Saturday 31 August 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 5: Beowulf #3.

Beowulf #3
The weird thing about this feature, where I drone on about comics I once owned but had totally forgotten about until blundering across their covers on the internet, is how many of them should be beyond forgetting.

Beowulf #3's a perfect example. I can't comment in any way, shape or form about the contents of the mag - having totally forgotten them - but I do know a Ricardo Villamonte cover like that should never be forgotten. It's a thing of absolute beauty - even if flinging yourself into a monster's mouth doesn't exactly strike me as the best tactic for defeating it. Still, at least he's got Shanna the She-Devil to help him out.

Not only that but the comic's about Beowulf.

I'm assuming it's about that Beowulf and not just some bloke who shares his name. If so, how could anyone ever forget they once had a comic about Beowulf? It'd be on a par with forgetting you ever had a comic about William Shatner.

Was the comic any good?

I've no idea.

A quick glance at the Grand Comics Database tells me It only lasted six issues, which I suppose isn't a good sign but maybe it was just a victim of there being too many sword and sorcery comics launched in the wake of the success of Conan. Then again, maybe it wasn't.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 4: Wanted #8.

Wanted #8, the Flash and Doctor Fate
What on Earth is the matter with me? There are some comics in life that're best consigned to the dustbin of amnesia.

But there are other comics too.

Ones we should never forget.

And this is one of them. Wanted #8 features not just the Flash fighting the coolest villain since Mr Freeze, but also Dr Fate vs the only super-villain in the world who thinks he can get away with a cravat.

Granted, I think we've all always wanted to be the sort of man who can get away with a cravat but, outside of Scooby-Doo's Freddie, no such man exists.

Actually, to be honest, even looking at the cover now, I have no idea what happens inside that comic. But I do recall that it was one of my favourite DC issues when I was a kid, which makes it all the more mysterious that I'd totally forgotten I ever owned it until I accidentally chanced across its cover online.

It all goes to show that being remembered and deserving to be remembered are not the same thing. After all, I suspect that just one look at the word "Wanted" reminds all Brits of the Dooleys' dreadful 1979 hit of the same name. But who amongst us remembered the mighty Contempt before their shock reappearance on Top of the Pops 1977?

See? I told you so. Even with two members of the Justice League on this page, there's still no justice in the world.

Sunday 25 August 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 3: The Victor Book for Boys, 1973.

Victor Book for Boys, annual, 1973
I definitely owe today's offering an apology. Not only is it not forgettable but it features one of the things I remember most strongly from my childhood.

For years I remembered reading a story that featured a mystery runner called W.H. Oami who broke some sort of cross country record before being exposed as a fraud. The clue was in his name: "WH Oami" = "Who Am I" [Gettit?].

For years I couldn't recall where I'd read that tale.

And then, blundering around the internet, I came across this very cover. Instantly the scales fell away from my eyes - and my feet - because I'm pretty sure this is where I read it.

I also recall that the cover references an interior story of some plucky British Tommies stealing a German bus and doing whatever it was they did.

To be honest, Weird War Tales aside, war stories never did anything for me as a kid, and by 1973 I was already well into American comics at the expense of British ones. So it's perhaps not so shocking that the existence of this book had gradually slipped my mind.

I do feel I should know more about old British comics, as they do seem more accomplished to me now than they ever did at the time. I fear the fault was mine rather than theirs.

Friday 23 August 2013

Sheffield's Most Wanted. Part 16: Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #4.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #4, Lost City of Mars
When I was a  child, I got the idea into my head that science-fiction was a big, grown-up thing for grown-ups and it might therefore hurt my little brain to read it.

As nearly all my favourite movies were science fiction films and all my favourite comics were, to some degree, based on sci-fi principles, I have no idea where I got this notion from. But, somehow, it meant I didn't register those films or comics as being science fiction.

I think I'd decided that for something to qualify as sci-fi, it had to be pretentious. As the things I liked were mostly not pretentious, they therefore couldn't be sci-fi. Clearly, children, like Mancunian criminals, often see things in strange ways.

Regardless of my fear of science fiction hurting my brain, whenever I saw this issue advertised I wanted it.

Bafflingly, I did see it in a shop once but it never occurred to me to actually buy it.

While a lot of the tales from Unknown Worlds found their way into Marvel UK's weekly Planet of the Apes comic, a quick look at its entry on the Grand Comics Database tells me the only story title in this issue that rings a bell is something called Kick the Can. If it was indeed reprinted in Planet of the Apes, I have a feeling it involved an alien, a human and them firing ray guns at each other in between childhood flashbacks.

Of course, the title also made me think of Suzi Quatro's Can the Can and I shall therefore always associate it with leather catsuits.

But then, to be honest, I associate everything in life with leather catsuits.

It gives me pleasure to do so.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 2: Marvel Two-In-One #12.

Marvel Two-In-One #12, The Thing and Iron Man
Hold onto your spinner racks, comics lovers - because it's back; the sensational new feature where I attempt to talk about comics that I don't even remember ever having owned!

Of course, I do now know I once owned those comics, or I wouldn't be able to do this feature. I'd have to call it, "Comics I've Never Ever Owned And Know Nothing About," which'd be a totally different thing and an exercise in futility too developed for even this blog.

But, the point is that, up until I blundered across the covers to the comics in question, during my internet wanderings, I'd totally forgotten I ever had them.

And I have to hand it to Marvel Two-In-One because a sneak preview tells me that three issues of that title fit slap-bang into that category.

This is somewhat odd, as the Thing was arguably my favourite Marvel hero when I was a child.

In fact, so in favour of him was I that I even had a Thing badge, purchased by the magic of mail order from a back cover of Mighty World of Marvel.

First of that guilty trio of Two-In-One issues is #12, in which, I gather from the cover, the Thing and Iron Man team up to tackle Prester John.

The worrying thing is that not only did I have this comic but I'm pretty sure I must've read it again when it was reprinted in Marvel UK's Titans mag, meaning I had at least two copies of the tale in my collection and still forgot it'd ever existed.

Looking at that cover, I seem to recall that Prester John goes mad for some reason and has to be stopped before he can cause all sorts of trouble for mankind. I also seem to recall that, at the time, I wasn't happy about Marvel turning him evil, as I'd always seen him as a good egg and the voice of reason.

I have a feeling Vince Colletta may have been the inker. Other than that, I can say nothing of the contents.

I do feel that, for forgetting all about a tale featuring my favourite hero, I do though deserve a good slap.

But preferably not from Prester John, who I like to think is now fully restored to the niceness of which I'm accustomed.

Sunday 18 August 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 1: TV Action #64.

Many a time have I opined on this blog about the comics I most wanted as a child but never got the chance to own.

But there's a polar opposite to that.

And that's comics I did have as a child but then somehow totally forgot I'd ever possessed.

The wonder of the internet is that, every so often when you're blundering around on it, you randomly stumble across just such a comic.

And that leads us into this brand new feature.

Of course, it's all highly unfair. The fact that I don't recall having once owned a comic may not necessarily be a reflection on its quality. It may be that I had it for just a short while or that my brain has become mysteriously clouded when it comes to that certain matter.

Still, that's not going to stop me posting those mags on here. Personally, I see it as a chance to thrust them once more into the limelight and at last give them the attention they no doubt deserve.

The first offering is TV Action #64, which I'd totally forgot I'd ever owned until I saw its cover posted on Dougie's Some Fantastic Place.

What's up with me? That comic has Dr Who! It has UFO!  It has Stingray!

Admittedly, it also has The Persuaders and Hawaii Five-0, which are perhaps less likely to lodge in the youthful imagination.

Most of all, how could I ever have forgotten the sight of Jon Pertwee being chased across a desert by a six-legged camel?

And you know what? The depressing thing is that, somehow, even having become reacquainted with that cover, I still recall nothing of the contents.

Sometimes I despair of myself.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Skull the Slayer #3.

Skull the Slayer #3
Some time back, I declared Skull the Slayer to be one of the ten most pointless super-heroes of all time.

My logic was that he was a modern-day man who spent his time bashing up dinosaurs in a strange land and was therefore simply replicating the USP of Ka-Zar, thus making him inherently redundant. On top of that, he didn't even have a sabre-toothed tiger to keep him company.

Of course, I did come to that conclusion having not read any of his adventures for over thirty years. Would my cynicism remain if I actually got round to re-reading one of the issues I owned as a youth, or would I come to realise I've misjudged him horribly?

What's happening is this. After a plane crash, war veteran Jim Scully and his three surviving co-passengers find themselves in a land of dinosaurs, robots, aliens, cavemen and whatever else writer Marv Wolfman decides to throw at them.

In this issue, after heading in the opposite direction to a herd of stampeding dinosaurs, they discover a mysterious tower with a mysterious secret within - it contains scenes from every era of Earth's history.

And they've just blundered into Ancient Egypt!

Skull the Slayer #3
Looking at it, now, the main problem with the strip isn't so much that it replicates Ka-Zar, it's that the two male leads - Jim Scully and Dr Corey - are so totally unappealing.

Scully's never wrong about anything and seems incapable of getting through a sentence without mentioning that he used to be in the army.

Corey on the other hand is a black man in a 1970s Marvel comic. This means that, like all black males in 1970s Marvel comics, he has to be angry about everything. He's angry about this. He's angry about that. He's probably even angry about the other. If he could be angry about being angry, he'd no doubt even be angry about that. After just three pages of him not being able to open his trap without complaining, you're positively desperate for him to get eaten by a dinosaur. To make matters worse, as the issue progresses, he seems to be transmogrifying before our eyes into Lost in Space's Dr Smith.

Skull the Slayer #3Of the other two characters, Corey's assistant Ann is fine, if not overly interesting, while the fourth member of their team - Jeff - basically fills the Rick Jones role of eager but useless teenage hanger-on.

Weighed against the less-than engrossing characters is the fact that the tale does at least present us with a mystery which keeps us reading in order to try and find out what's going on.

Mostly what strikes me reading it now is just how many things it reminds me of. With its characters roaming around trying to make sense of and escape a strange setting, it's in many ways a precursor to such TV fare as Fantastic Journey and Lost. 

There is, of course, the Ka-Zar thing.

And, with a character nicknamed Skull, and all the roaming around in a world gone weird while characters snipe at each other, it's impossible not to think of the glory days of Killraven.

The truth is I was wrong. It's not just a Ka-Zar rip-off. It does have an identity of its own and its central mystery does keep you wanting to read more. But, with its not exactly riveting characters blundering around lost, neither is it something you could see as having any viable long-term future without major changes.

Of course, having said that, you could easily re-write this issue as a Ka-Zar tale without having to do an awful lot of work. So perhaps I was as rightish as I was wrongish.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Forty years ago today - August 1973.

As the whole world no doubt knows, 1973 was the year Sheffield's indoor Sheaf Market was opened; celebrated for its elevated restaurant that gave you genuine plastic cutlery to eat with.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of the time making a meal of their latest battles?

Or were they instead chewing up their foes and spitting them out?

Avengers #114, Mantis and the Swordsman

Is this the one where Mantis and the Swordsman defeat the Lion God by hypnotising him with her dancing? If so, he really did come across as a complete and total berk in that tale.
Captain America and the Falcon #164 Nightshade

I'm pretty certain I've never read this one but I do like the way the Falcon still has his normal hair despite having turned into a werewolf.

I do wonder if his falcon has likewise turned into a wolf-bird.
Conan the Barbarian #29

I've never read this one either. I gather there may be a wizard in it, which makes a nice change.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #102, the Stiltman

Unlike those other mags, I actually have read this one.

But I have no memory of it.
Fantastic Four #137

It does seem to be my month for tales I've never read, as the FF find themselves up against what seems to be a giant gorilla with a metal ball for a head.

What with Medusa's giant-hand problems, it does strike me that his month's cover is remarkably similar to next month's.

Incredible Hulk #166

Hooray! It's one of my faves, as Zzzaxx makes his debut and Hawkeye tries to prove he can do it without the Avengers.
Invincible Iron Man #61, the Masked Marauder

As revealed in this recent post on The Peerless Power of Comics, Iron Man is still having far more trouble with the Masked Marauder than he really should be.
Amazing Spider-Man #123, Luke Cage

Sweet Mother of Christmas, and other words to that effect. It's one of my favourite Spidey tales, as our hero comes up against Luke Cage.

I'm pretty sure Peter Parker snaps a pen in half at one point in this story, which, believe it or not, is one of my favourite scenes ever in any comicbook.
Thor #214, Mercurio

In his latest space-bound quest to find missing gods, Thor's up against Mercurio - who, like Baked Alaska, can be hot and cold at the same time.

Like Baked Alaska, he was probably also not available in Sheaf Markets' elevated restaurant.
X-Men #83, Spider-Man

My Steve-Sense tells me that Spider-Man may be featuring in this tale.

Other than that, I can say nothing.

Because I know nothing.

Monday 5 August 2013

Fifty years ago today - August 1963.

With the world still reeling from the news that The Thick of It star Peter Capaldi is to be the new Doctor Who, it's time for us to once more leap into the Steve Does Comics TARDIS and fall headlong into the year 1963 to discover what our favourite Marvel characters were up to back when even Dr Who was no more than a twinkle in our Eye of Harmony.

Will they too find themselves in the thick of it?

Or will they, like Capaldi, each find him or herself to be quite the Local Hero?

Fantastic Four #17, Dr Doom

It's like the worst ever edition of Total Wipeout as Dr Doom inflicts his latest perils on the Fantastic Four.
Journey into Mystery #95, Thor

I don't like to criticise a man's masterplan but, now that the faux Thor's flung away both his hammers - you know, the things that keep him in the air - doesn't that mean he's about to plunge to his death?

Somehow, this isn't shaping up to be the most arduous, or long-lasting, fight Thor's ever had.
Strange Tales #111, Human Torch v Asbestos Man

Speaking of badly thought-out plans; now we get a man who decides that the ideal way to commit crimes is to wrap himself in asbestos.

Next month we get to meet a man who decides the best way to see off Ant-Man's little friends is to spray himself from head to foot with arsenic.
Tales of Suspense #44, Iron Man and Cleopatra

Last month, Iron Man was up against the She-inspired Kala. This month, he encounters Cleopatra. Even wrapped in armour, Tony Stark can't stay away from the ladies.
Tales to Astonish #46, Ant-Man, the Wasp and Cyclops

Ant-Man and the Wasp find themselves up against Cyclops - and I don't mean the X-Man.

I do wonder if this was the same Cyclops who fought Mr Fantastic in the early days of the Fantastic Four?

Is it just me or is Ant-Man's dialogue on this cover quite bizarre?

Saturday 3 August 2013

The Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1, Jack Kirby
Some people have too much lead in their pencil. Queen Elizabeth the 1st had too much in her face powder. No wonder she went mad and ended up sticking knives through the hands of serving girls who brought her the wrong things.

I can only conclude that Sue Storm's suffering from the same malady in Fantastic Four #1, judging by her behaviour in the inaugural issue of the world's greatest comic mag.

Ace pilot Benjamin J Grimm's minding his own business when Sue Storm nags him into helping her and her pipe-smoking boyfriend steal an unfinished space rocket.

In a bout of McCarthyite fervour, Sue's big beef is that if Americans don't get into space - right now - the commies might beat them to it. This would of course be a total disaster because, erm, er.

It quickly becomes clear that Ben Grimm is the group's nominated adult as he seems to be the only one with the sense to see the insanity of it all.

Still, suitably provoked, he goes along with it and they do what we've all tried to do and fly into space with the aid of a schoolboy.

Fantastic Four #1
Sadly, unlike Sue Storm's makeup, the spaceship's a bit short on the lead front, radiation gets in and it's not long before they're crashing into the ground and turning superhuman before going off to give the Mole Man a punch in the bracket.

Oddly, at no point does anyone try to arrest them for stealing a spaceship and at no point in future issues does anyone from the government ever raise this issue.

Mole Man v Fantastic Four, #1
Your superior intellect is no
match for MY puny
Apart from the lunacy of its stars, the thing that strikes you reading this tale now is how serious it is. Reed Richards initially casts an ominous figure, gravely summoning his colleagues to deal with their first challenge. The Thing is of course in his proto-Hulk mode and possibly a potentially bigger threat to humanity than the baddies are.

It also strikes you that it's clearly two separate stories stitched together, the first one introducing the FF and the second detailing their encounter with the Mole Man, and I wonder if the two halves had initially been planned for publication in separate issues before Stan Lee (under instruction from Martin Goodman?) decided to pull them together with the magical power of captions?

It has certain weaknesses, the main one being the uselessness of the Mole Man as a villain. When a man's main superpower is that he's got a stick, you know he's no Dr Doom.

But I don't care. I love it. With its not-totally-willing heroes, and dysfunctional-family vibe, even at this distance there's the sense of something epoch-making unfolding in front of your eyes and it serves as a perfect link between the monster mags Marvel had been doing up to that point and the super-hero mags they'd increasingly concentrate on from that point on.