Tuesday 8 June 2010

Mighty World of Marvel Annual 1977.

Mighty World of Marvel Annual 1977, cover1976 was a bad year for Britain. We had the worst drought in history, the Brotherhood of Man hit the charts, and the government had to go to the IMF.

Happily, none of that mattered because we had a whole bunch of Marvel annuals to see us through, much as Vera Lynn had done in the war.

Flagship of this wave of rescue was of course The Mighty World of Marvel annual and it kicks off with a story that makes me very happy, as the Incredible Hulk comes up against his Communist Bloc equivalent the Missing Link.

Few monsters could get away with being pink, but the Missing Link pulls it off with style. Along with the Glob, the Link is possibly my favourite Hulk monster of his era. A shame then that we didn't see more of him over the years. The last time we did, Linky was exploding. Happily, a mere trifle like blowing up isn't enough to stop a man of the Link's calibre and now, in this tale, he's back, having been adopted by a mining community in the middle of nowhere.

The only problem is he's giving off dangerous radiation that imperils the very people who've taken him in.

Needless to say it's not long before the ever-turbulent Bruce Banner's lost his rag, and the Hulk and the Link are smashing the town up. Happily, the Missing Link explodes again and quickly reconstitutes, free of radiation.

I can't deny it, I'm a total sucker for 1970s' Hulk comics. There's just something that Happy Herb Trimpe brought to the table. Maybe it's the way he draws monsters. Maybe it's the way he draws machinery. Maybe it's just the way he tells a story but I get into these tales in a way that's quite unique. My only complaint about the outing is that, to my eyes, Jack Abel's inks don't suit Trimpe's pencils a millionth as well as those of John Severin and Sal Trapani did. But it's a crime I can forgive. Far as I'm concerned, as long as there's two big stupid monsters hitting each other, all's well in Hulk land.

A few days ago I reviewed Daredevil #115, featuring the conclusion of Daredevil's first encounter with the Shadow-inspired Death-Stalker. And, wouldn't you know it, this annual contains the previous instalment of that very tale as, blundering around the Everglades, the man without fear encounters that villain plus the Gladiator and the Man-Thing. Sadly, as too often with established villains who meet the Man-Thing, Gladiator turns out to be a scaredy cat and burns at the swamp monster's touch. Marvel's heroes never burned at the Man-Thing's touch, so I'm not sure why the villains did. They might have many unadmirable qualities but, if they were willing to take our heroes on, they couldn't have been that cowardly. Bearing in mind it's the mid-section of a longer story and therefore we don't know what's happened prior to it or would happen after it, it's all highly enjoyable, mostly because I do dig the Death-Stalker so much.

"No similarity between any of the names, characters, persons and/or institutions in this magazine with those of any living or dead person or institution is intended," a helpful box used to tell us at the start of every Marvel Comic. And so we next get a guest appearance from Richard Nixon, officially therefore designated not a real person. He's in the concluding part of a John Buscema/Stan Lee Fantastic Four tale in which Galactus has yet again returned to Earth in an attempt to get the Surfer to once more be his herald. I seem to recall that, when this tale was reprinted in Marvel UK's weekly comics, Nixon was redrawn as Jimmy Carter. Marvel really did like to pretend its presidents were imaginary. The FF are putting up a fight but, in the end, rely on the Surfer and Agatha Harkness (AKA; DSX McKinna) to sort them out. It's drawn by John Buscema and features Galactus, so, even if we don't have a Scooby what events have preceded it, it was always going to be good stuff.

Finally we get another Fantastic Four tale in which they take on the Hulk. In plotting terms, it's probably the crudest of our stories - the FF go looking for the Hulk, they find the Hulk, they knock him out - but it's drawn by George Perez and you never tire of the Fantastic Four against the Hulk.

It has to be said the choice of tales for the annual's an odd one. The stories themselves are fine but, apart from the Hulk outing, they're all single instalments of two or three part tales, meaning you simply don't know what's happened before and are left wondering what happens after. As a sample of what Marvel had to offer, they clearly worked and, if I were a new reader, they'd've been more than enough to get me hooked. But it would've been nice if they'd chosen single-parters and not kept leaving us dangling. Single-part stories were thinner on the ground in the era the choices come from but, off the top of my head, I can think of stand-alone FF, and Daredevil stories of that vintage that could've taken their place.

PS. Because I'm in a generous mood and I'm too bone idle to look it up, a great big Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to the first person who can tell me from what original issues the above tales are reprinted.


Terence Stewart said...

The Fantastic Four with Nixon would b FF #122? The FF with Hulk? #167? Was it set in St Louis?

Steve said...

Hi, Terence. Judging by what I can glean from the Grand Comics Database, The Richard Nixon one looks to be #123. The second FF story looks to be #166, the issue before the shenanigans with the big arch.

Booksteve said...

Enjoying your posts as always but can I just mention how much I absolutely LOVE the staples! Great touch!

Terence Stewart said...

Ooooo..out by one in both instances. Though it was all from memory!

Love the staples too.

Steve said...

Thanks for the staples-love, both of you. I must admit I was thinking of getting rid of them for being too gimmicky but, now you've spoken up in their defence, it looks like I'll have to keep them.

Simon B said...

I'm only here for the staples :-)

( You know I'm kidding, Steve. )

Anonymous said...

1976 was a bloody great year for Britain. Hottest summer I can recall. The Form Five girls at my school were practically nude during break times, Tom Baker's 'Dr.Who' was on telly, and the Thatcher Tories were in opposition. Great days!