Thursday, 2 March 2017

March 2nd, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this night in 1977, BBC One completed its (very) short season of sci-fi films by showing Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon.

From what I can recall of it, it's a comedy about a group of people who fail to get into space and think they've landed on the moon, even though they're in a field on Earth. After the high stakes drama of Forbidden Planet and The Time Machine in the previous two weeks, it must have felt like a massive letdown for sci-fi hungry fans to be given such frivolous and mundane fare this week and I wouldn't be surprised if they all descended on Television Centre, armed with flaming torches and a desire to destroy the Blue Peter garden.

Still, if that was a traumatic letdown, at least we had Marvel UK to fall back on.

Or did we? This was the week that Marvel UK's output was reduced to a mere three comics. Given that the company had once been giving us seven comics a week, we must have feared for the future of the whole venture.

Well, I assume we must have. I can recall having no such misgivings at the time. Clearly I was the kind of youth who needed a weather man to know which way the wind was blowing.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #21, The Red Skull

The Red Skull's finally got round to kidnapping James Callaghan, which means we must be approaching the era when I started reading the comic again.

Mighty World of Marvel #231

It's the merger we all demanded! The Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives joins The Mighty World of Marvel to create the greatest comic ever published!

Then again, maybe not. Even as a Planet of the Apes fan, I couldn't claim to have been happy to see the apes in the pages of Marvel UK's flagship. Whatever their charms, those sprightly simians just didn't fit in alongside the likes of the Hulk, Daredevil and Captain Marvel.

Judging by the cover, it also looks like poor old Luke Cage's strip bit the dust to make way for them.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #212, Mirage

Sadly, apart from the Spider-Man tale, the cover provides no clues as to what happens in this comic.

I do remember the Mirage being the first super-villain I ever saw defeated by a chandelier. Then again, in fairness to him, it was still more dignified than the Sandman having once been defeated by a Hoover.


Dougie said...

On the plus side, Starlin's Captain Marvel was reaching its peak. I loved that Avengers sequence.
I think the Union Jack story was underway in Spidey's weekly.Fairly sure Freedom's Five had their tiny cameo last week. Was Iron Man having a team-up with science fantasy barbarian Val-Larr?

The Artistic Actuary said...

The most embarrassing defeat against Spider-Man is just around the corner, isn't it? The Cyclone defeated by an electric fan.

Steve W. said...

Dangermash, we actually got the Cyclone's epic defeat a few weeks ago. I do always think of the Cyclone and Mirage as kindred spirits.

Dougie, sadly, I can shed no light on the Iron Man situation. I have major problems ever remembering any Iron Man storylines from after the Gene Colan era.

Anonymous said...

Only three comics but don't worry Steve - not long now til Fury turns up to increase Marvel UKs output.

Ah, the Red Skull's cunning plan to execute Jim Callaghan if the British don't let him take over. Not too difficult to spot the flaw in that particular scheme...

As if that wasn't bad enough, I think the FF story in that CB was the one where the Black Panther needs a couple of white boys (well, one of them was orange and rocky, but you know what I mean) to bust him out of jail in Rudyarda.
T'Challa was an Avenger, but he couldn't sort out a few racist screws himself? Thats poor writing, before we even get to the questionable misplaced liberalism.
And to top it off, no SHIELD by Steranko either!


TC said...

"Jules Verne's Rocket To the Moon" was shown on American TV under the title "Blast Off." It had to do with P.T. Barnum (Burl Ives) sponsoring a moon shot, but villains stole the rocket and took off in it. They landed in Russia, thought they were on the moon, and then, when everyone around them was speaking Russian, they deduced that "The Russians got here first." Maybe in the 1960's, during the Space Race, that gag was seen as topical political satire.

After all, that was the same decade in which the Fantastic Four stole a spacecraft and flew it into space, because Sue Storm said, "We can't let the commies beat us to the moon!"

The Artistic Actuary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve W. said...

Dangermash, Your most recent comment has disappeared. I'm not sure if you deleted it or if I did it by accident while trying to respond to it. If it was me that deleted it, let me know and I'll re-post it for you.

TC, thanks for the movie info.

The Artistic Actuary said...

Yes, Luke Cage makes his sad way to the Marvel UK orphanage. Along with Conan, Kazar and Man Thing who were all backup strips in POTA.

But that orphanage is starting to look pretty crowded. Luke's greeted by X-Men, Doctor Strange, Submariner, Ghost Rider, Giant Man and the Wasp, Inhumans, Howling Commandos (not for long), Shang Chi, Iron Fist, Dracula, other horror strips, Spider-Man Teamup, Thing Teamup, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Scarecrow, Cat. Probably more that I've forgotten or was not aware of. Have Tales of Asgard, Nova or Human Torch appeared in Marvel UK yet?

The Artistic Actuary said...

Don't worry Steve - I had some further thoughts on the way into work and replaced the comment with a longer one.

Anonymous said...

I was going to mention "Fury" but Sean already did. Dangermash, Nova's first UK appearance was in October 1977 in Rampage #1 (which came out on the same day as my father's 50th birthday). Only two more colour issues of Captain Britain left - and these last few colour issues had a white border around the cover for some reason.

Anonymous said...

The new MWOM masthead must surely be the longest in the history of comics - "The Mighty World Of Marvel Featuring Hulk And Planet Of The Apes: Where Man Once Stood Supreme Now Rule The Apes"...what a mouthful ! And it would have been even longer but the cover says "Hulk" rather than the more usual "The Incredible Hulk". Was "The Incredible" dropped from the cover or was it just not reproduced in this image ?

John Pitt said...

Even though I was sad when POTA ended, I actually enjoyed the combination in the MWOM more than POTA & Dracula Lives!

Anonymous said...

Actually dangermash, thats not quite right about the Marvel UK orphanage at this point, as there were Spiderman team-ups in the last few colour issues of Captain Britain.
(Yeah, I know - I should get out more...)


Steve W. said...

Colin, the, "Incredible," was present on subsequent covers, so it may just be missing from this issue due to an oversight.

Steve W. said...

Dangermash, I remember some of the, "Tales of Asgard," stories turning up in the old days of, "Spider-Man Comics Weekly."

I don't think Marvel UK ever reprinted the Human Torch solo tales but I could be wrong.

The Artistic Actuary said...

Ah, Tales of Asgard is in there then but Spider-Man Teamup isn't. And Doc Savage is another orphan.

As well as the orphanage, there's another place they need to build with strips that have never seen the Marvel UK light of day (I'm talking as at Feb 77). Human Torch, Nova, Phantom Rider (I remember him from pre Marvel UK days), girlie strips like Millie the Model, the Beast.

Anonymous said...

C'mon dangermash, give 'em a chance - its not like Nova had actually been around for very long by Feb 77. Or that those Torch stories were any good in the first place.

And far be it from me to defend Marvel UK editorial standards, but its only fair to point out that Mighty World of Marvel featuring Millie the Model was unlikely to have been a hit with the average reader back then.
(Mind you, that didn't stop them reprinting the Howling Commandos...)


Anonymous said...

TC, the Commies didn't beat us to the moon but they did beat us to Venus. They landed there. Venus is still technically part of the Soviet Union.
Yet another reason to hate that goddam Putin, as if we need one.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, in addition to the 2016 election, Putin also hacked the 2017 Oscar Awards and Super Bowl LI.

To paraphrase Jan Brady, "Russia, Russia, Russia!"

Steve W. said...

Just as long as they don't hack the Eurovision Song Contest. That's the one that could really tip the world over into war.