Wednesday 30 May 2012

Underused villains.

Mighty World of Marvel #53, Radioactive caveman the Missing Link holds the Incredible Hulk aloft
There can't be many of us who've not at some stage in our lives wanted to smash a pink, radioactive Neanderthal in the face.

Sadly; for most of us, such an act can never be more than a pipe dream.

For the Hulk however it became dramatic reality in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel #53, a comic that shall always linger in my memory as the oldest issue of that mag I had in my collection.

From what I can recall of it, that issue featured two stories; the Hulk's first-ever encounter with the Missing Link, and the Fantastic Four's meeting with the Enfant Terrible.

In the Hulk tale, having seen off the Rhino, our hero returns to New York just as the Chinese unleash their own version of the Hulk on the city.

That version is the Missing Link, a caveman revived by nuclear tests, who quickly mutates into something else altogether.

I admit it, I loved the Missing Link. He managed to make even the Hulk sound articulate, and his tendency to explode at inconvenient moments could only be viewed as appealing.

Sadly, no doubt thanks to that tendency to randomly explode, it was several years after his first appearance before the Missing Link returned, by which point he was called Lincoln and working in a mine. After that, he was never seen again during the era when I was reading comics, and I have no idea if he's been seen since.

While it was disappointing, such an absence does raise the issue of villains you always felt didn't appear enough in comics.

Some of them were plain baffling.

For instance, there was the Lizard's long long absence from the pages of Spider-Man between his initial appearance and his eventual return in John Romita's tenure.

Even more markedly, the Scorpion - having been used twice in the Steve Ditko era - managed to go missing throughout the whole of the John Romita and Gil Kane epochs before finally reappearing well into the Ross Andru one.

Of course, those were the lucky ones. Although initially ignored, they did go on to become major foes.

But others weren't always so fortunate.

So, which villains did you always think were bafflingly underused?

And, for that matter, which were used too often?

Sunday 27 May 2012

The nightmare monsters of Strange Tales - Part 2.

Reader -- Now it can be told! I created Toppic, the subject matter too big for one post to contain!

What can stop it?

What can defeat it?


Well, in that case, we might as well have the second part of our look at the nightmare monsters of Strange Tales.

Strange Tales, Mechano

When will people learn that no good ever comes from giving giant robots fists?
Strange Tales, Mister Morgan Monster

Is it just me or do those "people" in the background bear a noticeable resemblance to the Hulk's Toad Men from Outer Space?
Strange Tales, Orrgo

Surely one of the most memorable monsters ever to grace a comic book cover. Orrgo the Unconquerable.
Strange Tales, Pildorr the Plunderer

Pildorr the Plunderer.

I'm sure that story's fine but, personally, I'm more interested in reading the back-up tale Save Me From The Weed.
Strange Tales, The Sacrifice

I don't know what it is but my instincts tell me it's up to no good.
Strange Tales, the Scarecrow

If they built a scarecrow that size, what size were their crows?

Possibly the most bizarre monster ever to make a Strange Tales cover.
Strange Tales, Taboo

He might be named after a perfume but there's nothing sweet about Taboo!
Strange Tales, Taboo returns

Taboo returns.
Strange Tales, the Sphinx

Just how many times over the years has the comic book universe seen the Sphinx come to life? You'd think they'd all be used to it by now.
Strange Tales, The Thing

Why do I expect the Fantastic Four to appear whenever I see this cover?
Strange Tales, the Two-Headed Thing

Who said two heads are better than one?
Strange Tales, Zzutak

The injustice of it all. Zzutak gets a cover credit and his opponent doesn't.

Friday 25 May 2012

The nightmare monsters of Strange Tales - Part 1.

Tremble, puny humans! It is I -- Bloggurr, the thing from the search engine!

As we discovered the other day, Tales to Astonish had more than its fair share of monsters.

But it was nothing compared to Strange Tales.

So many are the monsters that mag inflicted on us, before Dr Strange came along to make sure we need never worry about monsters again, that I'm going to have to break this post down into two parts just to fit them all in.

Strange Tales Colossus

Speaking of things that struggle to fit in, it's the Colossus!

Strange Tales, No human can beat me

He doesn't have a name but he doesn't need one because no human can beat him.

Somehow I suspect that, in this very tale, one does.

Strange Tales Dragoom

Dragoom - the flaming intruder!

And a flaming nuisance.

I remember reading this tale in one of Marvel's 1970s reprint mags. Sadly, I don't recall what happened in it.

Strange Tales Fin Fang Foom

A legend is born!

Fin Fang Foom is on the rampage.

And how long can it be before he starts to use the Great Wall of China as a whip?
Strange Tales Gargantus

Gargantus. The thing that walks like a man!

Strange Tales Gargantus returns

Gargantus - the thing that still walks like a man.

Strange Tales Gorgolla

Gorgolla. A monster so hard he steals Gorgilla's name.
Strange Tales Grogg


This is another one I read in a Marvel reprint mag. I seem to recall it was one of my favourite elderly Marvel monster tales.
Strange Tales Grogg returns

Clearly I wasn't the only one to like him, because Grogg is back.
Strange Tales Grottu


You can't go wrong with a giant ant.
Strange Tales It


I think they could've made a bit more effort when it came to naming the thing. Given Stan Lee's propensity for adding superfluous consonants, could they not at least have called it "Itt"?
Strange Tales Magneto

Argh! They've made a monkey out of Magneto.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

The horrific monsters of Tales to Astonish.

As long-suffering readers of this blog'll know, I can barely set foot out of my house without encountering some giant menace to mankind. It may be a giant ant. It may be a giant amoeba. One thing's for sure; it's a whole heapful of trouble.

Sometimes I don't even have to leave the house to do it. A mere trip into my cellar is enough.

Fortunately, being stolid and resourceful as I am, I usually find some way to deal with the menace - one that means I often don't even have to remove my trilby or take my pipe from my mouth.

Amazingly, a quick glance at early issues of Tales to Astonish tells me I'm not alone in this problem.

Tales to Astonish, the ninth wonder of the world

I don't know what The Ninth Wonder of the World is but it looks so friendly and amiable that I just had to include it here.

For that matter, if that's the Ninth Wonder of the World, just what was the Eighth Wonder?
Tales to Astonish, Monstrom

Look out Man-Thing. Here comes the muddy menace of Monstrom.
Tales to Astonish, Gorgilla

It's Gorgilla, an ape so terrifying it earned an extra "G" in its name.

That's nothing. If you think Gorgilla's terrifying, wait till you meet Girgaffe and Anteglope.
Tales to Astonish, Groot

I seem to recall Groot turning up once in a Hulk story.

Here, it seems he managed to get destroyed before midnight.

Poor old Groot. It's not been a happy life for him.

And he's from Planet X, which we all know was annihilated in an early issue of The Fantastic Four.
Tales to Astonish, the Things from Easter Island

The things on Easter Island.

I always knew something was afoot with those giant heads.
Tales to Astonish, Mummex, king of mummies

Is it live or is it Mummex?
Tales to Astonish, Droom

Droom! "The Living Lizard!"

As opposed to all those dead lizards that cause so much trouble.
Tales to Astonish, The Blip

The Blip. Another foe I seem to recall coming up against the Hulk.

If I remember rightly, he had the indignity of being mistaken, by the Hulk, for Zzzax.
Tales to Astonish, Thorr

It's the Stone Men From Saturn.

Not it's not. It's Thor.

Now my head hurts.
Tales to Astonish, Gorgilla strikes again

Hooray! Gorgilla's back.

I like the cut of Gorgilla's jib. He has a certain enthusiasm about him.
Tales to Astonish, Rommbu

Rommbu. Surely the only monster ever to be named in honour of the deadly shape mankind knows as a rhombus.
Tales to Astonish, Trull the inhuman

The T. J. Eckleburg of terror strikes.
Tales to Astonish, the monster at my window

I have to admit it. Out of all the monsters we've seen so far, this is the one that would've disturbed me when I was a child.
Tales to Astonish, Titano

Titano rises from the depths.

Moomba. Why do so many of these monsters have names that sound like fun-packed dance crazes?
Tales to Astonish, the creature from Krogarr

The creature from Krogarr.

Hold on a moment. Isn't that Kraven's sometime pet Gog?

Does this mean Gog was from Krogarr?

He seems to be coming out of the TV.

So much for that woman in The Ring.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Incredible Hulk #5 - Tyrannus.

Incredible Hulk #5, the Hulk crashes through a wall, on his way to a confrontation with Tyrannus
As I prowl the storm drains of Sheffield, people often say to me, "Steve, I always find you to be a winning combination of Alexander the Great and John Hurt's Caligula. Is that an effect that comes naturally to you, or have you had to work at it?"

I always reply, "Much as I'd like to claim it's all spontaneous, I do have a role model."

That role model is Tyrannus, malevolent master of an underworld kingdom I first encountered in The Mighty World of Marvel's reprint of Incredible Hulk #5.

I knew at once that Tyrannus was my kind of villain, possessed as he was of far more style than the Mole Man could ever hope to match.

What happens in his first appearance is that, like all good underground villains, he wants to invade the surface world.

Sadly, he's scared the surface world'll fight back.

So, posing as an archaeologist, he kidnaps Betty Ross, on the grounds that we'll never dare resist invasion if there's the danger she might get hurt.

Yes, that's how wars work. One side won't bother to defend itself if its attacker has a hostage - especially one no one's ever heard of. With tactical chops like that, all of a sudden I'm starting to see why Tyrannus always loses to the Mole Man.

Needless to say, the Hulk's determined to put a stop to all this subterranean subterfuge.

But it's a different Hulk than the one we're used to. There's none of that, "Why does pretty deer not like Hulk?" nonsense. It's more a case of, "Clam up, Bambi, or you'll get a slap." Still floundering around to try and work out how to make the strip work, Stan Lee's clearly decided to make the Hulk more like the Fantastic Four's early Thing. So we get him running around in swimming trunks, talking in slang and being noticeably anti-social. And, even though he's no Reed Richards, in his exchanges with Rick Jones and Betty Ross, it quickly becomes clear that he's somehow the brains of the trio.

I've always had a soft spot for this story. For all his stupidity, Tyrannus is my kind of villain, and I do like the stroppy Hulk. I also like the way he does a Samson and brings the pillars of Tyrannus' kingdom crashing down on him. I remember copying that scene with my pencil and paper on more than one occasion as a child.

One thing that does strike me is there's a scene where Rick Jones, for once in the tale, shows some gumption and rescues Betty from her cell by putting on a guard's armour and releasing her, a scene that bears a remarkable resemblance to the one in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker does the same to rescue his snog-buddy/sister Princess Leia.

But that could never be, could it? George Lucas borrowing from Marvel Comics?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Super-hero movies you want to see!

Avengers Assemble movie poster
Because I always follow Casey Kasem's advice and keep both ears to the ground and my feet in the clouds, I happen to have noticed there's an Avengers movie out at the moment.

Such is my attentiveness that I know all about it.

Apparently, it was written and directed by the late Bert Weedon and stars Scarlet Johnsen as Emma Peel, while Patrick McNee reprises his old role of the Incredible Hulk. I think we all remember his classic line from the old TV shows; "Grab my bowler, Sarah Jane, I do believe I'm turning irradiated."

Sadly, being a low-budget movie with little publicity behind it, it's not likely to do much at the box office. Such is the way with these home-grown British movies. However, coming as it does after a spate of comic book adaptations, it does raise the question of what other super-hero movies one would like to see.

There was a time when I'd have loved to have seen a Killraven movie. Admittedly, that was before I'd reacquainted myself with the comics and realised just how unfilmable they probably were.

I bow to no one in my admiration for Ant-Man but fear the multiplex masses may not be ready yet for one man's battle to escape from within a glass tumbler.

Therefore, I must bow to the inevitable and demand a Defenders movie. Who wouldn't thrill to the sight of the least coordinated super-team of them all fighting the forces of fiendomness?

So, that's me accounted for, but which super-heroes who've yet to hit the big screen would you like to see immortalised in celluloid?

Saturday 12 May 2012

Sal Buscema's all-time Top Ten Avengers covers.

All lovers of the Buscema brothers'll be no doubt interested to know there's a new Comic Book Resources interview with Sal Buscema right here. But the first time Sal came to my attention was when he first took over the reins of The Avengers, a strip that had already been made great by his big brother John.

Happily, Sal didn't let the family tradition down, and kicked off in grand style by completing the tale of Ultron's rebirth as Adamantium Antagonist.

Sal only seems to have done ten Avengers covers in the time-frame this blog covers - and that sounds like a cue for me to fling myself once more into the Fields of Controversy by doing my own personal Top Ten of Sal Buscema Avengers covers.

Avengers #69, The Growing Man
The titanic trouble-busters find themselves up against the maddening menace of Kang's Growing Man.

Avengers #72, Scorpio, Sal Buscema cover
Scorpio crashes in.

Avengers #91, Ronan, the Sentry and Goliath, Sal Buscema cover
As if it's not enough that those cosmic creeps Ronan and the Sentry have captured Captain Marvel, they've even enlisted the aid of Goliath.
Still, at least the Avengers have Rick Jones on their side.

Avengers #90, Cavemen, Sal Buscema cover
Who says Henry Pym has no sense of fun? Why, as the cover of issue #90 shows, there's nothing he likes more to do with his spare time than to go out clubbing.

Avengers #70, the Squadron Sinister, Sal Buscema cover
The Avengers meet the Squadron Sinister for a cover with strong echoes of big brother John's classic frontispiece to Avengers Annual #2.

Avengers #68, the Vision is dead? Sal Buscema cover
Can it be?
Can the Vision be dead?

Avengers #71, the Invaders, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, Captain America, World War Two, Eiffel Tower, Paris, Sal Buscema cover
In World War Two, the Avengers take on the Golden Age heroes the world - and Roy Thomas - would come to know as The Invaders.

Avengers #88, Psyklop shrinks the Hulk, Sal Buscema cover
The Hulk?
Being shrunk down like Ant-Man?
This calls for the Avengers.

Avengers #67, Ultron, Sal Buscema cover
Our heroes at the mercy of a crackletastic Ultron!
The power!
The drama!
The menace!

Avengers 89, Captain Marvel, the Only Good Alien is a Dead Alien, Kree Skrull War, electric chair, cover by Sal Buscema
Poor old Captain Marvel. He rarely had a happy time of it.
Still, he did at least have the honour of launching an entire epic.