Wednesday 28 May 2014

Marvel Presents #3 - The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Presents #3, the Guardians of the Galaxy
I'm not sure what it says about me but the upcoming Marvel movie I'm most excited about is The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Admittedly, the only other Marvel movie I can think of that's in the pipeline is Ant-Man, so it's probably not that great an achievement on behalf of the space-bound adventure. But, still....

As the film features a talking raccoon and a talking tree, this excitement probably suggests I've blown some sort of fuse and succumbed to a madness brought on by decades of breathing in ink fumes.

But, of course, whatever it's appeal, the movie features a totally different cast from the set of characters the comic possessed in my youth.

As that comic was one of my favourite strips when I was a lad, that suggests it's time to take a look again at the very first issue of their short-lived run in Marvel Presents.

The thing that first strikes you upon reading Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom's tale is that it's an issue of two halves. Clearly, like anyone with any sense, Gerber can't wait to get the Earth/Badoon War out of the way, as he brings it to an end in short order, with the Sisterhood of the Badoon showing up to take away their reprehensible menfolk for a fate that's clearly going to be worse than death.

The second half of the tale deals with the various guardians then finding it impossible to fit into peacetime society until they have to be whipped away by Starhawk to fly off into space, looking for suitable punch-up opportunities.

To be honest, it's not a totally compelling start to the series. For me, the reptilian Badoon were always the worst alien species in the Marvel universe, being even less impressive than the Krylorians who were so bad that they themselves were barely more than stand-ins for the Toadmen from Outer Space.

It's in the second half of the issue that things get more interesting. We get Yondu deciding to kill himself but then changing his mind, when stabbing a caveman makes him realise he still has a self-preservation instinct and therefore must have a reason to live. Martinex, meanwhile, encounters racial prejudice against those made of carbon. Charlie-27 quits his job as a construction worker, after getting fed up of his boss. In the most emotionally-charged section, Vance Astro's inevitably still tormented by having to wear a glorified gimp suit at all times if he doesn't want to be reduced to dust.

This in mind, Starhawk beams them all up to the spaceship and they set off into space in a scenario that no doubt owes nothing at all to Star Trek.

Bearing in mind my affection for the strip, it'd be easy to bemoan the fact that the original characters aren't going to be in the movie but the truth is, with their sheer absurdity, the characters in the film seem to have far more potential to hold the audience's interest than the originals would have. For all their appeal; with his bitterness, sense of isolation and short temper, Vance Astro is the only genuinely compelling character amongst the originals.

So it's not a great story but it does at least get rid of the less-than-majestic Badoon nonsense and sets things up for the series' far stronger and quirkier tales to come.

Having said all that, if there's no mention of the originals at any point in the movie, I shall be even crosser than Vance Astro always was.

And that's saying something.


Thursday 22 May 2014

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned. Part 13: Omega the Unknown #3 & #6.

Omega the Unknown #3, Electro
Has there ever been a better named super-hero than Omega the Unknown?

Clearly not. Because he's certainly unknown to me.

This is odd - because a perusal of the Grand Comics Database tells me I may once have owned, not just one, but two issues of his mag.

Despite this, I have no recall at all of anything that happened in either of them.

While perhaps it's no surprise that the villain known as, "The Wrench," has somehow slipped from my consciousness with the passage of time, it seems that even issue #3's inclusion of Electro himself was not enough to make the title leave an impression on me.

Who was Omega?

Where was he from?

How did he get his powers?

Was he, as his name suggests, the living end?

Reader, I must confess I don't know.

Omega the Unknown #6, The WrenchThis amnesia is odd, as the strip was co-written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Jim "The Eyes" Mooney, two creators for whom I've always had the highest levels of affection. In fact, after Jim Starlin, Steve Gerber was probably my favourite 1970s writer.

It seems the strip was co-written with Mary Skrenes, a writer I must confess to knowing even less about than I know about Omega. But I gather from the internet that there was something of an Original Captain Marvel vibe to the strip, with Omega's alter-ego being a schoolboy.

Also, it seems Omega himself never spoke and may have been no stranger to forgetting things himself.

Sadly, Omega only lasted for ten issues, suggesting he was one of those 1970s' Marvel try-outs, like Skull the Slayer, who never took flight.

But, if it was co-written by Steve Gerber, surely it must have had something going for it?

Mustn't it?

Sunday 11 May 2014

Atlas/Seaboard's Movie Monsters!

Atlas Seaboard Movie Monsters #1
Atlas Seaboard Movie Monsters #2, Planet of the Apes
Atlas Seaboard Movie Monsters #3, Phantom of the Opera
Atlas Seaboard Movie Monsters #4, The Thing From Outer Space
In the immortal words of the pop combo the world knows only as The Automatic, "What's that there coming over the hill? Is it a monster?"

No. It's four monsters.

Or at least it's four monster mags.

It's true. In the mid 1970s, Atlas/Seaboard didn't just create comics that were Marvel and DC knock-offs. They also created magazines that were Famous Monsters of Filmland knock-offs.

Of course, at the time, having never heard of Famous Monsters of Filmland, I had no way of knowing this and was therefore free to judge the mags entirely on their own merits.

Exactly what those merits were, I must confess to not being sure. The truth is I haven't read any of those issues for decades and so cannot say how they come across to the adult eye. But, as a child, I found them most wonderful concoctions indeed, packed with info about the sort of films and TV shows I loved.

Through them, I learned of the origin of the 1960s Batman show, that The Thing was directed by Howard Hawks, and that Lon Chaney Jr wasn't really called Lon Chaney Jr. I learned of the things the original Lon Chaney went through to prepare for his roles. I'm fairly sure I learned of the existence of Invaders From Mars and that Bela Lugosi insisted on being buried in his Dracula costume. I learned that Walt Disney did the visual effects for Forbidden Planet and that Jane Fonda looked rather fetching in Barbarella.

Of course, this was back in the days when I thought Barbarella was a good film, much as I thought Atlas Comics were good. Sadly, my faith in both Barbarella and Atlas Comics is long since gone but I still hold out faith that their Movie Monsters was as readable and informative as I remember it being, even though the mag's cancellation after just four issues warns me this may not have been the case.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Forty years ago this month - May 1974.

The English Premier League season may be hitting the boil as it reaches its pulse-pounding climax but, for all music lovers, there's only one contest in town - and that's the first semi final of this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Tragically, for the first time in recorded history, Jedward don't seem to be there, representing Ireland, so we can only console ourselves by looking at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to exactly forty years ago and imagining how much better those comics would have been had they featured twins with vertical hair.

Conan the Barbarian #38, Were-Woman

At last, Conan finds himself a a female who can adorn a cover without cowering.

According to the blurb, she's a were-woman. To which I can only say it's nice to see our hero showing his modern side by entering the realms of trans-gender politics.
Avengers #123, Zodiac

Forget Eurovision; Libra goes for the title of World's Most Constipated Looking Super-Villain, as Mantis finally finds out who her dad is.
Captain America and the Falcon #173, X-Men

It would appear that Cap and his mates are out to finally give Nick Fury the slap he deserves.
Daredevil #109, Nekra

This all vaguely rings a bell. Was Nekra something to do with Mandrill?

Maybe it's just me but I can't think of Mandrill without thinking of Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, a TV show that could inflict more suffering on a human being than any super-powered baboon ever did.
Fantastic Four #146

I genuinely have no idea what happens in this issue. And, sadly, the cover gives me no clues. It all looks very dramatic though.
Incredible Hulk #175, Black Bolt and the Inhumans

It's another belter, as the Hulk finds himself in the Great Refuge and up against Black Bolt.
Amazing Spider-Man #132, the Molten Man

The Molten Man's back - and causing trouble for Spidey.

Does this mean this is also the the issue where Liz Allen makes her reappearance?
Thor #223, Pluto

Well, there's a coincidence. I read about this story only the other day, at The Peerless Power of Comics. This leads me to believe Pluto's prisoner on the cover to be Krista, the sister of the magnificently strapping Hildegarde.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Fifty years ago this month - May 1964.

Well, blow up my death star and call me a scruffy looking nerf herder! It seems today is International Star Wars Day, where we're all supposed to dress up as our favourite Star Wars characters and celebrate the magical world of George Lucas.

And so it is that I'm typing this while dressed as Chief Chirpa, king of the loveable cannibal teddy bears.

Suitably unimpressed by their, "Magic tricks," I've just eaten the main cast and forged an alliance with the Empire, as would happen if Star Wars had taken place in the real world, or if its final instalment had been written by Terry Nation.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of exactly fifty years ago making a meal of seeing-off their opponents?

Only a trip in my own personal Millennium Falcon of Nostalgia can tell us.

And it won't even take us twelve parsecs to get there.

Avengers #5, the lava men

The Avengers have to take on the might of the Lava Men.

They can do what they like to the Lava Men. All I care about is that they don't damage their lava lamps. Lava lamps are a thing of miracle and wonder and should be revered as the gods they are.

If Luke Skywalker's light sabre had been a three foot long lava lamp, I'd have been much more impressed by those movies.
Fantastic Four #26, the Hulk and the Avengers

The Hulk is on the loose but the Avengers and Fantastic Four seem more interested in fighting each other than in fighting him. It's saying something when the teenage sidekick seems like the most mature person at a gathering.
Journey into Mystery #104, Thor

Thor's up against giants.

Hold on a moment. The one in the background looks like Surtur. Does that mean the other one's Ymir? If so, he doesn't look like the Ymir I know and love from such tales as The Avengers #61.
Amazing Spider-Man #12, Dr Octopus

It's the story you thought you'd never see. Peter Parker's secret identity revealed!

Only, no one can believe Peter Parker could be Spider-Man, so they decide to ignore the evidence of their eyes.
Tales of Suspense #53, Iron Man and the Black Widow

The Black Widow's back - and firing strange, Magneto-like things from her hands. Did she ever use her magic tingle fingers ever again?
Tales to Astonish #55, Giant-Man vs the Human Top

I don't care what people say about him. I always knew the Human Top was a foe to be reckoned with. And, at last, he proves it by coming back for more.
X-Men #5

Magneto and his rag-tag bunch of evil mutants are still trying to cause trouble for our heroes.

I don't fancy their chances, as the cover suggests they're cowering in terror at the sight of a snowball being flung at them.

You do wonder at what point in the training process did Professor X tell Iceman that his Number One tactic when going into battle with insanely powerful enemies would be to throw snowballs at them.
Strange Tales #120, The Human Torch and the Iceman

For the second time this month, Marvel gives us the powers of fire and ice combined. Only, this time it's not Ymir and Surtur. It's the Human Torch and Iceman.

Brace yourself, Iceman, I get the feeling it's going to take a fair few snowballs to stop that mob.