Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - October 1979.

It's time, once more, for me to fling open the doors and stride purposefully into my local cinema, striding down the aisle, down those steps, demanding a seat near the screen, and an ice lolly because I mean business.

That's because it's October 1979 and I've no doubt my local flea pit's filled with celluloid treasures the like of which we've never seen before.

Well, not really. To be honest, there were only two films released in that month that I've ever heard of. One of them was 10 and the other was Meteor. I have, to this day, never seen 10 but I did see Meteor in the ABC 2 cinema, an auditorium smaller than our living room. I must confess I remember the cinema better than I recall the movie.

But I'll tell you what I do remember...

...not one of the comics I'm about to take a glancing look at.

Howard the Duck #1

It's the news the world's been desperate to hear. Howard the Duck has a brand new comic - or even yet a magazine!

With a sizzling new book out, surely it can only be a matter of time before he too, like Meteor, conquers our cinemas.

I can offer few insights into the book's contents but I do know it only lasted for nine issues, so it possibly wasn't as great a success as Marvel might have hoped it'd be.

Marvel Comics Super Special #14, Meteor

But hold on a minute! Not only can I see Meteor in the cinema but I can read it as well? Up until now, I'd been genuinely unaware Marvel had done an adaptation of it.

Apparently, Frank Miller provided the cover, while Gene Colan and Tom Palmer gave us the interior, so we can safely say it was guaranteed to not let us down when it came to visuals.

Marvel Premiere #50, Alice Cooper

It turns out it wasn't just Kiss who got the Marvel treatment in the 1970s because the man who some of us suspect they owed almost everything to got one as well, as Alice Cooper found himself immortalised in print.

It would seem the art was provided by Charlton horror-meister Tom Sutton, which sounds like a good choice for such a book.

Apparently, Dr Octopus and the Hulk put in cameo appearances.

Tarzan #29

That ship may be sinking but so is Tarzan's Marvel career, as this is the last issue of his book. He can at least console himself that he did better than Howard the Duck's about to. The rivalry between Tarzan and Howard the Duck is, as we know, as old as the hills.

From what I can make out, Tarzan, Jane and their animal friends are on their way back to Africa, from New York, when a terrorist decides to blow up the ship they're on and they find themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean, in a lifeboat.

So, basically, it's like a more overcrowded version of Life of Pi.

Tomb of Dracula #1

Howard the Duck's not the only one getting a revival because the man who just won't lie down is also back.

I know little of the magazine's contents but I do know Gene Colan is once more let loose on the pencils.

Sadly, this book is doomed to survive for just six issues.

John Carter Annual #3

Hooray! John Carter gets his third annual. We can only assume this means Marvel have great plans for him.

Well, not really, as his regular mag's cancelled this month and this is his last annual.

In fairness, three annuals and twenty eight normal issues is a fair bit more than I would have expected him to have managed.

Anyway, our hero's in serious trouble when a bunch of female priests abduct him to sacrifice to their goddess.

Tarzan Annual #3

Not to be outdone by his Edgar Rice Burroughs stablemate, Tarzan also gets a third annual coinciding with his final monthly appearance. His monthly mag has managed to last one issue longer than John Carter's, so that's something.

More to the point, "Ant-Men and She-Devils!" Wait! What! He's up against Ant-Man and Red Sonja? Now there's a storyline that would have made his book worth reading!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

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

One of the great mysteries of life is why the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais is called that, bearing in mind Apollo's the bloke who appears in it and Adonis is nowhere in sight.

Therefore, I've no doubt that question was being asked on this night of exactly forty years ago because that very tale was being shown right there and then, on BBC One.

Actually, I know why it's called Who Mourns for Adonais. I just like to feign ignorance of 19th Century poetry, in order to maintain my image as a steel-fisted man of the streets.

Then again, for those who took their pleasure from music, rather than TV or poetry, the big news was that Britain's brand new Number One LP was Eat to the Beat by Blondie. Personally, I preferred the singles from the preceding year's album Parallel Lines but, regardless, the album went on to be certified platinum in both Britain and the United States, so it must have been doing something right.

But first, in a shock development, nothing has happened!

I did report, seven days ago, that, this week, a major event would occur in the history of humanity. Subsequent investigation has revealed I read the date of that event wrong and, consequently, I can't make the relevant announcement until next week. But that's the problem with time. It's such a ball of wibbly-wobbliness.

Star Wars Weekly #85, Darth Vader

I have spectacularly limited knowledge of the contents of this comic.

I am, though, willing to bet Darth Vader shows up in it.

I'm also willing to bet he doesn't kill Luke Skywalker.

I'm also willing to bet he makes no mention of being Luke's father.

When it comes to the Guardians of the Galaxy, I'm pretty sure Vance and Nikki are still getting up to transcendent hi-jinks together.

Star-Lord is, likely, still in an ark in space.

The Watcher is, no doubt, giving us a morality tale we should all bear in mind if we value our souls.

Hulk Comic #32, Ikaris vs the Cosmic Powered Hulk

In the main strip, the Hulk's finally finished off beating-up on The Corporation.

Elsewhere, a robot Hulk's busy beating-up on Ikaris and friends.

Ant-Man's been injected with rabies and is now stuck at ant-size because of it. I was going to say, "Just imagine all the damage a rabid Ant-Man could do," but he really couldn't do any, could he.

I think Nick Fury's still having trouble with the Hate-Monger who's drafted an unwitting pop group to be his spreaders of discord.

Captain Britain's origin continues unabated.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #344, Jigsaw

Peter Parker's struggling to come to terms with Aunt May's mortality and Jigsaw's struggling to come to terms with his fear of Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, someone's stolen John Jameson's cryonically frozen body. I've no doubt this can only lead to trouble.

This is all I can say of the contents of this week's issue because this is all I know.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Forty years ago today - October 1979.

Here is a hole.

It is the Pit of Clueless Darkness which leads to the very Past itself.

I am about to jump down it.

I have no parachute.

The Past will simply have to try and survive the full force of my impact.

Avengers #188

The Avengers find themselves up against Marvel's equivalent of the Metal Men, as trouble breaks out in a Russian nuclear power plant.

A team of American based super-heroes blundering into a Russian nuclear facility, at the height of the Cold War, what could possibly go wrong?

Incredible Hulk #240

The Hulk's still in that hidden City in the Andes and meeting its three rulers and their magic flame.

But one of those three rulers - the really old one - looks awfully familiar to the Hulk. Just who could he be?

Iron man #127

Iron Man takes on a whole bunch of Marvel's lesser tech-based villains, on Peter Cushing's floating secret headquarters of evil.

Needless to say, it doesn't take long for our hero to make mincemeat of the lot of them. Poor old Porcupine, how will his rep ever recover after this?

Amazing Spider-Man #197, the Kingpin

The Kingpin's promised his wife Vanessa that he'll give up his life of crime, at midnight. That means he's set himself the challenge of killing Spider-Man before then.

Can the rotund ruler of robbery succeed?

Spectacular Spider-Man #35

It's the return of the villain we never dreamt would return, as the Mind-Worm reappears from seemingly nowhere.

This time, Spidey finds himself trapped in the cranial criminal's dreams and has to help him overcome his psychological issues, so his opponent can become a reformed man.

Captain America #238

Captain America decides to attack a hidden fortress in some mountains or other. I don't have a clue why.

X-Men #126

We're all on Muir Island, trying to stop Mutant X as he rampages around, bumping people off, left, right and centre.

Meanwhile, the man we still know purely as Jason Wyngarde is busy messing with Jean Grey's mind.

I can see no harm at all that could come from an activity like that.

Conan the Barbarian #103

Conan's up against a vampire who's clearly got the beating of him.

Fortunately, the battling barbarian can always rely on the locals to come to his rescue.

Thor #288

Thor's on the Celestials' mothership and up against the Eternals' forgotten hero who's been taken on by the Celestials as their enforcer.

Fantastic Four #211, Terrax

Hooray! The FF sentence who-knows-how-many worlds to death, by recruiting Terrax as Galactus' new herald. Not that Terrax is given any say in the matter.

There are times when you can't help feeling Reed Richards is a menace to the whole universe.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - October 1969.

Things were getting a bit saucy, this month in 1969 because barely had the month started than Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising was dethroned from atop the UK singles chart and replaced by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus.

However, the pair had clearly peaked too quickly because, just one week later, they were deposed by Bobby Gentry's I'll Never Fall in Love Again, possibly the earliest Number One I can remember seeing on Top of the Pops.

But that too was soon dislodged, this time by the Archies' Sugar Sugar. It does seem odd that Britain should grant a Number One to a non-existent band from a comic the vast majority of the public must have never even heard of.

Clearly, there was no shortage of churn on the singles chart but things were nothing like that volatile on the album chart because the whole month was totally dominated by just one LP, the Beatles' Abbey Road, a platter so dominant that it's still at Number One on the UK album chart, even as I type these words.

Hold on, it's been at Number One for fifty years? What madness is this?

Captain Marvel #17, it's his exciting new costume, powers and sidekick

This is it! The big one! The one where Captain Marvel has to endure the fate reserved for all Marvel heroes and is compelled to adopt Rick Jones as a sidekick!

And, weirdly, he does it willingly.

It's a tale of caves, glowing figures on wind-swept moors and alien technology in abandoned caves.

Actually, it sounds quite good when I put it like that.

Chamber of Darkness #1

Hot on the heels of the launch of last month's Tower of Shadows, Marvel produces a remarkably similar comic that's also designed to chill our bones and tingle our spines.

Silver Surfer #9, the Ghost

A somewhat odd tale in which Mephisto hires a villain to do his fighting for him - and then spends the entire fight attempting to join in while trying to pretend he's not there.

I don't have a clue why Mephisto bothered recruiting the Ghost in the first place, nor why he tries to keep his presence a secret from the Surfer.

Anyway, needless to say, the Diabolical troublemaker doesn't get what he wants.

But why on Earth is the Surfer shooting the platform, on that cover and just how is the Ghost managing to miss his target, from all of two feet away?

Sub-Mariner #18, Triton

Aliens try to steal the Earth's water but they haven't counted on the power of Namor and Triton to mess things up for them.

Still, the bad guys get their revenge when they remove Subby's ability to breathe in water.

Our Love Story #1

Hot on the heels of the launch of last month's My Love, Marvel produces a virtually identical comic in which young women who look like Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy get to sob their way through yet more tales of self-inflicted woe and heartbreak.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

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

We're just a week away from one of the most important events in the history of Marvel UK. Nay, one of the most important events in the entire history of humanity.

What can it be?

And is it dangerous?

All I can say is I'll leave it as a cliffhanger and leave you to tune in at the same time next week.

In the meantime, what was happening in the seven days preceding that epic event?

Star Wars Weekly #84

That pilot definitely needs some aiming practise. I mean, Luke Skywalker can hit womp rats while he's flying his plane, and they're not much bigger than something or other.

Elsewhere, thanks to the pencil of Genial Gene Colan, Star-Lord finds himself in some kind of ark in space.

In the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nikki and Vance both find their spirits ascending at the same time. Surely it can only be a matter of moments before they collide and a nightmarish bout of space nookie breaks out.

Meanwhile, on the back cover, the Green Cross Code Man's telling us to always look before rushing out into the road to retrieve our footballs.

It's wise advice indeed - and advice I still adhere to, to this very day because the Green Cross Code Man won't be there when I cross the road.

Why not?

He was there for all those other kids.

Hulk #31, Origin of Captain Britain

Hooray! We get the origin of Captain Britain, retold.

And it all happens because I demanded it!

Admittedly, I don't recall demanding it but Dez insists I did, so I must have.

Elsewhere, Ant-Man teams up with Spider-Man to fight some evil or other.

The Eternals finally abandon their totally pointless Uni-Mind.

Nick Fury's up against the Hate-Monger. I don't know if it's the one in which the Nazi ne'er-do-well accidentally steps out of an airlock. I sincerely hope it is.

And, of course, the Hulk's still out to polish off the Corporation.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #343, Captain America and Electro

Spider-Man tangles with Electro in a tale drawn by the unusual combo of Jim Starlin and Bob McLeod.

The rest of this issue's contents are a mystery.

To be honest, even that Spidey story's a mystery. I have no recollection of ever having read it, even though I'm sure I must have done.

Marvel Super-Heroes #354, the Grim Reaper

You can't help feeling the Grim Reaper should try getting a hobby. Has there ever been a more monomaniacal villain than him?

Even though I know for sure I read this issue, I can't recall either the X-Men or the Ms. Marvel tale.

In fact, I don't remember Ms. Marvel ever even having been in the comic.

Savage Sword of Conan #24

I may have thought the combination of Jim Starlin and Bob McLeod was unusual but, in this mag, we get the even more unusual combination of Carmine Infantino and Alfredo Alcala, as Conan finds himself trapped in the lair of the Ice Worm.

From what little I've seen of that artwork, Alfredo manages to make Carmine's work look exactly like Alfredo. You do wonder why Marvel used to bother with a penciller and didn't just let Alcala do it all on his own.

For a moment, I thought that blurb said, "Red Sonja vs the Death Dalek." Red Sonja vs a dalek, who wouldn't pay to watch a scrap like that?

Then again, who wouldn't pay to watch Solomon Kane take on Dracula?

I would. And that's what he does.

Rampage Monthly #16, the Hulk

The Hulk story's a total blank to me.

The X-Men story isn't, as the Sentinels make their awesome return and abduct Wolverine, Banshee and Jean Grey. I think this is the story in which we first learn that Wolvie's claws are a part of him.

I've no idea what the Doctor Strange story's about.

Starburst #14, Alien

It's hard to believe but there was a time when Alien was a brand new movie.

And that time is now, as the nation's Number One sci-fi mag looks at the arrival of that film.

Not only that but we get a look at the people behind the awesome special effects of Doctor Who!

Anyone who ever saw their depiction of the Loch Ness Monster running rampant through the streets of London knows that nothing was beyond their ability to pull-off convincingly.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Fifty years ago this month - October 1969.

If you're a dead parrot, you might want to sit up and take notice of this because, in this month of 1969, Monty Python's Flying Circus first aired on BBC One and the life of deceased avians would never be the same again.

Something else which occurred that month and would ensure nothing would be the same again, was the first message being sent over ARPANET which, the internet informs me, was the forerunner of the internet.

And there was another taste of the future, for the people of Britain, with the launch of the brand new 50 pence coin. Brought in as a replacement for the 10-shilling note, it suffered a mixed reception from the public, many of whom found it too easily mistaken for the 10 pence coin.

That is genuinely baffling. The 50 pence piece was bigger than the 10 pence piece, was thicker, heavier, had smoother edges; and was heptagonal, whereas a 10 pence piece was round. They're probably the least easy coins to get mixed up, ever.

I suspect people also complained it was, "Like Mickey Mouse money, Monopoly money and that funny money they have abroad," as I can't remember any new coin ever not being greeted with that response.

Avengers #69, the Growing Man

Hooray! The Growing Man makes his senses-shattering return.

And that can only mean Kang the Conqueror isn't far behind.

Needless to say, despite knowing their foe grows bigger and more powerful every time you hit him, the Avengers still keep on hitting him.

Captain America #118, the Falcon

All fully trained-up by Cap, the Falcon helps our hero take on the Outcasts or the Rejects or whatever it is they're called.

I do believe this is the issue in which the Red Skull, disguised as Captain America, tells Rick Jones to clear off and Rick vows to give up the sidekicking forever.

This, of course, leads to him becoming sidekick to Captain Marvel, barely hours later.

Ironically, it's the Red Skull's possession of the Cosmic Cube which causes all this and, thanks to Thanos, the Cosmic Cube will go on to become Captain Marvel's biggest headache.

Daredevil #57

Death's Head meets his doom but is revealed to be Karen Page's father.

It would appear Daredevil's also revealed to be Matt Murdock.

Fantastic Four #91

So desperate for evil things to do are the Skrulls that they take to stealing plots from whichever Star Trek episodes Jack Kirby happens to be watching at the time, as they capture the Thing and take him to their world of 1930s gangsterness, to take part in their gladiatorial games.

Incredible Hulk #120

Maximus tries to team up with the Hulk, to take on the US army but, inevitably, that alliance doesn't last and the evil Inhumans are soon having to flee both the Hulk and Uncle Sam.

Iron Man #18

I would assume the figure inside the new Iron Man suit is the LMD who's taken Tony Stark's place, and that the figure inside the old Iron Man suit is the real Tony Stark, trying to reclaim his rightful place in society.

The Avengers certainly look shocked by it all.

Amazing Spider-Man #77, the Human Torch and the Lizard

Spidey has to save the Lizard from the Human Torch but can he get the hotheaded hero to listen?

Thor #169, Galactus

Thor learns yet more of Galactus' origin.

X-Men #61, Sauron

It's one that I've read but I recall little of. I think that, at the climax, Sauron chooses to die, rather than drain the life force of his beloved, which is nice.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Iron Fist #3 - The City's Not For Burning!

Iron Fist #3, The Ravager
You are Steve Does Comics. You are reviewing a tale of graphic narrative. It is Iron Fist; product of a mysterious land in the Far East, from which no man may return with his soul unchanged. But first, before you can do this, you must endure the test  of...

Oh I give up. Writing a review in the style of an Iron Fist comic is a pain in the backside. It's even worse than if you tried to do it in the style of a Shang-Chi adventure.

Anyway, Iron Fist, I have spoken before of my inherent frustration with him, that, like Popeye, he had a means to defeat any foe but, like Popeye, never bothered to use it until he'd been knocked from pillar to post, making you wonder why he didn't just use it at the start of the fight and save himself the trouble.

I did, however, generally draw pleasure from his tales, mostly because they were nicely drawn and who doesn't like to see a good dose of martial arts mayhem?

I did, therefore, in my younger days, own a couple of issues of his book. One of which was issue #3, in which all kinds of chaos broke out.

So, around forty years since I first read it, what do I make of it now?

Iron Fist #3, the Ravager
Our hero and Misty Knight are flying into the world famous London Airport to look for their friend Colleen but don't even manage to land before their plane's blown up by an armoured villain calling himself the Ravager.

The inevitable fight breaks out between protagonist and antagonist but the villain escapes the scene, leaving Iron Fist to visit the now hospitalised Misty before having an argument with her about priorities, and then setting off in search of the villain.

By following the Ravager's radioactive footprints, Fisty tracks him down to a lab in that well-known scientific research facility the General Post Office Tower, whereupon another fight breaks out.

Iron Fist #3, Radion revealed!
Finally grasping that it might be a good idea to break out the spinach, Iron Fist revs up his knuckles and delivers the coup de grâce - but that only succeeds in wrecking the armour of his foe who now reveals himself to be Radion and promptly blows up the tower, with himself and Iron Fist still in it. Radion may be named after a brand of washing powder but that doesn't stop him trying to make a mess of London.

It's certainly a tale that isn't afraid of flinging you right into the action, with carnage breaking out from almost the moment we get past the opening splash page.

But, exploding planes aside, the thing that really smashed me in the face, reading it, is it's strongly reminiscent of that early Captain Britain adventure in which the similarly armoured Hurricane smashes up a London airport. As both tales were written by Chris Claremont, it's hard to believe the boy Chris wasn't knowingly drawing on that tale when he conceived this one.

Iron Fist #3, Post Office Tower destroyed by Radion
It also struck me that, as drawn by John Byrne, our hero Danny Rand looks remarkably like Captain Britain's alter-ego Brian Braddock.

Also, like Brian Braddock, he's not that interesting a person. The real star of the issue, character-wise, is Misty Knight who probably deserves her own comic more than he does.

Admittedly, she does act like a total jerk at the hospital, berating Danny because he wants to save the whole of London from destruction, rather than concentrate on finding Colleen. To be honest, wanting to save an entire city from annihilation doesn't seem an unreasonable goal for a super-hero. I can only put Misty's weird attitude down to Chris Claremont wanting to ramp up the drama levels the after-effects of her anaesthetic.

More importantly, this issue, we find out she's bionic. I mean, come on, how can they not give Genocide-Ignoring Bionic Misty Knight her own book after that revelation?

Aside from the somewhat manufactured conflict between Misty and Danny, my big reservation with the comic is there's too much human suffering in it. Not only does Misty get impaled on a big lump of metal, have to be rushed to the hospital and spend the rest of the yarn with an arm missing but half the people on the plane die, including a child who seems to be in the story just to be half set on fire and then killed. Call me a sissy but I like super-hero comics where no one actually gets hurt.

It's also quite annoying that Danny and Misty keep talking about Colleen but, as far as I could see, nowhere in the story do they tell you who Colleen is or what's supposed to have happened to her. A quick bit of back story might have been nice for newcomers.

Anyway, it's a competent story with plenty of incident and a solid but not, by his own standards, exceptional art job by Byrne but the overly melodramatic nature of Claremont's writing and the human suffering quotient are somewhat off-putting for me.

It is good, though, to see Radion show up. He was, for me, always one of Marvel's better 1970s villains and a noticeable cut above most of its wrongdoers of that era.

Iron Fist #3, Misty Knight - Bionic Woman

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