Thursday 22 December 2016

December 22nd, 1976 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Get that turkey plucked, Matron; it's fast approaching Christmas - that magical time when we all look forward to the year ahead and wonder what it might bring.

And that can mean only one thing.

That I'm looking in completely the wrong direction and looking back to 1976!

But what a year it was!

Well, I say that. I can barely remember a thing about it. I think we've already established that the only memory I have of it is that Kevin Keegan fell off his bike.

But I do know that, forty years ago today, When a Child is Born by Johnny Mathis was the UK Christmas Number One. Bionic Santa by Chris Hill was at Number Ten and Ring Out The Solstice Bells by Jethro Tull was at Number Twenty Eight.

Amazingly, those three tracks were the only Christmas songs in the Top Forty that week. I can only conclude that Christmas was still viewed as a newfangled, fancy, foreign thing and therefore not as big an event as it is nowadays.

Meanwhile, on this day of forty years ago, at 10:30 AM, BBC One was showing The Great Grape Ape Show. This week's episode was called Grape Marks the Spot and starred Grape Ape and Beagley Beagley and Bailey's Comets in Kenya Catch that Clue. Frankly, if any of that made any sense to you, you have better powers of comprehension than I do. It has to be the most baffling TV listing I've ever seen.

Also showing on BBC One that morning was the original Flash Gordon, plus Tarzan's Desert Mystery.

Later that night, that selfsame channel was showing its adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Signalman - an adaptation that is still spoken of in hushed whispers, to this very day.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #11

What's this? Women being burned at the stake? Angry locals with flaming torches? Half-timbered dwellings with thatched roofs?

It can only be 1970s England.

Marvel UK, Planet of the Apes #114

The award for The World's Least Observant Ape goes to...

Mighty World of Marvel #221, Hulk vs Loch Fear Monster

What's this? Men in kilts? Sporrans? Lairds, broth and castles? It can only be 1970s Scotland!

It's that legendary moment when the Hulk fights the Loch Ness Monster, even though they can't quite bring themselves to admit it's the Loch Ness Monster.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #202, The Shocker

I believe this is that story where the Shocker uses strategically planned blackouts to spell out his name, using the buildings of New York as letters. Some might call that  a trifle ostentatious.

I also believe the Avengers tale is the one where our heroes come up against Magneto and his Beast-Men or whatever they're called, and the Vision decides he's incapable of love because the call of the Lorelei doesn't affect him

Even I, a mere child, could spot the flaw in his logic, as it clearly merely proved he had ears made of plastic. For a man with a computer for a brain, he didn't seem to be very logical.

Finally, we have to finish this post with the results of our biggest poll yet.

And that's the poll to discover your favourite incarnation of legendary super-hero stalker Rick Jones.

There were thirty three votes in total, and the results were as follows:

The Hulk's third wheel
  9 (27%)
The Avengers' third wheel
  4 (12%)
Captain America's third wheel
  2 (6%)
Captain Marvel's third wheel
  12 (36%)
The Teen Brigade's absentee leader
  2 (6%)
  0 (0%)
The Whisperer
  0 (0%)
The singing sensation
  2 (6%)
Some other incarnation
  2 (6%)

So, there you have it. The world's favourite incarnation of Rick Jones is as Captain Marvel's Third Wheel. Don't forget you heard it here first - and don't forget to tell all your friends that you heard it here first, because it's the sort of thing that will no doubt impress them.

Thanks to you for voting, and Merry Christmas to you all.


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

I'm looking at that Captain Britain cover and thinking that if I'm ever going to be burnt at the stake, I'll be asking if I can take some sparklers with me.

The shocker story is definitely the one you remember. Can't remember that Avengers story - it took me a few weeks to get into them after they were moved to Spider-Man's comic.

And happy Christmas to you Steve. Thanks for continuing to entertain us all in 2016.

Anonymous said...

Here in the States, we all thought Scotland was still medieval, until we saw Trainspotting, and then we thought it was just evil. (I've been there and it's a lovely place!)
Don't feel bad, Marvel Comics used to think everybody here in the Midwest lives on a farm, wears overalls, has a straw hat, and smokes a corncob pipe.
...Well, my grandfather actually did do that stuff, now that I think about it.
Merry Christmas all!


John Pitt said...

In case I don't get another chance before Sunday, Steve, have a great Christmas, mate!

Anonymous said...

When A Child Is Born is ruined by that embarrassing talking bit in the middle and Ring Out Solstice Bells is one of my favourite Christmas songs which should have done much better in the Top 40...bah. Curious how Bionic Santa never appears in those Xmas compilation CDs lol. Yes, BBC1 was showing the original Flash Gordon serial but unfortunately I missed the first two episodes because they were broadcast on the morning of December 20th which was the last day of school before the holidays. It's amazing that we are now as distant from 1976 as 1976 was from 1936 when Flash Gordon was originally released. And I watched all those Tarzan films too and just a few days earlier on December 17th BBC1 had shown the 1933 King Kong. A merry Christmas from me too, Steve, and to everyone who reads Steve Does Comics :)

TC said...

Also, reading Marvel comics, if you saw villagers wearing lederhosen, and a castle on the nearby hill with a vampire or a mad scientist, you knew it was 1970's Germany or Hungary.

But it wasn't just Marvel. In Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen (IIRC, #144 and/or #145), Jimmy and the Newsboy Legion (the new Newsboy Legion, not the old one; long story) went to Scotland, where all men wore kilts, played bagpipes, and talked like Scrooge McDuck. And there was a sea serpent in the nearby loch. I think it turned out to be the villains' robot or submarine. Of course, villains in comics could always use a disguised submarine in a Scottish lake, since anyone who saw it would assume it was one of those monsters that everybody knew inhabited every Scottish body of water bigger than a bathtub.

The old Tarzan movies and Flash Gordon serials were a staple of Saturday morning TV in the US throughout the sixties.

I remember seeing listings for the Grape Ape, but I never watched it. I don't know what it was about, and I'm not entirely certain that I would want to.

Happy Holidays, everyone. :)

Anonymous said...

Grape Ape was about a large purple ape who had whacky adventures. There were but two words in his lexicon; "grape" and "ape", in that order, yet somehow this simple philosophy always carried him through.


Joe S. Walker said...

The Great Grape Ape Show opening titles:

Never seen it before, but that's kind of a neat theme song.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the link, Joe. Having watched it, I must confess to having no memory at all of that show. Given when it was on, I'm sure I must have seen it, so my ignorance is baffling.

MP, thanks for the Grape Ape info.

Thanks to everyone who's commented so far and Merry Christmas to you all.

Simon B said...

Merry Christmas, Steve, and all best wishes for 2017!

Steve W. said...

Merry Christmas to you too, Simon.

20 cent aka Mike in Jersey said...

Yes! I recall the show! It was on ABC.I don't remember specific episodes though. Uncle Croc's Block was on also I think. Charles Nelson Riley?

Steve W. said...

Mike, I must confess to being totally unfamiliar with both Uncle Croc and Charles Nelson Riley. Were they cartoon characters?

TC said...

I have no idea who Uncle Croc was. Charles Nelson Riley (or maybe Reiley) was an American actor and comedian who played mincing, prancing, prissy characters. Sort of an American John Inman. He may have also done voices for TV cartoons.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, TC. It's always nice to have gaps in one's knowledge filled in.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Croc was a comedy series on the ABC (American Broadcasting Company) television network in 1975. Charles Nelson Reilley played the title character, the host of a Saturday morning TV children's show.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, Anon. :)