Monday 25 November 2013

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 10: Dr Who Annual 1978.

Dr Who Annual 1978, Tom Baker
As we all know, Saturday was the most important day in human history.

It was the 50th anniversary of the first ever broadcast of the first ever episode of Dr Who.

To celebrate, the BBC flung everything but the kitchen sink at us, creating the impression that it was impossible to switch on the TV without being confronted by a show about the Gallifreyan gallivanter.

Even their rivals Channel 5 got in on the act by showing the second of Peter Cushing's 1960s Dr Who movies.

For a Doctor Who fan, it felt like Christmas always felt when you were a kid.

As for the various shows, I generally enjoyed the 50th anniversary episode. Multiple Doctor stories are always going to suffer from the fact that no story really needs more than one infallible hero in it, meaning the need to give each of them things to do, and say, forces the inclusion of dialogue and actions that are fun but not vital to drive the story forward, causing a certain saggage in the pacing.

But it had the return of the Zygons, the return of Totters Lane, the return of the old opening titles and Susan's old school.

And what sort of madman wouldn't be excited by the sight of all incarnations of the Doctor turning up to save Gallifrey - especially when we get a cameo from Peter Capaldi's rather terrifying eyeballs?

And then, of course, there was the return of Tom Baker; as barking mad as ever.

I also enjoyed Adventures in Space and Time, the drama about the show's creation; and also The Five-ish Doctors, Peter Davison and Georgia Moffett's side project about Davison, McCoy and Colin Baker desperately trying to force their way into the 50th anniversary episode in defiance of all opposition. It managed to be funny, touching and oddly sweet at the same time, with all concerned coming out of it well, with their willingness to send themselves up. I especially enjoyed John Barrowman's horrific secret and Ian McKellen's Sylvester-McCoyless scene with Peter Jackson.

"This is all very well and good," I hear you cry. "But what does this all have to do with comics?"

Well, you cry right because this is what it has to do with comics. As well as once owning a copy of TV Action in which Jon Pertwee decided to teach a six-legged camel a lesson by head-butting its feet, I once also had a copy of the 1978 Dr Who annual.

I'd love to regale you with tales of its magical contents...

...but I can't remember any of them.

I know it, "starred," Tom Baker because it says so on the cover above. I have a feeling it also co-starred Leela, the most well-spoken woman ever to have been raised in a jungle. I suspect it may have included crossword puzzles and the odd Ludo style board game because such books always did. It possibly had some educational content about space travel and science. Who can know?

Were the daleks in it?

I fear not - or I should surely have remembered.

Strangely enough, despite my childhood love for the show - and my still burning ambition to be a Sea-Devil when I grow up - I never owned another Dr Who annual. I suspect that I feared such books might not live up to the knuckle-chewing drama of the TV show and therefore stayed away from them.

Still, I like to feel that, in purchasing it, I made my contribution to the Dr Who industry that has made the show financially viable enough to last for as long as it has.

According to one of those online, "Work out how long you're going to live," things, I'm expected to die at the ripe old age of 92. But those people are fools! There's no way I shall ever allow myself to die before the 100th anniversary episode. Even if I have to turn myself into a Brain of Morbius type monstrosity to do it, I shall be there to see it.

To be honest, I'm counting down the days already.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Forty years ago today - November 1973.

As a connoisseur of mass human suffering, it always depresses me to know there's apparently no truth at all in the popularly held belief that Ring a Ring o' Roses is really about the Black Death.

Fortunately, other nursery rhymes are available to us - and most topical of all right now is the one that exhorts us to, "Remember, remember the 5th of November."

And that sounds like a challenge to see how well I remember what my favourite Marvel heroes would have been up to had I picked up a comic on that date of exactly forty years ago.

Amazing Spider-Man #126, the Kangaroo

It's the return the whole world was crying out for, as the Kangaroo boomerangs back into action.

Sadly, it turns out not to be a happy comeback for the Antipodean antagonist.

As Bruce Forsyth would no doubt say, it wasn't a case of didgeridoo well.

Why do I get the feeling I've just lost all my Australian readers?
Avengers #117, Sub-Mariner v Captain America

The Evil Eye saga rumbles on as two Second World War legends have a punch-up in Japan.
Captain America and the Falcon #167, the Yellow Claw

Apparently, our heroes are up against the Yellow Claw, as they seem to have been for months.

Other than that I can shed no light at all on the contents of this comic.
Conan the Barbarian #32

Nor can I shed any upon the interiors of this mag.

It being a Conan story, I think we can probably guess what elements the tale's likely to contain, though.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #105, Moondragon, Angar and Ramrod

I do remember this one!

Isn't this the story where Daredevil has to press a yellow button to save the world but can't because he doesn't know which button is yellow?
Fantastic Four #140, Annihilus

I always wanted to read this story when I was a kid, mostly because there was a panel from it reproduced in The Horrific World of Monsters, more about which can be read right here.

Sadly, not only did I never get my hands on a copy of the original comic but I never even got to read it in reprint form. Truly, life can be tragic.
The Incredible Hulk #169, the Bi-Beast

Hooray! The Bi-Beast makes his debut.

Thanks to one of the first super-hero comics I ever bought having featured the place, I do have a soft spot for any story that uses the hidden city of the Bird People.
Iron Man #64

It's that rarity, an Iron Man cover that rings a bell for me.

But it's good to see Happy showing his loyalty to his boss there.
Thor #217, Odin

Is this the one where Thor and his mates return to Asgard, only to find it's been taken over by evil lookalikes?

In the case of Odin, how would anyone notice the difference?

Saturday 2 November 2013

Fifty years ago today - November 1963.

As all lovers of plots to blow up Parliament know, in but three days from now, it's Bonfire Night.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of exactly fifty years ago likewise setting the world ablaze?

Or were they instead like one of those rockets you put in a milk bottle, set light to and then watch as it falls over and then just lies there, on the ground, doing nothing?

Avengers #2, Space Phantom

The Space Phantom makes his debut and promptly takes advantage of the average Marvel hero's desire to punch other Marvel heroes in the bracket.
Fantastic Four #20, the Molecule Man

And the Molecule Man also makes his debut.

I've never liked the Molecule Man. It's something about that zig-zaggy face that puts me off.
Journey Into Mystery #98, Thor, Cobra and Mr Hyde

Yes! Even a thunder god cannot match the Cobra's great power of... ...erm, crawling around on his stomach.
Amazing Spider-Man #6, The Lizard

Hooray! My favourite Spider-Man villain makes his first appearance, and features on my favourite Steve Ditko Spider-Man cover.

As always, we have to conclude that you can't go wrong with purple and green.
Strange Tales #114, Human Torch v Captain America

It's the Human Torch v Captain America but - as the real Cap's still encased in a block of ice - something tells me this one might be an imposter.
Tales of Suspense #47, Iron Man v the Melter

Iron Man comes up against the first of his foes who have the power to melt his armour.
Tales to Astonish #49, Giant Man v the Living Eraser

The Living Eraser and Giant Man both arrive on the scene, as Marvel finally give up all hope of Ant-Man ever catching on.
X-Men #2

The X-Men hit their second issue, with a foe of whom I must admit to knowing next to nothing.

But am I right in thinking that three of this month's villains have the power to teleport?