Friday, 17 June 2011

19 comics that changed my life.

Talk of my first ever super-hero comic, in yesterday's post, has brought to mind other key issues of my comic book reading years of the 1970s. So, here's my list of the 19 comics that made the most impression on me when I was still knee-high to Ant Man.

In no particular order they are:

100 page Batman #256

Batman #256. My first ever 100 page DC comic. The older tales in it were crude compared to the newer ones but it was great fun to learn more of the history of everyone's favourite non-troglodyte cave dweller.

Mighty World of Marvel #4, Jim Starlin cover

Mighty World of Marvel #4. The first Marvel UK book I ever owned.

Even though I haven't read it for nearly forty years, I still recall the tingle as I thrilled to the Hulk vs the Toad Men, the Fantastic Four vs the Skrulls and Spider-Man vs the Chameleon. Those tales might seem juvenile now but, to an eight year old, they were the last word in "Gripping".

And dig that Jim Starlin cover.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #6, the Sinister Six

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #6. I've already said plenty about it both here and here, so I'll say no more than that it was almost certainly the first super-hero comic I ever read.

Vulcan Comic 1975

Vulcan, November 1975. Up until 1975, my knowledge of British super-heroes was limited to the adventures of Billy the Cat and Katie in The Beano but, unknown  to me, there'd been a whole slew of British-created super-heroes in the dim and distant past and, with its reprints, Vulcan introduced a whole new generation to them.

They were a quirky bunch compared to their US equivalents but who could forget The Spider, Mytek the Mighty, Robot Archie, Kelly's Eye, and The Steel Claw?

Highlight of each issue though was Don Lawrence's beautifully illustrated Trigan Empire, as the history of Ancient Rome was re-imagined as sci-fi.

2000AD #8

2000 AD #8. After years of British comics seeming like dull and pitiful things beside their American counterparts, we suddenly had a comic in this country that was every bit as imaginative as any American mag.

UK Avengers Weekly #9

Avengers Weekly #9. The first Marvel UK comic I had that came in a glossy cover, a fact that so impressed me I couldn't bear to throw it away, inspiring me to start collecting comics instead of reading them a couple of times before discarding them.

UK Avengers Weekly #95, first Conan

Avengers #95. This Marvel UK mag was already a classic but, with issue #95, it suddenly got even better as it merged with the suddenly defunct Savage Sword of Conan, giving us a comic that featured not only the Avengers, Shang-Chi and Dr Strange but also the very finest of Barry Smith's Conan stories. Seriously, with this, and Don Estelle and Windsor Davies on the charts, could life get any better?

Mighty World of Marvel #199, merges with the Avengers

Mighty World of Marvel #199. Marvel UK's flagship title merged with The Avengers and thus introduced me to the splendours of Neal Adams' Kree/Skrull War.

Planet of the Apes #2, Marvel UK

Planet of the Apes #2. At the time I was disappointed that, after an apes-only debut issue, the comic suddenly had to share its pages with Ka-Zar.

What a fool I was.

Thanks to that mag, over the years not only did I get my weekly fix of ape-mania but also the adventures of Ka-Zar, Warlock, Don McGregor's Black Panther, Gullivar Jones, Man-Thing, Captain Marvel, Man-Gods from Beyond the Stars and a whole host of classic one-off sci-fi tales.

Marvel Comic #330, UK

Marvel Comic #330. One that stuck in my mind for all the wrong reasons, as we hit 1979 and the glossy covers disappeared from the comic that had been Mighty World of Marvel and its tone became noticeably more juvenile.

If the then Marvel UK editor Dez Skinn hadn't been responsible for launching a host of top-notch monthly mags in that era, I'd have never forgiven him.

Titans #1, landscape format, Marvel UK

The Titans #1. Marvel UK's first landscape format mag gave us twice as many spills for our money.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #171, landscape format, the death of the Green Goblin

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #171. I missed the death of Gwen Stacy but not the death of the Green Goblin. Personally, I don't think I'll ever get over it.

X-Men #100

X-Men #100. My first ever exposure to the New X-Men - and a revelation after years of the lame original crew.

Rampage Monthly #8, Marvel UK

Rampage Monthly #8. The New X-Men join the Hulk's monthly mag and it becomes compulsive reading.

DC Comics, Unexpected #150, snowman

Unexpected #150. I loved DC Comics' horror and mystery mags and, for some reason, this issue's always stood out for me above all others. I don't even remember any of the stories in it but there was something about that cover that caused it to lodge in my mind forever.

Mighty World of Marvel #69, glossy cover

Mighty World of Marvel #69. At this point in history, Marvel UK seemed like an unstoppable force as I got my hands on my first ever glossy-covered issue of the title that had started it all.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #49, Dr Octopus, glossy cover

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #49. My first ever glossy cover of this mag.

Savage Sword of Conan #4, Boris Vallejo cover

Savage Sword of Conan #4. The cover alone was enough to gain it immortality in my mind but then there were the contents as well. More on that issue here.

DC Comics, The Shadow #8, Night of the Mummy

The Shadow #8. A comic that impressed me so much it caused me to create my own super-hero - the Red Shadow. Oooh I was so original.


cerebus660 said...

I'm glad you highlighted the arrival of glossy covers to UK Marvel comics. That was indeed A Big Thing back then - even though it would seem trivial to today's comics fans. The covers seemed to stand out better on the newsagents' shelves, when sitting alongside Battle or Warlord or Whizzer & Chips ( remember those? ) - more vibrant, more action-packed. Just like the American comics... only bigger! The first glossy weekly I bought ( or, probably, my Nan or somebody bought for me ) was The Avengers #1, which I thought was just fantastic, with its colourful, caption-heavy cover ( not counting the title and issue/date information there are 72 words on that cover, screaming at the reader to buy it! )not to mention "free superhero transfers" inside. Ah, such simple times...

Steve W. said...

I've just taken a look at that Avengers #1 cover, on the internet, and it really is jam packed with captions; "The Invincible Iron Man: is he human? - or?"

Poor old Giant-Man and the Wasp, though, didn't even make the cover - and the Wasp doesn't even get mentioned.

Kid said...

I had around 13 of those comics and I still have at least 5 of them. Trouble with the British 'glossies' 'though was that the interior printing sucked, resulting in what should've been grey tones coming out nearly black.

Anonymous said...

What a trip down memory lane, I still have a lot of the UK Marvels you have listed. I am going to have to dig them out. I had forgotten that Conan merged with Avengers. What an awesome line up and weekly!


Anonymous said...

Great idea for a post Steve - I would have a few of those in my to 19 and think I bought all of them except "Unexpected" 150 - Vulcan I vividly recall as it was trialled in Scotland for a few issues before going UK wide - MWOM issue 4 I recently picked up (again) for 50p - its easy to forget how cool and realyl good the first 2 years especially of UK Marvel was

Steve W. said...

Every time I've tried to buy MWOM #4 on eBay I've been outbid. I'm afraid my refusal to pay nore then 99p for a comic does often hamper my efforts.

Aaron said...

That ends up being a very cool cover gallery! The drabness and darkness of comics in the past decade or so has been a bit of a turnoff, I just remember that what really attracted me to comics originally was how bright they were, the costumes scorched your eyeballs!

Steve W. said...

I miss covers that had something to do with what was in the comic.

Mentor's Camper said...

Wow, that brings back some memories! Really cool article.

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Mentor's Camper.

John said...

I had pretty much forgotten what a massive effect British Marvels had on my life at the time, especially when it was just Mighty World of Marvel, Spider-Man Comics Weekly and The Avengers. I still feel aggrieved at Master of King-Fu usurping the Avengers from the cover of their own comic. Why didn't they just launch a separate Kung-Fu comic?

I gradually dropped them in favour of the American imports, especially after too many titles became merged, although still I remember The Titans and Super Spider-Man being incredible value for money.

Dez Skinn's 'Marvel Comic' and 'Hulk Comic'ruined it for me. He made them more like traditional British comics when surely the appeal for most readers was that they were different - American.

Steve W. said...

I agree 100% with you about the Dez Skinn Hulk and Marvel comics, John. The sense of let-down I had when they were inflicted on the world was truly dispiriting.

Lorenzo said...

Love reading about other comic nuts' first reading hexperiences. Comics inspired me to learn how to read, as I sat with a copy of the classic Carl Barks tale "Back To Long Ago", & wondered just WHY the hell Unca Scrooge & Donald were dressed as pirates & fighting each other with shovels! Here in enzed we got the occasional copy of 'The Mighty World of Marvel' as well, and I had the first issue (long gone now). I had just started high school when the first issue of 2000AD came out, and again, I'll never forget the thrill of flicking through it, thinking - whoa! Sci-fi! Dan Dare resurrected! Great artwork! Sadly, those early copies have mostly also vanished (the earliest surviving copy I have is a pretty tatty #9), shared with like-minded friends, or reduced to tatters due to my indifferent storage.

While I was totally into collecting all things Marvel (though I could only afford subscriptions to Thor & the FF at that time), and knew the value of keeping them as pristine as I could, weirdly I didn't treat my 2000ADs in the same manner. I was also content to borrow copies off my mates, so there are many gaps in what remains of my first 200 progs.

The first Marvels my parents brought into the home (for my older brother), were Thor #s 165 & 166 (the 'HIM' saga), Captain America #103 ("The Weakest Link" - still one of my all-time fave Marvels, which I literally read to pieces! I dreamed of one day finding a 'swap-shop' copy of #104 and finally finding out how Cap got out of having that piece of 'Nuclear Tape' off his neck, but never did. It wasn't till I started buying Kirby back-issues off Ebay decades later that I finally found out - what a relief!), a few Avengers issues from John Buscema's prime between issues #50 & #60, and ASM # 28 (with the iconic Molten Man cover) & #27 (which I scored NEW in the early '70s in a newsagent of all places - I can only assume they'd been found in some corner of the stock-room or other, along with FF #94 - Kirby's last truly great FF issue, imho - and X-Men #62, another story I wouldn't find out the conclusion to until well into my adulthood).

Those Marvels formed the basis of my collection, and while I managed to score many 1960s classics second-hand in the 1970s, I also ended up with WAY too many crappy 1970s Marvels (Deathlok, Ms Marvel, Marvel Team-Up, Nova, MTU, Marvel 2-In-One, Howard the immensely irritating Duck, etc etc ad nauseum, which I'm glad to say I offloaded in 1982 for 50 cents a pop just before I began flatting. And yes, it amuses me to see the prices these fetch nowadays, but shit is shit, no matter HOW you slice it, and I was never into collecting comics for the eventual trust fund. I only hung onto my Buscema FFs & Thors, Kirby's 1970s output, Byrne/Cockrum X-Men and Miller Daredevils and the odd Mike Ploog-pencilled monster comic, and that was MORE than enough, ta vary much).

I didn't buy another Marvel comic once Frank Miller left Daredevil to create Ronin, btw, but I've followed Marvel's "progress" from time to time thanx to the Comics Journal, library collections and, of course much later, the internet. I also thank Christ I'd weaned myself off the "Marvel Uber Alles" collecting bug WELL before the Rob Liefelds of this world swarmed in, with their absurdly over-rendered scratchings trying to hide the fact that they SIMPLY COULDN'T DRAW, and before every sodding superhero had to be transformed into a psychopathic vigilante like the Punisher or Rorschach. Phew!

So, um, now you know! Cheers again! :-)

Lorenzo said...

P.S: I've commented elsewhere how much my fellow Marvelmaniac frenz & I hated the work of Frank Robbins. These days I can look at his work with a more, shall we say, "educated" eye, and appreciate what a truly great cartoonist he was, though even at the time I enjoyed his work on DC's 'Shadow' title - dunno why, perhaps his strong use of solid blacks were more suited to a (ahem) "shadowy" pulp title than a clean-cut character like Captain America?

Why I bring him up here, is that I owned a copy of that cool 'mummy' issue (#8?), though it's long vanished - probably sold in my Stalinist marvel purge in 1982, or traded for a Buscema FF or Thor with a friend. Oh well!