Sunday 28 December 2014

December 28th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

We're in that strange limbo between Christmas and New Year - but so mighty was Marvel UK forty years ago that even a limbo couldn't prevent them from giving us a fistful of super-hero action in this week of 1974.

And here's where we find out just what it was they were giving us.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #98, The Prowler

Much as I love the Prowler, I'm not totally sure he deserves the cover's claim that he's, "The most dangerous super-villain Spidey has ever faced!" To be honest, I think that even Nazi Bee Man, or whatever he was called, was more dangerous.
Marvel UK, The Avengers #67, Shang-Chi

Ooh! I sort of remember this one. I believe there were  crocodiles involved.

Admittedly, that's not that difficult to remember, considering they're on the cover but I do vaguely recall an inside panel of them swimming towards something or other, leaving a gentle wake behind them as they did so.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #10

For some reason, I'm getting some kind of flashback that either this issue had a cut out and mount diorama on the back cover or that the front cover itself was later turned into one in a future issue.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #10

Hooray! I had the original American version of this tale. And I just happen to have a review of it, right here.
Mighty World of Marvel #117, the Hulk

I'm assuming this is the first part of that story where the Hulk takes on a bunch of aliens who also happen to be Egyptian gods. It was one of my favourite Hulk stories when I was a kid. To be honest, when I was a kid, anything with an Erich von Däniken vibe was guaranteed to grab me.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Worlds Unknown #2. A Gun For Dinosaur.

Worlds Unknown #2, A Gun For Dinosaur
I don't need to take a sneak peak beneath my Christmas tree.


Because I already know what I'm getting for Christmas.

A time machine.

How do I know that? Because I've just come back in time and told myself.

Needless to say, I've now just killed my future self and stolen his time machine.

Arf, that's showed him who's boss.

But it's not all fun and games doing time travel, as we discover in issue #2 of Marvel's 1970s series Worlds Unknown.

In it, a couple of entrepreneurs are in the habit of taking clients back in time so they can bag the odd dinosaur and then take its head back to the present to impress their mates with.

Worlds Unknown #2, A Gun For Dinosaur, T Rex
Sadly, it all goes awry when, against their better judgement, they take two people with them who have lots of money but not much sense.

Inevitably, it all ends in disaster for the two clients, prompting the next prospective customer to decide not to take up his option of going.

It's a very odd story that wrong-foots you by not going in the direction you expect it to.

Worlds Unknown #2, A Gun For DinosaurAfter all, thanks to Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, we all expect such tales to end with the present having been irreparably altered by some wally standing on a butterfly in the distant past.

But not one butterfly gets trodden on in this tale - or is even seen. And any potential for time-line alteration is ignored as the story gives us a totally different moral. Which is that it takes a real man to tangle with dinosaurs, so don't try it unless you can handle a big gun.

While this is no doubt true, it's not a moral that's likely to make much impact on the lives of most of us.

But the tale does have the trump card that the two customers are so idiotic that you positively want them to get eaten by dinosaurs. And, as we all know, there are few things more pleasing in literature than seeing fools get their comeuppance.

And with that, merry Christmas. Don't forget to pull a cracker and don't forget to spurn the chance to tangle with a dinosaur.

Unless it's a very small dinosaur.

Like Barney.

Barney the Purple Dinosaur. How nice would his head look over my mantelpiece now I have my very own time machine?

Saturday 20 December 2014

December 21st, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week forty years ago, Mud were at Number One on the UK singles chart, with Lonely This Christmas.

Those of us of a British bent will never forget the nightmare sight of Mud singer Les Gray performing the song on Top of the Pops, with the aid of a ventriloquist's dummy. Truly those were days of fear and terror in Blighty.

But were the heroes of Marvel UK's merry mags free of such concerns? Or were they having to endure nightmares of their own?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #97, the Prowler

Spidey continues his somewhat one-sided battle with the Prowler but I'm more intrigued by the Iron Man story labelled, "When Titans Clash!"

Just which story could it be? Is it the one where he fought Captain America? Is it the one where he fought the Sub-Mariner? I'm trying to think of any other early fights he had that'd warrant such a billing.

Then again, could it be the Titanium Man?
Marvel UK, Avengers #66, Dr Strange v Dormammu

I do wonder why an all-powerful being like Dormammu would bother using minions, especially against a foe who's supposed to be helpless. Sometimes, these super-villains could do with a few lessons in tactics.

Meanwhile, Shang-Chi takes on the murderous Sci-Fi Fan. Take my word for it, you don't want to anger a Sci-Fi fan. I'm still in hiding after once referring to The Doctor as, "Doctor Who."
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #9

I do wonder where people in Dracula stories get their flaming torches from. I've never seen a shop that sells them.

Just off the Moor shopping precinct in Sheffield, there used to be a shop that sold swords, battle axes and vacuum cleaners - which always seemed an odd combination of items to sell - but even they never sold flaming torches.
Mighty World of Marvel #116, Hulk v Dr Doom

The Hulk's still battling Dr Doom.

But who cares about that when the real news is that Daredevil's taking on the Stiltman?
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #9

Nine issues in and still Marvel's adaptation of the original movie rumbles on.

Sunday 14 December 2014

December 14th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1974, Wombling Merry Christmas smashed onto the UK singles chart, at #21. It was the week's highest new entry.

Oddly, there was no sign of either Slade or Wizzard on that chart.

How the Wombles must have laughed evilly at their triumph over the other two acts, suddenly confident that it would be they who'd dominate the pre-Christmas charts from now on, while Slade and Wizzard's efforts would sink into permanent obscurity.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes enjoying a similar sense of triumph on this very day of forty years ago?

And, if so, was it justified?

Marvel UK Avengers #65, Magneto

It's certainly a triumph for the Avengers, who've actually managed to make the cover of their own mag.

And that means I actually know what the tale inside is.

It's the one with Magneto. And Quicksilver. And the Scarlet Witch. Few people would have guessed that from the cover but I have the observational and deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes, who I so closely resemble.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #8

Eight issues in and still Marvel's adaptation of the original movie rumbles on.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #8

A cover that I believe was originally drawn by Neal Adams before John Romita decided he could improve it and got stuck into it by redrawing great big chunks of it.

I'd love to see what the original version looked like, to discover what was so wrong with it, that the Jazzy one felt he had to save it.
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #96, The Prowler

It's the arrival of the Prowler; the only super-doer who thought you could become a super-villain by using your window cleaning equipment as weaponry.

Despite this, I always had a soft spot for him.
Mighty World of Marvel #115, Dr Doom vs the Hulk

You do wonder how many of Dr Doom's schemes can go disastrously wrong before he finally notices he's not infallible.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Worlds Unknown #6 - Killdozer!

Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer cover
I do feel there can be no finer sight in the world than that of a homicidal bulldozer threatening to murder people for daring to defy it.

Let's be honest, we all like our construction equipment to have a bit of attitude.

And that can only mean one thing.


I first learnt of that mighty machine's existence when watching a TV movie about it, sometime in the mid-1970s but my other encounter with it was in the pages of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes comic, where it featured as a back-up tale.

How I thrilled as it massacred man after man after man.

But, looking at it again, for the first time in roughly forty years, will it still hold the same charm for me?

It starts with a scene familiar to all James Cameron fans; a world where human beings are at war with killer machines possessed by an evil consciousness. Unlike the Terminator franchise, this war is in the distant past and, unlike the Terminator franchise, the human race develops a defence against the machines. A defence which gives us total victory.

Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer
But that's not before one evil bit of consciousness escapes and survives, on an island, within the structure of a temple, for untold ages.

Sadly, when a team of workmen set out to demolish the temple, in order to start work on an airstrip, the evil consciousness takes over their bulldozer and starts to kill everyone off.

It's not just a tale of serial murder, it's also a tale of distrust; as the moment one man is killed, the workmen quickly turn against each other, blaming everyone except the obvious culprit.

What strikes me about this tale now is how angry everyone is. You do get the feeling that if they themselves could take possession of bulldozers, our cast of characters would all be going on a bit of a homicidal rampage themselves.

Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer
To be honest, the bulldozer doesn't have any great personality - it's not like it has any means to express itself, apart from by killing people - and it doesn't seem to have a plan beyond killing people. So, the tale's not some sort of classic but it's harmlessly diverting and it's nicely drawn by Dick Ayers, with an uncredited but fairly obvious helping hand from John Romita.

Of course, that's the comic. I don't have a clue how the TV movie stands up after all this time. It is, however, up there with Snowbeast as one of the few TV movies that's lodged in my memory from my childhood, so it must have done something right.

Saturday 6 December 2014

December 7th, 1974 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This very week in 1974, Barry White was Number One on the UK singles chart, with David Essex at Number Two.

But what was top of the Marvel UK hit parade even as we were all singing along with those legendary artists?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #7

A battery-powered torch can put the kibosh on Dracula? Why has no one ever mentioned this before?
Marvel UK, Avengers #64, Shang-Chi

Shang-Chi's back on the cover.

I've no idea what the story inside is. I have a suspicion that Fu Manchu might be involved but don't quote me on that.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #7

I could do with a chair as high as Dr Zaius's; that I might dish out lofty commands to those around me.

I wonder if he has a ladder to get him up there?
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #95, the Lizard and Human Torch

The Human Torch gets in Spidey's way in the oft-overlooked John Buscema era of the strip.
Mighty World of Marvel #114, The Hulk vs Dr Doom

That dastardly Dr Doom is up to no good again.

In retrospect, it's amazing that it took so long for Doom to finally come up against the Hulk.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Forty years ago this month - December 1974.

On this very day, thirty four years ago, I encountered my first-ever dinosaur skeleton, in London's Natural History Museum.

This is of no interest to anyone but me.

Slightly more interesting to others is what was happening on this very day in 1974. A day on which it may have been possible to walk into a newsagent's and buy - not a dinosaur - but all the Marvel comics below...

Avengers #130, Titanic Three

It's East vs West as the Avengers mistakenly tangle with the Titanic Trio or whatever it is they were called.
Conan the Barbarian #45

That's an oddly glum-looking monster Conan finds himself up against. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not in need of counselling by the time the story's over.
Daredevil #116, the Owl

The Owl's back.
Fantastic Four #153, Mahkizmo

"We can't stop him from exploding!" They don't write dialogue like that anymore.

But is it true? Was it, "The mightiest FF saga ever"?

And was Mahkizmo the worst name ever for a villain?
Incredible Hulk #182, Hammer and Anvil

Hammer and Anvil make their first appearance.
Amazing Spider-Man #139, The Grizzly

I'm the only person alive who seems to like the Grizzly. In fact, if I was to be a super-villain, he'd be near the top of my list of ones I'd choose to be. I mean, come on, who doesn't want to dress up as a bear?

Sheffield City Museum has a bear. It's a polar bear. It's stuffed. Within that museum, there are no dinosaurs.
Thor #230

Good Lord. It's a Thor story that I've actually read from this era.

Strangely though, I don't have a clue what happens in it.
X-Men #91, Magneto

Only months to go now before the New X-Men make their debuts.
Captain America and the Falcon #180, Nomad

I must confess that I struggle to see the whole Nomad thing as a good idea. Admittedly, that might just be because of how bad his outfit was.

Monday 1 December 2014

Fifty years ago this month - December 1964.

Being the dedicated sci-fi buff that I am, I've been watching the repeats of Day of the Triffids on BBC4. How I've thrilled at the sight of post-apocalyptic unpleasantness.

Well, those triffids might think they're hard but they wouldn't last five seconds against Marvel's fightingest heroes.

And here's where we find out just what those heroes were up to exactly fifty years ago.

Avengers #11, Spider-Man

I've never read this one but suspect that the scene on the cover never actually appears in the comic.

If it does, it does suggest the Avengers are a rather sorry bunch, considering they're supposed to be Earth's mightiest super-team.
Daredevil #5, the Matador

It's the senses-shattering debut of the Matador, the villain whose deadly super-power is owning a cape.

With a power like that, it's no wonder Daredevil had so much trouble with him.
Fantastic Four #33, Sub-Mariner and Attuma

I love this one; especially that moment when Attuma reveals just what those things on his hat are actually for.

Is this the issue where the Human Torch uses his underwater napalm power for the first time?

Did he ever use his napalm power again? You'd sort of hope not.
Journey into Mystery #111, Thor vs Mr Hyde and the Cobra

I've not read this one since I was a kid and thus have no idea at all as to just what's going on on that cover.
Amazing Spider-Man #19, the Human Torch and the Sandman

I do have a soft spot for the Enforcers, even though they're basically just there for Spidey to beat up on whenever he's feeling bad about himself because he has a cold.
Strange Tales #127, The Thing and the Human Torch

I seem to remember a similar looking villain turning up in a 1970s issue of the Fantastic Four. Did he turn out to be Reed Richards in disguise or am I just going mad?

Whoever he is, he must be a major villain indeed if he can relegate Dormammu to such a small portion of the cover.
Tales of Suspense #60, Iron Man and Captain America

Does the Iron Man tale involve him being suspected of murdering Tony Stark?

The Captain America tale looks to be one of those strange, early generic ones that consisted of him spending ten pages fighting a huge gang of people while delivering a lecture to them on how to use leverage.
Tales to Astonish #62, The Hulk and Giant-Man

Speaking of leverage; poor old Giant-Man could definitely use a few lessons in how to use it. Not content with struggling to defeat his usual hopeless opponents, he's now fighting desperately not to be killed by a woman who is arguably Marvel's feeblest ever super-heroine.