Friday 29 April 2016

The artists least likely to make you buy a comic.

Giant-Size Invaders #1
Only the other day, I pontificated on which artists were most likely to make me buy a book when I was a youth.

But that raised the obvious point; which artists were most likely to make me not buy a book when I was a youth.

I clearly wasn't very fussy as a child because there really weren't many artists whose work was sufficient to put me off a comic.

In fact, in terms of pencillers, the only two I can think of are Frank Robbins and Don Heck.

In both cases, it wasn't totally black and white. I actually really liked Don Heck's work on the early Avengers and I loved it on the pre-Colan Iron Man stories.

Sadly, after that period, I found his work increasingly off-putting and there were times when his jagged, scratchy lines and areas of flat, dead black positively hurt my eyes. However, as I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, even after his mid-1960s heyday, I did quite like his work on Savage Sub-Mariner #68, in which he seemed to regain some of his lost elegance.

Frank Robbins was another odd case. For the most part, I couldn't stand his work. His figures looked to be filled with a weird, frenzied energy that threatened to make them fly apart at any moment and I found such strips as The Invaders next to impossible to read when he was working on them. Then again, I did really like his work on The Shadow, a strip his retro style seemed perfect for.

In fact, I would say that the artist whose presence was most likely to put me off buying a comic wasn't a penciller at all. It was an inker. And that inker was Jack Abel whose flat line-work, tendency to simplify anatomy to near-geometric shapes and his fussy hatchings, seemed to diminish the work of any artist he delineated. I'm sure he was a very nice man but I could never bring myself to like his output.

I also had an antipathy to the efforts of Syd Shores whose inks seemed far too heavy-handed for my liking. I especially struggled to like them over the work of Gene Colan and Jack Kirby, two pencillers his style seemed particularly ill-suited to.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. What are yours? Feel free to use the comments section below to get your childhood frustrations off your chest.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

The artists most likely to make you buy a comic.

John Buscema, self-portrait
You can never accuse this blog of not being clued-up. After all, it's only taken six years of its existence for it to occur to me to do a post about who my favourite Bronze Age artists were.

It's easy, of course, to make the mistake of doing this in a rational manner, informed by adult knowledge of who did what and how well.

But that would be to ignore the fact that I read those comics when I was a youth and had nothing to go on back then but gut instinct as to what I did and didn't like.

Therefore, I'm going to, as I type these magic words, try to cast my mind back to the 1970s and remember which artists' presence in a mag would have been most likely to make me buy it in those days.

As far as I can remember, these are the artists in question: John Buscema, Jim Aparo, E.R. Cruz, Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Barry Smith, Mike Grell, Dave Cockrum, Alfredo Alcala, Walt Simonson, Paul Gulacy, Nestor Redondo and Neal Adams.

It's interesting that, since then, my tastes have changed somewhat. Of those, I must confess that Mike Grell's work no longer grabs me overly much, as I can spot its anatomical weaknesses and his debt to Neal Adams that I somehow missed as a child.

Neal Adams himself, while I can still see how accomplished and creative he was, doesn't hold the same appeal for me as he did back then. There's something about the rubberiness of his figures and the ad-campaign quality of his work that distances me from the stories in a way they once didn't.

Paul Gulacy's a strange one. Somehow, at the time, I totally failed to spot that, in his work on Shang-Chi, he was totally channelling Jim Steranko. As an adult, it simply leaps out at me. The odd thing is that I don't care about that because I actually prefer the look of Gulacy's work to Steranko's. Truly, the human mind is an odd thing.

All the other artists on the list, I think I still perceive in the same light as I did back then.

As for people who don't make that list, the likes of Sal Buscema and John Romita always appealed to me but never enough to motivate me to buy a comic just because they'd drawn them.

Oddly, even though Gil Kane was one of my favourite artists of all time, his presence in a comic was, likewise, never an actual motivating force for me buying it.

Anyway, who were the artists whose work was most likely to make you buy a comic back in the days of your youngsterdom? And have your views on them changed over the years?

Sunday 24 April 2016

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

It's been a very strange and depressing year so far. Virtually everyone famous in the whole world has died, often with no warning.

There are times when you're glad there's a place called The Past where all your showbusiness idols were still alive and you could, every week, read about the adventures of people for whom death was never more than a temporary setback.

Marvel UK, Avengers #136, Brain-Child

It's a salutary warning to us all to never trust evil children who have gigantic heads, flying chairs and super-powers.

It's a warning I shall make sure to heed at all times.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #79

That's a very dramatic cover.

I can say nothing else about it, as I don't have a clue what happens on the inside.

I suspect it might be yet more of the Jason and Alexander saga but I refuse to be quoted on that.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #79

Dracula's still causing trouble in the New World.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #167, the Smasher

The Disruptor gives a masterclass in how to conduct a political campaign.

Interesting to see that Ghost Rider manages to be in two Marvel UK mags this week.

In fact, wasn't he in The Titans as well? Good grief! He was practically ubiquitous.
Mighty World of Marvel #186, Hulk vs Black Bolt

Hooray! It's the Hulk vs Black Bolt. I loved this tale when I was a youngster.

Marvel UK, The Titans #27, Fantastic Four in Latveria

Even more hooray! For no noticeable reason, the FF move to The Titans and we get Jack Kirby's tribute to The Prisoner, as our heroes find themselves being guests of Dr Doom.

Even more excitingly, this means I only have to wait one more week for The Titans to return permanently to my local newsagents. Soon, I'll be getting four Marvel UK comics a week!

Truly, this was the golden age of Marvel UK.

At least, in my house, it was.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

2000 AD - March 1978.

It's time once more to look at what the galaxy's greatest comic was giving us one month and thirty eight years ago. Taking a look at what a comic was doing one month and thirty eight years ago is such an obvious idea that I'm amazed no one has ever done it before.

In fairness, there seems to be have been little happening in that month that inspires me to make comment. Therefore, I shall skip making comments on each issue and, instead, summarise my thoughts, right here, at the beginning of the post.

I do note that M.A.C.H. 1 is drawn in some of these issues by Jesus Redondo, raising the question in my mind as to whether he's related to Nestor Redondo of DC Comics fame. It would appear, from my in-depth research on the internet, that there's no reason to believe he is, as he's from Spain and Nestor was from the Philippines.

I also note that Dan Dare is having that age-old problem of what to do when confronted by a bunch of people who all look the same but are mostly evil. Obviously, the answer is to shoot them all and worry about it later. I can't imagine why they've never put me in charge of any space missions.

I also note that Dan Dare's shuttlecraft thing has the Eagle Comic logo on it. Putting comic book logos on spaceships is a marvellous conceit that I'd hope to see copied by other spacecraft in future.

2000 AD Prog 54, Dan Dare

2000 AD Prog 55, Dan Dare

2000 AD Prog 56, Dan Dare

2000 AD Prog 57, Dan Dare

Sunday 17 April 2016

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

On this day in 1976, BBC One was showing the legendary cartoon that is Marine Boy.

All I can remember about Marine Boy was that he could breathe underwater, possibly with the aid of chewing gum and he had an electric boomerang.

Given that he lived underwater, I'm not sure how wise it was for him to be using electrical implements.

Then again, perhaps he didn't have an electric boomerang. Maybe I'm just imagining it or indulging in some sort of wishful thinking based on the fact that I think we'd all like to own an electric boomerang of our very own.

How people would tremble as they saw me gearing up to fling it at them.

Then again, that'd make me basically the old Hulk foe The Boomerang who, let's be honest, made Paste-Pot Pete look like Galactus.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in this week in 1976...

Marvel UK, Avengers #135, Squadron Supreme

I assume the Iron Fist story is still his epic battle with Radion and their epic destruction of the Post Office Tower.

I remember my first ever visit to London, where we stood in some park or other (possibly Green Park) and the teacher pointed out the Post Office Tower and said it was the tallest building in Britain.

It did seem a bit rubbish that that was the tallest building in Britain. It barely seemed taller than the tallest buildings in Sheffield. It gave me a very negative image of our fabled land.

Mighty World of Marvel #185, Hulk vs Inhumans

I do remember loving the Hulk tale in this and the next issue, especially Hulkie's confrontation with Black Bolt.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #78

Argh! The brains are escaping, even though they look more like giant maggots.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #78

Iron Fist is in England. Dracula is in America. It's like some sort of super-powered student exchange programme.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #166, the Disruptor

Politics comes to the Spider-World as the Disruptor shows us all how democracy should be done and Mary Jane reveals that she votes for candidates because they're dishy.

Marvel UK, The Titans #26, Sub-Mariner

I'm assuming, from the bad guys' blue faces, that the Plunderer in this tale is not the one who was in the habit of causing trouble for Ka-Zar?

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Forty years ago today - April 1976.

First up, I'm contractually obliged to mention that my legendary fourth novel Keep Those Things Away From Me has now hit the bookshelves of Amazon's Kindle Store. It's 92,000 words of unlikely sci-fi goodness. So shocking are its contents that, already, Hollywood is refusing to film it - just as it's refused to film any of my previous novels.

You can find it at your local branch of Amazon, such as Amazon UKAmazon.Com and various others.

In another mind-numbing development, after fifteen years, Harper/Collins have finally got round to releasing my first two novels on Kindle. Should you choose to, you can find them here and here and at the various other Amazon sites around the world.

In the meantime, let's take a look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in this month of forty years ago and see if it can possibly compare to such power and drama.

Conan the Barbarian #61, Belit

At last, Conan takes on his deadliest foes yet.


Possibly more importantly, he comes up against Amra, the titanic Tarzan-alike whose identity, I believe, he ends up adopting for himself.

Captain America and the Falcon #196

It's the one where Captain America and the Falcon find themselves in a deadly skateboard derby.

Is this the one where Cap loses his shield and pretty much has a total psychological meltdown over it? It's always struck me that it wasn't a very dignified response to something that happens to him almost every time he sets foot out of the house.

Daredevil #132, Bullseye

I think I might have had this one.

Sadly, I can't remember anything that happened inside it.

I do wonder if Bullseye's devoted any thought at all as to what he's going to do when gravity kicks in and he has to start coming down from being fired from that cannon.

Fantastic Four #169

I assume this is the issue where Power Man replaces Benjy in the FF?

Tragically, I don't think I've ever read any of the Power Man Fantastic Four issues.

Incredible Hulk #198, Man-Thing

At last, it's a comic where I know what happens in it.

The Hulk and the Man-Thing tackle the Collector and, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the Captain Omen story, it has a not altogether happy ending for some of its participants.

Iron Man #85, the Freak

I'd love to know what the promised dramatic new change is in Iron Man's armour.

It's not him getting rid of his nose-piece, is it?

Amazing Spider-Man #155

Spidey does the Ellery Queen routine as he turns super-sleuth.

I remember watching the first episode of the 1970s Ellery Queen show and - when they stopped the show to challenge you to work out who the murderer was - concluding that Ellery Queen was the murderer.

In my defence, I didn't realise it was a series and that, therefore, the star wasn't likely to be the murderer.

Unlike Murder She Wrote, where we all know Jessica Fletcher was always the murderer.

Thor #246, Firelord

I must confess that Firelord is high on my list of annoying Marvel characters. His head might have been on fire but he never seemed to be too hot between the ears.

X-Men #98, the Sentinels

Hooray! The Sentinels are back, in a tale that gave me much pleasure as a youth!

My love for Dave Cockrum's X-Men was beyond measure. I even had a dream about them once. They went to Ireland and, as they were flying around, a mountain suddenly shot up and hit their plane. I have no recall as to what happened after that but am sure it was suitably dramatic.

Avengers #146, the Assassin

The Assassin's still up to no good.

Sunday 10 April 2016

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

I'm pretty sure that, earlier this week, I read that they've finally discovered Mondas the mystery ninth planet that keeps sending comets at us.

My memory might be playing tricks on me but I'm fairly sure they seem to have been discovering it every two years for as long as I've been alive. Either that or there are even more ninth planets than there were Fifth Beatles.

Of course, there was a time when we didn't have to look for a ninth planet, because the solar system already had nine planets.

That time was The Past.

And that's where we're about to visit as I take a look at what Marvel UK were giving us in an era when Pluto was more than just that bloke who liked to have fights with Thor.

Marvel UK, Avengers #134

Despite what it says on the cover, the Squadron Supreme make their debut.

I must admit I always preferred the Squadron Sinister but that's probably just me being perverse.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #77

I do believe this was the issue when I went off the adventures of Jason and Alexander, as giant brains in goldfish bowls seemed far too sci-fi and fantastical for a Planet of the Apes story.

Also, the mutants in it kept saying, "Zee," instead of, "Zed," which seemed very un-British.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #77

Maybe I'm just imagining things but I've always assumed this cover's meant as a homage to that of The Incredible Hulk #3.

It seems a strange thing to pay homage to in a Dracula comic but such is life, or, in the case of Dracula, undeadness.

I hope this doesn't mean he's now under the mental control of Rick Jones.

And fighting the Circus of Crime.

And being chased around by Thunderbolt Ross.

And wearing purple trousers.

Mighty World of Marvel #184, Hulk vs Cobalt Man

The Cobalt Man's still causing trouble, possibly above Sydney.

I do wonder who the madman is in the Fantastic Four story? Could it be Maximus?

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #165, the Smasher

Hooray! After months of there being no Spider-Man in my life, at last the comic returned to the shelves of my local newsagent!

What a shock it was for me to discover that our hero was now horizontal and wearing a polythene mask with eye holes in it.

I wonder what the pin-up was of?

Marvel UK, The Titans #25, the X-Men

I never had this issue but I did have a US copy of the X-Men story in question. I must confess that, apart from X-Men #1, it was the only Original X-Men story I ever liked. A lot of this, I suspect, was down to the artwork of Ross Andru.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Fifty years ago this month - April 1966.

In this month of 1966, The Sound of Music won five Oscars, including the one for Best Picture.

This is exciting news for all Marvel fans as, famously, one of the Von Trapp children in that movie was played by Nicholas Hammond who went on to play the amazing Spider-Man in the legendary 1970s TV show of the same name.

The Sound of Music also featured Heather Menzies who went on to star in the TV version of Logan's Run and Christopher Plummer who went on to star in that classic Star Wars knock-off Starcrash.

Good Lord! It turns out that that musical was a veritable smorgasbord of future sci-fi stars!

But what was happening in the world of comics while singing nuns were soaring to such triumph?

Avengers #27

I believe this was the story that first introduced me to Attuma.

I am struck by how often the Scarlet Witch was depicted wearing purple on covers from this era. Did the colourist miss a memo or was Wanda merely stricken by a colour blindness that her colleagues didn't have the heart to tell her about?

Daredevil #15, the Ox

If I remember rightly, the Ox is the victim of a brain swap in this tale and it all ends rather tragically.

Fantastic Four #49, Galactus

Galactus is causing yet more trouble on a cover that I remember inspiring Chris Achilleos' cover for Target Books' adaption of the Dr Who story The Three Doctors.

Amazing Spider-Man #35, the Molten Man

It's a somewhat odd cover whose Spider-Man figure doesn't really strike me as looking in the slightest bit Ditkoesque.

I must confess the Molten Man was a character who made no impact at all on me until he returned during the Ross Andru years when he was a much more compelling individual with major life problems.

I think that being permanently on fire counts as a major life problem.

Just what did the Molten Man regret in this tale? I don't recall him regretting much at all.

Is this the tale in which Peter Parker and his classmates graduate from high school?

If so, is this the one where JJJ calls Liz Allen, "Miss Brant," for no good reason?

Strange Tales #143, Nick Fury agent of SHIELD

Those bad guys clearly don't mess around. It's a time bomb - and it seems to have a lit fuse attached to it. Some might call that overkill.

Come to think of it, is the man on the right holding a detonator as well?

Tales of Suspense #76, Captain America vs Batroc

Batroc Ze Leapair is causing, 'ow you say, trouble for America's finest. Zut alors!

Is this the one where they chase each other around town trying to find an unexploded atom bomb or some such?

Tales to Astonish #78, Sub-Mariner vs the Puppet Master

There's a Marie Severin Hulk story where Subby and Greeny fight each other, thanks to the machinations of the Puppet Master. So, was that tale the Puppet Master's revenge bid for being foiled by Namor in this one?

Thor #127

Odin nearly gets his son killed and then decides to feel bad about it.

Still, not to worry. I'm sure he'll do exactly the same thing all over again just a few issues down the line. The mad old duffer never did learn from his mistakes.

X-Men #19, the Mimic

My only experience of the Mimic comes from having read that issue of The Hulk that takes place in Canada and has the Beast as a guest star.

From this, I can draw few conclusions about his value as a super-villain.

Sunday 3 April 2016

April 3rd, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this very day in 1976, the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest, with the Brotherhood of Man's Save All Your Kisses For Me.

How we gasped.

How we cheered.

How we all noted a remarkable resemblance to Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree and wondered how they got away with it. But, that aside, has there ever been a greater achievement in the whole of British history?

Yes there has.

Marvel UK's output in that very week.

Marvel UK, Avengers #133

It's the battle of the flying horses, as the Black Knight comes up against Arkon the Magnificent.

More importantly, Iron Fist is up against Radion.

That's Radion the super-villain. Not Radion the washing powder. I don't think many people would pay to see a man fight washing powder.

I never approved of that story because they blew up the Post Office Tower in it, which seemed quite bad mannered of them.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #76

I'd love to know how he's planning to take that gorilla to the grave with him, seeing as he's unarmed.

I was always struck by the ease with which human characters in Planet of the Apes movies, TV shows and comics could beat up gorillas at will. I demand the BBC stages a fight between a man and a gorilla, to see if it really is that easy.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #76

Will the Prince of Darkness ever learn not to go drinking and driving?

Mighty World of Marvel #183, Hulk vs Cobalt Man

Cobalt Man's still causing trouble for our hero.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #164, Aunt May

If it's Dr Strange's final battle with death, does that mean he'll never have another one and is therefore now immortal?

Speaking of people who never seem to get round to dying, Aunt May's showing her usual sound judgement.

Marvel UK, The Titans #24, Captain Marvel

Are we still on the Gil Kane era of Captain Marvel or has the Jim Starlin era begun?