Thursday, 27 August 2015

Evel Knievel - As Seen In; Conan the Barbarian #46

Evel Knievel, Marvel Comics ad Sometimes in life, you set yourself challenges you suspect are doomed to failure by their very nature.

Earlier this week, I decided that for my next post I'd grab a random comic from my domestic pile and write about whatever I found within it that wasn't actual story.

Clearly this was a recipe for disaster, as I couldn't guarantee there'd be anything inside, other than story, that was worth writing about.

This in mind, I randomly grabbed Conan the Barbarian #46 and plunged right in.

And blow me down if I didn't find enough potential material in there to keep me in blog posts for a lifetime.

The biggest of those things is on the back cover.

It's an advert.

It's not just any advert.

It's an advert for the Evel Knievel action figure and his assorted stunt vehicles.

In the grim days of the 1970s, if you were British, your knowledge of America came entirely from reading American comics, watching American cop shows in which it was always sunny, and watching short features about American sporting events on ITV's World of Sport. Thus it was that we were introduced to the wonders of competitive tree felling, log rolling, drag racing, beaver wrestling and something Dishy Dickie Davies always called Grid Iron.

It was also through World of Sport that we got virtually our only exposure to a man called Evel Knievel.

Sadly, every exposure we got to Evel Knievel through that means seemed to involve him trying to jump over things we'd never heard of and hurting himself upon impact.

Evel Knievel, it seemed, never had landings.

He only had impacts.

If he ever succeeded in actually jumping over anything, World of Sport resolutely refused to show it, as, every time they featured him, he seemed to end up in traction, having only got halfway across whatever it was he was trying to jump over. You couldn't deny his courage but whether he was actually in the right profession was not at all clear.

But of course, our other exposure to him came from the ads on the back of Marvel comics. How triumphant he seemed in those ads - and how at odds with the image we got of him through television.

I must admit I never wanted an Evel Knievel stunt figure. It may have been because I associated him with nearly killing himself every time he left the house. It may be because he seemed to have the same tailor as Elvis Presley. Or maybe, somehow, he felt like Hostess Twinkies and Cup Cakes in being things that somehow seemed too resolutely American for anyone British to genuinely get.

Still, I can at least say that, thanks to Evel Knievel, I know of the existence of Snake River Canyon - even if I still, to this day, have no idea where it is - and that must surely be something to thank him for.

Conan the Barbarian #46, Shokkoth!


Colin Jones said...

There was an Evel Knievel cartoon too which I liked to watch but my father wasn't very happy about it as he thought it would encourage me to want a motorbike - my uncle was severely injured in a motorbike crash just after leaving university in 1959 and he had to walk on crutches for the rest of his life and one of our neighbours was killed, aged 17, on his motorbike in 1974 so motorbikes were BAD - anyway, my dad didn't need to worry as I had no intention of ever getting a motorbike, I just liked the Evel Knievel cartoon :)

Anonymous said...

I had that Evel Knievel figure with his little bike and that ramp that rocketed him into danger, or at least two feet across the living room.
What happened to him? My dog happened to him, that's what. That was one challenge he did not survive.
It was a cool toy, but it would have been more realistic if Evel had come equipped with a bottle of whiskey and a baseball bat, like the real-life Evel.
Maybe it would have scared my dog off.

Paul McScotty- Muir said...

I had a wee grin on my face reading this Steve, I couldn't agree more as I also associated Evil Knievel with err "impacts" on World Of Sport - I remember the toy being advertised on UK TV a lot but I was 15 when this comic came out so was getting a bit to old for toys like this (except Subbuteo which I loved) - I bought a motorbike when I was 20 and sold it again about 6 week later for a £500 loss, best decision I ever made dangerous things indeed ( decided to get my car license instead)

Incidentally I picked up my first "Twinkie" ever (well I got 2 in a pack) on Friday in one of those pound stores its only a very sweet filing in a sponge and nothing special certainly wasn't worth all the years I wondered what they tasted like as a kid (most of it and the 2nd one went straight in the bin).

Steve W. said...

It's weird you should say that, Paul. I saw some Hershey Bars in Poundland about a month ago and was tempted to buy them but then resisted, as I'd seen Americans slagging them off on the internet and I therefore feared I might not like them.

Anonymous said...

I recall wondering why Evil Knievel was ever featured on World of Sport, Steve. I mean, how is riding a motorbike over - or into - a load of buses or whatever or crashing a jet contraption into a canyon sport?
Its hard to imagine Frank Bough introducing that kind of thing on Grandstand.

Once, they even had the Human Fly on World of Sport doing some bollocks stunt. You remember him, right? The only superhero who's real.... (what were Marvel thinking?)


Steve W. said...

Sean, I do remember the Human Fly. I think I even had one issue of his comic. I seem to remember The World of Sport showing him walking around on top of a flying jumbo jet or something.

As for Evel, the other night I watched a documentary on Youtube, about his Snake River Canyon jump. It was a bit perturbing to see that the event was stewarded by men with rifles, presumably under orders to shoot people who misbehaved. What a fun even that must have been to attend.

Phil said...

I had that Evel Knievel toy and I'm telling you it was great. You stuck him in a contraption that you wound up by winding it and were supposed to slowly bring to a halt. That launched the toy bike forward. Of course what you did was stop suddenly which would make the bike careen off and do wild back flips, crash and flip over multiple times just like real life!
Unfortunately Evel himself was a wire frame toy so after a while his wire bones broke ( just like real life) and he would limply try and hold onto the bike.
But what a great toy. Should bring it back.

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