Thursday 30 June 2016

June 30th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

June 30th, 1976, was a very special day.


Because, according to Wikipedia, on that day, nothing whatsoever happened anywhere in the whole world.

It shows how little they know.

Because, even at that very moment, the heroes of Marvel UK were battling evil, left, right and often centre.

How did they do it?

Here's where we find out.

Marvel UK, Avengers #146, Neal Adams

Neal Adams arrives on the Avengers, even as their comic approaches its twilight days. It seems that even the power of Adams couldn't save them.

It's just struck me that the Vision's far too big on this cover. He appears to be no closer to us than Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch but he absolutely towers over them. Has he been swallowing Hank Pym's growth serum?

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #89

That's a very dramatic cover and I remember having liked it so much when I was a youth that I whipped out my pencil and my sketchpad and copied it.

I still have no memory at all of Captain Marvel's second run in the comic. What kind of fool am I? How could I have forgotten about it?

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #177

The fake Vulture's still causing trouble and we get Thor's battle with a giant hand in space. How could anyone not love it?

Mighty World of Marvel #196, Hulk vs Wendigo

The Hulk's still messing around in Canada.

I do remember virtually praying for the X-Men to disappear from the pages of Mighty World of Marvel.

Tragically, they hung around for a fair while. At the time, I wondered if my misery would never end.

Marvel UK, The Titans #37, Fantastic Four vs Frightful Four

Hooray! The Frightful Four are back and Agatha Harkness makes her debut.

I loved this tale as a kid, with its Gothic crepuscularity and melodramatic haunted housedness.

On top of that, we get the origin of Tiger Shark, a tale I found to be particularly stylishly drawn.

And even more on top of that; for some reason, I had two copies of this issue, which meant I could colour it in with my trusty coloured pencils and still retain a clear conscience.

Sunday 26 June 2016

June 26th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

As mentioned in my previous post, thanks to strangeness beyond compare, this week of 1976 saw Super Spider-Man With The Super-Heroes bearing a Saturday date instead of the Wednesday date that Marvel UK's other mags bore. Was this a cunning marketing ploy? Was this a total cock-up? Was it the work of Dr Doom?

Who can know?

All we can know is that, thanks to that fact, this is going to be a very short post.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #176

It's that noticeably odd Spider-Tale in which Mary Jane witnesses a murder and our hero comes up against a man pretending to be the Vulture.

It's a tale packed with logic holes and people not acting quite as they would be expected to in such circumstances.

I seem to remember that, not much later than this tale, we also got  a story in which the wall-crawler meets an impostor pretending to be Mysterio.

We can only conclude that writer Gerry Conway had a thing for fake super-villains.

Thursday 23 June 2016

June 23rd, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's a sensational day for democracy, as you The Reader have voted on the only issue that matters in the world right now.

And that's the question of how much barbarism you can believe in.

As you can imagine, it was a close contest, with tensions running high but these are the results of the poll:

  • "Loads." - 12 votes.
  • "Hardly Any." - 0 votes.

So, there you have it, the hardest readers of the hardest blog on the internet can believe in levels of barbarism almost beyond human imagining.

Meanwhile, in this week of 1976, something strange was occurring.

For some reason, Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes switched back to a weekend publication date before switching back to a midweek date a few days later. Whether this was a strange and baffling marketing ploy or just a mistake, I cannot say.

But, while we wait for that delayed comic to hit the racks, it's time to see what Marvel UK's other comics were doing on this day of forty years ago.

Marvel UK, Avengers #145, The Sentry

Quicksilver's awesome tactic of defeating giant robots by bouncing off them and then landing on his backside proves somewhat futile, as the early stages of the Kree/Skrull War rumble on.

He should try that tactic he used against the Sentinels. The one that involved him running face-first into a wall and nearly killing himself in the process. Granted, it wasn't the most oft-repeatable of tactics but it did actually work.

And he found a wife because of it. Someone needs to tell him he'll never find a wife by bouncing off things and landing on his backside.

Marvel UK, The Titans #36, Fantastic Four

The Thing's still fighting Torgo.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #88, Dracula Lives

It's the, "Long-awaited merger of Marvel's mightiest mags!"

But long-awaited by whom? I can't remember ever thinking, "I wish they'd get on with it and merge Dracula Lives and Planet of the Apes." In fact, it was a thought that had never occurred to me.

But then again, what if it's true? What if the Marvel UK offices really had been bombarded for years with letters demanding the two mags merge? Just who were the people who sent those letters and, having got what they'd wanted, did they ever regret it?

I wonder if, even as they got their hands on this week's mag, they were composing letters to Marvel UK, demanding that they merge it with Mighty World of Marvel as well?

Mighty World of Marvel #195, Hulk vs Missing Link

That's a much better drawn cover than we're used to from Mighty World of Marvel. Apparently, it's by Keith Pollard which may well explain it.

I suspect the Daredevil tale may have been Nighthawk's second appearance but I could be totally wrong.

Given his resemblance to Batman, and Daredevil's resemblance to Batman I can see why it would have struck Marvel to have the two meet.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Live-action TV super-hero shows - the best and worst!

As I rampage around the streets of Sheffield, throwing cars at people and bending street lamps, I often tell them, "I told you you wouldn't like me when I'm angry!" and they reply, "So what? We never liked you when you weren't angry."

And that raises the subject of the Hulk.

And that raises the subject of his TV show.

And that raises the subject of other live-action super-hero TV shows.

Despite the oft-impracticality of such a venture, many of our comic book favourites have transitioned to the small screen. But whose show was best?

The first super-hero show I ever saw was Adam West's Batman which, at the age of four, I totally failed to realise was a comedy and was therefore gripped by.

In the 1970s, I was never a huge admirer of the Hulk show, as he wasn't anything like as dramatic as the comic book version and he never spoke.

I remember vaguely enjoying the Mark Hammond Spider-Man show, mostly because of its sheer hopelessness but I haven't seen it since it was first broadcast and so cannot say if I'd still find it as endearing as I did back then.

Having recently re-watched several of the old Lynda Carter Wonder Woman episodes, I can only describe it as amiable and harmless.

Maybe there's something wrong with my memory but I can't recall any 1980s super-hero shows at all.

In the 1990s, there was the Dean Cain/Teri Hatcher Superman show which, for some reason, when I first blundered across it, whilst zapping through the channels, I thought was Mexican. I was intrigued by the idea of a Mexican Superman show and thus kept watching. I seem to remember finding it charming but couldn't understand why Superman always used to stand there smirking like a wally whenever confronted by bad guys, thus giving them the chance to use their latest deadly weapon on him.

Smallville never grabbed me at all and I can remember barely anything about it.

I remember Channel 5 showing the Justice League TV movie from time-to-time. From my bargings around on the internet, I gather that everyone else hated it but, possibly because I had no emotional investment in the original comic, I enjoyed it greatly.

I also enjoyed the David Hasselhoff Nick Fury TV movie. I don't know if there's something wrong with me but I thought he was well-cast in the part and it seemed like good fun at the time.

I have some vague idea that there was once a Flash TV show but know nothing of it.

I haven't seen Gotham. I keep seeing it in the listings but I get the feeling it doesn't feature Batman, so I've not been tempted.

I managed to make myself watch the first two series of Agents of SHIELD but finally gave in to apathy after the first episode of the third season and haven't seen it since. Clearly, it needs a good injection of the Hoff to get it going.

I've seen bits of the Supergirl show and it seems pleasant enough but I haven't quite managed to make an effort to see more than bits of it.

I've seen no sign at all of the Daredevil show, nor the Green Arrow one.

So there you have it, my thoughts on TV super-hero shows. It should be blatantly obvious that, when it comes to anything made after the mid 1990s, ignorance is my watchword. But what about you? Do have any favourites and do you have any that you can't bear to be exposed to? If so, here's where you can make your voice heard.

Speaking of making your voice heard, don't forget to vote in the Barbarism poll to the right of this post. Remember; the lives of Nemedian Slime-Dwellers could depend on it.

Thursday 16 June 2016

June 16th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Before I plunge into today's pulse-pounding post, I have to thank Dalek Zantax for giving my blogs a plug on the Dalek Planet forum, the brand new site for all lovers of Dr Who and his cheeky Daleks.

I also have to announce the results of our poll to find out how many super-heroes we can all shake a fist at. Needless to say, it was a close poll with many swings and wobbles along the way but the results are in and they're as follows:

  • 10 or fewer - three votes.
  • 11-20 - one vote.
  • 21-30 - one vote.
  • 31-40 - one vote.
  • 41-50 - two votes.
  • 100+ - four votes.

I think we can all agree that the results have been something of a revelation and leave us in no doubts that Steve Does Comics readers are all as hard as nails.

Those issues dealt with, we can turn our attention to even greater issues - the issues produced by Marvel UK in this week of exactly forty years ago!

Marvel UK, Avengers #144, Conan and Red Sonja

"Barbarism beyond belief!" claims the cover. Don't forget to vote in our, "How much barbarism can YOU believe in?" poll. Remember, it's what Robert E Howard would have wanted of you.

It's the last issue of Marvel UK's Avengers that I ever owned - and not too far off being the last issue ever published, as Conan and The Sonj find themselves up against pervy sorcerers, the Avengers find themselves up against Ronan, and Shang-Chi finds himself up against nocturnal Ninjas.

I must confess that, of those three tales, I have no memory at all of the Shang-Chi one, which saddens me greatly, as he's always been a role model of mine.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #87

That cover looks familiar. I can't remember what happens inside it though.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #87

It's a sad day for all British horror fans, as Dracula Lives hits its last ever issue before it merges with The Planet of the Apes.

The good news is it means that those of us who read Planet of the Apes every week will get to read the adventures of Mike Ploog era Man-Thing which is an era of strangeness and charisma.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #175, the Kangaroo is back

Hooray! The Kangaroo is back and all set to use his awesome power of jumping around a bit, against Spider-Man.

I always had a soft spot for the Kangaroo. Whatever his failings, he was nothing if not an optimist.

Mighty World of Marvel #194, Hulk vs the Missing Link

Hooray! The Missing Link is back!

I've always had a soft spot for the Missing Link, mostly because he's easy to draw but also because I can recognise a kindred spirit when I see one.

I know this means I must now be viewed as a cross between the Missing Link and Shang-Chi, master of Kung Fu but I like to feel it's an image that does me justice.

Marvel UK, The Titans #35, Thing vs Torgo

Hooray! Torgo makes his debut!

I've always had a soft spot for Torgo.

Oh, let's be honest, I have a soft spot for everyone. That's the kind of man I am.

Sunday 12 June 2016

2000 AD - May 1978.

If the internet's to be believed, in May of 1978, the world's first spam email was sent.

It just goes to show exactly how futuristic 1978 was.

And that's why IPC's 2000 AD was able to so accurately predict what life in the early 21st Century was going to be like. I often ruminate upon this fact as I sit here in my Mega-City, fighting off attacks by revenge-hungry polar bears and preparing to pop back in time to hunt dinosaurs.

As always, I remember nothing at all about these issues' contents but, from their covers, I conclude that the Cursed Earth is full of people who have a thing about rats, M.A.C.H. Zero is back and as stupid as ever and that UFOs were big in 1978.

I'm sure this last fact had nothing at all to do with the release of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind and had everything to do with increased alien activity on our planet, caused by the aliens' realisation that our use of spam meant we were ready to join the intergalactic brotherhood predicted by the Carpenters. Sadly, although I recognise the UFO cover, I don't recall just what the feature/story was that it related to.

But, while I'm here, don't forget to vote in the, "How many super-heroes can you shake your fist at?" poll. Remember, your vote could be the one that swings it.

Swings it towards what, I have no idea.

2000 AD Prog 63, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 64, UFO
2000 AD Prog 65, M.A.C.H. Zero
2000 AD Prog 66, Judge Dredd

Thursday 9 June 2016

June 9th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1976, BBC One was showing the first episode of The Changes, that nightmare drama in which mankind goes insane, destroys all machinery and plunges itself into a new Dark Age.

On the same night, it showed an episode of The Survivors, that nightmare drama in which a plague wipes out almost all mankind, plunging us into a new Dark Age.

Blimey, that must have been a fun evening's viewing.

Still, thanks to the change in publication schedule, at least we could take refuge in what Marvel UK were giving us that week.

Marvel UK, Avengers #143

It's that one where Ronan tries to devolve us all back into cavemen, in order to plunge all mankind into a new Dark Age.

Good grief! Was there no escape from new Dark Ages in 1976? No wonder they got rid of it and replaced it with 1977.

This was the first issue of The Avengers I'd managed to get my hands on in ages, thanks to a stall in the legendary Sheaf Market. That market no longer exists. Thankfully, it has not been replaced with a Dark Age.

I remember enjoying this issue greatly, especially its reprint of the story in which Conan and Red Sonja find themselves trapped in a tower, with a pair of  randy sorcerers.

Mighty World of Marvel #193

I've no idea what happens in this issue. I'm wondering whether the Hulk's still on Counter-Earth or not.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #86

Captain Marvel's back in the book where he made his Marvel UK debut but I don't recall his return to it at all - which is odd, as I assume it featured the work of Jim Starlin and should therefore have been highly memorable.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #86

It looks like it's all getting exciting in Dracula Land as his comic reaches its second-to-last issue.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #174, Man-Wolf

I have a feeling this was Ross Andru's first issue on Spider-Man, although, so strong was John Romita's inking on it that, at the time, I totally failed to notice that Gil Kane had left.

Marvel UK, The Titans #34, the Thing vs the Skrulls

Marvel UK seriously underestimating the number of super-heroes I can shake my fist at.

I reckon I can shake my fist at at least thirty seven super-heroes, and there were nowhere near that many in a typical issue of even The Titans.

I do feel we need a poll; "How many super-heroes can you shake your fist at?"

In fact, we do have such a poll - in this blog's right-hand sidebar. Make sure to vote. Remember, this is the most important poll that'll be conducted in the UK this month and could decide the whole future of the country.

Meanwhile, The Thing's still having trouble with the Skrulls. Given the Star Trek influence on the tale, it's much he's not having trouble with tribbles.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Forty years ago today - June 1976.

What's happening? It's sunny and hot outside! Have I slipped into some strange parallel dimension version of Britain that bears no resemblance at all to our own dear version of Blighty?

There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to seek refuge in the summer of 1976.

What's that? That was hot and sunny too?

Is there no escape from this madness?

Avengers #148, Squadron Supreme

Speaking of madness, unless my senses betray me, I believe the Avengers have found themselves in a strange and alternate dimension as well.

But who on Earth is the man in the yellow, doing the talking? I assume he's the Squadron Supreme's version of Hawkman but I have no memory of him.

Conan the Barbarian #63, Amra

Conan having a tangle with the man whose name he goes on to appropriate.

Captain America and the Falcon #198

Things look to be bad for our hero and his girlfriend.

Daredevil #134, Torpedo

I like that lettering at the bottom of the page. It reminds me of those multi-coloured Polo mint things I've mentioned before.

To be honest, it's not a very classy look but it does stir up nostalgic feelings and makes me want to suck on some sweets.

Fantastic Four #171, Gorr

Hooray! It's the debut of Gorr, which means our next encounter with the High Evolutionary can't be far behind.

I always had a soft spot for Gorr. Did he appear in any stories after the Galactus/High Evolutionary one?

Incredible Hulk #200

If I remember rightly, this is the one where a dramatically shrunk-down Hulk is implanted in Glenn Talbot's brain and then fights imaginary versions of his old enemies inside it, which can't be safe.

Wasn't it all the idea of Doc Samson?

If so, you do wonder how he escaped being struck off.,

Iron Man #87, Blizzard

Iron Man showing off his battle nous by flying away from his foe instead of flying straight at him and knocking his block off with one punch.

Amazing Spider-Man #157, Dr Octopus

If I remember right, this is the one where Hammerhead returns as a ghost.

I bet Spider-Man still keeps trying to punch him in the head instead of the stomach.

Did he never learn?

Clearly, both he and Iron Man are in desperate need of punching lessons.

Thor #248

I don't have a clue what happens in this one but it has a bit of a Jack and the Beanstalk vibe to it.

I must confess I was always on the side of the giant in that one, even though he kept saying he wanted to eat Englishmen.

X-Men #99, The Sentinels in space

Sentinels? Outer space? Dave Cockrum? How could anyone not love the X-Men in this era?

Sunday 5 June 2016

June 5th, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this week in 1976, the Wurzels were at Number Two on the UK singles chart and all set to claim the Number One spot, with their song Combine Harvester. Oo-arr.

Clearly, under such circumstances, I would have needed to flee my radio. But where could I ever have hoped to gain refuge from such agricultural horror?

I know! In the pages of Marvel UK!

Marvel UK, Avengers #142, the Sentry

Unless I miss my guess, this issue features the story where our heroes battle the Sentry in the Antarctic as Ronan sets out to devolve us all to  the status of amoebae.

In fairness, it'd still be better than listening to the Wurzels.

Mighty World of Marvel #192, the first death of Adam Warlock

Warlock's busy returning from the dead.

But of what import is that compared to the news that we can win a Spider-Man Web Spinner which I suspect might be what the outside world knows as a Frisbee?

I have no memory at all of the Web Spinner offer. This surprises me, as I must have read this issue on many an occasion and a Spider-Man Frisbee seems like a thing that would lodge in the 1970s mind almost as strongly as a Hulk skateboard would.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #85

It's like a living miracle! We can get a Web Spinner in this mag as well! Is there no end to Marvel UK's generosity?

This cover gives me vague memories of the issue's contents but not enough to actually be able to say what they are. I suspect that Tom Sutton may have been involved again.

Marvel UK, Dracula Lives #85, Son of Satan

My favourite ever Marvel Horror hero makes the cover.

Does this mean Ghost Rider's finally been dropped and left to appear exclusively in The Titans? It makes you wonder why they didn't just put Son of Satan in The Titans and leave Ghost Rider in Dracula Lives.

Super Spider-Man with the Super-Heroes #173, Man-Wolf

That Web Spinner gets everywhere!

You have to hand it to John Jameson. There aren't many werewolves who could pull off yellow but, somehow, he could.

I loved this tale. It made me almost want to be a werewolf.

I believe it was also Gil Kane's last story on the strip before Ross Andru took over.

Marvel UK, The Titans #33, the Skrulls

It's that tale that's almost certainly based on that Star Trek episode where they end up on that planet that's like Ancient Rome, and also that episode set on that planet that's like 1930s Prohibition era America.

I think we can guess what Jack Kirby was watching on TV when he was drawing this story. We can only be grateful he wasn't watching Spock's Brain. A remote control Reed Richards, and Sue Storm trying to do a brain transplant doesn't bear thinking about.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Fifty years ago this month - June 1966.

In June 1966, Britain scrapped its space programme. Bearing in mind it had achieved such magnificent feats as... ...erm... ...I don't know, I can't help feeling this was a major national catastrophe and I have had it on good authority, from several prime ministers, that this is the only reason I've never been sent to the moon.

It was also the month when Britain's first credit card was introduced. What kind of fools were they? They scrapped the space programme just as a means of paying for it had arrived!?! It's that kind of lack of imagination that's to blame for us all not now living in cities at the bottom of the sea.

But what about our favourite Marvel heroes in that month of that year? Were they over the moon? Or were they instead all adrift in space?

Avengers #29 Goliath vs Swordsman

I must confess I do love any cover that features Goliath mingling with normal-sized people.

I also have to say this is the only time I can ever remember the Black Widow's original costume not looking awful.

Daredevil #17, Spider-Man

I do have to admit that the Masked Marauder wasn't one of the most impressive of villains - mostly because he wore a curtain on his face - but the main thing I like about this tale is it leaves us in no doubt that Daredevil isn't really capable of beating Spider-Man in any kind of prolonged fight.

I'm not sure that that admission would exactly have been good for the mag's sales but it was at least a pleasing dose of honesty and common sense.

Fantastic Four #51, This Man, This Monster

It's that one where a grumpy scientist swaps places with the Thing and then learns the value of having heroic tendencies.

Admittedly, those heroic tendencies get him killed, so they don't turn out to be that valuable.

I do remember this tale being reprinted in Les Daniels' legendary book Marvel, of which you can read my ancient review by clicking on this link here.

Amazing Spider-Man #37

Was this the tale where we got our first proper introduction to Norman Osborne? Or am I thinking of another issue completely?

Strange Tales #145, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

"Lo! The eggs shall hatch!" It's the phrase I never thought I'd have to type twice in my lifetime but, thanks to the reprints in The Titans, I find I've now had to do just that in the last few months alone.

Tales of Suspense #78, Captain America and Nick Fury

A tale from back when A.I.M. were known as Them.

Of course, a pedant would point out that they should actually have been called, "They."

Tales to Astonish #80, Sub-Mariner

I've no idea what happens in this tale but it looks like it's not good news for everyone's favourite water-breathing crime-fighter.

Thor #129, Hercules and Zeus

Did Odin and Zeus ever comment on the fact that they looked exactly the same?

You have to hand it to Zeus. There's not many men would try to tackle Hercules and Thor without leaving their chair.

X-Men #21

I don't have a clue what's going on on this cover but it has a lovely colour scheme. Thanks to that, I would say it's my favourite 1960s X-Men cover that this feature has so far dealt with.