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?



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?

Sunday 17 September 2017

2000 AD - August 1979.

In August 1979, Brighton opened a nudist beach.

I could say I didn't even notice because I was too busy catching up with the adventures of the galaxy's greatest comic but the truth is I do remember it opening, and wondering what the point was of a nudist beach in a country where it's always freezing cold. It's strange the things that stick in your mind, even after forty years.

But, if I can recall that trivial affair, no doubt that means I'll have no difficulty in recalling the contents of that month's 2000 AD.

Well, so much for that theory. Although some of the covers ring a vague bell for me, I'm struggling, as always, to recall the insides.

Of course, the big news is fully displayed on the covers. And that is that, with Prog 127, 2000 AD and Starlord became 2000 AD and Tornado.

I can't remember if I ever read any issues of Tornado before it merged with  its new partner. I have a feeling I may have done but couldn't bet my last galactic groat on it. But wasn't the bloke pictured on the left-hand side of that first merged cover Dave Gibbons or Brian Bolland or someone similar, in a costume?

It's interesting that one of the characters introduced by the merger was called Wolfie Smith which was also the name of the central character in the then current BBC sitcom Citizen Smith. Was this coincidence, conspiracy or homage?

Anyway, I vaguely recall his strip.

Of Black Hawk, sadly, I recall nothing.

2000 AD Prog 124

2000 AD Prog 125

2000 AD Prog 126

2000 AD and Tornado Prog 127

Thursday 14 September 2017

September 14th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's September 1977 and, behind the scenes, things are stirring at our favourite comics company.

But we the innocent readers have no inkling of such a thing. To us, the only sign of Marvel UK activity is the pair of comics the imprint is unleashing upon us each week.

But soon there'll be an addition to the Marvel UK family.


Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #240, the Vulture

Spidey's still up against the Vulture and, in the FF's strip, I suspect the Human Torch is in the process of discovering that Crystal's decided to marry Quicksilver. A development I, to this day, have trouble viewing as likely. It must all have been a plot by Skrulls. It's the only logical explanation.

Elsewhere in this issue, I believe Captain Britain and his accompanists in adventure have been shrunk down to the size of insects and imperilled by bugs that may or may not be mutants, as part of Doctor Claw's evil scheming.

Meanwhile, we get the start of a new adventure for the Avengers, as they find themselves up against Zodiac and their plot to use a giant gun to kill everyone in New York who has a certain star-sign.

No, I don't know how the gun knows people's star sign's either.

Mighty World of Marvel #259, Hulk vs the Defenders

The Hulk is still on the rampage, following the death of Jarella.

This feels like the tenth consecutive week in which I've typed those words. I can only conclude that this is an extremely dragged-out rampage.

Still, at least we have Nick Fury vs Baron Strucker to look forward to.

Isn't there a Baron Strucker story in which Fury hurts his eye, an event which leads to him eventually having to wear the eye patch? Is there a crumbling tower involved? Is this the story in question?

Tuesday 12 September 2017

The Marvel Lucky Bag - September 1977.

It's the return of the feature that's taking comicdom by storm, as I look at the Marvel titles that I don't normally look at, and pick out the ones that seem more interesting than some of the other ones I don't normally look at.

After only one month of it, we're already up to comics cover-dated September 1977. Just what wonders can we find in the titles that would have previously fallen between the cracks of the Steve Does Comics paving slabs?

Marvel Treasury Edition #15, Conan the Barbarian, plus Red Sonja

Is there anyone who doesn't love a good Marvel Treasury Edition?

And here's one that seemed to get more promotion than most, in Marvel's monthly and weekly mags.

I had the earlier Marvel Treasury that reprinted Barry Smith's Red Nails. Could this one have possibly lived up to that high standard?

Red Sonja #5

Speaking of Red Sonja, I don't have a clue what that thing is she's fighting but it looks like it'd have no trouble sticking stamps on envelopes.

Tomb of Dracula #60

I remember reviewing this issue once, a long upon a time ago. I believe this is the one where Drac challenges God to kill him.

Happily for all lovers of quality comics, God fails to oblige.

The Human Fly #1

Thanks to his epic awesomeness, we've talked about him before but the Human Fly makes his senses-shattering debut and, no doubt, the world of comics will never be the same again.

Ms Marvel #9, Death-Bird

I might associate her with the X-Men but Deathbird actually makes her first appearance in Ms Marvel's title. It's something of a surprise to discover she first showed up so soon after the debut of her sister Lilandra.

She does, though, look oddly genteel here compared to later depictions of her.

Iron Fist #15, the X-Men

I think we've all at some point asked the question, "Who'd win a fight between Iron Fist and the X-Men?"

Well, alright, I suspect we haven't, as the answer's fairly obvious.

But what is this? Sabretooth making his debut in last month's Iron Fist, Iron Fist meeting the X-Men this month, Deathbird making her first appearance in Ms Marvel? It seems like Chris Claremont was determined to turn all the titles he was writing into one big story.

Not that it did Iron Fist much good. I could be wrong but I think this was the last issue of his mag.

The Invaders #20, Union Jack

Union Jack is back - although I don't think it's the original one. It think it's his son or nephew or something. I must confess that my recall of the character and his history is a little sketchy.

Star Wars #3

The comic that saved Marvel reaches its third issue.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Forty years ago today - September 1977.

It's a Sunday evening, and there's nothing good on the TV.

And that can only mean one thing.

That it's time to enter the Bathroom of Memory, slide down the Plughole of History, ram ourselves through the U-Bend of Time and empty ourselves into the Drains of Nostalgia.

Daredevil #148, Death-Stalker is back

"Your weapon is useless...!"

Let's be honest, it was always useless. But who cares? My favourite ever Daredevil villain is back!

Death-Stalker might have been a blatant rip-off of The Shadow but, with all that needless laughing and vanishing, I liked the cut of his jib. If I ever become a super-villain, I'll definitely be Death-Stalker.

Fantastic Four #186, Salem's Seven

The FF are still having trouble with the supernaturally inclined folk of Salem, as their quest to liberate Agatha Harkness hits yet more obstacles.

Iron Man #102, Dreadknight

Dreadknight rings a bell for me but I don't know why. I'm pretty sure I've never read this issue, so where I've encountered him before, I have no idea.

Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man #10

That's quite a Ditkoesque portrayal of Spidey there.

I must confess I recall nothing of the tale within though.

Thor #263, the Odin-Force

I've read this one but my memories of it are very very jumbled.

Was the Odin-Force a way for Marvel to bring Odin back from the dead or was it a way of killing him off?

Did the Odin-Force have something to do with Volstagg? Was it lurking inside him, ready to burst out and cause nothing but trouble? Or was it, instead, absorbed into him as a way of saving the day?

Avengers #163, Iron Man vs Hercules

I'm ninety five percent sure I've read this tale, but I have no recollection at all of what happens in it or of why the Avengers are fighting the Champions, other than it being a way to promote the lesser team's not altogether blockbuster mag.

Conan the Barbarian #78, Red Sonja is back

Hooray! Red Sonja's back, which was always a good reason to buy an issue of Conan.

In all honesty, by this point in the strip's run, I don't know if there was any other reason to buy it. I mean, it was a perfectly good comic but it did always feel like you were reading the same issue over and over again.

Captain America and the Falcon #213

Cap has to fight while devoid of sight.

As I've said before, I didn't like him getting blinded. I don't like bad things happening to people. Basically, I like super-hero comics where nothing bad ever happens.

The Incredible Hulk #215, SHIELD

I do believe the mystery villain of this issue is the Bi-Beast who was always a good foe for Hulkie.

Amazing Spider-Man #172, the Rocket Racer

At last, the 1970s reach their creative peak, as our hero comes up against the awesome might of a skateboarder.

I believe the mystery villain of this issue may well be the Molten Man who, unlike the Rocket-Racer, was one of my Spidey faves.

But seeing this cover does make you realise that if the people who were in charge of the comic in this era were still in charge of it, Spider-man would currently be facing a villain called The Fidget-Spinner.

Thursday 7 September 2017

September 7th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

No doubt, the week leading up this date in 1977 was a time for panic for all Marvel UK fans, as the once mighty venture was now down to just two comics.

Ironically, they were also the first two comics the imprint had launched, all the way back in the heady days of the early 1970s.

But could it mean that doom was awaiting the entire venture?

Or could it pluckily fight its way back into contention?

These were the obvious questions I should have been asking at the time. And yet I'm pretty sure I was still totally oblivious to just how close to extinction the brand was.

Perhaps I was too distracted by events of September 5th, on which Voyager One was launched. How little we guessed at the time that that the vessel would one day return to haunt us, being stopped only in its destructive God-complex rampage by Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in the first Star Trek movie. How did NASA not foresee this calamity coming? How?

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #239, the Vulture

Spidey's still battling against the Vulture.

Doesn't this lead to a battle with the Hitman, and that famously dramatic Dave Cockrum cover?

Elsewhere, the FF are still foiling the Frightful Four and Thundra, and the Avengers are still clobbering the Collector in Vermont.

Meanwhile, Captain Britain gives us what's claimed to be the first ever appearance of Dr Claw.

As I have no recollection of him at all, I suspect it may also have been the last ever appearance of Dr Claw as well.

From what I can find of him, via the medium of Google, he seems to have been an unwell looking man in a wheelchair who arranged for Cap and four other high-profile Brits to take a holiday on an island full of giant monsters and mutants.

I don't think I'll be using him as my travel agent next summer.

Mighty World of Marvel #258, the Hulk vs the Defenders, and Dracula vs the Silver Surfer

Hooray! Totally failing to learn the lesson that no one in 1977 Britain is interested in Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos, Marvel UK move them back into Mighty World of Marvel, presumably stealing a slot from a more popular strip.

But which strip was ditched to make room for them?

My suspicion would be that it was Captain Marvel  but I have no evidence to back this theory up. It's just that I can't think of anyone else who it could have been.

If that was the case, as a Captain Marvel fan, I have no doubt I was suitably outraged.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Special Bonus Feature! Magneto and Titanium Man animation. Paul McCartney and Wings.

Greetings, pop-pickers. I have nothing vital to do right now, so I thought that, for no reason other than that I like it, I'd post the above work which is an animated fan video for Wings' legendary track Magneto and Titanium Man - from the album Venus and Mars - which we all know is still the best song ever written that involves the Crimson Dynamo and a long, tall bank on the main street. I am especially taken by the sight of the late Jimmy McCulloch with a snooker ball for a head.

Potential further listening:

Sunday 3 September 2017

Fifty years ago this month - September 1967.

This is the voice of the Mysterons.

Oh, alright, I admit it, it's not. But you could be forgiven for thinking it was - because this month in 1967 saw the debut of that battler of Martian sabotage Captain Scarlet. How we gasped as he drove his car backwards, hung around in his flying base and survived explosions that would reduce the rest of us to atoms.

Not only that but that month also saw the first appearance of The Prisoner.

This coincidence could explain why it is that, as a young child, I always had trouble distinguishing between the two shows. Granted, as one show starred real people and the other starred puppets, mixing them up took quite some doing but that's the kind of man I am.

Elsewhere in the world, Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right. While, in Britain, the BBC launched Radio One, Radio Two, Radio Three and Radio Four, meaning British broadcasting would never be the same again and that The Move's Flowers in the Rain would feature in every documentary about the history of British radio from that point on.

Avengers #44

John Buscema gets to draw more people than he possibly could ever have wanted to, as the Avengers continue their battle with the Red Guardian and his friends.

Fantastic Four #66

It looks like a certain cosmic powered super-doer is about to burst out of his cocoon and startle the world.

Strange Tales #160, Dr Strange

I must confess I never found Baron Mordo overly interesting. He seemed very mundane indeed when compared to the likes of Dormammu, Nightmare and Eternity.

Tales of Suspense #93, Iron Man vs Titanium Man

Titanium Man returns, thanks to a villain who seemed to be the Vietnamese equivalent of the Hulk's Gargoyle.

Tales to Astonish #95, the Hulk and the High Evolutionary

It's one of my favourite pre-Trimpe Hulk tales, as our hero finds himself stuck in a spaceship full of angry New Men.

I think this was the first time I ever encountered the High Evolutionary. What an enigmatic figure he cut, even if he never seemed to learn from his mistakes.

I must say, though, that the declaration of, "Go Go Go Hulk!" on the cover seems quite bizarre. Truly the 1960s were a law unto themselves.

X-Men #36

I really don't have a clue what's going on here but, from the villain's name, I'm assuming that Meccano wasn't a thing in America.

Daredevil #32, the Cobra and Mr Hyde

I suspect that Daredevil may still be blind in this tale. I also suspect he won't be for much longer.

Thor #144

I think this may be the story in which Thor is battling two of the Enchanters Three while Odin tackles the third.

I recall the Living Talisman being involved as well but struggle to recall what he actually did.

Amazing Spider-Man #52

Forget the deaths of Gwen and George Stacy. From what I can remember, this issue sees the first significant Spider-Man related death since Uncle Ben, as Fred Foswell meets his maker. He may have started out as a heel but he died a hero.