Sunday 13 August 2017

Forty years ago today - August 1977.

August of 1977 was a big month for fans of space exploration. On the ground, the Big Ear telescope, working on behalf of SETI, received the legendary Wow! signal that has baffled and perplexed the world ever since. Was it proof of alien life sending us radio signals?

Who can know?

All we can say with certainty is that, clearly, we were all going to have to keep watching the skies.

And, if we did, we'd see another space-related event because, in that sky, the Enterprise space shuttle had a famous test run in which it launched from the back of a flying Jumbo Jet.

Of course, if 1977 had any real class, the Human Fly would have been standing on top of the space shuttle as it took off. I can only conclude that NASA has no sense of showbusiness.

Sadly, back on Earth, things weren't so thrilling for Elvis Presley and Groucho Marx who both chose that month in which to meet their maker.

Someone else who was suffering was Daredevil who lost his monthly status and found his mag moving to a bi-monthly schedule. Could it spell curtains for the man without fear?

Conan the Barbarian #77

What a terrible bit of speech for that mystery hand-waver to be lumbered with.

Like Conan cares if death's ten feet tall. He probably can't even count anyway. He's probably like, "Ten? That's the number after One, isn't it?"

There's a lot to be said for ignorance when you're a barbarian and it comes to walking into mystery rooms.

Fantastic Four #185

The FF are on a mission to rescue Agatha Harkness from the menacing witchcraftery of her home town.

Was her home town Salem?

Isn't Salem a real place?

And I thought people in Europe had plenty to gripe about with the way Marvel insisted on stereotyping them.

Iron Man #101, the Frankenstein Monster

It's the story the world's been crying out for, as Iron Man tangles with Frankenstein's Monster.

I have actually read this one but can't recall what happens in it.

I think there might be a mad scientist involved.

Is water also involved or was that in another story?

Amazing Spider-Man #171, Nova

Speaking of water, Spider-Man teams up with Nova in a murder mystery that's resolved thanks to the order of the months in a year.

Thinking about it, the solution to the crime does rely on a fairly unlikely coincidence that is almost certain to never happen in any murder you might ever want to try and clear up in real life.

Spectacular Spider-Man #9, the White Tiger

The White Tiger makes his debut.

I can't really remember much about this one. Or the White Tiger, for that matter. Doesn't he steal a parchment during a student protest? What he wants the parchment for, I know not.

Thor #262

Apparently, Thor's still on his quest to find the missing Odin.

Captain America and the Falcon #212, the Red Skull

After months of me saying, "Is this the issue where he gets blinded?" at last we reach the issue where he gets blinded. I knew we'd get there eventually.

Regardless, I didn't like it. It's a very unpleasant thing to happen to our hero and I don't like it when bad things happen to people.

Avengers #162, Ultron

I assume we've reached that story where Ultron decides to make a robo-wife for himself, using his, "Mother's," mind.

I can't help feeling there's something a little strange going on with this tale.

Incredible Hulk #214, Jack of Hearts

I remember reading this and not having a clue who Jack of Hearts was.

I did however decide that I wasn't impressed by him.

And that costume has way too much going on in it.

X-Men #106

From the cover, I'm assuming this is the fill-in issue in which doppelgangers of the original X-Men appear from nowhere, in the Danger Room, and start fighting their new counterparts and it all turns out they're products of Professor X's id.

It wasn't the greatest X-Men tale of all time - especially as it had only been six issues since the last time the new X-Men had had a punch-up with the originals.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I had punched out of comics by this time. Though I recognize the XMen run was well received; there is nothing here that I would pay a quarter for if there was a fire sale at a comic shop. Maybe it was just a bad month, but the FF cover with the monster looking at me... It's almost like some kind of silly joke. Well... I'd pay a quarter but not a penny more! Must've been an off month for the house of ideas.

Steve W. said...

I feel that the FF, Avengers and X-Men were the stand-out strips for me in this era, although, as I say, this month's X-Men tale was just a Deadline Doom fill-in.

monkeyspacepants said...

Was it the case then, as later, that the cover date was about three months ahead of time?

I'm trying to figure out when I picked them up (August or May/June)...

Anonymous said...

That's a student protest on the Peter Parker cover? Were they still a thing by '77?
Was that the first time the White Tiger appeared outside the pages of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu?
In a curious case of synchronicity, the Jack of Hearts also first appeared in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu; fighting the White Tiger, if I recall correctly.
Not a lot of people know that.
Probably not a lot of people care about it either.

Got to agree with Charlie, although I'd say the A-list Marvels were generally not that good for most of the 70s - its really the secondary titles that don't appear in this feature thats where the energy was (a theory I've bored you with before Steve), but the good ones were starting to disappear at this point.


Steve W. said...

monkeyspacepants, it was indeed the case that the cover date was three months or so ahead of time.

Sean, I suspect it may indeed be the first time the White Tiger appeared outside DHOKF.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember student protests in in the U.S. in '77, Sean.
The country was raging to a new beat---Disco!
We were done with Watergate and Viet Nam and it was time to get down and get funky.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I never thought about it before but I like the hypothetical that Marvel's energy may have been in the secondary characters. I really dug Luke Cage Hero for Hire and King Fu and Killraven...

Steve W. said...

A bit back, I did toy with the idea of expanding the feature to include Marvel's lesser titles but then discovered that, by the mid 1970s, the company were publishing over forty titles a month, which dampened my ardour for pursuing such a venture. I can, however, look into such an idea again.

Timothy Field said...

I remember the ASM story from Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain, even back the strange murder-mystery plot seemed more Agatha Christie than House of Ideas. Who the hell was going to spot the calendar clue? Probably easier to write it in your own blood or make a phone call rather than arrange the pages to spell out the killer's name. As I seem to remember, the clue wasn't much help anyway.

Steve W. said...

I do feel he was incredibly lucky that he was killed by someone whose name was composed of the first letters of various calendar months. He would have been in serious trouble if he'd been killed by the Kingpin.

Aggy said...

The biggest problem with the X-Men book is that it is right in the middle of the Phoenix Saga and at this point it was still a bimonthly book. Phoenix doesn't appear and the art switches from Cockrum to Brown. Fill in issue given a wrap around frame to try and cover the gap.

The Spider-Man story is probably a holdover idea from the Vietnam protests. But by 1977 that had been replaced by the growing anti-nuclear movement and protests against Rhodesia and South Africa.

Jack of Hearts was a character whose appearances I actively hunted down over the years. His high points being the Project Peagesus story with the Thing or his appearance in Rom.

As for covering other Marvel books how about picking one different one each month? An important book or just one you enjoyed.

Ant Master said...

When I was young and foolish I looked forward to the time when I would be able to buy each issue of marvel each month. I mean 30 plus at 25c each, that's less than £10/month. Come the 90's and re surged enthusiasm for collecting back issues of the Avengers I launched into a period of buying far too many titles at a cost of apx £50/month.

So now I have around 2500 back issues of stuff I will probably never reread far preferring the early seventies period of Marvel.

BTW The Avengers run from 150-185ish was mostly wonderful

Anonymous said...

I go with Aggy, Steve - Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck, MOKF, The Eternals... anyone of them would be a reminder that August '77 wasn't necessarily that dull just because Spidey, the FF et al were going through the motions.

Btw, while having a quick look online to see what else came out this month, I couldn't help but notice Jack Kirby did the script and art in FOUR comics (four and a half if you include the bi-monthly Black Panther)
What a maniac! Did he ever sleep?


Anonymous said...

I've read that the WOW ! signal was caused by a meteor storm passing in front of a star or something - so not a message from an alien civilization unfortunately.

Aggy said...

I can top that Ant Master. At my peek I was spending over £2,000 a month on comics. That was even back in the 90's/early 2000's a good few metres a comics a month.

I was young. I had no family or mortgage *crying emoji*

Ant Master said...

I just hope they were all key issues. Remember how ill I felt buying my Avengers 1 (poor grade) having ignored the excellent advice to buy key issue early and having passed on a few copies for less than £100.

I have actually read every comic I have bought at least once.

Steve, perhaps you should set up a comic trading page.

Steve W. said...

The only comic I was buying regularly in the early 1990s was The X-Men. I stopped buying it when the price went up to 65 pence. 65 pence a month on comics seemed extortionate. They don't call me the last of the big spenders for nothing.

Aggy said...

I remember that. I was at Uni and used to go to a local paper shop that got 1 bundle of random Marvel and 2 bundles of random DC comics a month. Then I'd spend the rest of the month in every newsagent I could find grabbing missing comics.

If I had spare money (student days) a pilgremage into London. Mega City in Camden. GOSH in Soho. A couple of others long gone. Forbidden Planet if I had too.

Kids today with their digital editions don't even know they are born...

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - I think you are touching a nerve for me about price! When comics went from .15 to . 20 each I could no longer get 5 for $1. Sales tax! Then the price hike seemed to become a too-frequent event while content was decreasing at same time... I bailed.

Steve W. said...

At that time, in Britain, we could still get them for 6 pence each, which meant we could get sixteen for £1.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

A pound was like $2.50 in the early 70s?

Steve W. said...

Indeed it was. Forty five years ago today, £1 was worth $2.45.

For the first half of the 20th Century, the Pound was consistently worth around four to five dollars, thanks to the UK government doing all it could to keep it there. Then, after WWII, the government grasped that keeping the Pound ridiculously high was bad for the economy and set about devaluing it, step by step, until it was at around half its previous level. Then, in 1971, the government decided to let it float freely in the markets and, since then, it's oscillated between $2.50 and $1, depending on circumstances.