Tuesday 31 August 2010

Fantastic Four #173. Counter-Productive on Counter-Earth.

Fantastic Four #173 Galactus High Evolutionary Counter-EarthNot that I have a God complex but when I was a kid it wasn’t unknown for me to play at being Galactus.

Admittedly, as Galactus mostly sits on his own in his spaceship all day long, talking to himself, there weren’t exactly hours of fun to be had from this.

But, by cutting out a picture of Daredevil and sticking a paper helmet on him, I created a mini version of Galactus for Big Galactus to talk to. If you’re familiar with the late Frank Sidebottom and his somewhat makeshift puppet Little Frank then you’ll have some idea of the set-up.

Soon, bored with that, I took to shooting Little Galactus with my Dinky Toys’ UFO Interceptor. Quite what a UFO Interceptor had to do with anything, I have no idea but it shows how much I was grabbed by Galactus that I’d even rein in Commander Straker and the forces of SHADO to tackle him. Sadly, the Fantastic Four have no recourse to Commander Straker. When they meet Galactus, they have to do it all for themselves.

Of course, that isn’t strictly speaking true. When he first showed up they had the Watcher to help them, and this time out they have the High Evolutionary filling that much-coveted role of handily placed hyper-being.

What’s to do is Galactus has discovered the High Evolutionary’s Counter-Earth and is now out to eat it. Cue the Fantastic Four who can save Counter-Earth if they find another world willing to sacrifice itself to the big G.

It’s no surprise they don’t get far with that, as Mr Fantastic and the Thing find themselves on a planet of robots ruled by Torgo, while the Human Torch and the super-evolved ape Gorr land on a planet resembling medieval Europe. Neither set of natives is exactly amenable to being eaten and the heroes soon find themselves imprisoned. Meanwhile, as the issue reaches its dread climax, the High Evolutionary decides there’s only one thing for it. Following the failure of the FF, he has to take on Galactus himself.

I loved this set of issues as a kid and it still grabs me now. Of course, as a grown up, I can see it’s really just a rewrite of Galactus’ first appearance in Fantastic Four issues #48-50, with the High Evolutionary substituted for the Watcher. But here’s where this tale scores one over on that one. The High Evo’s a lot more proactive than the Watcher ever was. Not for him an insipid spiel about not being able to interfere. Counter-Earth’s his baby and he does what we all wanted the Watcher to do in that older tale. He sets out to give Galactus a punch in the bracket.

I was also grabbed by Gorr the talking gorilla who doesn’t just talk but for some reason is gold and speaks like he’s just swallowed a thesaurus, making him Counter-Earth’s equivalent of the Beast.

There’s also the fact the Thing has lost his powers, and Ben Grimm has to wear a Thing-suit to fight the forces of evil. I’m not sure it was a good idea but at least, like Little Galactus’ survival chances against the UFO Interceptor, it was only ever going to be short-lived.

Monday 30 August 2010

Biting off more than I can chew, in the name of ego

Ego the Living planet vs Galactus, Jack KirbyAccording to that woman on YouTube, who tells you how to make money from your website, you have to promote your ventures like Billy-O, so, while I'm waiting for a fresh new batch of comics to arrive in a sensational £10 deal, I might as well promote my recently launched blog Steve Does Everything. What it's about? I don't know. What purpose does it serve? I don't know. But it exists and currently features my thoughts on the threat to our cats, and the scariest movie ever made. All I'll say is, "dolls," and, "African," and, "Don't take its necklace off, you stupid woman." I think you know what I mean.

If not, at least you know where to find out.

Friday 27 August 2010

Conan vs Red Sonja. Marvel Feature #7.

Red Sonja vs Conan Marvel Feature #7Way back when I was knee-high to a rock troll, I really didn’t like Frank Thorne’s take on Red Sonja.

I think it might’ve been the less than realistic hair, the strange eyes or just the fact she looked so angry all the time. She might’ve been an impressive warrior and filled a scale armour bikini nicely but you really wouldn’t have wanted to try and have a conversation with her.

Well, it shows how much I knew because, looking at this tale now, I love it. The Sonja that Thorne gives us might not bear any resemblance to John Buscema’s version, which is the first I ever encountered, but she does look like she could chop up a demon with the best of them. And whisper it quietly but the Hyrkanian hacker's actually quite cute in one or two panels.

I have to say this is a much better tale than the one it follows on from in Conan the Barbarian #67. It’s better because it’s more focused. While that story blundered off up an irrelevant and not all that interesting side alley, this stays resolutely on the "A" Plot, even to the extent that Belit disappears off on a track of her own early on and isn’t seen again - something I’m not altogether unhappy about. I have nothing against her - call me sexist but, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing finer in comicdom than a half naked warrior woman - but I can’t help hearing the name “Yoko” every time Conan says, “Belit.” Odd, then, given its tighter focus, that this was written by Roy Thomas, just as that was.

Apart from a rather nice scene in which Sonja reunites with her latest employer and gets an amiable tour of his corpse-filled lair, the tale’s selling point is of course that it features a fight between Red Sonja and Conan.
Red Sonja vs Conan Marvel Feature #7
Sadly for us fans of the woman they don’t know as The Sonj, the implication here seems to be that, in a fair fight, Conan’ll win, whereas I like to think there’s no such thing as a fair fight when Sonja’s around and she’d simply cheat her way to victory.

Still, the fight - which goes on for a fair bit - is fun with each having the chance to kill the other but spurning it before resuming their battle.

Supposedly these second chances are given from a sense of honour but some of us don’t want Sonja to have a sense of honour and we’ve all seen Xena. We’re all used to the idea of subtext with our sword and sorcery. We all know the real reason they won’t kill each other.

As if to rub it in, their fight only ends when a serpent rears its head and they have to join together to fight it. Hmn, Sonja and Conan are getting physical and then a serpent rears its head. I think we know what’s going on there. Needless to say, their post-coil exhilaration convinces Sonja and Conan they’re best of buddies and should stop the fighting.

Trouble is, that’s when the real villain of the piece shows up. He’s a giant man-bat. Ten-to-one on he doesn’t start every sentence with the word “Skreek!” and keep going on about his wife.

We have to get the next issue of Conan the Barbarian to find out what happens next.

I don’t have the next issue of Conan the Barbarian.

But I’m going to get it.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Batman's Detective Comics #458

Batman Detective Comics #458 Man-BatAs an adult, it's hard for me to know just why I loved Batman so much when I was a kid. He had no personality, he had no superpowers, for the most part his enemies were rubbish, and all the fun stuff you associate with him - like the Batcave, Wayne Manor, Robin and the Batmobile - had been pretty much dumped by the time I started reading the strip, meaning that, if not for the silly costume, you could at times have been forgiven for thinking you were watching an episode of Murder She Wrote.

All the goofy stuff had been sacrificed in an attempt to make the previously embarrassing strip more "grim and gritty" than it'd previously been but, in all honesty, for the most part it was no more grim and gritty than the early Iron Man stories.

In the end, I think what grabbed me was the cape and the fact that, as he didn't have superpowers, he was one of the few costumed crime-fighters I felt I too could be like. This of course ignored the fact he was a billionaire and I wasn't.

This issue's a perfect example of the Murder She Wrote tendencies, as the man they call "Bats" has a somewhat pedestrian whodunit in which he has to track down a murderer who may or may not be into tattooing.

Needless to say Commissioner Gordon messes up the whole investigation, arresting completely the wrong man, while Batman solves it with ridiculous ease, mostly because the only clue needed lands in his lap. The truth is that, having solved the crime, Batman doesn't even need to do anything. As the villain's just some bloke, Batman could find a phone booth, call the police and let them make the bust.

The fact that he doesn't is of course down to the Sherlock Holmes conundrum.

Despite the boasts, Batman isn't and never has been the world's greatest detective. That's clearly Sherlock Holmes, a man so smart he solved nearly all his cases without even leaving his drawing room. You'd think, therefore, that if anyone could get away with dressing up as a bat, it'd be Sherlock Holmes.

Sadly he couldn't.

Why? Precisely because he solved all his cases without leaving his drawing room. Just how seriously would anyone take a detective who took to dressing up as a bat in order to sit in his own house? To justify such a get-up, it's necessary the detective actually gets off his backside and runs around a bit.

Because of this, Batman couldn't justify dressing up as a bat to stand in a phone booth and call the police. Therefore he has to apprehend the villain himself. He does it of course but you can't help feeling that the talents that once enabled him to face aliens and giant robots every month are going somewhat to waste on such a foe.

I suppose it's an obvious thing that if you want to create an arch-rival for a super-hero, all you need do is reverse that hero's name. So, for Batman, you'd get Man-Bat, for Spider-Man you'd get the Man-Spider and, for Dr Strange, you'd get The Strange Doctor. As far as I'm aware, Marvel Comics never gave us the adventures of The Strange Doctor, though I'd read them if they did.

DC, on the other hand, did give us the adventures of Man-Bat.

I'm just not sure why.

He was hopeless.

In the 1970s, Marvel UK gave us Captain Britain, a strip that started badly and then got worse, ending up, ignominiously, as a back-up strip in their weekly Spider-Man comic and being very badly drawn by Pablo Marcos.

Sadly, the back-up in this comic does nothing to make me any keener on Pablo's work, as we get a Man-Bat tale by him in which Man-Bat's wife turns into a bat then turns into herself then turns into another woman completely, before a Baron Mordo type turns her into a statue.

You can't get round it, Man-Bat just doesn't grab me at all. He looks bad. He's ineffectual. He says, "Skreek!" at the start of every sentence. And everything he does seems to revolve around his wife. I think there might be a good argument that, just as no good super-hero should have parents, no hero should have a wife. Somehow domestic arrangements never sit well in conjunction with super-heroics. With the lameness of its hero and the somewhat random feel of the plot, reading this tale feels like I've blundered in halfway through an Atlas comic.

And that's never a good thing to say about anything.

Monday 23 August 2010

Action Comics #502. Your heroine speaks.

Action Comics #502 Superman and SupergirlHello, it’s me, Kara from Krypton. You might know me from such smash-hit movies as Supergirl and, erm, er, Supergirl.

Movies aside, you want to know what’s eating me?


That’s what’s eating me.

This pod thing lands on Earth, and some aliens say it’s got a baby in it that’s going to be their saviour, and can Superman and me look after it for ’em. So, before I can say no, he says yes.

Well that’s odd, Mr Super Duper Man, because I seem to remember that when you were asked to look after me, you stuck me in an orphanage, kept threatening to exile me into space and told me I could risk my life saving the world for you just as long as I didn’t tell anyone I existed. But, this brat, oh that’s right, you don’t hesitate to take that on even though it has hair that looks like a steel toupee.

Action Comics #502, alien baby
So we raise this brat, which only takes a few hours ’coz he’s an alien.

And then what happens?

O-o-o-o-o-h, Superman gets himself killed fighting the Galactic Golem.

At this point, bearing in mind the way he’s treated me over the years, you might think I’d be breaking out the party hats and getting ready to dance on his grave.

But no. I can’t do that. Despite my ample displays of bosom, I’m the world’s nicest girl and am therefore devastated.

Then it looks like The Parasite’s come to the Fortress of Superman-Has-No-Friends - I mean Solitude - to kill me with the unstoppable power he’s just absorbed from the late Superman and the now equally late Galactic Golem.

Action Comics #502, Superman is dead
So, that’s it, with no way of beating that kind of power, I’m a goner.

Except Superman’s not dead and the Parasite’s not real. It was all a trick by my cousin to make me devastated with grief so the alien brat - that has a mouth like a vent act’s dummy, you know, those really creepy ones you wouldn’t want to be left alone with - that he left me alone with, will find out what emotion is and pass it onto the alien race that spawned it.

That’s right. My cousin the jerk deliberately set out to make me devastated with grief and then make me think I was about to cork it.

At this point, I take a Kryptonite chainsaw to the big blue sheesh and gleefully hack him to pieces as he begs me to spare him.

Well, no. I don’t. Because I’m the nicest girl in the universe, I just tell him how great and clever he is.

Action Comics #502, Superman makes people cry
You know what I think it is?

Stockholm Syndrome.

Look it up.

Krypto, Beppo (or Zeppo, or Heppo, or whatever the hell it’s called), Streaky, Comet, we’ve all got it. That’s what he does to people.

But just you wait, Mr Super Duper Man. Just you wait. Coz one of these days, I’m going to turn bad. I mean real bad. I’m gonna get a tattoo and leather pants and play pool and everything. And then, Mr Super Duper Man, I’m gonna give you the pasting you’ve been asking for.

And when I do, everyone’ll want to know just what it was that tipped me over the edge.


I think we both know what that was.

Don’t we?

Saturday 21 August 2010

Space 1999 Annual, 1976. Alpha males in trouble.

Space 1999 annual 1976Was there ever any TV show with an opening more designed to make your head explode with excitement than Gerry Anderson’s Space: 1999? That fanfare, those pounding drums, that plummeting spiral of strings. And then that electric guitar twanging away as though drafted in from the eerie depths of outer space itself. And those words; “In this episode,” followed by a montage of epic proportions. Even now, as a half-senile old derelict, it still gets me, right here.

Then again was there ever a show more designed to send you nodding off than each episode itself, as some empty, sterile and baffling story would unfold each week? A story which always seemed to be resolved by the latest menace suddenly vanishing without trace as Commander Koenig would look out the window and ask, “Victor, will we ever really know what happened here today?” To which Barry Morse would always give a half smile, take a sip of champagne and respond, “Ah John, who can know, John? John, who can know?”

That of course didn’t stop me tuning in every week. I mean, the stories might’ve been rubbish but at least it looked good.

And, you know what? It didn’t stop me getting the Space 1999 annual every year either.

I have to come clean. My copy of the first Space 1999 annual’s in a bad way. For a start, for some reason I can’t recall, as a child I decided it’d be a good idea to draw beards, glasses and perms on everyone in order to make them look like ELO’s Jeff Lynne - even Barbara Bain. On top of that, being in love with the Eagle spaceships, I cut out all the photos of them, having discovered that, by licking the back of them, I could make them stick to my bedroom window with saliva. I was classy that way.

But what to make of what’s left of my not-so treasured annual?

I remember as a kid being terribly disappointed with it, mostly because the art in the picture strips wasn’t of the standard I was used to at Marvel. The lines were so thin and uniform and the layouts so undynamic. The lack of detail in the backgrounds also leapt out at me. Looking at them now, I actually quite like that art. There’s a simple unfussiness about it. And, if it was never going to win any awards, it got the job done with a certain efficiency.

In the first picture story, we encounter a pair of humans from the future, who for no good reason, want to kill everyone on Moonbase Alpha until they themselves are killed by Commander Koenig’s cold. Superior intellects killed by a common cold? Wherever do these writers get their ideas from? In the second picture story, our heroes find themselves on a planet ruled by women. Needless to say, it’s the same sort of man-hating hell hole that all planets ruled by women are, in these things. Happily, our heroes escape and get back to Alpha where the women know their place.

On top of this, there’s a whole raft of other features, including a set of prose stories, cartoons, puzzles, board games and, my own personal favourites, a series of interviews in which cast members allegedly interview the characters they play in the show. It’s a great conceit and helps shed light on both actors and characters. I’d love to know who the unnamed genius was who was really behind them.

The truth is although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, you got a whole lot more for your money from these books than you got from Marvel UK’s annuals of the same time. That’s not to say they’re better. After all, the Marvel Annuals had Marvel stories in them but, looking at the thing now for the first time in donkeys' years, I can at least appreciate the volume of work the editor put into sticking it all it together.

PS. Thanks to this annual, I now know that 17th Century astronomer Sir Paul Neal once looked at the moon and saw an elephant roaming around on it. It was later pointed out to him that it was a mouse that'd climbed into his telescope. If that revelation alone doesn’t justify the price tag, what does?

PPS. Apparently, the comic strips in this annual were drawn by John Burns. As we all know, the American Charlton Space: 1999 comic was drawn by John Byrne. Meanwhile, some of the episodes of the Space: 1999 TV show were written by a man called Johnny Byrne. Coincidence? Or proof that the show's thesis that some cosmic force is pulling all our strings was right all along?

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Logan’s Run #4. The future’s so bleak…

Marve Comics, Logan's Run #4, George PerezClassic 1970s sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? always claimed, “The only thing to look forward to is the past.” Clearly, 1970s Hollywood had a similar take on things, as movie after movie told us the future was so bleak we’d have to wear shades - to make sure we couldn’t see it.

Our stomachs would be filled with food that was really people, sports would involve men killing each other on roller skates, and any robot you met at a theme park was guaranteed to try and murder you.

Sharing such joyous optimism was Logan’s Run where the local council killed anyone over the age of thirty. And I thought my local authority were tyrants for making me have two different-coloured wheelie bins.

In truth, the closest I got to seeing Logan’s Run in the cinema was watching a trailer for it while waiting for the similarly pessimistic Futureworld to begin. This means my first exposure to the story came not through the movie but from the Marvel comic of the same name.

Logan's Run #4, dead and frozen
I have to admit I didn't at the time see Marvel’s movie adaptations as being proper Marvel comics - existing as they did in a separate universe - and therefore didn't buy them. This means my one copy of Logan’s Run was bought for me by a grown-up, to whom comics were comics, with no differentiation between real Marvel and fake Marvel.

In the end, I’m glad they did because it’s surprisingly good. It’s drawn by George Perez, and written by Dave Kraft, a man whose name never seems to get shouted from the rooftops but I always seem to enjoy everything I encounter that he wrote. This particular issue covers the most important section of the movie, the one where they meet a homicidal robo-sculptor called Box, Jenny Agutter gets them out for the lads and we meet Peter Ustinov.

Logan's Run #4, Box sculpt
It has to be said no one in the comic actually looks like they did in the film - Jessica, for instance, looks suspiciously like the Wondrous Wasp - but it’s a beautifully executed comic that packs panels in ten-to-the dozen while never losing sight of its story-telling principles. I also have to praise Klaus Janson’s inking and colouring which, to my pitiful eyes, seem a perfect match for Perez’s pencils.

In the end, the future did arrive and, because of that, I finally got to see the movie.

And you know what?

No way was it as good as the comic.

But the comic came after the movie. That means it was from the future. That means the future was better than the present.

Hollywood, however could you have got it so wrong?

Logan's Run #4, Box dies

Saturday 14 August 2010

Rampaging Hulk #4. The way things are going...

Rampaging Hulk #4, Jim Starlin)Whatever the greater success of other incarnations of the Hulk, I can’t deny I’ve always had a soft spot for the short-lived version that spoke like a cross between Al Capone and The Thing. You might not have wanted to be stuck in a lift with him but there was something appealingly Kirbytastic about the sight of him calling Rick Jones a punk or Betty Ross a broad.

Well, lucky me because, in Rampaging Hulk #4, we get to see that version make his comeback as the un-jolly green giant’s transported to a world of magic by the sorcerer Chen K’an who restores that old persona so they might better communicate.

It seems K’an needs Hulkie’s help to defeat a wicked witch and, as we all know, the Hulk can never say no to a fight.

It’s a nice, if fatalistic, tale and, being drawn by Jim Starlin and Alex Nino, looks beautiful - though I could do without the grey washes designed to compensate for the lack of colour. It reminds me too much of what they used to do in those UK Marvel weeklies that I’m always moaning about. It’s done with a lot more style and subtlety here than in those but, still, the simple truth is art this stylish is only marred by such tactics.

Rampaging Hulk #5, Jim Starlin, Alex Nino
The back-up story features a character called Bloodstone who, until I reacquainted myself with this comic a couple of years back, I’d totally forgotten about.

To be honest, I’m not surprised I’d forgotten about him. From what I can make out in this issue, he seems to be some sort of cross between Doc Savage, Manhunter, Ka-Zar and Dr Strange, which is a heck of a confluence of influence.

I have to admit I don’t have a clue what’s going on in the tale or who anyone is but there seem to be big things at stake and it’s certainly nicely drawn by Val Mayerik and Sonny Trinidad.

I get the feeling from what's on show here that the run would benefit from being pulled together into a trade paperback where one could see the whole thing unfold before one’s eyes so it might finally make sense to the likes of me but I don’t know if it ever has been.

The thing that strikes me about this issue, as it does with a lot of Marvel’s black and white mags, is there seems to be a fair bit of padding, with single page pin-ups a-go-go. It’s hard to see who they’re aimed at as I would have thought such things would appeal most strongly to younger readers, whereas the magazine format was supposed to be aimed at the more mature.

But that Jim Starlin cover!

Let’s face it, if you don’t dig that, tiger, you don’t dig comics.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Son of Satan in Marvel Spotlight #13. Families at war.

Marvel Spotlight #13, the Son of SatanIf there’s one thing we all should learn in life it’s never to read other people’s diaries. Like that mirror of the soul the Phantom Stranger was always going on about, you’ll rarely be pleased by what you see in them.

In his second adventure we learn how the Son of Satan first came to learn he was the Son of Satan. Admittedly you’d have thought that being called Daimon Hellstrom, having a sister called Satana, having a great big pentagram on his chest, pointy ears and hair in the shape of horns might have all have been pretty big giveaways but our Daimon’s clearly none too bright and it seems he only found out when he read it in his mother’s diary.

Obviously her diary was somewhat more interesting than the one I tried keeping when I was younger because it seems to carry no references to anybody’s new albums or having once seen a bloke at the local Jobcentre who looked a bit like half-forgotten Olympic steeplechaser Colin Reitz.

The plot of this issue is to a large degree a retread of Marvel Spotlight #12, in which our "hero" goes to Hell and steals something from Satan. Last time out he stole Johnny Blaze and some woman. This time he steals something far more valuable; Satan’s horse and cart. He also steals his trident whose metal is the only thing that can weaken Satan. Why Satan carries a trident made of a metal that weakens him is never explained. With a level of critical analysis I never had as a kid, it now strikes me as being like Superman carrying a sword made of Kryptonite.

But, as today’s teeny-boppers say, it’s all fab stuff. SOS hasn’t mellowed yet into being an out-and-out good guy - although he’s already more morally compassed than in his first outing - and Herb Trimpe’s overwrought pencilling’s perfectly suited to the subject matter, while Frank Chiaramonte’s inking’s perfectly suited to Trimpe’s pencilling. Virtually every character looks as though their soul’s been wrung out like an old dish cloth and their bones are about to burst through their skin.

And, if the whole thing’s totally derivative of The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby, somehow it doesn’t matter. All that matters is Satan’s in it and, as Samuel Johnson never got close to saying in his own diary, when a man’s tired of Satan he’s tired of life.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Avengers Annual 1977. Better late than never.

Marvel UK, Avengers Annual 1977I could claim the Avengers Annual 1977 was a treat that helped light up Christmas Day 1976.

But it wasn’t.

Not because it wasn’t any good but because my dad totally forgot he’d bought it and only remembered several weeks later when he found it in the airing cupboard and realised what he’d done. Thanks to this not totally atypical oversight, it means I got a little piece of Christmas 1976 sometime around March 1977.

So, was it worth the wait?

Of course it was. It was the Avengers. It was Marvel. It was 1977. How could it not be?

It kicks off with a double-length epic in which the Avengers come up against the threat of Nuklo. Like a giant vampire duck, Nuklo’s dramatically billed. He’s billed as, “the monster that time forgot,” and is big, strong and radioactive. His deadly radiation doesn’t seem to bother our heroes who seem quite happy to run up to him and punch him at every opportunity. As none of them have lost their hair or teeth by the end of the tale I can only assume that even the non-super powered ones are quite immune to deadly radiation.

The tale’s drawn by Rich Buckler in his flat-out Jack Kirby style and so can’t be said to look stylish but his story-telling sense is strong and the main draw of the thing is the revelation that Golden Age hero the Whizzer is the father of Wanda and Pietro. I suppose, bearing in mind his power of super-speed, this is hardly a shock but it’s appropriate and gives us a potted history of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, tying them pleasingly into the High Evolutionary. As a kid I always had the idea that Quicksilver was a super-evolved cheetah from the Evolutionary’s kingdom of Wundagore, so the official link with him was a good thing for me even if it wasn’t in the way I’d imagined.

I believe the Marvel Powers-That-Be later changed their mind and decided the Whizzer wasn’t their father after all but I choose to ignore that, as it’s one of those inconvenient truths I can live without. The main plot about the Avengers’ battle with Nuklo isn’t quite as interesting as the Whizzer subplot but it has a certain vigour to it and at least Mantis is slightly less annoying than usual here.

Next we get a Conan the Barbarian tale which is basically the same story as we got in his comic pretty much every month, in which he has to rescue a fit bird from a giant crocodile summoned by an evil wizard. It’s as beautifully pencilled as ever, although I was never big fan of Buscema’s inking which generally used too thin a line for my liking.

Given that every woman Conan ever rescued was drop-dead gorgeous, I do wonder if Conan simply refused to rescue any of the ugly ones, hence the lack of stories in which he did so. He seemed to be practising a mad sort of eugenics in which all the ugly women got eaten by monsters while the fit ones survived, meaning the world would soon be populated entirely by the firmly knockered.

Finally, the Two-Gun Kid teams up with the Avengers to fight Kang the Conqueror in the Wild West. Kid Colt’s there too but for some reason disappears without trace or explanation after the first two pages. Given that, to fit it into the annual, pages have clearly been cut out, I’m not sure if his disappearance is down to pruning by the annual’s editor Jim Salicrup or if that’s what happened in the original comic.

Because it’s a segment of a multi-part tale and therefore it’s not totally clear just what’s going on or why, it’s probably the weakest choice of story in the annual although in itself it’s clearly a nice tale and does feature the death of Kang.

Why do I get a feeling he probably didn't stay dead?

I’m trying to wrack my brain to remember exactly what strips were featured in the Avengers’ weekly comic in the Autumn 1976 period when this annual came out. I think Dr Strange was long gone. Was Shang-Chi still in it? If so, it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t get to see him instead of a somewhat butchered Avengers story.

Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers and if my Christmas 1976 arrived in instalments, perhaps it was appropriate that it ended with a tale that itself was a final instalment of an earlier event.