Beatles had vetoed it.

Eventually, all this madness subsided and the month ended with Albatross by Fleetwood Mac at the top of the pile.

But, obviously, the real source of excitement for all true music fans, that month, was the presence on the singles chart of Mother Kelly's Doorstep by Danny La Rue.

When it came to albums, only two LPs ruled the UK roost that January and they were the Beatles' White Album, followed by The Best of the Seekers. I genuinely don't think I've ever heard any tracks by the Seekers in my entire life.

The New Seekers, on the other hand....

Captain Marvel #9

I know nothing of this issue, other than it features a character called Cyberex, which, to me, sounds more like the name of an international robotics convention than it does a super-villain.

Dr Strange #176

Strange and Clea are still battling the Sons of Satannish.

I do believe this is the story that leads to the good doctor adopting his, "Super-hero," costume.

Memory fails me as to why he needed it. Wasn't it because he wasn't allowed to re-enter our dimension and needed a disguise that could hoodwink the universe, in order to do it?

Or something?

Marvel Super-Heroes #18, Guardians of the Galaxy

Hooray! It's the start of a whole new era as the Guardians of the Galaxy make their star-spanning debut and, for the first time, the world gets to meet Groot, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon...

...Oh. Hold on. It's none of those people.

Instead, it's some other people.

And they're up against the Badoon, surely the worst race of aliens Marvel has ever come up with. Which is saying something, bearing in mind Marvel came up with the Krylorians.

I first read this tale in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes. I can't say it exactly impressed me, although I did later develop a fondness for the team, thanks to their 1970s adventures.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #8

As always with SHIELD tales, I've never read this one.

However, it appears that someone called Supremus is ordering SHIELD to disband in the wake of Nick Fury's death.

Needless to say, no one at all listens to Supremus and reports of Fury's death turn out to be highly premature.

Sub-Mariner #9

I don't have a clue what happens in this one but I do know that it, apparently, features the first appearance of both Naga and Karthon.

I don't have a clue who either of those people are but they seem to be involved with the Serpent Crown and that can only mean bad news for the Sub-Mariner.

I believe I do detect a Herb Trimpe cover with fairly major alterations by other hands.

The Steve Does Comics mug, featuring Liz Sanford, the department of occult investigations, angry and holding a gun, cartoon, drawing, stephen walker

I've been called a mug many times in my life but, at last, it's literally true because the magnificent Steve Does Comics mug is now available from Teespring, in the USA, EU and UK.

One side features this site's lovely logo and the other features a drawing I once did of Liz Sanford, the tireless heroine of my Department of Occult Investigation stories.

Granted, I don't see what she has to do with this site but I felt I should put a picture of something on the reverse side and this one just happens to have the right colour scheme.

The mug's available for £11.99 in the UK and an equivalent price in Dollars/Euros elsewhere. So, if you're desperate for something to drink out of, why not try drinking from the blog that refuses to die?

The Steve Does Comics mug is produced specially to order and can be bought by clicking on this particular link.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Fifty years ago this month - January 1969.

If there was one set of people who were delighted when January 1969 arrived, it was people who like to sit down and bounce around.

That's because it was the month in which the Space Hopper was introduced to Britain.

I could write now about the hours of fun I had on my Space Hopper but I never had one.

I do remember having a go on someone else's but, to be honest, it was one of those things, like pogo sticking, whose appeal faded very rapidly once you realised it involved far more work than fun.

Elsewhere that month, Pete Best, the man who must himself have felt like a Space Hopper, the way he'd been bounced out of the Beatles, won his defamation suit against the Fab Four. Exactly what they'd said that he hadn't liked, I've no idea but I do know he'd been after an $8 million settlement but ended up having to accept far less.

Speaking of the Fabs; that month, they performed live, for the final time, on the rooftop of Apple Records, before the police showed up to ruin the fun.

Avengers #60, the wedding of the Wasp

It's one of those magnificent Marvel weddings where every super-hero in town shows up - and so do a bunch of super-villains.

You might think you'd need a doctorate in Idiocy to attack the Avengers Mansion when every hero in the Marvel Universe is inside it but the Circus of Crime passed that course with honours, and so it is that the gang who once got their backsides whupped by Daredevil tackle the mightiest super-team of them all and, at last, the not-so-stunning truth about Yellowjacket's true identity is revealed.

Captain America #109

In a sensational development no one could have seen coming, the book decides to break new ground and give us its 95th retelling of Cap's origin.

You know, I'm sure I write this same plot summary every month. It really does feel like Groundhog Day sometimes.

Possibly more intriguingly, this issue's letters page contains a missive from the pen of Don McGregor.

Captain America #109

If that's not one of Gene Colan's greatest DD covers, then I'm a pair of stilts.

It's true. The man who, I suppose, was technically Daredevil's arch-enemy is back, to try and put a stop to Foggy Nelson's attempt to become DA.

As I can see no other reason why Stilty would do it, I'm assuming some meddlesome manipulator like Richard Raleigh or the Masked Marauder must have put him up to it.

Needless to say, our hero puts a stop to such fiendish plans and Foggy is duly elected.

Fantastic Four #82, the Inhumans

The FF are back in the Great Refuge and I've no doubt Maximus is up to no good again.

To be honest, I really don't recall anything about this tale, other than that it existed.

Incredible Hulk #111

On the other hand, I recall plenty about this one.

Abducted by aliens, the Hulk decides to start dismantling their ship around them.

Fortunately for all concerned, it manages to arrive back home before it's too late.

But that only sets up the Hulk for a clash with the Galaxy Master, the most menacing mouth in comics.

Iron Man #9, the Hulk

I think I vaguely remember this one. Isn't, "The Hulk," actually an android creation of the Mandarin?

Beyond that, I've no idea what Mandy's plan is or why it involves a robot Hulk.

Robot Hulks seemed to be popular with super-villains. I recall both Doctor Doom and the Mad Thinker using them at various points.

Amazing Spider-Man #68, crisis on campus

Stan the Man gets radical, as the students of ESU protest about something or other and the Kingpin decides to use the disruption as a smokescreen while he and his men steal a priceless tablet that's being kept on display there.

Thor #160, Galactus

Galactus is causing all kinds of trouble for the colonisers of Rigel, and Thor must go to their aid.

X-Men #52, Erik the Red

After all these years, I still know nothing of Erik the Red. Wasn't he Cyclops in disguise?

If so, I don't have a clue why he was doing it.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

January 3rd, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Is there one place in this world that you know it's fun to stay at?

You know there is.

Is there one place where they have everything for young men to enjoy?

You know there is.

Is there one place where you can hang out with all the boys?

You know there is.

And that's why the first week of January 1979 saw the Village People storm to the Number One spot on the UK singles chart.

Few records say, "1979," to me more than Y.M.C.A. does, although I did, at the time, have a friend who refused, point blank, to believe there was any gay subtext to the song.

Over on the LP chart, it was great news for those who didn't like 1970s-style 1950s revivalism because, at last, the Grease soundtrack had been knocked off the top slot.

Admittedly, it was also terrible news for people who didn't like 1970s-style 1950s revivalism because the album that replaced it was Showaddywaddy's Greatest Hits (1976-1978). Much as I love Showaddywaddy (or, "The Wad," as I know them), a greatest hits package that only covers two years seems a little redundant to me. I mean, you could just buy their last two albums.

Over on BBC One on this very night of forty years ago, we were being treated to Let's Go Naked, a documentary about the rise in popularity of naturism. I do remember my Religious Education teacher, the next day, complaining that, when it came to the naked people it featured, "None of them were beauties." It's weird the things that stick in your memory for four decades.

With all that nude trauma out of the way, let's see just what our favourite comics were up to, with just three issues to go before the Marvel Revolution.

Star Wars Weekly #48

It's that rare thing, an issue of Star Wars Weekly whose cover I actually remember.

Admittedly, I remember nothing of the Star Wars tale it represents.

I do know, however, that, deep in the depths of space, Adam Warlock is becoming aware of the existence of the Universal Church of Truth. But who can be the evil genius behind it? Who?

Savage Sword of Conan #15

In this action-packed issue, we get a tale in which Conan goes back to Cimmeria, only to discover his childhood sweetheart's been abducted.

At the end of the tale, she's dead and her abductors are also dead. What a happy little world it is that Conan inhabits.

We also get an article about the upcoming Conan movie.

On top of that, there's an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's Black Abyss. I assume that's a Kull tale. It would appear to feature a giant, man-eating slug. How a slug can move fast enough to eat a man, I have no idea - unless he's already dead, in which case he's not going to care if he's being eaten by a giant slug.

Red Sonja, on the other hand, is up against a werewolf - something that I suspect she is going to care about.

Mighty World of marvel #327, Doc Samson and the Hulk

Moonstone's still causing nothing but trouble.

Back in Manhattan, the Baxter Building's been taken over by Klaw and the Molecule Man. Fortunately, the Impossible Man's on hand to sort them out - but not before the Molecule Man takes possession of Reed!

Elsewhere, in the slippery swamps of Florida, Daredevil's up against the Gladiator and Death-Stalker, as the treacherous twosome are involved in intrigue surrounding the disappearance of Ted Sallis and the super-soldier formula he was working on.

Super Spider-Man #308, Lightmaster

My knowledge of this issue is extremely patchy but I do believe Lightmaster's kidnapped Hector Ayala, in the belief that he's Spider-Man, not realising he's actually the White Tiger.

Rampage #7, the Hulk

I could be misremembering but I'm pretty sure that, despite appearances, the giant eyeball thingy isn't a creature of the supernatural but is, in fact, one of the many creations that inhabit Bereet's purse. Quite why they're in her purse and how they've got out, I cannot claim to recall.

I do believe that's a Jim Starlin cover, though.

Starburst #6, Blake's 7, the Liberator

Hooray! This was the first issue of Starburst I ever owned. I got it from W. H. Smiths, on my way to being inoculated against some disease or other. Happily, whatever disease that was, I didn't get it and I'm still here to boast of it.

As for Starburst, this issue's main point of excitement for me was that it contained a lengthy interview with dalek creator Terry Nation.

As I've always wanted to be a dalek, this was a very pleasing thing for me indeed. Needless to say, he also spoke about Davros and Blake's 7.
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