Thursday, 5 April 2018

April 5th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

At last, the day that all music lovers have been desperate for has arrived to hit us, smack in the canvas, as, in this week of 1978, Brian and Michael hit the UK Number One slot, with their timeless tune Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs, only the second act that I can think of to have hit the UK top slot by singing about an artist. The other was, of course, Don McLean, way back in 1971, with his delicate ballad Vincent.

I wish I could say Brian and Michael's effort shared the haunting beauty of that song but the truth is I've just been on YouTube to listen to their hit again, for the first time in years and, frankly, it's terrible. Still, despite that, thanks to having no taste at all, I have a strange fondness for it.

I do recall once hearing Sheffield's equivalent of L.S. Lowry, Joe Scarborough, remark that, "Old man Lowry," as he always called him, would have hated the song because he hated people saying he painted matchstick men. Poor old Brian and Michael. I'm sure they did their best.

But while Lowry may have been a highly sought-after artist, nothing can compare to the artistic skills of those who worked for Marvel Comics and it's time to see just what works of art were being removed from the shelves of newsagents on this day of that week of that month of that year.

Mighty World of Marvel #288, Hulk vs the Circus of Crime

It's always good to see a Jim Starlin cover on the front of Mighty World of Marvel, if only because it brings to mind the heady days of 1972 when he used to be Marvel UK's main cover artist. Granted, this one is a second-hand cover but it's still a corker.

In the back-up strips, the Black Widow has to battle Man-Bull alone, thanks to Daredevil having been shot.

I do recall that she doesn't exactly set the world on fire in her attempt and gets a great big horn stuck in her for her troubles. This was a major disappointment for me, as I would like to think the Black Widow has some actual fighting skills.

Meanwhile, someone is turning the people of San Francisco into replica man-bulls. It's all go-go-go when you're a costumed crime-fighter.

Elsewhere, Captain Marvel is up against Mercurio and his power to both freeze you and incinerate you simultaneously.

And even more elsewhere, Nick Fury and his howling commandos are up against Baron Strucker.

Star Wars Weekly #9

In the wake of Obi-Wan Kenobi's demise, our heroes continue their battle with the forces of darkness.

Rampage #25, the Defenders

I genuinely don't know what this story is. Looking at the covers of the original Defenders comics, this issue should feature the first Defenders/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover but the cover suggests it's a totally different tale whose original source is totally unknown to me.

The Complete Fantastic Four #28

All I know about this tale is that it features Ben Grimm and Sue Grimm from an alternate dimension.

Still, it's always nice to see the Thing taking on a dinosaur, even if it looks like it just wants to be left alone.

Super Spider-Man #269, Brother Power and Sister Sun

Brother Power and Sister Sun make their senses-shattering debut and Flash Thompson discovers that Sha Shan is being forced to help her husband run a cult. She didn't have a happy life, did she? She just seemed to blunder from one crisis to another. I just feel like writing a story now, called The Sha Shan Redemption.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #6

With the usual Marvel UK logic, issue #6 of the happy Hyborian's British mag reprints issue #17 of its American equivalent. It's things like that that helped to keep us all on our toes.

I have to say the cover on this version is printed a lot lighter than it was on the US mag. Whether that's a good thing or not, I'm not altogether certain. On the one hand, it is now possible to actually see the picture. On the other, it does rob it of much of its power and intrigue.

As for the insides, the main story would appear to be another John Buscema/Alfredo Alcala smorgasbord of artistic excellence.


dangermash said...

Didn't Brian & Michael write a song for someone else that made number one? Or did someone else that had been to number one write the Matchstalk Men song?

I have a horrible feeling that the answer might be that B&M wroteThere's No One Quite Like Grandma. Another one for you to check out on YouTube.

Steve W. said...

You're horribly right, Dangermash. This is what Wikipedia has to say about them:

"Other chart success as writers/producers were with "The Sparrow" (The Ramblers, No 11 in 1979), and Claire and Friends' "It's 'Orrible Being in Love when You're Eight and a Half" (Number 13 in 1986). Coleman also wrote the hit song "Hold My Hand" for Ken Dodd."

Anonymous said...

By the eternal Vishanti, its a shame no one ever banished Brian and Michael.
Steve, that looks like Eelar the eel-man grabbing Dr. Strange on the cover of Rampage, so I expect it reprints Giant-Size Defenders #5, which does fit into the continuity just after the Sons of the Serpent storyline.

Your right about the printing on that Savage Sword of Conan detracting from the cover; on the other hand, I recall that inside the Worms of the Earth was printed more darkly than the US version making it look even more atmospheric. You win some, you lose some.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Just a weird thought...

Did Mad magazine or Red Sonja or (?) ever spoof the schtick of having the scantily-clad damsel hanging on Conan's leg by having Conan type hang off a female barbarian?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Update! Thanks to that marvelous impromptu discussion on horror movies last week, I did watch Duel with my son and his buddy on Youtube. The viewing quality was good, especially for a movie on youtube.

The three of us found it to be entertaining. I was afraid the two 19-year-olds would see it as rather lame but they thought it was pretty cool.

Admittedly, all three of us wondered why Dennis Weaver would not simply turn his car around and return home given a mad man driving a semi was constantly trying to run him over in the desert.

Also, Dennis Weaver seemed to really portray a bit of a dim-witted character. But I can't recall if he would have been dim-witted for 1970?

But it was refreshing to see his wife at home, with 2 - 3 kids, running a vacuum cleaner. Really made me long for the good-ole days!

Anonymous said...

I'd be surprised if no one had ever done a spoof Conan like that Charlie, but can't recall one offhand.
Richard Corben did a great cover with that basic idea for 1994 #17 though. Its posted at second pic down.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Ha, that's pretty close Sean! Good one!

pete doree said...

I thought that was Corben for years as well but it's actually by Jim Strenstrum & Will Richardson. A good Corben copy, eh?
By the way gang, talking of bronze age of blogs, I'm back posting again as of yesterday.
Now I'm gonna have to find somewhere where somebody spoofed the damsel cliche. Challenge accepted!

Steve W. said...

Charlie and Sean, thanks for the comments.

Pete, welcome back to the world of blogging.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I had a feeling after posting the comment that I might regret not double checking that Pete.
Enjoyed the Batman/Enemy Ace "crossover" - good to see you back.


pete doree said...

Cheers Steve & Sean, and as I say, I thought it was Corben for literally years.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi Pete! Who knows? There may be a no-prize waiting for you if you find such a cover spoof! I have to offer my profound thanks to you bloggers and guys like Sean who add the color commentary! Makes the day fun! Btw Pete that cover if Action on your blog has always been a sentimental fav of mine. There is something "good" in it and I did buy it off the spinner back in the day (the month it was released not like years later stuffed in a plastic bag of 3 or something like that lol).

pete doree said...

Charlie, that Action cover just encapsulates the Bronze Age for me.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Pete - it's more than the BA! It's like one last sentimental portrayal of a bygone age... A romanticized view of life in a slum... A notion that being poorer was not synonymous with being a loser or a welfare cheat...

But I must admit, I did not see that when I bought it as a 12 year old back in the day. It's only when I saw it on your blog 45 years later that it awakened something in me.

Steve W. said...

Colin, I didn't have that book but I did have the Guinness book that marked 500 UK Number Ones. If I remember right, the 500th was A Little Peace by Nicole, the 1982 Eurovision winner.

Anonymous said...

Steve (or anybody else), if you're interested there's a documentary on Radio 4 tonight at 8pm celebrating the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'll be listening!

Dougie said...

I agree on the subject of the Conan cover. The original was my second US SSOC and I was mad about it. The deep pink hue did seem to obscure the image, however. The winged creature makes me think it should have been the cover to "At The Mountain of the Moon-God": the sequel to "Black Colossus".

Did Mercurio the 4-D Man appear anywhere after CM? I have a feeling he might have had a cameo in Quasar in the early 90s.

Steve W. said...

Dougie, I remember the 4-D Man showing up in Thor's comic a couple of times. I think he was posing as Don Blake's landlord or something in the first encounter and, in the second, he teamed up with Thor to fight a giant crystal that was holding Karnilla and Sif prisoner.

Colin, I shall be sure to give it a listen.

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