Sunday 28 January 2018

Comic book creators - and how they looked in my head.

As we all know, comics are exactly the same as radio, except for the fact that they have no sound and have pictures, while radio has no pictures but possesses sound.

That aside, they do, however, have another thing in common.

And that's the fact that, unlike with television, we don't get to see our favourite stars in action.

In some cases, this may not be a bad thing. There is, after all, a reason why the phrase, "Perfect face for radio," was invented. It does, though, mean we can often have massively wrong ideas about the physical appearance of those who put so much work into entertaining us.

The same effect can happen with comics. And so, in the absence of anything that resembles an idea for a post on this blog, I thought I'd talk about this phenomenon as it affected the comic books of my youth.

And that's the life-or-death question of the hour. Just how many of our favourite comic book creators actually turned out to look like we thought they did?

I think I always knew what San Lee looked like, thanks to him making sure we all got to see photos of him at every possible opportunity.

Others were more low profile. That said, when I finally got to see a photo of Jack Kirby, he looked exactly like I'd imagined him, basically James Cagney. He was, however, much smaller than I'd assumed. I think I'd envisaged him as having a robust build appropriate to one of his dynamic drawing style.

Meanwhile, I always assumed that, during his 1960s stint on Spider-Man, John Romita was a resolutely middle aged man - possibly the most resolutely middle aged man of all time. It was a shock to discover later that he'd been in his mid thirties at the time.

Conversely, I'd always pictured Ross Andru's Spider-Man years as being the product of an eager young man, out to make his mark in  comics, only for me to discover he was actually older than John Romita.

I imagined Barry Smith as looking like Jesus and, while it turned out he didn't really look like Jesus, he did at least have longish hair and a beard, so he was probably as much like Jesus as he could manage to get. Then again, when he became Barry Windsor Smith, he was suddenly a delicate, sickly young man, in the habit of sniffing flowers while reading the poetry he'd just finished writing.

I always pictured Neal Adams as a slim, sensitive soul in a white T-shirt, slaving laboriously over his drawing board, in a dim light. It later turned out that he sort of looked like someone who'd knock on your front door, trying to sell you shoes from a briefcase. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just didn't fit in with my image of him.

Obviously, my most triumphant gaff was Charlton Comics' Nicola Cuti who I spent forty years thinking was a woman until the internet informed me that he was a man.

I made the same mistake with Sal Buscema, for the not unreasonable reason that everyone knew that Sal was a girl's name. However, unlike, with Nicola Cuti, I discovered my mistake early on and had to resign myself to the fact that there was no such person in comics as Sally Buscema.

Then again, for another person, I got it almost as wildly wrong. Having known of her only through her name, I always envisaged Flo Steinberg as an ageing but delicate spinster, with half-moon spectacles, the sort of woman who'd teach piano lessons on her Sundays off. It was a bit of a shock to discover she was a pot smoking Betty Brant lookalike who'd once published a comic you wouldn't want your grandmother to see.

Jim Aparo looked like his depiction of Jim Corrigan, a rock hard man with steel fists, a tight lip and a permanently clenched lower jaw.

For me, Gil Kane was a man who drew every strip while wearing a suit.

John Buscema, however, turned out to have looked exactly like I'd imagined him.

Sol Brodsky, for me, exactly resembled a 1940s Broadway comedian.

Frank Robbins was a frenzied individual who only drew at night, in an attic whose solitary window spilled light out into the surrounding darkness, letting everyone in the neighbourhood know that the local madman was once more performing forbidden experiments with drawing boards.

For me, Wally Wood looked the way I later discovered Don Heck looked. Heck, in my head, looked like a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack.

Steve Ditko was a question mark, seated in a chair.

Reader, for me, he is still a question mark seated in a chair.

Thursday 25 January 2018

January 25th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

"Good God above, Steve!" I hear you ask. "What are you doing right now?"

Well, hold on to your boarding passes because I'm currently watching a film that involves Dean Cain piloting a plane that's being attacked by volcanoes. I don't mind admitting I don't have a clue what's going on in it.

There's only one thing for it. To quell my whirling senses, I'm going to have to abandon the flight and partake in an activity that involves me not knowing what was going on forty years ago, instead.

Rampage #15, Defenders vs Alpha

As mentioned in last week's comments section, this is the tale in which Magneto gets reverted back to childhood and has to be raised all over again.

If I recall correctly, this leads to him becoming a more reasonable character, upon re-reaching adulthood.

And, if I recall correctly, this change of heart was later revealed as being entirely due to Moira MacTaggert having exerted some undue influence over him in his infant years, in order to turn him into a better human being.

As I also mentioned last week; despite not recognising the cover, I think I must have had this comic, as I've definitely read this tale and am totally sure it was in black and white.

I have no memory of the Nova story, unless it started with a splash page that involved the Sphinx sat in his chair, in a bit of a sulk.

But what's this? Iron Man? In the pages of Rampage? I have no recollection whatsoever of Iron Man's strip ever having appeared in this book. I wonder which particular adventure it is?

Complete Fantastic Four #18, Ultron

I think I may also have had this issue as well, despite having no recall of its cover either.

I base this entirely on me being sure that my youthful self read both parts of this Avengers/Fantastic Four cross-over.

The back-up tale is what would confirm or deny it. I know I had at least two issues of The Complete Fantastic Four because I had one that reprinted the first appearance of the Miracle Man - which was issue #6 - and I had another that featured Doctor Doom getting inflatable dummies to follow the FF around.

No, I don't have a clue why Doomie did that but it was, no doubt, a nefarious scheme beyond human imagining.

Mighty World of Marvel #278, the Hulk

I do believe this is the start of the tale that features Greenskin's first encounter with the almost-ubiquitous-on-this-blog Jack of Hearts.

It may, therefore, also feature Bruce Banner's new landlady - who I think was called April - and that stage magician who seemed to be in the strip for no noticeable reason.

I think Captain Marvel is still in Mexico and still battling the Sentry.

Super Spider-Man #259, the Rocket Racer

But forget Jack of Hearts! This is the tale we've all been waiting for! The Rocket-Racer finally arrives in the pages of Marvel UK!

OK, I admit it, he was a terrible villain with a terrible gimmick and a terrible costume. From what I can remember, he wasn't even that interested in being a villain. He was like a more conceited version of the Prowler.

Still, if he's underwhelming and silly, at least we get the return of the Molten Man. Despite the cover trying to act like his identity's a big mystery, I don't think one has to be Sherlock Holmes to work out just who he is.

Sunday 21 January 2018

2000 AD - December 1979.

Christmas may have come and gone in the real world but there's one corner of the internet where it hasn't even happened yet.

And that's right here - because it's time for me to look at what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to in December of 1979.

But what an eventful month it was elsewhere.

For a start, we got the world premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. How we gasped as all our old favourites reappeared to battle an equally old plot line. How ancient the cast all seemed at the time. And, yet, how young they all seem now.

Granted, I have heard it described as, "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture," and it does have to be said that it progresses at a somewhat leisurely tempo but, still, its release felt like an exciting thing at the time.

Elsewhere, Eddie Kidd successfully jumped eighty feet on a motorbike, and the Clash released the album London Calling.

As for 2000 AD, there's shocking news. I actually have some knowledge of the contents of this month's issues.

Admittedly, that's not because I remember them. It's because the internet has furnished me with a level of knowledge rarely seen before on this feature.

I do know that Prog 141 features a piece from Patrick Moore on whether time travel is possible. What his conclusions were on the subject, I cannot confirm.

It also seems that, in Prog 144, Judge Dredd's strip features a thing called the Des O'Connor Feedway. If that doesn't encapsulate everything the Judge Dredd strip was about, I don't know what does.

All these issues seem to feature a character called Captain Klep who I thought I recalled as being some sort of Zapp Brannigan type space adventurer but it turns out he was basically a send-up of Superman.

It's interesting to see that Prog 142 features a piece about Disney's The Black Hole, a film that I must confess I've never made it all the way through. And that's saying something, as I'll normally sit through anything that has robots and spaceships in it.

I have no idea what's happening on the cover of Prog 144.

2000 AD Prog 141, Stainless Steel Rat

2000 AD Prog 142, Blackhawk

2000 AD Prog 143, Stainless Steel Rat

2000 AD Prog 144

2000 AD Prog 145, Christmas and Tharg

Thursday 18 January 2018

January 18th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this night in 1978, BBC One was broadcasting the Richard Attenborough produced movie Whistle Down the Wind, starring Hayley Mills. I remember it as being a charming excursion that taught us we could all be Jesus, if we only put our minds to it.

Granted, it did mean that, about five years later, we had to put up with a Nick Heyward song of the same name entering the charts. It's a song which I remember hating. The fact that I could hate such an inoffensive thing proved to me that I couldn't be Jesus if I put my mind to it.

Needless to say, having these two conflicting messages spinning around in my head has left me all of a quandary. A quandary I can only escape by burying my mind in the product that my favourite comics company published in the seven days that led up to that evening.

Rampage #14, Defenders vs the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Is this the one in which Magneto tries to get up to some mischief or other at the United Nations and ends up being turned into a baby by some, no doubt unlikely, means?

I do recall that sensational development causing all kinds of trouble for Moira MacTaggert, later down the line.

Complete Fantastic Four #17, the Sub-Mariner

You do wonder just what Namor would get up to without his periodic attempts to conquer the surface world, usually with a vast army of dozens.

Having said that, if the cover's to be believed, this time, he doesn't bother with the army. He just uses Sue Richards instead.

I don't like to be negative but I really don't see how having Sue Richards on his side is going to make a massive difference to his plans to conquer the world. Let's be honest, she generally wasn't that much use in a fight, her main purpose in life being to get held hostage.

But, regardless, please tell me that that big whale-monster thing shows up. The one with the arms and legs. The one that attacked New York in Subby's first appearance in the FF's comic.

Was it called Monstro or something?

I don't know what it was meant to be but I liked the cut of its jib.

Mighty World of Marvel #277, Hulk vs the Quintronic Man

Yes, totally unarmed police-type people, do what atom bombs, gods and galactic tyrants have all failed to do. Destroy the Hulk before he revives. I mean, how difficult can it be?

Having said that, from my dim and distant memories, I'm not convinced that the pictured scene actually happens in the tale. My memory of it is that Hulkie basically just gets mad and tears the Quintronic Man apart, limb by limb.

On other matters, why on Earth does the Quintronic Man have a face? Just what purpose was it supposed to serve? There is so much about this cover that doesn't make sense.

Super Spider-Man #258, Morbius, Paul Gulacy cover

It's that rarity, a Paul Gulacy Spider-Man cover.

Admittedly, when I say it's a rarity, I don't know for sure that it is. For all I know, he may have gone on to draw thousands of Spidey covers. But, still, I'm pretty sure this is the only Spider cover I ever saw from him.

But how could anyone not love Paul Gulacy? He didn't produce a huge amount of work but what he did he always did with style.

I am struggling, though, to work out which are the Avengers and Captain America tales that are promoted on the cover.

The claim that the Scarlet Witch is in, "Mystic combat," does make me wonder if it's the story in which she battles with a chair, after Agatha Harkness agrees to tutor her in witchcraft.

As for the Cap tale, it rings no bells. I have tried Googling, "Captain America, Town of Terror," but, for some reason, that brings up nothing but zillions of photos of Disney's Hollywood Towers - and I fail to see the connection.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Forty years ago today - January 1978.

I'm currently watching Stephen King's The Stand on the Horror Channel. It looks like a right load of old rubbish.

Clearly, there's only one thing for it.

And that's to seek refuge in the output of Marvel Comics from forty years ago, back when I'd probably never even heard of Stephen King, and the idea that one day we'd have so many TV channels available to us that it would be possible to dedicate one purely to horror movies would have seemed fanciful.

Conan the barbarian #82

Speaking of horror, the nightmare-strewn world of Conan flings him into yet another tale of eldritch terror and witchcraft.

Still, on the plus side, it's nice for him that he can always bump into attractive, scantily-clad women, even when he's hanging around in swamps.

Daredevil #150, Paladin

My knowledge of the Paladin is basically zero but I do believe that, in this tale, he's been hired to bump off Kilgrave and is using everyone's best-loved blind super-hero to lead him to his target.

Fantastic Four #190, the way it was

This is a surprise for me. It's a Jack Kirby cover, long after he's disappeared from the front of all other Marvel mags. I can only assume it's an image that was lying around unused, rather than one he nipped back to Marvel to create.

Seemingly, this tale takes a look back at the career of Marvel's mightiest family, which is something that seems to happen every other issue in the 1970s.

Speaking of conceptual familiarity, is it my imagination or is The Way It Was! second only to Lo, There Shall Be An Ending! in the ranks of Marvel's most used titles?

Despite being labelled an, "Album issue," it seems to have no more pages than normal and appears to be a perfectly standard comic.

Incredible Hulk #219

If my memory serves me properly, the Hulk finds himself on a ship that has something to do with Captain Barracuda and his submarine that's in the shape of a giant fish.

There's also something going on with people being turned into ape-men but I don't recall by whom or for what purpose.

Iton Man #160, androids

I really don't have a clue what's going on here.

Amazing Spider-Man #176, Green Goblin III

The Green Goblin is back!

Or is he?

Barton Hamilton proves to be the planet's least stable psychiatrist and dons the pointy ears and Noddy hat to cause yet more trouble for the world's favourite web-spinner.

I don't like to put a dampener on people's dreams but I can't help feeling he really wasn't worthy of the role of Green Goblin.

Spectacular Spider-Man #14, the Hate-Monger

The Hate-Monger's up to his usual tricks of trying to stir up a mob and take over the world.

If I'm correct in my recollections; this time, he's not Hitler. He's the Man-Beast who, by some means or other, has found his way to Earth.

And only Spider-Man and a man with the powers of a pig can stop him.

Thor #267

This is an issue I've never read, although I have read a copy of the issue that comes after it.

I suspect its main point of interest is that we're now into Walt Simonson's first run on the strip, although, from what I can remember, he's only providing layouts at this point and the art's currently dominated by the pencils and inks of Tony DeZuniga.

Captain America and the Falcon #217

I must confess that my ignorance about this issue is total.

Avengers #167, Guardians of the Galaxy

The presence of Nikki on the cover tells me that this story takes place after the conclusion of the Badoon saga. But that is the only thing about the tale that I can say with any confidence.

Thursday 11 January 2018

January 11th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Nothing too exciting seemed to be happening in the world, in this week of forty years ago. I shall, therefore, get stuck straight into looking at the activities of the comics that were about to be removed from the newsagents just as that week was departing.

Mighty World of Marvel #276, Hulk vs Quintronic Man

The Hulk is still battling against the nightmarish horror of the Quintronic Man. A fight that, in all honesty, should have lasted barely more than two panels.

Then again, it'd help if the Hulk ever learnt to hold his breath.

It did always seem strange that he could speak underwater and survive happily in the vacuum of space but he was always clobbered by gas.

Elsewhere, despite the claims on the cover, I have reason to believe that Daredevil isn't up against a villain called the Night-Stalker but is, instead, battling the Blue Talon and is in danger of having his secret identity revealed by an intrepid reporter.

I detect that we're about to get one of those stories where he gets the Black Panther to stand in for him, so that Matt Murdock and Daredevil can be seen in the same place at the same time.

Captain Marvel, meanwhile, attempts to free Rick Jones from the Zone of Negativity. I suspect the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building portal may provide the answer to the problem.

Not satisfied with that, Marv also has to tangle with the Sentry who, if memory serves me well, is causing trouble in Mexico, after having been possessed by the mind of someone who's either a rebel, a farmer or a dictator. Possibly, he's all three. I forget.

Isn't it around this time that Doctor Minerva first shows up?

Rampage #13, Defenders vs Nebulon

It's the Sub-Mariner's last issue in the strip, as Nebulon reveals his true form.

Didn't he turn out to be some sort of giant space mollusc? I must confess I prefer him in his usual guise.

Complete Fantastic Four #16, the Frightful Four return

From what I can make out, it would seem the cunning plan to reunite Reed and Sue by getting the Sub-Mariner involved has backfired spectacularly and that she and he are now preparing to launch his annual war on humanity.

And they thought they had it bad with the Frightful Four showing up.

Super Spider-Man #257, the Empathoid

Not content with taking over Morbius, in order to force him to fight Spider-Man, now the emphatic Empathoid is taking over Spider-Man to make him battle Morbius.

In my experience, you don't really need to force either of them to fight the other, which makes me wonder just why the Empathoid is going to all that trouble.

Come to think of it, you don't really need to do anything to make Spider-Man fight anyone. He'll happily launch into a punch-up with anybody he meets.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - January 1978.

Most people don't know that there is, in every house, a secret but very slim room hidden between two of the rooms whose existence you do know of. All you have to do to find it is to demolish all the rooms that you are aware of, until the mystery room is the only thing left standing.

Likewise, there is, ofttimes, in this blog, between the Sunday and Thursday posts, a hidden feature that looks at what titles Marvel were publishing forty years ago which didn't quite manage to achieve legendary status.

Reader, this is that post.

The Champions #17, the Sentinels

The Sentinels are attacking! Could it be the end for the Marvel team who never quite made it big and are therefore, no doubt, candidates to have their own Netflix show?

As it turns out, it can indeed be the end, because this was the last issue of their comic before the fickle finger of cancellation struck it. Let's face it, if the Sentinels can't save your mag, the chances are that nothing can.

Howard the Duck #20

I had the issue after this one. I didn't have this one. There is, therefore, little I can say of it, other than that I'm sure it was a potent satire of both commercialisation and washing powder.

John Carter, Warlord of Mars #8

His movie might have flopped but that's not stopping John Carter from taking care of business on Mars.

I wonder if he ever bumped into Gullivar Jones and if they ever teamed up?

More immediately, I am intrigued by the cover's claim that, "The Marvel Explosion begins here!" Did it? And what was this explosion? Was it inspired by the DC Explosion? And did Marvel's Explosion discover a happier fate than DC's?

Master of Kung Fu #60, Dr Doom

Up until I saw this cover, I was totally unaware that Shang-Chi had ever encountered Dr Doom.

I know all Marvel characters have to meet him at some point but, somehow, it just doesn't feel right that Shang-Chi would. Despite his occasional encounters with other Marvel heroes, such as Spider-Man, he somehow always felt like he existed outside the Marvel universe.

On other matters, I see the bloke with the swords for arms is back. I don't like to be indelicate but, seriously, how does he go to the toilet? How does he get dressed? How does he do anything?

Marvel Preview #13, the UFO Connection

I got this issue in Blackpool, in the summer of 1978.

Needless to say, with its tales of aliens and pyramids, I was suitably enthralled.

I was also gripped by its reports of famous people's encounters with UFOs.

Marvel Team-Up #65, Spider-Man vs Captain Britain

Britain's greatest super-hero who's not called Billy the Cat meets America's greatest super-hero who's not called Superman, as transatlantic derring-doings break out in New York City.

It may have technically been a Spider-Man tale but it was also the best Captain Britain tale until the Alan Moore era came along.

Spidey Super Stories #30, Kang

For a man from the far future, Kang does seem remarkably obsessed with 20th Century America.

I never saw an issue of this particular comic but my Steve Sense tells me it was aimed at the younger reader and was partially designed as a literacy aid.

Marvel Comics, Dynomutt #1

Yet another reminder that Marvel in the 1970s didn't only give us super-heroes.

Admittedly, I suppose that, as he clearly has super-powers, Dynomutt is technically a super-hero. I know nothing of him, never having seen his cartoon but he would appear to be some sort of canine equivalent of Machine Man.

Crazy #33

My familiarity with Crazy is next to non-existent. I would assume that it bore strong resemblances to Mad Magazine but I couldn't guarantee that.

Despite my lack of knowledge, I do believe that this issue includes a send-up of The Deep.

Sunday 7 January 2018

Fifty years ago this month - January 1968.

January 1968 was a great month for all fans of mysteriously fast toys, as Mattel's Hot Wheels were launched. How I recall the sight of them whizzing around and looping the loop, thanks to tracks attached to door handles. God alone knows what children who didn't have door handles did. Their childhoods must have been in tatters.

Speaking of iconic cars, it was also the month that saw the launch of the Ford Escort. I don't know if there was ever a Hot Wheels version of the Ford Escort but, if there was, I'm sure it was suitably awesome.

Elsewhere, Daniel Day-Lewis' dad was made Poet Laureate and Harold Wilson launched the, "I'm Backing Britain," campaign.

That campaign may not have changed the world but it famously inspired Paul McCartney to write a song called I'm Backing Britain which he then renamed I'm Backing the USSR and then renamed Back in the USSR. How one person's intentions can lead to another person's totally unpredictable outcomes.

Avengers #48, the Black Knight returns

The all-new, all good Black Knight reveals himself to the world and tries to recruit the Avengers' help in evicting Magneto from his house.

Needless to say, they're in no mood to listen to him and are more interested in engaging him in fisticuffs.

It's a miracle that any super-villains ever got thwarted, the amount of time Marvel's heroes spent fighting each other.

On the art front, I'd say this is my favourite George Tuska drawn Avengers tale.

Daredevil #36, the Trapster

If Daredevil thought he was having problems with the Trapster, he didn't know not nothing, as the story climaxes with the arrival of Dr Doom and his nefarious body-swapping plans.

Fantastic Four #70

I do believe that that creature is one of the Mad Thinker's evil androids, though I don't know quite what his plan is.

Is there a scene in this issue where Ben and Alicia are ambushed by it in a restaurant?

Putting my fashion hat on, I really didn't like Sue's costume in this period. As Coco Chanel once said, "Never wear a skirt over your gender-neutral overalls."

Amazing Spider-Man #56, Doctor Octopus

It's the shock of the century, as Spider-Man loses his memory, thanks to a stolen nullifier short-circuiting his spider-sense, and Doc Ock convinces him he's his partner in crime. Will our hero discover the truth before it's too late?

Strange Tales #164, Dr Strange

I don't know what's going on there but that doesn't look like Nightmare.

For that matter, that machine doesn't look like something Nightmare would use.

Tales of Suspense #97, Iron Man vs Whiplash

It's a tale familiar to all readers of Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, when Shellhead finds himself up against the villain who believes in giving everyone a fair crack of the whip.

He was also, of course, in the movie Iron Man 2, in which he demonstrated a remarkable ability to survive being run over by cars, in a way that was never explained. Even a Ford Escort would have been useless against him.

Tales to Astonish #99, the Incredible Hulk

It's one of my favourite Marie Severin covers, as the Hulk finds himself up against that secret organisation whose name I've forgotten, whose evil plan was something or other.

Weren't they the people who were responsible for inflicting the Boomerang on us? I'm not sure they were the highest level secret organisation ever.

Thor #148, the Wrecker

Hooray! The Wrecker makes his wall-shattering debut!

I always liked the Wrecker. For some reason, I always liked it when Thor came up against thuggish opponents like the Wrecker, Crusher Creel and Ulik. They always seemed more compelling than more sophisticated villains.

X-Men #40, Frankenstein's Monster

It's one of my least favourite comic book stories of all time, as the X-Men come up against Frankenstein's Monster, who turns out to be a robot built by aliens, over a hundred years ago, as some sort of space ambassador.

All in all, it feels more like a Marvel story from the early 1960s than the late 1960s.

Thursday 4 January 2018

January 4th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

A whole new year has begun and we're heading remorselessly into the future.

But it's not just us. There's something else that's heading into the future.

And that's The Past.

Because, on this day of forty years ago, a new year had also just begun.

But what was happening in that brave new era in which the internet was undreamed of and we couldn't even speculate that, one day, we'd be looking back upon it via household computers more powerful than those which had landed a man on the moon?

When it came to music, bagpipes and wellingtons were still dominating the UK singles chart. Elsewhere, there was nothing happening in the world of News and Current Affairs that was of any interest to me.

But what about television? Was it fulfilling my need for entertainment?

On BBC One, Flash Gordon was still conquering the universe. It had taken him a dozen episodes but I do believe this was the one in which he finally did it.

Later that day, we were treated to the Germano/Yugoslavian splendour of White Horses, while, a little later, Michael Rodd's Screen Test featured clips from Star Wars and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

Meanwhile, on BBC Two, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures were being presented by Carl Sagan who was talking about Mars, and ruining my childhood by claiming there was a no life on it. What a party pooper. Couldn't he have lied?

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #3, Boris Vallejo

Three issues of the mag published, and three consecutive Boris Vallejo covers used. Marvel UK clearly saw the Peruvian paintmeister as their prime weapon in the quest to gain readers.

As for the issue's main story, it's not one I could claim to have read. I suspect, however, that we can all guess what elements it's likely to have included.

Rampage #12, Defenders vs the Squadron Sinister

The Squadron Sinister make their rip-roaring return. This time - in league with Nebulon - they're out to destroy the world.

Unfortunately for them, they have a traitor within. Nighthawk isn't sold on the idea of annihilating his home planet and decides to recruit the Defenders to the cause of stopping them. As a result, Defenders history will never be the same again.

Complete Fantastic Four #15, the Sub-Mariner

The Sub-Mariner's busy this week. He's taking on both the Squadron Sinister and the Fantastic Four.

I take it, from the cover, that Sue's still not made her mind up about whether she wants Subby or Reed, despite being a married woman.

Then again, weren't she and Reed separated by this point? Maybe Namor had reason to be optimistic.

Mighty World of Marvel #275, the Quintronic Man

The world trembles as we get the multi-faceted unveiling of the Quintronic Man.

In all honesty, I'm not sure that a robot with each body part controlled by a different pilot was the brightest of ideas, especially as, from what I can recall, they weren't the most disciplined, well organised or cooperative of people.

Given such administrative chaos, it's needless to say that the Hulk makes short work of them.

Super Spider-Man #256, Morbius

Morbius is still under the telepathic control of the malevolent Empathoid.

It does seem somewhat odd that there was a villain called, "The Empathoid." If his power was empathy, shouldn't that have made him nice? Look at Deanna Troi. She had empathy and she was nice.

Admittedly, she was totally useless in a crisis but at least she was nice.