Wednesday 30 December 2015

Marvel UK annuals, 1976.

As we all know, the greatest feature on the internet is the one where I post the covers of what Marvel UK were publishing forty years ago and then declare that I don't have a clue what happened in any of them.

But, of course, this time of year in 1975 was a very special one - because it was the time of year when the youth of Britain were ploughing their way through big Marvel UK comics. Big Marvel UK comics with hard covers.

That's right.

It was annual time!

Despite the company publishing seven weekly titles in late 1975, there were only three annuals that year. I didn't have any of them. What a nightmare Christmas it must have been.

Avengers Annual 1976

It would appear that this book features the Valkyrie's debut, the first appearance of Arkon and a battle with the Squadron Supreme.

The Arkon one must have been a bit of a disappointment, bearing in mind that it had only recently appeared in the weekly mags.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could have been disappointed with the Valkyrie tale.

Marvel Annual 1976

I can find nothing at all on the internet that tells me what's contained within this book.

I assume, from the cover, that the Hulk's in it and that it features the work of happy Herb Trimpe but couldn't swear to that in a court of law.

Spider-Man Annual 1976

It seems that this features Ship of Fiends, Spider-Man Tackles the Torch and Dinosaurs on Broadway.

I'm trying to recall if the first of those is the Spider-Man vs Dracula tale and the third is the one where Stegron brings dinosaur skeletons to life. The Human Torch story could, of course, be one of a whole host of tales.

Maybe it's just me but I can't see the phrase Dinosaurs on Broadway without thinking of the Dr Who story Daleks in Manhattan. The shot of the half-human/half dalek at the end of that episode will be burned into my mind forever.

And not in a good way.

Sunday 27 December 2015

December 27th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hooray! Santa's stuck in my chimney, Rudolph's eating my sofa and The Snowman's walking in my hair. It can only mean one thing.

It's more or less Christmas.

That means it's time to find out what tinsel-packed goodness Marvel UK was giving us on this very day of forty years ago.

Were they dishing out turkeys, left, right and centre?

Or were they giving us a veritable smorgasbord of crackers?

Marvel UK, Avengers #119

There aren't many Avengers tales from this era that don't grab me but, somehow, I've never been able to warm to the Cornelius van Lunt storyline. I think I just feel a need for super-villains in an Avengers tale.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #62, Legion of Monsters

Much as I might love Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night, I can't help feeling that, if Dracula really wants to take over the world, they'll prove more of a hindrance than a help, seeing as they tend to have a somewhat unfocused approach to life. In fact, when it comes to usefulness as partners, I'd feel happier about using Oddbod and Oddbod Jr from Carry On Screaming than those two.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #62, Cornelius holds his dead wife as helicopters fire at them

Once more Cornelius finds himself up against people who took shooting training from the Star Wars Storm Troopers. Someone really does need to tell them that if you point your gun at the ground, you're not in any great danger of hitting anyone.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #150, our hero cornered as people point to him on a screen

Spidey's still having trouble with the Spider-Slayer.

Mighty World of Marvel #169, Hulk vs Modok

Hooray! It's the tale where the Hulk strip goes completely mad and Modok turns Betty Ross into the Harpy.

Meanwhile, I detect the return of Psycho-Man to the pages of the Fantastic Four.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #43

The Super-Heroes is still quietly trundling along.

Marvel UK, Titans #10, Iron Man vs Captain Marvel

I finally got round to seeing Iron Man 2 the other night. I must confess I preferred Iron Man 1.

Of course, I'd have preferred it even more if Captain Marvel had been in it.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 16: The Champions #12.

The Champions #12, the Stranger shoots Hercules with eye-beams
It's the night before the night before Christmas.

And that means just one thing.

That, just as Santa Claus will soon do, I've been travelling the world.

Unlike Santa Claus, I've done it without the aid of  a chimney.

I've done it via a mega-chimney. The mega-chimney of knowledge that is the internet. And so, yet again, my blundering around has brought me across a comic that I once owned but had totally forgotten I ever had.

In this case, it's The Champions #12.

As I may have said before, somewhere or other on this blog, I would claim that the Champions always seemed a strange concept for a super-team, except that I don't have a clue what the concept actually was

 It comes across like Marvel just decided to use up whatever heroes they had who couldn't support their own title and didn't have a berth in any established team.

And so it was that we got the unlikely alliance of Hercules, the Black Widow, the Angel, Iceman and, least likely of all, Ghost Rider. I may be mistaken but I do believe that, just to make the mix even more random, we later got the addition of Black Goliath.

Other than what's shown on the cover, I don't have a clue what happens in this comic but it seems unlikely to me that the Champions could possibly be powerful enough or organised enough to defeat a being as mighty as the Stranger. I therefore have no choice but to conclude that they must all get killed in this issue and subsequently continue their careers as a team of ghosts.

Admittedly that would mean Ghost Rider would have to be renamed Ghost-Ghost Rider which would instill into his name a certain degree of redundancy.

On the other hand, it would mean we also got the adventures of Ghost Hercules.

I mean. Come on. Ghost Hercules. Who wouldn't want to read the adventures of Ghost Hercules?

Granted, Hercules might not. But I would and when it comes to comics, once I've handed over my thirty cents, I'm all that matters.

Sunday 20 December 2015

December 20th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Big-time Brummie Santa-botherer Roy Wood once sang the immortal words, "I wish it could be Christmas every day."

But, if it were Christmas every day, it'd always be December the 25th.

And that means it'd never be December the 20th.

And that'd mean I'd never have the chance to find out what Marvel UK were up to on that day in 1975.

What kind of maniac is that man? Is he trying to ruin the 38th best blog in Sheffield?

I ought to have him hunted down and eaten by a rabid reindeer.

And, trust me, I have the terrifying power to arrange it.

Marvel UK, Avengers and Conan #118

I genuinely don't have a clue what the Avengers story is in this issue, as I can recall no Avengers tales from this era that feature giant robots.

I also don't have a clue what the Conan story is, as I don't remember any Conan stories ever that don't feature evil wizards.

Marvel UK, The Titans #9, Captain America

Cap and Bucky are dangling from a missile-type thingy as it soars ever upwards.

I don't like to be negative but that sort of thing rarely ends happily for them.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #61, Legion of Monsters

I initially misread the speech balloon on this cover as, "Stay back, folks! So commands Dracula, lord of vampires!" I now can't imagine Dracula talking like anything other than a duff working men's club entertainer.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #61

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

I don't have a Scooby what happens in the back-up strips this issue but I do know that's a very nice cover depicting what was the most tear-inducing moment in cinema history until that robot got run over in Silent Running.

Mighty World of Marvel #168, Hulk vs Zzzax

It's news that all monster fans should celebrate, as Zzzax makes his electrifying debut.

As with the last few weeks, I never had this issue but had already read the Hulk story in the 1975 Marvel Annual, a review of which can be found by clicking this very link.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #149, Thor and Iron Man

It's that rare thing, a Spider-Man Comics Weekly cover that's dominated by Iron Man and Thor.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #42, the X-Men

The X-Men are still up against a pleasingly unlikely Pick & Mix of menace.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

2000 AD - November 1977.

Well, smack me in the Force and call me a scruffy-looking nerf herder. It seems there's a brand new Star Wars film out and the whole world has once again gone Jar Jar Binks crazy.

How we'll no doubt gasp at the light sabres, the TIE Fighters and the cheeky little droids.

Of course, for me, the already leaked information that Jabba the Hutt reveals himself to be Han Solo's father is the most awesome revelation in cinema history and one I shall never forget.

However, we should remember that, when the original movie came out in 1977, the war of the stars wasn't the only thing that was happening in the Vast Beyond at that time. There was also a comic from beyond the galaxies as well.

That comic was 2000 AD.

And that all means it's time for me to leap into my Thrillennium Falcon, punch Hyper-Space in the gob and find out what that comic was doing in November of that fateful year.

As usual, my total inability to recall any of the contents of the issues in question means I can't think of anything at all interesting to say about them.

I can however say that the robot in the top picture seems to owe some vague debt to John Byrne's Rog-2000 as seen in the pages of Charlton ComicsE-Man.

I can also say that the star of the second cover has to be the most short-sighted astronaut in history. I can only hope that Tim Peake doesn't encounter a similar fate during his journey into space.

2000 AD #37, November 1977

2000 AD #38, November 1977
2000 AD #39, November 1977

2000 AD #40, November 1977

Sunday 13 December 2015

December 13th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

What madness is this? It's 5:50 pm and Hey Jude is currently being played on Absolute Radio. This means I have an uncontrollable urge to start going, "Na na na na," a lot. And yet, on this day in 1975, the Stylistics were riding high in the UK singles chart with a song that warned us that Na Na Is The Saddest Word.

What can it all mean?

It can only mean it's time to look at what our favourite comic company was offering us in this week of forty years ago.

Marvel UK, the Super-Heroes #41, the Scarecrow

After months of giving us the likes of Giant-Man and the Cat, Marvel UK finally wheel out one of the big-hitters, with, erm, the Scarecrow.

Still, in fairness, that's a pretty good cover and it does make it look like something you'd want to read.

But are those naked people I spy on the right-hand side of the picture? If so, are they the first naked people ever to feature on the front of a Marvel UK mag?

Marvel UK, Avengers #117, Arkon

Arkon's still causing trouble, on a cover that features more super-doers than you can shake a stick at.

Marvel UK, Titans #8, Sub-Mariner

Does that cover mean this is the issue where Lady Dorma dies, becoming, I think, the first Marvel super-hero girlfriend to pop her clogs?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives, Legion of Monsters #60

It's issue #60 and Dracula suddenly finds himself having to share top-billing with the Legion of Monsters.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #60

It's issue #60 and our simian survivors suddenly find themselves having to share the cover with Ka-Zar and the Black Panther.

Given my liking for both the Panther and Ka-Zar strips, this is, to some of us, no bad thing. Especially as Planet of the Apes was the only Marvel UK mag I was getting regularly at the time, meaning it was my only weekly source of super-hero action.

Mighty World of Marvel #167, Hulk vs Fantastic Four

I don't have a clue what the story depicted here is. From looking at last week's cover, the Hulk should be fighting Zzzax, in his own strip, and I don't remember any late-era Jack Kirby Fantastic Four tales where they tangle with the Hulk,

Such concerns of course pale into insignificance next to the news that the Stiltman is back.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #148, Spider-Slayer

It's even more exciting news than the Stiltman being back, as the Spider-Slayer makes its senses-shattering return.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Forty years ago today - December 1975.

In December 1975, George and Kathleen Lutz moved into a new house in Amityville, New York.

Four weeks later, they fled that house in horror.

I can only assume it was because there wasn't a newsagent nearby who stocked their favourite Marvel comics.

No wonder they were in a panic.

Conan the Barbarian #57

Conan wouldn't flee from Amityville. He'd chop its head off and eat it. And then he'd do the same to any other house that got cheeky with him.

Daredevil #128, Death-Stalker

Hooray! Death-Stalker was always my favourite Daredevil villain in my youth.

Admittedly, that wasn't much of an achievement as, until he'd showed up, Daredevil's arch-enemy had been Stilt-Man. Still, fair play to him, Death-Stalker raised the bar considerably.

I must confess to not having a clue what's actually happening on the cover - or who, "The most startling character in the annals of Marveldom," is.

Fantastic Four #165, the Crusader

The Crusader's still causing trouble.

But what dainty, delicate little blasts he's firing from his hands there.

Incredible Hulk #194, the Locust

I seem to remember the Locust being a somewhat useless villain.

I also seem to remember this being the issue in which Sal Buscema replaced Herb Trimpe as regular penciller on the book.

Iron Man #81

I'm assuming, from the setting, that that character who looks like the Sub-Mariner isn't really the Sub-Mariner?

Amazing Spider-Man #151

It's the cover you thought you'd never see! Spider-Man threatening a rat!

Meanwhile, the story within sees the return of the Shocker.

Thor #242, the Servitor

It's not just the Shocker who's about to return to Marvel Land - because the arrival of the Servitor must surely mean that Zarrko: The Tomorrow Man can't be far behind.

Captain America and the Falcon #192, Dr Faustus

I first read this tale in the 1977 Titans Annual. A review of which you can read by clicking on this very link.

It was in this story that I first discovered that the American emergency number is 911 and not the 999 that we have in our very own magical land of mists and crumpets.

Avengers #142

This looks suspiciously like the issue before the Avengers fought Kang in the American Wild West.

The second part of that tale was, of course, reprinted in Marvel UK's 1977 Avengers Annual, with great chunks edited out to make it fit the page count.

It may have been the first time I ever encountered Moondragon.

X-Men #96

This tale didn't appear in any 1977 Marvel UK annuals, as far as I'm aware.

It is, however, a tale that manages the somewhat unique feat of owing a debt to both Night of the Demon and that Star Trek episode where Kirk emerges from an obelisk, starts calling himself Kirok and takes to living with American Indians from outer space.

Sunday 6 December 2015

December 6th, 1975 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Last night, I was watching Dr Who on BBC One. Forty years ago tonight, I was watching Dr Who on BBC One. Forty years from now, I suspect I'll be watching Dr Who on BBC One. It's starting to seem like some things in life never change.

But there is one thing that changes. Sometimes I post this feature before seven o'clock and sometimes I post it after seven o'clock.

Marvel UK, The Titans #7, Nick Fury and SHIELD

Nick Fury demonstrates his ability to shoot at things without looking at them.

I reckon that, on his next raid, he should wear an eye patch over both eyes just to prove how good he really is.

Marvel UK, Avengers #116, Arkon

The Avengers are up against Arkon, and Conan is up against the Devil-Bats of Nergal.

Wasn't there a Robert E Howard Conan story called The Hand of Nergal? Does that mean this issue's offering is an adaptation of that, or is it a totally unrelated tale?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #59

Dracula looking like he's about to hit the world's biggest chord on his piano - just before discovering that he's forgot to bring his piano.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #59

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

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #147, Gog

From the cover, I'm assuming this is the one where Gog fights a tyrannosaurus.

Sadly, because of the disappearance of this title from my local newsagents, I first encountered Gog in Ka-Zar's strip in The Planet of the Apes. I do have to say he felt a much more natural fit for Ka-Zar's strip than he did for Spider-Man's.

Mighty World of Marvel #166, Aquon vs the Hulk

Hooray! Aquon shows up. It's just a shame he didn't hang around longer.

Marvel UK The Super-Heroes #40, Spider-Man and the Cat

I'm highly impressed by the bad guys' use of boomerang bullets on that cover. The man on the left fires a bullet from well behind Spider-Man. It then flies in front of Spider-Man but then flies behind the Cat who appears to be no further forward than Spider-Man. Just were did he get those bullets?

Thursday 3 December 2015

Fifty years ago today - December 1965.

December 1965 was a vital month in the history of popular music, as it saw the release of the Beatles' Rubber Soul LP. Apparently, the American version had different songs on it from the British version, which seems a little strange.

Needless to say, I was heedless of such controversy, as I was too busy reading that month's supply of Marvel Comics, even though I wasn't even born yet. That's how devoted to Marvel I was.

But what were our favourite Marvel heroes doing in that fateful month? Were they telling their foes to, "Run for your life," or were they simply nowhere, man?

Avengers #23, Kang

I don't have a clue what happens in this issue but I do know that when you find a giant Kang looming over you, it's rarely a good sign.

Daredevil #11

The poor old Ani-Men. Even when they tried ganging up on Daredevil, they couldn't beat him.

And then they went on to try and take on the New X-Men. Taking on the X-Men after you've failed to beat Daredevil, that has to be the living definition of optimism.

Regardless of their limitations, that is a rather beautifully-drawn cover by Bob Powell and Wally Wood.

Fantastic Four #45, Inhumans

The Inhumans are still making their debut in probably my favourite ever FF storyline.

Journey Into Mystery #123, Thor

It's still the Absorbing Man vs Odin in a tale that is indeed absorbing.

I'm not altogether sure what Thor's doing on that cover, or indeed why. Maybe he just likes drawing attention to himself.

It's nice to see the Demon making a cover appearance. I did feel he was a somewhat under-utilised villain.

Amazing Spider-Man #31

I think this may be the first appearance of the scenes-interspersed-with-spider-legs motif that always impressed me whenever it was used.

Strange Tales #139, Dr Strange and Nick Fury

What a very strange cover.

And what a very strange pair of thought bubbles.

Tales of Suspense #72, Captain America

Cap having trouble with what I think is the first of the Sleepers.

You have to say that the Red Skull had so many unstoppable Sleepers that you can't understand why he didn't activate them all during the War. His side probably wouldn't have lost the thing if he had.

Tales to Astonish #74, the Sub-Mariner

Warlord Krang making friends there.

Did Warlord Krang ever actually have an army? Is it possible to be a warlord if you don't have an army?

X-Men #15

The Sentinels are clearly up to no good.

I'm not too sure what Professor X is up to. Maybe, like Thor, he just has to be the centre of attention.