Sunday 25 December 2016

Christmas Day, 1976.

Hold on.

What's that?

I seem to hear the sound of sleigh bells...

...and hooves on my roof tiles.

Now there's a rustling in my chimney.

And a sudden thud from my living room.

It can only mean one thing!

I'm being burgled by Bullwinkle!

Quick! Hand me my shotgun! Once I've finished shooting him in the face and disposing of the body, I'll take a look back at just what was going on on Christmas Day of 1976, in the season of goodwill to all.

As mentioned in a previous post, Johnny Mathis was Number One on the British Top 40 with When a Child is Born.

At midday, BBC Two was showing Horizon: The Mystery of King Arthur and his Round Table, a scientific investigation into the infamous, "Table," hanging from the wall of Winchester Castle. Whatever the claims one way or the other, to me, it's always looked suspiciously like it's meant to be a giant dartboard.

Later, that self-same station gave us a cartoon version of The Snow Queen and an adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Not to be left behind in the intellectual stakes, that morning, BBC One gave us Hong Kong Phooey.

Later, on that channel, Angela Rippon appealed on behalf of the deaf, Top of the Pops gave us the year's greatest hits and Billy Smart gave us his circus.

The big afternoon movie was Oliver.

The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show guest-starred Elton John.

And the big evening movie was Airport, back in the days when you could watch it without wondering when Leslie Nielsen was going to show up.

ITV, that morning, gave us Dr Dolittle.

But the real surprise for me is that, that afternoon, ITV put their own music show Supersonic up against Top of the Pops. I wasn't aware that Supersonic was even still going in 1976, let alone that it had Christmas Specials. Next they'll be revealing that there were Christmas editions of Lift Off With Ayshea.

ITV's big afternoon movie was Please Sir and their big evening film was Waterloo with Rod Steiger.

But all of this, of course, was of little importance to any wise youth. All that such a person would want to know on such a day was what adventures was Marvel UK giving us?.

These were the adventures they were giving us.

Marvel UK, Avengers Annual 1977

This one reprints the Avengers' first encounter with Nuklo and reveals the (possibly) true origin of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, not to mention the return of the Whizzer

The book also features a tale in which Conan fights a giant crocodile, plus the concluding part of the Avengers' Wild West battle with Kang. As we hadn't yet read the first part of that tale in the pages of Marvel UK, and several pages were cut out to make it fit the annual, a certain degree of comprehensibility was lost as regards that particular outing.

Marvel UK, Titans Annual 1977

The Titans weekly comic may have been dead but that didn't prevent it having an annual.

This one features the Sub-Mariner versus a glob monster from outer space, which, if memory serves me, was originally intended as part two of an Aquaman story that then got recycled for Subby. Possibly the most memorable part of it is that it approvingly quotes Hitler, which is not something you see every day in children's literature.

We also get the horror of the Original X-Men vs Frankenstein's Monster, a Werner Roth drawn feature on the various X-Men's powers and a Frank Robbins drawn tale in which Captain America tackles Dr Faustus on a Jumbo Jet. It was in this story that I first discovered the American Emergency number is 911, not the 999 that we're all familiar with in this dear country.

If there'd been any sanity in the world, this annual would have been in landscape format but, sadly, it was  published in portrait mode.

Marvel UK, Mighty World of Marvel Annual 1977

From Marvel UK's flagship title, the Hulk sees the return of the Missing Link - as a good guy, we get the middle issue of Daredevil's first encounter with the Death-Stalker, featuring a guest appearance by the Man-Thing,

We also get a George Perez drawn Fantastic Four vs Hulk tale and, in another yarn, the Fantastic Four fight Galactus in order to protect the Silver Surfer. The day is saved by Agatha Harkness doing her thing.

The Hulk story is the only one of these that's a complete tale but, somehow, that didn't seem to matter at the time. All that mattered was that I was getting plenty of Marvel with my turkey.

Marvel UK, Spider-Man Annual 1977

This is the one in which Spider-Man, "teams up," with Doc Savage to thwart a woman from another dimension, plus the one in which he teams up with the Punisher to tackle Moses Magnum, and the one with the American Footballer whose daughter's been kidnapped by evil gangsters. All the tales are drawn by Ross Andru.

Sadly, as with the aforementioned Avengers/Kang tale, the last of those epics had several pages excised to make it fit the book, a fact that leaps out at you when you read it. The worst part of this crime is that most of those excised pages featured Mary Jane.

So, that was Christmas in the Marvel UK world, done and dusted.

"But hold on a minute! What's this blithering idiocy?" I hear you cry. "What kind of a round-up is that? Where's Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes annual that I've been waiting all year for?"

Planet of the Apes Annual, 1976/77
Sadly, although there was a Planet of the Apes annual that year, it wasn't produced by Marvel. Of its contents, I can tell you nothing, as the internet has refused to yield answers but this means that, unless I've been misinformed, we only got four Marvel UK annuals that year.

However, for me, personally, I got so much more - because this was the Christmas when, as well as the books above, I was given the first three Marvel Origins books.

Four Marvel UK annuals and three Marvel Origins books? This had to be the most Marvellous Christmas in the history of humanity!


Anonymous said...

Steve, how do you know what ITV was showing - is there an ITV version of BBC Genome of which I'm unaware ? Sadly, BBC1 was not showing Flash Gordon or Tarzan as they'd taken a break for Christmas Day. I see that BBC2 was celebrating 40 years of television and now we are another 40 years on from that 40th anniversary. And I've never seen that Planet Of The Apes annual before - I had the previous annual with Urko on the cover but I didn't know there was another POTA annual !!

Steve W. said...

Colin, whilst Googling, I found a site that has all the UK Christmas TV listings, from the 1930s onwards. It includes those for ITV and can be found at this address:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Steve !

Dougie said...

I read the Spidey annual this morning for the very first time.The Punisher story doesn't seem to suffer from cuts although I preferred the Doc Savage tale.
There's some weird gay subtext in that Subby story in addition to the fascist flavour.

Steve W. said...

I've always thought there's a gay subtext going on in the Sub-Mariner story too. It's nice to know I wasn't imagining it.

Ant Master said...

I had that avengers annual. First exposure to the bald moon dragon. Read it to bits especially as it was in colour. Always wondered where it went, presumably the same place as most of my early comics. Thanks mum an dad!

John Pitt said...

Nice to see you including the Annuals as well, Steve!
I still haven't got that POTA yet, or the 1978 one!
Maybe THIS year?....

Anonymous said...

Lift Off with Ayshea? Blimey, Steve, its been quite a while since I heard anyone mention that... wasn't it long over by '76?

I remember that POTA annual - it had some early comic strip work by the brilliant John Bolton. Anyone interested can check out the contents at

Seasonal greetings and all that, Steve - all the best for the new year.


Steve W. said...

Thanks, Sean. All the best to you too.