Monday 30 July 2012

The greatest ever Marvel-based movie - Poll Results!

Rampant Democracy!
The Olympics may well be into full swing but there's been a far more important contest going on.

And that's the battle to be declared the greatest Marvel-based movie of them all.

It was so hard-fought a contest it was practically a recreation of the Ancient Greek Pankration; that charming free-for-all where you could do what you liked, as long as you didn't gouge each other's eyes out. Steve Does Comics has no time for such soft rules. It likes a good dirty fight, and has no doubt it got one.

But, from all this carnage, a winner emerged triumphant.

So here are those who've won, gold, silver and bronze. And those who had to settle for the dreaded Wooden Eyeball Scoop of Democracy.

In joint 9th, with one vote each, were Thor, Captain America, the Nick Fury TV movie and The Green Goblin's Last Stand.

In joint 4th, with two votes each, were X-Men 1st Class, Spider-Man (1977), Incredible Hulk (2008), X-Men 2 and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan.

In joint 2nd, with three votes each, were Iron Man and Spider-Man 2.

But, with a mighty ten votes, the winner was The Avengers. I have no doubt their triumph shall give them fresh heart as they look forward to facing yet more cinematic scoundrelly.

As always, thanks to all those who voted; and commiserations to our plucky losers.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Steve Does The Olympics!

Steve goes to the Olympics
It looks like Steve Does Comics must make a rare foray beyond the worlds of comics and the Past to step bravely into the real world of the Present. Like a Victorian pit pony emerging into the harsh light of day, can I survive such a feat?

Only time can tell, for I've had a request from the redoubtable B Smith to give my thoughts on the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

As I don't have a blog dedicated to that subject, and I have no plans to launch one, I might as well do it here.

To be honest, over the last seven years, I've not exactly been enthused by the concept of the London Olympics. Like all sane people north of Watford, I'm insular, mean-spirited and provincial with a tendency to demand, "Why does everything have to be in London when it could be in my home town?" Blinkered as ever, I see no reason why they can't have white water kayaking in the River Don, yachting on Graves Park boating pond and the beach volleyball in Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

I also have an antipathy to opening ceremonies, as they always seem to involve people on stilts, a voice-over on the Tannoy declaring, "From the depths of pre-history, arose...  ....MANKIND!!!" and the Cirque du Soleil pratting about like anyone cares about them.

I therefore feared the worst. This being Britain, surely we were going to be treated to The March of the Beefeaters, the Red Double Decker Bus Drive-Past and a Spinal Tap style rendition of Stonehenge being pranced around by pixies. This of course would appeal to the tourists while not in any way reflecting what actually matters to anyone in Britain.

When I heard the ceremony was going to start with milkmaids, sheep, and people dancing around a Maypole, surely my nightmares were going to come true.

But what a fool I was because the whole thing was great. To be honest, watching the erection of chimney stacks isn't one of my passions in life but they pulled off the Industrial Revolution with style. And the sight of the Olympic rings being bashed into shape before flying into the air and showering sparks over one and all was strangely awe-inspiring.

It was hard not to love the Queen parachuting into the stadium even if the day/night continuity was botched.

I know the Joy of Text section wasn't to everyone's taste but I loved it. It gave a good overview of popular British film and music. And anything that forcibly rams the Jam's Going Underground and the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant into an Olympic opening ceremony's going to get a thumbs-up from me.

The NHS love-in seems to have bewildered some people in other parts of the world but, bearing in mind the NHS was founded in 1948, the year of the last London Olympics and, whatever its practical faults, is a concept to be proud of, it's only right it should be celebrated. It's just a shame the BBC didn't give us any shots of David Cameron's face as it went on... ...and on... ...and on.

Its inclusion also gave an excuse to mention Great Ormond Street Hospital and therefore Peter Pan whose royalties subsidise it, followed by a whole raft of childhood characters. To be honest I'm not a fan of Harry Potter but even I couldn't fail to be impressed by the giant wobbly Voldemort - even if I did need Hazel Irvine to tell me who it was meant to be. And who wouldn't want to see their skies filled with a gazillion Mary Poppinses descending from the heavens?

Being from Sheffield, I was of course delighted to see the Arctic Monkeys show up for no good reason. I had a good frug to I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor because I do indeed look good on the dance floor, and I loved their serpentine, bass-heavy rendition of Come Together, especially when the flappy bicycle doves emerged.

The worst part of any Olympic opening ceremony is of course the athletes showing up.

Fortunately it was made watchable by how happy they all looked to be there, even if the BBC seemed to be making some of the countries up.

I was particularly heartened by the huge cheer the Germans got. Even the Argentinians got a cheer, which gave me great pleasure, bearing in mind the ongoing tensions between our two countries. It was a reminder of what a great place the world'd be if only our politicians would do the decent thing and kill themselves whenever they're unhappy with the world, rather than killing the rest of us.

But eventually even a parade of athletes must come to an end. And we therefore finished off with Macca.

I must confess that, though I bow to few in my love for the Beatles, this was probably the low-point of the evening; as, early on, he was clearly struggling with hearing himself twice. The sound problem was so bad that I wasn't sure if he stopped and started again or if the director merely switched from one, delayed, feed to another. To be honest, his voice isn't what it was and it was all a bit of a battle for him. But it's Macca and, for his role in British music history, he deserved to be there.

The downsides for me were that the Dr Who tribute was cut out to save time and we got no Robin Hood, King Arthur or the Black Death.

And where was Kate Bush? There was a hill. I was just desperate for her to go running up that hill.

It's always depressing to me that Rowan Atkinson is globally famous for the dire Mr Bean instead of the comedy genius of Blackadder, and I hate the Chariots of Fire music, so I was never going to enjoy a combination of the two.

Unintentional comedy highlight of the evening was the Queen looking bored senseless as the British athletes entered the stadium while the always clueless Huw Edwards declared her to be bursting with pride.

In fairness to her, Liz looked miserable all the way through her Diamond Jubilee and she looked miserable all the way through this.

That's hardly surprising. How many octogenarians would really want to sit through such a thing? You can't help feeling they should stop putting her through all this and let Kate take over as queen for nights aimed at younger people. I like Kate. She wears loads of eye-liner and seems to enjoy everything she encounters.

It was never going to be easy to capture just what it is to be British because it often seems there's no such thing. The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish often find a definition for themselves in not being English and, until Euro 96, the English didn't seem to grasp that being English and being British are not the same thing. On top of that, the north and south of England often barely recognise each other's view of what it is to even be English. How do you capture what unifies such a disjointed land?

I read a review somewhere on the internet that said the ceremony did sum up what it is to be British. That it's 2,000 years of being weird and the National Health Service. To be honest, if a nation's to be known for something, that seems as good as anything.

But I also think it captured the British spirit by not taking the thing seriously and not cow-towing to the establishment. Taking the you-know-what is a great British pastime and largely defines us. It also caught the nation's versatility, its inventiveness, creativity and the open-mindedness that lurks behind such cynicism. We live in a land where a man who, thirty five years ago was supposed to be a threat to the very foundations of society and the establishment, ended up being so recognised as a national treasure for it that he was deemed safe to advertise butter. People might see his advertising butter as a betrayal of what he was supposed to be but it does show the British mindset's endearing ability to absorb and appreciate that which lies outside the norm.

Overall, I can say Danny Boyle did the impossible and actually made me enthusiastic about the Olympics. In fact, bearing in mind the general air of cynicism that seemed to be around about the games before it started, it may be that, by putting on such an eclectic, iconoclastic and wilfully British show that was not too far off being a V-sign to the whole thing, he actually saved the Games by finally getting people buzzing about them.

Admittedly, two days into the Olympics, I still haven't actually seen any of it yet and - the Men's 100 metres aside - I probably won't, but I can at least now accept that an event taking place far from Kelham Island Industrial Museum can still feel relevant.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Atlas Comics' Morlock 2001 #2.

Morlock 2001 #2, Atlas Comics

In my last post, I bravely made the claim that Morlock 2001, with its pea-pod born protagonist, was one of the few Atlas Comics titles that had the potential to generate interesting stories.

Today I'm going to put that claim to the test by reading issue #2 and seeing just what magic Michael "The Spectre" Fleisher can weave from his homicidal herbman.

We start with Morlock on the run from the police. This leads him to flee on a train but, with the sort of luck only he could have, on board, he encounters the cast of A Clockwork Orange and promptly kills them.

Atlas Comics, Morlock 2001 #2, Droogs on a train

After getting off the train, he then encounters The Heap - two of him.

The Heaps are threatening a blind girl, causing Morlock to leap to her defence. It turns out the Heaps have been created by her father, a scientist out to create a race of plant men to help humanity.

At first it looks like the three of them are going to get on famously but the scientist gets wind of the fact there's a reward out for Morlock's arrest and promptly locks him in a shed.

Atlas Comics, Morlock 2001 #2, Morlock turns into a tree and eats a blind girl
Sadly, that scientist hasn't counted on the daring of his blind daughter who frees Morlock - only for him to turn into a tree and eat her.

I'm starting to spot a certain pattern to Morlock. He meets someone unpleasant and kills them by touching them. He then encounters a girl, befriends her then eats her. There's probably some sort of metaphor for life in there though I'm struggling to spot what it is.

But it's a bizarre tale, mostly for Fleisher's bafflingly shameless pilfering of other people's ideas. We don't just get the aforementioned swipes, we even get a cop show up who's clearly Kojak.

As with issue #1, we finish with Morlock wandering off into the distance, wondering what'll become of him.

There is a progression though. At the end of last issue, he'd just found the potion that can keep him human. At the end of this one, he's lost it, meaning there's nothing to stop him transforming from now on.

And so, as our sort-of-hero disappears into the sunset, we hear the Bill Bixby Hulk play-out music in our heads and can only ponder just what further vicissitudes issue #3 can throw at him and at all those he encounters.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Atlas Comics' Morlock 2001 #1.

Atlas Comics, Morlock #1, our hero looks on as a woman is attacked by a giant killer tree
As I roam the dense forests of Tinsley, people often say to me, "Steve. The trees. Look at all those trees. Who's your favourite super-hero who can turn into a man-eating tree?"

Well, there's a lot of competition for that title but, after much thought on the matter, I can only go for Atlas Comics' very own plant man Morlock.

I am tempted to call him Adam Morlock but I'm sure the fact that both he and the similarly named Marvel character were born from pods is pure coincidence.

Sadly, like all Atlas characters, Morlock's run was to prove short-lived but it was certainly hard to forget.

In a future dictatorship, a scientist's gunned down for owning books and doing forbidden plant experiments.

The authorities who killed him soon discover he'd been working on creating a man who's part human, part vegetable. Upon his emergence from his giant pea pod, they name this man Morlock and, upon discovering he can turn people to plants just by touching them, use him as their enforcer.

Atlas Comics, Morlock 2001 #1, dead scientist

Well, Morlock might be a plant but he's no stooge and he soon rebels against his corrupt paymasters - but not before discovering that, when he gets a mad, he turns into a man-eating tree.

Atlas Comics, Morlock 2001 #1, killer tree attack

I wouldn't want to cast aspersions on writer Michael ("The Spectre") Fleisher but, what with The Brute and The Tarantula, this is at least the third cannibal super-hero I can think of that he contributed to the Atlas cause. Some might start to find this worrying.

It also has to be said you can spot from a mile away where all his ideas are stolen from. There's a touch of Warlock to it, a touch of The Time Machine, a touch of the Hulk, a touch of 1984, a touch of Fahrenheit 451, a touch of Frankenstein - and probably a whole bunch of other things I've missed out.

Atlas Comics, Morlock 2001 #1, topiary
Concerns about cannibalism and plagiarism aside, the thing actually works, mostly because there's a strong visceral appeal to the strip.

That's not to say Fleisher's story-telling here's any more than rudimentary but it's a great concept in that it allows artist Al Milgrom to let loose with the imagery. It's hard to comment on the quality of his draftsmanship, because he's inked by Jack Abel who, to my eyes at least, makes every artist look like Jack Abel. If I was a big fan of Abel's inking style, that wouldn't be a problem but he was always one of my least favourite inkers.

Regardless of that, Milgrom serves up some wonderfully nightmarish images and composition in the tale, the chief ones being the transformation of a government lackey into topiary, and Morlock's murder of the female agent who'd been manipulating him.

It might seem unlikely, given how obvious its roots are but, on the strength of issue #1 at least, Morlock was one of the few Atlas strips that actually had potential to work.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Your favourite Marvel movie of all time!

Rampant Democracy! Red letters
It's time to get my Claudia Winkleman hat on because YOU the public have demanded I do a poll to discover the greatest Marvel based movie of all time.

When I say, "You," I mean Southfolkman - but 100% of one person's good enough for me.

As we all know, Marvel heroes have been on a roll lately, with the likes of Thor, Iron Man and the Avengers wiping the floor with all box-office rivals.

Of course, we can't ignore the newest Spider-Man movie, which has been merrily sending flocks of visitors to this very blog all week.

But we also shouldn't neglect the older movies that paved the way for such success. Who could forget the Blade movies? Or even earlier triumphs like Howard the Duck, Matt Salinger's Captain America or Roger Corman's legendary Fantastic Four? And was I really the only one who enjoyed David Hasselhoff's Nick Fury?

I believe I've said before on this blog that Spider-Man 2's my favourite super-hero movie of all time and, although I enjoyed the likes of Iron Man and the first couple of X-Men movies, I have yet to change that viewpoint.

Anyway, nominate your favourite Marvel-based movie and, as always, in a couple of days from now, I'll put it all together in a poll.

And at last the world can decide; just what is the greatest Marvel  movie of them all.

Friday 20 July 2012

Yang #6.

Yang #6, Charlton Comics, Yang looks on like a berk as a woman sits in a scoop and a man sneaks up on him, ready to hit him from behind
"Good God above!" people say to me. "How did you creep up on me from behind like that when I have the hearing of a highly trained chihuahua?"

"It's easy," I tell them. "I was taught a mastery of the martial arts by a man who used to berate me if I tore his rice paper carpets."

"Well, don't have rice paper carpets," I used to tell him. "And for that matter, the wallpaper made of bread's not that great an idea either. It'll be a magnet for insects. If you don't watch it, you'll be eaten out of house and home by them."

And you know what?

He was.

The council had to rehouse him.

He now lives in sheltered accommodation and the only visitor he ever gets is a local authority funded Bontempi organist who comes round once a week and plays Stranglers songs at him.

It's a heart-warming anecdote from my past, and if there's anyone who could relate to such a background, I'm sure it'd be Yang.

Yang bears no resemblance to any other character you've ever seen. He's a Chinese martial artist who travels the American Wild West sorting out whatever black hat wearing cowboy bad guys he encounters. In Yang #6, he's on the warpath after a man called Bellows buys a stolen sacred Buddha.

Yang promptly makes his way across a large chunk of America, beating up anyone who gets in the way of his quest to retrieve it.

To call the tale action-packed would be an understatement. Yang's like the Duracell Bunny of karate.

He never stops to display anything that resembles a personality or an interest in anything but his mission and, on the strength of this tale, he comes across as though he might be a little insane, such is his dogged devotion to going through whatever hardship is necessary to retrieve a statuette. Yang might have echoes of Shang-Chi and Kwai Chang Caine about him but he seems to lack any of their sense of perspective, thoughtfulness or willingness to internally debate the rights and wrongs of a course of action.

Fortunately, Bellows isn't only a man who buys stolen Buddhas. He's also a man who uses slave labour in his mine, so Yang gets even more reason to get violent with him and his men. Our hero also shows a happy willingness to start shooting people, making you wonder why he bothers with the martial arts at all.

It's easy of course to compare Yang with Shang-Chi and Kwai Chang Caine but it'd be true to say that, with his cheery acceptance of violence and his briskly practical one-dimensionality, his resemblance to them's no more than superficial.

Joe Gill's script runs on a sort of tram-line, never allowing the story to divert from its main course and is a little confusing in places. The art by Warren Sattler has a certain simplicity to it that means it's never off-putting - but neither is it dynamic, stylish nor distinctive enough to even begin to fully explore the visual potential of its subject matter. On the plus side, it is at least clear and unfussy, with occasional echoes of Steve Ditko.

Despite the fact it's a Charlton comic, and I will always have a place in my heart for anything Charlton produced; let's be honest, if you have an issue of Shang-Chi in front of you and an issue of Yang - on the strength of this yarn - it's pretty obvious which one you're going to go for.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Marvel's greatest ever super-team - Poll Results!

Rampant democracy
There's only one thing in the world better than a super-hero.

And that's a whole bunch of super-heroes.

You can wrap it up how you like but there's no one quite like a super-team when you need someone chinning.

I'm delighted to announce, therefore, that, the next time I need someone sorted out, I'll know just which super-team to call upon - as the results are in from the poll that rocked the internet and forced the entire human race to re-assess its values.

That poll was the vote to discover just what is the greatest Marvel super-team of them all. Many were the contenders but, in the end, there could only be one winner.

And what a poll it was; with a massive 44 votes, making it easily the most voted-on poll in the history of Steve Does Comics. At this rate, there'll be more people voting in my polls than vote in this land's general elections, at which point I'll declare myself an independent sovereign state and punish all trespassers with death.

Joint sixth, with 1 vote each, were the Young Warriors, the Invaders and the West Coast Avengers.

I expected them to do much better, but fifth, with a mere 3 votes, were the X-Men.

A fantastic fourth, with 5 votes, were the Fantastic Four.

Third, with 8 votes, were the Defenders. With such popularity, surely a Defenders movie can only be a matter of time away.

Second, with 9 votes, were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. With such popularity, surely a Stan Lee and Jack Kirby biopic can by only a matter of time away.

But the winner, with a walloping 16 votes, was the Avengers. With such popularity, surely a... ...oh, never mind.

As always, thanks to all who voted - and congratulations to the Avengers. Who would've thought, all those years ago, when the first Avengers comic was launched, that someday they'd be hailed as Marvel's greatest super-team? Well, everyone probably but, still, that doesn't lessen their achievement.

Thursday 12 July 2012

How did Gwen Stacy die? YOU The World have decided.

Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen Stacy falls to her death
All seekers of truth and justice will no doubt be delighted to know the results are in from the latest poll to hit the internet.

Because you the jury have decided just how Gwen Stacy died.

It's an issue that's vexed the world for nearly four decades but at last the truth can be revealed.

And what an epic poll it was, with a mighty 41 votes, making it by far the most number of votes for any Steve Does Comics poll ever.

In joint fifth place, with 2 votes each, were, "The sheer speed of her fall killed her," and, "I don't know."

In fourth place, with 4 votes, was, "The impact of the Goblin glider knocking her off the bridge killed her."

In third place, with 5 votes, was, "Gwen Stacy is still alive! I refuse to accept she's not!"

In second place, with 6 votes, was, "The Goblin had already killed her before Spidey arrived at the scene."

But the runaway winner, with a walloping 22 votes, was, "Her neck broke when Spidey caught her."

Amazingly, no one voted for, "Mary Jane Watson poisoned her then framed the Goblin." How that girl gets away with it, I'll never know. I happen to know Mary Jane Watson also killed George Stacy, the Kangaroo and Uncle Ben, as I'll reveal in my Spider-Man retcon if Marvel ever have the sense to let me write the strip.

As always, thanks to all who voted - and apologies to J Jonah Jameson, who it seems was right all along; Spider-Man is indeed a menace to society.

Monday 9 July 2012

What is Marvel's greatest ever super-team?

Rampant Democracy
First of all I need to thank everyone who took part in my poll to discover from where this site's awesome fan-base has originated. It was certainly interesting to discover how important blogs and search engines have been and how not-at-all-important social networking sites are.

But no one with any sense wants to read about that old rubbish. They want to hear about comics.

Recently I've had a request – and, for once, it's not the usual one. Boston Bill's asked me to put together a poll to find Marvel's greatest super-team of all time.

I could be brave and put the poll together without any input from others but I'd be guaranteed to miss out someone you love. Therefore, I'd like your nominations for the title. In a couple of days from now, I'll use your nominations to construct the poll - and at last the world shall know just what is Marvel's greatest super-team of them all.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #121 - the Death of Gwen Stacy.

Amazing Spider-Man #121, the death of Gwen Stacy, cover
With the sort of bad luck worthy of Peter Parker himself, I managed to miss the biggest event in Spider-History.

I must declare that the issue of Marvel UK's Super Spider-Man that reprinted The Amazing Spider-Man #121 failed to be stocked by my local newsagent.

Was he trying to spare his readership the soul-shattering horror of it all? Or was it just the delivery van having broken down?

Perhaps we shall never know but it does mean I only joined the two-parter for its second half, reprinted from The Amazing Spider-Man #122.

Fortunately, the world sometimes being a wonderful place, years later I finally got to read the first part of the tale.

So, with The Amazing Spider-Man hitting our cinema screens even as I speak and the internet abuzz with talk of Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, it's time to do the decent thing and gawp at her death.

Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen Stacy flung off the bridge by the Green Goblin
Amazing Spider-Man #121, Harry Osborn, drugsI do of course mean Gwen Stacy's death, not Emma Stone's. Emma Stone is alive and well and will no doubt be back to play both Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in future instalments.

Gwen Stacy's death happens in Amazing Spider-Man #121 and it all kicks off with Norman Osborn fretting over the illness of his son Harry who's back on the drugs. Not only that but Norman's business is threatening to fail and he has a doctor who looks exactly like Bullit from Amazing Spider-Man #91.

Faced with such dilemmas, Osborn reacts as anyone normal would. He dresses up as a goblin and flies around on a metal bat, out to kill his son's best friend.

Arriving at Peter Parker's apartment, he finds not Spider-Man but Gwen Stacy and kidnaps her, setting up a confrontation with our hero on a George Washington bridge that looks remarkably like the Hudson Bridge.

Amazing Spider-Man #121, the death of Gwen Stacy as she is caught by Spider-Man webbing
Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen Stacy is deadIn the ensuing fight, the Goblin knocks Gwen from the top of the bridge and, despite Spider-Man thinking he's saved her from guaranteed death, it turns out he hasn't.

Its certainly not a tale short of incident. Nor is it short of intensity, as we get the drama of Harry's drug relapse followed by Osborn's breakdown before topping it all with the shocking climax. Gil Kane's story-telling's as masterful as ever and Jazzy John Romita's inks help maintain the look the strip's had since Steve Ditko left way back in issue #38. We even have time for a little J Jonah Jameson amidst it all.

But, whatever else goes on in the tale, the talking point's inevitably its climax.

And it's here the tale's at its best and at its most frustrating. It's impossible to ignore the power and shock value of it all as Spider-Man thinks he's triumphantly saved Gwen, only to realise he's done nothing of the sort.

On the downside, it does get bizarrely ambiguous about how exactly she's died, suggesting no clear consensus between, writer, editor, letterer and artists as to how it's actually happened.

Gil Kane and John Romita's depiction of Gwen lying totally motionless throughout the fight suggests they may have intended her to be dead all along, killed by the Goblin before Spidey even reached the scene.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man press pack publicity still
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy - alive and well.
For now...
On the other hand, letterer Artie Simek's inclusion of a, “Snap!” as Spidey snags Gwen with his webbing, strongly suggests her neck breaking as the deed happens.

Then again, just one page later, writer Gerry Conway has the Goblin bafflingly declare, “Romantic idiot! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone before they struck the ground!”

Leaving aside the fact that a fall from that height clearly wouldn't kill someone before they hit the ground, the declaration leaves the waters disappointingly muddy.

Personally I take the view that Gwen should've been revealed to have been dead all along; with the, “snap,” and the Goblin's bizarre claim being left out. I suspect though that others may disagree.

Whatever the truth of it, the death of Gwen Stacy sent a shock-wave through the world of comics and may have signalled the end of the Silver Age and the start of a grimmer Bronze Age.

In all honesty, despite this issue's many merits, I do prefer the second part of the tale - for its sheer intensity and Peter Parker's seething anger - but issue #121's certainly a more-than-capable set-up for that classic issue.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Forty years ago today - July 1972.

It's July – the month named after Julie Andrews. But, if we take a look at what Marvel's greatest heroes were up to exactly forty years ago, will we find a few of our favourite things?

Amazing Spider-Man #110, The Gibbon, John Romita cover

Spider-Man takes on the Gibbon.

This is one of the tales reprinted in the spell when Spider-Man Comics Weekly disappeared from my local newsagents for several months.

I've since caught up with it via the appropriate Marvel Essential and, with its tale of a hapless loser trying to be a super-doer, it's one of my favourites from what I always view as a slightly sub-par period in the strip's history.
Avengers #101, Rich Buckler

Rich Buckler resists the urge to imitate Jack Kirby, as The Avengers are told to let five innocent people die if they don't want the world to end.
Captain America and the Falcon #151, Mr Hyde and the Scorpion

It's Captain America and the Falcon vs Mr Hyde and the Scorpion.

Frankly, I don't fancy their chances.
Conan the Barbarian #16, The Frost Giants Daughter, Barry Windsor Smith, Roy Thomas, Robert E Howard

Roy Thomas and Lord Barrington Wyndsor Smythe give us their stylish adaptation of Robert E Howard's The Frost Giant's Daughter.
Daredevil #89, Electro, Killgrave the Purple Man

Daredevil has to take on not only the pulse-pounding peril of the Purple Man but also Electro.

Frankly, I don't fancy his chances.
Fantastic Four #121, Creature From The Black Lagoon

Hooray! It's the return of the monster that bears no resemblance to the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I remember reading this one in Captain Britain's weekly mag, although I don't remember much about the tale itself.
Incredible Hulk #153, Trial

It's another of my faves, as the Hulk finds himself on trial.
Iron Man #48, Firebrand melts armor

Iron Man gets his metal tested by a man with the same taste in colours as himself.
Mighty Thor #201, Pluto

It's Thor vs Pluto.

Frankly, I don't fancy his chances.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Fifty years ago today - July 1962.

The sight of people going to work in flippers was enough to tell us that June 2012 was one of non-stop rain. And it's starting to look like July'll be even non-stoppier.

But, fifty years ago this month, were our favourite Marvel heroes suffering from a dampened ardour in their quest to thwart evil? Or were their hearts as full of fire as ever?

Only a  trip back in the Steve Does Comics' time machine will tell us, as we take a look at just what they were up to in July of 1962.

Fantastic Four #5, the Fantastic Four are trapped as Dr Doom makes his first appearance

The Fantastic Four's greatest foe makes his first appearance as he sends our heroes back in time to retrieve Blackbeard's treasure.

Even from the start, Victor's got a trick up every sleeve and a robot for every occasion.
Incredible Hulk #2, the Toad Men plan their conquest as the Hulk smashes in through a wall, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko

It's the obligatory alien invasion storyline that every Marvel hero had to deal with in the early 1960s, as the Incredible Hulk takes on the Toad Men.

It's also the dream combination of Jack Kirby and Steve Dtiko - and you can read my review of that very issue right here.

PS. Please don't forget to vote in the vitally important poll to the right.

Sunday 1 July 2012

Comic book independents.

Vampirella #30
As we all know, when it came to the 1970s, the American comic book industry was dominated by two companies, Marvel and DC. Like the twin legs of the Colossus of Rhodes, they stood astride the harbour of four-colourdom sheltering us from the threat of boredom.

But, on the very same spinner racks where we found those comics, we'd occasionally discover other ones - comics published by companies far more obscure.

There were publishers like Dell and Gold Key who, in my limited experience of them, seemed to concentrate on publishing licensed properties like Star Trek or Ripley's Believe It Or Not. To be honest, they always felt a little too square for me and I rarely felt moved to buy any of their titles.

Skywald, Nightmare #17, a naked blonde reclines on an altar, beside a horny ape

In more “mature” directions, there were Warren and Skywald. My only exposure to Warren was issue #30 of Vampirella. My only experience of Skywald was issue #17 of Nightmare which I found to be far too unpleasant for my enlightened tastes.

Atlas Comics, Phoenix #1, Phoenix fires rays at attacking flying saucers that are destroying Reykjavík, Dick Giordano cover

No. For me, the independents that did most to capture my imagination were Atlas and Charlton.

Atlas didn't last long but, mostly thanks to sheer ambition, made an indelible impression, even if 99% of their output was total rubbish.

The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves #41, green druids drag a woman off to be sacrificed at Stonehenge, Charlton Comics

But the independent mags I was always happiest to see – and read – were those published by Charlton.

Who could fail to thrill to The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Ghostly Haunts, or the inimitable Midnight Tales with Professor Coffin and his lovely niece Arachne?

With their not-quite-glossy covers and strange, ragged edges, Charlton comics had a look all of their own. The stories within, mostly centring on light horror and mystery, had a distinctive feel too; quirkier and more idiosyncratic than those of the Big Two.

But that's enough about me. What're your memories of Bronze and Silver Age independents? Were there any titles you bought regularly? Ones you didn't regularly buy but always wanted to? And who was your favourite independent publisher?