Saturday 6 March 2010

Avengers #9 (UK). Where it all began.

The weekend of November 17th 1973 was the weekend I started collecting comics.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't when I started reading them - I'd been doing that for years even by that point, starting with British titles like Whizzer and Chips, The Beano, The Dandy and The Beezer, with the odd issue of TV21 thrown in, before I moved on to the likes of Marvel, DC and Alan Class - but November 17th was when I started to collect them.

In retrospect, it must've been the above comic, issue #9 of Marvel UK's Avengers mag that made me do it.

You see, up until the launch of The Avengers comic, Marvel UK's weekly reprints of their American output had been printed with matt covers. The Avengers put a stop to that. Its covers were printed on glossy paper, just like the originals, with the added plus that UK comics were much larger in size than their American counterparts. Of course, they were in black and white but that didn't matter. And the first issue of the UK Avengers that I ever owned was issue #9.

At the time, I thought it was a magical thing with its mighty Jack Kirby cover showing the Avengers smashing their way into the Mole Man's lair, its glossiness and its better page quality than Marvel's other UK mags. Admittedly, until I recently bought this comic off eBay, I couldn't actually remember anything about the Avengers' story within other than that it featured the Mole Man. The Dr Strange tale on the other hand, wherein he encountered a living house, was burned into my memory.

Having now reacquainted myself with the comic, I have to say the Avengers tale's a startlingly random thing in which ants warn Giant Man there's trouble brewing beneath the Earth's surface. The other Avengers act like jerks and refuse to listen to Giant Man's warnings and so he sets of alone to deal with things, only to be captured. Then the other Avengers feel guilty and go to rescue him but not before a bunch of subterraneans attack them for no great reason. Halfway through the tale, the Mad Ghost turns up and joins forces with the Mole Man, again for no great reason. His apes are nowhere in sight. Apparently he's decided to dispense with their services. Has he killed them? Has he put them in a zoo? Has he sold them to Michael Jackson?

We're never told.

Then the Avengers show up and whup some underground ass, priding themselves that they've set the Mole Man's plan back by several months. As the Mole Man's plan was to destroy the planet Earth, I'm not sure a few months' delay's much to be smug about but the Avengers think otherwise and seem very full of themselves.

The issue's Dr Strange tale's pure class. I must confess I generally tend to like Steve Ditko's work more in theory than in practice but there's no denying he was perfect for the adventures of the sorcerer supreme and his tale's packed with atmosphere and ominousness as the good doctor investigates a haunted house. Strange himself comes across as a bit of a tool in all honesty and I'm not sure the tale makes much sense. At the end of it all I'm still not sure what the house actually wanted and I'm not sure Stan Lee was either but the whole thing looks great and let's face it that's the main thing you ask of a Dr Strange adventure.

But wait, our American readers demand. The Mad Ghost? Who the hell's this Mad Ghost of whom you speak? I should explain that the British never had a taste for the rampant commie bashing Marvel loved so much in the early 1960s and thus, when the tales were reprinted in the UK, the Red Ghost became the Mad Ghost. Personally I prefer the change; a mad ghost is always going to sound more interesting than a red one.


Anonymous said...

I recall an Iron Man story in 'Spider-Man Comics Weekly' where the Red Barbarian was altered to the Mad Barbarian. The same story changed an appearance by Comrade K to one by the Mad Ghost from 'The Fantastic Four'! I often wondered what sort of villain who would call himself 'The Mad Something Or Other'! Only a very stupid one possibly.

Steve said...

I seem to vaguely recall the Mad Barbarian incident. Weren't they also in the habit of renaming places like Russia "Bodavia"?

Kid said...

Back in the '60s, when the RED GHOST first appeared in the pages of WHAM!, he was renamed THE APE MASTER. Imagine my surprise and confusion when I discovered the tale not long after in MARVEL COLLECTORS' ITEM CLASSICS. It was as if I had tumbled into an alternate universe where the Ape Master was called the Red Ghost. Little did I know, eh?

Steve said...

And then you had to cope with them renaming Killraven, "Ape-Slayer." The ape-based confusion that Marvel were capable of causing.