Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Marvel rankings system and our place upon it.

Avengers #48, the Black Knight rides again
I think we all know that one of the great scandals of British history is that I've never been given a knighthood.

Granted, I can't think of any good reason why I should get a knighthood but I see that as no reason why they shouldn't give me one.

After all, knights wear armour and, frankly, with my level of popularity, I could do with a suit of armour.

I could also do with a lance and a flying horse.

But, when I was a youth, there was an honours system that was even more exciting than that run by the UK government.

And that was the Marvel Rankings System. With it, dedicated readers could get a whole host of initials after their names, Ones that humbled the gongs one might get from any mere queen.

If the internet's to be believed, they were invented by Mark Evanier and are as follows:

  • Real Fanatic One. A buyer of at least three Marvel mags a month.
  • Titanic True Believer. A divinely-inspired No-Prize winner. 
  • Quite 'Nuff Sayer. A fortunate Frantic One who's had a letter printed.
  • Keeper of the Flame. One who recruits a newcomer to Marvel's rollickin' ranks.
  • Permanent Marvelite Maximus. Anyone possessing all four of the other titles.
  • Fearless Front-Facer. An honorary title bestowed for devotion to Marvel above and beyond the call of duty.

Taking a look at them, the only one I seem to ever have qualified for at any point in my life is Real Fanatic One, as, in my day, I read a lot more than three Marvel mags a month. In fact, at my peak, I read more than that every week.

Hold on a minute! I used to read three Marvel comics a week and still the Queen won't give me a knighthood? Well, that's the last time I vote for her!

Anyway, such nightmare injustices aside, have you ever qualified for any of those other titles? And, if so, which ones and why?

Sunday 27 March 2016

March 27th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this week of 1976, there were two versions of Let's Do The Latin Hustle in the UK Top 40.

I can't remember either of them.

I sadly fear this means I won't be able to do the Latin Hustle.

Whatever it is.

There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to do the Marvel Hustle and see if I have more joy remembering what was in our favourite comic company's output in that week, instead.

Marvel UK, Avengers #132, Arkon

Arkon might be back but, far more importantly, this is the week when we get to find out if we're Mastermind finalists.

I assume they mean a Marvel Mastermind finalist rather than a finalist in the show with the scary chair and Magnus Magnusson.

I can confirm that I was not a Marvel Mastermind finalist. Nor have I ever been a finalist on the TV show.

I do, however, have a scary chair.

I like to sit in it and hum the scary music that goes with it.

For some reason, this causes great annoyance to the people who're in the room with me.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #75

I'm going to try and plumb the depths of my memory and declare that I think Malaguena was some sort of Mike Ploog drawn gypsy girl who Jason and Alexander met on their journeys.

Was she something to do with the Magic Man's Last Gasp Purple Light Medicine Show or whatever it was called?

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #75

I don't think I've ever read a single Brother Voodoo story.

I take it, from the cover, that his methodology for dealing with occult menaces was more likely to involve a punch in the teeth than a mystic incantation?

Mighty World of Marvel #182, Hulk vs Colbalt Man

This story was my first-ever encounter with the Cobalt Man.

I think it was also my last.

To be honest, that's basically all I have to say on the subject.

It did put me right off making suits of armour from cobalt though. So, I suppose, in that way, it had a major impact upon the future course of my life.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #163

I've just discovered that when you try to type, "Super-Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes," it's very easy to type, "Super Spider-Man with the Super-Herpes," by accident instead.

It's a mistake I shall try not to repeat.

If I was Spider-Man, I'd make sure not to repeat the mistake of swinging straight towards someone who's got a machine gun.

Marvel UK, The Titans #23

It's a cover story that I've never read.

And there are no clues as to what other tales are contained within this issue.

Did it not occur to Marvel UK that, forty years later, such a scenario would cause me serious blogging problems?

It's almost enough to shake my faith in humanity.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

World's Finest #218. Part Two. Element Man: The Haunted Millionaire.

World's Finest #218.
Mere weeks ago on this blog, I took a look at World's Finest #218 which gave us Batman and Superman vs Capricorn. I have no doubt at all that the makers of the Batman vs Superman movie have based their script closely on that epic tale and it will therefore be a box office and critical triumph.

But it's not the only tale in that issue - because it also features a back-up strip starring Element Man.

I must confess that this tale is the only exposure to Element Man I've ever had, unless you count Facade in Sandman #20, which clearly wasn't about Element Man but was about his near-identical female equivalent - Element Girl - who had matching powers, origin and appearance but clearly possessed a far less robust disposition in life.

World's Finest #218, Element Man
Fortunately for us all, the tale in this issue has a first page that tells us just who Element Man is, who the people around him are and how he got his Periodical Powers.

It seems that he's Rex Mason and his girlfriend's dad - Simon Stagg - also happens to be his antagonist, meaning he spends great chunks of his free time hanging around with his arch-enemy.

World's Finest #218, Element Man
Thus it is that they all set off to the seaside together.

But Simon Stagg is not a happy camper. This is thanks to him being targeted by the ghost of his evil ancestor who's out to get him.

Except it turns out that that's not what's going on at all.


Because it's all gone Scooby-Doo. The so-called ghost is actually not a ghost at all. It is in fact a robot that was created by Stagg who then tried to destroy it. Needless to say this has sent the robot somewhat revengey.

World's Finest #218, Element Man
Fortunately, Element Man is soon on the scene to rescue Stagg and deal with the robot.

Quite why the robot was disguising itself as a ghost is anyone's guess and not explained at any point but it's a Bob Haney script, so it's probably best not to expect too much logic from it.

The thing's drawn by John Calnan, an artist I'm not otherwise familiar with but who draws it in that DC house style that I am familiar with.

All in all, comprising just seven and a half pages, it's an appealing and quirky tale featuring a hero who feels like he should be in a Charlton mag, which is no bad thing at all - and this story's existence did at least mean that, when I read that Sandman tale all those years ago, I sort of felt like I knew who Element Girl was, even if I didn't really.

Sunday 20 March 2016

March 20th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's been a terrible week for those of us with aspirations to rule the world, what with it having contained the Ides of March. I had to go into hiding, in case my horde of deadly enemies decided to descend on me, en masse, and use me as a human pin cushion.

Fortunately, I was not alone in my hiding place.

I was accompanied by The Past.

The Past, the only thing guaranteed never to try and kill me.

But what of that Past? What of Marvel UK forty years ago this very week?

Marvel UK, Avengers #131, Lady Liberators

The Lady Liberators are still tangling with the forces of evil.

I wonder what the answers were to the Marvel Mastermind quiz?

Then again, I wonder what the questions were.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #74

It's one of my favourite UK Planet of the Apes covers, as apes prove they can't tell the difference between toads and slugs.

Still, he knows to always shoot things in the nostrils, and that's what matters.
Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #74

I am intrigued by just who it is Drac's ordering the Werewolf and Man-Thing to strike.

As, apart from him, they're the only two people in the room, the only people they can strike are each other.

I'm no military expert but getting your allies to kill each other seems a somewhat self-defeating tactic to me. Oh well, at least now we know why he always loses.

Then again, it was the 1970s. Maybe he wanted them to go on strike. I hear those monsters can be quite low-paid and have unsociable working hours.

In other news, I really do like the way the cover's drawn. Unusually for a Marvel UK frontage, it has a certain style about it.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #162, Dr Octopus

If I remember rightly, this is the epic in which Spider-Man loses his mask and has to wear a polythene one bought from a fancy dress shop, which he can't breathe through.

I think he also gets an ulcer while he's at it.

And then Hammerhead shows up.

Poor old Spidey. He never does things the easy way.

Marvel UK, The Titans #22, Captain America

It's not only Dracula who's finding himself with an unusually stylish cover this week, as someone who seems to be a bit of a Steranko fan has a go at creating one for The Titans.

Mighty World of marvel #181, The Hulk

Now I'm confused. I assume the Psycho-Man story is the one where the Silver Surfer finds himself in the Microverse and the FF have to go looking for him in order to appease Galactus. But I thought MWOM had already reprinted that tale several months earlier.

As for other matters, I always had a liking for Mr Fear. He was one of the few early DD villains who had any actual potential. Did he turn into the Death-Stalker later on, or was that someone else?

Wednesday 16 March 2016

2000 AD - February 1978.

Mere days ago, the European and Russian space agencies launched a probe intent on finding life on Mars.

Will they find it?

I don't know.

I do know that thirty eight years and one month ago, 2000 AD was finding life wherever it looked in the universe, proving it was better than Europe and Russia combined.

2000 AD #50, Dan Dare

This is all very exciting for us, as we get a foto feature on the movie Space Cruiser.

I think we all remember Space Cruiser. It was that film about...



Oh, alright, I admit I've never heard of it. I shall do a quick Google to find out just what it was and whether it was the box office smash that I suspect it wasn't.

Wikipedia informs me that it was a Japanese cartoon, cobbled together from TV episodes and was otherwise known as Space Battleship Yamato.

It would be true to say it didn't get good reviews.

2000 AD Prog 51, Dan Dare

Hold on a minute! Dan Dare has a light sabre? When did he get his hands on that nightmare instrument of death? And what on Earth would Digby make of it all?

Come to think of it, what will the Mekon make of it? He's in danger of getting chopped in half the next time he comes up against his arch-enemy.

Of course, it was in the next issue that the Mekon famously revealed that he's Dan Dare's father.

2000 AD Prog 52, Dan Dare

Comicvine tells me that the ten-part Colony Earth starts in this issue.

I don't have a clue what Colony Earth was. I've Googled it and still don't have a clue what it was. It seems to have involved some sort of space robot that I have no recollection of.

2000 AD Prog 53, Dan Dare

This is the issue we've all waited for. It's the issue that finally gives us the blueprint for Walter the Wobot.

At last we'll all be able to make our very own Walter to waddle around after us and be almost psychotically servile for us.

Sunday 13 March 2016

March 13th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It was an arresting evening on BBC One on this day in 1976, as the channel was showing Dixon of Dock Green followed by She.

I must confess it's a bit of a shock to discover that the quintessentially 1950s Dixon of Dock Green was still going so late into the 1970s. It means it was still airing at the same time as The Sweeney, which seems an unlikely juxtaposition.

Apparently, Jack Warner, who played Dixon, was eighty when the 1976 series was filmed. I assume there wasn't a lot of running around involved in it.

As for, "She Who Must Be Obeyed," that sounds suspiciously like some sort of feminist thing.

And, "Some sort of feminist thing," can only mean one thing.

It means that...

Marvel UK, Avengers #130, Valkyrie and the Lady Liberators favourite ever Defender makes her senses-shattering debut.

Sort of.

You have to hand it to the Valkyrie. There aren't many super-doers who could have three different alter-egos in their first three appearances.

Then again, on that cover are also the Vision who'd had two different personas, Clint Barton who'd had two different super-hero identities, the Black Panther who couldn't decide if  he was called the Black Panther or the Black Leopard, plus Medusa, the Black Widow and Quicksilver who started out as villains before they'd become heroes. It's like some sort of meeting of Schizophrenics Anonymous.

At least the Wondrous Wasp was there to add a lone smidgen of stability.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #161, Dr Strange

To be honest, it's not the most revealing cover of all time.

Seeing Spidey and Doc Strange like that makes me think of that scene in the Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider movie, where the current Ghost Rider and the original Ghost Rider set off together to confront the villain and then, when they finally get there, the original Ghost Rider, suddenly says goodbye and departs, leaving you wondering why he bothered to travel all the way there if he was only going to leave the moment he arrived.

I like to think that's what happens with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man in this comic.

I wonder what the free colour sticker was?

Going on the previous two weeks' obsessions, it was probably sea monkeys.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #73

Things are all getting a bit shouty on the Planet of the Apes.

It's a little known fact that Shouty on the Planet of the Apes was going to be the title of the next film after Battle but, sadly, they changed their minds and it  never got made.

Apparently, Brian Blessed was going to play the main part; "WHAAAAAT! THERE ARE TALKING AAAPES?!!!!!!!?"

And that was just in the scene where he was whispering in order to hide from the apes the fact that he could speak.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #73

Speaking of Dixon of Dock Green, it looks like he and two of his friends are on the trail of everyone's favourite vampire.

When Dixon gets his hands on him, no doubt he'll give him a clip round the ear and send him on his way with a warning not to let him catch him scrumping apples again.

Come to think of it, Dixon of Dock Green died at the end of his first movie appearance and then mysteriously returned to life to star in his own TV show. How could this be possible?


Could it be?

Could it be that he was secretly a vampire?

Mighty World of Marvel #180, Hulk and Juggernaut

I think it's the question we've all asked; "Who'd win a fight between the Hulk and the Juggernaut?"

This week, forty years ago, we finally got our answer.

Actually, come to think of it, the ending was a bit of a cop-out and we didn't really get an answer.
Marvel UK, The Titans #20, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

"Lo! The Eggs Shall Hatch!"

I'm not convinced that that's going to go down as one of the great story titles of all time.

I don't have a clue who the bloke punching Nick Fury is. He looks like he should be a member of Zodiac but I don't recognise him as one, unless he's Taurus in a whole other costume to the one we're used to him wearing.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Forty years ago today - March 1976.

What a thrilling week it's been, with the Northern Lights visible in all sorts of places. How we gasped and, "Ooohed," as they lit up the night sky, dancing their magical way across the ionosphere, like luminescent pixies fresh from a garden in Cottingley.

Admittedly, I didn't. I refused to look. I was too busy thinking about what Marvel Comics were up to in this month of forty years ago. That's how dedicated I am.

And here's the fruit of my labours.

Avengers #145, the Assassin

I know nothing of The Assassin but he's clearly up to no good.

Conan the Barbarian #60

Just another day in the life of Conan.

Did you know that alligators are less closely related to crocodiles than people are to chimpanzees? This fact has nothing to do with anything but, not having read the comic, I don't have much to say about it, so I thought I'd say something else instead.
Daredevil #131, Bullseye

"The Assassin never fails!"

"Bullseye never misses!"

It's clearly a good month for over-confident villains.

I am quite intrigued that, on a cover which shows Daredevil about to be killed by Bullseye, the blurb declares, "Plus: A Startling New Job For Matt Murdock!" as though anyone not convinced to buy the comic by the threat of their hero's imminent demise would suddenly be moved to purchase it by the promise that he gets a new job.

Personally, I'd be more convinced by Bullseye's prowess if he knew how to hold a dart. Jim Bowen would never give him a speedboat for trying to throw it like that.

Is that Alfred the Butler on the floor? Poor old Alfred.

Fantastic Four #168, Luke Cage

I had a dream last night that they'd made a new Fantastic Four movie; starring Medusa, Power Man, H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot and She-Hulk. Let's face it, technically, that would be possible. Given their track record, I'm amazed Fox haven't already done it.

I've just discovered that the, "H," in H.E.R.B.I.E. stood for, "Humanoid." Hold on a minute. In what way was H.E.R.B.I.E. humanoid?

For that matter, in what way was he fantastic?

It seems that, "I.E." stood for, "Integrated Electronics." But what is this madness? What kind of robot has non-integrated electronics?

Incredible Hulk #197, Man-Thing

I believe I detect a Berni Wrightson cover. Is this the only time he ever did a Hulk cover?

Iron Man #84, the Freak

Did the Freak ever fight anyone except Iron Man? He must have been sick of the sight of him by now.

Then again, I suppose that could explain why he's trying to bash his head in with a rock.

Amazing Spider-Man #154, Sandman

I do believe this issue was drawn by Sal Buscema because Ross Andru was busy drawing the epic Superman vs Spider-Man tale that all 1970s comic fans knew they had to get their hands on.

Was this the Sandman's first Spider-Man appearance since the original Sinister Six story way back in the days of Steve Ditko?

If so, that seems remarkable, bearing in mind his status as one of Spidey's classic foes.

Thor #245, the Servitor

I believe Thor may still be tangling with the world-mangling menace of the Time Twisters.

Captain America and the Falcon #195

"The Savage World of 1984!" I remember it well. Nik Kershaw on the pop charts. Give My Regards to Broad Street in the cinemas. Orville the Duck on TV. It was a living nightmare.

Sunday 6 March 2016

March 6th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

As I write this post, I'm listening to Radio 1. Forty years ago, I would probably have been listening to Radio 2. From this, I conclude that I'm now younger than I was forty years ago.

But what of the output of Marvel UK in this week of that year? Has it weathered the passage of time as magnificently as I have?

There's only one way to find out.

And that's to climb into the Steve Does Comics Patented Time Reverser and slam our collective foot down on the accelerator until we crash, face first, into 1976.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #72

A cover that, tragically, tells us nothing of what treats lie within, other than that Dracula, Man-Thing and Werewolf By Night are awaiting us.

Marvel UK, Avengers #129, Zodiac

I only had three issues of The Avengers between now and the time it merged with The Mighty World of Marvel.

And this was one of them.

I remember being highly impressed by Tom Palmer's inking of John Buscema. I remember being highly impressed by John Buscema's rendition of Matt Murdock. I remember being highly impressed by John Byrne's depiction of Iron Man in the Iron Fist story.

Mighty World of marvel #179, Hulk, Rhino, Abomination

The Rhino and Abomination are still causing no end of trouble for our hero.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #72, Conquest

For some reason, when I look at this cover, I immediately think of the Black Panther's battle with the dinosaurs in Wakanda.

Whether that means he actually had his fight with the dinosaurs in this issue or not, I cannot say; the human memory being as unreliable as it is.

In other news, the fact that I had this week's Avengers, Mighty World of Marvel and Planet of the Apes means I had three Marvel UK mags in one week, for the first time in many months.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #160

According to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, that 75p Sea Monkeys bill works out at £4.87 in modern money.

This compares to their current price of £9.99 on Argos.

I have, therefore, no doubt that this means that those Sea Monkeys have proven to be a better investment than gold.

It also tells me that this comic's 9p cover price would nowadays be 58p and the portrait format comics' 8p would be 52p.

Marvel UK, the Titans #20, X-Men vs Juggernaut

Juggernaut was always my favourite Original X-Men villain, even though I've never read any story that features him fighting the Original X-Men.

Truly the human mind is a strange thing.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Fifty years ago this month - March 1966.

It's been an exciting week for some of us, with the revelation that Britain's tallest carousel is to be erected in the heart of Sheffield city centre. No doubt there'll be many cries of, "Wheeee!" and, "Wheeee!" and especially, "Wheeee!"

But it doesn't matter how exciting that spinny thing is because we all know there's an even more exciting spinny thing out there.

And that's the spinny thing that stood in our local newsagents in March 1966 and contained Marvel Comics' output for that very month.

Avengers #26, Attuma

This was the second adventure I ever read that featured the oft-called Kookie Quartet.

More importantly, it was where I was first exposed to the concept of humidity.

That's humidity, not humility. I have never been knowingly exposed to the concept of humility.

So clueless was I that I had to ask my dad what humidity was.

Decades later, I still don't know what it is. I have noticed that 100% humidity doesn't mean you're underwater, even though it sounds like it should.

Thanks to this tale, I do, however know that humidity allows Attuma and his hydraulic hordes to breathe out of water, while not being good news for you if you're an Avenger.

Interesting to see the Purple Witch on the cover there.

Daredevil #14, the Plunderer

If I remember rightly, the naughty Plunderer is still in England and still causing trouble for both the legal profession and the military.

The bounder.

Fantastic Four #48, The Coming of Galactus

It's an issue we'll never forget, as the Watcher shows up, and then so does the Silver Surfer, and then so does Galactus.

How I remember my sense of awe as I first read that tale and thought, "This epic could only have been improved upon if they'd made Galactus a cloud instead."

Amazing Spider-Man #34, Kraven the Hunter

I've read this one but I'm struggling to recall exactly what Kraven gets up to in it.

I have no doubt it'll be no end of mischief, whatever it is.

Strange Tales #142, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

There's clearly plenty going on but, this being a tale I've never read, I don't know what it is.

Tales of Suspense #75, Iron Man

This is the issue in which Happy Hogan discovers why you should avoid hospitals, as he turns into the Freak in one of Genial Gene Colan's earliest tales on the strip.

Tales to Astonish #77, the Hulk

At last the world discovers Bruce Banner's secret.

And I don't mean, "Where does he get those indestructible trousers from?"

Do I detect the inks of John Romita on that cover? He may have been newly recruited but, already, he's making his presence felt at Marvel.

Thor #126, Hercules

Just as Don Blake once became Thor, Journey into Mystery suddenly becomes The Mighty Thor!

And, to celebrate, Thor gets himself a good thumping from Hercules.

X-Men #18, Magneto

I'm not sure just what it is Magneto's firing from his fingertips.

I assume it's not magnetism, unless ice is suddenly magnetic.