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

BĂȘlit 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.


Dougie said...

I loved that Conan comic but I'd agree that nearly fifty issues was a bit too long for Belit. When I finally read the original Queen of the Black Coast, about a year later, I was surprised to realise all the Tarzan/Amra stuff was Thomas's invention. But then,I was thirteen.

Graham said...

You are making me feel old. This was about the time I really started buying Marvel comics. I had the Avengers issue, the FF issue, the King Kirby Cap, and Spidey/Shocker. I had tried a couple of times to get into Marvel, but I always picked up an issue that was in the middle of one of their arcs and didn't want to get in halfway. I was able to get into all of these arcs from beginning to end, and from there I hit the ground running.

Colin Jones said...

Amazingly I didn't read any of the Robert E Howard stories till late 2009 which was nearly 35 after I'd first discovered Conan in the 'Savage Sword' weekly - I liked the little poem that REH included in the 'Queen Of The Black Coast' story :

"The shadows were black around him,
The dripping jaws gaped wide,
Thicker than rain the red drops fell,
But my love was stronger than death's dark spell,
Not even the iron walls of hell
Could keep me from his side

I thought the idea of Belit coming back from death to help Conan one last time was really poignant and so was the Viking funeral. I first read the death of Belit in Conan #100 but because I'd never read the REH story I didn't know Belit was supposed to die...the cover of Conan #100 was a bit of a spoiler though - a distraught Conan holds an apparently dead Belit in his arms with "Death On The Black Coast !!!" emblazoned on the cover...I had an inkling Belit might be dying in this issue :D

Colin Jones said...

D'oh !! That should say "nearly 35 YEARS " in the first line.

Anonymous said...

Kirby's run was the only time Captain America was any good, Steve. I loved the Madbomb storyline - infra-sound weapons, secret conspiracies, apocalypse... it was like William Burroughs for kids! Fantastic stuff.

For all that Kirby's prose and dialogue could sometimes be a little heavy handed, I think he's really underrated as a writer - his Cap was a big improvement on all that Nomad and Falcon/Snap Wilson nonsense that came before.


Anonymous said...

I dug both Kirby's and Englehart's runs on CA. They're just two different kinds of the same potato, is all.
And a no-prize to me for coming up with what may be the world's dumbest analogy.
M.P. (suddenly in the mood for a baked potato)

Dougie said...

I like Sean's comment very much- "William Burroughs for kids"! I've long been an adherent to the "70s Marvel Kirby is poor" mindset and this comment made me think again. And that's the best kind of post, surely.

Paul McScotty- Muir said...

I never really liked Kirby's Captain America (much preferred the Romita, Colan and Sal Buscema runs) but his Black Panther around this time (I think) was amazing. Have English MPs decided on an National Anthem for you yet - whilst I Kate Bush's "Oh England, My Lionheart" is a corker I do think "Jerusalem" is a stunning piece of work.

Steve W. said...

Paul, I think our MPs have now voted to have further discussion about the issue. Personally, in this modern age, I can't see them risking choosing one themselves. I suspect they'll end up launching some kind of referendum or public poll to decide.

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