Sunday, 4 June 2017

Fifty years ago this month - June 1967.

June 1967 was an exciting month for all people who can't wait to get their hands on their money.


Because it was the month that saw the installation of the world's first automatic cash machine. It was installed in the office of Barclays Bank in Enfield and, famously, the first customer of that cash machine was Reg Varney, the vaguely sinister star of nightmarish sitcom On The Buses.

It still seems weird that the world's first cash machine transaction was done by Reg Varney.

It seems even weirder that Paul McCartney didn't write a song about it for the next Beatles album. I mean, he did once write a song about parking meters. You'd have thought a song about a cash machine would be right up his musical alley.

Speaking of which, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was Number One on the UK album chart in that very month and it's Number One on the self-same chart even as I type. It seems that some things never change.

Avengers #41, Dragon Man

Is this the first Avengers story John Buscema ever drew? I remember it taking a few issues for him to fully hit his peak but his potential on the strip was apparent right from the start.

It's also good to see a rare outing for Diablo outside the pages of the Fantastic Four, although he's not dressed like him here and he gets to use a whole host of sci-fi gadgets that seem strangely at odds with his status as an alchemist.

I suppose he's an alchemist in the same way that Hank Pym's a bio-chemist. That is, about as much of one as the writer wants him to be.

Daredevil #29

I have a feeling DD may have fallen into the hands of the Maggia but am struggling to recall much beyond that.

In this tale, doesn't he approach a house, pretending to be Matt Murdock disguised as Daredevil?

This leads me to suspect that Karen Page or Foggy Nelson or both may be being held hostage in the house. I have no doubt misunderstandings between the three of them quickly ensue.

No doubt, Karen Page goes from thinking Murdock's a heartless coward to thinking he's a hero and the most wonderful man ever. No doubt, Foggy gets jealous and hates himself for resenting his best friend. Oh yes, I've read my copy of The Stan Lee Book Of Character Development.

I did always wonder where Matt Murdock used to get those dark glasses from that could be hidden perfectly under a tightly-fitting mask.

Fantastic Four #63, The Sandman

Hooray! Blastaar and the Sandman are causing chaos in the streets of New York.

I've always loved this tale, as I'm a bit of a fan of both those villains.

Amazing Spider-Man #49, the Vulture and Kraven

It's that tale where Spider-Man intervenes when Kraven and the New Vulture decide to fight each other in a confined space. No, I don't know why Spidey intervenes either. I can only conclude that he's not too bright.

Strange Tales #157, SHIELD, Baron Strucker

Is this the debut of Baron Strucker's Electro-Claw or whatever it was called?

Tales of Suspense #90, Captain America v the Red Skull

The Red Skull traps Manhattan in a big plastic floating bubble and only Captain America can stop him.

Frankly, I can't remember how Captain America stops him but I'm pretty sure a robot Bucky and the usual sidekick-related soul-searching are involved.

Tales to Astonish #92, Sub-Mariner

I don't have a clue what happens in this one.

Thor #141, Replicus

It's the tale that introduces us to Granny Gardenia and proves that even no-good gangsters can have a noble streak when it comes to protecting the Earth from alien invaders.

Was Replicus ever seen again? I liked him. He was my kind of robot.

X-Men #33, The Juggernaut

The Juggernaut's back.

Judging by that blurb, I assume he's either just returned from that dimension where he once had a fight with Dr Strange, or he's about to find himself flung into it.

That's a strange cover. I can see the work of at least three different artists on it; Gil Kane, Werner Roth and John Romita. I wonder just how such a circumstance came about?

X-Men #33, original cover by Gil Kane

Thanks to Joe S Walker for telling me, in the comments section below, just why the above X-Men cover was the product of numerous artists. Here's the Gil Kane original that was rejected.


Anonymous said...

That F.F. story was indeed a classic. It was simply an all-out brawl on the streets and rooftops of N.Y.C. between the Sandman and Blastarr on one side, and the Thing, the Torch, and Triton(!), just a wall-to-wall savage slugfest from start to finish.
The high high point for me was the Thing saying to Blastarr, "Ahh, shaddup!!!" and punching him in the yap.
One of my favorites.
Also, a comic here featuring another of my favorites, Dragon Man. No comic can be all bad with Dragon Man in it.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

That's quite a collection of covers. Awesome job.

cerebus660 said...

I think that X-Men cover was a last-minute substitution for a rejected cover, hence the bodged-up artwork. I'm sure in an old issue of FOOM they displayed the two covers side by side and asked the reader to guess why they made the change. AS usual, I expect the original cover was better...

Oh, and it's the Satan Claw, Steve...

Anonymous said...

I rather like the Strange Tales cover. The overall design, Nick Fury, Laura Brown and Crisis lettering all scream Steranko, whilst the chunky Baron Strucker riffs on Kirby (complete with cosmic crackle).


Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, cerebus.

DW, MP and Charlie, thanks for your comments too.

Joe S. Walker said...

The original X-Men cover was rejected by the Comics Code Authority who judged it too frightening - it featured the Outcast, a one-off villain featured in the story. So it was extensively redrawn to place the Juggernaut in more or less the same pose. Presumably the Code people knew he was a bit of a loser having reviewed his earlier appearances.

dangermash said...

Yes, Strange Tales does look like Steranko's work. But the Spider-Man cover wins it for me.

The Avengers cover is awful. This is supposed to be the 60s. Where are all the bright colours? Everything's a muddy colour on that cover. Make Dragon Man a lighter shade of grey, give us a coloured background, take the rain away and colour the foreground a lighter shade of green and we're there.

Glad to see Reg Varney getting a mention. Nobody since Reg has been able to wear a bus driver's cap at such a jaunty angle.

Steve W. said...

Joe, thanks for the explanation. I've just Googled the original cover and I can see why they thought it was scary.

Dangermash, I wonder if it's the first ever mention of Reg Varney on a comics blog.

Steve W. said...

I've just added the rejected X-Men cover to the post. Interesting that they replaced Marvel Girl and Cyclops with Iceman and the Angel.

dangermash said...

Looks like Reg is an experienced hand as far as comics blogs go...

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the link, Dangermash. It's beginning to look like Reg can't be kept out of comics blogs.

Anonymous said...


That Strange Tales cover is definitely Steranko (it's signed) but he's channelling Kirby. It was only about six months after he was finishing/inking Kirby pencils. I think the conflicting styles between the top and bottom of the cover add to the allure.

I'm now imagining a late 60's "On The Buses" Marvel Super Special where Steranko draws Stan and Jack, Kirby handles Blakey and Romita illustrates Olive.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Heck yes I've seen the World at War TV Series! Have you read the "History of the Second World War" weekly UK series that came out around 1973? I have all 6 volumes waiting for me to retire and read them again! Never seen such a complete coverage of the war.

Steve W. said...

I'm afraid I've not read them, Charlie. But the, "Yesterday," channel over here shows, "The World at War," very single day and has done for years.

Steve W. said...

That was supposed to be, "Every single day," not, "Very single day," which would have made no sense.

Colin Jones said...

On The Buses seems rather tawdry nowadays, doesn't it ? Reg Varney and Bob Grant were way too old to be playing jack-the-lad types - amazingly, after all these years I'm STILL younger than Reg Varney was when he was playing Stan. With Stan and Jack constantly leering at "birds" and "crumpet" it was definitely of its' time...but of course I'd still watch the films :D

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - you need to find at least one issue of "History of the Second World War." It's a magisterial work! Nothing like it before or after, as far as I know.

As long as we're chatting WWII, any chance any of you can recommend a book on the "2nd Battle of Kharkov late 42 - early 43?" It seems like the one situation in which smart generalship (vs. overwhelming logistics) wins the day. Von Manstein was a crafty one... More crafty than Rommel?

dangermash said...

@Colin Jones. Stan and Jack does have a certain ring to it. If only we could have had an Inspector Goodman rather than Blakey.

Steve W. said...

Colin, I always maintain that the, "On the Buses," movies are easily the most horrific films Hammer ever made.

Charlie, I'm afraid I don't have a clue about any books on that topic. My knowledge of the war comes entirely from watching, "The World at War," and the old TV shows, "Colditz," and, "Dad's Army." My old history teacher would be proud of me.

Dangermash, I was thinking they could replace Olive with Flo Steinberg but that would be rather harsh on Flo.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I've never heard of Colditz and Dad's Army. What are they like? Hogan's Heroes or Combat (if you've seen those US productions from the 60s)?

Steve W. said...

"Colditz," was a drama series from the early 1970s, set in the infamous POW camp/castle. It starred David McCallum and Robert Wagner and followed the activities of the inmates as they staged ever more elaborate escape attempts. It was based on a book by a real-life former inmate. It's beautifully acted and well worth a watch. If you fancy a look at it, here's everybody's favourite episode:

"Dad's Army," was a sitcom from the 1960s and 1970s, about the British Home Guard in World War Two. It's consistently voted the best British sitcom of all time and is good, bumbling fun. It's pretty much a permanent fixture on British TV. This is everyone's favourite scene from it:

I remember "Hogan's Heroes," but I'm afraid, "Combat," isn't a show I'm familiar with.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Thanks for that!

I'll hunt on youtube for a Combat episode. It is still seen on "MeTV" in the US which only shows 50s, 60s, 70s shows.

Hey - is it just me or does the Avengers 41 cover look like DOn Heck? When I first saw it, I thought it was his until you advised it was JB's!

Steve W. said...

It does look like it might have been inked by Heck.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

It just has that sort of 2-dimensional Heck look. I also think of Heck as if you put a piece of silly putty on the art then removed it and stretched it a bit. Something to it where you know it when you see it...

TC said...

According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics, that Avengers cover (and its interior art) was penciled by John Buscema and inked by George Roussous.

In Tales of Suspense #88-91, Captain America flew somewhere to rescue Bucky, who turned out to be (as usual) a robot. Then Cap fought Power Man and the Swordsman. Then the Red Skull trapped Manhattan in that floating bubble, and held it hostage to force Cap to help him hijack a US nuclear submarine. What the villain wanted with a submarine when he already had a device that could levitate Manhattan, I have no idea.

"Combat" was an American TV drama series in the early 1960's, about a US Army infantry platoon in Europe in WWII. Vic Morrow played a sergeant, and I think Rick Jason played the lieutenant.

Dad's Army was broadcast in America, but it was probably in syndication rather than on a network, so its distribution was kind of spotty. In our area, it was shown on the local PBS (Public Broadcasting System, i.e., "educational television") station. They also ran a lot of other British shows, including Are You Being Served, Yes Minister, The Vicar of Dibley, Open All Hours, Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances, and Doctor Who. Over here, any TV show with British accents is assumed to be intellectually stimulating, and Fine Art.

The main thing I remember about Dad's Army is the Home Guard officer and the air raid warden bickering over who had jurisdiction whenever there was an emergency. "You stay out of this, Napoleon! This is an ARP matter!"

Steve W. said...

TC, thanks for all the info. I love the idea of, "Are You Being Served," being seen as intellectually stimulating.

Joe S. Walker said...

@Colin Jones: my sister was a cinema usherette when Mutiny On The Buses came out, and saw it every night for a month. It's not one of her favourite films.

But Reg Varney gave a fine and quite moving performance as a drag artist in The Best Pair Of Legs In The Business.

Colin Jones said...

Holiday On The Buses is probably my favourite...who could resist Olive in a bikini ?

Steve, I was recently reading an online 'Guardian' article about what will happen in the days following the Queen's death - apparently the schedules will be cleared to make way for appropriate programmes and the BBC will show episodes of Dad's Army to keep up the nation's morale.

Steve W. said...

I'd just see that as proof that the BBC's so desperate to show, "Dad's Army," every single day that they wouldn't even let the death of the Queen stop them.

John Pitt said...

Arghh! Col, - it was "like the moon comin' over the mountain!"

John Pitt said...

Steve/Simon/Joe , - thanks for all the info about the Outcast/Juggernaut issue! - Fascinating!

Steve W. said...

You're welcome, John, and thanks for reading it. :)

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