Sunday, 2 December 2018

Fifty years ago this month - December 1968.

December 1968 was an exciting time if your name was Elvis Presley because it was in that month that he made his comeback, in the NBC TV special Singer Presents...ELVIS.

Yes, it was sponsored by the Singer sewing machine company. I must confess that Elvis Presley and sewing machines are not two things I usually associate with each other but it clearly worked and, after a mid 1960s lull, his career was suddenly back on track again.

Still well and truly on track was the career of the Rolling Stones who released their album Beggars Banquet in that month.

Then again, they also filmed The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus and, as that didn't see light of day until 1996, I'm assuming something went wrong there.

Enjoying better luck was Douglas Engelbart who publicly demonstrated his pioneering hypertext system, NLS, in San Francisco, together with the computer mouse. How little the people of that time must have suspected that it would ultimately lead to the creation of this very site. If they'd known that, they'd have been in awe.

Then again, they did have something almost as impressive to be awed about because, up in space, that month, Apollo 8 flew around the Moon, enabling its crew to become the first people ever to see the dark side of it.

Sadly, they didn't think to release an LP named after their experience. If they had, they could have made a fortune.

Avengers #59, Yellowjacket makes his debut

It's another Marvel masterpiece as Yellowjacket makes his charmless debut and claims to have murdered Hank Pym, before announcing his engagement to the Wasp.

Amazingly, apart from Hawkeye, none of the other Avengers think anything should be done about the fact that he's murdered their colleague and are perfectly happy to let bygones be bygones as long as the Wasp is happy.

What kind of super-heroes are these people?

Captain America #108, the Trapster

Paste-Pot Pete is back - although once more calling himself the Trapster - and he has a cunning plan that involves kidnapping Sharon Carter.

What that plan is, I can't remember but, as always, it all ends in ignominious defeat for the villain.

Doesn't Sharon mess up his scheme by putting her nail polish remover in his paste, or something?

Poor old Pete. He just wasn't cut out for success.

Daredevil #47

It's the tale that featured in Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, the one Stan Lee was clearly very proud of, as Daredevil sets about helping a blinded Vietnam veteran readjust to civilian life.

Fantastic Four #81, the Wizard, Crystal joins the FF

Crystal joins the Fantastic Four.

Much as I love Crystal, it was always an uncomfortable fit, as she was clearly more powerful than the rest of the FF combined. She was also possibly a bit too sensible and grown up to totally fit in with her bickersome teammates.

Anyway, the Wizard ends up on the wrong end of her powers, making you wonder why he was stupid enough to take on the whole of the Fantastic Four, on his own, anyway.

Incredible Hulk #110, Umbu and Ka-Zar

It's one of my Hulk favourites, as he, Ka-Zar and Zabu battle a giant robot in the Savage Land, while attempting to destroy a machine that's messing up the weather.

Why Umbu has a giant tuning fork, I don't recall.

Iron Man #8, the Gladiator

Iron Man tangles with the Gladiator.

Amazing Spider-Man #67, Giant hands Mysterio

It's another classic John Romita cover, as Spidey finds himself shrunk down to the size of a real spider and having to face the maddening menace of Mysterio in a model funfair.

But is everything as it seems...?

Thor #159, storm giant, Thor's origin and Don Blake

At last, after all these years, we finally get the answer to the question that would have been tormenting me had I ever thought of it. How can Thor and Don Blake be the same man, when one is a modern day human and the other is a Norse god who's been around for centuries?

I do feel that Stan and Jack got round the conundrum with aplomb.

X-Men #51, Jim Steranko

Holy shades of Darth Vader! Magneto tells Lorna Dane that she's his daughter and that she has to decide whether to side with the X-Men or with him.

And, like a mug, she sides with him!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Regarding Elvis and Singer (Sewing)... Singer did have the original contract to make the M-16 infantry assault rifle in the 1960s. It didn't shooting blanks... and neither did Elvis ;)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I really need to read Avengers 59. One of my first comics ever was Avengers 60. I read it a thousand times but absent 59, you lose a whole heck of a lot of context, especially when you are 7 years old!

I mean, as I look at the cover to 59 I have to wonder what hi-jinx Roy used to seemingly have Yellow Jacket "kill himself" as Goliath?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

If there was no Avengers 59 would we have been spared the Ringmaster's Circus of Tough Guys popping out of a wedding cake in issue 60? Or, would the Rascally One have used that gem in another time and place? Makes me wonder if he had the wedding-cake idea first and then wrote a two-issue story line around it?

Steve W. said...

Charlie, who of us can truly know what Roy Thomas' wedding cake plans were?

As for how Yellowjacket convinced us all that he's killed Hank Pym, he simply walks into the Avengers mansion and announces that he's killed Hank. He then abducts the Wasp and she reappears sometime later, telling her teammates that she's going to marry him.

I do have to say that when I read the tale, as an eleven year old, it was blindingly obvious to me all along that he was Hank.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to the Avengers Steve, they do live in a universe where people are unrecognizable in superhero type masks.
Its obviously not like our "real" world, where up close we would pretty much instantly know anyone familiar to us (except maybe a Spidey, or a Black Panther, but even then they'd need to disguise their voice).

Yeah, that was a good reboot of Thor, although I did wonder about why Don Blake was around for so long after; or at least why he never seemed to ask himself any questions about his previous existence.


Anonymous said...

Actually, now I think about it, Odin claiming Thor had been arrogant and needed to learn humility (seriously, Odin?!?) didn't seem consistent with what we saw of him in Tales of Asgard.


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

The Avengers might be hitting their stride now but with Wizard, Gladator and Trapster all turning up, its not a great month for the rest of the spinner rack.

Anonymous said...

dangermash, that Daredevil story is an improvement on previous issues (which isn't saying much I suppose) and c'mon - battling a giant robot in the Savage Land? - the Hulk story sounds pretty good... swings and roundabouts maybe?

Btw, inspired by your comment the other day I decided to check out the Dead; heres a link for you -
A two hour meta version of Dark Star!
Put together from archive old live recordings by avant garde composer John Oswald...


Killdumpster said...

The Hulk story was good, but my memory fails me why Umbu had the tuning fork. It was always an extra bonus to have Ka-Zar & Zabu guest-star in any book back then.

Mysterio has always been one of my favorite Spidey villains. If they use him in the next movie, I hope they keep him close to the source material. Dome-head and all.

I've known people ( & dated girls), whose entire music collection is nothing but Grateful Dead concert bootlegs. Some of them are virtually oblivious to any other form of music! That's one of the reasons they're called "Dead Heads". It's so tired, that hippy crap.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Wellll la dee da dee da! I am glad that as an 11 year old you were well aware that Yellow Jacket was Giant Man / Goliath. LOL! But for this 7 year old it was confusing as heck as his first foray into comic books that were of the "continued" variety!

But then again I was always a bit confused in my youth by comics:
- Was the Maggia meant to be the Mafia? Is it a typo?
- Why didn't Commissioner Gordon or Alfred, in the comics, look like the ones on the Batman TV Show?
- Anything Rick Jones...

I'll say it again. This run of Kirby on Cap is his high point! All starts becoming too Kirby within a year or so.

Anon Anon

Anonymous said...

I always liked the Gladiator. Y'know, a guy could probably do that, get a metal helmet and mount a couple circular blades to his wrists, hooked up to some motors. It's possible.
I cannot, however, imagine any scenario where the guy doesn't end up cutting his own hands or head clean off. I used to work at a table saw for a living, and it's a minor miracle I still have all my digits.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I'm with you on the Gladiator MP! He was always a fav of mine and I always felt the he got short shrift, basically one-and-done every time.

I also thought they could have had him go big time using a "construction" theme with high powered nail guns to accompany his saw blades? Hell, as far as that goes he could have had a "caulk gun" like Paste Pol Pot who fights Cap this month!

He would could have glued DD's feet to the ground, nailed him to a wall... Not sure that the nails would have done any good against Iron Man, lol, but a face full of glue would have messed up his vision, no?

He could a been a contender!

Anonymous said...

A comic can be too Kirby?
There are girl Deadheads?
This comment thread is mightily challenging to my world view.

I even find myself in agreement with M.P.! He's actually right about Gladiator. It was a shame to see him eventually rehabilitated by a social worker (Gladiator that is; I don't know about M.P. But I have my suspicions.)


Anonymous said...

Sean, I'm mostly Dutch and we are immune to rehabilitation, just as Freud said the Irish are immune to psychotherapy.


Anonymous said...

Steve, did you hear Radio 4's documentary about the Elvis comeback special last Saturday night?

Steve W. said...

Sadly, I'm afraid I didn't hear it. I shall see if I can catch up with it at some point.

Redartz said...

Oh, that Mysterio story in Spider-man fired up my 7 year old imagination! Apparently others loved it as well, because it was adapted for use in an episode of the 1967-70 Spider-Man cartoon. Although for some inexplicable reason the great Dome-head was replaced by some skinny guy with Spock ears and a cigarette holder...

Anonymous said...

Mysterio had the coolest costume, hands down. I'm often tempted to wear a fishbowl and a cape in public.
It would be a real conversation starter!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

M.P. - why do you want to look like Sandy the Squirrel on Sponge Bob? Is this part of that "Dutch" think you got going? Just askin... ;)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Regarding the Mysterio cover and the way the gloves are colored... is / wasn't there some special technique Marvel used to achieve that?

Killdumpster said...

Yes , there is a Santa Claus... Err..
There are female Dead Heads. Literally tons of them. I would to have to gauge, from my personally experience, the avid
Grateful Dead fan base is at least 35-40% female.

When I worked production for a Dead-esque hippie band, I used to put a couple of our more powerful lights pointing on the dance floor.

There was a lithe, beautiful girl, every show that would dance the first 3 or 4 songs, in a gosimir-thin dress, and it was like an erotic shadow-play

I'm kind of amazed I never approached her, maybe I didn't want to ruin seeing the silhouette of her naked body. Guess that makes me a romantic, or a leering pervert.

Like I said before, lotta "-Wish-it-was-the-60's" wannabe-hippy girls out there.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, say what you want about the Dutch, we all get irritated with them on occasion, but I'll thank you, sir, not to make wise cracks about Sandy the Squirrel.
She's the heart of that show.


Killdumpster said...

Nowadays Cerino Deburgaric would be considered a stalker, lol!

Redartz said...

Charlie- I'm looking at the actual cover to that Mysterio book (a prize in my collection). Unaware of any particular technique there. It just looks like very effective use of color separation, with an orange underlying the green. One of the classics for certain...

Killdumpster said...

Marvel pioneered so much in the silver-age. Too bad they published on sub-par paper.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the sad truth is, when you look at those old classic comics now, the pictures seem pretty dim and washed out. That's why I like The Peerless Power of Comics blog, where Master of Ceremonies Comicsfan reproduces that stuff in vibrant color. You may never see that old stuff any other way, otherwise. Great commentary there too.
He knows me well; I've been annoying that guy for years.


Killdumpster said...

Okay guys, "Steve-rons Assemble!"

Just got done watching the Justice League movie.

Who the he'll though it was a good idea to write the Flash as a goofy jerk, then cast a Eddie Deezen clone to portray him, on top of that?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

M.P. - That was pretty funny! Sponge Bob has been a favorite of mine for what... 10 - 15 years now, LOL. (When Patrick accidentally made double-stranded DNA while trying to make a snow ball, I lost it! Nearly went into cardiac!)

Red - Thanks for feedback on the Spidey cover. It seems I've seen a few like that, which have a duller finish, and then some where I read it was a special technique. BUT I am not expert in any of that. Red -check your email!

And, I can't wait until next month when the Avenger's Assembled go head to head with a wedding cake! I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight! I am going to lie / lay awake thinking of clever things to write!

Steve W. said...

KD, the only JLA movie I regard as valid is the 1990s TV movie.

Charlie and Redartz, I believe the comics companies used a more sophisticated technique for printing covers than they did with the interiors. The sky on that Spidey cover is a perfect example. It's dark at the top but gradually and seamlessly gets lighter as you go down the page. You didn't generally see that sort of effect inside the comics back then because it was too expensive.

Anonymous said...

Steve, these days the whole comic looks like the covers used to. But don't get me started on the shiny paper they use now.

Personally, I prefer reading the original 60s and 70s comics where possible; the paper and printing were terrible, but thats what the artwork was designed for.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - YOu are right about shiny paper! It's a pain trying to find the correct lighting to read them! Thanks for that example from BWS. Really tells the story. Though I must stay that given the absence of white backgrounds in this example it is not the worst I've seen (actually I should say "the worst I've been blinded by." LOL)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

(Whilst I enjoy a holiday granted due to the passing of our late President Bush...)

Steve - Eureka! I think you pinpointed what gives me the yayas about that Spidey cover. The way the background seamlessly fades from dark to light!

There is a bit of it in the Xmen cover. And the DD cover is gorgeous with all the different shades of black from the stairwell

But the Spidey cover, the fading seems to indicate the end of the day (I assume Spidey is facing west, lol) and really gives a sense of foreboding!

Killdumpster said...

One of the things no one mentioned is the aroma of the old comics printed on pulp paper.

Someone once told me the smell is caused by the comics actually slowly disintegrating, a chain-reaction with the ink.

I kind of like the smell of the old books. Reminds me of fresh ditto copies teachers used hand out in school.

No, I'm not a "huffer", lol! (Though all of us in elementary school would snort-up those ditto fumes like maniacs, LOL!!!)