Sunday, 19 May 2019

Metal Men #44, Rain of the Missile Men.

Metal Men #44, Rain of the Metal MenImagine standing in a butcher's shop in the early 1970s, reading a comic about robots while old people stand around complaining they can't understand this fancy New Money the government's introduced and that it's all just an excuse to put prices up.

Personally, I don't have to - because I lived it.

That comic was Metal Men #44 and, as a child, I always had a soft spot for it. It seemed odd. It seemed different. It seemed somewhat mystifying.

But now I'm not in a butcher's shop anymore and everyone, even old people, can understand that fancy New Money, so, how will I feel about this comic now?

It's the early 1960s (because this is a reprint book) and Doctor Magnus has created a bunch of robotic friends from various metals. He now uses them to fight the forces of evil and help mankind.

Unfortunately, mankind really does need his help because an evil space robot has the hots for the Metal Men's only female operative - Tina - and is determined to rain an army of his doppelgangers down upon Earth until he gets her.

Metal Men #44, rain of the metal men
Happily, like most of us, our resourceful doctor just happens to have a big cannon on him that makes things super-magnetic.

Once the evil space robot's been zapped with it, his mechanical army sticks to him and he ends up entombed at the heart of a giant ball of robots, trapped forever at the bottom of the nearest river, wherefrom he shall never escape .

The first thing that strikes me reading this tale now is its artwork. Drawn by Ross Andru, it has a cleanness and assurance that it's impossible not to be impressed by and it seems noticeably more accomplished than I'm used to from reading all those early Marvel comics of the same era.

Metal Men #44, Tina cries
The second thing that strikes me is what a complete and total jerk Doctor Magnus is. While his robots are totally devoted to him, and have a level of selflessness that's genuinely moving, he seems to have no concern for their welfare at all.

He even, at one point, sends Tina off to spend the rest of her existence in a glass case in the local museum, no matter how hard she begs him not to, only taking her back when the museum gets fed up of her crying all day long and returns her to him, complaining that she can't be a real robot because she's not acting like one.

Does this make Magnus change his attitude towards her?

No it doesn't.

Metal Men #44, The third thing that strikes me - and struck me as a child - is that this is probably the grimmest comic book story I've ever read. The Metal Men get killed twice in the course of this story.

Admittedly, Magnus does manage to recreate them, with their original memories intact, but the sight of the story's heroes melting to death as they attempt to put out a fire is the sort of thing that can leave a man, let alone a child, traumatised.

So, do I still like it?

Sort of. I like the Metal Men themselves. They each have clearly differentiated personalities, in line with their properties as metals, and how can you not like anyone as self-sacrificing as they are? I also like the villain who isn't exactly what you'd call a developed character but I like his short-temper, and his frustration at only being able to produce replicas of himself whenever he tries to create a wife.

But the elephant in the room that is Magnus is hard to get round. Call me sad but I had exactly the same feeling when I tried to watch The Powerpuff Girls. I couldn't bring myself to keep watching it because the sight of a grown man sending small children into battle with homicidal villains, without heed for their safety, bothered me so much I had to switch off. And that was just a cartoon. This, on the other hand, is real; it's a comic.

So, I'd be very happy to read more issues, provided Magnus has been replaced by a legal guardian who the Metal Men actually deserve.

Are the Metal Men still on the go in the modern DC universe? I hope so, and I hope they're having a happier time than they are here.

Metal Men #44, an army of myselves

Thursday, 16 May 2019

May 16th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Have you ever wanted to own a garden in space and have it tended by three robots while Joan Baez warbles the same song over and over and over again until you get sick of it?

If so, this night of exactly forty years ago was your lucky night because it was the evening BBC One was showing Douglas Trumbull's Silent Running, that slightly barking tale of conservation, and murder by shovel.

It is very much a film that is of its time and its plot doesn't stand up to any kind of logical scrutiny but I enjoyed it at the time and still get upset whenever the robots are hurt.

Joan Baez may have been in that film but, in the real world, we were all listening to ABBA because their album Voulez-Vous was reigning supreme at the top of the UK album chart. Chiquitita is my favourite of its five singles, especially for that magnificent bit of pub piano at the end. It positively makes me want to clink my steinkrug to it.

Come to think of it, after all these years, I still don't know what voulez-vous actually means.

There's only one thing for it. I'm going to have to Google it.

....

....

....

That's it. I have now Googled it. It would appear that it means, "Do you want?"

But do I want what?

Why can ABBA not be more specific in their questions to me? Why?

Star Wars Weekly #64

Han Solo and Chewie are on some planet or other, in a cave, being fired at by Jabba the Hut and his men.

As this is long before The Return of the Jedi, I wonder if we get to see Jabba in this issue and whether he bears any resemblance to the character who ended up on film.

Hold on. Is the scaly man on the cover meant to be him?

I cannot say.

Elsewhere, at Thano's insistence, Warlock's using his soul gem to destroy the Magus' army, even though such an act is part of the process which'll turn him into the Magus in the first place. Oh, the nightmarish paradoxes.

Somewhat less cosmically, the Micronauts are up against a man who only has a half a face. I don't have a clue who he is.

Hulk Comic #11

This is it! The big one! The Hulk beats up a bear!

To be honest, when you've grown up watching him take on the Galaxy Master, Klaatu and an island full of giant space-monsters, a punch-up in the woods, with a bear, seems somewhat less than thrilling.

Ant-Man has to deal with a hijacker who turns out to be exactly who you thought he'd be. In fact, I have noticed that the trend with early Ant-Man tales seems to be that whoever asked for his help in the first place is, later, going to be revealed as the villain.

High in the Andes, the Eternals are still mithering about the return of the Celestials.

Night-Raven finally gets round to bumping off the assassin who's been hired to kill him.

Nick Fury's up to something but I don't know what and, based on previous form, I doubt it'll be anything that interests me.

The Black Knight and Captain Britain are still battling the forces of evil in a Britain that bears no resemblance to any Britain I've ever been to.

Marvel Comic #342, Ms Marvel

Hooray! Ms Marvel makes her Kreetastic debut!

To be honest, I don't recall much about her adventures but I do recall that I always hated her costume. The bare stomach and legs just didn't go with an outfit that also had gloves. And no battler of evil should ever wear a scarf.

As usual, the rest of this issue's contents are a mystery to me.

Spider-Man Comic #323

Hooray! Spider-Man's up against the Masked Marauder!

For such a duff villain, he does seem to be getting a lot of use, of late, in Spidey's strip.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - May 1979.

As I sit typing these awesome words, I'm listening to ELO's 1981 album Time on YouTube. The way I remember things, I'm pretty sure it was viewed, back then, as a catastrophic shark-jump by the band.

Which is odd because I have to say I'm quite enjoying it. The production's more restrained than we're used to and there's a whole lot less of the highly silly backing vocals that were ELO's Achilles heel for some of us.

But is this the only thing we've been wrong about? Does it mean the world has, likewise, been too harsh on Marvel Comics' less appreciated titles that I'm about to look at in the list below? Has the lack of love for them been an injustice? Are they, in fact, the very finest books the world of Comicdom had to offer at that time?

There's only one way to find out.

Godzilla #22, Devil Dinosaur

Godzilla and Devil Dinosaur team up to tackle some bad guys or other in prehistoric times; a sequence of events which leads to Godzy reappearing in the 20th Century - and at full size!

Invaders #40, Baron Blood

Baron Blood's on the loose again - and under the control of a Japanese woman who's out to create a team made up of all the Invaders' greatest enemies.

Admittedly, "Great," is a relative term...

Nova #25

"Make way, World -- Nova's smashing thru!"

He's smashing through into oblivion - because this is his last issue.

It's a story which leads into this month's Fantastic Four tale, as our motley crew of super-doers, including Nova, Dr Sun, the Sphinx, a man with a diamond for a head, a man who looks like the Flash, and some other bloke, find themselves in the Skrull's galaxy, and having to wage war on those cosmic ne'er-do-wells, in order to get whatever it is they're after there.
Marvel Team-Up #81, Spider-Man and Satana

Spidey and Satana team up to rescue Dr Strange who's been turned into a werewolf by someone or other.

I don't want to give away any spoilers but Satana's dead by the tale's climax.

I suspect she won't stay dead.

Marvel Treasury Edition #20, the Rampaging Hulk

We get a magnificent magazine featuring the Hulk's meeting with Klaatu, and his first encounter with Dr Doom who, if I remember correctly, wants to use him to deliver an atom bomb to a rival country.

Red Sonja #15

If Nova's feeling down about the loss of his book, he should at least take comfort from the fact he's not alone, because Red Sonja's also experiencing her final issue.

As well as vampires, I believe she gets to fight a man made of vegetable matter.

Super-Villain Team-Up #16, the Red Skull and Hate Monger

Holy coincidences, Batman! Just the other day, on here, I was opining on the prospect of the Red Skull, Hate-Monger, Sons of the Serpent and Dr Faustus teaming up to start a race war.

And what do you know? This very issue features the Red Skull and Hatey teaming up to relaunch the Third Reich.

I predict it won't be long before they're trying to kill each other.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Forty years ago today - May 1979.

It is occasion for me to once more bend Time to my will, like Plasticine, and see what was afoot in the comics that bore the cover date of this month of forty years ago.

Will our heroes have, at last, found the peace that none of them ever seem to seek?

Captain America #233

Captain America certainly won't. Dr Faustus is still trying to start a race war in New York - and now he's kidnapped Sharon Carter!

You do wonder what would happen if Faustus, the Sons of the Serpent, Hate-Monger and the Red Skull all tried to start a race war simultaneously. The people of New York wouldn't know if they were coming or going.

Daredevil #158, Death-Stalker

I do believe this is the one which reveals Death-Stalker to have once been the Exterminator, even though I remain convinced it would have made more thematic sense for him to have been Mr Fear.

Come to think of it, both Mr Fear and the Exterminator made use of the services of The Ani-Men, didn't they?

And so does Death-Stalker in this issue.

Anyway, whoever he is, he comes a cropper when, like a total wally, he materialises inside a gravestone. You never saw the Vision making that mistake.

Iron Man #122

Iron Man decides to sit around retelling his origin.

Who does he think he is? Captain America?

Spectacular Spider-Man #30, Carrion

At last, the true identity of Carrion is revealed.

As far as I can remember, he's the clone of Professor Warren who managed to die but be simultaneously kept alive by Warren's cloning solution thing.

Thor #283, the Celestials

It's a somewhat odd story, mostly dedicated to Thor standing on a mountain in Mexico and demanding Odin tell him what he needs to know about the Celestials.

With grim inevitability, the annoying old duffer goes out of his way to be of no use at all on that score.

Uncanny X-Men #121, Alpha Force

The X-Men are in Canada, out to rescue Wolverine from Alpha Force.

Then it turns out he never needed rescuing, coz he's Wolverine and he's self-sufficient like that.

Fantastic Four #206

The FF make a right old mess of stopping the Skrulls from destroying a planet, and then get shot at by Nova's ship which is packed with more oddball super-doers than you can shake a stick at.

Conan the Barbarian #98

Conan and his gang of sailors encounter a beautiful woman who lives in the sea.

Needless to say, it's not long before she's slaughtering crew members.

Equally needless to say, it's not long before Conan's out there in the sea, with a dagger in his mouth, looking to give her a good stabbing.

Avengers #183, the Absorbing Man

Crusher Creel's back, having last been seen smashing into a million pieces of glass. And, thanks to him not being able to go five minutes without launching into a bar fight, he very quickly has to contend with the Avengers turning up to stop him.

Amazing Spider-Man #192

From the cover, I'm assuming Professor Smythe's still causing trouble.

Beyond that, I can say nothing, as I know nothing.

Incredible Hulk #235, Machine Man

Machine Man's up against the Hulk.

And gets killed, by the looks of it.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

May 9th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It was good news for some in this week of 1979 - and bad news for others.

For instance, it was a happy time for someone called Margaret Thatcher whose Conservative Party won the General Election by 43 seats, making her the UK's first female Prime Minister.

It was also good news for a man called John Major who was elected to Parliament for the first time, as a 36-year-old MP for Huntingdon.

It wasn't such good news for the Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe who lost his seat in the election - and then followed that up, four days later, by being put on trial for attempted murder.

If you're going to have a bad week in politics, that's the way to do it.

Having a somewhat better week than that, in sport, were Liverpool Football Club who, on this day in 1979, won the League title, for the 12th time.

Star Wars Weekly #63

I'm assuming Luke Skywalker's still up against the pulse-pounding terror of the Tax Collector.

I assume the Micronauts are still having trouble in the United States.

I know for a fact that Adam Warlock's still working with Thanos in their mutual quest to stop the Magus, and that this week's instalment is introduced by Captain Marvel giving us a potted history of Thanos and his Cosmic Cube activities.

For me, Mar-Vell is a little too cheerful whilst recounting this tale.

Hulk Comic #10

The Hulk's about to have a punch-up with a bear.

Ant-Man encounters Egghead, for the first time. The villain has a cunning scheme to befriend the ants and turn them against our hero.

What a bounder.

And what a fool.

Does he not know that Ant-Man's little insect friends would never betray him?

Ikaris is faring somewhat worse than Ant-Man. He's in the process of being captured by the Deviants.

Night Raven's still making a meal of dealing with the assassin who's out to get him.

Captain Britain and the Black Knight are still not getting very far in their battle against darkness. I do believe that this week's exciting episode involves them hijacking a milk float.

Seriously.

I don't have a clue what Nick Fury's up to but I'm sure I wouldn't like it even if I did, because I never do.

Marvel Comic #341, Godzilla

Here's where I fling myself into Terra Incognito because, other than being able to surmise that Godzilla's battling a red dragon, I don't have a clue what happens in this issue.

But talk of Godzilla battling dragons does make me wonder who'd win a fight between Godzilla and Fin Fang Foom.

It also makes me realise Godzilla's not wearing underpants, like Marvel's giant monsters traditionally did. Did he have no class at all?

Spider-Man Comic #322

And my ignorance of this one is even more total. I don't even know what Spidey's up to in this one.

I can't help feeling this week's feature has fizzled out horribly.

I like to reassure myself that this is a good thing, as my lack of competence prevents people being dangerously in awe of me.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - May 1969.

The UK singles chart in May 1969 was not a place to go if you liked variety.

When I say, "Variety," I mean, of course, a high rate of change, not Variety acts.

Then again, it wasn't a good place to go for Variety acts either because the entire month was dominated by The Beatles whose Get Back refused to relinquish its grip on the top spot and duly saw off challenges from Fleetwood Mac, Herman's Hermits and Mary Hopkin to retain its position.

Things were a bit livelier on the LP chart, with the Number One slot being held by The Best of the Seekers, On the Threshold of a Dream by the Moody Blues and then Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, in that order.

Apparently, On the Threshold of a Dream was the first UK chart-topper for the Moodies and their first US Top 20 entry. Clearly, they were becoming more popular by the second.

But you know who wasn't becoming popular?

That's right.

The stars of this month's Marvel Lucky Bag for 1969.

That doesn't mean we didn't love them.

And it doesn't mean I won't be taking a look at them.

Captain Marvel #13

I don't know what happens in this one. All I know is Marvy seems to be fighting an android.

Is it my imagination or did he fight an android in virtually every issue of his comic in the 1960s?

Dr Strange #180, Eternity

It's nothing but trouble for Dr Strange, as Nightmare kidnaps Eternity - on New Year's Eve!

I vaguely remember this one, although my main memory of it is of Eternity lying around not doing anything much.

I think this story introduced me to the word, "Archetypal."

Then again, that could be a totally different story I'm thinking of.

I am, however, almost certain that Tom Wolfe puts in a guest appearance in this one.

Nick Fury #12, Barry Smith

Barry Smith does his best Jim Steranko, on the cover.

Inside, Nick Fury's arrested for being an enemy agent.

Needless to say, it's not long before he's escaped custody and is out to clear his name.

Unfortunately, that sets up a sequence of events which leads to him being arrested for murder.

Some days, you can't catch a break.

Sub-Mariner #13

Is this the one where Dorma pops her clogs? From the cover, I'm assuming it is.

I also believe this is the climax to the Serpent Crown Saga which I could claim to remember well but the truth is the only part of it I recall is the issue which featured The Thing.

Chili #1

So successful was Millie the Model for Marvel that even her rival Chili was granted a comic of her own. And here's where it started.

Thinking about it, I do wonder how big a part the Chili/Millie rivalry played in how Stan dealt with the MJ/Gwen rivalry in Spider-Man.

Then again, it might have been the other way round.

Then again, there might not have been any influence either way.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Fifty years ago this month - May 1969.

Have you ever felt an urge to travel very slowly from Southampton to New York?

If so, you'd have loved May of 1969 because it was in that month that the QE2 left Southampton, on its maiden voyage to that very metropolis.

Travelling somewhat faster was the crew of Apollo 10's lunar module which separated from the lunar orbiter to make mankind's closest approach yet to the Moon, coming within 10 miles of that globe's surface.

It was also the month in which The Who released their album Tommy.

But all those things paled into insignificance when placed beside one particular event.

And that was the release of Carry On Camping, which went on to become the year's most successful film at the UK box office. That's a genuinely astonishing stat. Much as I love a good Carry On, I'd never realised they were quite that popular.

Avengers #64, giant hands

Isn't this the one where Egghead, the Thinker and Puppet Master team up on a satellite, in order to fire laser beams at various cities, before Hawkeye's gangster brother sacrifices himself to save the day?

If so, I think that means this is the issue in which we finally get to learn Hawkeye's real name, after all those years of him appearing in Marvel comics.

Captain America #113, Jim Steranko

Jim Steranko's back, and all sorts of trouble breaks out at Cap's funeral, thanks to Hydra deciding it's the perfect opportunity to attack both Nick Fury and the Avengers.

Happily, Rick Jones is on hand to save the day.

And so is Cap!

Daredevil #52, Barry Smith

The Black Panther helps DD rescue Karen Page from Starr Saxon.

Although I recall reading this story, I don't remember very much at all, in terms of details.

For that matter, I don't even remember who Starr Saxon was or why he was after Daredevil.

Fantastic Four #86, Doctor Doom

The FF are still taking their time when it comes to escaping the clutches of Dr Doom and his quaint but sinister kingdom.

Incredible Hulk #115, the Leader

Doesn't Thunderbolt Ross enlist the services of the Leader to help him capture the Hulk?

I can't think of what could possibly go wrong with a plan that sensible.

Iron Man #13, the Controller

The QE2 may be slowly chugging its way towards New York but the Controller prefers a faster means of transit.

Therefore, he steals a train in order to reach that city - not to make it big in showbiz but to enslave everyone who lives there, before seizing control of the entire world.

Amazing Spider-Man #72, the Shocker

What's that? Keep taking the tablets?

The Shocker certainly does because it's the story famously reprinted in Origins of Marvel Comics, where the quilted wrongdoer steals the slab containing the secret of eternal youth, on behalf of the Maggia, and Spidey has to try and get it back from him.

Thor #164, Pluto and Zeus

Thor's still up against Pluto in a story that leads to the awesome return of Him!

X-Men #56, Neal Adams

I've a feeling this may be Neal Adams' first X-Men story, when the Living Pharaoh becomes the Living Monolith and causes no end of trouble.

I remember reading this tale in an Alan Class comic and, therefore, wonder if it was the first X-Men story I ever read.

And, just for extras, this issue, we also get the conclusion of the Angel's origin.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

May 2nd, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Before I start this week's look at what Marvel UK was up to forty years ago, I first need to deal with a reader's request.

That's because Charlie has demanded I provide coverage of this year's World Snooker Championship.

Needless to say, I don't have a ticket to any of the matches, nor have I managed to catch any of them on TV, so this is my attempt to capture the power and majesty of the event, as best I can without having been there and without having seen it.


The legendary venue itself.

The entrance of the Crucible Theatre is on the very spot where the entrance to the now-demolished Adelphi Hotel once stood.

It was in the Adelphi Hotel that the first rules of football were drawn up, and where Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, the Sheffield Football Association, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club were all founded. It was also the place where the decision was made to build Bramall Lane cricket ground which went on to become the world's oldest professional football stadium.

Some might argue that such epic historical significance made the hotel worthy of preservation.

Sheffield City Council thought otherwise.


Red snooker balls, made of flowers, and a Betfred billboard, let us know the event's in town.


Two men, made of leaves, and playing snooker, stand guard outside the theatre.

Guarding an entrance with two snooker players is a tradition that goes all the way back to the time of Stonehenge, 4,500 years ago.


This is where the TV trucks park, round the side of the building.


At the far end of the square, the glass wall of the Winter Gardens becomes part of the event.


This is the stage door, through which players can ofttimes be spotted entering and leaving.


After the end of World War Two, Winston Churchill once stood on the Town Hall balcony and addressed the cheering hordes below.

Where the great man once stood, now stands another Betfred billboard.

They have yet to teach it how to wave to the crowds.


A big screen stands outside the Central Library and the Lyceum Theatre, relaying live footage of the event to the watching masses.


Inside the Winter Gardens, the path that leads to, "The CueZone."


In the CueZone, we find the chairs used for TV interviews.


Behind those chairs, an exhibition match takes place for the entertainment of onlookers.


And here's an Arctic Monkeys related elephant, which has nothing to do with the snooker but is next to the CueZone, so I thought I'd throw it in anyway.


But that's enough of that. What of this week of forty years ago?

It was the week in which the London Underground's Jubilee line was inaugurated, best known for inspiring the earrings of my least favourite ever X-Man.

Even more excitingly, in this week of forty years ago, Greenland was granted limited autonomy from Denmark, with its own Parliament sitting in Nuuk.

Star Wars Weekly #62

It's another of those Star Wars issues where I don't have a clue what happens inside it.

Clearly, Adam Warlock and the Micronauts are still going but I can provide no detail of what they're up to. The Magus and the search for lost colleagues are almost certainly involved.

But does that cover say, "The tax collector from Space?"

Savage Sword of Conan (UK) #19

Conan finds himself up against the Pool of the Black one - otherwise known as Blackpool.

Pool of the Black One is a title that rings a bell for me. I'm pretty sure I've read the Robert E Howard original but I've no memory of anything that actually happens in it.


Rampage Magazine #11, The Hulk

Bruce Banner's investigating a dodgy mining operation. There's no doubt the management are planning to put a stop to his snooping.

And there's no doubt that, when they try,  they'll get more than they bargained for.

Dr Strange and Clea are still tootling around in the past, trying to untangle the truth about America's history. But will they survive an encounter with the deadly menace of Stygyro, a villain I still get mixed up with the American Jazz fusion band Spiro Gyra.

No such confusion for the X-Men. They're now up against Count Nefaria and his Ani-Men.

Admittedly, Count Nefaria and his Ani-Men sound like a jazz combo as well.

But they're not.

Starburst #9, Lord of the Rings

Starburst gives us a look at a Lord of the Rings film I've never seen.

Not that I've ever seen any Lord of the Rings films.

More importantly, it's taking a look at one of my favourite sci-fi movies - Forbidden Planet - and the greatest puppet show of all time.

Hulk Comic #9

The Hulk gets into a fight with some men on a train.

New York's being invaded by the Deviants.

Ant-Man's battling the Scarlet Beetle's insect hordes.

The Black Knight's fighting trolls.

I've no idea what Nick Fury's up to.

Night-Raven's up against the assassin who's been hired to kill him.

Perhaps most significantly of all, this issue's Sez Dez page features a claim that, in its first month, Hulk Comic sold over a million copies.

Perhaps Dez wasn't as daft as he might have seemed...

Marvel Comic #340, Godzilla

Godzilla's, clearly, still on the rampage.

Other than that, I've no information at all about the contents of this issue.

Spider-Man Comic #321, the Hypno-Hustler

Speaking of total ignorance, I don't know what's happening in this issue either.

I do know, though, that the Hypno-Hustler's up against Spidey - and that alone has to make it worth the admission fee.

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