Wednesday 29 July 2015

Charlton Comics' Yang #5 - Video Review.

Charlton Comics' Yang #5, Bigfoot
Grab your shurikens, Grandma! It's time for my latest video review as I take a look at Charlton Comics' stab at leaping on the early 1970s' Kung Fu craze.

Looking at the covers on the Grand Comics Database, it would appear that my household at one point possessed half the issues of Yang that ever existed.

Clearly it must have made a greater impression than all logic might suggest it would have done.

Sunday 26 July 2015

July 26th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

I've recently seen the latest James Bond trailer. A fact which has nothing to do with the rest of this post but I can't think of a relevant introduction for it, so I thought I'd best mention something completely random and hope I can turn it into a viable link.

It looks like a very nice trailer, though I must confess I've still not managed to see any of the Daniel Craig Bond movies and therefore have no idea as to whether they're any good or not.

I've also never seen any of the Harry Potter films.

I can't help feeling I'm being remiss in my duties to British cultural imperialism.

There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to take refuge in that other brand that's as British as fish and chips and look at what our favourite comic company was up to in this week of exactly forty years ago.

Good grief, I actually managed to turn it into a viable link. I'm starting to think there are no miracles I can't perform when armed with a keyboard.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #128, London

And blow me down if Marvel UK haven't gone more British than ever.

Intriguingly, on the original US cover for this story, the Houses of Parliament were visible in the background, while, on this UK reprint, they've mysteriously disappeared.

I suspect this may be because someone feared that UK readers would know the Houses of Parliament are not next to Tower Bridge. But I could be wrong.

Marvel UK Avengers #97, Goliath and the Swordsman

The Swordsman's back - and still no doubt using the flat of his blade.

Someone really needs to tell him how you're supposed to use a sword. It's like the Punisher using a gun that fires nothing but ping pong balls.

Marvel UK Dracula Lives #40

Dracula's up to his usual villainy.

Marvel UK Planet of the Apes #40, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

How on Earth can he not see those apes? They're not even trying to hide from him.

The Mighty World of Marvel #147, The Defenders

The Defenders make their dynamic debut, with the help of a Neal Adams cover.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #21, the Silver Surfer

I have no idea what happens in this one. Have we reached the story with the Inhumans in it yet?

Thursday 23 July 2015

2000 AD - June 1977.

Hold on tight - because it's time for us to once more leap backwards into the future and find out what IPC's greatest ever comic was giving us in June of 1977. What thrills did it have? What spills?

2000AD #15, MACH 1

The last time I was in the Himalayas, a Sherpa asked me if I'd seen an abominable snowman since I'd got there. My reply? "Not yeti."

To be frank, I don't know if that joke makes any sense at all to anyone but it was the only one I could think of that had anything to do with this cover, so it'll have to do.

2000AD #16

Who could forget Barry Manilow's immortal words, "Bermuda Triangle. Don't go too near."?

Clearly, the denizens of 2000 AD could, as they find themselves in a right mess.

That cover reminds me of that legendary film Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, where the shark leaps about eleven thousand feet up out of the water and attacks the Jumbo Jet.

2000AD #17, Flesh

There's a sight you don't see every day.

But it's always good to see the return of Exposition Man. I do feel I should have one of my own; "Steve's crossing the road! He's entering a shop! He's looking at the price of yogurt!"

2000AD #18, Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd; a man with a head for law-enforcement.

Sunday 19 July 2015

July 19th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1975, the Bay City Rollers were sat supreme at Number One on the UK singles chart, with Give a Little Love. I remember sinking into a deep trough of despair at the time, when this happened, and standing outside a shop, peering in through its windows and praying their careers would die.

Obviously, now that I'm much older, such frustration is gone and I can now appreciate the Bay City Rollers and their contribution to Popular Music.

Well, alright, I can't. I can merely mock their memory, in a graceless manner unbecoming of me. But, after forty years, I do at least feel that I can afford to be magnanimous and finally forgive them their sins. Plus, nostalgia has a strange way of lending charm to even the most unlikely of things.

I do get the feeling though that the heroes of Marvel UK's mags weren't being quite so forgiving of their tormentors' sins.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #127, London

Blinky blonky blimey, governor, Spider-Perisher's in London and fighting those blighters who are out to blow up Her Majesty's Big Ben, like dirty rotten cads, what ho?

As you can hear, I do have a quite superb British accent, having been practising it for many years.

In other news, I am quite impressed by terrorists who drive around in Rolls Royces.

Marvel UK, Avengers and Savage Sword of Conan #96

It's more action than the human mind can possibly hope to even dream of accommodating, as the newly merged mag flings everything it can at us.

Mighty World of Marvel #146, Hulk vs Hulk

The Hulk's well and truly back in Jarella Land.

I've got a feeling that this issue may have had an advert for Dinky Toys' Space: 1999 Eagle on the back but I couldn't swear to it for certain.

If it does, it was the first time I learned of that show's existence.

If it doesn't, it wasn't.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #39, Dracula vs Werewolf By Night

Given the total lack of fighting skills, tactical nous and intelligence of Jack Russell's hairy alter-ego, it's hard to see how a fight between him and Dracula could be anything but a one-sided smackdown but, nonetheless, that tussle reaches its second issue.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #39, Beneath the Planet of the Apes

What a nice cover. It was always a treat when Marvel UK decided to reprint one of the US originals instead of commissioning a new one.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #20, the Silver Surfer vs the Overlord

I've no idea what's going on here but the bad guy does have an air of the villains in Marvel's adaptation of Gullivar Jones about him.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.

Worlds Unknown #7, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Apart from Rod Stewart, has there ever been a more famous sailor than Sinbad; that daring explorer who never turned down a chance to tangle with giant eggs?

There are those who'll tell you he was Chinese. There are those who'll tell you he was from the Middle East. There are even some mad fools who'll tell you he never existed at all.

One thing's for sure, all our childhoods would have been an awful lot duller if not for the inspiration he gave to Ray Harryhausen.

But Sinbad wasn't alone in enlivening our youthful lives.

So did Marvel Comics.

And so, when it happened, it seemed only appropriate that the worlds of Marvel and Harryhausen should at last be combined as Worlds Unknown #7 gave us an adaptation of Harryhausen's classic film The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Here's what's going down in Sinbadland. Sinbad is sailing around when one of his men spots a small, flying creature and, for no good reason, tries to shoot it, causing it to drop the strange metal object it's been carrying.

Not bothering to ask any philosophical questions about the ethicality of shooting at things that are doing you no harm, and then stealing what they're  carrying, Sinbad soon finds himself in the city of Marabia where he slaps around the object's rightful owner and then finds himself being recruited by the local, golden-masked king, to help thwart an evil wizard called Koura who, as we all know, was played in the film by the legend that is Tom Baker.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Needless to say, for reasons I'm not totally clear about, this sets Sinbad and Koura on a sea-born race to reach an island and learn whatever its secret is.

But that's not before Koura brings the wooden figurehead of Sinbad's ship to life and gets it to steal our hero's charts.

It's at this point that issue #7 terminates and we learn that we're going to have to wait for issue #8 to find out how it all ends.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
Obviously, we all know how it all ends, because we've all seen the movie.

In fact, we've seen it frequently. Mostly every bank holiday Monday, because it's on TV every bank holiday Monday and has been for about thirty five years.

Therein may lie the adaptation's Achilles heel.

Which is that we've all seen the movie and can therefore directly compare it to the comic.

And it's in this direct comparison that the fatal flaw in the concept of adapting a Ray Harryhausen movie is revealed.

That's that the central pleasure of any Harryhausen film dwells not within its plot and characters. It dwells within seeing rubber models come to life and fight people. Sadly, in a comic, that thrill's lost, as there are no rubber monsters in it, just drawings on a page; drawings of monsters and drawings of people. Hence there's no gap between the real and fantastical elements and the enchantment is lost.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.
There's also the problem that there's very little difference between a Sinbad tale and a Conan tale and, by this stage, Marvel had been doing Conan tales for years - but with the advantage that they weren't tied to a movie script and could therefore make the strip far more dynamic, in the mighty Marvel style, with a freedom that a faithful movie adaptation inevitably lacks.

Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Worlds Unknown #7.It's written by Len Wein, and it's drawn by George Tuska and Vince Colletta and, while the art's not off-putting (Tuska makes things less cartoony than he sometimes does), nor is it particularly gripping. Restricted by the need for faithfulness, the thing does often feel as wooden as Sinbad's murderous figurehead.

In the end, it's not terrible, it's all competently done but it does feel rather by-the-numbers and thus lacks the atmosphere and magic of the movie.

But the main appeal for me lies in seeing Brian Clemens get a first-page credit.

As a producer and writer, Clemens was of course strongly involved in such treasures as The Avengers, The Persuaders, The Protectors and The Professionals, not to mention Adam Adamant Lives and the cinematic oddities that were And Soon The Darkness, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Captain Kronos. And if that isn't enough to make him deserve being immortalised in a comic, I don't know what would be.

Sunday 12 July 2015

July 12th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

July 12th was an exciting Friday for all fans of Marvel UK.


Because it was the week The Savage Sword of Conan disappeared completely from the newsagents of Britain.

Admittedly, that in itself wasn't particularly exciting - especially if you happened to be from Cimmeria and had been rooting for your local hero.

However, it did mean Conan suddenly moved into the Avengers' mag.

As I read The Avengers every week and had never even seen an issue of Savage Sword of Conan, this was very exciting for me - especially as it featured tales from Barry Smith's peak period on the strip.

It was, however, the first time Marvel UK had suffered the indignity of having to merge two comics due to poor sales. But, if we'd momentarily feared that it signalled the start of a bleaker new era for the company, we could always rely on their remaining mags to divert our thoughts from such musings.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #126, the Beetle

Help! Help! They're kidnapping Marisa Tomei!

Meanwhile, Lee and Kirby's attempt to make sense of Thor's origin continues apace.

Marvel UK, The Avengers and Conan #95

This is it! We suddenly have a comic that features the Avengers, Conan, Dr Strange and Shang-Chi. There may be no common thread linking those four strips but what kind of lunatic wouldn't want a combination like that?

What with the Avengers' Adamantium Ultron storyline and the Dr Strange Shuma-Gorath tale, I'm trying to work out if this meant there were any issues in this period when The Avengers, Conan and Dr Strange strips were all simultaneously drawn by Barry Smith.

Mighty World of Marvel #145, The Hulk

"Don't count on it, baldy!"? Are they sure he now has the mind of Bruce Banner? I don't recall Bruce Banner ever talking like that.

I do, however, believe this signals that the Hulk is back in the land of Jarella.

The bad news is that the Jester's back in the land of Daredevil.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #38, Dracula vs Werewolf by Night

I had the original US version of this tale, which was nicely pleasing for me.

Sadly, I can't remember anything at all that happens in it.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #38

Yeah! That's right! I'm going to strangle you into taking me to Ape City, whether you like it or not! Even though you were almost certainly going there anyway, what with it being the only inhabited place on Earth known to the simian denizens of the Planet of the Apes movies!

Meanwhile, Marvel's adaptation of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad continues. A tale I aim to be reviewing in the not-too-distant future, provided I can find my copy.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #19, the Silver Surfer

I'd love to know what the story is behind this cover. It's always struck me as being very un-Marvel-like. It does have a relaxing elegance to it though.

Friday 10 July 2015

Marisa Tomei is Aunt May!

Marisa Tomei is the new Aunt May in the new Spider-Man movie
Marisa Tomei, by David Shankbone
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
As we all know, the greatest casting decision in the history of Hollywood was the one to hire John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.

Who better for that part than a man determined to play a medieval Mongolian warlord as if he were the sheriff of Dodge City?

But now there's an even greater casting decision been made - because the internet has informed me that Marisa Tomei is to play Aunt May in the next Spider-Man movie.

I would put it to the world that this is not only the greatest casting decision in the history of humanity. It's probably the greatest decision of any kind in the history of humanity.

Quite frankly, this is an act of perverse genius.

It's perverse because, on the face of it, it makes no sense at all to cast a woman who is sex on legs as an ailing octogenarian widow.

On the other hand, it's genius because it means we presumably won't have to endure the sight of Aunt May doddering around, clutching her chest and declaring, "My heart!" every time anything exciting happens. Something she managed to do almost every month for all the years in which I was a reader of the strip.

I can understand that having a character constantly on the verge of death does add dramatic tension to a strip but it also, like Aunt May, does tend to get old very quickly.

The casting also deals with the problem I've moaned about before on this blog. Which is, just how exactly can a boy who gets his powers in his mid-teens possibly have an aunt who appears to be in her eighties? To achieve this, she'd have to be older than her own mother. In fact, she'd probably have to be older than her own grandmother.

But of course the thing that really makes it a stroke of genius is it's Marisa Tomei. Unlike John Wayne, Marisa Tomei is a brilliant actor and should, by law, be in every film ever made.

And that's why it's a great decision.

Because, in the end, it's how good the cast are that'll make the film work. Not how old they are.

I therefore - despite the hornets' nest the casting has stirred up - give a great big Steve Does Comics thumbs-up to the greatest casting choice ever.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Forty years ago today - July 1975.

There are times in this life when no introduction is necessary.

Sadly, this isn't one of them.

That's somewhat unfortunate, as I can't actually think of an introduction.

Therefore, in the style of that woman in The Valley of Gwangi who made a living out of diving into a tub of water, on horseback, I'll simply plunge in at the deep end and look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in July of exactly forty years ago.

Avengers #137, the Beast

I seem to remember this is that tale where the Avengers keep leaping into exploding floating balls for no good reason at all, until the Beast rescues them by coming up with the radical plan of not leaping into exploding floating balls.

No wonder he was seen as being the intellectual of the X-Men.

Conan the Barbarian #52

This was the first colour Conan comic I ever owned, bought in an indoor market in Blackpool.

I seem to recall it features a giant golden scorpion which - inevitably - comes to life and has to be stopped by Conan.

Captain America #187, the Demon-Druid

I don't have a clue if this Demon-Druid is related to the Demon Druid who once fought Thor, nor why he's wearing an outfit that doesn't in any way, shape or form suggest the word, "Druid," to me.

Daredevil #123

I've read this one but am struggling to recall anything about it.

I do like El Jaguar's mittens though.

Fantastic Four #160, Arkon

I've never read this one but am familiar with Arkon and have long been of the opinion that he needs a good slap.

Incredible Hulk #189, the Mole Man

It's the first ever Hulk tale to be narrated in the first person, by the Hulk. Which, as the Hulk normally tends to refer to himself in the third person, is a strange concept indeed.

Iron Man #76, the Hulk

I'm not sure I've ever read this one - unless it turns out the Hulk is actually a robot working for the Mandarin. In which case, I have read it.

Amazing Spider-Man #146, the Scorpion

It's not just Conan who's having trouble with scorpions this month. So is Spider-Man.

Thor #237, Ulik

Another story that I'm not sure I'm familiar with.

I like to think Ulik wins this time. I've always liked Ulik and am always disappointed when he loses.

Sunday 5 July 2015

July 5th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This week in 1975, 10cc were Number One on the UK singles chart, with I'm Not In Love.

I suppose it's a classic of sorts but I'm not sure I'm a fan of it. To be honest, I always found that woman on it a bit creepy.

Who was she even supposed to be? Was she his girlfriend? His mother?

For some reason, I've always had it in my head that she was his kinky cyber-nurse from a future too weird to imagine.

Reader, that future is here

But the kinky cyber-nurse isn't.

Therefore, I'll occupy myself by looking back at what Marvel UK were flinging at us in the week when we were being so strongly reminded that big boys don't cry.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #125

I'm assuming this is that Beetle tale where John Romita gets to re-tell Spidey's origin.

But, let's face it, that pales into insignificance before the consciousness-expanding greatness that is Thor's true origin, where they finally try to make sense of the whole Don Blake/Thor situation - and actually succeed!

Marvel UK, Avengers #94

It's the story where we finally notice that, despite him having been around for years, we've never previously found out what Hawkeye's real name is.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #37

I've never read this one but I like to think it's a tribute to the legendary movie Horror Express.

I have no reason for thinking it might be. I just like the thought that it could be.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #37

It's all getting macho on the Planet of the Apes.

Macho on the Planet of the Apes would have been a great title for one of those, "movies," that were cobbled together from episodes of the TV series.

Granted, it's possible that the world may not agree with that sentiment.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #18

That's no thing in a temple. That's the dread Cancellation Monster that's closing in on our hero. I could be wrong but I think this may be the last ever issue of Marvel UK's Savage Sword of Conan.

Mighty World of Marvel #144, Hulk vs Captain Axis

It's the news we've all been praying for. It's the death of Mike Murdock. I remain amazed that fireworks weren't set off around the nation when it happened.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes, Silver Surfer vs the Stranger

The Stranger's back, and causing no end of trouble for our pewter powerhouse.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Fifty years ago today - July 1965.

Melting Meteorologists! It's been the hottest day in over a decade, here in Perfidious Albion!

But how hot were things getting for our favourite Marvel heroes, way back in the month when I Got You, Babe was released, Bob Dylan first went electric, Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative Party and Help hit the cinema screens?

There's only one way to find out...

Avengers #18, the Commissar

In the immortal words of Austrian pop legend Falco, the Commissar's in town.

And this is the first tale featuring the Kooky Quartet that I ever read. To this very day, I still recall the tale's shock denouement.

Granted, it wasn't that big a shock, bearing in mind it was the exact same denouement Stan Lee gave us in about fifty percent of the tales he wrote in the 1960s, but, still...

Fantastic Four #40. Daredevil and Dr Doom

Dr Doom's still causing trouble at the Baxter Building.

Journey Into Mystery #118, Thor vs the Destroyer

It's one of my Thor favourites, as our long-haired hero comes up against a foe who seems to be genuinely unstoppable.

Amazing Spider-Man #26, the Crime-Master

On the other hand, I'm not so keen on this one, as the webbed wonder finds himself as the meat in a Green Goblin/Crime-Master sandwich.

Strange Tales #134, the Watcher

A genuinely strange and disturbing cover for the Thing and Torch.

Tales of Suspense #67, Iron Man and Captain America

I'm assuming this is the one where Iron Man thinks he's dreaming that he's up against a bunch of his old foes, when he's not dreaming at all.

Or something like that.

Count Nefaria was involved. That's all I'm sure of.

Meanwhile, it looks like it's joined by the one where Captain America falls victim to the Red Skull's mind-control methodology.

Tales to Astonish #69, Giant-Man and the Hulk

I have no idea at all as to what happens in either of these tales. I do, though, love the title Oh Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting?

X-Men #12, the Juggernaut

The X-Men get themselves a higher class of foe than usual, as the Juggernaut shows up.