Wednesday 30 July 2014

Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy #5. A New York state of mind.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5
The visitor stats to the World's Greatest Blog tell me that now is the ideal moment to cash in on the impending release of the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie by posting an article that mentions the Guardians of the Galaxy a lot.

But how can I contrive to post an article on here that mentions the Guardians of the Galaxy a lot?




I know!

I'll do a review of an issue of the Guardians of the Galaxy!

I suspect that anyone who read the Guardians' original run in Marvel Presents most remembers the issue where, in search of a transistor with which they can repair their obviously state-of-the-art spaceship, four of the Guardians find themselves on an alien world almost identical to New York circa 1980.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, New York
Needless to say, with their highly developed social skills, it's not long before they're all involved in various scraps and scrapes, with Charlie-27 in a post-bar-brawl police cell, as Nikki finds herself at war with a religious cult, while Yondu and Vance Astro find themselves accused of theft from a radio shop.

And, needless to say, there's a twist in the tale when - rescued at the end of the mag, with seemingly all of New York out to kill them - it turns out the world is in fact not a planned society but a lunatic asylum that resembles New York because the inmates have been left to create the society that best suits their madness.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Vance Astro
The decision to launch the Guardians into space was clearly an attempt to redo Star Trek and nowhere is that more obvious than in this tale, which is clearly inspired by those Star Trek episodes where Kirk and friends found themselves on planets that resembled prohibition America, Nazi Germany or Ancient Rome.

With its not exactly subtle satire by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom, it's not what you'd call a classic but it's all good fun and passes the time painlessly while fitting into the vibe you got from Milgrom during his run on Captain Marvel. In fact, you could easily imagine this being done as a one-off Captain Marvel tale. Whisper it quietly but you could even imagine it being done as a Jim Starlin Warlock tale, with Adam, Pip and Gamora in the Guardians' place. In the latter instance, you suspect the satire would have been handled more darkly and more bitingly.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Nikki
My favourite character in this story has to be the Mercurian Nikki who comes across as a less irritating but more troublesome predecessor to the X-Men's Jubilee.

The most annoying character has to be Vance Astro with his non-stop racism directed at Yondu. It might have made sense for him to look down his nose at Yondu as an ignorant savage when they first met but, after all the adventures they've had together, you'd have thought he'd have learned some sort of respect for him by now.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Supergirl #1.

Supergirl #1, the trail of the madman
If there's one thing this blog knows how to achieve, it's unpopularity. Over the years, it's launched numerous features that have died a death before they've even made two posts.

But there's only been one that's so unpopular that I've received emails of complaint about it.

And that's Supergirl Sunday.

Needless to say, that's not going to prevent its return, as I finally get round to taking an organised look at the title that set out to launch the Kandorian clobberer into solo superstardom in 1972.

In issue #1, we find our heroine making a major life transition as, having quit her job as a reporter, she goes to university.

There's a slightly odd scene early on where she rushes to move house, so she can start uni, even though she only lives ten miles away from the university and has super speed and therefore has no need to move house at all in order to attend the place.

Supergirl #1, splash page, Art Saaf
But, of course, this is all a set-up, as it gives writer Cary Bates a chance to get Supergirl into a brand new environment where she can discover hints of strangeness about her new flatmate and fellow student Wanda Five who has ornaments in her room that seem to come from outer space.

But, before Supergirl can tackle that mystery, there's a bigger one to be dispatched.

There's been a murder on campus.

And then there's another.

It seems someone's bumping off drama students for no noticeable reason.

Fortunately, Wanda Five just happens to be psychic and thus keeps telling Supergirl when and where the murders are going to be committed.

Supergirl #1, the trail of the madman
And so, no longer needing anything that even resembles detective work, our heroine quickly captures the bad guy, who turns out to be the university drama tutor who's killing his students because he likes neither their hair nor their insistence on method acting in roles he once made his own.

Supergirl #1, Wanda Five
Of course, that still leaves the mystery of Wanda Five and how come she just happens to be psychic...

It's a perfectly solid and safe start to the strip's new direction but it does feel like one with the seatbelt on. I'm not sure it suits Supergirl for her to be doing the Murder She Wrote routine when we're used to her having far more rococo - and at times plain perverted - adventures and it feels like a massive gear change down from her usual lunacy.

Still, it has nice art by Art Saaf and Vince Colletta and does at least set up the hints of a far bigger and more ambitious story line to come, as regards her new room mate. Could we be about to get a Tana Nile situation?

You see? All people with sense may hate Supergirl Sunday but what other scenario in life would ever give me the chance to use the phrase, "Tana Nile situation"?

Admittedly, Thor Thursday would but we'd best gloss over that.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part Six.

All students of history will know there've been many great endings over the centuries; and today, Steve Does Comics brings you an ending worthy of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes itself - as its latest feature grinds to its final resting place.

Shazam #5

The only issue of Shazam I ever owned.

Like the Metal Men comic I mentioned the other day, I got it from a newsagents in Heeley Green. I still don't have a clue why that makes it seem exciting but, somehow, it does.

Sadly, I remember little of the main story but remember that I found CC Beck's simple art style appealing.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #208

The Legion of Super-Heroes find themselves entangled in a plan devised by their evil counterparts.
E-Man #7

The only issue of E-Man I ever owned.

I believe this issue may have introduced me to the word, "Entropy."

I also suspect this issue featured John Byrne's Rog 2000 in the tale of a haunted hotel. This may have been the first time I ever encountered the work of John Byrne. At the time, I found the tale most droll.
Black Magic #6

Apart from the cover, I don't remember anything about this at all.

It does however remind me that I once had a comic that featured a reprint of a Lee/Kirby tale about a girl who can walk on air until it's pointed out to her that people can't walk on air, at which point she loses the ability to do so. If you know in which comic that reprint appeared, I'd be very glad to read your thoughts in the comments box below.
Prez #3

It's another issue of Prez - and another whose contents somehow elude my memory.
Justice Inc #3

An evil bad guy has a formula that turns people into monsters. Needless to say, the Avenger soon sorts out his perfidious plans.

The Champions #7, the Griffin

The only issue of the Champions I ever had.

You do wonder just who at Marvel thought it made sense to launch a comic that tried to team up the Black Widow, Hercules, Iceman, the Angel and Ghost Rider. Maybe it's just me but that doesn't seem the most natural combination of characters.

Sadly, I can recall nothing of what happened within this issue.

I think a shopping mall may have been involved.

I could be wrong.
Atlas Comics, Thrilling Adventure Stories #2

My eyeballs detect a Neal Adams cover.

Arguably one of Atlas/Seaboard's stronger offerings. I particularly recall a tale of two samurai and a load of giant spiders - not to mention an article on the making of Towering Inferno.
Wulf the Barbarian #3

Wulf the Barbarian has his third outing. I'm not sure if he had a fourth one, the Curse of Atlas being what it was.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part Five.

A far wiser man than me once said, "Shut up!" But I don't listen to wise men. That's what's made me the man I am today. Therefore, here's the latest instalment in the stunning new feature that's inducing catatonia on a scale never before seen in the history of the World Wide Web, as I take another random look at the covers of comics I once owned.

Strange Tales #175, Torr

A crack team of hunters demonstrate the exact qualities you need if you're to catch your prey. Stealth, intelligence and razor-sharp alertness.

I acquired this comic on a Sunday morning. No comic acquired on a Sunday morning can ever be bad.
Adventure Comics #430, the Black Orchid

It's the third of the Black Orchid's original three appearances in Adventure Comics.  Sadly, it's another tale I can't remember that much about.

For those who've never read any of her original tales; blessed with invulnerability, super-strength and the ability to fly, she was basically like Supergirl but, for some reason, kept using a mastery of disguise to defeat her foes, when you would've thought she could have saved herself the trouble and just given them a punch in the bracket.
Justice League of America #128, Nekron

The Justice League come up against an alien called Nekron. I don't recall exactly what he was about but I do recall he was up to no good.

I'm not totally convinced Wonder Woman actually died in this tale.
X-Men #136, Child of Light and Darkness

If I remember right, this was the last issue before the X-Men all got dragged off into outer space for the trial of the Phoenix.

Needless to say, it was all cracking stuff and a highlight of its era.
Conan the Barbarian #69

The last issue of Conan I ever had.

From what I recall, Conan wanders into a village and it's not long before he's up against a deadly menace from the sea.

Poor old Conan, even a trip to the seaside turns into a life or death battle for him. I bet he couldn't even attempt to eat a toffee apple without it trying to kill him.

I always remember this issue as having great artwork but I can't remember who it was by.
Tomb of Dracula #16

Our third cover that involves a man carrying an insensate female.

One of my childhood faves, as our, "hero," finds himself up against a skeleton on a mission of revenge.

If you don't love that cover, there's probably no hope for you.

Then again, if you don't want to be a skeleton on a mission of revenge, there's probably no hope for you.
Prez #2

I really don't remember anything about this issue at all. I have no doubt though that it was all very strange.
Iron Fist #4, Radion

Having blown up half of London, Iron Fist is still having trouble with his nuclear-powered foe.

Is this the issue where Misty Knight gets her bionic arm, or did she already have it by this point?

Saturday 19 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part Four.

When it comes to the National Lottery, a wise man once said, "It could be you."

Sadly, he was wrong. It couldn't be me. Why? Because I've never entered it.

Happily, there's another lottery. A better lottery. One that brings far more joy into people's lives than winning ten million pounds could ever do.

And that's the lottery that is, "Random comics I have owned."

Just what magic will it fling at us tonight?

I don't know.

But one thing's for sure.

I'm not going to let it change my life.

Adventure Comics #429, Black Orchid

At one point, I had every one of the Black Orchid's original Adventure Comics appearances. All three of them. Sadly, it wasn't long after her debut before she was booted off the book, to be replaced by the Spectre.

Happily, for fans of women with flower obsessions, she was soon back, in the pages of The Phantom Stranger.

As for this tale, I have no recall at all of what happened in it but I gather that sailors and boats were involved.
Superboy #194, Super Merboy

It's one of my childhood faves, as Superboy finds himself turned into a merboy.

And if that's not one of the greatest comic book covers of all time, I'm a seahorse.
X-Men #132, Hellfire Club

The X-Men come up against the Hellfire Club who seem to be an awful bunch of bounders and not at all inspired by a notorious but celebrated episode of TV's Avengers.
Captain America #252, Batroc and Mr Hyde

Batroc and Mr Hyde come up with a plan to blow up New York, with a boat, unless they get zillions.

Needless to say, Captain America soon puts a stop to their devilish plans.

Is it my imagination or is, "Batroc," misspelled on that cover?
Incredible Hulk #161, The Beast and the Mimic

It's the only original issue of the Hulk comic that I ever owned as a kid but I loved it, as, now residing in Canada, the Mimic is in danger of draining all our hero's life energy from him

This was the firs time I ever encountered the blue furry version of the Beast and was initially most confused as to whether he was meant to be the same character as the one from the X-Men.
Metal Men, Rain of the Missile Men

I got this from a newsagents in a place called Heeley Green. This fact will mean nothing to 99.9% of the people reading this post but, somehow, that memory adds a certain charm to it all.

I seem to recall that an alien robot tyrant takes a fancy to the female member of the Metal Men and decides to bombard Earth with loads of missile-shaped robots because of it. How this was supposed to win her heart, I have no idea.

With their sharply defined personalities, I did find the Metal Men quite charming at the time.
Prez #1

It's the comic that gave us America's first teenage president.

More to the point, thanks to its unfeasibly visaged bad guy, it was the first time I ever encountered the smiley-face symbol with which all internetters are now so familiar.

I also learned from it that Mussolini made the trains run on time.

Who says comics aren't educational?
Iron Fist #3, The Ravager

Iron Fist comes to London and immediately gets into a punch-up with Radion the atomic man.

Sadly, it turns out to be curtains for the Post Office Tower, which meets an explosive fate.

Whisper it quietly but I do believe this strip featured John Byrne's finest artwork.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part Three.

Suffering shads! It's the return of the feature that's left the internet in tatters, as I once more drone on randomly about comics I've owned.

Just what'll be turned up by this veritable Pick and Mix?

Only a rifle through Steve's Lucky Bag of Confusion can tell us...

Justice League of America #109

Superman's definitely in need of a good slap on this cover.

Inside, Hawkman quits the Justice League, and Eclipso might be involved.

Other than that I can recall little of the contents.

It's always nice to see a Nick Cardy cover though.
X-Men #85, Factor 3

It's one of the few Original X-Men stories I ever liked, as the merry Marvel mutants find themselves on trial in the court of Factor 3.

I seem to remember that Ross Andru drew this issue, which could explain why it appealed to me more than their tales usually did.
Thor #268

Some bloke builds a big gun to commit crimes with and Thor has to stop him, in a tale of squabbling siblings.
Phantom Stranger #28

The issue that introduced me to DC's man of mystery.

From what I can recall of this tale, the Phantom Stranger's called in to try and help establish whether a defendant's plea of insanity is genuine or not. Needless to say, there's a twist at the end.
Conan the Barbarian #68, Kull

It's the story we all wanted to see, as Conan takes on Kull.

Red Sonja and Belit, meanwhile, continue their bickering.
Where Monsters Dwell #27, Grogg

It's one of my fave Marvel monster tales, as Grogg causes no end of bother.

Sadly, we still get no answer to the enduring mystery of where Marvel's giant monsters buy those underpants from.
Swamp-Thing #23, Nestor Redondo

It's the only issue of Swamp-Thing I ever owned. It's from after Bernie Wrightson left the strip but that doesn't mean it lets us down on the pictorial front, thanks to some lovely interior work by Nestor Redondo.
Marvel Premiere #32, Monark Starstalker

It had stylish artwork by Howard Chaykin but I always remember this as being one of the few American comics I had as a child that I could never get on with.

Monday 14 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part Two.

Quiver, mortals! It's time to cower once more before the raging power of nostalgia - because it's time for Part Two of my random look back at various comics I used to own when I was barely more than knee-high to a Kurrgo.

Superboy #191,, the kid with the super-brain

It's one of my childhood faves, as Superboy re-encounters a child genius with a knack for landing him in trouble.
The Flash #227

I recall nothing of this book's contents. I do however still dig that cover.

But just what is the way in which the Flash dies?
X-Men #44, Red Raven

Purchased from an indoor market in Blackpool, in the summer of 1972, this was one of the first American comics I ever owned.

As you can guess, it has the Angel vs Red Raven, as they meet in the latter's city in the clouds.
Captain America #135

Yet another of my very earliest American comics, as Cap and Falc come up against a scientist who turns himself into a talking gorilla.

The gorilla was fine but I remember being most taken at the time by the colour scheme of Cap's costume.
From Beyond the Unknown #24

A comic strip artist inadvertently creates a winged bad guy who I seem to recollect has plans to conquer the world.

Exactly how it all plays out, I don't remember. Did the artist foil the villain's mighty plans by erasing him/redrawing him/spilling ink over the paper he'd originally been drawn on?
Phantom Stranger #26, Frankenstein, Mike Kaluta

The Phantom Stranger meets Frankenstein's monster.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for DC's take on the monster, I do remember enjoying this one.

I seem to recall there being some sort of demonic possession thing going on and some typically rugged artwork by Jim Aparo inside.

I believe the cover to be by Mike Kaluta.
Conan the Barbarian #52

I'm pretty sure this is the first colour Conan comic I ever owned, as our hero comes up against a gold statue of a scorpion that inconveniently comes to life.

The cover's always driven me up the wall. I'm convinced John Buscema borrowed Conan's pose from a Jack Kirby panel but I've never been able to work out in which comic that panel first appeared.
Where Monsters Dwell #15

Hooray! Marvel's reprint mag gives us Kraa, who I seem to recall being surprisingly helpful in a crisis and coming to a sad end.

Poor old Kraa.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Random comics I have owned. Part One.

In the recent past, I've done posts devoted to such things as Batman comics I've owned, Superman comics I've owned, horror comics I've owned and Fantastic Four comics I've owned. But, hold onto your hats, dear World because I'm not through yet.

Here's where I launch an exciting new feature; where I post comics-that-I-can't-be-bothered-to-categorise that I've owned.

Can the internet take such a strain?

Only the next few minutes will tell.

Jack Kirby, 2001 #7

It always seemed an odd thing for me that Jack Kirby was writing and drawing a comic based on 2001. Clearly, his love of grand concepts and visual spectacle made him a good fit for the title but the glacial sterility of the film seemed massively at odds with Kirby's action-packed instincts.

Was the comic any good?

I can't really remember. But I know, from my Googlings, that it did inspire some great splash pages from him, at the very least.
Black Goliath #4, Stilt Man

I don't like to be critical of a new hero but you know you're in trouble when, by your fourth issue, you're reduced to fighting Stilt Man, a foe whose devastating super power is having extendable legs.

This cover's by Jack Kirby. At the time, I never noticed. For some reason, I was convinced that all 1970s non-Kirby mags that had Kirbyesque covers were sporting frontispieces drawn by Rich Buckler doing his Kirby thing. Oh what a fool I was.
Howard the Duck #21, Sinister Soof

This one came in one of those sealed triple-packs Marvel were so keen on for a while. I'm not sure what the other two comics were that came with it. Possibly an issue of The Defenders and something else.

As for this comic, I have vague memories that it involved a Mary Whitehouse type character, trying to clean up the nation. If you're a reader who's unfamiliar with Mary Whitehouse, consider yourself very lucky.
Nova #8, Megaman

I only had two issues of Nova - this being one of them - but encountered most of his adventures in the pages of Marvel UK's Rampage and Star Wars comics. I sort of enjoyed it when it was drawn by Sal Buscema but, like a lot of others, found it more of a challenge to read when Carmine Infantino took over.

More importantly, I seem to remember having one of my school exercise books wrapped in the cover taken from a spare copy of this issue.
Secret Society of Supervillains #1

DC's greatest villains get together to cause mischief.

At the time, I knew little of most of DC's villains. It did seem an interesting concept though and I always wanted to get my hands on the second issue; although I assume that, being villains, they never got very far in their dreams of victory.
Tomb of Darkness #13

I have absolutely no memory of the contents of this comic. The truth is I always preferred DC's mystery and horror mags, as Marvel just seemed to use their own equivalent mags to reprint old Lee and Kirby horror tales, which were never really my cup of tea.
The Frankenstein Monster #15

I recall really liking this one, though don't recall what actually happened in it. I suspect that a large part of my enjoyment of this mag came from having read DC's unhealthy-looking 1970s take on the character and finding Marvel's more robust version far more in line with my tastes.

Plus, how could you not love that Gil Kane cover?
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241

The thing I remember most about this one is the nipples.

Yes, Reader, it's true; Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241 was the first super-hero comic in which I ever encountered characters whose nipples protruded through their costumes. This may not sound like a big deal but, at the time, I was much impressed by such anatomical accuracy.

Other than that, the story was quite fun, with a distinctly retro vibe to the artwork - as the floating brain with eyeballs and tentacles might suggest.

There was also a Timber Wolf back-up tale that left you in no doubt he'd been remodelled to be more like Wolverine than ever before.