Sunday 31 May 2015

May 31st, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1975, Whispering Grass by Don Estelle and Windsor Davies hit the Number One slot on the UK singles chart. Surely music could only go downhill from that point on.

And it did. Never again would we get to see two actors from a sit-com appearing in character at the top of the music charts.

Admittedly, when I say, "Never again," I don't know if we did or not. I'm just assuming we didn't, as I can't believe we could have been blessed enough to have experienced such a thing twice in our lifetimes.

But what about Marvel UK's output of that very week all those years ago? Was it indeed half hot, Mum? And could it possibly live up to such lofty standards?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #120

Never mind all that pesky grass being a nuisance. Spidey's still having trouble with a man called Bullit.

Mighty World of Marvel #139, the Hulk

I seem to recall that this features the Hulk's first encounter with the Silver Surfer, meaning it was printed several years later than it should have been if continuity had been stuck to.

Regardless, It's always been my favourite Marie Severin Hulk tale and, at the time, there was something strangely pleasing about seeing her, "return," to the strip after a couple of years' absence.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #13, Silver Surfer vs Spider-Man

Not only does the Surfer have his hands full this week with tackling the Hulk but he's also got to tangle with Spider-Man.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #89, Dr Strange, the Hulk and the Night-Crawler

And not only does the Hulk have to tackle the Surfer but he's also up against the original Night-Crawler in a tale that had already been reprinted several months earlier in The Mighty World of Marvel. Such were the continuity problems Marvel UK found themselves lumbered with.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #32

It's that rarity, a Dracula Lives cover where our favourite fang-barer isn't boasting about how he's going to kill everyone.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #32

I'm not sure that insulting an ape by calling him, "Ape-face," makes an awful lot of sense. I mean, what other kind of face would he be likely to have?

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #13

Is this the first ever appearance of what became that good old cover staple; Conan stood atop a veritable hillock of attacking foes?

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Marvel coins.

Spider-Man, Hulk and Conan Marvel medallion coins Coins. What marvellous things they are. Without them, I wouldn't be able to buy the things that give my life meaning and prevent me plunging into an abyssal maelstrom of endless despair beyond anything even Norrin Radd could imagine - things like bubblegum and Curly Wurlies.

But there were other coins in my life when I was a child.

Coins that had my favourite heroes on them.

And those coins could only be acquired from the pages of 1970s Marvel comics. Forget your Decimalisation. That was a minor trifle in comparison. This was the real revolution in currency.

To be honest, I never had any of them and, despite my love of Marvel comics, I never really felt any urge to have any of them. Even now, vexed most sore as I am by a nostalgia that fair threatens to tear my mind asunder, I'm still strangely undriven by any desire to own them.

But, still, if their portrayal in the ads is anything to go by, they seemed a fine thing indeed and a cut above the items you normally saw advertised in comics, such as that genuine nuclear submarine on offer for $1.

So, in the end, I'd still rather have a Curly Wurly in my hand but it is strangely heartening to at least know that such things as Marvel coins existed and no doubt still exist, tucked away in some collectors' drawers, as shiny now as they were on the day they were first foist upon the world.

Sunday 24 May 2015

May 24th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

I know what you're demanding. You're demanding, "Steve, we all know that last night's Eurovision Song Contest was won by Sweden, with a song called Heroes but what won that very contest exactly forty years ago?"

That song was of course the legendary Ding-a-Dong by the Netherlands. How that track lingers on in the memory. I'm sure we're all singing it even as I type.

As for this year's contest, I don't know if there's something wrong with me but I actually quite liked most of the songs and performances.

I was particularly taken with the man who played with his piano on fire, the woman in the green lipstick, Captain Botox, the totally immobile woman in the red dress and the woman who looked like she was being inflated as her performance went along.

Admittedly, these weren't the official designations of the people concerned but I don't have a clue which countries they were representing, so that's all I know them as.

Needless to say, the UK entry carried on our grand tradition of finishing near the bottom of the pile. Over the course of the evening, Electro Velvet did indeed become Crushed Velvet. But at least we were down there with Germany and France. So, at last, after centuries of conflict, the power of music has finally united Britain, Germany and France in a common cause - abject failure.

But if there's one British institution that knows not the meaning of the word, "Failure," it's Marvel UK in the year of that great Dutch triumph.

And here's where we prove it.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #119, Bullitt

Demonstrating that it's not just Eurovision that has dodgy electoral practices and little grasp of voting integrity, that utter bounder Bullit is out to subvert the democratic process too.

Mighty World of Marvel #138, Hulk vs Thing

Given that the cover features a clash between the Thing and the Hulk, I'm not totally sure what the story within is.

It is however clear that the back-up tale is the one where Thor, Spider-Man and Daredevil take on the FF, after the FF have been convinced that DD is the other DD - Dr Doom.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #188, The Circus of Crime

It's a wedding to remember, as the Circus of Crime show their smarts by attacking a building packed solid with people who can fight better than they can.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #31

I do believe this is the one that transforms Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee into a Planet of the Apes tale.

If I remember rightly, it was drawn by Rico Rival, of whose work I was always an admirer.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #31

This is exciting for me. It's an issue of Dracula Lives that I once owned but had totally forgotten I ever had. I don't have a clue what happens inside it though.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #12, Rogues in the House

Thomas and Smith's adaptation of Rogues in the House continues with Conan stabbing up a gorilla.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #12, Silver Surfer vs the Ghost

The Surfer's still having a remarkable amount of trouble dealing with  a man who only has one eye and no hands.

And is dead.

Sunday 17 May 2015

May 17th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this very week of forty years ago, Tammy Wynette was at Number One on the UK singles chart, with Stand By Your Man.

By a coincidence capable of shaking the gods themselves, Tammy Jones was simultaneously at Number Five with Let Me Try Again. Surely this can be the only time in British history when two women called Tammy have been in the Top Five at the same time.

Needless to say, this should lead me to do a post about what was happening in the pages of legendary Fleetway girls' comic Tammy in this week of 1975.

Sadly, I don't have a clue what was happening in the pages of Tammy in this week of 1975 - though I suspect it may have involved impoverished orphan girls being bullied by step-sisters, step-mothers, piano teachers and evil butlers, as that's what seemed to be happening every week in the pages of Tammy.

Therefore I'll look at what Marvel UK were up to instead.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #118

Spider-Man demonstrates why you should avoid him like the plague if your name ends with the word, "Stacy."

Mighty World of Marvel #137, Incredible Hulk

The Hulk is still socking it to the American legal system.

I'm assuming the Daredevil story is still the one where he's trapped in Dr Doom's body.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #11, The Silver Surfer

This is one of only two issues of The Super-Heroes I ever owned. I got it from WH Smiths. I remember being very taken with John Buscema's artwork and with The Ghost.

I seem to remember the X-Men strip as featuring a sequence where, for some reason, The Toad pretends to be an Olympic long jumper.

Then again, as the cover claims it's about the X-Men battling the Sub-Mariner, I could be remembering wrongly.

Marvel UK, The Avengers #87, Dr Strange and the Sub-Mariner

Yet another moody cover for the story that couldn't make up its mind if it was a Dr Strange, Sub-Mariner or Hulk tale. As Barbara Norris was in it, I like to think it was a Valkyrie story.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #30, Apeslayer

I think this issue may be the last the world has ever seen of Apeslayer. But I like to think he's still out there, battling those mendacious monkeys to the bitter end.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #30

Looking at this cover, I've got a weird feeling I may have owned this one - but I couldn't swear to it.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #11

It's one of my favourite Barry Smith Conan tales as he and Roy Thomas give us their adaptation of Rogues in the House, so often misprinted as Rouges in the House.

I seem to recall that, in it, the priest Nabonidus has a system of mirrors via which he can see any part of his house from any other part of his house. Inspired by this, I've always wanted an identical set-up in my own home, even though I can think of no good reason at all for having it.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Happy birthday, Starlord, No, not that one. The other one.

Star Lord, IPC, Strontium Dog

Forget your Guardians of the Galaxy. Those of us who grew up in Blighty in the 1970s know there's only one Starlord - and that's the comic that was launched by IPC magazines almost exactly thirty seven years ago this week.

When I say, "almost exactly," the cover date was May the 13th, though, as so often happens with these things, I do believe it may have been in the shops before that.

I thought I only had two issues of it but a quick peruse of the Grand Comics Database tells me that I actually had three issues.

My memories of what was in them are fairly vague. Obviously, from the cover above, Strontium Dog was in it. I do believe Ro-Busters may also have been in it before both strips migrated to 2000 AD when Starlord folded after just twenty two issues.

Why did it fold, when 2000 AD was such a success?

I don't have a clue. Maybe the 12p price tag put people off. Maybe there was only room for one sci-fi mag in Britain at the time. Maybe it was something else altogether.

From what I can recall of it, it seemed more grown-up than 2000 AD and was printed on flatter, smoother paper. I seem to recall there being something in it about some explorers trapped on a world that had acid rain, and also some sort of strip about a brother and sister with psychic powers.

Then again, I may be remembering completely wrongly.

Regardless, this post contains the covers to the three issues that I had. Why Clint Eastwood's on one of them, I have no clue. I can't say Dirty Harry's ever struck me as being a sci-fi concept but what do I know? Clearly IPC thought otherwise, and they ran a successful comic company and I didn't, so they were probably right and I'm probably wrong.

I do love the way that issue manages to cram a reference to Clint Eastwood, The Spy Who Loved Me and Close Encounters of the Third Kind into one cover. You couldn't accuse them of not trying.

I'm indebted to Lew Stringer's blog for reminding me of this epoch-making birthday.

Star Lord, IPC

Star Lord, IPC

Tuesday 12 May 2015

2000 AD - April 1977.

It's the return of the feature that's taking the internet by storm as I look back at what sci-fi majesty 2000 AD was flinging at us exactly thirty eight years ago. Who could forget that epic day in March when I first launched this feature?

Well, clearly I could because I did, which means I totally forgot to to do this feature in April, meaning I'm now a month behind.

Then again, 2000 AD is still for sale in 2015 AD which makes it a full fifteen years behind, so at least I'm not that bad.

2000 AD #6, MACH 1

It's all gone a bit Weird War Tales.

I assume MACH MAN was M.A.C.H.1 and had temporarily forgotten his own name at the sight of rampaging skeletons heading towards him.

2000 AD #7, Dan Dare

Dan Dare having trouble with his Biogs.

2000 AD #8, Flesh

It's the first issue of 2000 AD I ever owned.

I was so impressed by it that I cut the cover off it and glued it in my scrapbook. I like to think that did wonders for the value of the comic.
2000 AD #9, Harlem Heroes

It's nice to see Deathlok paying a visit to the 2000 AD universe.

I think this might be the Harlem Heroes' first cover.

Bill Savage has yet to make a front cover. Has all his fighting against the Volgans been in vain? Did he blow up the Channel Tunnel for nothing?
2000 AD #10, Judge Dredd

You see? This is what should have been in those Judge Dredd movies. Did the people who made them not have a clue?

Sunday 10 May 2015

May 10th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time once more for Steve Does Comics to plunge into the Maelstrom of Time and discover just what our favourite comic company was up to in this very week of 1975.

What thrills were they to offer up?

What spills?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #117, Dr Octopus

It's a tentacular spectacular as Doc Ock continues his amply-armed battles with Spider-Man.

I do believe I espy a Sal Buscema cover, which leads me to believe it may have been sourced from the US Marvel Tales reprints.

Marvel UK, Avengers #86, Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket makes his homicidal debut.

I'm proud to announce that I guessed his shocking secret almost from the moment he first appeared.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #29

It's yet another of those covers where Dracula's threatening to kill his attackers.

I'm starting to think he's got a string sticking out of his back, which you can pull to make him produce various stock phrases, every single one of which ends with the words, "...WITH YOUR DEATH/S!"

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #29, Apeslayer

Apeslayer refusing to take the apes' control of his world lying down.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #10, the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer there, engaging in his favourite pastime of taking a short break from bemoaning that humans fear and distrust him, in order to  attack humans. I think maybe someone needs to explain to him at some point just why attacking people who fear you might be a little counter-productive to your cause.

Mighty World of Marvel #136, Trial of the Hulk

It's another installment of one of my favourite Hulk tales, as Jade Jaws has his day in court.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #10

I do believe this is the tale where Conan's friend gets hanged by the neck for some crime or other, which is quite a powerful thing to put in a comic and therefore a good thing to put in a comic.

Friday 8 May 2015

May 1975 - Marvel Comics, Forty Years Ago Today.

Well what an exciting election that was. But can Marvel Comics' output of exactly forty years ago match it for thrills, spills, outrage, bewilderment, terror, delirium, hatred, madness and confusion?

I know I can. But can Marvel?

Here's where we find out.

Avengers #135, Ultron and the Vision

Yet more of the increasingly interminable Celestial Madonna Saga. I loved reading it at the time but, blimey, it doesn't half seem to drag on when, thanks to doing this feature, you see it unfold in real time. There must have been children who started reading comics, grew up and stopped reading comics by the time it was completed.

Still, you can't complain about getting to see the Vision's origin.

Conan the Barbarian #50

Much as I love Gil Kane, I must confess that that is not the most stylish monster I've ever seen on the cover of a Conan comic.

Daredevil #121, Hydra

I'm not sure if I've read this one. Does it feature a Hawkeye/Iron Man/Nick Fury guest appearance? Or was that a totally different story?

Fantastic Four #158, Xemu

I'm not sure if I've read this one either.

It's not the one with the Outer Space ice hockey goalkeeper, is it?

Incredible Hulk #187, Gremlin

Unlike that comic, I've definitely read this one - and thoroughly approve of it. As a child, I gained strange pleasure from the General Ross Captured By The Russians storyline.

Iron Man #74, MODOK

According to the blurb, it's the battle I demanded.

Which is total rubbish. The battle I demanded was between John Cooper Clarke and Barney the Purple Dinosaur. And still Marvel never gave me it.

I shall never recover from the crushing disappointment.
Amazing Spider-Man #144, Gwen Stacy is alive?

A certain person returns from the dead.

Or does she?

Thor #235, Hercules and Kamo Tharn

I've read this one but don't remember much about it. Was Kamo Tharn some sort of druid or something?

Or was he something to do with Ancient Greece?

Or was he something to do with Conan-style sword and sorcery?

I'm remembering ruins but don't know of what sort.

Captain America and the Falcon #185, Red Skull

I've read this one too - and in the not too distant past. Of course, that doesn't prevent me from failing to remember anything about it. Were there robots in it? Was Bucky in it? Is this the one where we find out the Falcon isn't what he seems to be?

Wednesday 6 May 2015

May 1965 - Marvel Comics, Fifty Years Ago Today.

There may be an election tomorrow but the Steve Does Comics focus is on far more important matters, as I take a look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in this very month of fifty years ago.

Are they delivering an almighty great blow to the ballot box?

Or are they just getting a kick in the marginals?

Avengers #16, Captain America

Hooray! The new cabinet's confirmed, as our new prime minister unveils the bright young team who're going to lead us into the future.
Fantastic Four #38, Frightful Four

It's one of my fave FF tales, as the Frightful Four go slightly overboard in their desire to defeat our heroes - and nuke them.

I'd love to know how the Frightfuls are managing to fit into that tiny ship without having first had the lower halves of their bodies amputated.

Journey Into Mystery #38, Thor vs Loki

Odin once more shows what a total dolt he is, as he makes Thor and Loki battle it out to prove which of them is the more worthy.

Because that's such a difficult thing to decide otherwise.

Bearing in mind the man banging the gong behind them, I'd say it's Rank stupidity but that'd be stealing a joke from Carry On Cleo, which would be naughty as I've vowed to only steal jokes from Carry On Cowboy this week.

Amazing Spider-Man #24

I think this was the first time Spider-Man had cause to doubt his sanity - but it certainly wan't the last.

Strange Tales #132, Thing and the Human Torch

The Torch and the Thing, still defying all odds by clinging on to their own strip.

Tales of Suspense #65, Captain America and Iron Man

A lowdown crook gets his hands on Iron Man's armour, and Starky has to revert to using his original suit.

For some reason, this Iron Man tale was one of my favourite Shellhead tales when I was a sprog.

Tales to Astonish #67, Hulk and Giant-Man

I used to have that Hulk image as a pin-up, mounted on cardboard, on my bedside table, facing my Magic Roundabout wallpaper.

I got it from The Mighty World of Marvel.

I believe the wallpaper came from the local shops.

X-Men #11, The Stranger

The Stranger makes his cosmos-shaking debut.