Saturday 31 January 2015

February 1st, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In one of those weird twists of fate, on the First of February 1975, January by Pilot hit the Number One slot on the UK singles chart. Truly the gods were mocking us with such a mind-warping time paradox.

But how were the heroes of Marvel UK coping with such trauma in this week of forty years ago?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #103

I believe this is the start of the Schemer storyline, which was one of my favourite tales from this era of the strip.

I suspect the Kingpin didn't enjoy it quite so much.
Marvel UK Avengers #72, Dr Strange and Clea

I remember the cover but not the story.

Jason and Alexander getting a bit vandaltastic there...
Marvel UK Dracula Lives #15

You have to hand it to Dracula. He might be evil but he's always very nicely-spoken. I like to think Aunt May would approve of him.
Mighty World of Marvel #122, the Hulk

I think this is the conclusion to the tale in which the Leader's trying to replace the American government with humanoid replicas.

More importantly, it looks like this is where we get Dr Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's powers, which has to be one of the greatest stories in the history of all humanity.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Avengers #4 - Captain America Lives again, video review.

Avengers #4, Captain America lives again
There are many things in life that people were never meant to do. I've always instinctively known that I was never meant to appear on television.

Fortunately for the world, despite having once been offered the chance to be interviewed by Sophie Aldred, I've determinedly honoured that commitment to anonymity.

However, even I'm not oblivious to the existence of that terrible instrument of terror that men call YouTube. Verily it be filled with people giving their thoughts on all things known to man.

Therefore, in my never-ending quest to find new things to do, I've decided to review this comic via the medium of video, which is either me flinging the gauntlet down to other comics bloggers to enter a whole new field of self-expression as well, or it's just a man putting on a silly hat.

Whichever it is, here's my epic video review:

Sunday 25 January 2015

January 25th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

The Internet tells me that yesterday was the 85th birthday of Jazzy John Romita. So, happy birthday to him, if he's reading, which I suspect he isn't.

But were Marvel UK serving up anything drawn by him on this day of exactly forty years ago - way back when the jazzy one was a mere forty five years old?

There's only one way to find out.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #102, Electro

And blow me down if we don't get a Spider-Man cover by that very artist, in conjunction with Marie Severin, as Electro tangles with our hero in a TV studio.
Marvel UK Avengers #71, Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper's causing trouble for the Panther on a cover that's a noticeable cut above the ones that were normally commissioned for the UK mags.
Marvel UK Planer of the Apes #14

Jason and Alexander clearly in need of a trip to the opticians.
Mighty World of Marvel #121, Hulk vs Leader

The Leader's plot to replace the American government with robots continues apace.
Marvel UK Dracula Lives #14

For some reason, I can never look at this cover without expecting everyone concerned to burst into a song from The Sound of Music.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Dracula Lives Special Edition. A voyage into the unknown.

Dracula Lives Special Edition
As you may know, in my coy capacity as copious curator of this blog, I do occasionally ramble on about comics that I once owned but had forgotten all about until I'd accidentally stumbled across their covers online.

But there's another kind of comic. The kind of comic I remember having owned but that has always been an enigma to me.

One such example is the Dracula Lives Special Edition.

I remember seeing it advertised on the back of Marvel UK weeklies at some point in the 1970s and then, one Sunday, my dad returned from the shops with a copy of it.

It was something of a curiosity, having a card cover, being squarebound and printed in glorious monochrome, while featuring several tales of the Transylvanian terror.

At the the time, its nature meant I wasn't sure if it was a US Marvel publication, a Marvel UK publication or if it even had anything to do with Marvel at all. Perhaps it was some strange kind of licensed reprint deal along the lines of the ones that Alan Class had struck in the past.

I still don't know what the story behind it was but, having not seen a copy of it in over thirty years, my memories of it are vague.

All I recall is that, in one of the stories - a Gene Colan pencilled tale - one of the captions credits a character in London with being able to smell the Atlantic, which suggests he either had an incredible sense of smell or that the writer needed to invest in a map of the British Isles.

There was also a Don Heck tale that may have been called Let It Bleed, in which the vampire comes up against a giant heart in a shed.

I do remember feeling at the time that perhaps Don Heck wasn't the ideal choice to be drawing a Dracula tale, plus the idea of the bad guy being a giant heart in a shed seemed somewhat silly. I was also, at the time, completely unaware of the Rolling Stones song of the same title.

A quick Google tells me it was published by World Distributors and... ...well, nothing else. So it seems it's doomed to remain forever a mystery to me.

But perhaps that's how it should be. After all, what would Dracula be without his air of mystery?

Tuesday 20 January 2015

The Voices of Marvel Comics - courtesy of the Merry Marvel Marching Society.

The Voices of Marvel Comics, record, MMMS
Despite my uncanny knowledge of the recording industry and its history, I was until recently unaware that, in the 1960s, members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society didn't just get a copy of the fan club's theme song. They also got a platter called The Voices of Marvel which was a recording made by Stan Lee and the staff and freelancers we all knew and loved in our childhoods.

So, if you've ever wanted to know what such luminaries as Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, Stan Goldberg, Chic Stone, Adorable Artie Simek and Sam Rosen sounded like, at last you have your answer.

Flo Steinberg, 1975
Fabulous Flo Steinberg by Lopaka42
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Needless to say, Steve Ditko refused to take part - and there's no sign of Martin Goodman.

Did Martin Goodman ever have an alliterative appellation? Was he ever Marvellous Martin Goodman? Or Merry Martin Goodman? Magnificent Martin Goodman? Maleficent Martin Goodman? I have a feeling he probably never was but am happy to be proven wrong.

Also needless to say, I don't think the disc was in any danger of knocking the Beatles off the top of the charts or of winning its participants too many Oscars. But it's all good fun, everyone comes across as a good egg and it's a chance to hear the voices of people some of us know purely from the printed page.

I should give credit and say that I know of this disc purely because it's mentioned in Todd Frye's book Marvelous Mythology: How the world's greatest superheroes were created which is currently for sale on Amazon. It's an amiable recounting of the 1960s' history of Marvel Comics, with the occasional diversions into the Bronze Age along the way.

Sadly, budgetary restrictions mean there're no pictures but it's an easy and pleasant read that I'd say is primarily aimed at people with gaps in their knowledge when it comes to Marvel's Silver Age, rather than people who've dowsed themselves in so much minutiae of the company's history that they can tell you what Flo Steinberg was drinking on the morning of January 28th, 1965.

Sunday 18 January 2015

January 18th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On January 18th, 1975, Status Quo were Number One on the UK singles chart, with Down Down, while the day's televisual highlight had to be Hammer's Frankenstein Created Woman, on BBC2.

Could Marvel UK's offerings for the week possibly match up to such excitement?

Here's where we find out.

Mighty World of Marvel #120, Hulk vs Sand

If I remember right, this cover's a total cheat and the Hulk isn't up against a cross between the Sandman and a leprechaun at all.

He's simply up against a sandstorm in one of his desert adventures. A sandstorm that doesn't speak and doesn't have a face. Had Marvel never heard of the Trades Descriptions Act? Next they'll be selling us brine shrimps advertised as monkeys of the sea.
Marvel UK Avengers #70, Iron Fist

Iron Fist is still bashing people up.

I wonder what the Avengers tale is in this issue?
Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #13, Jason and Alexander

Jason and Alexander could certainly use the help of Iron Fist right now.

I wonder if anyone on the Planet of the Apes has superpowers?

I wonder how Planet of the Apes fits in with Marvel continuity? Does it happen before or after Guardians of the Galaxy? Is it before or after Killraven? Is it before or after Deathlok?

Marvel UK Dracula Lives #13

Those cobbles. That fog. Those medieval buildings. It can only be 1970s London.

But let this be a warning to you. Never interfere with Dracula's evening meal.
Spider-Man Comics Weekly #101, Electro

I believe this is the one where Spidey guests on a TV show where Electro just happens to be working as an electrician.

Peter Parker's right. He really doesn't have much luck, does he?

Sunday 11 January 2015

January 11th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

A quick look at the Radio Times Genome site tells me that if this really was January 11th, 1975, I'd currently be settling down for an evening of Dr Who, Bruce Forsyth and Match of the Day. My, how British broadcasting's changed over the last forty years.

Still, there was an Ayn Rand movie on BBC2, which is not something you can say every day.

But why do I suspect Marvel's heroes were far too busy to be watching TV on this very day forty years ago?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #100

Spider-Man hits his hundredth issue with a battle against the Kangaroo.

Possibly not the dream choice of foe for such a landmark edition but it's Spider-Man - and Spider-Man's always great - so who cares?

You can read my review of this issue, right here.
Marvel UK Avengers #69, Dr Strange, Sons if Satannish

I did always feel Satannish had a strangely non-committal name for a bad guy. It was like he vaguely fancied being Satan but couldn't quite be bothered.

But what a lovely and striking cover by genial Gene Colan.
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #12

At last the Planet of the Apes movie adaptation's over and we get a brand new story featuring Jason and Alexander and some fabby artwork by Mike Ploog who seemed to be pulling out all the stops for the tale's first instalment.
Mighty World of Marvel #119, The Hulk vs the Colossus

From the caption at the top of the cover, I'm assuming this features the tale where Daredevil fights a bunch of aliens near a university campus. Mostly because that's the only early Daredevil tale I can recall where he's having to fight to save the Earth.
Marvel UK Dracula Lives #12, Neal Adams cover

Neal Adams produces what's always struck me as a jarringly atypical cover for a Marvel Dracula comic but there's no denying that it's memorable.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Forty years ago this month - January 1975.

I can think of nothing at all clever or informative to say to launch this post. So, instead, let's take a look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in the month when work on the second attempt at a Channel Tunnel was abandoned for financial reasons.

Were our heroes following a tight drill?

Or were they instead finding it all a bit of a bore?

Avengers #131, Legion of the Unliving

The Legion of the Dead leave the Avengers feeling positively mortified, as the Celestial Madonna Saga lumbers on and on and on and on.

It's doing these covers each month that makes me realise just how protracted that storyline really was.
Conan the Barbarian #46

I'm pretty sure this is the one where Conan defeats his foe by dissolving his feet. You have to hand it to the battling barbarian, he can use his brain sometimes.
Captain America and the Falcon #181

I've no idea what's going on. Is this the fake Captain America who was running around smashing commies in the 1950s? Or was his return featured in another story?
Daredevil #117, Mindtap

You have to hand it to Daredevil. There aren't many Marvel heroes who'd manage to take two issues to defeat the Owl.

Then again, the Owl is, by his own reckoning, "All-powerful."
Fantastic Four  #154

I seem to recall that this issue features the return of a foe from the old Strange Tales Human Torch/Thing series. I forget, though, what the shock reveal is as regards his true identity. I had it in my head that he's really Reed Richards but I get a feeling I was recently told otherwise.
Incredible Hulk #183, Zzzax

Hooray! Zzzax is bax.
Iron Man #72, Melter and Man-Bull

Iron Man becomes Irony Man - doomed to die at a comic book convention.
Amazing Spider-Man #140, the Grizzly

Spidey's still up against the Grizzly - with the Jackal causing all sorts of mischief behind the scenes.

Thor #231

I'm sure I've read this one in the not-too-distant past but can't quite recall what happens in it. Does Loki turn someone into a caveman who has baffling amounts of strength for a caveman?

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Fifty years ago this month - January 1965.

1965 was, of course, the year in which Paul McCartney recorded the song Yesterday, ignoring my advice that if he rewrote it to be about frogs, it'd be much better.

For some reason, many songwriters have ignored my advice over the years.

But it's a case of, "Yesterday once more," as I look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to exactly fifty years ago this month.

Avengers #12, Mole Man

Hooray! The first issue of Marvel UK's Avengers mag that I ever read featured this tale, in which the Avengers treat Giant-Man like a total dolt just because he talks to ants, forcing him to go off and tackle the Mole Man and Red Ghost on his own. Why he put up with them for so long is beyond me.
Fantastic Four #34, Gideon

Gideon makes his senses-shattering debut as he tries to prove you can do anything if you have enough money - even beat the FF.
Journey into Mystery #112, Thor v Hulk

I've never read this one. I gather it involves Thor telling some kids about a fight he once had in either Malta or Gibraltar, with the Hulk, while no one was looking.
Amazing Spider-Man #20, the Scorpion

It's one of my Spidey faves, as the Scorpion makes his debut.
Strange Tales #128, the Thing and the Human Torch

It's that rare beast, a Human Torch/Thing adventure that actually looks like it might be interesting. I have no doubt there'll be plenty of agonising from the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver about being misunderstood and distrusted by humanity.
Tales of Suspense #61, Captain America, Iron Man

The, "Yellow Peril," was clearly playing on Marvel's mind when they put this issue together. I remember the Cap Am story which, I believe, involves him going to Vietnam to rescue a captured soldier and having to fight a geographically inappropriate sumo wrestler along the way.

I'm not sure which Mandarin tale it is.
Tales to Astonish #63, Giant-Man, Hulk

This one includes the Hulk story that changed my life, as I recall it featuring either the word, "Humanoid," or, "Android," and me having to ask my dad what it meant. Lo, was my vocabulary increased with one mighty bound.
X-Men #9, the Avengers

I've never read the X-Men vs Avengers tale but I do have to say that if I were ever to need a wheelchair, that'd be the one I'd demand from the NHS. I'd tell them, "If it doesn't have caterpillar tracks, so I can cross battlefields in it, it's no use to me."

Sunday 4 January 2015

January 4th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Good grief! 1975's upon us already and it only seems like five minutes ago that it was 1974.

But will this wild leap into the future bring any unexpected changes to what Marvel UK are publishing on this weekend of that year?

There's only one way to find out.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #68

I'm assuming this is the story where the Collector manages to get Thor to fight the other Avengers. I don't recall how he does it but, let's be honest, it doesn't take a lot to get Marvel heroes to fight each other.

I don't think I had this issue when I was a child. Who would have thought that 1975 would have begun with such heart-rending deprivation?
Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #11

Marvel's adaptation of the original movie finally reaches its climax.

The cover does raise the obvious question. Were comics and Aleister Crowley books the only places in the Twentieth Century where you could still find people using the word, "Lo?"
Spider-Man Comics Weekly, #99, the Chameleon

Hooray, the Chameleon's back.

Was this his first appearance in Spidey's strip since issue #1? I'm struggling to think of any appearances in between. If so, it does seem amazing that it took so long.

I seem to recall that this is the story where Spidey virtually tells the whole world that he's Peter Parker and yet everyone seems to be too dim to notice.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #11

Quick! Call for the Park Ranger!  Dracula's after someone's pickanick basket.
Mighty World of Marvel #118, Hulk

The Hulk's still up against Ancient Egyptian naughtiness.