Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - December 1979.

Are you a big fan of boldly going where no man has gone before?

If so, this month in 1979 was perfect for you because it saw the launch of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the cinematic masterpiece which proved that space exploration could be just as dull as staying at home.

But, if you didn't want to go all the way to the cinema, a trip to the newsagents might suffice instead.

And that's because the event had already been prepared for by one thing.

And that thing was...

Marvel Super Special #15, Star Trek

...Marvel giving us its adaptation of that non-stop thrill-ride. I like to think that a full ten pages are devoted to the Enterprise leaving dry dock, in honour of the movie's glacial pacing.

As if that's not enough for us, this book also contains an interview with Jesco von Puttkamer.

I don't have a clue who Jesco von Puttkamer is.

Also, the other likenesses are fine but that really doesn't look like William Shatner on the cover.

Perhaps it's Jesco von Puttkamer.

Marvel Preview #20, Bizarre Adventures

As far as I can make out, we get a whole heap of Howard Chaykin's Dominic Fortune.

But more excitingly for me, we also get War Toy and Good Lord, as made famous by their appearances in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes comic.

Of course, neither of those tales has anything to do with Planet of the Apes - one being about the death of a military robot and the other involving space explorers accidentally killing God.

Regardless, they're two of the most memorable back-up strips ever to have featured in that book and I salute them both.

Fantasy Masterpieces #1, the Silver Surfer

Marvel shows an admirable willingness to cash-in on its heritage by launching a series of Silver Surfer reprints, beginning with his origin, from 1968.

Tales to Astonish #1, the Sub-Mariner

Clearly seeing 1968 reprints as the way ahead, as we approach the 1980s, Marvel also decides to reprint Namor's series from that year.

Amazing Adventures #1, The X-Men, Magneto

Hold on. Wait. What? Now the company's launching a run of X-Men reprints as well? Has the House of Ideas completely run out of new things to publish?

Oh well, at least it's not from 1968.

Rom #1

Just to prove Marvel is actually capable of throwing at least one new thing at us, we get the launch of ROM's very own comic.

I must confess I always get ROM mixed up with Machine Man, even though they're completely different characters.

I've never read this comic, nor any other book featuring the character but I believe that, this issue, the robot arrives on Earth and kills a bunch of people before it turns out they're not people at all. They're aliens too, and, therefore don't matter.

He also gets to take on the National Guard while he's at it.

This comic, almost inevitably, is drawn by Sal Buscema.

Marvel Premiere #51, the Black Panther

Now that Jack Kirby's gone, Marvel clearly feels it's safe to relaunch the Black Panther's strip, carrying on where Don McGregor's run left off, with the conclusion of T'Challa's struggles with the Ku Klux Klan.

I suspect that magic frogs will not feature heavily in this story.

However, those hoping for a healthy dose of Don McGregor's vigorous verbosity are doomed to disappointment, as the tale's written by Ed Hannigan.

Then again, perhaps Ed has the sense to give us what we all want, and decides to emulate Don's writing style.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Forty years ago today - December 1979.

Marvel comics dated, "December 1979." What were they up to? Where were they up to? And why were they up to it?

Hold on to your Santa hats because here's where we find out.

Conan the barbarian #105

It's an odd tale in which, seeking to escape a pride of lions, Conan decides to spend a night in a haunted house.

Once there, he sees a bunch of other people get killed and then he flees the scene, deciding that discretion's the better part of valour.

Clearly, those who like to see Conan fighting monsters, rather than running away from them, will have to wait until next month.

Fantastic Four #213, Terrax

Galactus sees off the Sphinx by stripping him of his power and then sending him back to Ancient Egypt to live his endless life all over again.

Someone who definitely doesn't have an endless life is Reed Richards who, thanks the Skrulls' ageing ray, is going to be lucky to even make it to the next issue.

Iron Man #129, Dreadnought

Tony Stark and Nick Fury fall out over ownership of Stark Industries when SHIELD decides to buy a controlling stake in the company, in order to make sure it keeps on churning out the weapons the spy agency loves so much.

Happily, our hero outsmarts Fury - but he still has to face a murderous robot along the way.

spectacular Spider-Man #37, Swarm

Swarm is still impacting upon various students' chances of getting a degree, by trying to kill them.

Fortunately, Spidey's on the scene to sort him out, thanks to having fortified his webbing with a load of insect repellent.

Thor #290, El Toro Rojo

Join Thor in his battle with Red Bull.

Or perhaps I mean with El Toro Rojo, when the Deviant wrestler sets out to make life a misery for an Eternal wrestler, for reasons I can't remember.

Needless to say, no mere wrestler can get the better of a god of thunder, not even one who's a Deviant.

Uncanny X-Men #128, Proteus

In the streets of Edinburgh, the X-Men finally dispose of Proteus, by doing something or other.

Sadly, I can't recall what it is they actually do.

Captain America #240

Captain America spends the whole issue tackling a gang of minor hoodlums, including their leader Big Thunder who's just some bloke.

I suspect this won't go down as one of Cap's greatest adventures.

Incredible Hulk #242, Tyrannus

Tyrannus is still trying to take over the world, thanks to his magic flame in the Andes.

Sadly for him, the Hulk just won't stop hitting things.

Avengers #190

The Avengers are having all kinds of trouble with Henry Peter Gyrich but all that has to be put on hold when a monster made of rock crash-lands from space and starts to smash up New York.

But it turns out it's not a monster made of rock at all. It's the Grey Gargoyle who's encased in stone - and, thanks the Avengers, he's now free of that prison and at liberty to cause havoc.

In all honesty, I can't see the Grey Gargoyle being much of a threat to the combined might of the Avengers.

Amazing Spider-Man #199, Mysterio

Spidey's out to stop Mysterio and his fraudulent nursing home.

But can he possibly beat a man who can make him think he's losing his mind?

Thursday, 5 December 2019

December 5th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Have you ever felt like you don't need no education?

I know I have.

And that's why the seven days leading up to this date in 1979 were such important ones for me because that's when Pink Floyd's album The Wall was released.

But, of course, we'd already had a taste of it, thanks to the single Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 having been released in advance and, this very week, it was at Number Two on the UK singles chart, being temporarily held off the top spot by the Police's Walking on the Moon. Perhaps Sting and friends should have called it Walking on the Dark Side of the Moon and then they might have been able to hold the Floyd off permanently.

Speaking of albums, over on the LP chart, the top spot this week was snatched by Rod Stewart who dislodged ABBA's Greatest Hits Vol2, thanks to his own Greatest Hits package.

But it wasn't all good news when it came to the music business because this was also the week in which eleven fans were killed during a crush before The Who's concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati.

Rampage Monthly #18, the Hulk

All I know of this month's Hulk tale is Bruce Banner goes off to Switzerland, hoping a local scientist can help him with his problem.

I've no doubt at all that that man won't be able to help him with his problem. In fact, I've no doubt he'll simply make it worse.

But I do know we've got a reprint of issue #100 of The X-Men, the one in which the original team fight the new team - until it turns out it's not the original team. It's just a bunch of robots!

In the Dr Strange tale, Clea's being held hostage by Lectra who's using her as leverage to get Strangey to help her find her own mad sister Phaydra.

Star Wars Weekly #93. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader

BaronTagge and his sister are in this issue, so it would appear Darth Vader's not bumped them off yet.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are still battling the Reavers of Arcturus, Deathlok's up against the War-Wolf who would appear to be another cyborg, and The Watcher tells us of a man who decides to take a Martian beauty serum which, I think, makes him look like a Martian.

But easily most significantly, this is the issue in which the mystery of Star-Hawk's identity's finally resolved.

I wish I could remember what that resolution is.

Having said that, isn't the whole point of Star-Hawk that he's a mystery? If his mystery's resolved, doesn't he lose all interest, from the reader's point of view?

Hulk Comic #40, the Cobalt Man

The Hulk and Machine Man finally stop fighting each other, for long enough to deal with their true enemy. Who that is, I can't remember but I'm pretty sure he has something to do with The Corporation.

Ant-Man and the Wasp are still stuck at the size of bugs and have now been kidnapped by a robot who wants to give himself the powers of insects.

We're still getting the origins of the Black Knight and Silver Surfer.

And, finally, the Defenders finish off their battle with the Cobalt Man who polishes off Egghead for them.

Starburst #16, the Black Hole

The UK's top sci-fi mag takes a look at The Black Hole, a film I've still, to this day, never seen, even though it's on TV every Christmas. One of these days, I'll have to get round to watching it.

More importantly to me, this issue, Nigel Kneale speaks out. About what, I don't know but I am sure it'll involve everyone's favourite alien-thwarting rocket scientist.

And probably Doctor Who. I've never seen a Nigel Kneale print interview in which the subject of Doctor Who doesn't turn up.

Marvel Superheroes #356, Ultron

What's this? The Avengers vs Ultron? Dr Doom vs the Sub-Mariner, and the X-Men vs Computo? What more could anyone demand of a comic?

I suppose I could demand it tells me who Computo is, as I've never heard of him/her/it. Regardless, I'm sure Computo's a major threat to humanity.

More urgently, Ultron's happily building a wife for himself - and Hank Pym's helping him!

Doctor Who Weekly #8, Tom Baker

The Doctor's still having trouble with the Iron Legion, we get a text story based on the William Hartnell adventure The Aztecs, more from War of the Worlds, a feature about the Peter Cushing Dalek movies, and something called The Final Quest which seems to be a tale involving the Sontarans.

Savage Sword of Conan #26, sabre toothed tiger

Our hero's concluding his tale Beyond the Black River. Beyond that, I can say nothing of this issue other than that it's drawn by John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #352, the death of Aunt May

In the wake of Aunt May's, "death," Peter Parker's at her nursing home and failing to spot who the nursing home manager is, despite him being one of his oldest foes.

We also get Daredevil, Godzilla, the Fantastic Four, Thor and Iron Man in this issue, although I can shed no light on what they're up to.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - December 1969.

Only two records claimed the Number One spot on the UK singles chart in December 1969.

The first was Sugar Sugar by the Archies. The second was Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris.

Needless to say, I'll move swiftly on from that point but I will add that Kenny Rogers must have felt a bit fed-up, as his track Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town spent the entire month stuck at Number Two.

Amazingly, on the last chart before Christmas Day, there was not one Christmas song in the Top 50. The nearest we got to anything with any kind of relevance to the season was the presence, at Number 44, of the Hollies.

Admittedly, despite the band's Christmassy name, the record itself was not at all topical, being He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

Over on the album chart, the Beatles began the month at Number One, with Abbey Road, before the Rolling Stones' Let it Bleed deposed them.

However, the Stones' triumph over their old rivals was short-lived, as, the following week, Abbey Road once more ascended to the top and stayed there for the rest of the month, making it the Christmas Number One for that year. Not that anyone ever talks about the Christmas Number One when it comes to LPs.

That month, the cinemas of the world unleashed upon us A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Hello, Dolly!, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and something called The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes which starred Kurt Russell. As you'd possibly guess from the title, it was a Disney movie and, even though I've never heard of it, it spawned two sequels, both starring Kurt Russell.

Captain Marvel #19

Rick Jones moves into a block of flats whose sociologist landlord wants to torture his tenants to death, so he can make a fortune from writing a book about how he did it.

I'm not sure he's thought this plan through, as the book would be a confession to mass murder.

Still, in the end, it doesn't matter, because Captain Marvel's on hand to give him the good flattening he deserves.

Chamber of Darkness #2, enter... the Red Death

Chamber of Darkness unveils its second, diabolical, issue. In it, an escaped prisoner is replaced by a four-armed alien, a shaving man sees a ghostly face in his mirror, and we get a modern-day retelling of The Masque of the Red Death, set in a concrete bunker.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #16, Hydra

Apparently, Hydra operatives follow Nick Fury around, in the hope he'll lead them to SHIELD's HQ.

Somehow, this leads to them being hypnotised into attacking completely the wrong building. Oh, Hydra, will you never learn?

Silver Surfer #11

No sooner is the Surfer reunited with his beloved Shalla-Bal than she suffers a potentially fatal injury which requires him to send her back to Zenn-La for medical treatment.

As the Surfer's repeatedly demonstrated the ability to resurrect the all-but dead, I'm not totally sure why he needs to send her back home, rather than curing her himself.

Sub-Mariner #20, Dr Doom

Hooray! Who doesn't love a good scrap between Namor and Doom?

As usual, Doomsie wants Subby to team up with him, in order that they can conquer the world together.

As usual, Subby doesn't like the idea.

As usual, it all ends in a punch-up.

Our Love Story #2

More sobbing onto pillows ensues, as Our Love Story hits its second issue of unbridled lachrymosity.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Fifty years ago this month - December 1969.

December 1969 was a good month for all lovers of the anomalous because it was when we saw the release of possibly the most anomalous James Bond movie of them all; On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Not only did we get an Australian Bond who was never seen again and even talked directly to the camera but we got our hero operating outside the purview of British Intelligence, and an ending which I won't give away in case there's a single person left in the world who's never seen it.

Diana Rigg was, of course, present, as was Joanna Lumley. With Honor Blackman having already appeared in Goldfinger, it means Linda Thorson's the only Avengers girl to have never appeared in a Bond movie.

Then again, she's still alive. There's hope for her yet.

And, also, this argument depends upon me ignoring the existence of Uma Thurman.

Elsewhere, the month also saw the holding of the first draft lottery in the United States since World War II, courtesy of the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet made its first passenger flight, carrying 191 people, mostly reporters and photographers, from Seattle to New York, and the Rolling Stones released their album Let It Bleed.

Let it Bleed is, of course, most known to me because it was the title of a Don Heck drawn Marvel Dracula story about a huge heart living in a shed, like a malevolent version of How's Jack Hargreaves.

I'm not sure there's much shed action in any of the following comics.

Avengers #71, the Invaders

Hooray! The Avenger take on the Invaders, though Frank Robbins is nowhere to be seen.

Neither are Toro and Bucky, as far as I remember. Namor, to my knowledge, never had a youthful sidekick, which seemed a little unfair on him.

I do think it's odd the way the Invaders automatically assume the Avengers are Nazis, based on no evidence at all. Still, they get their just deserts and Roy Thomas's test run for the team is completed with their utter and total defeat.

Thinking about it, it's not an auspicious start for them, is it?

I am intrigued, though, that it's labelled, "The Final Battle," when it isn't the final battle for either team, nor is it the final battle of World War Two, nor is it the final battle in the contest between Kang and the Grandmaster. So exactly why is it labelled, "The Final Battle?"

Captain America #120, Crack-Up on Campus

My memories of this one are vague. Doesn't Cap become a college lecturer for some reason and then AIM or Hydra try to kidnap a scientist by pretending to be protesting students?

It does make me think, did any Marvel hero ever go to a university campus, in those days, without a student protest breaking out?

Daredevil #59, The Torpedo

I really have no recollection of this tale at all. Is this Torpedo the same Torpedo who turned up later in Marvel comics or is he a totally different one?

Fantastic Four #93, Torgo

I think this issue is the conclusion to the tale, in which the rest of the FF turn up to help the Thing thwart the Skrulls' racket.

I'm struggling to remember how the FF actually manage to get there, bearing in mind it's set in another galaxy. Do they use Kurrgo's flying saucer which has been sitting on their roof, seemingly forgotten about, since issue #7?

Incredible Hulk #122, the Fantastic Four

No one with any sense can ever resist a scrap between the Hulk and the Thing, even though I've a feeling this is the first time the FF have met the Hulk in the pages of his own mag. If that's true, it does seem amazing that it took so long for it to happen.

Anyway, what matters is that Bruce Banner comes up with half a cure for him being the Hulk and sets off to the Baxter Building to share it with Reed Richards who's independently come up with the other half.

Needless to say, it's not long before the obligatory punch-up breaks out.

Iron Man #20, Lucifer

I've a feeling Lucifer gives some random bloke super-powers so he can defeat Iron Man, on his behalf.

Granted, I'm not totally sure who Lucifer actually is or why he's so determined to beat Iron Man.

Amazing Spider-Man #79, the Prowler

It's the story we never thought we'd see; the death of Peter Parker.

Admittedly, we were right to think we'd never see it because we don't. In retrospect, it does seem remarkable that the Prowler's debut has managed to be spread over two issues, bearing in mind how totally outclassed by Spidey he is.

But who cares? It's a pleasing story and you can't help feeling sorry for poor Hobie and his window cleaning frustrations.

Thor #171, the Wrecker

I genuinely have no memory of this story at all, and I know for a fact that I've read it.

I gather the Wrecker makes his senses-shattering return. Apart from that, I'm clueless.

But that's a very intriguing cover. It looks like someone's got a Jack Kirby image and done fairly major amounts of redrawing over it.

X-Men #63, Magneto

I don't think I've ever read this one but I would assume Magneto and the X-Men are still in the Savage Land.

I'm willing to bet the blurb is lying and that Magneto doesn't triumph.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

November 28th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Do you know how much of any interest happened in the world in this week of 1979?

Zero much of interest. There wasn't even any change at the top of the UK singles and album charts for us all to get excited about. Therefore, I shall demonstrate my legendary imagination by flinging myself straight into my look at what our favourite UK Marvel mags were up to in this week of that year.

Star Wars Weekly #92, Darth Vader vs Baron Tagge

I know little of this comic.

In fact, when I say, "little," I mean nothing.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are probably still having trouble with the Reavers of Arcturus, Deathlok's probably still having trouble with his creators, and the Watcher's probably providing us with another morality tale designed to give us pause about the way in which we conduct our lives.

It also looks like Baron Tagge's having problems with icicles.

Hulk Comic #39, the Silver Surfer


After all these issues, the Hulk's still fighting Machine Man.

You can't help feeling a fight between the two really shouldn't be lasting this long. In fact, I wouldn't have expected it to last for more than two panels - and one of those would involve Machine Man's body parts flying in various directions, while partially obscured by the word, "SMASH!!!"

Ant-Man and the Wasp are still trapped at insect size and still having trouble with the Whirlwind.

We're still working our way through the origins of the Black Knight and the Silver Surfer, while the Defenders are about to meet the Red Rajah who so isn't Dr Strange in disguise and no one could possibly ever suspect that he is.

Doctor Who Weekly #7, Tom Baker and Lis Sladen

The Iron Legion are still causing trouble for the universe and the Doctor.

We get a text piece about the ancient Doctor Who story The Keys of Marinus.

There's yet more of Marvel's adaptation of War of the Worlds. I can only hope it's being better received than the BBC's adaptation will be, exactly forty years later.

And that Cyberman's still investigating human emotion.

But, thrilling as that all is, it literally pales into insignificance beside the chance to win two portable televisions - even if they do look to be black and white.

But what's this? Someone's misspelt, "Delgado," on the cover? That's the sort of thing that can get you killed by a homicidal inflatable chair.

And, for that matter, for just how long has The Keys of Marinus been all one word?

Spectacular Spider-Mn Weekly #351, the Black Cat

Spidey's out to thwart the Black Cat who's determined to rescue her ailing dad from prison.

Is the Black Cat's dad the cat burglar who turned up in the strip, way back in Steve Ditko's day, just as the Master Planner storyline was about to break out?

Daredevil's fighting voodoo in Central Park, in the form of a man dressed as a skeleton who does things to chickens.

I think Godzilla's just polished off Red Ronin and has now found his true calling in life - terrorising cowboys.

The FF are in the Andromeda galaxy, trying to help the locals stave off the Skrulls in the Nova crossover we've recently been experiencing in the FF's American mag.

And Iron Man's still fighting the Super-Adaptoid at the Avengers Mansion. Needless to say, the villain they don't call, "Supie," is confident of victory.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

2000 AD - October 1981.

If you live by the motto, "Ridicule is nothing to be scared of," then you were in paradise in October 1981.

That's because the month arrived in style with the UK singles chart ruled by Prince Charming from Adam and the Ants.

But, soon, it lost that spot to It's My Party by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin which hogged the top slot for the rest of the month.

Over on the album chart, Genesis began October at Number One, with ABACAB, only to be deposed by the Police's Ghost in the Machine which, in turn, was forced to yield to the irresistible rise of the Human League's Dare.

Elsewhere in the music industry, something big was stirring because it was the month in which Queen released their Greatest Hits LP which has since gone on to become the UK's best-selling album of all time, just ahead of ABBA Gold and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On the football field, twenty four year-old Bryan Robson became Britain's most expensive footballer yet, with a £1.5 million move from West Bromwich Albion to Manchester United. The current British transfer record is the £89 million Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba from Juventus. Such is the nature of inflation.

Meanwhile, at the cinemas, October saw the release of Galaxy of Terror, which is a title that rings a bell, though I'm not sure if I've ever seen it, and Halloween II which I also can't recall if I've seen.

But scary-sounding films weren't all we had to keep us entertained that month, because we also had the Galaxy's greatest comic to keep us going.

It was still giving us The Mean Arena, Judge Dredd (who was suffering from Block Mania after sorting out The Hotdog Run), Tharg's Future Shocks and Rogue Trooper. 

However, the big news was that Prog 232 saw the debut of The Ace Trucking Co starring the pointy-headed Garp and sundry other characters I recall vaguely.

In other matters, I do wonder what the Zarjaz free gift was that came with that issue.

I have no recollection at all of KP Griddles, as advertised on the front of Prog 233. Apparently, they don't make them anymore, whatever they were.

I now have a craving for Rishy XL crisps. Whatever happened to Rishy XL? Once upon a time, you couldn't move for their crisps. Now, they're nowhere to be seen.

2000 AD 232, Ace Trucking

2000 AD 233, Judge Dredd

2000 AD 234, Rogue Trooper

2000 AD 235, Ace Trucking

2000 AD 236, Judge Dredd

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