Sunday, 6 May 2018

Fifty years ago this month - May 1968.

May, 1968, was a momentous month for all lovers of popular music - because it was in that month that a man called Reg Dwight changed his name to, "Elton John," and history was made. It's a little known fact that, on that self-same day, a man called Elton John changed his name to, "Reg Dwight," convinced it would boost his career and launch him on the road to mega-stardom. I can exclusively reveal that only one of those men turned out to have made a wise decision.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, the Beatles' Apple Records was also launched that month.

It's easy to think of it as just being a vehicle for the Fab Four's attempts to get their financial affairs in order but it should never be forgotten that, without it, we might never have heard of Mary Hopkin, Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston or Hot Chocolate, all propelled to various levels of fame by the label.

All this in mind, could the Marvel comics that bore that month's cover date possibly compare to those events, when it came to historical significance?

There's only one way to find out.

And while we're trying to figure out what that way is, we might as well endure my clueless ramblings on the subject, instead.

Avengers #52, the Grim Reaper

It's two epic occasions for the price of one. Not only do we get the first appearance of the Grim Reaper but we also get the Black Panther in solo action, as he saves the book's stars and, by the end of the tale, has become their newest member. It's not just a great event in its own right, it's an event which signals that my favourite era of the strip is about to begin.

Captain America #101, the Sleeper

Speaking of the Panther, what of the man who told him to join the Avengers in the first place?

I may not hold Captain America's strip in the same high regard that I do the Avengers but this is one of my favourite Kirby Cap tales, as the seemingly unstoppable Sleeper is revived from its slumbers.

I have said it before but, given their near invincibility, you do wonder why the Red Skull didn't activate all his Sleepers in World War II, instead of leaving them lying around in case he might need them. You never know, the Nazis might actually have won if he had.

Daredevil #40

It's bad news for all DD fans, as the crimson clobberer finds himself catapulted into a different time-phase.

Fortunately, his hyper-senses mean he's probably the only man alive who could get himself back into the right time-phase. There's luck for you.

Fantastic Four #74, Galactus is back

Galactus may have vowed to leave the Earth alone but that's never stopped him coming back and bothering it whenever he feels like it.

This time, he wants the Silver Surfer back - and nothing's going to stop him getting him.

Incredible Hulk #103, the Space Parasite

I must confess that, such are the vicissitudes of childhood memory, that there was a time when I always got the Space Parasite mixed up with the Space Phantom and, so, was highly confused when the latter showed up in The Avengers and bore no resemblance to the three-fingered, one-eyed, Hulk foe that I remembered him being.

I do, though, recall the Space Parasite dying at the end of this tale. Has he ever been revived since? I did always view him as one of the more striking Hulk foes of this era.

Iron Man #1

The Marvel Explosion continues, as the ferrous felony-fighter gets his own mag.

If I remember right, this is the one where he's having trouble with the Maggia and Whiplash on their water-logged boat. It's not a happy way to make your debut.

Amazing Spider-Man #60, the Kingpin

The Kingpin's determination to get his hands on the tablet that bestows eternal youth upon whoever can decipher it, leads to yet more conflict with Spider-Man.

Strange Tales #168, Dr Strange

Other characters might be getting their own titles right now but Dr Strange and Nick Fury are going to have to wait that little bit longer.

It's probably for the best. I really don't know what's going on in this issue.

Thor #152, Ulik

Having seen off the threat of the Sif-powered Destroyer, Thor's now out to sort out Karnilla and Loki for their treachery.

I have a feeling this all leads to the unleashing of Mangog. There's never a quiet day when you're a thunder god.

X-Men #44, Red Raven

It's the first X-Men comic I ever owned, and one of the very very very first American comics I ever owned, as the Angel escapes Magneto's lair, only to find himself in a battle with Red Raven who may or may not be determined to revive the long-defunct Bird-Men.

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, the spectacle of two red-and-yellow-clad men with wings was highly impressive when I was eight.

PS. Don't forget to come back on Tuesday for the senses-shattering sequel to this post.


Killdumpster said...

I forgot how much of an eyesore the the Grim Reaper's original costume was. The all black suit with the crossbones chest emblem was easier to look at.

The Space Parasite may have made another appearance. The story "Many Foes Have The Hulk" where the Leader comes up with the plan to make the Hulk have a heart attack by having to fight a nonstop battery of enemies, but they are all projected illusions. I believe the Parasite was one of them. I could be wrong.

Killdumpster said...

I don't think the Reaper's costume deserves a poll, Steve. Lol.

Steve W. said...

I believe the Space Parasite did indeed get a panel in that Hulk tale.

You're also right about that Grim Reaper costume. It does look like he just flung together whatever elements he had available.

Killdumpster said...

Yeah, it looked like he raided his mum's rag bag and sewn them together.

Anonymous said...

The Germans did have at least some things you could call "doomsday weapons." The V-1 and V-2 rockets, the ME262, and the Tiger tank, for example.
They weren't enough to change the course of the war, the ME262 jet aircraft didn't show up 'till, what, late '44 or early '45? And they couldn't make Tigers fast enough. There weren't that many of them around. But what they did make sure caused enough damage.
I don't think the Sleeper, which is basically just a robot with a big head, could have made much of a difference.
A Cosmic Cube, on the other hand...


Anonymous said...

I think they call them tesseracts these days M.P.

Steve, finding May'68 notable mainly for Elton John changing his name is a remarkably singular approach to history.

That's a pretty dull cover for Strange Tales #168 - I think its for the end of the Yandroth storyline, so that seems appropriate enough - but the comic also featured Steranko's classic SHIELD done-in-one Today Earth Died.


Steve W. said...

MP, I have to suspect that, given his track record, if the Red Skull had had a Cosmic Cube in WW2, he would have still managed to lose the war. He never even managed to kill Captain America when he had it. He would have been like, "I could destroy the verdammt Allied forces right now. But, no, that would be too easy. Instead, I shall toy with them, until such a time as I choose to destroy them. Oops! I've dropped it! Argh! A squirrel's run off with it! Why do these things always happen to me?"

Sean, I like to think I can home straight in on what matters in the world.

Rachel Petro said...

While the merits of GR's uniform may not deserve a poll, I think "Could the Sleepers have won WW2" does!

B.t.w. Skull's WW2 diary was discovered and published in Stern Magazine in the mid 80s as I recall. He speculated that, had he had the C Cube in WW2, he would have changed his name to Adolph Eisenhower, joined the US Army as a buck private, worked his way up the ranks to Commander of Allied Forces, and invaded Greenland instead of France, as a diversion.

Boy oh boy... It's obvious there is no Steranko cover in all those gems to round it out. What a time to be reading Marvel!

Lastly, I missed this Avengers issue but for some reason the Reaper was always in my young brain... When he finally found him in Avengers (like 102?) I was all a gaga "It's the Grim Reaper, it's the Grim Reaper!" Where did he appear in the interceding 50 issues? Help?

Cheers All!

Anonymous said...

Avengers #79 Charlie - Lo! The Lethal Legion!
Not sure why the Grim Reaper was hanging around with the Man-Ape, The Swordsman and whoever else it was though.


Anonymous said...

The Living Laser!
Thats who else was in the Lethal Legion. Which is a bit of a rubbish line up now that I think about it. At least the Grim Reaper had a cooler costume for his come back.
Unless you prefer the green version...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Green is a fav color for good guys not bad guys! Lol!

And I was wrong about Skull's diaries! Der Spiegel published them in the 80s! He wrote that had he had the CCube in WW2 he would have used it to change his name to Adolph Zhukov, enter the Russian Army as a private, risen up the ranks to become a Marshall , and had the Russians defend Outer Mongolia rather than Stalingrad. It could've worked? Lot more clever than releasing 5(?) sleepers piece meal than all at once?

Killdumpster said...


Yeah, the Reaper would've been better served if he'd surround himself with the Eel, Porcupine, Plantman & the Scarecrow. Lol.

ME 262! Immortalized by the excellent Blue Oyster Cult song! I've been led to believe that the Nazis were also working on some type of "death ray". Anyone else heard of that?

TC said...

IIUC, the Nazis conducted experiments with X-rays, trying to develop a beam weapon that could disable American and British aircraft.

And a 1945 Life magazine article reported on rumors of Nazi experiments to deploy a space-based solar death ray. Supposedly, it would have been an orbiting satellite with a giant mirror to focus the sun's rays and burn cities.

In 1945, there were a lot of rumors about new Nazi super-weapons. Mainly it was Nazi propaganda to bolster German morale.

Hitler did call on his scientists to create high-tech "wonder weapons," but most of them either proved impractical, or the R&D took too long, and the war ended before they could be deployed.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Killdumpster, that ME262 song is a classic! I saw 'em do it live once.
"There's no reward for failure, but death,
So watch me in mirrors keep me on the glidepath"
And yeah, Steve, the Skull would have screwed it up. He sure managed to when he did have the Cube. "Oh no, I dropped it!" He basically just stood around cackling the whole time. That guy just couldn't get his act together.


Killdumpster said...


I saw BOC during the Black & Blue tour with Sabbath (unfortunately the Dio version). Cult rocked the stadium with that song. The best recorded live version is on "On Your Feet, Or On Your Knees" Album. That whole album is insanely rockn.

Charley H47-

I'm going to check at my local comics shop if Diamonds Previews are offering retro Capt. Marvel T-shirts. Keep you posted. I want one, and I KNOW you do. "It's Not Easy Being Green". Lol!

Rachel Petro said...

Hey KD - Who knows why but CM in that kneeling pose... sticks with me to this day. Along with a poster or a shirt (?) of Hulk pulling a toy ducky if I recall? Am I getting this confused with a shirt that said "Here comes the Hulk" on the front and "There goes the Hulk" on the back?

If you find one I take a 42! (What state do you live in? I'm in Chicago land.)

Nazis... Those guys spawned a whole industry of news, books, movies, comics, zombie stories, air shows, museums, etc. You have to wonder what % of the economy 75 years on still is tied up to their legacy whereas no one really talks much about the Italian and Japanese legacy of the war. (OK - I'm not in Australia or South Korea and perhaps they focus more on the Japanese role than the Nazis, I have no idea.) I mean, I have been patiently waiting for a book to come out, finally, this week on the German-Russian battles around Kharkov after the fall of Stalingrad... a real chess game it was. Only took 75 years for someone to write it up in English.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I know a bunch of you guys are real experts in comics (I'm just a guy who read them) so I am hopeful you can help me out! What is the name of the process to get the shine and colors on those covers above? I mean the colors seem really deep and rich to me and moody!

It probably wasn't that many years later when they started looking shinier, to me, say the early 70s?

And, comics today are so shiny and I honestly have to futz around with lighting when I read them due to the brightness.

Killdumpster said...

That Mar-Vell pose with the Gene Colan art was so fraggin cool. Very Ultraman-esque.

With the coming of political correctness, plus the advent of our former enemies being allies, I don't think today the "yellow peril" or even Musollini can be brought up without stirring some feathers. I have a Japanese drinking buddy that told me that Japanese kids are not taught about Pearl Harbor. WW2 is but a footnote in history teachings. Of coarse except Fat Man & Little Boy. Nazis make the perfect villains. Even most of Germany divorces themselves from them. But, then again, they have only been unified for a few decades. They've been known to be plucky bastards. Time will tell.

Killdumpster said...


The Hulk pulling toys in the ad was a sweatshirt, next to a sweatshirt with the Thing that had on the back, on his trunks, "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU ARE TOO CLOSE!" Personal space wasn't quite an issue back then, so I assume it might have been a warning of cosmically powered Coney Island hotdog carts.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I'm told they sprinkled a little bit of Fairy Dust on them covers, to give 'em that magical glow that warmed our souls in our youths.

Yeah, B.O.C. in their heyday could blow anybody else off the stage. My ears are still ringing from the demonic sonic assault of "Black Blade."


Killdumpster said...

I didn't mean "carts" lol. Damn spellchecker.

Killdumpster said...

BOC's compilation "Workshop Of The Telescopes" is a good collection of old and later stuff. "Don't Fear The Reaper"... especially if he's in his original costume

Anonymous said...

Hey, Killdumpster, did you like "Spectres"?
Very underrated album as far I'm concerned.
My older sister had the 8-track and it messed with my young brain, and set me on a career of evil.
Sorry about the topic drift, here, Steve. I drank a lotta coffee today.


Steve W. said...

It's OK, MP, I'm finding it all highly educational, as someone who only knows one song by the Blue Oyster Cult.

As for the shininess of comics covers, I have no idea how it's achieved.

Timothy Field said...

Shiny pages are down to what's called 'coated paper' basically paper with a layer of polymer or other treatments to give a gloss or smooth surface. Formally the preserve of covers due to cost but now almost ubiquitous. I'm not a fan on it for internal pages.

Killdumpster said...


At one time I had the entire BOC catalog. Spectres was good, but Agents of Fortune was better.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I assume you mean "Don't Fear The Reaper" - it's the only song I know by the Blue Oyster Cult too. Such a cheerful little ditty.

May 1968 is, of course, famous for the "evenements" in Paris - the student riots. They wanted President De Gaulle to resign, which he did...twelve months later.

Steve W. said...

Colin, that is indeed the Blue Oyster Cult track I was thinking of. Admittedly, I do technically know another one of their tracks because, sometime in 1980, I taped Don't Fear the Reaper off the radio. It was only when I played it back that I realised that it wasn't Don't Fear the Reaper at all. It was a different track by them that sounded remarkably similar. To this day, I don't have a clue what it was called. All I remember is that it featured a line that went something like, "Pay no heed to the tears that she's crying. She's coming back for more. Methadone madness."

I'm sure that Blue Oyster Cult fans will know at once what the track was called. Possibly.

Killdumpster said...


Could it have been "Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave?"

BOC finally lost me after the Cultasuarus Erectus album, so I don't know that song verbatim.

Killdumpster said...

Or maybe "Veteran of the Psychic Wars"? Man, I'm so old. I can't remember anything anymore.

Steve W. said...

Killdumpster, I've just checked those two tracks out on YouTube and it definitely wasn't either of them. The track I'm thinking of was built around an arpeggio riff very similar to the one in Don't Fear the Reaper and the track, overall, had a very similar feel to it but with a different tune and very different lyrics.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

So for what it's worth... in Chicago the 6th ranked radio station now is playing the top-40 hits that those from age 45 to 65 grew up with which is US! No BOC on the 3,500 song playlist but lots of pop hits. I was driving to work listening to Duke of Earl chased with The Partridge Family and then I think a British singer "("I remember I cried when my father died never wishing I could hide the tears. Alone again, naturally.). Apparently WE are a hugely underserved demographic! I'm ready to be served!!! Any station like this in the UK???

Steve W. said...

I do know that that singer was Gilbert O'Sullivan and his redoubtable mega-hit Alone Again (Naturally).

As for UK radio stations, the BBC has Radio 2 which is aimed at that age-group and is mostly pop, although it tends to mix in a fair amount of punk and new wave with its more listener-friendly stuff, as that's what was filling the charts when we were young.

The commercial station Absolute has various offshoots which play old chart hits aimed at the more middle-aged listener, like Absolute 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. They tend to play the more respectable chart hits, so the cheesy and the bubblegum doesn't get played.

There are also various other nostalgia stations that play hits from the 60s,70s and 80s but I've never listened to them, so I couldn't comment on their playlists.

Anonymous said...

Killdumpster, M.P. - Somewhat surprised none of you mentioned Blue Oyster Cult's Revenge of Vera Gemini, which became a Defenders storyline.

Although personally I preferred the more stylish ME 262 by Serge Clerc from Metal Hurlant

Watch out for the backwards messages from Satan kids!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I'm enjoying the bubble gum / pop / top-40 hits. After not hearing them for 40-50 years they sound fresh! And truly we hear so-called classic rock like BOC fairly frequently. No good reason that O'Sullivan should languish in pop rock purgatory. Odd thing is that my barely-adult kids are digging it too! "This is soooo cool! What year is it?" Lol!

Joe S. Walker said...

Gilbert O'Sullivan ended up suing his former manager and got a couple of million pounds in unpaid royalties.

Blue Oyster Cult were inventors of the heavy metal umlaut, weren't they? In a more literate world people would have assumed they were called something like "Blue Yerster Cult".

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