Sunday 30 April 2017

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 18: Nightmare #1.

Nightmare #1, Thorpe & Potter
Hold on to your hats, Horror fans, because it's time for another round of the least appropriately named feature on the internet. You know. That one where I go on and on about a comic I'd once owned but had then completely forgotten about the existence of.

Of course, inevitably, as nearly always with this feature, that's not what this post is about at all.

It's about a comic whose presence in my life I've never struggled to recall. Nor whose contents I've ever truly forgotten.

Despite remembering those things, I did, however, for many years have no memory at all of what it was actually called.

What a mystery it was. The kind that could drive a man to madness. But, somehow, by some means beyond my recollection, a few years back, I stumbled across the above cover on the internet and realised at once that it belonged to the comic in question.

How well I remember its tales.

There was one about a pair of honeymooners who both turn out to have three eyes, thanks to one of them being a mutant and the other being an alien. It's a situation that I think we've all experienced at some point in our lives.

There was also a tale of an expedition to Africa that causes its leader, a conceited young woman with little grasp of how to endear herself to people, to be turned into a bee person.

There was also some sort of tale about a ghoul in a crypt.

I think there was a story set on a boat.

There may have been a tale of vampirism.

There may have been a yarn featuring legendary swamp monster The Heap but I'm not sure about that.

As far as I'm aware, Nightmare was a 1970 US publication by Skywald, which folded after twenty three issues and the, "Sky," in Skywald was Marvel Comics legend Sol Brodsky. However, the copy I had was a UK version from five years later, published by Thorpe & Porter, which differed noticeably from the original publication. For instance, even though this is issue #1, most of its material, including the cover, comes from issue #17 of the American mag. Why they decided to do it in such a random way, I have no idea but it clearly didn't work, as the mag folded after just two issues.

Despite being a Horror lover, I do remember that I didn't really like it, as it was filled with blood, guts, gore and other assorted tastelessness that offended whatever little basic human decency I have left. Even I find it hard to be entertained by the sight of a man eating human internal organs while they're still physically attached to their host body.

However, despite that, it's still a matter of relief to me that I did eventually find out what it was called and have thus spent the last few years free from the frustration of not knowing.

Once, there was a time in my life when I couldn't have discovered that. When I would have been deprived of all hope of ever again seeing a painting of a naked woman on an altar, with a chained unicorn gorilla at her side and a pile of human bones at her feet. Tim Berners-Lee, what a gift you gave to humanity. No wonder you got a knighthood.

Thursday 27 April 2017

April 27th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's not been a cheering week for lovers of British comics, with the news that artist Leo Baxendale has died, aged 86.

Baxendale was the industry colossus who created the Beano characters Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, the Bash Street Kids and The Three Bears before going on to create Clever Dick, Sweeny Toddler and Willy the Kid for other publications, not to mention I Love You Baby Basil! for The Guardian.

Baxendale must surely be the most celebrated British comics creator of them all, his style being the one you instantly imagine when you think of British comics and there's no doubt that, with his death, the art form has lost one of its greats.

But that's the present. What was happening way back, in another, very different, branch of the UK comics industry, exactly forty years ago?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #29, Lord Hawk

Lord Hawk is causing trouble with his robotic raptor.

I don't recall much about Lord Hawk, other than that I didn't like him. For some reason, even though the whole mag was in black and white, he seemed greyer than everything else in it.

I believe the back-up strips are still giving us the same stories as they were last issue. Upon occasions, time really does seem to crawl with this comic.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #220

I don't care what anyone says. I always liked the Spider-Mobile. I'd definitely have one if I was a super-hero.

Given his fugitive status, I wonder where Spidey used to buy petrol for it?

Come to think of it, I assume he was driving it illegally. It didn't seem to have a number plate. I would suspect he also didn't have the American equivalent of an MOT, insurance or a tax disc. I bet he didn't even have a log book. The man was clearly not fit to be let loose on the roads.

Mighty World of Marvel #239, Hulk and Planet of the Apes

Is this the one where the Hulk comes up against that Conan-style barbarian whose name I can't remember? The one with the big axe, who keeps declaring himself to be invincible?

Speaking of not being able to remember, I have no recall at all of viking apes. When this post is done, I shall have to investigate the matter further, via the internet.

Marvel UK, Fury #7

I wonder what the combat radios were like?

Not that I care. If it's called a combat radio, I want it. Given my two-fisted lifestyle, I never know when I might need one.

Sunday 23 April 2017

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 17: House of Hammer #7.

The House of Hammer #7, Twins of Evil, Peter Cushing, Burn witch burn My childhood Fridays were dominated by two things; Googie Withers and Appointment With Fear.

Googie Withers, because she starred in Within These Walls, a TV show I have no memory of, other than that it starred Googie Withers.

Appointment With Fear dominated my Fridays because that TV feature dragged late Friday evenings down into a pit of terror from which no human mind could ever hope to escape.

Admittedly, even though I was of tender years and an habitual coward, Appointment With Fear never actually managed to scare me in the slightest. In truth, its introductory sequence of monsters' faces morphing into each other, one after the other, seemed more menacing than the movies ever did but it did introduce me to what seemed like an endless parade of Hammer horror films that all seemed to have exactly the same cast.

But ITV wasn't my only source of mallet based mayhem in the 1970s.

There was another.

And that was The House of Hammer, a magazine launched by future Marvel UK editor Dez Skinn, featuring comic strip adaptations of classic Hammer movies, and prose and photo features on the work of the company.

Admittedly, it wasn't much of a source for me, because I only ever had one issue and that was the one above, which published an adaptation of that cheeky tale of Karnstein based vampirism The Twins of Evil. Who could forget Peter Cushing's turn as a puritanical nutjob trying to rid his village of wanton and lascivious women, only to find that one of his own nieces is no better than she should be and likes to drink people's blood while she's at it? Why, I doubt that anyone with his wits about him could forget that film.

However, up until recently, I'd totally forgotten I once owned the magazine that adapted it. Happily, the internet is a wonderful place and the moment I accidentally stumbled across the cover on it, I realised at once that it had formerly been in my possession.

As always with this feature, despite the title of this post, The House of Hammer #7 wasn't at all forgettable. Now that my memory's been prodded by the cover image, I recall its take on the Twins of Evil quite clearly. I also recall that the issue contained an article about a movie I've only ever seen once, one which featured human sacrifice and possibly Donald Pleasance. What was the title of that movie? I have no idea. I know it wasn't Curse of the Crimson Altar but could say nothing beyond that.

The issue may also have featured a last-page photo of Yutte Stensgaard with fangs, and blood all over her. This image was clearly taken from Lust For A Vampire. However, I couldn't swear on my life that that image was indeed present, as it might actually have been in the one issue of Skywald's Nightmare that I ever owned.

Thursday 20 April 2017

April 20th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

As mentioned previously on this very site, in this week of 1977, the World Snooker Championship moved to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, creating something of a television, social and sporting phenomenon. Who could forget Hurricane Higgins, Whirlwind White, Steve (Interesting) Davis, Steady Eddie Charlton, Boozy Bill Werbeniuk, Cyclone Sanders, Tornado Thompson, Breezy Bob Blenkinsop, Dust Devil Darren, Gusty Gordon, Pyroclastic Density Current Palmer, Gentle Zephyr Jensen, Mid-Atlantic Depression Morgan, El Nino Ellinson and all those other people whose names I can't be bothered to make up?

I don't have a lot more to say than that on the subject, as I've already pretty much shot my bolt on the matter in the earlier comments sections. All I'll say is, "Happy fortieth birthday, Crucible World Snooker Championships and long may your cue stay chalked."

The other big event that week was the BBC's Sky at Night celebrated its 20th birthday. Who would have thought it'd still be going all these years later? The Radio Times summary for the event was as follows:

 In April 1957, The Sky at Night began. It could not have started at a better time. Within months the Space Age opened, with the launch of Sputnik 1 and, over the next few years, astronomy saw some of the most spectacular advances of all time. Today, 20 years later, men have visited the moon. Rockets have flown past the planets and even landed on some of them.

Reading that really does bring home the astonishingly accelerated nature of the Space Race - the fact that just twelve years separate the first man-made object to enter orbit, and men walking on the moon. Also that, just twenty years after Sputnik, moon landings were already a thing of the past.

"Gadzooks!" I hear you cry. "That's incredible but is there anything in existence that could possibly tie snooker, astronomy and Marvel Comics together in a way that brilliantly allows you to lead into a look at what Marvel UK was up to in the week that bears today's cover date?

No there isn't.

Therefore I'm not going to bother looking at them this week.

Oh, alright then, I am.

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #28

It looks like Captain Britain's decided to tackle common street thugs - the kind who go out armed with a gun and a stick.

However, I do believe the dastardly Lord Hawk and his robot bird are already starting to rear their ugly head inside the comic.

I also believe the FF are busy fighting Galactus, and Nick Fury is still up against that Hellhound.

I think Spider-Man and the Torch are also teaming up to fight someone but don't ask me who.

Marvel UK, Fury #6

Fury is still doing everything it can to keep its titular hero off the front cover. It's almost like they thought he'd put people off buying the comic.

Mighty World of Marvel #238, Hulk, Planet of the Apes

I think the Hulk is still inside Glenn Talbot's brain.

I don't have a clue what's going on in the ape tale but it would appear there's a serious level of mutant-bashing going on.

It seems rather hard on mutants. Have they ever tried to just sit down and negotiate with them?

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #219
For a moment there, I did think the phrase,"Spidey Strikes!" was contained in a speech balloon emanating from our hero. I did like the idea that Spider-Man would shout, "Spidey strikes!" as he kicks people. It's the sort of thing I'd do if I had spider powers.

As for the comic, I believe this is the start of the tale that sees the webbed wallcrawler battling his own car, at the behest of the Tinkerer.

While I was glad to see the return of the villain after all those years, I wasn't glad they'd retconned him to claim he wasn't really an alien and had only been pretending to be one in his previous appearance.

I don't like it when aliens turn out to not be aliens. It makes the world seem that little bit more mundane.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Quatermass and the Pit meets Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hooray! It's time for a new regular feature on the UK's three hundred and ninety one millionth best blog. One where I give a quick round-up of whatever genre-related films I've been watching lately.

Obviously, when I say, "Regular," none of us should hold our breaths waiting for the next instalment because, once I've done this post, apathy'll probably seize me and the feature will no doubt never be heard of again.

Quatermass and the Pit, Martian, Hammer Studios
Anyway, inspired by conversation on Back in the Bronze Age, I've been rewatching the classic 1958 BBC serial Quatermass and the Pit - that dread reminder of why messing about with shovels can only ever lead to horror. By eerie coincidence, the night after I watched the final episode, the Horror Channel then showed the 1967 Hammer movie remake, giving me a chance to make a direct comparison in a way I'd never done before.

It's always been the thing amongst the wise and informed to say the TV version's massively superior to the film version but, as someone who saw the movie first, I've always had strong resistance to such a notion and see both incarnations as equal but different. Being a serial, the TV show has time to explore its characters, ideas and setting in more depth, especially with its backdrop of Notting Hill style race riots, references to which, I think, are totally absent from the movie. But the film gains by being quicker and more sharply focused, cutting out all of the padding that was logistically necessary in the TV show.

Quatermass and the Pit, Andre Morell
When it comes to casting, it's also a draw. André Morell and Andrew Keir are chalk and cheese, Morell all sophisticated charm, and Keir, a ball of kindly irascibility. You could imagine Keir's hero decking someone with a well-placed right hook. Something you could never imagine Morell doing. Despite the differences between them, both are excellent in the part and, despite delivering exactly the same dialogue in totally different ways, both somehow manage to be perfectly cast.

Likewise Cec Linder and James Donald are both excellent as maverick archaeologist Matthew Roney. The movie's Donald does seem more like an intellectual, while TV's showmanlike Linder feels more like an outsider, a status that becomes crucial as the tale reaches its climax. It also has to be said that Linder really does look like he's stepped straight out of a panel drawn by Steve Ditko.

As Barbara, Roney's assistant, Barbara Shelley is more glamorous and self-possessed than Christine Finn but Finn has a somewhat strange quality to her and she's allowed to develop a friendship with the army captain that's totally missing from the film.

For me, where the film definitely scores over the TV version in terms of casting is that of Colonel Breen. Julian Glover's Breen starts out with some degree of charm, wit and even manners before degenerating into a deranged blockhead, whereas Anthony Bushell's Breen is a deranged blockhead from the very start, making you wonder how he ever got into any kind of position of authority.

Having said that, the TV show possibly gives hints that his behaviour is because (having a militaristic mindset?) he's being influenced by the machine before everyone else, whereas the movie doesn't hint at that, making Breen's refusal to recognise the mountain of evidence piling up in front of him somewhat baffling.

Quatermass and the Pit, the Ship, BBC serial
When it comes to production values, amazingly, the TV version beats the movie. The creatures are far better constructed in the TV version (although the movie ones are creepier) and the purging of the Martian hives is staged far more impressively. It does seem odd that a 1950s BBC serial should be able to rustle up better effects than a big screen movie from a decade later but I suppose that's just a reminder of how low-budget Hammer films really were and just how much they managed to hide that sin by hiring excellent casts to make them seem classier than they were.

So, in the end, I still declare it to be a draw, with both versions being classics in their own right.

One thing that does strike me as being astonishing about the TV version is that it was broadcast live, with filmed inserts for the trickier scenes. The idea that anyone would broadcast a science fiction show live seems like madness but they pull it off beautifully, with only the odd glitch to remind you that there were no retakes possible.

One last thing that strikes me is that the TV version of the craft looks remarkably like a dalek that's got drunk and fallen over on its way home from the pub. I had assumed it must be because dalek designer Raymond Cusick was involved but it turns out he didn't join the BBC until a couple of years later. Could he have been influenced by the design when he first drew his deadly mutants or was it pure coincidence?

Guardians of the Galaxy Poster
If last night was a chance for me to revisit an old friend in Bernard Quatermass, it was also a chance to visit some new ones in the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Obviously, the Guardians of the Galaxy aren't really new friends. They're not friends at all. I've never met them and they've never met me and they'd probably mug me if they did meet me but I have at least encountered them before.

However, that was in the pages of a comic, and last night's bank holiday scheduling did give me a chance to see their movie for the first time.

Obviously, I was looking forward to it because I'm that kind of a man but did I enjoy it?

I enjoyed it when there was personal interaction going on. The characters were well-defined and sympathetic, somehow managing to come across as plucky underdogs despite having enough power between them to flatten an army.

I didn't enjoy it anything like as much when there was actual action going on. Not being a fan of space battles, especially CGI ones, I must admit the film lost my attention whenever the lasers started firing.

My other complaint would be that Ronan was a totally undeveloped villain. From what I can remember, we found out nothing about him other than that he wanted to destroy a planet for no reason that I could remember. Also, Thanos and Karen Gillan's Nebula were frustratingly underused. So far, all I've seen Thanos do in Marvel films is sit in a chair. I do hope he manages to escape his chair in future films or the series' climax is going to be a bit dull.

Anyway, I give it seven out of ten. It wasn't a film that blew me away but I'd have no objection to watching it again.

Sunday 16 April 2017

2000 AD - March 1979.

Hooray! It's Easter Sunday! And that can only mean one thing!

That I'm looking at what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to exactly thirty eight years and one month ago.

I use exactly the same method to work out when to do it that they use to work out when Easter is. It's all highly scientific and I'll probably win a Nobel Prize for it.

It also means I have to wish everyone who visits this blog a happy Easter in between bouts of complaining that there's nothing on TV.

In fairness, there was something on the TV yesterday and there will be tomorrow because Dr Who returned last night and Guardians of the Galaxy is on BBC One tomorrow night.

I enjoyed the Dr Who return, although it was noticeably lacking in tension. It did at least tell a story in a straight line and Pearl Mackie did her job well. After severely disliking the last two Christmas specials and feeling heavily jaded during the last season of the show, it was nice to finally see a Dr Who story I enjoyed again.

I can't comment on the Guardians of the Galaxy just yet, not having so far seen it, so tomorrow will be my chance to find out at last what the fuss is about.

As for the all-important matter of 2000 AD, as always, I have no idea what was happening with it, as my memory's totally failed me. I do know the Judge Cal storyline was still ongoing, which means it may be even longer than the Captain Britain/Red Skull shindig. Having said that, I don't recall it outstaying its welcome and I remember finding it entertaining from start to finish, especially when Cal made his goldfish into a judge.

Admittedly, that might be because I'd seen I Claudius and therefore knew what it was they were sending up. If I'd not seen it, possibly the whole point of it would have bypassed me. Thank God I was allowed to watch TV shows that were inappropriate for children.

Apparently we've reached a point in the saga where Walter the Wobot becomes vital in the fight against evil. This gives me pleasure, as Walter the Wobot is a living legend and an example to us all.

Anyway, Happy Easter and these are the covers to the issues in question. Even if they lack the vital info needed by bloggers, they do at least demonstrate that you should never get in the way of an angry baby.

2000 AD, Prog 102, Robo-Hunter

2000 AD, Prog 103

2000 AD, Prog 104, Strontium Dog

2000 AD, Prog 105, Judge Dredd

2000 AD, Prog 106, Robo-Hunter

Thursday 13 April 2017

April 13th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

My awesome research tells me that, in this week of 1977, nothing at all interesting happened in the whole wide world.

How so very different from the following week, in which the most head-explodingly exciting thing in the history of humanity occurred.

I think you can guess what it is.

But we shall have to wait seven days before I tackle that subject.

In the meantime, there may not have been anything happening in the real world but at least we had thrills and spills in the world of black and white to make up for it.

Hold on? Black and white? Could that be a clue as to just what was going to happen in the following week?

Perhaps it could.

But what could it be?




Marvel UK, Captain Britain #27, the Red Skull

I have a feeling this may be the very last instalment of the Red Skull/Captain America/Jim Callaghan/Jimmy Carter tag team challenge that's lasted longer than World War Two itself.

No doubt, it can only lead to a brand new direction in the life of our hero. One that, if the cover can be believed, involves pulling swords from stones.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #218, Doctor Octopus and Aunt May

The  Red Skull's battle with democracy may be over but Aunt May's battle to marry a boy her parents wouldn't have approved of goes on and on.

I've just realised that the Marvel UK mags have had a recent price increase and the glossies are now all ten pence, instead of the previous nine. When will this inflationary madness end?

Mighty World of Marvel #217, Hulk, Planet of the Apes

The Pet Shop Boys might have said, "You were always on my mind," but it's beginning to look like the Hulk is permanently in Glenn Talbot's brain, as his unique brand of two-fisted psychiatry continues.

No doubt it was this that  Neil Tennant was contemplating when he decided to cover that very song.

Is the Apes story a Jason and Alexander one? Or are we again on that Tom Sutton drawn ship, with the crossbows and the derring-doings?

Marvel UK, Fury #5

I have no idea what happens in this one but I suspect it'll be full of people declaring things like, "Gott im Himmel!", "Schweinhund!", "Donner und Blitzen!" and, "Achtung!"

With a vocabulary that limited, it's no wonder the Nazis lost the war. It's very difficult to relay complex strategy when you only have eight words in your lexicon.

Monday 10 April 2017

Thor: Ragnarok, New Teaser Trailer (SPOILERS!).

By Niffleheim's nifty nipples, it's time for me to stumble into a Nordic cave, bash a gnarled stick against a wall and unleash my mystical blogging powers - because Marvel Entertainment have unleashed the teaser trailer for their upcoming epic, Thor Ragnarok.

I must confess I have mixed feelings about the Thor films we've been given so far. I greatly enjoyed the first one, which I found to be far lighter on its feet than I'd expected but the second one mostly left me confused and bored. I still don't have a clue who the bad guys were, where they came from, what their plan was or how they got to wherever it was that they'd got to. For that matter, I didn't even know where they were.

Still, I enjoyed Iron Man 3 more than Iron Man 2, so perhaps the same pattern will occur with the thunder god's movie career?

As for the trailer itself, I'm not overly excited about his clash with the Hulk. We've already had that in The Avengers and I was kind of taking it for granted we'd see another punch-up from them at some point.

Call me a grizzled old fashionista but I must confess that what really excites me about the trailer is that Hela gets to wear her big fancy hat.

I know that finding such a detail the most thrilling thing in a trailer that's packed with incident and Led Zeppelin makes me the saddest man alive but, I mean, come on, as fancy hats go, that's the fanciest - and it'd make a great place to hang your washing from when you need to get it dry in a hurry. If I were a death deity - which I still hold out high hopes of one day becoming - I would definitely wear a hat like that.

Is it my imagination or is Chris Hemsworth sounding more Australian with each film he does? At this rate, by the next Avengers movie, he'll be talking like Steve Irwin and riding into battle on the back of a kangaroo.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. If you have opinions on the whole thing, you are, of course, free to share them in the comments box below.

If you don't have opinions on the whole thing, you're free to share that too. That's the kind of blog this is. One that stirs up apathy at every opportunity.

Sunday 9 April 2017

Forty years ago today - April 1977.

It's that time once more when I must leap into my time machine and launch myself, face first, at 1977.

Can 1977 survive the impact?

More importantly, can I?

Avengers #158, Vision vs Wonder Man

"It had to happen -- Wonder Man vs the Vision!"

It didn't really have to happen, did it? If Marvel heroes would only learn to act like adults, I'm sure none of this unpleasantness would ever occur.

I do believe I have a copy of this, hiding in a cupboard. Despite this, I've never read it. Perhaps I might find myself reviewing it in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps there's a mysterious hand shows up in this issue, like there was in the previous one.

There's only one way for me to find out.

Captain America and the Falcon #208

Doesn't this one feature a very unpleasant, rampaging monster from outer space?

Fantastic Four #181

I don't have a clue what happens in this one - or why Sue and Reed can't help them.

Hulk #210, Dr Druid

I believe this was my first ever exposure to Dr Druid.

I am aware of the existence of Dr Druid and that he hung around with the Avengers but it feels like every memory of him and his adventures has somehow been removed from my mind.

But, then again, you know what they say; if you can remember Dr Druid, you haven't met him.

Iron Man #97, the Guardsman

Wasn't the Guardsman an Irish gentleman with a beard?

Didn't he die after his first appearance?

Or am I thinking of someone else?

Amazing Spider-Man #167

It's the tale we've all been praying for - the return of the Spider-Slayer!

In fairness, this incarnation of it was a bit more interesting than the multi-legged versions we'd had in its more recent appearances.

More importantly, we get Will 'o the Wisp, who I remember being quite a tragic character but possibly not one who was bright enough to try explaining his motivations to those who were seeking to punch him in the face.

Spectacular Spider-Man #5, Vulture and the Hitman

It's a striking cover by Dave Cockrum, one I remember well from the first time I saw it reproduced by Marvel UK.

Sadly, I can't say the story's equally striking, mostly because I can't recall anything about it, other than that the Hitman and the Vulture are in it, which I could have guessed from the cover.

Thor #258, the Grey Gargoyle

The Grey Gargoyle's up to no good again.

Doesn't he end up teaming up with Thor to fight some lion men from outer space or something?

But I do always wonder why Thor always had so much trouble with him. All he ever had to do was blast him with his hammer, without getting within touching distance of him and that'd the end of that.

I do feel someone should write a book for super-heroes, telling them how to fight super-villains. It'd go, "Punch Hammerhead in the stomach, not the head. Don't get within touching distance of the Grey Gargoyle. Sneak up on everyone else, from behind."

X-Men #104, Magneto

It's a major occasion in comics history. Magneto meets the New X-Men for the first time - and he gives them a bit of a thumping because, according to Cyclops, they lack teamwork.

I do seem to remember Cyclops making that complaint every time they came up against every foe. It does sort of suggest he wasn't doing his job as team leader very well.

Daredevil #144, the Man-Bull

Nope. No idea what goes on in this one. I do though approve of the Man-Bull as a Daredevil villain.

Conan the Barbarian #73, the Well of Skelos

Looks like it's business as usual for Conan.

Thursday 6 April 2017

April 6th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Before I start on the vital business of the day, I should first give a plug to a guest post that I, Colin Bray and Colin Jones have inflicted upon readers of the Back in the Bronze Age blog.

It's a post that gives a history and overview of Marvel UK for those not familiar with the venture.

Long-standing readers of this site'll be amazed to discover it has actual facts in it, not just a load of pictures of covers, with me going, "I don't have a clue what happens in this one," like most of my posts are on here do. I can only assume some strange fever overcame me when I was composing my own contribution.

But Back in the Bronze Age isn't the only place where thrilling events are afoot.

They're also afoot in the dim and distant place that is April 1977. Not only is Red Rum winning the Grand National for the third time but we're seeing the debut of Mike Leigh's quintessential 1970s play Abigail's Party at the Hampstead Theatre, while, in a daring publicity stunt, the town of Hay-on-Wye is declaring independence from the UK. As it's still part of the UK, forty years later, I can only assume the declaration didn't stick.

Meanwhile, again back in April 1977, ABBA's Knowing Me, Knowing You (A-ha!) is Number One on the UK singles chart. It's one of my ABBA faves, with a video that's pure essence of ABBA distilled onto magnetic tape and served up to us in our living rooms. For some reason, I've always found the line, "In these old familiar rooms, children will play," strangely haunting. I'm not sure what it says about me, other than that I clearly have a thing about empty rooms.

But that was the real world. What was happening in the other world?

You know?

The other real world?

The one where super-heroes live?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #26, Red Skull

The Red Skull's still trying to overthrow the British government.

Bearing in mind how long he's been trying by this point, I'd have given up by now if I was him.

The cover blurb declares, "More pages than ever!" Yes, that's right! He's taking more pages than ever to overthrow the government!

I'm not sure that's really something to boast about.

PS. Who can spot the deliberate mistake on this cover? I don't mean the line, "The greatest super-hero of all!" I don't think that's a mistake. I think that's just false advertising. There's another fatal error besides that one.

Mighty World of Marvel #236, Hulk and Planet of the Apes

Is this really a Rhino story, or is it that one where the Hulk finds himself facing replicas of his greatest enemies whilst inside Glenn Talbot's brain?

I'm struggling to recall just how replicas of the Hulk's enemies got in there. Weren't they supposed to be part of a mental block? How exactly does a mental block create tiny replicas of super-villains? It's at times like this that I wish I had a doctorate in psychology, so I could understand these things.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #217, Hammerhead and Dr Octopus

This storyline's starting to feel almost as interminable as the Red Skull one.

Still, it's a lot more fun for lovers of silliness and it ends with a bang. Literally.

But how on Earth did Hammerhead ever manage to be a threat to Dr Octopus? When all's said and done, he's just a gangster with a hard head, whereas Doc Ock has four metal arms that are about thirty foot long. Hammerhead should never have been able to get anywhere near him.

Marvel UK, Fury #4

I really do wish I knew something about the contents of Fury, beyond, "It has Nick Fury in it," so I'd have something to say about it other than that it has nice covers and plenty of alliteration.

Still, only about another twenty posts to go before I never need to worry about it ever again.

Hold on. Doesn't that mean I'll have to endure Nick Fury's Howling Commandos squatting in Mighty World of Marvel for what seems like an eternity?

I am intrigued to see, though, that I could win an Action Man (AKA: GI Joe). As a fan of gripping hands and eagle eyes, this is thrilling news for me.

Sadly, my own Action Man possessed neither of those qualities and, in the end, he didn't possess one of his legs either, as it fell off in circumstances that are still a mystery to me.

My Action Man was called Paul. I decided this because he had a T-Shirt that had a big, red letter, "P," on the front of it. I thus decided it stood for, "Paul the Action Man."

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, he might only have been able to hop into action but he did it with style and still always triumphed over all adversaries. Action Man would have seen off Hammerhead. He'd have ignored his head and punched him in the stomach. The scar on his face told me he was that kind of man.

Sunday 2 April 2017

Fifty years ago this month - April 1967.

April 1967 was one of the most important months in the history of  humanity. Not only did Sandie Shaw win the Eurovision Song Contest with her classic hit Puppet on a String but television first broadcast the Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever, which was possibly unique in casting Joan Collins as a good guy.

But there was even more excitement than that, because that month also saw the start of Expo 67 in Montreal.

Granted, I know nothing about Expo 67 but its geodesic dome showed up in an issue of Spider-Man and that's good enough to convince me it must have been important.

Clearly, with such things going on, the Marvel comics that bore the name of that month upon their front covers were going to have to go some to match that level of epochalityness.

Did they manage it?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers #39, Hercules

Hercules finds himself up against the Mad Thinker's Triumvirate of Terror - the only member of which that I can recall being Hammerhead who was a  bloke with a metal hat, who liked to run into people. I suspect he was no relation to the character of the same name who liked to fight Spider-Man.

Needless to say, such buffoonery couldn't triumph against the Prince of Power.

Daredevil #27

Speaking of Spider-Man, is this the one where Daredevil's fighting Stilt-Man but then Spidey shows up and offers to fight the villain on DD's behalf, so DD can tackle the Masked Marauder - and then Spider-Man proceeds to demolish Stilt-Man with no difficulty whatsoever?

That really didn't reflect well on Daredevil, bearing in mind what a meal he always made of stopping Stilt-Man.

Fantastic Four #61, Sandman

Is this the one where the Sandman breaks into the Baxter Building, in an attempt to steal Mr Fantastic's scientific secrets and ends up unwittingly unleashing Blastaar upon the world?

I always liked Blastaar. He was suitably unpleasant.

It was also nice to know there was more than one villain living in the Negative Zone, a place that, from previous showings, had seemed somewhat short on inhabitants.
Amazing Spider-Man #47, Kraven

I believe this is the one where we start with a totally baffling flashback to that story where the Green Goblin hired Kraven to kill Spider-Man.

I remember being genuinely mystified while reading it, because I had no recollection of any such tale. It was only once I got the Internet that I had it confirmed to me that no such story had ever existed. What kind of madness had Stan Lee succumbed to when he wrote this issue?

I'm pretty sure the story also features Mary Jane in a chequerboard dress. This may not be a key plot development but it was a classic example of John Romita's design genius.

Strange Tales #155, Nick Fury and SHIELD

That's really not a cover that tells me anything about what happens inside, other than that Hydra are involved, which isn't that great a shock, bearing in mind it's a SHIELD. story.

Tales of Suspense #88. Captain America vs Swordsman and Power Man

A mystery villain (in a Captain America story? I wonder who that could be?) hires the Swordsman and Power Man to give Cap a good clobbering.

Needless to say, they fail and it all ends up with Manhattan being kidnapped in a giant bubble. How many times have we seen such a sequence of events occur, over the years?
Tales to Astonish #90, Sub-Mariner

Although I've heard of him; never having read a story featuring him, I've never really been sure who Byrrah actually is.

I'm taking it, from the blurb, that he's a revived villain from the Golden Age?

Thor #139

Sif's wielding a replica of Thor's hammer. I know such an object features in the story, thanks to the trolls having made one, possibly for Ulik but does she actually get to use it?

Come to think of it, whatever happened to that replica? Was it ever seen again?

X-Men #31, Cobalt Man

Cobalt Man makes his debut, as a kind of evil version of Iron Man.