Sunday 30 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #18 - Gullivar Jones on Mars, Part 3.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Gullivar Jones and Phra
The last we saw of Gullivar Jones, he was still stuck on Mars and about to be fed to a giant sea monster called Phra, by a bunch of spider-bat-men who clearly have too much free time on their hands.

I think we've all been there.

The pair of them having been grabbed by Phra, he and the captive Wing-Man Chak are taken to Phra's secret lair where, while the monster's napping, Jones switches on a handily-placed computer that promptly tells him the entire history of Mars.

It seems that, long ago, disaster befell that world's inhabitants and so they fled their cities and went their separate ways, before evolving into the many and varied forms that now inhabit the planet.

That dealt with, Jones soon makes short work of the newly awoken Phra, and he and Chak walk off to have a sulk about things.

It's clearly an issue for major changes, as, after producing just two instalments of the strip, the original creative team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane are gone, replaced by George Effinger, Gerry Conway and Ross Andru.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Phra
To be honest, I 'm not sure I know who George Effinger is but Gerry Conway's fingerprints are all over the story, with Jones speaking in the same sort of way Conway usually had Peter Parker speaking.

It has to be said, this is vaguely annoying. It's one thing for a socially inept youth in New York to be talking like that, it's a whole other thing for a military veteran on an alien planet to be doing so.

Creatures on the Loose #19, Evolution - Martian style
As he did with The Amazing Spider-Man, Ross Andru makes the strip's move away from Kane virtually seamless, as his style's not a million miles distant from his predecessor's and, in this issue, there are places where he seems to be deliberately aping Kane's style. Either that, or Kane did some uncredited touching-up on some of the panels, in the name of consistency.

To be honest, as giant menaces go, Phra's something of a wash-out, being stupid, clumsy, ineffectual and lazy in equal parts. The truth is he spends most of the story asleep before being blown up. Clearly, you just can't get good monsters these days.

On the other hand, it is nice to see him appear on the cover's top left corner box, rather than Jones being there - a pleasing nod to the title's origins as a monster mag, rather than a super-hero one.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Chak the Wing-Man
Something that's become blatant by this issue is that the good guys all look like Earth people and the bad guys decidedly don't. This feeling's strengthened when it's revealed that Chak, the only nice Wing-Man we've encountered so far in the strip, just happens to have a human head, and his pterodactyl face is in fact a mask designed to conceal his true appearance. You can't help feeling that, in the interests of tolerance and open mindedness, it would have been nice for him to be depicted as having a pterodactyl head just like his more morally dubious brethren.

But that's enough of him. The person you have to most feel sorry for is poor old Princess Heru. Just two issues after Gullivar Jones was announcing his undying love for her, he seems to have now forgotten all about her.

As the last time we saw her, she was being abducted to be handed over to a ravenous ravisher, of ruddy complexion and no-doubt ruddier mind-set, such behaviour on Jones' part seems most ungallant, to say the very least.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Sub-Mariner comics I have owned.

As I clamber over the petrified forests of Middlewood, people often say to me, "Steve, we all know you like trees that have turned to stone thanks to the remorseless passing of aeons so huge it leaves one in awe at the unimaginable age of the planet Earth - but who'd win a fight between Flipper and Skippy?"

I, of course, respond, "You half-witted nincompoop! Flipper would win! Why? Because he lives in the sea, like the Sub-Mariner does - and the Sub-Mariner's well hard!"

Long-suffering readers will not be surprised to learn I took such a stance; as I have in the past stated my childhood desire to be the Sub-Mariner. The combination of flying and swimming was always going to appeal to me, as I could do neither.

Nor could I breathe underwater.

Nor did I have a flat head.

Clearly, this all meant Subby was the man I could never dream of being.

But that didn't stop me dreaming of being him.

And thus it was that, in my formative years, I'd grab any comic I saw that starred him.

In total, that was five.

And these are they.

Savage Sub-Mariner #45, Tiger Shark

My razor-sharp senses tell me Tiger Shark is involved in this tale - and the Human Torch.

Other than that, I must confess I can recall nothing at all of the issue's contents.

Still, it has a Gil Kane cover - and Tiger Shark was always one of my favourite villains - so what should I care?
Savage Sub-Mariner #48, Dr Doom

Colour me shocked! Dr Doom's up to no good!

Am I right in thinking the Sub-Mariner's lost his memory in this issue? Is he not sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy? Is Doomy out to trick him into wrong-doing?

I do believe that, somewhere in this issue, Doom says it's half a decade since he was last in Latveria, which, when I was ten, seemed a very very long time. In fact, I struggled to believe it was possible he was even still alive after such a phenomenally long time.

I had a similar experience when Patrick Troughton returned to Dr Who after four years' absence. "How can he still be alive after all that time?" I reasoned.

What an idiot I was. But such is the difference between how adults and children perceive the passage of time.
Savage Sub-Mariner #68, Force

Hooray! After an unfortunate accident, Subby has his new suit that allows him to live outside water.

And he finds himself up against a man called Force.

I happily declare myself to be amongst those who far preferred his new costume to his old trunks.

And you can read my review of this issue, right here.
Savage Sub-Mariner #69, Spider-Man

Despite what the cover promises, there's not what you'd exactly call an epic clash between Spidey and the Sub-Mariner in this issue.

In fact, Spider-Man's guest appearance is so fleeting that it's obvious he's only in it so he can appear on the cover and boost sales of a mag that was only months away from cancellation.

And you can read my review of this issue, right here.
Sub-Mariner Special #2

Of the Sub-Mariner issues I had, this was the jewel in my crown; a great big thick comic that reprinted a trio of Subby's adventures from the Gene Colan years.

I seem to recall that Warlord Krang or some-such is up to no good in it and, just for a change, has kidnapped Lady Dorma.

What was it with Subby? First he wanted to get his leg over with Sue Storm who was always getting kidnapped, and then he wanted to do the same with Lady Dorma who was always getting kidnapped. When it came to women, he clearly liked them useless, helpless and drippier than seaweed.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #17 - Gullivar Jones on Mars, Part 2.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones, Mars
Last week, we saw how newly-discharged Earth soldier Gullivar Jones came to be on Mars, doing the John Carter thing.

This week, it's time to see what progress he makes now he's got there.

And it has to be said, he doesn't make a lot.

Having been dumped, unconscious, on a funeral barge as it makes its way down a Martian river, Gullivar recovers just in time to fight some giant caterpillars and then get captured by some spider-bat-men who then proceed to offer him and a captive pterodactyl man up as a snack for their giant god Phra.

According to Wikipedia, the reason Gullivar Jones never caught on like John Carter did was because, in the original book, he was a bit of a failure, losing fights, left, right and centre while getting pushed around by events rather then pushing them around.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones

And you can certainly see signs of it here. He starts off unconscious, then gets bitten by a giant caterpillar then loses consciousness then loses a fight with the spider-bat-men and then finishes off by being offered up as a takeaway. He might have super-strength while he's on Mars and have combat training but he does come across as a man in severe need of a good rescuing.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones

On the plus side, it's all non-stop drama and, as before, Gil Kane's art is excellent, making the strip memorable and worth reading for that alone. We also get a suitably cliff-hanging ending with what looks like the sort of monster Marvel loved to throw at us at every opportunity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So, at least it seems we have reason to look forward to next issue.

Creatures on the Loose #17, Gullivar Jones, Phra

Saturday 15 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #16 - Gullivar Jones on Mars.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars
It always seemed to me that there was one obvious drawback to getting super-powers.

Which was that, to get them, you first had to actually do something.

For instance, you had to steal a rocket ship and fly it through cosmic rays. Or you had to build a gamma bomb and then let it explode at you. Or you had to attend a science show and let spiders bite you.

If you wanted lots of powers, you had to do all these things and take refuge from aliens, in a cave, whilst banging a stick against a wall.

Reader, you know by now that banging a stick against a wall is beneath the dignity of a man of my quality, no matter how strong it might make me.

You can imagine, therefore, just how impressed I was, as a child, with Gullivar Jones.

After all, he managed to get his super-powers just by walking down the street.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones meets his destiny
Admittedly, he then got sent to Mars - which is a bit of a downside - and had to fight big red lobster men but he did at least get to snog a princess, so it wasn't all bad news.

I first came across Gullivar Jones in the pages of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes, a mag that seems to be getting a zillion and one mentions round here lately.

And I was impressed at once.

Not only did it have the lazy person's guide to getting super-powers but it was drawn by Gil Kane in a genre I always felt suited him best.

But of course, those tales were just reprints. Gullivar Jones made his real Marvel Comics debut in Creatures on the Loose #16 and what happens in that issue is that Jones, having just quit the army, is leaving the officers' club for the last time, when a man on a flying disc descends from the heavens, declares Jones is going to be a saviour and sends him back through time to Mars to fight evil wherever he finds it.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones

You will of course be aware this is remarkably similar to John Lennon's claim that the Fab Four got their name when a man descended on a flaming pie and told them to call themselves the Beatles. Whether it's the same man in both cases, I'm not at all sure.

To be honest, anyone with any sense, upon arriving against his will on Mars, would promptly burst into tears and be too busy sobbing to do anything.

But Gullivar Jones isn't just any man.

He's an interfering busybody.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones and Princess Heru
And so, the instant he arrives, he leaps into action to rescue the aforementioned princess from the aforementioned lobster men and then gets to road-test her tonsils before she's snatched by pterodactyl people and he's left, out cold, on a funeral barge and heading towards his doom.

This of course all makes Jones sound like a rip-off of John Carter but the magic of Wikipedia tells me he was originally created by Edwin Lester Arnold in 1905 and therefore predates Carter by a good seven years. The fact that Carter's had a string of books and a movie made about him, and Jones hasn't, only goes to show there's no justice in the world.

In terms of characterisation, in this issue, we get to learn next to nothing about Jones, and even less about the Princess, so it's all a bit shallow - and, to be honest, feels more DC in that regard than Marvel. But it's beautifully drawn and zips along. And, most of all, with its strange alien world to explore, it holds out the promise of more action, adventure and bizarreness to come in the very next issue.

Does it produce that bizarreness?

We'll have to find out next weekend when I take a look at that very next issue.

And, if Brian Blessed isn't in it as a hawk man, I shall very disappointed with them.

Saturday 8 March 2014


Neal Adams, Apeslayer
Neal Adams finds his Killraven artwork, "improved upon,"
by an uncredited, "collaborator."
Somehow, no matter how hard one might try, it's the subject that can never be escaped.

It's the power and majesty of Apeslayer!

Just twelve Planet of the Apes covers posted two days ago were enough to bring out the reader demands for Apeslayer covers

Reader, I cannot let you down.

As we all know, in the 1970s, always happy to jump on a bandwagon, Marvel UK took to reprinting US Marvel's Planet of the Apes stories.

There was only one problem.

The UK Planet of the Apes came out once a week and the US ones only came out once a month.

Needless to say, this meant that, within weeks, the UK mags had run out of material to reprint.

This might have defeated lesser men, but the editorial staff of Planet of the Apes were not lesser men. Not for them the barren wasteland of despair. Instead they had an idea worthy of Peter Griffin himself. They simply got Amazing Adventures' War of the Worlds stories and redrew the Martians to look like apes.

They then renamed Killraven, "Apeslayer," called Carmilla Frost, "San Simian," and Bob's your uncle - not to mention being a monkey's uncle.

It was a brilliant plan. There was not one person who could possibly notice the trick they'd pulled.

Well, of course, everyone noticed the trick they'd pulled. It was a little difficult not to, what with there being tripods blundering around all over the place.

But no true British comic lover could care about that. Despite the basic duffness of the idea, it's hard not to look back on Apeslayer with affection - and I suppose it could be claimed he was Marvel UK's first super-hero, beating even Captain Britain to the punch.

Anyway, here are the covers to the breathless issues our hero featured in.

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #23

He's very macho, isn't he? I get the feeling he'd have got on with Bill Savage from 2000AD's Invasion strip.

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #24

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #25

A rare chance to directly compare Apeslayer to Killraven.
In fairness to Apeslayer, he might not have been what you could call original but he could at least fight bad guys without looking like he'd just blundered in from the set of Zardoz.

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #26

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #27

Hold on. Where's Apeslayer? All of a sudden, he can't even make the front cover of his own comic.

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #28

How could anyone have guessed they were really reading a War of the Worlds story? I mean, it's not like there's a load of tripods around to tip us off.

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #29

Apeslayer, Planet of the Apes #30

Sadly, after this issue, Apeslayer was never seen again.
What happened to him?
Who can know? But, judging by the fact that the comic carried on for years afterwards, I can only assume he failed totally in his mission to rid the Earth of the Apes' rule.
Poor old Apeslayer. All that hard work for nothing.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

My Top Twelve Marvel UK Planet of the Apes covers - plus Special Bonus Feature!

Some mad fool once declared he hated every ape from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Zee.

I refuse to listen to him.

We all know there's no finer sight in all the world than that of an ape talking and waving a rifle around whilst trying to kill you.

And so it is that I choose to inflict my twelve favourite covers from Marvel UK's 1970s Planet of the Apes comic upon humanity.

As so often with these things, being both wishy-washy and lazy, I print them in no order of preference...

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #1

It's the issue that kicked it all off in style - marred only by some less-than-stylish captioning.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #2

I hated this cover at the time, thinking it a massive comedown after the painted cover of issue #1.
I've since come to appreciate the beauty of its layout. Just as I came to appreciate the addition of Ka-Zar as back-up strip.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #3

Was this this issue in which Gullivar Jones put in his first appearance?
Planet of the Apes?
Gullivar Jones?
With all this, surely Marvel UK was spoiling us.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #22

Is this the one where an ape and a human hate each other but then, thanks to injuries, learn to work together for their mutual good and become friends - only for them to be killed by a group of warring ape and human mutants?
Oh, the bitter irony.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #31

I believe this was the cover to the story based on a certain Mark Twain tale involving King Arthur and a modern day time-traveller.
Despite appearances, I do know the title of that Mark Twain tale but, given its length, I can't be bothered to type it all out.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #46

I think we can all guess which movie this was an adaptation of.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #50

It's bad news for Cornelius, as Marvel tackle Escape From the Planet of the Apes.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #61

And now it's bad news for Zira.
To be honest, you'd need a heart of stone to not to blub your eyes out at the end of that movie.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #67

Now we get to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
To be honest, Conquest is my least favourite of the original POTA movies. I did find it very sterile and a little dull, with ham-fisted racial analogies that themselves might be seen as somewhat racist.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #70

It would appear we've got yet more Conquest, though I'm not sure how the cover fits into that.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #74

I'm no David Attenborough but that river slug look suspiciously like a  giant toad.
Is that Jason and Alexander I spot on the cover, or is my memory playing tricks on me?

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #89

I remember once copying this cover in my sketch book - but redrawing the leading ape figure as one of the subterraneans from the legendary Doug McClure flick At The Earth's Core.
You see? I'd rather draw subterraneans than Caroline Munro, that's how Sc-Fi I am.

Potential further reading and viewing:


I can also announce I've had a request.

And it's not the usual one.

In recent days, John Pitt's contacted me to request I post the covers from Titan Books' 2002 reprints of the Dark Horse adaptation of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes. I must admit to having been previously unaware of the existence of such a comic, and the covers seem to be hard to find online. So, just for John, here they are (courtesy of Graham Hill and Neil Foster @ The Forbidden Zone).

Monday 3 March 2014

Forty years ago today - March 1974.

At the weekend, the whole of Britain bathed in the eerie glow of the Northern Lights as they moseyed their way southwards for a sight-see of our lands.

When I say, "Everyone," I of course mean everyone else - as I saw no sign of anything that even resembled an Aurora.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of forty years ago feeling suitably illuminated by their feats?

Or were they facing dark days indeed?

Avengers #121, Zodiac

That horny bounder Taurus captures the Avengers in the least likely trap of all time; a shed with space travel capabilities.

For some reason, nowhere on the cover does it feature the words, "Shed of doom!"

It would have if I'd been in charge of Marvel.
Conan the Barbarian #36

You do wonder if Conan ever gets fed up of meeting danger wherever he goes.
Captain America and the Falcon #171, Black Panther

My encyclopedic knowledge of all things comics tells me this may be the issue where the Falcon decides to get himself a set of wings so he won't feel second-rate compared to the now super-strong Cap.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #108, The Beetle

The Beetle's clearly back but, other than that, I can say little of the issue's contents.
Fantastic Four #144, Dr Doom, The Seeker

Dr Doom's up to no good again.

Am I right in thinking the Seeker had in some way been given some of the Silver Surfer's power?
Incredible Hulk #173, Cobalt Man

The Cobalt Man makes his return and goes completely mad.

Marvel's Cobalt Man of course had nothing on the Cobalt Man created by regular Steve Does Comics visitor Cerebus660 in Marvel UK's legendary Marvel Artist Competition.
Amazing Spider-Man #130, Hammerhead

The world's most block-headed villain makes his debut.

And it could spell curtains for the Spider-Mobile before it's even got started.
Thor #221, Hercules

I don't think I've ever read this one but my razor-sharp senses tell me that Hercules may be back.