Thursday 29 October 2015

Hostess Twinkies.

DC Comics Batman Hostess Twinkies ad Everyone knows that I only shop in the classiest of establishments. Why, if Holly Golightly wouldn't be seen dead in a place, neither will I.

And so it is that it's repeatedly come to my attention that my local Poundland now sells Hershey Bars.

Being  a man who likes to experience the produce of exotic alien cultures, I must confess that I've been tempted to buy one.

But paying £1 for a chocolate bar seems a trifle excessive to me, especially as I keep seeing Americans say bad things about them on the internet. There's talk of waxiness, additives and aftertastes, all of which make me wonder if I really want to eat them.

But, of course, I can't see the words, "Hershey Bar," without thinking of two things; Judge Hershey and Hostess Twinkies.

Unlike Hershey Bars, I've never seen a Twinkie. But I do know that every American comic I bought in my youth seemed to include a super-hero trying to convince me to buy them, that I might more easily thwart the schemes of super-villains.

I remember Spider-Man fighting the Human Fly, Captain America fighting the Red Skull, and the Hulk getting knocked out by a partnership of the Wendigo and the Abomination.

Marvel Comics Captain Marvel Hostess Twinkies ad
But, of all the ads, the ones that always stuck in my mind were Batman's encounter with a mummy, and Captain Marvel's battle with Nitro.

I suspect the Batman one was memorable because it involved a dread creature of the supernatural and because of its stylish art, which may or may not have had the involvement of Dick Giordano.

The Captain Marvel one was probably so memorable to me because I've always been taken by Nitro's habit of blowing himself up when anyone gets in his way, which surely has to be one of the least likely and most drastic super-powers of all time.

Of course, I'm not sure the Captain Marvel one makes much sense. Where did the hole in the mountain suddenly appear from?

And how come Robin's anti-mummy gun doesn't work in the other ad? According to Batman it's because you can't kill someone who's already dead. Well, leaving aside the fact that I find it hard to believe Robin would so readily shoot to kill, it's supposed to be an anti-mummy gun. Surely, as it's an anti-mummy gun, it should be designed to work on dead people. If it isn't, in what way is it an anti-mummy gun?

For that matter, how come he has an anti-mummy gun on him anyway? Just how much usage is that likely to get in the course of a typical evening?

Do Hostess Twinkies still exist?

I don't know.

Are they nice?

I don't know.

Do you have to pay £1 for one?

I don't know.

But I do know that they seem to be the greatest weapon ever invented in the fight against both logic and crime. And, surely, that alone justifies their existence.

Sunday 25 October 2015

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

Holy temporal regressions, Batman! It's been an exciting day for us here in Blighty, having to put the clocks back, ready for winter, so that Santa won't turn up at the wrong time.

That is why we do it.

Isn't it?

But Steve Does Comics never does anything by halves. That means I'm turning my clock back way further than sanity itself can withstand.

I'm turning it back forty years, to discover what our favourite comic company was up to in this week of 1975.

It was the week The Pyramids of Mars made its debut in Doctor Who and a very special comic made its debut upon our living room carpets.

Marvel UK, the Titans #1

And it's here - the mag we've been waiting all our lives for, as The Titans hits both the newsagents' shelves and our eyeballs.

I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want to own a comic that has a cover like that? It's practically ordering us to buy it.

Marvel UK, Avengers #110, Sons of the Serpent

I do love how every Shang-Chi tale seems to be billed as, "The Wildest/Greatest/Deadliest Shang-Chi Tale Yet!" And the weird thing was the claims were actually justified.

On other matters, is this Panther tale the first of the John Buscema/Tom Palmer Avengers collaborations?

Come to think of it, in the American originals, weren't there a whole bunch of other stories between the end of the Grandmaster epic and the Sons of the Serpent's return? Does this mean Marvel UK were reprinting things out of sequence again, or am I just misremembering?

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #53

Is the chimp getting shot on this cover the same one who was getting strangled by a gorilla last week?

If so, he doesn't have a lot of luck, does he?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #53

If the blurb's to be believed, it would seem that Dracula's causing terror over the towers of London. That's the last time I ever go anywhere near the Gherkin.

Mighty World of Marvel #160, Jim Starlin cover

Now I'm confused. That cover screams, "Jim Starlin," at me but the signature beneath Daredevil's leg doesn't seem to say, "Jim Starlin." In fact, I can't work out what it says.

Does it say, "Camini/75"?  If so, why have I never heard of a comic book artist called Camini? And why does he draw like Jim Starlin?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #141

Now I'm even more confusederer. That cover screams, "Jim Starlin," at me but the signature says it's by Keith Pollard and Duffy Vohland.

I'm proud to announce that I have heard of Keith Pollard and Duffy Vohland.

It still looks like Jim Starlin though.

Marvel UK, the Super-Heroes #34, Giant Man vs the Human Top

Now I'm even more confusederer.

Oh, OK, I admit it, I'm not. There's nothing confusing about this cover (apart from the perspective).

It is good to see, though, that it features my favourite Giant-Man tale, the one where he repeatedly makes a fool of himself whilst trying to fight the Human Top.

In retrospect, it was quite cute of them to pit the Cat against the Owl as her first super-villain, as a tribute to The Owl and the Pussycat.

Sadly, from what I can recall of the story, neither of them go to sea. Nor do they have a beautiful pea-green boat.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Happy 40th birthday to The Titans.

Forty years ago this week, the world of comics may not have been turned upside down but it was at least turned over onto its side and left lying there for over a year, as Marvel UK launched a comic like no other.

That comic was The Titans and it didn't just throw the rule book in the bin, it then jumped up and down on that bin, until that bin was nothing more than a crumpled pile of scrap metal, left wondering just what the hell had hit it.

Why? Because, in a moment of mad genius, Marvel UK had decided it'd be a great idea to print a comic sideways.

Marvel UK, the Titans #1

Why they decided to do this, I have no idea. Perhaps whoever was in charge was in the habit of tipping their TV over while watching it, or perhaps they'd had a lifelong dream of being buried vertically.

If one put no thought into it at all, the advantages of the policy were clear to see. Obviously, by adopting the format and therefore printing two pages side by side on each sheet, it meant they could publish twice as much material as before, at no greater expense.

Marvel UK, the Titans #14, Captain Marvel

But it also meant it was guaranteed to run out of reprint material twice as fast as a normal mag.

Considering the problems they'd had with Planet of the Apes running out of reprint material, and that their Super-Heroes title was already reduced to giving us Ant-Man and the Cat in its search for stories, it does seem amazing that this didn't occur to them.

Of course, none of that mattered at all to an eleven year old reader. To an eleven year old, all that mattered was that we suddenly got twice as much entertainment on a Saturday as we could have hoped for.

Bearing in mind that Saturday was a day notorious for giving us nothing to watch on TV until Mick McManus showed up at teatime to forearm smash people in the face, this was a development that could only be welcomed.

Its voracious nature also meant that we got to read the adventures of Marvel's less commercially viable stars like Nick Fury, the Sub-Mariner and the Inhumans.

Marvel UK, the Titans #28, Captain America

Unlike The Super-Heroes, The Avengers, Dracula Lives and Savage Sword of Conan, I managed to read the first issue. Not only that but I was grabbed by it at once.

Maybe there was something wrong with me but I actually preferred the smaller artwork it presented us with. I also appreciated the chance to discover the adventures of characters who wouldn't have been able to find house space in comics that could afford to be more choosy about their material. And because of all this, from the moment I first saw it, I had no doubt at all that truly this was a comic that, like Janus the Nega-Man, was destined for greatness.

Marvel UK, the Titans #51, the Fantastic Four

Well, as it turned out, it wasn't. It lasted barely more than a year before it merged with Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes, which had by then also adopted the sideways format.

For me, its highlights were it introducing me to Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel and Jim Steranko's Captain America, not to mention giving us the last couple of years of Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four and also bringing us the conclusion of the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War, a saga that was born in the Avengers' own mag, spent its middle age in the Mighty World of Marvel and finally claimed its death bed in The Titans. You have to hand it to Marvel UK, they could at times be chaotic but they never gave you the chance to get complacent.

Marvel UK, the Titans #43, the Fantastic Four

So, in the end, The Titans didn't revolutionise comics or even moderately change them but it was, in its time, possibly my favourite Marvel mag, precisely because of the things that wiser men than me might claim were its failings.

Marvel UK, the Titans #58, the Avengers

Sunday 18 October 2015

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

It's been an exciting week here in 2015, with the revelation that the Kepler space telescope may have discovered evidence of giant artificial structures orbiting a distant star - meaning there may well be intelligent life out there.

But, back in 1975, we knew there was intelligent life down here.

How? Because only the mightiest of intellects could possibly have been behind the treats that awaited us when we opened the covers of Marvel UK's latest output.

Marvel UK, Avengers #109

It's the Invaders who'll soon be seeing stars, as they foolishly take on the Avengers.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #52

The caption implies that Dracula is inside the room.

The picture implies he's outside the room.

Which is the deadly truth?

I never got to find out, as I never had the comic.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #52

It's more escaping from the Planet of the Apes. Although escaping from the forearm of the apes appears to be a more demanding challenge.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #140, Morbius

It's a classic tale for Spidey.

But what I remember most about this issue is me suddenly realising that the colours on its cover consisted of tiny dots - and me therefore subsequently trying to colour in a picture by using tiny, hand-drawn dots.

I soon realised that such an act was more trouble than it was worth, and I never again dared repeat such a dread experiment.

Mighty World of Marvel #159, Hulk vs Tiger Shark

Its the return of Tiger Shark - and the return of that cover from just five issues ago. Let's see how they compare.

Marvel UK, Super-Heroes #33, X-Men

My knowledge of the Mimic comes entirely from his early 1970s appearance in the Hulk's comic.

I always liked that tale.

Not having read it, I can make no comment about this one.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

2000 AD - September 1977.

In September 1977, the real world went well and truly sci-fi as, from Copenhagen to Vladivostok, people witnessed the Petrozavodsk Phenomenon, a UFO event so big and baffling that it's beyond my comprehension and seemingly that of anyone else.

Given such perturbing occurrences, was there anywhere we could find refuge from our extra-terrestrial torment?

Why, yes there was. We could find it by burying ourselves in the pages of the galaxy's greatest comic.

2000 AD, Prog 28

It would seem that this is the issue in which Dave Gibbons took over from Massimo Bellardinelli on the Dan Dare strip.

But who was best? Gibbons or Bellardinelli?

That I cannot answer, as I love them both.

In the meantime, you can read my review of a Bellardinelli Dan Dare story, by clicking on this link.

2000 AD, Prog 29

It's another of those issues whose covers I recognise but whose contents somehow elude my memory.

My hawk-like senses do however detect that Trafalgar Square may be involved.

2000 AD, Prog 30

My extensive research tells me this is the issue in which, Rico - Judge Dredd's clone brother - first appears.

All of which instantly reminds me of Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd movie. It would seem that I'm the only person in the world who likes it. From this, I can only concludes that this makes me a special person with special tastes.

2000 AD, Prog 31

This is one of the 2000 AD covers I remember most strongly.

As always, that means I recall nothing at all of the issue's actual contents or of the story that this cover represents. You have to hand it to this blog, it's nothing if not unenlightening.

Sunday 11 October 2015

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

On October 11th, 1975, Model World made its first appearance on BBC television. In it, Robert Alexander Baron Schutzmann von Schutzmansdorff showed us all how to make a model railway from bits of paper and cardboard.

Believe it or not, this was the most interesting thing that happened in the world on that day.

There was only one thing for it! We were going to have to take refuge in the thrills and spills of Marvel UK, as never before!

Marvel UK, the Avengers #108

The Avengers take on what would become known as the Invaders, in what my razor-sharp senses tell me can only be Blackpool.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #51

Dracula, getting quite trad on that cover.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #51

We're still escaping from the Planet of the Apes.

We're given no clues at all as to what the back-up strips are.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #139, Morbius

Spidey's up against Morbius, and Iron Man's still up against AIM. This must be the nineteenth consecutive week that shellhead's been up against them.

Mighty World of Marvel #158, Hulk vs Tiger Shark

If we don't count that cover from the other week, Tiger Shark makes what I believe is his Marvel UK debut.

I've always liked Tiger Shark. I admire anyone who wears a fin on his head.

Marvel UK, the Super-Heroes #32, X-Men, Cat and Ant-Man

It might be good news for Tiger Shark admirers but it's terrible news for Ant-Man fans. No sooner has he made his debut than he turns into Giant-Man.

I'm not sure why the Cat's been coloured green on two consecutive covers, when her costume was yellow in the US originals. Whatever the reason, you can read my review of that origin of the Cat, right here.

It does strike me that all the heroes on this cover ended up being replaced in their roles by someone else. The Original X-Men were replaced by the New X-Men, Greer Nelson was replaced as the Cat by Patsy Walker's Hellcat, and Hank Pym was replaced as Ant-Man by Scott Lang. It seems that birds of a feather really do flock together.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Forty years ago today - October 1975.

Holy High Density PolyEthylene, Batman, it's been an exciting week here in England, with the introduction of the five pence charge for plastic carrier bags.

Sadly, thanks to having a great mountain of carrier bags at home, stored inside another mountain of carrier bags, I fear it'll be a good twenty years before I get round to actually buying one.

But what of October of forty years ago? Could our favourite heroes manage to match such heights of excitement?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers #140

In a shocking twist capable of wrenching a man's sanity from his very brain, the Vision carries out a manoeuvre that's known in the trade as The Reverse Neal Adams.

Conan the Barbarian #55

I seem to recall that this issue features a giant scorpion and a killer shadow.

Admittedly, the cover makes that fairly obvious but I'm still impressed by my feat of memory.

Captain America and the Falcon #190

Is it my imagination or did Cap come up against that robot, way back in Jack Kirby's time on the strip, when Nick Fury was offering him a job with SHIELD?

Daredevil #126, the Torpedo

If he's called The Torpedo, does that mean he has to keep being fired from a submarine?

Having to be fired from a submarine every time you want to go anywhere must start to get quite tiresome for a man after a while.

Fantastic Four #163

It's the moment we've all been waiting for, as Gaard shows up.

Next issue, the FF find themselves up against the deadly threat of Wikketkeeper - and, the issue after, they're facing the terrifying menace of Centralholdingmidfielda.

Iron Man #79

Iron Man finds himself battling a pair of foes I have never heard of before.

To be honest, I'd stay away from any mountain called Murder Mountain. I might suspect it's not very safe.

Amazing Spider-Man #149, the Jackal

At last we get a conclusion to the Jackal saga - and the truth about the return of Gwen Stacy.

Not to mention the launchpad of the Clone Saga that everyone loved so much.

Thor #240

Isn't this the story where, for some reason, Odin decides to do to himself what he did to Thor when he banished him to Earth and made him be Don Blake?

No doubt that, by doing so, he needlessly puts the whole universe in massive amounts of danger and then, after Thor's sorted it all out for him, decides to punish him for it.

You can always rely on Odin to be a complete and total imbecile at all times.

X-Men #95

Only the other day, I was saying I've always wanted to be an Ani-Man, and now here they are, back again.

You do have to fear though that if they couldn't beat Daredevil, they must have little chance against the all-new X-Men.

Incredible Hulk #192, Loch Fear

The Hulk comes up against the Loch Ness Monster.

Tragically, much as TV dramas and sitcoms filmed in Sheffield never admit they're set in Sheffield, so the tale never admits it's the Loch Ness Monster.

Still, the tale does at least compensate us for that by giving us the most painstakingly researched portrayal of Scottish people since James Doohan prowled the corridors of the Enterprise and kept calling everyone, "Wee Laddie."

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Fifty years ago today - October 1965.

October 1965 was a great month if you were a tall thing. Not only did London's Post Office Tower open but St Louis' Gateway Arch topped-out and Wales' tallest structure the Moel-y-Parc transmitter was first activated.

But what of our favourite Marvel heroes of this month of fifty years ago?

Were they too standing tall?

Or were they brought low by life's vicissitudes?

Avengers #21, Power Man

Power Man makes his senses-shattering debut - and looks like he's doing a fair bit of Avengers shattering while he's at it.

Daredevil #10

I was going to say that Daredevil's all-red costume makes its debut this issue but it turns out he's been wearing it for several months now and I'd totally failed to notice.

In other news, I've always wanted to be one of the Ani-Men. I've never been sure which one. To be honest, any of them will do. Even the one who dresses up as a frog.

Fantastic Four #43

I do feel I should start more sentences with the word, "Lo!"

Journey into Mystery #121, Thor vs Absorbing Man

Hooray! the Absorbing Man's still causing trouble.

I do wish I had absorbing powers. If I had absorbing powers and was an Ani-Man, I do feel that nothing could stop me in life.

Amazing Spider-Man #29, the Scorpion is back

The Scorpion's back.

Strange Tales #137, SHIELD

No disrespect to SHIELD and its agents but I can't help feeling I'd be more inclined to buy this comic if Dr Strange was on the cover.

Tales of Suspense #70, Captain America

Captain America's still doing his World War Two thing.

I think this may have featured George Tuska's first Silver Age Marvel work but don't quote me on that, as I'm saying it from memory and don't really have a clue what I'm talking about.

Tales to Astonish #72, Sub-Mariner

Unless I miss my guess, Warlord Krang is up to no good.

You do wonder why Namor ever made him a warlord. All he ever seemed to do was try to start wars.