Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Rampage!

Marvel UK, Rampage #1, the Defenders
Unless my maths fail me, this week is the fortieth anniversary of the launch of the comic that let us know Marvel UK meant business when it came to fighting back against the nightmarish forces of  falling sales and dwindling market share.

Why?

Because, hot on the heels of The Complete Fantastic Four, the company launched Rampage which replicated that other comic's formula of reprinting an entire issue of a team title each week.

In this case, that title was The Defenders.

Unlike the FF, the self-declared non-team had no ancient stories to use as back-up tales and so, in this comic, the subsidiary strip was provided by the man called Nova, which meant that one thing was for sure.

We were going to be getting an awful lot of art by Sal Buscema in the months to come.

Rampage #10, the Defenders
As with The Complete Fantastic Four, I had very few issues of Rampage.

In fact, I think I may have had just one - issue #10 - which wrapped up the Evil Eye Saga.

Such a thing must have been more than a little confusing for new readers, as the comic hadn't bothered reprinting the Evil Eye Saga itself - thanks to it already having been published in Spider-Man's book - meaning this mag jumped straight from the epic's prologue to its epilogue, with nothing in between.

As for me, my lack of issues of this new title didn't matter in the slightest, as I had a great big pile of the original Defenders comics.

Thinking about it, this may have been the first great flaw with the comic's concept. Unlike the Fantastic Four, it seemed to be ridiculously easy to get hold of Defenders comics. You seemed to be able to get them everywhere, which can't exactly have created massive demand for the UK reprints.

The other flaw, of course, was that, as with The Complete Fantastic Four, it was madness to reprint an entire monthly comic every week, meaning that, if successful, it would have quickly caught up with the source material and be rendered no longer viable.

Rampage #34, Defenders vs NebulonFortunately, Marvel UK avoided that problem by scrapping the comic after just thirty four issues.

Unlike other cancellations, however, this turned out not to be a retreat so much as a change of tactics and, after that last fateful issue, Rampage switched from being Marvel UK's latest weekly mag to being their latest monthly.

But that venture is a story for another day. All that mattered right now was that the company was suddenly publishing a massive four titles a week, which might not have seemed that great but it was at least a turn around from the recent story of cancellations and mergers and gave hope that the company's future wasn't, after all, one of imminent and inevitable extinction.

Of course, what really matters with any comic isn't the contents. It's the free gift that comes with it. And, true to recent form, Marvel UK decided to give away a model plane with issue #1.

At least this time it wasn't a Boeing.

It was a Concorde.

What a Concorde has to do with the Defenders or Nova, I have no idea but I'm sure it was a wonderful thing to behold.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

2000 AD - September 1979.

Once more reality has let me down. Not only can my internet searches supply me with no information about the contents of the galaxy's greatest comic in September 1979 but I can't unearth anything at all interesting that happened in the real world that month either.

Obviously, when I say, "interesting," I mean interesting to me. For instance, lots of people were killing each other that month because there are lots of people killing each other every month and I suppose that's sort of interesting if you like that kind of thing but, in terms of subjects I'd actually want to discuss on a comics blog, there was nothing.

So, let's take a look at the covers and see if there's anything on them that leaps out at me that's in need of discussion.

No there isn't. I mean, seriously, it's dreadful. Where are the cover blurbs that'd give me something to talk about? It's like they gave no thought to the needs of bloggers when they made these comics.

Reality. No wonder they say it's an educational place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there.

Anyway, all I have to say is that my favourite cover of the batch is the one that features the individual who's going on about Khaos. I don't have a clue who he is - other than that he's in the ABC Warriors' strip - but he looks a lively sort who enjoys his work, and that, at least, I can admire.

2000 AD Prog 128, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 129, Tharg

2000 AD Prog 130, ABC Warriors

2000 AD Prog 131, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 132, Khaos

Thursday, 12 October 2017

October 12th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

What a strangely uninspiring seven days was the week that led up to this date, forty years ago. There seemed to be little of note on the television that day and the charts yielded no great changes from the week before.

Thank the comic book gods, therefore, that I had something in my life that was guaranteed to excite me.

That thing was Marvel UK.

And, in just a few days' time, it'd give me even more to get excited about.

But that historic event would have to wait.

For now, we were given the awesome offerings below.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #244, Will o the Wisp

Unless I miss my ever-loving guess, Will o' the Wisp makes his senses-shattering debut this issue.

I don't know. He was a bit of a sad case, wasn't he? Much as I sympathised with his plight, I'm not sure he particularly grabbed me.

Elsewhere, the FF are battling Omega, while the Avengers are battling Zodiac, and Captain Britain is dealing with Slaymaster.

The Complete Fantastic Four #3, Dragon Man

Not content with trying to thwart Omega in the back of Spider-Man's comic, in their own mighty mag, Marvel's first family is trying to get the better of Dragon Man.

I do believe Gregory Gideon makes his return in this tale. I know not, though, whether he returns as a good guy or a bad guy.

The last time I saw him in their strip, he'd finished the tale by becoming a reformed man. Did that reformation stick, or has he returned once more to his villainous ways?

Mighty World of Marvel #263, Daredevil vs Electro

Daredevil finds himself up against Electro, a fight that should, logically, last all of about five seconds, though I suspect Hornhead will somehow manage to come out on top.

I've always loved Electro's outfit. It's one of my favourite super-villain costumes. Frankly, any costume that's got lightning bolts on it, I like.

Meanwhile, the Hulk finds himself up against the Absorbing Man.

As their battle takes place on a building site and Bruce is wearing a hard hat on that cover, I'm assuming his new job is on that very site. I do however stand to be corrected.

But it's common sense. Let's face it, if you're a man who's prone to turning into a homicidal monster at times of stress, it makes perfect sense to get a job in a notoriously hazardous location like a building site. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Forty years ago today - October 1977.

There's only ten minutes to go before the Horror Channel shows the original version of The Fly. Can I possibly get this post done in ten minutes, so I don't miss a second of that 1950s masterpiece?

I don't know but I do know I wouldn't have wanted to miss a single panel of the Marvel comics that I could still just about find on my local spinner racks forty years ago this month if I looked hard enough.

Avengers #164, the Lethal Legion is back

The Lethal Legion are back, which I think was a group-therapy club for all those people who couldn't get into the Masters of Evil.

But just who do those mysterious hands in the foreground belong to?

Are they the dexterous digits of the Scarlet Witch?

Conan the Barbarian #79

It's all getting a bit strange in the world of Conan. Just why is he so determined to defend a floating eye?

To be honest, I don't get excited by floating eyes. I get excited by floating mouths like the Galaxy Master.

Are floating eyes and mouths all Marvel ever gave us? I don't remember them ever giving us floating hands, feet or ears.

Captain America and the Falcon #214

Cap's still blind. Beyond that, I can say little of this issue.

Fantastic Four #187, Klaw and the Molecule Man

Not only is Klaw back but so is the Molecule Man, a villain I had no memory of when I read this tale originally, even though I must have seen his first appearance when it was published in the Mighty World of Marvel a mere four-or-so years earlier.

Anyway, regardless, I could tell at once that he was a wrong 'un and found him aesthetically displeasing. Needless to say, I was delighted to see him defeated.

Hulk #216, the Bi-Beast is back

Although I'd previously known of his existence, this is the first story I ever read that actually featured the Bi-Beast.

I know nothing of his history after this tale. Was he ever seen again?

I like to think he was, even though, as he had two somewhat one-track minds, I'm not sure just what could have been done with him, story wise.

Iron Man #103, Jack of Hearts

Marvel were clearly determined to get the most out of Jack Of Hearts in this period. Not long after his battle with the Hulk, he's tangling with Iron Man.

Seemingly, the powers-that-be felt he had some potential as a super-doer.

From what I can remember of him, they may have been mistaken.

Amazing Spider-Man #173, the Molten Man is back

The Molten Man is back, which is good news for all fans of his fiery ways and intense personal drama.

Is this the tale where we discover he's the half-brother of Liz Allen, or were we already told that in a prior appearance?

Spectacular Spider-Man #11, Medusa

Try as I might, I can't get excited by the thought of Spidey vs Medusa. I remember their first battle not exactly being thrilling and, as Medusa was an established good guy by this point, I assume their current fight was due to a misunderstanding and was therefore short-lived.

Thor #264, Loki

What on Earth is that thing Thor's fighting? It looks ridiculous.

I can't help feeling readers must have been a bit bored with Loki by this point.

X-Men #107

Hooray! It's the battle everyone with any sense in the 1970s wanted to see. It's Dave Cockrum's X-Men vs Dave Cockrum's Legion of Super-Heroes, even if Marvel couldn't legally admit to it.

As a fan of both strips, it was inevitable that I'd love this story.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

October 5th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Eat your heart out, Huggy Bear. You might think you're cool but, in this week of 1977, it was David Soul who was king of the pop charts, as the TV cop turned singer sat proudly atop the UK hit parade with his platter Silver Lady which, as has already been declared on this blog, was easily his best single.

Amongst the other records on that week's chart, we could find I Remember Elvis Presley by Danny Mirror at Number Eight. I do have to say that being able to remember Elvis Presley less than two months after his death was hardly a major feat, so why he felt the need to boast about it to the whole world is anyone's guess.

Well, we might all remember Elvis Presley but do we remember the contents of the Marvel UK mags that were hitting our doormats that week?

There's only one way to find out.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #243, the Spider-Slay is back

Hooray! The Spider-Slayer's back!

Said no one ever.

Wasn't this one in the habit of falling over on ice and getting crushed by statues? Poor old JJJ, when will he ever learn?

Interesting to see that our hero refers to it as the, "Spider-Killer," in this image. I wonder if that's because there's also mention of the Slay-Master, and the editor didn't want to overuse the word, "Slay," on one cover?

From what I can remember, the Slay-Master was a Bullseye type character with a silly car that would have made it impossible for him to go for a drive without instantly being spotted and arrested. Generally speaking, if you're an assassin, it's best not to draw attention to yourself.

Elsewhere, the FF are still up against Omega, despite having their own comic, while the Avengers are still battling against Zodiac, even though Zodiac shouldn't have been able to last more than five minutes against the Avengers.

Complete Fantastic Four #2

Speaking of the FF, in the main story, they're now facing the deadly danger of the Dragon Man, while the back-up strip reprints their first ever meeting with the Mole Man.

But who cares about that when there's a free Boeing Clipper model to be had?

This is the second consecutive issue to give away a toy Boeing plane. Did Marvel have some sort of promotional deal with the company, or something?

Mighty World of Marvel #262, Absorbing Man vs Hulk

The Hulk's finally stopped his post-Jarella rampage and is up against the Absorbing Man, a villain who should always beat the Hulk but, thanks to his total lack of smarts, still manages to lose to him every time.

That's right. The Absorbing Man isn't smart enough to beat the Hulk. Let's all just imagine how stupid a man has to be for that to be the case.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Marvel Lucky Bag - October 1977.

It's the first Tuesday of the month - and that can only mean one thing.

It's time for me to look at an almost random sample of what was happening in the less high-profile Marvel titles of forty years ago.

Eternals Annual #1

The Eternals get the first and last annual of their original run.

I don't have a clue what's going on but, to be honest, only The Reject doesn't look totally half-hearted about the prospect of having a scrap.

Human Fly #2, Ghost Rider

It's the team-up that had to happen, as Marvel Comics' two greatest stuntmen (apart from the Stunt-Master) team up to do whatever it is they're teaming up to do.

To be honest, in what way the Hell-powered Ghost Rider'll need the help of the distinctly non-super-powered Human Fly, I have no idea.

Luke Cage, Power Man #47, Zzzax Attax

Hooray! It's the return of Zzzax who I've always had a soft spot for!

But, seeing as Zzzax can give the Hulk a run for his money, I can only assume Luke Cage doesn't actually manage to survive the encounter.

Tarzan Annual #1, Marvel Comics

Like the Eternals, Tarzan gets his first annual. He, however, had several more in this era, which is surprising, as I've always associated him with DC rather than Marvel.

I do worry about the number of apes Tarzan's been pictured killing over the years. Doesn't he know they're an endangered species? You do wonder why the authorities haven't arrested him yet.

Come to think of it, how can it be legal for him to carry that knife around?

And, for that matter, did he have a permit to kill that leopard he made his underpants from?

Thor Annual #6, Guardians of the Galaxy

Just to join in the fun, Thor has an annual too!

I don't have a clue what happens in this one but I assume, from the cover blurb, that this is part of the Korvac Saga.

Not that I know what the Korvac Saga is but I've heard talk of it, in hushed whispers and therefore assume it must have been a big thing.

Marvel Classics Comics #25, the Invisible Man

Step aside, Sue Storm, the Invisible Man is unleashed upon the world!

Isn't there an adaptation of this tale that features a cover by Jim Steranko? Is it the same adaptation as this but with a different cover or is it a different adaptation altogether?

I do recall a version of the tale appearing in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes comic. Was it this version? Was it that version? Was it another version? Who can know?

Marvel Classics Comics #26, the Iliad

If anyone ever tells you that reading comics stunts your learning, slap them over the head with this; Marvel's very own adaptation of Homer's Iliad.

To be honest, how he found time to write it, with Bart and Lisa playing up all the time, is beyond me.

Kull #23

I must confess I've only included this cover because the beastie on it is clearly the monster from the classic 1950s movie Night of the Demon, easily one of the greatest horror films ever made. It's the film that taught me never to accept a piece of paper from a strange man.

Godzilla #3, the Champions

With his third issue, Godzilla well and truly enters the Marvel Universe, as he encounters The Champions.

To be honest, apart from Hercules, it's hard to see what any of them can do to Godzilla, other than annoy him.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Fifty years ago this month - October 1967.

October 1967 was a month for unlikely goings-on on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, Harold Wilson won a libel action against The Move after they depicted him nude in promotional material for their single Flowers in the Rain. I am highly disappointed that Tony Blackburn has never mentioned this on the myriad occasions when he's talked about playing the record at the launch of Radio One.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the forests of America, Roger Pattison and Robert Gimlin were shooting their legendary Bigfoot film that's intrigued, puzzled and bamboozled mankind ever since. Was it a man in a suit? Was it a mystery beast? Was it just Roy Wood trying to hide from Harold Wilson's lawyers? Somehow, I suspect we shall never know.

What we shall know is what the heroes of Marvel were up to in the mags whose covers bore the name of that very month.

How will we know that?

Because they are here...

Avengers #45, the Super-Adaptoid

I think this tale was the first time I ever encountered the Super-Adaptoid.

With his gift for adaptoiding superly, how massively powerful he seemed.

How little I knew at the time what a total loser he'd been in his previous appearances.

Daredevil #33, the Beetle

I think this might have been the first time I ever encountered the Beetle.

Unlike the Super-Adaptoid, I knew at once that he wasn't what you'd call a top-drawer villain.

Admittedly, the fact he was turning up in an issue of Daredevil kind of gave that fact away.

I do believe this adventure involves our hero being held captive at Montreal's Expo 67 which concluded in this very month of that year.

Fantastic Four #67, Him!

The man who'll become known as Warlock emerges from his cocoon to pass judgement on the few people he's ever met, before flying off into Outer Space.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, Dr Octopus

Doc Ock is back. I know it says so on the cover but that doesn't stop me saying he is.

I do believe this is the start of the epic in which everyone's favourite tentacle twirler becomes Aunt May's lodger.

Strange Tales #161, Captain America and Nick Fury

Did I read this tale in the pages of Captain Britain? I'm not totally sure.

Nor am I sure what happens in it.

In fact, I don't have a clue what happens in it.

Tales of Suspense #94, Captain America vs AIM

I do believe this issue sees only the second ever appearance of MODOK.

I just hope he doesn't let his new-found fame make him big-headed.

Thor #145, Stranded on Earth

Hooray! Thor's helped save Asgard from the Enchanters Three!

Needless to say, this somehow leads to Odin stripping him of his powers and exiling him on Earth. What a great dad he is.

X-Men #37, Factor Three

It's one of the few X-Men issues from the 1960s that I actually like, as our heroes take on the mysterious Factor Three in a story that I think may have been drawn by Ross Andru.

Does that mean The X-Men was the first strip he ever drew for Marvel? All the other Marvel work I've ever seen by him was from the 1970s, at the earliest.

Tales to Astonish #9, the Sub-Mariner vs the Plunderer

Is that the Plunderer I spy? Does his presence mean Ka-Zar's going to put in an appearance too?

Then again, if that's Skull Island, where's King Kong?

Thursday, 28 September 2017

September 28th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

As sensationally reported the other day, this was the week when the Marvel UK fightback began.

But even that wouldn't be enough for our eager little minds. What other mind-blowing excitement was the company flinging at us in their three-pronged attack on the British comics market?

Marvel UK, Complete Fantastic Four #1

As far as I can make out, this issue must have reprinted Fantastic Four #132, which featured Omega, who I seem to remember having something to do with an uprising by the Alpha Primitives in the Inhumans' Hidden Land or Great Refuge or whatever it was they were calling it at the time.

More importantly, the mag was giving away a free model Boeing 747.

This was clearly totally logical. After all, who doesn't associate the FF with Boeing 747s? I know I do.

But what an odd coincidence that forty years to the month after this comic would have given me such a gift had I ever had this comic, Boeing have started work on building a factory in my dear home city. If they don't give me a plastic replica of any of their planes, to celebrate, I shall be very unhappy with them.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #242, the Hitman and the Vulture

At last, it's the dramatic Dave Cockrum cover I've been blathering about for weeks, even if, in the days before I had the internet to inform me, I always assumed it was by Sal Buscema.

Inside, Captain Britain is still having trouble with Doctor Claw, the Avengers are still having problems with Zodiac, and the Fantastic Four are still...

...hold on a moment. The Fantastic Four are in this issue as well as having their own comic?

Not only that but the Grand Comics Database tells me the instalment in question reprints the first eight pages of Fantastic Four #132.

But isn't that the tale that's being reprinted, in its entirety, in The Complete Fantastic Four #1? What is this strange and confusing madness?

Mighty Wold of Marvel #261, the Hulk

The Hulk's still on the rampage.

Please tell me he's not still in a rage over the death of Jarella. This is getting ridiculous.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Complete Fantastic Four.

Marvel UK, Complete Fantastic Four #1
This was it! This was the week, forty years ago, when, following a string of setbacks, cancellations and mergers, the once juggernautal Marvel UK decided to hit back with the launch of a brand new comic.

And what better way to do it than with the team who'd been there right at the start, in the very first issue of Mighty World of Marvel, all the way back in 1972?

In truth, there were probably much better ways of doing it, bearing in mind that the idea of the Complete Fantastic Four was to reprint an entire issue of the world's greatest comic every week.

Bearing in mind that, even in its previous form as a truncated back-up strip in various other mags, it had managed to draw ominously close to catching up with the original mag it was being reprinted from, it meant the venture was inherently doomed from the start.

The title only lasted thirty seven issues but, by the time of its last week, it was less than eighteen months behind its parent comic, meaning that, by my off-the-top-of-my-head calculations, had it lasted just another five months, it would have completely caught up with that parent mag, would have run out of material to reprint and would have been facing the chop no matter how successful it had been. It has to be said, it didn't seem like a lot of foresight had gone into this venture.

Then again, maybe Marvel UK could have done an Apeslayer on us and redrawn old Killraven stories as Fantastic Four tales. Old Skull redrawn as the Thing, Killraven as Reed Richards, Hawk as the Human Torch, Carmilla Frost as Sue Richards, Grok redrawn as Willie Lumpkin, M'Shulla as Alicia, the Martians as Skrulls? Let's face it, who wouldn't pay good money to see that?

Marvel UK, Complete Fantastic Four #6, the Miracle Man returns
As for the comic we actually got, I'd like to say it made a big impression on my life but I only ever saw two issues of it.

The first was issue #6 which reprinted the opening part of the Miracle Man's return. This was pleasing for me, as I already had the tale's second part in its original form and it was satisfying to finally read its first instalment.

By clear coincidence, its back-up strip featured their introductory meeting with the Miracle Man, a tale I always recalled with fondness from my first reading of it.

This does pose a mystery to me though because I also recall reading an issue of the The Complete FF whose back-up story was an early tale in which Doctor Doom gets inflatable dummies to follow the FF around for reasons that totally escape me. No doubt it was all part of a truly diabolical plot the like of which would take the world's breath away had the world known about it.

The trouble is, when I look at the covers of the mag's other issues, none of them ring a bell for me at all. So, which issue that was, I have no idea.

Anyway, with its inherently short life-span, the mag might not have proven to be Marvel UK's salvation but, in being a statement of intent about the company's determination to fight back against declining sales, market share and profitability, it has to be viewed as a title of some significance.

And, as it turned out, it wasn't to be the company's last stab at a comeback - because even more exciting news for UK Marvel lovers was just around the corner.

But what could that be?

What?

What?

Marvel UK, Complete Fantastic Four #37, Power Man

Thursday, 21 September 2017

September 21st, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On the 16th of September, 1977, Glam Rock star Marc Bolan died in a car crash, aged just twenty nine.

Elsewhere, on the 20th, Europe was hit by The Petrozavodsk Phenomenon, in which a mystery aerial light show was reported, all the way from Copenhagen to Vladivostok.

It centred around the Russian city of Petrozavodsk where a glowing object reportedly showered the town with strange rays, causing concern in the rest of Europe that the Soviets were testing secret weaponry.

But the Soviet leadership didn't have a clue what had caused it and, to this day, it's still not known what lay behind it all.

Clearly it was a puzzle that demanded investigation from a man of my intellectual capacity.

But I couldn't investigate it.

I was too busy catching up with what the heroes of our two favourite comics were getting up to.

Oh what miracles humanity could have achieved by now if its finest minds hadn't been too busy reading comics.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #241, the Vulture and the Hitman

At last we get the arrival of the Hitman, which I've been going on about for weeks.

If only I could remember anything that happens from this point on.

Elsewhere, I believe the Human Torch is still having trouble coming to terms with the fact that Crystal's engaged to Quicksilver, while Captain Britain's still having trouble with Doctor Claw, and the Avengers are having trouble beating up the various members of Zodiac.

I believe this is the tale in which Zodiac launch the World's mightiest super-team into space, in a shed. I can't help feeling that's a fate that lacks a certain dignity.

The cover of this issue is drawn by Larry Leiber. The Captain Britain tale is written by Larry Leiber. Truly, Larry was the Marvel UK Renaissance Man.

Mighty World of Marvel and Fury #260, the Hulk

I don't know what goes on in this one. Is the Hulk still on the rampage, following the death of Jarella?

If so, this storyline genuinely seems to have dragged on for months. Were Marvel UK reprinting the story at a rate of only one page per week or something?

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