Thursday, 10 May 2018

May 10th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

There were two major events in the world in this week of forty years ago. Neither of them were comparable to Reg Dwight changing his name to Elton John but they were almost as big.

One of them was that, on this very night of that year, thanks to a 1–0 win over Club Brugge K.V. at Wembley Stadium, Liverpool F.C. retained the European Cup they'd first won the year before. It seems amazing to think that there was a time when clubs from outside the four big leagues could aspire to be more than mere cannon fodder.

A band who were definitely not musical cannon fodder were Boney M and, in this week of forty years ago, their double A-side Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl in the Ring hit the top spot on the UK singles chart.

Obviously, all Boney M songs pale into insignificance before the majestic glory of Rasputin, the greatest disco song ever to have been written about a Russian mystic who wouldn't lie down until his assassins had made at least eight hundred attempts to kill him. But, still, hitting the top spot in this week was a major achievement and the track went on to become one of only seven singles that have ever sold more than two million copies in the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, a great big Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to anyone who can name the other six without using the aid of Google.

Clearly these were triumphant times for Liverpool and Boney M but what of the stars of our favourite comics company? Were they enjoying heights of an equal height?

Star Wars Weekly #14

I would claim that, following the completion of the movie adaptation, Han Solo lives up to his name by getting heavily into solo action. Except he's not solo. Chewbacca's with him.

Other than that, I couldn't claim to recall anything that happens in this tale.

As for the back-up strips, I'm a little vague about them but I do know that Man-Gods From Beyond The Stars is still present.

Rampage #30, the Defenders

It's the tale we've all been waiting for, as the Defenders take on the power and might of Tapping Tommy, a villain I remember nothing of except for his name.

Anyway, whoever he is, it seems he's kidnapped Nighthawk, and now the rest of the non-team have to rescue him, even though the Tapster is armed with a gas bomb. What chance can a group made up of the Hulk, Valkyrie, Dr Strange and Nighthawk possibly have against a man armed with such a thing?

If that cover's to be believed, a lot less than you might have thought.

Mighty World of Marvel #293, Hulk vs Captain Barracuda

In a twist that no one could have seen coming, the Hulk finds himself up against the unstoppable menace of Kurt Russell from Escape From New York.

Having thought about it, it may be that he's still up  against Captain Barracuda and his baffling plan to turn people into ape-men for no good reason.

It does strike me that Captain Barracuda is one of the few Marvel captains who's actually a captain of something. Admittedly, he's captain of a big metal fish but at least it's more than Captain Britain can boast of.

Super Spider-Man #274, the Razorback and the Hatemonger

This story seems to have been going on for several centuries now. But, at last, we have the promise that we're finally going to find out who the Hate-Monger is.

Admittedly, seeing as I've pointed out in every post about this storyline that he's the Man-Beast, it's not likely to be a massive revelation when he finally pulls that hood off.

Come to think of it, it can't be that big a revelation to the characters in the story either, as he's from Counter-Earth and they'll never have heard of him.

I suspect that, in the back-up strips, the Avengers are still caught up in the Celestial Madonna mess and Thor is up to something or other in his solo adventures.

Complete Fantastic Four #33, the Hulk

In yet another shocking twist, I actually know what goes on in a comic.

Unless the cover's lying to me, it's the one in which the Hulk inadvertently brings down a plane the Fantastic Four are travelling on and they respond by giving him a good slapping.

In something that resembles a miracle, the FF break their previous habit of uselessness against the Hulk and actually win. In an even more miraculous event, it's 95% thanks to Sue that they win.

This tale was, of course, reprinted in the 1977 Marvel annual which I reviewed in a post that you can find by clicking on this very link, right here.


TC said...

IIRC, the first Star Wars comic book story after the movie adaptation was basically a sci-fi version of The Magnificent Seven. With the infamous Green Rabbit as one of the gunfighter/samurai/whatever heroes.

I don't remember if that was before or after Battle Beyond the Stars, which was basically another Magnificent Seven in Outer Space, starring George Peppard, Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, and Sybil Danning. But that movie was obviously an attempt to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon, anyway.

Captain Savage was a Navy officer, although I'm not sure if "captain" was his actual rank, or his job title. The writers and artists evidently were not sure, either; in his self-titled comic, he was sometimes drawn wearing the eagle rank insignia of a Navy captain (equivalent to a colonel in the Army or Marines), and sometimes with the bars of an Army or Marine captain (equal to a Navy lieutenant).

Carol Danvers was a former Air Force officer, although I don't remember her exact rank. Could have been a captain, AFAIK.

Steve W. said...

I suppose the Magnificent Seven storyline makes sense, with Han Solo arguably having been based on Robert Vaughn's character in that film.

Anonymous said...

Without googling I'd say the other six two-million sellers are:

Mull Of Kintyre
You're The One That I Want
Bohemian Rhapsody
Do They Know It's Christmas
Last Christmas/Everything She Wants
Candle In The Wind 1997

Do I get a no-prize, Steve?

Boney M's Rivers Of Babylon was based on the King James version of the 137th psalm. The psalm ends with the Jews wishing destruction on Babylon and death on the infants of Babylon by smashing their heads on the rocks - how charming. That particular part of the psalm was probably a bit awkward to include in the lyrics of a catchy disco number so they left it out :D

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hmmm... I do recall a song called "Babylon is Burning." Help me out? Is it tied to the Psalm?

Anonymous said...

That's the Ruts, Charlie. The "Babylon" reference would be 70s punky-reggae urban slang for the forces of law and order, what a previous generation would have called "the pigs, man".

I expect Boney M got Rivers of Babylon from The Melodians version off the soundtrack for The Harder They Come rather than the Psalms.


Steve W. said...

Colin, you have five right. Last Christmas has, so far, only sold 1.82 million, which means there's still one more single to get.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Wasn't Combat Kelly a Captain? Though if I recall correctly from like 45 years ago, the whole gang (him too?) got killed off in a final issue? Rather unusual and took me quite by surprise!

Steve W. said...

I'm afraid I have no idea as to whether Combat Kelly was a captain, and Wikipedia can shed no light on the matter.

Steve W. said...

Ooh! Hold on. I've just found him on the Marvel Wikia. Apparently, he was a private, a sergeant and a major at various points. He appears not to have been a captain though.

Killdumpster said...

What about the short-lived Marvel title Capt. Savage?

I believe Boney M had a hit in the early 70's called "Daddy Cool". My sister got it on 45 rpm and played it and played it and played it....

Killdumpster said...

At least it made her give Bobby Sherman & Donnie Osmand a break.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Well Steve, since there is ambiguity on Kelly's rank (you have to pass through Captain to get to Major) then I am sticking to my guns that he was a Captain at some point. Wonder why they killed off his crew like that? It was a shocker for this young lad! Did Kelly die though???

Killdumpster said...

The Capt. Savage I mentioned was indeed a submarine captain. There was a tiny little backwoods town were my grandparents lived that had "5 & dime" store on main street. All they ever had on their magazine racks were war & western comics, guess for all the old folks and hicks. I'd buy the cowboy stuff if they featured the original Ghost Rider, Two-Gun Kid or Rawhide Kid. Sometimes Sgt. Fury, I was so bored when we visited there and was hungry for comics.

Killdumpster said...

I think because of the anti-war sentiment of the time Marvel decided to cancel their extraneous military titles and focus on superheroes.

Killdumpster said...


Like I've stated before, the potential of the Invisible Woman has always been underestimated.

If comic book heroines experienced PMS, she could be as dangerous as Dark Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

Sean, until today I thought Boney M's version of Rivers Of Babylon was the original. I feel embarrassed now. I've just watched the Melodians on YouTube. Apparently there's also a Daniel O' Donnell version which is surely the definitive one :D

Steve, I'd originally intended to include She Loves You rather than Last Christmas but after checking (I couldn't resist) I see She Loves You is
outside the Top 7, at #8.

Killdumpster, Daddy Cool came out in 1976 - it was Boney M's first hit in the British singles chart.

Killdumpster said...

Thanks, Colin
Thought it was earlier.

Late 60s into the seventies are a blur of relentless musical torture inflicted by my sister and her "pitiful,portable picnic player". With a nickel taped to the tone arm no less.

Killdumpster said...

After 3 HOURS of Hot Butter's "Popcorn" I believe I experienced homicidal thoughts. After being completely fed-up with her DeFranco Family single I snuck into her bedroom at night and put it iin the trash. Just thinking of the Bay City Rollers is going to give me nightmares tonight.

Talk about "music as a weapon". My sister could have drove Galactus to the other side of the universes.

Anonymous said...

Killdumpster, I was watching a documentary about the Bay City Rollers on BBC TV just a couple of weeks ago. For days and days afterwards I had their songs "Shang-a-lang" and "Give A Little Love" stuck in my head.

But tonight the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast all across Europe - the Bay City Rollers are like musical geniuses compared to most of the songs in Eurovision!

Killdumpster said...

Colin, they were apparently more popular on your side of the pond. Here in the states all I can remember is "Saturday Night". AARRRGH!

A local punk band here in Pittsburgh, PA did a parody of it. One line went " Aye, yie, yie, yie, Just can't wait, Aye, yie,yie,yie, kill and rape". The band's name was Rectal Seepage. My band used to play with them, I think for the whole of 3 or 4 shows we existed.

TC said...

Most of the Deadly Dozen were killed in issue #9. Kelly (who, IIUC, was a corporal) survived. Wikia and Comic Vine said that he "resigned" or "quit the Army," refusing to lead any more suicide missions. Resigning is not an option for an enlisted soldier (or for an officer during wartime), so maybe he got sent back to prison. (The Dozen were ex-convicts on parole. Their similarity to both The Dirty Dozen and the Howling Commandos was purely intentional.) Either way, AFAIK, Kelly made no further appearances.

And, yes, Captain Savage was a WWII submarine officer who first appeared in about half a dozen issues of Sgt. Fury, whenever the Howlers were transported by submarine en route to their missions. When he became the star of his own self-titled comic book, he was reassigned, without any explanation, to lead a Marine Raider (i.e., guerrilla warfare) squad. In later issues, though, he transferred back to commanding the sub. He was still a sub commander when he appeared in Sgt. Fury Annual #1, set during the Korean War.

"Saturday Night" is the only Bay City Rollers song that I can remember having heard. Or even having heard of.

TC said...

And, yeah, the post-Vietnam, anti-war, anti-military sentiment undoubtedly led to the decline of war comics. Combat Kelly and His Deadly Dozen #7 had a cover caption that said something like, "The war comic for people who hate war," but that did not save it.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

If I recall correctly, during Vietnam, DC had a couple phrases "Make War No More" and "Don't Forget, Hire the Vet."

I too only remember "Saturday Night" by BCR. Glad to know they weren't "one hit wonders." LOL.

And, regarding Kelly's similarities to the Howling Commandos and The Dirty Dozen, I always wondered if Kelly took his name from Clint Eastwood and "Kelly's Heroes?" Now that is a war movie that I like to watch every few years. Has some really funny and thrilling scenes. And as I think about it, I never could figure out why the scene where Kelly loses some guys trapped in the mine field? It seems purposeless and actually upsets the humor to the movie. Not that the fighting in the village is death free but it seems more palatable (killing nazis is OK for humor, killing our allies, no.)

Anonymous said...

The Bay City Rollers had two UK #1 hits - "Bye Bye Baby" (originally by the Four Seasons) and "Give A little Love", both in 1975. "Bye Bye Baby" was the best-selling single of 1975 (in the UK) and stayed at No.1 for six weeks.

"Saturday Night" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, dated January 3rd 1976.

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