Wednesday 26 November 2014

November 30th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Can it really be a week since I last looked at Marvel UK's output from exactly forty years ago?

No. It can't. It's only been six days.

Needless to say, I'm not going to let that stop me looking at what our favourite comic publisher was up to in this week of 1974.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #94, Lizard and Human Torch

Assuming it wasn't drawn specially for Spider-Man Comics Weekly, I still don't have a clue where this cover originally came from.

Good to see some good old Gil Kane up-the-nose action there though. You do wonder what Gil would've done if God hadn't invented nostrils. He'd have had nothing to put in his foregrounds.
Marvel UK Avengers #63, Dr Strange and Dormammu

The Avengers really did have a remarkably difficult time getting on the cover of their own mag.

Still, who can complain when they're being pushed off the front by my role-model Dormammu?
Marvel UK Dracula Lives #6

Poor old Gwen Stacy. First the Green Goblin wants to kill her and now Dracula wants to as well.
Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #6

You can tell it's coming up to Christmas, as the apes decide to splash out on Charlton Heston.
Mighty World of Marvel #113, Hulk

I don't have a clue what the Hulk story is in this issue.

Is the Silver Surfer story the one where the Thing starts a fight with him because he thinks he's getting a bit too keen on Alicia?

Thursday 20 November 2014

November 23rd, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

By Odin's Shimmering Sceptre, I've just read that evil people can see what you're doing when you're online, by accessing your webcam!

They can only be trying to read my Marvel comics.

Well, they can buy their own. They only cost seven pence.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #93, Lizard & the Human Torch

The Lizard is back - and so is the Human Torch, on a Gil Kane cover that I once wrote a post about.

And you can see that post, right here.
Marvel UK Avengers #62, the Black Knight

I'm so observant that, even though I first encountered this cover forty years ago, it's only in recent months that I've realised the Black Knight is actually flying vertically, with the Avengers falling towards the skyscrapers below them, rather than him being flying horizontally, with the Avengers flying behind him in a disorganised manner.

I did always wonder how Goliath and Hawkeye were managing to fly.
Marvel UK Dracula Lives #5

The good guys are armed to the teeth.

The bad guys are totally unarmed.

I think I know who's going to win that battle.
Mighty World of Marvel #112, The Valkyrie

Get ready to flee, male chauvinist pigs because it's one of my MWOM faves as the Valkyrie shows up.
Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #5

I seem to remember there being a photo of Dr Zaius on the back cover of this week's issue.

Then again, I also seem to remember there being a cut-out-and-wear mask of Dr Zaius on the back cover.

Either way, if I had to be a talking ape, it'd definitely be Dr Zaius.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

The origin of Iron Fist - Marvel Premiere #15.

Marvel Premiere #15, the origin of Iron Fist
 I did always feel that Iron Fist had more than a hint of Popeye about him; in the sense that Popeye would always wait until he'd been battered from pillar to post before it occurred to him to eat his spinach. Likewise, Iron Fist always seemed to wait until he'd been half killed before he thought to use the thing that actually gave him his name.

As for his iron fist, it was basically him thinking about his hand so much that it practically caught fire.

I'm not sure that the ability to almost set your own body parts on fire is a good thing but it did at least enable him to beat up people who'd spent twenty pages stomping all over him like he had all the fighting skills of a dead sheep.

And, of course, it all started in Marvel Premiere #15, in which we first meet our martial arts maestro as he seeks to pass some test or other by bashing up various people, in a room, in order to gain the approval of a man in a mysterious hood.

I do generally feel that doing anything purely to gain the approval of a man in a hood is rarely likely to lead to a happy outcome but that's probably my natural scepticism showing through.

Marvel Premiere #15, the origin of Iron Fist, wolves
Sandwiched in among all this non-stop action is a flashback sequence in which we discover that he's Danny Rand whose parents had dragged him off in search of Marvel's answer to Shangri-La when he was a child and, when it had all gone wrong, he'd found himself taken in by the locals and taught to be a human killing machine.

Anyway, the tale climaxes with him beating up a seemingly unstoppable robot as we're promised even more thrills and spills next issue.

Exactly where the rulers of a lost city in the Himalayas got a robot from is anyone's guess but it was certainly an action-packed debut and a lot less thoughtful than we were getting from Shang-Chi at the time.

Marvel Premiere #15, the origin of Iron Fist
A lack of inner composure wasn't the only thing that set Iron Fist apart from Shang-Chi. While Shang-Chi's captions were in the First Person, Iron Fist's were in the not-often-used Second Person, which means we got a lot of, "You are Iron Fist. You are angry. You hit him with your feet." Quite who this person was who was doing the narration, and why they felt a need to keep telling him things he already knew, was never clear.

Marvel Premiere #15, the origin of Iron FistIt has to be said his origin does bear noticeable similarities to that of television's The Champions who were likewise incapacitated in the Himalayas before being rescued by locals who taught them to make the maximum possible use of their natural abilities before unleashing them once more upon the world. Whether this resemblance was coincidental or not, I have no idea.

Somehow, you never got the feeling that Iron Fist was as good at the martial arts as Shang-Chi, judging by the fact that the latter always managed to defeat his foes without having to have an iron fist to fall back on.

Then again, if Iron Fist had only had the sense to use his iron fist at the start of a fight, it wouldn't have mattered.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

November 16th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Ramp up your retro rockets because, within the last few hours, some kind of probe has landed on some kind of comet, on some kind of mission.

As you can tell, I'm some kind of clued-up on it.

That may be thrilling but, let's be honest, when it comes to excitement, even that can't compare to the thrill of what was landing on our doormats exactly forty years ago this week.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #92, the Lizard

I like how the Lizard always has a lab coat on, even in stories where Curt Connors is nowhere near a lab when he transforms into him.

Of course, in this story, he was near a lab, so he has an excuse.
Mighty World of Marvel #111

This one would appear to contain that Ka-Zar/Daredevil story in which Ka-Zar ends up in England, on trial, in a court that bears no resemblance to any court that's ever been seen on the planet Earth.
Avengers #61, Marvel UK, Shang-Chi

Take that, street lamp!

Come to think of it, why does Shang-Chi react to being ambushed in the street by savagely attacking a street lamp?

There's a man who clearly has anger management issues.

Dracula Lives #4, Marvel UK

Drac's back with a modified version of an old Neal Adams cover.
Planet of the Apes #4, Marvel UK

I'm sure all music lovers remember Randy Hanzlick's classic song I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of me than a Frontal Lobotomy.

Clearly Taylor would agree - though I've always thought it odd how the man with the lobotomy looks more like Charlton Heston than Taylor does on this cover.

Monday 10 November 2014

Astonishing Tales #10 - Ka-Zar wins World War II.

Astonishing Tales #10, Ka-Zar
Obviously, the genius of Ka-Zar as a concept is that he combines Edgar Rice Burroughs' two classic creations Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot into one dino-packed package.

But issue #10 of Astonishing Tales takes that combination even further, as Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Barry Smith give us a tale of World War II shenanigans in the Hidden Jungle.

After having floated around on a lake for a while, Ka-Zar stumbles across the survivors of a World War II battle between a U-boat and a British destroyer. Despite it being the early 1970s, the crew and their children are still fighting.

And they're still fighting despite their two commanders knowing full well the war is over.

Needless to say, Ka-Zar isn't going to stand for this sort of behaviour in his jungle and sets about foiling the commanders' scheme and finally bringing World War II to a close.

Astonishing Tales #10, Ka-Zar
Oddly, Barry Smith's artwork isn't as sophisticated and detailed as it was in previous issues of the strip. Either inker Sal Buscema wasn't in the mood to ink in all that detail, or this issue was drawn before the earlier ones. I'm not sure which.

Needless to say, the leader of the British talks like Crocodile Dundee and the leader of the Germans wears a monocle and slips well-known German words into his speech, despite speaking English most of the time.

This is, after all, a Marvel comic and, so, such cliches can't be abandoned.

Astonishing Tales #10, Ka-Zar
It has to be said that the motives of the twin commanders are somewhat inconsistent.

It seems they elected to keep the war going for their men in order to motivate them to survive in such a dangerous land but that doesn't stop them from later plotting to destroy their own men once their deception is exposed, suggesting a desire for power is all they're really interested in.

Ultimately, none of that matters. What matters is it's a memorable tale, built upon a great idea and carrying a warning to us all about the futility of warfare and the need to question those in power, to think for ourselves and, when asked to do insane things, to listen instead to our own common sense.

Astonishing Tales #10, Ka-Zar

Thursday 6 November 2014

November 9th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hark? Can that be the sound of my papergirl delivering this week's offerings from Marvel UK?

But what's this? These aren't new! They're from exactly forty years ago this week!

She has to be the slowest papergirl ever!

I wouldn't mind but the shops are only four hundred metres away.

That means she's managed to travel a hundred metres every decade.

At this rate, it'll be 2054 by the time she gets back to the shops, meaning she'll have spent her entire life travelling from and to the shops.

It's a tragedy that could make a grown man weep.

The Avengers #60, Dr Strange v Nightmare, Marvel UK

Is that a Dan Adkins cover?

Whoever it's by, I remember the cover but not the actual story.

There are no clues as to what this week's Shang-Chi and Avengers tales are.

I'm going to try and be psychic and guess that the Avengers story may have been the one where Goliath gets beaten up by Dragon Man. I have no reason at all to believe that that's the story featured, so don't quote me on it.
Dracula Lives #3, London, Marvel UK

Dracula's in London.

Cue the fog and gas lamps.

Thinking about it, how ridiculous would someone have looked if they'd really tried running around 1970s' London dressed like that?
Mighty World of Marvel #110, Doc Samson v the Hulk, Marvel UK

Hooray! Doc Samson is still making his debut.
Planet of the Apes #3, Marvel UK

Mr Google tells me this was the issue where Gullivar Jones made his first UK Marvel appearance.

Planet of the Apes, Ka-Zar and Gullivar Jones? All in one mag? How could anyone not love this comic?
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #91, Marvel UK

It's a classic warning about the quest for eternal youth, as Spidey concludes his struggle with Silvermane.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Forty years ago this month - November 1974.

With just a day to go before Guy Fawkes Night, we're now well and truly in November - the only month ever to have been named after DC Comics stalwart Irv Novick.

That's an exciting occasion for DC fans but what were our favourite Marvel heroes up to in this very month exactly forty years ago?

Here's where we find out.

Avengers #129, Kang

The Celestial Madonna Saga rumbles on, and on, and on - though I'm not sure when the Vision developed the ability to fire force blasts from his hands.

You can read my review of this issue, right here.
Conan the barbarian #44, Red Sonja

It's one of my fave Conan tales, as the Cimmerian sword swinger and Red Sonja find themselves in a tower of sibling naughtiness.

You can read my review of this very tale, right here.
Daredevil #115, Death-Stalker

It's one of my Daredevil faves, as the horny hero finds himself up against Death-Stalker,

You can read my review of this tale, right here.
Fantastic Four #152

I don't think I've ever read this issue but I suspect, from the cover, that our heroes are having trouble with Dr Doom.
Incredible Hulk #181, Wolverine

Hugh Jackman makes his senses-shattering debut.
Iron Man #71

But forget Wolverine. Iron Man's so tough that he can smash through paper.
Amazing Spider-Man #138, Mind-Worm

The Mindworm makes his debut.

I've always liked this tale.

No one else seems to.
Thor #229

I don't have a clue what happens in this one and the cover's furnishing me with no hints.
Captain America and the Falcon #179, Golden Archer

Didn't the Golden Archer turn out to be Hawkeye in disguise? Or am I just going mad?

Sunday 2 November 2014

Fifty years ago this month - November 1964.

It's been a strange and unusual week for me. I've seen Margaret Thatcher singing on Top of the Pops, evil clowns banned from the streets of France and spiders removed from Katie Melua's earholes. But what kind of week were our favourite Marvel heroes experiencing exactly fifty years ago?

Here's where we find out.

Avengers #10, Immortus

Immortus shows up and the Avengers break up.

Other than that, I'm not familiar with this tale. Does the Kang/Immortus link get mentioned here or does that not come along until later?

The Kang Immortus Link. I used to love that band. They were my favourite Prog Rock outfit.
Fantastic Four #32, The Invincible Man

The Invincible Man makes his debut and we finally find out just where the Storms's parents have been all this time.

Now we just need to find out where Ben and Reed's parents have been all this time.
Journey Into Mystery #110, Thor vs Mr Hyde and the Cobra

For that matter, where has Thor's mother been all this time? We keep seeing Odin but Mrs Odin is never anywhere in eight.

But Thor's too busy to worry about that. He's got his hands full with Jane Foster.

And he's about to have his hands even fuller with the Cobra and Mr Hyde.

He's going to need more hands at this rate.
Amazing Spider-Man #18, Sandman

Speaking of parent deficient super-heroes, Spider-Man's finally developed the sense to hide from super-villains instead of fighting them.
Strange Taled #126, Human Torch, the Thing, Mad Thinker and Puppet Master

Somehow, the Thing and Human Torch are holding on to that coveted main story slot, despite the fact that Dr Strange's strip is clearly far more interesting.

But can it be true? Can the first appearance of the dread Dormammu really be playing second fiddle to the return of the Mad Thinker?
Tales of Suspense #59, Iron Man, Captain America

Captain America gets his own strip in Tales of Suspense.
Tales to Astonish #61, the Hulk and Giant-Man

I don't have a clue what goes on in either of these tales.

To be honest, it's not a cover that suggests the contents are going to be the greatest ever.
X-Men #8, Unus

Unus the Untouchable makes his debut in a tale I've never read.

Was it ever explained how exactly he eats if he can't touch anything?