Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Ghosts of Christmas Passed.

Christmas. What a time it is. A time in our childhood when some of us could look forward to a whole heap of Marvel UK Annuals in our stockings.

Sadly, in my very early childhood the Marvel UK Annual had yet to be invented, and so I thought I'd take a look at what regular Marvel mags the comic fans might've been finding under their trees in the festive season of exactly forty years ago.

And what an oddly familiar lot of comics they are. In fact there's only one I didn't read when I was a kid. Thanks to those Marvel UK reprints, I got to read pretty much the entirety of Marvel's first decade and a half of publishing, all for a few pence a week. I suppose that means it was like Christmas every day for some of us.

Avengers #83, the Valkyrie

Who wouldn't get into the Christmas spirit with this? My favourite Defender makes her debut (in a fashion), as the Valkyrie shows those male chauvinists what an opponent really is.

Even though the tale's from December, I seem to recall it being set at Halloween, showing that forward planning wasn't necessarily a priority at Marvel.

I first read this in one of the Avengers Treasury Editions and it still has to be one of my favourite Avengers covers.
Conan the Barbarian #2, Barry Smith

Conan the Barbarian makes his second-ever Marvel appearance as, from humble origins, Barry Smith's artwork inches, step-by-step, towards greatness.
Daredevil #71, The Tribune

I vaguely recall this story from when it was reprinted in The Mighty World of Marvel. Sadly, apart from the fact it was drawn by Gene Colan, and that the Tribune was a full-time nut, I don't remember much about it beyond that.
Incredible Hulk #134, the Golem

The Hulk stands in for the Golem, with a large chunk of Frankenstein thrown in. It's one of my favourite Hulk tales, as our hero very slowly comes round to the idea that he should be taking on the evil Draxon the Dictator.
Iron Man #32

I've no idea at all what happens in this. I'm afraid that, of all the Marvel big-hitters, Iron Man post-Gene Colan's the one I have least knowledge of.

I blame Marvel UK for not reprinting enough Iron Man epics to keep me informed.
Thor #183, Dr Doom

Thor takes on Dr Doom. I read this story in Super Spider-Man Comics Weekly during its Being Printed Sideways phase - and remember diligently copying one of the panels, in my A3 cartridge pad. It showed Don Blake, with his cane, skulking around and up to something.

I loved this story. It had Thor. It had Dr Doom and it had John Buscema. What more could you ask?
Amazing Spider-Man #91, Bullitt

If Peter Parker thought he never had much luck, he should've tried being a member of the Stacy family.

After the death of her father, Gwen decides to recruit the services of a crooked politician called Bullitt, to get her revenge on Spider-Man. Not surprisingly, that turns out to be as good an idea as her dating Peter Parker was.
Fantastic Four #105, John Romita

It may be heresy to say it but when Jack Kirby left The Fantastic Four, and John Romita took over for a few issues I was delighted.

I'd nothing against Jack but I do love a bit of Romita and this was one of those rare stories where Sue Storm actually got to do something other than get kidnapped or stand around waiting for Reed to tell her what to do.

It didn't hurt that Jazzy John made her look as good as all his other heroines too.


cerebus660 said...

Some great comics there, Steve! I especially love that FF story - no. 106, the second part of the story, was my first ever Fantastic Four comic. And you're right, Romita's short-lived FF was a treat, even though he didn't want the gig in the first place. Kirby was a hard act to follow...

Out of all the comics above, the only one I don't own / haven't read is the Conan. Which is a major oversight for a Conan fan like me! Must try harder :-)

Steve said...

My only exposure to Conan the Barbarian #2 came from reading the Essential Conan, which I then threw away to make space for other things. After all, I reasoned, it's not like a cheap book of black and white reprints of old Conan comics is ever going to be worth anything.

Next thing I knew it turned out that, for legal reasons, the thing's practically priceless. Argh!

Anonymous said...

""Even though the tale's from December, I seem to recall it being set at Halloween, showing that forward planning wasn't necessarily a priority at Marvel.''

If I recall correctly, comics labelled December would be released around September or October...don't ask me why, but it would explain a Halloween story appearing around October in a comic labelled December.

And like cerebus660 this was about the time I started buying comics...those FF and Hulk and Spidey issues were the first of those titles I bought....has it really been 40 years?

B Smith

Blaze Morgan said...

Two months after the fact, but I have to comment. This is when I "graduated" from DC to Marvel. That's the way it worked in those good old days.

"Thor" #182 and "Avengers" #82 were my entry into the Marvel Universe. Action-packed tales with John Buscema was a great period of comics.

Anonymous said...

A lot of magazines, including comics, are labeled with their off-sale date rather than the on-sale one. That is probably to keep the retailers from removing them too soon. (Presumably, the longer it stays on display, the better the chance it will get sold.) So a monthly magazine in September might be cover-dated October. Some publishers began pushing the dates further and further back until most Silver- and Bronze Age comics were dated three months behind. Thus, Halloween stories cover dated December and Christmas stories dated March. IIRC, Marvel (and maybe DC and Archie) later changed that policy, so more recent comics may have a cover date closer to the actual on-sale date.

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