Friday 29 July 2011

The Black Orchid. Carry On Scheming. Phantom Stranger #36.

Black Orchid robot, Nestor Redondo, Phantom Stranger #36
Phantom Stranger #36, Jim Aparo, gold and treachery in the jungle
It's the moment we've all been waiting for since last month's Phantom Stranger, the moment when Howard Lunge's supercomputer finally reveals who the Black Orchid really is.

And, after much whirring, clicking and ticking, the conclusion it comes to is...

...that it doesn't know.

And there was me thinking my laptop was useless.

What it does tell us though is that someone's been scanning it with X-rays in order to read its data tapes.

Undeterred by this, Lunge proceeds with his next planned crime, the murder of an old woman who's fighting her ex-daughter-in-law Cleo Barry for custody of Barry's child.

Black Orchid, rubberoid mask, Phantom Stranger #36
Happily, the Black Orchid's on the case, disguising herself as the old woman's nurse and replacing the old woman with a robot that apprehends one of Lunge's lackeys while she deals personally with the other one.

Having thus foiled the murder attempt, she calls in the cops who take Lunge away, only for the Orchid to drop the final bombshell - that his client Cleo Barry never existed. She was just the Orchid in yet another  mask.

Much as I love the Orchid for her mysterious and over-complex ways, I am slightly baffled by certain elements of the tale.

For one thing, I don't understand why one of the would-be assassins takes along a mask to disguise himself as the old lady, when, as the plan unfolds, at no point does the plan appear to require it. I also don't understand why the Orchid goes through such a complicated subterfuge, involving her adopting at least two fake identities, acquiring a huge house to stage her plan in, and getting her hands on a robot. After all, she knows about Lunge's computer and its data tapes, so, as far as I can see, all she has to do is smash her way into Lunge's HQ, chin him one with her super-strength and hand the tapes over to the authorities. I suppose that's why just I'm a humble blog writer and she's a bona fide super-heroine.

I'm also curious as to the naming of a character Cleo Barry. As all lovers of fine comedy know, Cleopatra in the legendary British film Carry on Cleo was played by Amanda Barrie. Was the naming of a character as Cleo Barry coincidence or was writer Shelly Mayer a Carry On fan? Then again, the tale also features a character called Howard Lunge and a character called Dubbish, names that themselves seem to have stepped out of a Carry On movie.

Still, all other matters tied up, we're left with the question of who the Black Orchid is.

Well, in the style of Sergeant Sidney Bung of the Yard in Carry On Screaming, let's recap on yesterday's evidence. She's a woman who can fly, has super-strength, is invulnerable and can only be described as "fit". This issue we learned she can scan things with X-Rays, has access to life-like androids and, according to Lunge's supercomputer, she may be an alien. I'm sorry; I don't care how you cut it, she still seems to be Supergirl.

I suppose all we can say in light of such a revelation, and this issue's events, is Carry on, Kara.

Thursday 28 July 2011

"The Black Orchid is Watching You." Phantom Stranger #35.

Black Orchid splash page, Phantom Stranger #35
Phantom Stranger #35, Jim Aparo cover
I don't like to moan but I can't help feeling disappointed with my laptop. It cost me £400 from Currys and has never once shown its gratitude by conceiving the perfect crime for me to commit.

Howard Lunge's 1970s computer, on the other hand, enables him to commit intricately plotted felonies that leave no trace of his own involvement. And, in Phantom Stranger #35, he uses it to frame a young man called Dubbish for murder.

What his supercomputer hasn't accounted for is the existence of the Black Orchid.

Black Orchid, Nestor Redondo, Phantom Stranger #35
Almost as soon as the frame-up's been performed, the Orchid's on the tail of Lunge's chief lackey Mr Flint but, before she can stop him, the crook burns the mask that's the only evidence of his subterfuge. To make matters worse he's then shot  dead by his own accomplices. Now how can our plucky petal wearer foil her foe's fiendish finagling?

But that's not all. As we leave Part One of this two-parter, Lunge orders his supercomputer to calculate the true identity of the Black Orchid. This is bad news. Computers are infallible. Could this be curtains for our flowery femme?

The Black Orchid does come across as a curious mix of the infallible and the inept in this tale, somehow knowing all about Lunge, his plans and his supercomputer but also giving his man Flint the time to burn the only evidence, and letting Lunge's other lackeys get away scot free.

On the upside it's as beautifully drawn as ever by Nestor Redondo who gifts it an atmospheric style that helps overcome the strip's noticeable lack of depth and characterisation.

All of these concerns are secondary of course. The real question is will The Phantom Stranger #36 finally do it? Will it finally tell us the truth about the Black Orchid? Will it reveal the real name of a beautiful woman who can fly, has super-strength, is a genius and bounces bullets off her as though they're no more than peas? For some reason my own supercomputer's flinging the name Linda Danvers at me.

It couldn't be.

Could it?

To be Steveinued.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Fun with Steve and Bob. The Phantom Stranger #35. Part Two.

Steve Scout, boy scout action figure advert
Phantom Stranger #35, Jim Aparo cover
As long-standing readers of this blog know, I've always had a soft spot for the classic, "You too can be a ninja," ad that turned me into the human killing machine I am today - not to mention the legendary ad for Duke the wonder dog that's worthy of a blog in its own right. And don't even get me started on Charles Atlas.

But Phantom Stranger #35, the comic that never stops giving, provides us with another classic example of the art of comic book advertising.

As any fool knows, if there's anything more exciting than being a ninja, it's being a boy scout, and here's where comics prove it. This time they give us Steve Scout, the boy scout action-figure. Why, just imagine the fun you can have with a boy scout action-figure, doing things like... ...erm....

Steve Scout sits down
But don't just accept my word for it. Take a look at all the exciting stuff the ad credits him with doing: "He kneels to chop wood", "He stands to signal," and my favourite of them all, "He sits by the campfire."

Not only does he sit by the campfire but  his canoe actually floats and he has a battery powered flasher, a thing I think we can all do nothing but envy.

Bob Scout, a boy scout action figure in his own right. I don't care what the manufacturers say
The ad bravely tells us he was America's only ever boy scout action-figure, which must've been a surprise to Bob Scout, his action-figure boy scout friend. Seemingly the manufacturers didn't feel Bob Scout was worthy of being counted in the official boy scout action-figure stats. I'm sure I can't imagine why that might be.

So there you have it. America's only ever boy scout action-figure (and his friend). I don't like to be a cynic but I can't help feeling that, clean-living though he no doubt was, there was a good reason no one else ever produced boy scout action figures. You know, like the fact they weren't ninjas.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Phantom Stranger #35. Part One: "Uuuuuuuuuu"

Phantom Stranger #35, Jim Aparo cover
 Phantom Stranger Quote of the Day:
"Death -- the final arrogant act in a play too often taken for granted. But just who may bring down the final curtain? Who has the right to end life not earned, but given? The solutions to these riddles are not easily found -- for they lie hidden, lost within the forgotten labyrinths of the human spirit."
I've always been of the opinion that the correct thing to do upon encountering a person about to throw themselves off a bridge is to fake a heart attack - on the grounds that, no matter how much my fellow man might be suffering, I alone, should always be the centre of attention.

Sadly the Phantom Stranger lacks my wisdom and, upon encountering a young woman about to top herself, appears from nowhere to give her a lecture.

Now, you or I, upon enduring one of the Phantom Stranger's meaningless speeches, might be more tempted than ever to jump.

But not this one.

Instead she abandons the attempt and settles for knocking him unconscious.

Phantom Stranger #35, captured by magic chains
It turns out she works for a mad scientist called Seine whose wife, thanks to his irresponsibility, is on her deathbed. Seine reckons that by feeding a bunch of demonic creatures the Phantom Stranger's soul, so they can enter our dimension and kill us all, he can restore his wife to perfect health. Needless to say his well-thought-out scheme soon goes more belly-up than a constipated goldfish, as his wife drags herself from her bed to free the Stranger and end forever her husband's plans.

After all those other Phantom Stranger tales where the titular twaddler gets to do nothing but annoy characters with his interminable philosophising, it's a refreshing change to see him actually at the centre of things, and I love Gerry Talaoc's art on the tale, which has that scratchy, twisted raggedness that really does make the world seem a dangerous and unpleasant place filled with spiritual decay and paranoia. Admittedly, in his rare chance to shine as a man of action, the Phantom Stranger proves to be a conspicuously futile derring-doer, managing only to get captured and stand around as Seine's wife does all the actual heroics, but still...

Phantom Stranger #35, captive but eloquent as ever
"Uuuuuuuuu"?!? Quickly! Someone put 10 pence in
the Phantom Stranger's meter! He's finally run out
of flannel! 
More importantly than even the Phantom Stranger though, this issue contains something else that's of far more interest to me. Could it be in the letters page? Could it be in the back-up strip?

Only time - and my next post - will tell.

So, journey with me, Reader, into the eerie realms we know as Comicdom. For, tomorrow night, I venture into a land of madness undreamed, and no one can know if I emerge from the venture with sanity intact.

To Be Steveinued.

Thursday 21 July 2011

DC 100 pagers.

Batman #255, 100 pages, Neal Adams, werewolf
Batman #254, 100 pages, Man-Bat
Batman #253, 100 pages, Catwoman
Superman Family #164, 100 pages
Detective Comics #440, 100 pages, Batman, Ghost Mountain Midnight
Detective Comics #438, 100 pages, Batman, A Monster Walks Wayne manor
Witching Hour #38, 100 pages
Justice League of America, 100 pages
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #208, 100 pages
Superboy, 100 page Super Spectacular
Superman #272, 100 pages
Flash, 100 pages Super Spectacular
Superman, 100 page Super Spectacular
If you've never had a Marvel Treasury Edition, you know not what it is to have your head explode with excitement. But, if there was anything in the 1970s that was almost as thrilling as buying a Marvel Treasury edition, it was getting your hands on a 100 page DC comic, with its mixture of tales old and new.

Why, with one of those things in your hands, you could become an instant expert, reading the latest happenings in the world of DC Comics while catching up on the history of your favourite - and not so favourite - heroes.

My in-depth research tells me I had thirteen in total - and those thirteen are pictured above and to the left of these very words.

Sadly, thanks to my disgraceful policy of never paying more than 99p for a comic, I fear I may never again lay my hands on most of them, which always insist on selling for more than that sum on eBay. Still, despite my Scroogeilicious tendencies, I do have the 100 page Witching Hour and the yellow-fronted 100 page DC Super Spectacular starring Superman. I also possess Superman Family #164.

From what I can remember of the others, the highlights included a Neal Adams Batman tale featuring the caped crusader versus a werewolf, and the Jim Aparo Batman of Detective Comics #438.

The Justice League 100 pager gave us the tale of the murder of Santa Claus. Although my memories of the other strips in that issue are somewhat slim, I seem to recall one of them featuring the Justice Society tackling a gang of juvenile delinquents, a task which logic would suggest they were more than a little over-powered for.

The Superboy one, I have fond memories of. I seem to recall it reprinted the origin of the Teen Titans. Did that issue also feature the story where Supergirl got her head chomped on by a lion while she was dressed like she was Sheena, queen of the jungle? For some reason that image has always stuck in my mind.

Superman #272 was an all-magic issue, which was fine by me though Superman at one point had Saturn Girl's pet, Proteus, stuck to his face, which can't have been a pleasant experience for him. The Flash hundred pager featured a group of sidekicks modelled on the Three Stooges - or perhaps they were the Three Stooges. My memories of it are as fuzzy as the end of Marilyn Monroe's lollipop.

But, all in all, it was the Batman/Detective Comics issues that made the most impact on me. Through them I got to see the work of Neal Adams, Jim Aparo and Dick Giordano, learned of Batman's origin and got my first sightings of Man-Bat and Manhunter. So, thirteen might be unlucky for some but for those of us who had them, it proved to be more than lucky. The moment you saw the number thirteen in this post, you knew I was going to end this post by saying that, didn't you? Mr Predictable? Me?

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Defenders #53. An educational experience for us all.

As I roam the elevated walkways of Sheffield's Park Hill Flats, people often say to me, "Steve, given the lack of available space for it, don't you ever worry just where Dr Doom's kingdom of Latveria is on the map?"

And I say, "No, I'm too busy worrying about the fate of Atlantis."

And it appears I'm right to do so because, in The Defenders #53, the kingdom that's never seen a crisis it can avoid, is yet again having a crisis it can't avoid. You see, Atlantis is being polluted by radiation from an underground complex in Russia.

Needless to say the Sub-Mariner's not putting up with that and, together with his allies Hellcat, Nighthawk and the Hulk, is soon heading up a convenient underwater tunnel to deal with it.

What the would-be heroes don't know is the complex belongs to a character called Sergei who's up to no good with their old team mate the Red Guardian and, just as our heroes are approaching his base, he's about to blow it up with an atom bomb in order to transform himself into the less than dramatically named "Presence".

Defenders #53, The Presence
It's at this point that the story ends for this issue, followed by a mundane back-up tale in which Clea gets kidnapped and tied up before hitting her assailant over the head with a statuette. Maybe it's my memory playing tricks with me but it seems to me that when I was a kid, Clea seemed to spend all her time being tied up by people. Who did she think she was - Wonder Woman?

When it comes to the Defenders tale, the truth is that, for all its nuclear shenanigans, the main plot's somewhat dull, taking what seems an eternity to get going as our heroes first stop off for a meeting in Atlantis before setting off to deal with the bad guy.

This sense of treading water's abetted by the fact that every page is filled with overly verbose captions that mostly serve no purpose other than to fill the book with words. It struck me, ploughing through all of this, that it felt like I was reading a Don McGregor tale and it's interesting therefore to read a comment box at the top of the letters page where credited writer Dave Kraft thanks various others, including McGregor, for stepping in and helping him out whenever he's had difficulties meeting deadlines. I do wonder if this issue was one such occasion?

Defenders #53, Valkyrie on the New York Subway
Hellcat shows her smarts:
"Gee, Namor -- I Don't know much about this radiation stuff but it sure sounds scary!"
But who cares about the main plot? As everyone knows, I only read Defenders tales to find out what the Valkyrie's up to and this issue finds her in her trying-to-enrol-in college phase. So, while the other Defenders get to tangle trouble behind the Iron Curtain, back home we get a sub-plot where, in her Barbara Norris guise, she has a chat with Clea, a ride on the New York Subway, a noticeably undramatic three panel clash with a villain called Lunatik and then walks up some steps - a clash so undramatic she doesn't even bother to put her books down to conduct it. Maybe there's something wrong with me but this wilfully undynamic excursion's more gripping for me than the more explosive main plot. I suppose it just goes to show that, for some of us, Character will always win out over Drama.

Defenders #53, Valkyrie college enrolment
Babs aside, it's a disappointing issue. The fact that the Defenders tale abruptly halts halfway through the mag and we then get a fairly throw-away Clea story is somewhat frustrating, especially when coupled with the indigestibility of the writing on the main plot. What it does have going for it - apart from Babs - is Keith Giffen's art, his pages often wildly overcrowded with panels but proudly displaying the updated Kirby influence that lent it its charm.

It's also an issue that means I no longer have to worry about that vexatious matter of Latveria's location. Apparently, if page 17's to believed, it's directly north of Italy. Now that that's sorted out, all I have to do is find a way to stop worrying about Atlantis.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Yet more Creepy Worlds of Alan Class.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, cover

Hi, gang, it's that wonderful time of year again, when the wise man makes like a Beach Boy, grabs his surf board and heads for where the palm trees sway, the girls are tanned and the breakers are as high as houses.


But such seaside antics can mean only one thing; stopping off at the coach station kiosk to stock up on comics for yet another delve into the Creepy Worlds of Alan Class.

But first, a warning to the unwary. Here be spoilers....

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, mysterious house

We kick off with a fine upstanding couple who find they've won a house in a competition they never entered.

Being fine and upstanding, it's not long before they're conned out of the house by a pair of crooks but, before the dastardly duo can celebrate their triumph, the house blasts off into outer space - with them trapped inside it - revealing itself to be a spaceship placed on Earth to capture two specimens of the human race. The best thing about this tale is the hero seems pathologically incapable of removing the pipe from his mouth. I miss the good old days when you could instantly spot the good guy because he was the one pumping more toxic gases into the atmosphere than the rest of the Western World combined.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, abracadabra

Next up's the tale of a washed-up magician who, after being sacked from his latest gig, roams the streets of  his unnamed town and reflects on the days when he had audiences eating from his palms. While he's at it, he inadvertently thwarts a hold-up by making some real magic happen but is so wrapped up in self-pity, he never notices.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, a trip into the future

Our third tale brings us a test pilot who's more than a little concerned about where all this fancy new technology's leading us.

Like he should have worried. Upon flying faster than the speed of sound, he lands in the future and discovers it's a lovely place, full of happy smiley people, then returns to the present, relieved that the years to come will be so lovely and fluffy. Just as much as I miss pipe-smoking heroes, I miss the days when it was possible to time travel by going faster than the speed of sound.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, the ruthless racing driver

Next up's the tale of a ruthless racing driver who, after causing the death of a rival finds himself on a strange circuit he's never seen before, chased by the cars of dead drivers. Escaping from this nightmare sees him learning to smile for the first time ever. Given that the story starts with him killing a man, you'd have hoped the Dark Powers would've set out to teach him a slightly better lesson in life than how to smile. I suppose this shows why I'll never be one of the Dark Powers and have to leave such things to my glove puppet Crikey.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, Neptune's son

Now we move on to a sea captain with a knack for leading his men into danger only for it to always dissipate in the nick of time. At the tale's climax, we discover he's the son of Neptune, on a mission to throw loads of dosh his dad's way before being reclaimed by him. It's not what you could call a riveting read but the story's main charm is at its conclusion when various characters directly address the reader.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, dream girl

From the sea to the land, as we encounter a hard-up bloke who doesn't want to sell his island just to keep his nagging girlfriend happy. While he's lying around on that island, waiting for a prospective buyer to arrive, a bunch of olde-style pirates turn up with a beauteous female captive. Our normally laid-back hero defeats them and rescues the girl - only to wake and discover it was all a dream.

But then, miracle of miracles, it turns out his island's prospective buyer's the girl from the dream. It's a tale rather nicely drawn by Angelo Torres who I've never heard anything about but, going on his work in this and the previous Creepy Worlds I've reviewed on here, he had more than a little style about him.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, flying man

Next, a pilot repeatedly dreams of a man with home-made wings who keeps plummeting from the sky and having to be rescued by him. It turns out he's only dreaming he's a pilot and he is in fact Leonardo DaVinci.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, Nazi scientist

Now we get a Nazi war criminal who tries to steal a growth formula from his young assistant but gets his comeuppance when the walls close in on him. It's a slightly baffling tale and I'm not sure whether its climactic events are supposed to be only taking place in the war criminal's head or not. I do know he's got a strange approach to logic, being under the impression that putting a snake out in cold weather will make it disappear, rather than just causing it to lie around dead.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, Ben Parker visits the sphinx

Then there's the tale of old Ben Parker, who's no relation as far as I know to Peter Parker's ill-fated uncle. Instead he has a dull life operating the points on an underground railway. One night he returns home to find a mysterious stranger's out to show him the sights of the world. Parker awakes, two days later, to discover it was all a dream .

Or was it?

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, parallel worlds

Next, in a tale credited to Joe Sinnott, a cop wishes his life was different and then, when he gets his wish, spends all his time wishing his life was like it'd been in the first place. Some people're never satisfied.

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds, the secret of immortality

Finally we get probably the best thought-out tale of the issue in which a greedy explorer decides to kidnap a mysterious old Oriental man who reputedly has the secret of immortality. But first he has to get past the old man's son. It's only when the explorer gets back to civilisation that he discovers the man he thought was the son is actually the one with the secret of immortality and that he's gone to all that trouble to bring the wrong man back. D'oh!

And so ends yet another journey into all the terror and intrigue that Grimsby can handle.

Well, admittedly, terror's a bit thin on the ground in this comic, and a fair chunk of the tales are more light-hearted than tense but, overall, I think that, thanks to its sheer quaintness, the story of the couple being swindled out of their house is my favourite. The tale being uncredited, I don't know if it was drawn by Don Heck but, if not, it certainly should've been. An honourable mention should go to the Angelo Torres illustrated story. Although it's a pretty  limp tale, it has by far the best art of the issue.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Keeping an ear to the ground for the news of the world.

Daredevil. The world celebrates as Mike Murdock makes his first appearance
Argh! No! Go away!
As I roam that strange little square behind the Angel Street Argos store, people say to me, "Steve, as your only confidant is a glove puppet called Crikey and you spend all your time going on about ancient comics that no one cares about, does that mean you're completely out of touch with reality?"

And I say, "No. As a matter of fact, thanks to my network of informants and contacts, I'm fully aware of what's going on in the outside world. For instance I know that right now this nation's up in arms about the latest scandal to hit it. A scandal involving a character so obnoxious, so nightmarish you could barely make him up."

But we should never forget there was another man of that name. One also surrounded by a web of lies, obfuscation and deceit, one similarly unlikely to be paying any taxes any time soon.

Daredevil, Mike Murdoch switches off a radio
Go away!
Mike Murdock.

In my opinion, Mike Murdock is the single worst character ever created by Marvel Comics. In the interests of integrity I should point out that the likes of Jubilation Lee aren't included in this thesis, as anything after the Bronze Age barely exists as far as this finger-on-the-modern-pulse blog's concerned.

For anyone not in the know, in the 1960s Stan Lee decided to expand Daredevil's massive supporting cast of two characters by introducing a new one - Mike Murdock. Murdock was a brash, loud-mouthed cretin who made Mary Jane Watson look like a woman in need of  Prozac.

Daredevil, Mike Murdock, Stanislavsky
He also didn't exist; being as he was, the strip's star Matt Murdock pretending to be his own brother so the other two cast members would think that Mike and not Matt was Daredevil.

For what seemed an eternity, Mike Murdock mugged, boasted and showboated his way through tale after tale until, in a happy twist of fate, he was blown up. Along the way, he even considered marrying Matt's secretary Karen Page - even though he didn't exist. Still, despite his demise, the Mike Murdock nightmares haunt me and Crikey to this very day.

This of course is only my opinion and I am aware that, like glove puppets, other opinions exist. Therefore this blog, determined as ever to unmask the truth, is asking you who you think is the worst character ever to have been created by Marvel Comics.

Monday 11 July 2011

Avengers #56. Sidekicking the bucket.

Avengers #56, Captain America, Bucky
If there's one thing you can say about 1940s' super-heroes it's that few of them were in any danger of winning awards for social responsibility. Leaving aside their love of a good fight - often involving guns - virtually none of them seemed to see anything wrong with dragging children into battle at any opportunity.

This made no sense. If you're going to drag an annoying sidekick into battle with you, make sure it's an adult. He'll be much better at getting between you and any bullets that might be flying around, leaving you to survive and get the plaudits.

Captain America was of course no exception to all this - showing his magnificent lack of regard by making sure it was always he and not his youthful sidekick Bucky who got to hold the shield whenever there were bullets about.

But every so often Cap'd take a break from dressing Rick Jones up as Bucky, to get a pang of guilt about his past and, in the Avengers #56, thanks to Dr Doom's time machine, he and his team-mates go back to the 40s to make sure the original Bucky really did die in the Second World War.

Once there, they show their usual inability to stay out of trouble by inadvertently becoming solid and getting into a fight with Baron Zemo before witnessing Bucky's demise.

Avengers #56, Captain America, Bucky dies
And so it is that, at the tale's conclusion the star-spangled Avenger stands alone to reflect on the fact he can now well and truly cross his ex-sidekick off his Christmas card list.

Written by Roy Thomas, a man never afraid to raid Marvel's vaults for ideas, this has always been one of my favourite Avengers tales, with the art team of John Buscema and George Klein at the peak of their collective powers and a chance for Cap to do the agonising he always did so well. It also leads into the Avengers Annual #2 which has always been a fave of mine.

I would mention its faults but I really can't think of any. We get to see the Panther sneaking into a castle. We get to see Goliath take on giant robots. Those of us of a younger persuasion get our first glimpse of Bucky in action. Even the Wasp's lame nodding off while womanning the time machine controls, is later revealed to be for a good reason. We even get the sense of pride that comes from being able to spot the panels in which John Romita's clearly added Cap's head after Buscema opted not to.

Avengers #56, Baron ZemoI suppose the one complaint I'd have is it proves that breath-taking irresponsibility isn't confined purely to 1940s' super-heroes. You do have to wonder just what was going on in that stretchy head of Reed Richards that, all these years, he's been happy to leave Dr Doom's time machine lying around in his abandoned castle where any idiot could find it and use it to rewrite history.

Then again, didn't multi-billionaire Gregory Gideon remove the time machine from Doom's castle, in The Fantastic Four #34, and place it in the Baxter Building? Does this mean that Richards then removed it from his own HQ and put it back in Doom's castle? Super-heroes, you really do wonder why they're allowed out without a minder.

Sunday 10 July 2011

July 1971. Infamy, infamy! They've all got it in for me!

Hooray! It's the mind-numbing return of the world's 28th greatest blog, as Steve Does Comics takes a break from decorating for long enough to find out what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in the month of July exactly forty years ago.

As always, like the Roman emperor after whom that month is named, they were involved in no end of mischief. I don't know, will they never learn to get through a day without receiving a punch in the bracket, like the rest of us can? As Will Self would no doubt concur, the whole imbroglio is positively epiphenomenal.

Amazing Spider-Man #98, Green Goblin, Gil Kane

One of my favourite Gil Kane covers sees Spider-Man losing both his grip and the spider-symbol on his back as the Green Goblin causes him yet more trouble.

I seem to recall there's lots of up-the-nose action in this one - and I'm not just talking about Harry Osborn's recreational activities.

Avengers #90

The Avengers #90 sees the preamble to the Kree/Skrull War continue as the Avengers fight Ronan the Accuser at the North or South Pole.

I first read this in a weekly UK Avengers issue that also featured a reprint of Conan the Barbarian #44, in which Red Sonja in one panel looked surprisingly like my then English teacher Mrs King. What a strange world the world of the 1970s was.

Captain America #139, John Romita

From what I can remember of this, Captain America decides to become a beat cop, no doubt so he can help normal people.

I don't have a clue what else happens in it. I like to think that at some point the Falcon gives him a speech about, "The ordinary Joes in the street," and how each and every one of them is, "a hero, just for managing to hold it together in this crazy world."

Conan the Barbarian #7, Barry Smith

I believe this is an adaptation of a Robert E Howard tale in which Conan and a bunch of others hang around in a house for a whodunit tale that I have fond memories of.

Daredevil #78, Man-Bull

It's horn head vs hornier head as the the man without useful powers takes on Man-Bull for what I assume to be the first time.

Is that a Herb Trimpe cover I detect? It mentions Mr Kline. Does this mean we've got to the Widow's debut yet?

Fantastic Four #112, Hulk vs the Thing

As every good comic reader knows, there's nothing more designed to set the pulse alight than a fight between the Thing and the Hulk, even though it's always obvious who's going to win.

I never read this as a kid, much to my then disappointment.

I've still not read it. What's the matter with me? Amazon, here I come.

Incredible Hulk #141, Doc Samson

Another Herb Trimpe cover as we get one of my favourite Hulk tales from my favourite Hulk era. Doc Samson makes his first-ever appearance and Bruce Banner finds himself green with envy.

Iron Man #39, Herb Trimpe

Is that another Herb Trimpe cover? Marvel were getting their money's worth out of him this month as Iron Man has yet another adventure that I have no memory of.

Thor #190, Death of Hela

This is the one where Odin deadeds Hela. Yet another reason I can't stand the mad old duffer.

Still you can't keep a good woman down and by the end of the tale she's back in the best of health after demonstrating that, frankly, she's a lot more useful to the world than Odin is.