Wednesday 29 January 2014

Fantastic Four comics I have owned.

I must confess it's been an indecisive time for me.

First I was going to revolutionise blogging by trying to do a running commentary on the adventures of Gullivar Jones as seen in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes and Marvel USA's Creatures on the Loose.

Not many words into that, I quickly realised that wasn't going to work.

Then I was going to review Dr Strange's descent into Lovecraftian nightmare, from the early days of Marvel Premiere.

But decided I couldn't be bothered.

So, in a shock development, here are the Fantastic Four comics I owned as a child.

Fantastic Four #118, Crystal and Diablo

It's the return of one of my favourite neglected villains, as Diablo hypnotises Crystal into thinking she's an Aztec goddess and sets her on our heroes.

I have to say Crystal looks decidedly lovely in this issue.

Diablo, sadly does not.

It's one of those extra-length comics Marvel briefly flirted with in the early 1970s, and so, in the back-up tale, Benjamin J Grimm finds himself in an alternate world and discovers things are different there.
Fantastic Four #119, the Black Panther

The FF make their stand against apartheid.

I've not read this since I was nine. Does Klaw put in an appearance?
Fantastic Four #139, the Miracle Man returns

It's the return of another of my favourite neglected villains, as the Miracle Man gets slightly carried away with himself and decides to take over the world.

You can read my thoughts on this issue, right here.
Fantastic Four #167, the Hulk and the Thing

The Hulk and the Thing team up to take on mankind.

Is this the one where the Hulk and Thing swap brains? Or was that another story?

I have a feeling this is the tale where the Thing reverts permanently to human form.
Fantastic Four #173, Galactus

Galactus decides Counter-Earth would make a nice snack, and the High Evolutionary brings in the FF to try and stop him.

You can read my review of this issue, right here.
Fantastic Four #174, Torgo is back

The FF are still trying to stop Galactus, and the space-robot Torgo makes his senses-shattering return.

Sue Richards, meanwhile, fulfills her usual role of being completely useless.
Fantastic Four #175, the High Evolutionary vs Galactus

At last, it's the battle we all demanded - the High Evolutionary vs Galactus!

Meanwhile, in a feat of sanity-defying continuity, we see the return of a character possibly not many people were demanding to see the return of.
Fantastic Four #177, the Frightful Four are back

It's one of my favourites from this era, as the three remaining members of the Frightful Four hold auditions for a new member - in the Baxter Building itself.
Fantastic Four #179

Reed Richards is adrift in the Negative Zone.


You do feel that, by now, the Fantastic Four's other members should have thought of permanently tying a rope round Richards to stop him doing that.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Thing has a bank job to foil.
Fantastic Four #187, Klaw and the Molecule Man

It's the return of Klaw and the Molecule Man.
Marvel's Greatest Comics #34, the Inhuman's Great Refuge

This has to be the best Fantastic Four comic I ever owned, as the forty page Lee/Kirby reprint sees the FF's first encounter with the Inhumans and the Great Refuge.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Batman comics I have owned.

Holy smoke, Batman! In recent days, we've looked at the Superman comics I owned as a child. But, as we all know, Superman without Batman is like cow heel without tripe.

And that can only mean one thing.

It's time to look at the caped crusader's comics I once owned as a child.

Batman #254, 100 pages, Manbat

Batman meets Man-Bat, again.

As a child, I was very taken with the fact that each tale in this collection represented a different decade - especially that one could represent the future, which hadn't even happened yet.
Batman #255, 100 pages, Neal Adams, Werewolf

It was my one childhood taste of Neal Adams' Batman, as Bruce takes on a werewolf.

And you can read my review of that story, right here.
Batman #256, 100 pages,  Catwoman

It's the first one hundred page comic I ever owned.

While investigating a murder at a circus, Batman and Robin find themselves up against the Catwoman and her tigers.

But the highlight of the issue for me was the dynamic duo finding themselves up against an island populated by robot dinosaurs. It was silly, it was corny and it was old but it had super-heroes and dinosaurs. What more could you want from a piece of fiction when you're ten?
Batman #262, the Scarecrow

I got this one in Blackpool and have fond memories of it.

At least, I have fond memories of the second tale in the issue, as it introduced me to the concept of fixative, the phrase, "Round Robin," and it mentioned the Battle of Hastings.

Sadly, I recall nothing of the tale that features the Scarecrow.
Batman #265

There's mayhem on a film set and, as the bodies pile up, Batman seems to be losing his touch. He even gets told off by Commissioner Gordon for not catching the perpetrator fast enough.

That's Commissioner Gordon who's never caught a criminal in his entire life.
Brave and the Bold #105, Batman and Wonder Woman

It's the only issue of The Brave and the Bold I ever owned, as Batman and the de-powered Wonder Woman team up to do something or other.

To be honest, I don't recall much about the tale other than that it had some fairly spiffing Jim Aparo art that I remember taking the time to copy with my pencil and sketchbook. I learned much about drawing torsos from it.
The Unknown Batman

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Batman.

The first Batman comic I ever owned was bought from an indoor market in Blackpool in 1972. Sadly, I have no idea what issue it was or what title it was.

I recall Batman climbing a tree and using bolas on some bad guys.

It also introduced me to his utility belt.

I remember being very taken with the bendy spikes on his gloves.
Detective Comics #438, A Monster Walks Wayne Manor

Straight after buying this one, I went into Timsons shoe shop.

Thankfully, the comic was more exciting than Timsons.

Well, I say that but, for all I know, Timsons was selling Clarks Wayfinders, which - with their built-in compass and animal-track recognition system - were the most exciting shoes ever made.

This was the mag that introduced me to Manhunter, a man who I have no doubt had a compass and animal-track recognition aids in his very own footwear, as he seemed to have everything else in the world concealed somewhere about his person.

You can read my review of this issue's main tale, right here.
Detective Comics #440, Ghost Mountain Midnight

One of my all-time favourite comic book covers, as Jim Aparo gives us a life or death struggle in the wilderness.

As in the issue above, there's a monster on the loose and it turns out not to be a monster. Clearly the spirit of Scooby-Doo was strong with the caped crusader at this point in history.

This comic introduced me to the Golden Age Manhunter.
Detective Comics #450

Speaking of the Manhunter, Walt Simonson, the artist who revived that very strip, gives us a tale of a waxworks and a rich man who'll stop at nothing to own Batman's cape.

You can read my review of this issue, right here.
Detective Comics #458, the killer tatooist

There's a killer tattooist on the loose and only Batman can stop him.

You can read my review of this issue, right here.
World's Finest #218, Batman and Superman, Capricorn

It's that issue of World's Finest again, as our intrepid heroes still fail to capture Capricorn.

I'm pretty sure there's a scene in this where Superman declares he can't break into a house because it's illegal and Superman can't do things that are illegal.

So, what does he do?

He gets Batman to do it for him.

Erm, isn't that illegal too?

Monday 20 January 2014

My adventures in DIY - and Giant-Size Marvel canvas prints.

Incredible Hulk, King-Size Special #1, Jim Steranko

Giant-Size X-Men #1, Dave Cockrum and Gil Kane

 To be honest, despite being an internationally reputed blogger, I don't get much excitement in my life. I always wanted to be an explorer but quickly realised that everywhere on Earth had already been discovered - and that anywhere that hadn't, probably didn't have a nice hotel.

But sometimes, excitement enters even my life.

And today was one such day.

For, today, I went to well-known DIY superstore B&Q to look at fence posts, buy a fancy new LED light bulb and one of those little screw-caps you put on the bottom of your boiler to make sure it shall never drip all over your kitchen floor.

I thought this would be the limit of my excitement on such a visit.

But I was wrong.


Because, barely had I walked in though the door than I noticed something. For £19.98, they're selling walloping big canvases that reproduce classic Marvel covers.

Amongst others, they had Jim Steranko's cover for Giant-Size Hulk #1, Dave Cockrum and Gil Kane's cover for Giant-Size X-Men #1, a Captain America cover and a montage featuring a zillion and one other covers. Truly they were the most magnificent things I have ever seen in my life.

Suddenly I was torn. Should I buy five fence posts or should I spend the money instead on three of those canvases?

In the end, I bought neither. Nor did I buy a light bulb. Nor did I buy a little screw-cap for my boiler. Instead, I popped across the road and bought a packet of Clubs.

When I say, "Clubs," I of course mean the well-known brand of biscuits, not the things you use for beating seals to death. I must confess there are few seals choose to live round my way and, even if they did, I doubt I'd beat them to death, as they have happy smiley little faces, like babies.

Anyway, there you are. If you desire to have giant canvas reproductions of classic Marvel covers on your walls, you know where to go.

Here's a photo of the montage canvas, which I've purloined from B&Q's Pinterest page. As I'm giving them a plug - and possibly boosting their trade - I assume they won't mind me borrowing it.

B&Q wall canvas, Marvel Comics montage.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Superman comics I have owned. Part Three: The Miscellaneous Years.

At last the world can rejoice, as I reach the pulse-pounding climax of my latest feature where I ramble on cluelessly about the Superman comics I had as a child.

We've already had a look at Superman's own mag and Action Comics - but what about all those other comics I had that starred the Big Blue Cheese?

DC 100 page Spectacular DC-18, Superman
Superman gets his own 100 page spectacular, in possibly the hardest to find comic on the entire Grand Comics Database. Seriously, try to find it. See how long it takes you.

As for the comic, it's one of my faves, as we see Superman help America win The War, not by smashing up the Nazis but by typing fast and fixing an engine. Hitler must have been wetting himself.

Meanwhile, we also meet TNT - who fights crooks by throwing a child at them till he explodes - and The Golden Age Atom who's in the habit of using his observatory to look in through women's windows.

Highlight of the comic is of course the epic tale of Superman Red and Superman Blue.

You can read my review of this magnificently insane comic right here.
Superman Family #164, 100 pages, Jimmy Olsen

Straight after Jimmy Olsen's mag folded, DC launched Superman Family which, logically, started with issue #164.

None of the stories are masterpieces but we do do get to see Jim Mooney's Supergirl fight Brainiac.

You can read my review of this comic right here.

Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man

It was the battle that had to happen!

Well, it wasn't really, as it made no sense at all for Marvel and DC's top heroes to meet each other.

Inevitably, Spider-Man got overshadowed by his partner.

More annoyingly, so did Doc Ock who was treated as little more than a dim-witted flunky to Lex Luthor.

You can read my review of this epic right here.

Jimmy Olsen #160, the Harpies

Jimmy Olsen finds himself in a castle full of harpies and sets out to sort them out without Superman's aid.

Needless to say, the self-declared, "Mr Action," ends up needing Superman's aid.

You can read my review of this issue right here.
Jimmy Olsen #163, Kublai Khan

I don't remember too much about this one. I'm pretty sure Jimmy finds himself in the court of Kublai Khan who thinks Jimmy's Marco Polo or something. There may have been a rhino involved. There might not have been.

This was the last issue of Jimmy Olsen before it transmogrified into the aforementioned Superman Family.
DC Giant Lois Lane #104

To be honest, I didn't own any issues of Lois Lane.

But my sister did - and that's good enough for me.

Although, the truth is I don't remember too much about them and found the Rose and the Thorn back-up strips far more compelling. This may have been purely because the Thorn wore thigh-length leather boots and Lois Lane didn't.

I think this is the issue where I discovered that Superman shaves by deflecting his super-heat vision off a mirror and back at his own face. I have shaved by using the same method ever since.
Lois Lane #112

I recall nothing of what happens within but who could forget the sight of Superman turning into a tree?

Nice to see Lois on the cover thinking only of herself and not of the actual victim of the catastrophe.
DC Giant Lois Lane #113

My main memory of this is the tale where a pink monster falls in love with Lois.

Wait till it sees how she reacts when it starts to turn into a tree. Then it'll see the error of its ways. Thigh-length boots! It needs a woman with thigh-length boots!

I seem to remember a  Supergirl story with the same premise as this one. I wonder if it was the same monster?
 Lois Lane #136, Wonder Woman

After all those years, Wonder Woman and Superman finally show some sense and get round to doing some super-canoodling with each other.

Sadly, it all turns out to be a trick to snare some villains.
Tomb of the Unknown Superman

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Superman.

I'm pretty sure the first Superman comic I ever owned was one I got from a jumble sale at my local community centre. It had no cover and all I can recall of it is that, at one point, Lois Lane hides in a piano. It was also the comic where I first encountered the word, "Invulnerable."

At the same jumble sale, I stuck my hand in a sawdust filled Lucky Dip and came out of it with an Ancient Briton style plastic brooch. I'm sure Tony Robinson's Time Team are green with envy.

But, Reader, if you know what that comic was, please let me know.
World's Finest #218, Capricorn

Batman and Superman team up to deal with would-be arch-criminal Capricorn, who ultimately escapes them by hiding in the sewers. Because they're made of lead, Superman can't spot him down there.

You'd have thought it might occur to him to think, "I can't see into those sewers, what with them being made of lead. As I can't see Capricorn anywhere else in the city, perhaps I should check inside them."

But it doesn't.

Nor does it occur to Batman either.

Nor the police.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Superman comics I have owned. Part Two: Action Comics.

Hold onto your Kryptonite, pilgrims, because the sensational new feature that's left the internet dazed, battered and reeling returns as I take a look at yet more of the Superman comics I owned as a boy.

And this time it's Action Comics that's in the spotlight!

To be honest, differences between Action Comics and the main Superman title at the time were not exactly huge, with the same creative teams and characters. Still, Action Comics did distinguish itself by having a back-up story, often featuring the Atom or the Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Superman, Action Comics #402

It was my first exposure to a Neal Adams cover as a powerless Superman finds himself held hostage and in danger of going up in flames.

It was in this comic that I first learned that Superman loses his powers under the light of a red sun.

It was also my first introduction to Supergirl.

And you can read my review of this issue right here.
Superman, Action Comics #438

Clark Kent gives Lois Lane a radioactive necklace from space and, surprise surprise, she's suddenly transformed into a monster.

Has anyone in the world of comics ever been transformed into more things by more things than Lois Lane? You would've thought Clark would've learned his lesson by now.

Maybe it's just me but I must confess I found Lois more attractive as a monster.
Superman, Action Comics #439

When Bluto kidnaps Olive Oyl, Popeye goes to Superman for help

Admittedly they don't actually say the characters are meant to be Popeye, Bluto and Olive Oyl but you'd have to be blind not to spot it.
Superman, Action Comics #440

Some bad guys try to convince Superman his dead parents are disappointed in him, in an attempt to get him to leave the planet Earth.

Needless to say, our hero sees through their ruse and soon turns the tables on them.

My review of this issue can be found right here.
Superman, Action Comics #441

When the Weather Wizard starts causing trouble from his jail cell, the Flash and Superman team up to thwart him.

Despite the cover, no Flashes were harmed during the making of this comic.

Weather Wizards, on the other hand, were not so lucky.

My review of this issue can be found right here.
Superman, Action Comics #442

When a TV chat show host is kidnapped, Superman has to prove he's faster than a speeding bullet to rescue him.

I don't want to come over like an expert but what happens in this issue is clearly impossible even for Superman, as the resolution depends on the sound of a gunshot reaching Superman before the bullet hits its intended victim. As Superman's on the other side of town from the gun, and the intended victim's only a few feet away from it, this clearly couldn't happen.
Superman, Action Comics #445

The Superman Revenge Squad fix it so that if Superman performs ten super-feats, he'll die.

But the hapless aliens haven't counted on the ability of DC comics characters to find exact lookalikes at the drop of a hat.

It's a bit worrying that, at the end of the tale, Superman opts not to apprehend the villains - so they can be murdered by their own colleagues, which seems a little bloodthirsty by his standards.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Superman comics I have owned. Part One: Superman itself.

I believe I've mentioned before the curious contradiction that I always thought I was never that interested in Superman as a child but have since come to realise I had more original American comics featuring him than any other super-hero.

Admittedly this could be because his greater fame meant his comics were easier to find in perfidious Albion than other American comics but, having said that, it's not like anyone forced me to take them from the racks.

In retrospect, I was showing remarkable taste for one so young because, while they might not have been the most knuckle-whitening tales you'd ever encounter, they do have a certain winning charm to them - and pleasing artwork by Curt Swan.

There's really not a lot of point reviewing them individually because, frankly, you could write pretty much the same review for every issue of Superman from the era in question. Therefore I shall post the covers of the ones I had, and try to recall what I can of them.

Superman #271, Brainiac

Someone's causing trouble for Metropolis. But who can it be?

In fact it's Brainiac, who shows his huge intelligence by falling for a trick that makes you wonder if he's quite the genius he keeps telling us he is.

This tale has always slightly baffled me as, all through their fight, Brainiac keeps taunting Superman with strange jibes which I suspect are meant to have a meaning. But the only one I can recall ever understanding is the one where he refers to Superman as being a county in England. I can only assume he means Kent.

Quite what his other jibes in the tale are referring to is anyone's guess.
Superman #272, 100 page magic issue

It's one of my childhood faves.

How could it not be? It's one hundred pages and devoted to magic.

I seem to recall Saturn Girl being involved in the main story and Superman having to have her pet Proty stuck to his face in order to fool Circe, which seems a rather unpleasant fate to some of us.
Superman #273, the Wizard with the Golden Eye

There's a new hero in town, so who needs Superman anymore?

It turns out Metropolis does, as his rival's powers leave behind a wake of pollution, forcing a light-speed chase through the cosmos for the pair of them.
Superman #274, Protectors of Earth, Inc

A scientist creates a device that can destroy the Earth if it's not kept perfectly still at all times - and for some reason Superman actually helps him with it!

I will say that something happens to Superman in this tale that stretches all credulity - not to mention the man of steel - and how he gets up and walks away from it afterwards is beyond me. I mean, I know he's Superman but he's not Mr Fantastic.
Superman #276, Captain Thunder/Marvel

Who'd win a fight between Superman and Captain Marvel?

Obviously Superman would but, here, we get the first clash between the two - sort of - as our hero finds himself up against Captain Thunder, hero from another dimension, turned evil and gagging for a fight.
Superman #280, Duel of the Diamond Demons

I've not read this for a while but I seem to recall that ever-annoying sportscaster Steve Lombard turns into a diamond monster and decides he's going to give Superman a slap.
Superman #282

I recognise the cover but have no memory at all of the contents.
Superman #283, The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street? That title rings a bell from somewhere.

After someone threatens to rumble his secret identity, Superman adopts a new one in a tale that's clearly at least partially inspired by the conspiracy theories about the moon landings.