Thursday, 13 December 2018

December 13th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

What a massively different place the world of exactly four decades ago was. Why, in this week of forty years ago, an embattled British government, kept in power solely by an alliance with a minor party, found itself forced to face a vote of No Confidence, as its grasp on power threatened to collapse into chaos. You couldn't imagine that sort of thing happening nowadays.

Fortunately, back then, there was escape available at the local picture house, which was showing Superman.

Released in this week of 1978, the tale of wholesome heroism quickly became the second-biggest grossing film of the year, behind Grease, which is a remarkable achievement, bearing in mind it earned all that money in just three weeks. It went on to become the 6th biggest grossing movie of all time.

Star Wars #45

I know little of the contents of this issue but I do know it sees the arrival of Adam Warlock's strip. I'm assuming we start with the launch of Jim Starlin's Thanos/Magus epic.

We also get a half-page advert alerting us that Marvel's Micronauts strip is soon to be joining the book.

I was always unsure what to think of that strip. On the one hand, it was based on a bunch of toys, which all sense told me meant it couldn't be any good. On the other, thanks to its Bill Mantlo scripts and its art by Michael Golden, it was clearly far better than such a thing should be.

Clearly far worse than it should have been was the football match between Tongham Youth Club and Surrey & Hawley in November 1969. By the end of it, all twenty two players had been booked and another hospitalised.

How do I know this? And what does it have to do with Star Wars?

Yes, you guessed it. This issue's back cover features another of those full-page Smiths' Crisps football ads that taught me far more about the game than Match of the Day ever did.

Mighty World of Marvel #324, Hulk vs Moonstone

Other than knowing the Hulk's up against Moonstone, I genuinely have no information at all about what occurs in this one.

I shall therefore assume the FF are still out to rescue Agatha Harkness from the clutches of her home town and that Daredevil's still up against the Mandrill and Nekra.

I've just discovered that Nekra's real name is Nekra Sinclair.

Wait. What? Hold on a minute. Her parents called her, "Nekra?" What kind of a name is that to give your kid?

I can say nothing of the whereabouts of Iron Man this issue.

Super Spider-Man #305, the Enforcers

Hooray, the Enforcers are back!

I do believe they're working for Lightmaster. Quite what Lightmaster's plan is, I, tragically, cannot recall but I've a feeling it has something to do with a plot to kidnap the White Tiger in a case of mistaken identity.

All I know of this issue's other contents are that, in the Avengers' tale, Thor's up against Orka and starting to come to the realisation that Moondragon's claims that he's slumming it by mixing with the rest of the team might be true.

Meanwhile, the other Avengers have been captured and Hellcat's about to get into a fight with a man called Baxter, who I think might be her ex-husband, but don't quote me on that, as it's a long time since I last read it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - December 1978.

Hark? Do you hear it? As you negotiate the breakers of Nostalgia? The dread siren call that can only be the Marvel Lucky Bag, demanding you hoist your main sails and investigate once more what was happening in some of Marvel's less high-profile books of forty years ago?

Avengers Annual #8

I really don't have a clue what's going on in this one, other than that it seems to have a zillion and one guest stars.

It also seems to feature a female version of Dr Spectrum.

This tips me off that the tale is likely to feature the Squadron Sinister, to some degree or other.

Given the propensity for the Squadron Supreme to also show up in The Avengers, it does raise the question of whether the Squadron Supreme have ever fought the Squadron Sinister and, if they have, just how did everyone in the fight avoid becoming totally confused as to whose side who was on?

Defenders #66, the Valkyrie goes to Asgard

It's taken a long time but the Valkyrie finally visits Asgard.

Apparently, she's there to fight Ollerus the Unmerciful.

I don't have a clue who he is but I've no doubt he's nothing but trouble.

It would seem Hela and Harokin are also in this tale, so I assume a trip to the Afterlife is involved. Bearing in mind the Valkyrie is nominally a Valkyrie - even though she never really acts like one - this would make sense.

Godzilla #17

It's the story you thought you'd never see; Godzilla terrorised by Dum-Dum Dugan.

It's all thanks to SHIELD using Hank Pym's shrinking gas on him.

I does make you wonder why they've never used it on the Hulk. Wouldn't that make him a bit easier to contain?

Then again, doesn't Hank Pym retain his full strength when he shrinks down to ant size? Doesn't that mean a doll-sized Godzilla should also retain his own full strength as well?

Then again, if shrinking doesn't reduce Hank Pym's strength, how come growing to giant size increases his strength? In the name of consistency, shouldn't that also have no effect on his power levels?

Marvel Super Special, Jaws 2

It's the comic we've all been waiting for, as Marvel tackles Jaws 2, a film I still haven't seen, after all these years.

But does this mean we're also going to get an adaptation of Jaws 3-D? And, given that it's a tale meant to be seen in 3-D, does that mean it'll be a pop-up book?

Marvel Premiere #45, Man-Wolf

It's the development that only a complete and total  madman could have foreseen, as Man-Wolf's strip suddenly becomes a sword and sorcery series - in space.

Beyond that, I know nothing of the contents of this comic.

Can Man-Wolf speak and think in this series or is he still a bit stupid?

Marvel Preview #17, Blackmark

Speaking of spaceborne swordplay, Marvel Preview gives us a big fat slab of Gil Kane's Blackmark, a strip I remember fondly from the early days of Savage Sword of Conan.

What If #12, Rick Jones becomes the Hulk

It's the question we've all asked ourselves at some point in our lives; "What if Rick Jones had become the Hulk?"

Well, admittedly, I've never asked myself it. The question I've kept asking is, "Why doesn't Rick Jones go away?"

The concept of him becoming the Hulk was never something that occurred to me in my youth but I do believe it's now become a redundant query as, unless I'm totally misremembering, in Marvel's, "Real," world, Rick has indeed spent time as the Hulk, as has seemingly every regular character in the book.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Forty years ago today - December 1978.

Mere minutes after I finish writing this post, the Doctor Who Season 11 climax will air. What thrills and spills will Chris Chibnall fling at us? Will old foes return? Will new foes emerge?

But, you know what? There's something even better than a climax.

And that's an anti-climax.

It's true. If anti-gravity is better than gravity, and anti-matter is fancier than matter, then anti-climax must be better than climax.

In that case, we're all in luck because if there's one thing my struggle to make sense of the Marvel comics of forty years ago is bound to be, it's an anti-climax.

Avengers #178, the Beast

Apparently, this issue features the Beast vs the Manipulator.

I must confess to not having a clue who the Manipulator is.

I am, however, assuming he or she isn't an evil chiropractor.

I shall ask Google, in order to find out.

...

I have now asked Google, and the Manipulator would seem to be a two-faced robot created by Machinesmith.

When I say, "Two-faced," I mean that he literally has two faces, not that he's a notorious hypocrite.

He may also be a hypocrite but I can offer no confirmation of that.

Either way, it would appear he went on to meet his fate when someone shot him in the head.

In fairness to him, most of us would meet our fate if someone shot us in the head.

Conan the Barbarian #93

In this issue, BĂȘlit is offered the crown of Asgalun but doesn't want it.

I can only conclude that she's a very hard to please woman.

Fantastic Four #201

I must confess I've never been a fan of split covers, and this issue does nothing to convince me I'm wrong.

I've also never been a fan of Quasimodo - and it turns out he's the villain of the piece.



Iron Man #117

This month's book is a landmark issue because it introduces a whole bunch of new characters I've never heard of. It introduces Senator Mountebank, Adam, Buck Richlen, Val Adair and Bethany Cabe.

I have no doubt that my ignorance of these people reflects more discredit upon me than it does upon them.

Fortunately, I can redeem myself by pointing out that Spymaster's in it too - and I have heard of him, so I'm not a total lost cause.

Amazing Spider-Man #187, Captain America and Electro

Unlike with the Iron Man tale, I've no doubt whatsoever that I've read this story.

But, strangely enough, I've no more memory of it than I have of that one. I'm starting to feel that any Spidey story reprinted by Marvel UK after the Dez Skinn Revolution has totally failed to lodge in my mind.



Spectacular Spider-Man #25, the Masked Marauder

It's the return we all wanted to see, as the Masked Marauder captures Spidey when the wall-crawler tries to prevent the Maggia committing a robbery.

More importantly, this issue sees the debut of Carrion, otherwise known as the clone of the late Professor Warren.

Poor Professor Warren. I do feel he deserved more respect than the writers ever gave him. It does make me sad that the man who took Peter and Gwen on a trip to see that device that made Doc Ock's arms malfunction ended up being turned into a foaming-at-the mouth, weirdo pervert bad guy.

Thor #278

The new Thor's making friends and influencing people, as he seeks to take the old Thor's place.

Not that he does it for long, as he's popped his clogs by the end of the tale.

Uncanny X-Men #116

Can the X-Men prevent Garokk and Zaladane destroying the Savage Land?

Of course they can.

I always had a soft spot for Garokk. If I was going to be a super-villain, he's the sort of super-villain I'd be.
Incredible Hulk #230

Judging by the cover, I'd assumed this one involves the return of the Locust but my vast online research would suggest it doesn't. It seems to revolve around some kind of alien bug.

I does, however, feature a character called Lumpy.

I have no idea who Lumpy is.

More intriguingly, the tale was written by Elliot S! Maggin, a man I associate so strongly with DC and with Superman that I had no idea he'd ever written for Marvel.

Captain America #228, the Constrictor

After failing miserably to defeat the Hulk in the only tale I've ever read that features him, the Constrictor decides to try his luck against Captain America, who I would say is more his level.

Having said that, I've no doubt the star-spangled superstar will quickly see him off.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

December 6th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.



If 1978 belonged to anyone, it had to be Boney M.

Not content with Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl in the Ring and Rasputin having been monstrous great big hits that year, they had the Christmas Number One spot all wrapped up by the first week of December when they captured it with Mary's Boy Child, giving them their second platinum-selling single of the year and meaning we'll have to endure them in shopping centres every Yuletide until we die.

They weren't cool, they weren't credible, they didn't necessarily sing on their own records but how could you not love them?

And there was something else you couldn't fail to love.

That was the contents of the products of our favourite comics company.

Admittedly, I say that but they might have been rubbish.

Here's where we find out.

Star Wars Weekly #44

For once, I know heaps about what happened in an issue of Star Wars Weekly.

Granted, I don't know that much about the main tale but I do know the reappearance of Obi-Wan Kenobi is down to someone telling Luke Skywalker an anecdote about an adventure the beardy sword-swinger had back when he was still alive.

Meanwhile, The UFO Connection's still running. For reasons I can't recall, our hero and his daughter are trying to get to the Great Pyramid in Giza - but the aliens are determined to stop them.

Our hero solves this problem by running them over with his jeep.

They might be super-intelligent aliens but they're clearly not smart enough to not to stand in the way of a speeding car.

There's also a story about someone called Karl Linders, which seems to be in the Flash Gordon envelope. I've no idea what it's about, as I possess no recall of it but the art looks to be the handiwork of that distinctly un-Marvel-like penciller Gray Morrow.

We also get An Illustrated History of Science Fiction Movies; Part One of which features, "The Damsels." Despite having no memory of that feature, I shall predict that it includes mentions of Maria from Metropolis and also Princess Leia.

Mighty World of Marvel #323, Hulk vs Moonstone

Mere weeks after I wrote of Moonstone being in the Hulk's US mag, we get the tale reprinted in Mighty World of Marvel.

Elsewhere, Iron Man's up against the Night Phantom who I believe is a robot, while the Fantastic Four are discovering the Eliminator and friends have abducted Agatha Harkness and her youthful charge.

Daredevil, meanwhile, is out to prevent the Silver Samurai abducting Shanna the She-Devil but, instead, gets clobbered by Nekra.



Super Spider-Man #304, the Iceman

Spidey's still up against the Iceman (who's still under the control of some villain or other) and is trying to shock him back to normal with the aid of a car wash.

For some reason, the Avengers are up against a huge horde of people, and the Squadron Supreme have turned against their own government.

Captain America and the Falcon are trying to prevent the Grey Gargoyle doing whatever it is he's trying to do with Element X, while Galactus releases Firelord from his service and, at Thor's suggestion, adopts the Destroyer as his new herald.



Savage Sword of Conan #14, Marvel UK

My knowledge of the contents of this month's issue extends no further than what is mentioned on the cover but I do know that's a Neal Adams illustration they're tempting us with.

Rampage Magazine #6, Hulk vs Sub-Mariner

The Hulk is in Atlantis and up against the Sub-Mariner in what I assume to be his first ever encounter with the merman monarch.

Nova teams up with Nick Fury to battle the Yellow Claw, while the Defenders are up against Nebulon and his army of bozos.



Starburst Magazine #5, Superman

What's this? Superman? On the cover of a Marvel mag? Has the world succumbed to madness?

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - December 1968.

December 1968 was a great month for any man who likes to wear a poncho, because a chunk of it saw the Number One slot on the UK singles chart being occupied by Hugo Montenegro's version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Why it was his version that was the big hit and not Ennio Morricone's, I couldn't say.

But it wasn't the only UK chart topper that month. It was knocked off the top spot by the Scaffold's Lily the Pink which went on to become that year's Christmas Number One.

One of the members of the Scaffold was, of course, Mike McCartney, brother of Paul. With the Beatles having already had four Christmas Number Ones by this point, it meant that, for five years out of six, the Christmas Number One slot had been claimed by a member of the McCartney clan.

It was even more good news for the McCartney family a couple of weeks later because, on the 1st of January, Lily the Pink was then deposed from its throne by Marmalade's cover of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.

Speaking of which, the Beatles' newly released White Album entered the UK album chart at Number One on the first day of December and was still there when Santa was coming down everyone's chimneys.

That was all very lovely for them but what about a bunch of less fortunate people? The less celebrated heroes of the Marvel Comics universe? What were they up to in the books that bore that month's cover date?

Captain Marvel #8

I've no idea what happens in this one. Apparently, some aliens called the Aakons are involved and a robot called Cyberex and some people called The Organization. It all sounds like an overstuffed pudding to me.

Is it just me or did Captain Marvel fight a robot in virtually every issue of his early days?

Doctor Strange #175, the Sons of Satannish

It would seem Clea's been abducted by Asmodeus, leader of the Sons of Satannish. From what I can remember, she did seem to get abducted quite a lot. Clearly, she studied at The Sue Storm School For Super-Heroines.

I'm sure I must have read this tale but I have no recall of it, which tends to be the case for me with Doctor Strange stories.

Agent of SHIELD #7. nick fury, jim steranko cover

Everything's gone Salvador Dali, as Jim Steranko gives us yet another much-celebrated cover.

It would appear Nicholas has been injected with a hallucinogenic drug that'll cause his death within six hours.

That would explain the cover.

But why did the bad guys not inject him with a drug that'd cause his death within six seconds? Wouldn't that have been a better plan?

Silver Surfer #3, Mephisto

Hooray! It's my favourite Silver Surfer tale, as the wind-borne windbag meets Mephisto who gives him something to whine about by abducting Shalla-Bal and then trying to get our hero to submit to his will.

Mephisto does realise that, if he succeeds, he's going to have to put up with the Surfer's complaining for all of eternity?

Sub-Mariner #8, the Thing

And it's one of my Sub-Mariner faves, as Namor takes on the Thing in a battle for the Serpent Crown.

I do believe this tale also sees the return of Betty Dean who, since Subby last saw her, has suffered the tragedy of growing old while Namor has remained young.

Even though, she must only be in her forties.

With all this and John Buscema's magnificent artwork, what is there not to love?

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Fifty years ago this month - December 1968.

December 1968 was an exciting time if your name was Elvis Presley because it was in that month that he made his comeback, in the NBC TV special Singer Presents...ELVIS.

Yes, it was sponsored by the Singer sewing machine company. I must confess that Elvis Presley and sewing machines are not two things I usually associate with each other but it clearly worked and, after a mid 1960s lull, his career was suddenly back on track again.

Still well and truly on track was the career of the Rolling Stones who released their album Beggars Banquet in that month.

Then again, they also filmed The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus and, as that didn't see light of day until 1996, I'm assuming something went wrong there.

Enjoying better luck was Douglas Engelbart who publicly demonstrated his pioneering hypertext system, NLS, in San Francisco, together with the computer mouse. How little the people of that time must have suspected that it would ultimately lead to the creation of this very site. If they'd known that, they'd have been in awe.

Then again, they did have something almost as impressive to be awed about because, up in space, that month, Apollo 8 flew around the Moon, enabling its crew to become the first people ever to see the dark side of it.

Sadly, they didn't think to release an LP named after their experience. If they had, they could have made a fortune.

Avengers #59, Yellowjacket makes his debut

It's another Marvel masterpiece as Yellowjacket makes his charmless debut and claims to have murdered Hank Pym, before announcing his engagement to the Wasp.

Amazingly, apart from Hawkeye, none of the other Avengers think anything should be done about the fact that he's murdered their colleague and are perfectly happy to let bygones be bygones as long as the Wasp is happy.

What kind of super-heroes are these people?

Captain America #108, the Trapster

Paste-Pot Pete is back - although once more calling himself the Trapster - and he has a cunning plan that involves kidnapping Sharon Carter.

What that plan is, I can't remember but, as always, it all ends in ignominious defeat for the villain.

Doesn't Sharon mess up his scheme by putting her nail polish remover in his paste, or something?

Poor old Pete. He just wasn't cut out for success.

Daredevil #47

It's the tale that featured in Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, the one Stan Lee was clearly very proud of, as Daredevil sets about helping a blinded Vietnam veteran readjust to civilian life.

Fantastic Four #81, the Wizard, Crystal joins the FF

Crystal joins the Fantastic Four.

Much as I love Crystal, it was always an uncomfortable fit, as she was clearly more powerful than the rest of the FF combined. She was also possibly a bit too sensible and grown up to totally fit in with her bickersome teammates.

Anyway, the Wizard ends up on the wrong end of her powers, making you wonder why he was stupid enough to take on the whole of the Fantastic Four, on his own, anyway.

Incredible Hulk #110, Umbu and Ka-Zar

It's one of my Hulk favourites, as he, Ka-Zar and Zabu battle a giant robot in the Savage Land, while attempting to destroy a machine that's messing up the weather.

Why Umbu has a giant tuning fork, I don't recall.

Iron Man #8, the Gladiator

Iron Man tangles with the Gladiator.

Amazing Spider-Man #67, Giant hands Mysterio

It's another classic John Romita cover, as Spidey finds himself shrunk down to the size of a real spider and having to face the maddening menace of Mysterio in a model funfair.

But is everything as it seems...?

Thor #159, storm giant, Thor's origin and Don Blake

At last, after all these years, we finally get the answer to the question that would have been tormenting me had I ever thought of it. How can Thor and Don Blake be the same man, when one is a modern day human and the other is a Norse god who's been around for centuries?

I do feel that Stan and Jack got round the conundrum with aplomb.

X-Men #51, Jim Steranko

Holy shades of Darth Vader! Magneto tells Lorna Dane that she's his daughter and that she has to decide whether to side with the X-Men or with him.

And, like a mug, she sides with him!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

November 29th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time to put on your leopard-skin trousers and strut that glitzy stage because, in this week of forty years ago, Rod Stewart finally found his true calling in life and hit the Number One slot on the UK singles chart, as a bona fide Disco god.

That's right, it was the week in which Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? torpedoed its way to the top and sank his credibility forever.

Then again, I say that but I've always liked it, seeing Rod as a man who benefits from having zero credibility, and also thanks to me being someone who's found peace with the ways of Disco.

Plus, I suspect that, deep in his heart, Rod always wanted to be a Disco god anyway.

But what of Marvel UK? What was it up to while all this was going on?

Star Wars Weekly #43

Hold on to your hats because it looks like Roger Whittaker's about to lay the lightsabre smack-down on some space ruffians.

Either that or Obi-Wan Kenobi's still alive.

How that can be when I saw him disintegrated, with my own bare eyes, I cannot say.

Then again, it could be a flashback tale.

Then againerer, it seems Luke Skywalker's also in this tale, which suggests it isn't a flashback.

Where that all leaves us, I haven't a Scooby.

Nor do I have a Scooby about what else happens in this comic. Is Star-Lord still in it? Is he fighting the forces of Space Evil? The answers to these questions are beyond my grasp.

Mighty World of Marvel #322, the Hulk

I've no idea what's going on with the Hulk Crusher but I predict it'll totally fail in its aim of crushing the Hulk.

Elsewhere, Daredevil and Shanna the She-Devil are making a right Horlicks of tackling the Silver Samurai, and Shanna's still out for revenge on the Mandrill.

For some reason, Foggy Nelson's in a wheelchair but the cause of his predicament is unknown to me.


Super Spider-Man #303, The Angel and Iceman

A hypnotised Iceman's out to kill Spider-Man and the Angel.

Meanwhile, Thor's still battling Ego the living planet.

Or at least he was. This issue, he manages to get possessed by Ego who's rapidly taking action to defend himself and his population from a nearby exploding sun. It all sounds very dramatic and I have faith it'll all end happily.

I also predict it'll all end happily for Captain America and the Falcon who're still having trouble with the Grey Gargoyle who's stolen something or other that you wouldn't want him to steal.

Elsewhere, the Avengers are trying to deconundrumise the Serpent Crown on an alternate Earth and are still all set to fight the Squadron Supreme. Back on our world, Hank and Jan are having an argument about whether to rejoin the team, while, on the other Earth, the president's acting weirdly.

I predict he'll turn out to be the Beast in disguise.

Either that, or he'll just turn out to be weird.

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