Sunday 31 January 2016

January 31st, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this week in 1976, ABBA went to Number One on the UK singles chart, with Mamma Mia.

I can think of no link between this fact and the comics Marvel UK were bestowing upon us in that very same week.

I can, however, say that I hated Mamma Mia the movie.

On the other hand, I loved Muriel's Wedding.

On the other hand, I've never seen Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I haven't seen ABBA: The Movie in at least twenty years but I remember Lou Carpenter being in it, so it must have been good.

Thus concludes my review of movies that wield ABBA songs like Obi Wan Kenobi wields his lightsabre.

Anyway, Marvel UK in this week of exactly forty years ago.

Were our heroes calling out, "S.O.S."?

Or were their foes instead meeting their Waterloo?

Marvel UK, Avengers #124, Red Wolf

To be honest, despite what it says on the cover, I don't remember demanding the return of Iron Fist. But I would have done if it'd occurred to me, as I was always partial to his adventures.

Then again, I was always partial to Shang-Chi's adventures as well.

Shang-Chi? Iron Fist? How could I possibly be forced to choose between them?

As for the main story, I'm not altogether sure just what a wolf is going to do against the combined might of the Vision, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. I think Red Wolf might be being a bit over-ambitious there.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #155

The story's clearly the Dr Strange/Flash Thompson/Vietnam one but I have a feeling that this cover is a reworking of one originally done for a story that featured the Red Skull.

Marvel UK, Planer of the Apes #67, Conquest

What a rather belting cover. I seem to remember including it in my post listing what I thought were the twelve best Planet of the Apes covers.

In other news: for a moment, I got all over-excited there. I misread the cover blurb as saying, "Apeslayer gone berserk!" You can't help feeling Conquest of the Planet of the Apes would have ended dramatically differently if Apeslayer had been around.

Mighty World of Marvel #174, Hulk vs Harpy

That's a very strange portrayal of the Bi-Beast. In fact, other than him having two faces, it bears no resemblance to him at all.

More excitingly, I think there were now only two weeks to go before my Mighty World of Marvel drought finally ended and my local newsagent started stocking it again.

Marvel UK, Titans #15, Nick Fury

I assume the, "Them," in question are the organisation otherwise known as AIM?

I seem to recall that robot turning up in the pages of Captain America as well. It might have looked a bit silly but it clearly knew how to cause trouble.

Marvel UK, The Super-Heroes #48, Bloodstone

I think I may have read this Bloodstone tale in the back of The Rampaging Hulk comic of which I was a big fan.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #67

The family drama runs deep in the pages of Dracula Lives.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Atlas Comics' Destructor #3.

Atlas Comics, The Destructor #3, the Huntress
As I blunder around the streets of Sheffield, destroying anything that gets in my path, people often say to me, "Steve, you're so destructive that I can't believe this city's even still standing!"

And I tell them, "Hang around for another five minutes and it won't be!"

But I have to admit that even my powers of destruction are nothing besides those of a man so destructive that they actually named him after that quality.

Issue #3 of The Destructor was the earliest issue of the title I ever owned as a youth. Which means I never got to see his origin.

But, from what I can make out in this tale, he seems to be Atlas Comics' equivalent of Wolverine, being likewise blessed with animal senses and super-fast healing.

Unlike Wolverine, he appears not to be in need of a padded cell. Which is clearly a good thing as, unlike Wolverine, he has the strength to lift up buildings with his bare hands.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
And he's clearly going to need all that strength - because he's annoyed a criminal organisation called The Combine, by bashing-up their henchman Deathgrip, meaning they're out for revenge.

To get it, they set a woman on him, called The Huntress who turns out to be no match for our hero, who duly defeats her and scares a bunch of gangsters while he's at it.

The thing that strikes you is this is a blatant retread of that early Spider-Man tale where Kraven the Hunter shows up and chases Spider-Man around a park before Spider-Man gives him the good chinning he's been asking for.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
Sadly, The Huntress is a strangely ineffectual foe. Without the weapons the boss of The Combine has given her, the fight wouldn't even last ten seconds and she insists on spurning two nailed-on chances to kill The Destructor, purely so she can show off by defeating him more than once.

She also seems to have no control at all over her lackey who just does what he wants as she futilely watches and tries to convince him not to. You can't help suspecting she might not be quite the top-of-the-range assassin that everyone in the tale keeps saying she is.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
But, of course, the most interesting thing about the issue is that, although written by Archie Goodwin, it's drawn by Steve Ditko, giving us a chance to compare his 1970s super-hero form directly with his 1960s Spider-Man work.

How does it stand up?

Quite nicely. Although it's not as stylish as his early '60s Marvel work, it shows he still has the ability to compose panels of elegant and effortless simplicity.

Sadly, like a number of his later Spider-Man tales, it gives us a story that can only be called, "Straightforward." Villain captures hero. Hero fights villain. Hero wins. All of which means it has a clear visual charm but nothing in the way of twists and turns to keep a reader gripped.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3There's a bit of character development early on, as it turns out The Destructor's civilian identity of Jay Hunter is also the chauffeur of a crime lord he's vowed to destroy, setting up what's clearly going to be a tangled love-life with the crime lord's daughter.

However, there's not quite enough of his personal life present for my liking. And the fact that his personal life is so closely tied to his crime-fighting life makes you wonder just how far it can be developed before it starts to feel constrained and repetitive.

Despite its limitations, it does seem like one of the more thought-out Atlas comics and so ranks well above the likes of Ironjaw and The Brute but it doesn't feel very inspired and, after having re-read it for the first time since my younger days, I'll still have to stick to my long-standing belief that The Phoenix was the Atlas super-hero who had most potential, even if The Phoenix never actually got anywhere near achieving that potential.

Sunday 24 January 2016

January 24th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Holy Heliospheres, Batman! It's been an exciting week for all lovers of infamous planets, with the claim that somebody or other's finally discovered the mysterious Planet X that's long been rumoured to orbit the outer fringes of our solar system. This is good news for all fans of Kurrgo, who know him to be ruler of that dread globe.

But what of the heroes of our favourite mags in this week of 1976?

Were they feeling spaced out?

Or were they simply out of this world?

Marvel UK, Avengers #123

The Lethal Legion might be doing their best to get all the attention but I'm more intrigued by the claim that Dr Strange is meeting the greatest star of all.

Just who could this mystery person be?

Please tell me it's Elvis Presley. The thought of Dr Strange teaming up with Elvis Presley to fight the Chthonic Forces gives me far more pleasure than it every rightly should.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #154

It's that one where Flash's Vietnam experiences come back to haunt him, and Dr Strange somehow gets dragged into it all.

And where Dr Strange is, can Elvis be far behind?

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #66

It's a dramatic cover.

But a more militarily-minded man than me might point out that that gorilla's pointing his gun above his intended victim's head, therefore making him yet another of those terrible aimers who seem to exclusively inhabit Planet of the Apes covers.

I'm starting to wonder if there was some sort of rule that they weren't allowed to show someone pointing a gun at someone on a cover and they therefore had to contrive ways to avoid it while still trying to create a sense of impending doom.

Mighty World of Marvel #173, Hulk vs Bi-Beast

Hooray! The Bi-Beast makes his Hulk debut! And what a fab cover that is.

I missed this issue but was fortunately already familiar with him thanks to the book The Horrific World of Monsters which I got one Christmas in the early 1970s.

You can read my thoughts on that mighty tome by clicking on this very link.

Marvel UK, The Titans #14, the New Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel's still making his transformation into the New Captain Marvel.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #66

If you ever had any doubts that Dracula's a cad and a bounder, now you have your proof.

Marvel UK,  The Super-Heroes #47, Thing and Iron Man vs Thanos

I suspect this may be the first appearance of Thanos in a Marvel UK comic.

Come to think of it, he seems to be holding the Cosmic Cube. Does that mean it's also the first Marvel UK appearance of that object as well?

The Cosmic Cube was always a baffling thing to me. I only found out where it came from a few years ago when I finally got to read the Captain America tale in which it made its debut.

Come to think if it, Modok was a mystery to me too and I only got to find out where he came from at the same time.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

2000 AD - December 1977.

December 1977 was a pivotal moment in the history of humanity.


Because it saw the release of none other than Saturday Night Fever. I'd love to claim it revolutionised my life and turned me into the disco king I am now.

But it wouldn't be true. At the time, I was being led a whole other merry dance.

A merry dance led by one comic.

And that comic was 2000 AD.

2000 AD #41

Argh! Run! Run! Mangog is here!

Apparently, this issue features the start of a strip called Bonjo From Beyond The Stars. I must confess it's a strip I have no memory of.

2000 AD #42

For some reason, this one reminds me of the cover to that Avengers tale where Psyklop has captured and shrunk the Hulk, even though it bears no resemblance to that cover other than that there's a big insect-type villain and small people.

It seems this issue sees the start of Dredd's adventure on Luna-1 and the formation of the Harlem Hellcats.

2000 AD #43

Up until they invented texting, I was never sure why phone keypads had letters on them as well as numbers. I'm still not convinced I know why but it seems they made it easier to arrange both monsters and murders.

The internet informs me that M.A.C.H. Zero makes his debut this issue.

2000 AD #44

Hooray! It's Christmas in Mega-City One!

More importantly, Walter the Robot gets a cover appearance.

It's an exciting time for us, as the comic dumps the, "Supercovers," and gets back to featuring its regular stars.

2000 AD #45

No sooner has Judge Dredd made the front cover again than Dan Dare emulates the feat. It is something of a surprise to discover the entire galaxy shares the same New Year's Day. What were the chances of that?

That flag does have more than a hint of the American Confederate flag about it.

Then again, it has more than a hint of the Union Jack about it too. Just what were the editors of 2000 AD trying to tell us?

Sunday 17 January 2016

January 17th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Hooray! There's snow on the ground that surrounds Steve Does Comics Towers! It's a perfect time for me to rush outside and build the greatest snowman ever, before bursting into ten verses of Walking In The Air and then melting.

But such is the lure of Marvel UK that, instead, I'm locking myself indoors and looking at what our favourite comic company was giving us in this week of forty years ago.

Will what I find chill my blood?

Or will it simply sleigh me?

Marvel UK, Avengers #122, Grim Reaper

The Lethal Legion are making trouble for our heroes.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #65, Blade

Dracula finds himself up against the man who was the first to prove Marvel heroes could be box office gold, and therefore paved the way for all the success they've had since. I can't help feeling that this means he should get a share of the box office from every Marvel movie from now until the end of time.

Or should I say, "He should own a stake in every Marvel movie"?

I'll get my coat.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #153

"This is the big one, Marvelite! The senses-shattering end of the Spider-Slayer!"

I would suggest that's a very liberal definition of the phrase, "Big one."

It's just occurred to me that I've never in my life leapt through a huge sheet of paper. It's a piece of negligence I shall have to put right before long.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #65, Conquest

That is a very nice cover that I remember copying once, as a child, with my trusty HB pencil.

Mighty World of Marvel #172, Hulk vs the Harpy

Betty Ross is still out to prove that, when it comes to the Hulk, she's Betty Boss.

Marvel UK, Titans #13, X-Men

No sooner have the X-Men disappeared from The Super-Heroes than they arrive in The Titans.

More excitingly for some of us, Captain Marvel's now been reborn into the form we all know and love.

Marvel UK, Super-Heroes #46, Hulk vs Thing

I believe the cover story is the one that sees the return of Kurrgo, as he teams up with the Leader in a tale drawn by Jim Starlin.

I love the Thing. I love the Hulk. I love Jim Starlin. I love the Leader. I even love Kurrgo. How was I ever not going to love this tale?

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Forty years ago today - January 1976.

Well, it's a very exciting day here in the land of white cliffery, with our beloved MPs voting on whether England should finally have a national anthem.

I like to think that debate's entirely down to the legendary e-petition I once launched for Kate Bush's Oh England, My Lionheart to be the national anthem. It's a pleasing tune. It's not jingoistic. Grown men can't sing it without hurting themselves. It's about a plane crash. Watching England play in the World Cup is like watching a plane crash. It's therefore the perfect song.

Granted, that petition may have only got twenty seven signatures - and therefore missed its target by ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy three signatures - but I like to feel it launched ripples that are now becoming unstoppable waves.

But what is this? There's a land that already has a national anthem?

And they didn't even need an e-petition?

That land is America. And, in 1976, it was singing it even more often than ever, as it mourned two hundred years of not being British anymore. Thanks to some insane revolutionaries, never would that land know the joys of On The Buses, Keith Lemon and terrifying roundabouts. Reader, I still pray for them.

And that can only mean one thing. That it's time for me to leap once more into my big fat Steve Does Comics' time machine and see what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in the first month of the year in which their land of origin celebrated its two hundredth birthday.

Avengers #143

I believe this is the story where the Avengers go back to the Wild West to deal with Kang's latest act of naughtiness.

Having said that, I don't remember any of the Avengers who're on the cover having been in that tale. I may therefore be completely wrong.

If it is that story, I have noticed that an awful lot of the content of the 1977 UK Marvel annuals was culled from comics that came out in this month and the month before.

Conan the Barbarian #58. Belit

Bêlit makes her debut and a small part of my soul dies. I mean, she was OK for one story but she wouldn't go away - which is ironic considering how little time she managed to last for in the original Robert E Howard tale.

Captain America #193, Madbomb

Jack Kirby returns to the character he'd been long associated with.

Sadly, I do feel that, by this stage of his career, he was better suited to the more sci-fi strips like The Eternals than he was to super-heroes, where his anything-goes mentality could fatally derail things.

Daredevil #129, Man-Bull

I don't know if I've ever read this one. I did, however, always have a soft spot for the Man-Bull. He was powerful enough to feel like a threat without being too formidable for DD to have a chance of actually beating him.

Fantastic Four #166, Hulk

If this is the story I think it is, then it's yet another tale from this period that showed up in a 1977 Marvel UK annual.

In this case, I think it was the Mighty World of Marvel annual. Sadly, that annual only used the first half of the tale, leaving us all cliff-hanging until the story was finally reprinted in the weekly comics.

Incredible Hulk #195, Abomination

This story didn't appear in a 1977 UK Marvel annual but I believe this is the one where the Hulk teams up with the Abomination, convinced that he's his only friend. Which proves the Hulk is even stupider than we all thought he was.

Iron Man #82, Super-Apes

Are those the Red Ghost's super-apes?

I hope so. There was a certain silliness about them that appealed to me. If I ever manage to become a mad genius, I shall definitely recruit a trio of super-apes as my lackeys.

Amazing Spider-Man #152, the Shocker

The Shocker's still causing trouble for our hero.

Thor #243, tyrannosaurus

It's the one where Zarrko recruits Thor and his mates for a trip to the future.

This is the only one of this month's comics I ever owned at the time. And you can read my review of it by clicking on this very link.

Sunday 10 January 2016

January 10th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1976, BBC 1 was showing The Brain of Morbius, that nightmare Dr Who tale in which a brand new monster's stitched together from bits of other monsters, to give us a nightmare creature with a lobster's claw for a hand, and a goldfish bowl for a head.

Clearly such a tale could inflict madness upon the strongest of minds. Therefore I shall have to take refuge in whatever it was Marvel UK was offering us that very week.

Marvel UK, Avengers #121, Man-Ape holds up a defeated Captain America and Black Panther

This would appear to be the issue where you can find out if you were at the Roundhouse with Stan.

Sadly, I never had this issue and so I shall never know if I was at the Roundhouse with Stan.

I suspect the Man-Ape wasn't at the Roundhouse with Stan, as he was far too busy planning his vengeance against the Avengers.

Or maybe it's not having been at the Roundhouse with Stan that made him so angry in the first place.

What are those sweets that look like Polo Mints but are all different colours? I'm getting a definite vibe of those from that Savage Sword of Conan lettering.

Marvel UK, Titans #12, Inhumans, Emergency Issue

It's the Titans' second Emergency Issue.

Sadly, that's all I can say about it, as it's another comic I never had - and one with a not overly revelatory cover.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #64, Legion of Monsters

Could it be? Has Dracula turned into a damsel-rescuing hero?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #152, Spider-Slayer

The Spider-Slayer's still causing trouble for our hero.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #64, Conquest

I must confess Conquest is my least favourite of the original Apes films. I'm sure it was well-intentioned but I did find it somewhat dull and sterile.

It also didn't answer the question of why the moon had gone missing in the first Planet of the Apes film. I'd love an explanation for that. Just what did happen to the thing? How did the apes make the moon disappear?

Mighty World of Marvel #171, Hulk vs Harpy

It's the story where, after all these years, Betty Ross finally gets interesting.

I am intrigued by the colour scheme for the lettering on this week's cover. I don't think I've ever seen lettering coloured quite like it. I do find it strangely appealing.

Marvel UK, Super-Heroes #45, Thing, Bloodstone, Giant-Man

It would appear the X-Men have been given the boot, to make way for Bloodstone. What further indignity could be inflicted upon them?

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Fifty years ago today - January 1966.

Holy Ratings Winner, Batman! In this month of 1966, Adam West's version of the caped crusader made his American TV debut and our lives would never be the same again.

Mine certainly never has been. That's why, to this day, I still live in a cave, knee-deep in guano and communicate purely by squeaking.

But how did Marvel respond to this deadly threat from DC?

Here's where we find out.

Avengers #24, surrounded by bad guys

Even though I'm certain I've read it, I don't remember the story at all but it's certainly a memorable cover.

Daredevil #12, Ka-Zar crouching in a tree

It's that one where Matt Murdock runs away to sea for some reason that I can't remember and ends up in the Savage Land and blind for some reason that I can't remember.

I do though remember the Plunderer and his deadly, metal-melting gun. Or was it a sound absorbing gun? Or was it a sound emitting gun? I lose track.

I think this tale may have been my second ever exposure to Ka-Zar. My first having been the Hulk's earliest encounter with him.

Fantastic Four #46, Black Bolt

Black Bolt puts in his first full appearance, having made a one-panel smash at the end of the previous issue.

I do remember being most impressed by his foldy wings and his tuning fork.

I remember being impressed by the Inhumans in general, who seemed highly mysterious at the time.

Journey into Mystery #124, Thor, Hercules

Hercules shows up. Which is bad news for Thor's love life.

It's also bad news for the Demon who's the real antagonist of this tale but has to settle for being relegated to the bottom of the cover.

This is a huge shame as I was always taken by the cut of the Demon's jib and felt he deserved far more cover attention than he got.

Did he ever make a reappearance? I always felt like he should have done.

Strange Tales #140, SHIELD vs Hydra

It's not just the Avengers who're having trouble with encircling hordes of villains.

Hold on a minute. Are those Hydra agents using Hover Boards? Don't they know they were all recalled as being faulty?

Still, you have to hand it to them. They're nothing if not zeitgeisty with their technology.

Tales of Suspense #73, Iron Man vs the Black Knight

I don't know why but I always liked it when the Black Knight took on Iron Man.

I also liked Gene Colan's artwork on this issue, even though I'm fairly sure he was still claiming to be Adam Austin, which did always make him sound more like a 1960s secret agent than a comic book artist.

Tales to Astonish #75, the Hulk

I've no idea at all as to what happens in this one.

X-Men #16, Sentinels

I do believe that's the Master Mould, which would lead me to believe the Sentinels are involved.

I am somewhat concerned by the way the Angel's flying straight at that giant X at the top of the page though.

If he's not careful, he could find himself X-terminated.

Amazing Spider-Man #32, Man on a rampage

Is this one of the ones with Doctor Octopus as the Master Planner?