Sunday, 21 July 2019

Marvel Comics' Frankenstein Monster #15.

Frankenstein Monster #15, Marvel Comics
Mere weeks ago, I looked at that legendary day when Frankenstein's Monster, "teamed up," with the Phantom Stranger to tackle a pair of naughty demons who'd got out of control in a house that didn't belong to them.

But so awesome is Frankenstein's Monster that he can't be contained by one comic.

In fact, he's so awesome, he can't even be contained by one comics company and, so, just as, in the 1970s, DC gave us his adventures, Marvel did likewise.

But how did the Marvel version compare to the DC one? And who was best?

It's the present day and the creature's hanging around with a former gang member called Ralph Caccone and a private detective called Eric Prawn, the latter of which, we're told, sees himself as the new Sherlock Holmes.

Sadly for the trio, things are not currently elementary, because a man called Cardinal's just appeared with his henchman Zandor, looking to abduct the comic's star.

Marvel Comics' Frankenstein Monster #15, Zandor hurt
Frankie's clearly perfectly capable of sorting out the situation and is happily killing Zandor when Cardinal tells him that, if he doesn't cooperate, Ralph'll be shot.

Clearly, he's a monster with a conscience because he decides to go along with Cardinal's demands and he and Ralph are taken to a secret lab where it's revealed an organisation called ICON wants to create an army of resuscitated corpses.

The only problem is that the corpses ICON reanimates are almost totally mindless. Therefore, the organisation needs the secret of Frankie's intelligence and, to get that, it's going to have to remove his brain.

Marvel Comics' Frankenstein Monster #15, When pig-mutants attack!
But, wouldn't you know it, before Cardinal gets the chance to do the deed, a man-pig mutant-thing bursts in, looking for revenge for its last encounter with Frankie.

Needless to say, it doesn't get that revenge and our hero gives it the good smacking it's asking for.

And that's it. The lab's been trashed, the bad guys have fled, the man-pig mutant-thing's been disposed of in the river and everything's done and dusted.

Except it's not.

Because that's when Prawn points his gun at the creature and Ralph and informs them they're going to Switzerland with him, whether they like it or not.

Marvel Comics' Frankenstein Monster #15, secret lab, ICON
To be continued!

The truth is I can't properly compare Marvel's version of the monster to DC's because I've only read two tales featuring DC's version and, in each of those two tales, it felt like a different character from the other one. In Phantom Stranger #26's team-up, it was a primal force, driven by lust for vengeance, while, in Phantom Stranger #28's back-up strip, it was a pathetic wretch, blundering around feebly, only wanting to be left alone.

What is obvious is this tale has a far more contemporary and sci-fi feel than either of those DC stories, with the central character being a far more enigmatic creature.

It's also a much more inert creature, only acting when put in a position where it has no choice. The version in the Phantom Stranger crossover was a far more driven character. It was also, therefore, a much more dangerous one. You get the feeling that if you threatened to kill Ralph to get its cooperation, it'd just kill Ralph for you and save you the trouble. On the other hand, the version in Phantom Stranger #28 would have fallen into helpless despair and anguish.

So, I'm going to have to declare Marvel's version to be far less interesting and compelling than the Phantom Stranger #26 version but far more impressive than the Phantom Stranger #28 version.

Overall, with its secret organisations, schemes and plotting, this feels very like the Werewolf by Night and Man-Wolf stories Marvel were doing at the time, where other characters drove the story along, while the central character was basically just being present as bigger stories were being acted out around it. Obviously, as those strips were also produced by Marvel, that shouldn't be a surprise.

It's not what could be called an outstanding issue, feeling very much like a prelude to more significant events but it's perfectly readable and Val Mayerik's art does its job, with noticeable similarities to the work of Neal Adams, in places. As Mayerik's art's never struck me as being at all Adamsesque elsewhere, I can only put it down to Klaus Janson's inks.

Marvel Comics' Frankenstein Monster #15, the shadow strikes, back-up strip
But that's not all this issue has in store for us because it also includes a back-up strip of its very own.

It's a, clearly, ancient tale about a stage magician who, when he's fired because the audience has a tendency to boo his act, decides to get even with his former manager by setting his shadow on him.

Like all vengeance-driven magicians in such tales, this one's a total wally and quickly becomes the architect of his own downfall.

It's a somewhat insubstantial tale and is clearly only there because the main strip's come in short. It will not, I suspect, live long in the memory of anyone who reads it.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

July 18th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

At a pinch, how long do you reckon it'd take you to run a mile?

I don't like to boast but I figure that, with the right wind behind me, I could do it in not much more than a day and a half.

However, in this week of 1979, there was a man running it even faster than that.

That man was Sebastian Coe who set a new world record for the distance by completing it in 3 minutes, 48.95 seconds. It was part of blitz that saw him break all three middle distance world records in just 41 days and become the first man to hold them all simultaneously.

But what about that other great athletic activity - dancing? It was the week when Chicago's Disco Demolition Night publicity stunt went horribly amok at Comiskey Park, forcing the White Sox to forfeit their game against the Detroit Tigers, thanks to damage done to the field by an explosion and rioting fans. That is what happens when you arouse the wrath of Disco.

And if the world thought it was all up for the art form, it thought too soon because, in Britain, while Replicas by Gary Numan and Tubeway Army had just clinched the Number One spot on the LP chart, just behind it, at Number Two, was the album which bore the title The Best Disco Album in the World. I just hope Disco Duck was on it or there was no way it deserved to call itself that.

Star Wars Weekly #73

Baron Tagge's out for revenge against Darth Vader for blinding him - and it somehow involves Tattooine. And that means it involves Luke Skywalker.

Meanwhile, Adam Warlock's about to wrap up his battle with the Star-Thief and it's in this very issue that he discovers he's now bigger than the solar system which spawned him.

Hulk Comic #20, Captain Britain

The Hulk and his mutant friends finally bring justice to the mad scientist who's to blame for them all being there.

After months of being a totally pointless addition to the Black Knight's strip, Captain Britain finally gets to do something when he comes up against the physical incarnation of death and his lovely horsie.

Speaking of death, it's a historic day for Ant-Man when he encounters Janet van Dyne for the first time and keeps remarking on how much she resembles his dead wife. I'm not sure that's going to turn out to be the healthiest relationship. Also, she's a schoolgirl.

Elsewhere, Ikaris pays a visit to the pseudo-Greek gods of the Eternals' universe.

Night-Raven finally polishes off the Tongs.

And the Watcher asks, "What if Rick Jones had become the Hulk?" I'm not massively up on the world of modern comics but hasn't Rick Jones since gone on to do exactly that?

Anyway, in this version of events, Rickhulk has the temper of the original Hulk but speaks entirely in Stan Lee style teen-speak, chiding Thunderbolt Ross's army for being square cats and, like, totally Nowheresville, man.

Marvel Comic #351, Ms Marvel vs the Scorpion

I don't know what else happens in this issue but I do know Ms Marvel's having her second encounter with the Scorpion, on top of trying to find out why she keeps having blackouts.

Meanwhile, at the behest of AIM, mad scientist the Destructor's out to succeed where the Scorpion's so obviously failing.
Spider-Man Comic #332

Daredevil tackles the Masked Marauder and his men while Spidey, still blind, battles to prevent the Marauder's Bombdroid visiting mayhem upon New York.

For anyone having trouble imagining what a bombdroid looks like, it's basically a big, metal, flying bird.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Forty years ago today - July 1979.

I have to think of a pertinent and pithy intro to this post.

I can't think of one.

I shall, therefore, launch straight into it and hope that if I don't draw attention to it no one'll notice.

Conan the Barbarian #100, the death of Belit

This is it; the issue some of us have been waiting about fifty issues for, as BĂȘlit finally meets her maker, thanks to an island full of flying monkeys.

From what I can remember, most of the important stuff in this tale happens while Conan's asleep but our heroine does return from the dead for long enough to help the battling barbarian as he faces certain death at the fangs of a psychotic simian.

But the highlight of this tale is definitely Conan single-handedly taking on a huge pack of hyenas and winning.

Captain America #235, Daredevil

Cap and Daredevil are still out to thwart Dr Faustus' evil plan to Nazify America.

Fantastic Four #208, the Sphinx

Lost in space, alone against the Skrulls, their ship blown up by Nova's, and also zapped by an ageing ray; just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse for the FF, the Sphinx becomes all-powerful and decides he doesn't want to commit suicide anymore.

He just wants to rule the universe.

Spectacular Spider-Man #32

Peter Parker's back at college and it looks like the Lizard's on the loose.

But he isn't. It's Curt Connors' pet iguana that's somehow turned into a super-villain. How will Spidey ever be able to defeat a foe with the powers of an iguana?

To be honest, I don't know what powers an iguana has.

Thor #285, Karkas

Thor meets Karkas and, after the obligatory fight, they set off to find Sersi in the hidden lair of the Deviants, somewhere beneath New York City.

X-Men #123, Arcade

Arcade's kidnapped the X-Men and is exposing them to the sort of gimmicks he once used against Spider-Man and Captain Britain.

As those gimmicks didn't work against Spider-Man and Captain Britain, I'm not sure why he thinks they're going to work against a whole team of super-doers.

Then again, he does have help from Colossus who he's brainwashed into wanting to kill his colleagues.

Incredible Hulk #237

The Hulk's still fighting Machine Man, in an attempt to rescue someone from someone or other.

Avengers #185

Wanda and Pietro are out to discover just where they came from, and find themselves in the shadow of Mount Wundagore, under attack from an unknown foe, as a talking cow shows up to help them.

Daredevil #159

Bullseye's out for revenge on the man without fear and is filming him fighting other criminals, in order to learn his moves.

Amazing Spider-Man #194, the Black Cat

Spider-Man meets Catwoman the Black Cat for the first time and much flirting ensues in between the fighting.

Iron Man #124

Now he's in trouble.

Iron Man accidentally kills a visiting politician, with his repulsor rays, thanks to Peter Cushing having set them off by remote control.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

July 11th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

What were you doing on this night of forty years ago?

If you had any sense, you were watching the skies because it was the night NASA's Skylab decided to begin its less-than-graceful return to Earth.

I still remember the genuine concern we all had that we might wake up, the next morning, with a space station parked on our heads.

But, of course, if we really had sense, we'd also be watching TV because, on that selfsame evening, BBC Two broadcast Seven Artists First. In this week's thrill-packed edition, the show was looking at Roy Lichtenstein, arch swiper of the work of comic book artists galore and, therefore, a figure of some controversy wherever graphic narrative is loved.

Speaking of places where graphic narrative is loved...

Star Wars Weekly #72

I have even less idea what goes on this issue than I usually do.

I do note that Warlock and the Watcher are still working their magic for us all. Presumably, the Micronauts are doing likewise.

As for Baron Tagge, it seems there are two Baron Tagges in the Star Wars universe. Judging by his shades, this one is Orman Tagge who was blinded by Darth Vader and, therefore, wears cyber-vision glasses, so he doesn't bump into things.

Right now, it looks like Leia's more pressing concern is his tendency to bump off things, rather than bump into them.

Hulk Comic #19

Hooray! The Hulk's mutant hordes break loose!

There's a phrase guaranteed to put you at ease.

The green Goliath's still on the island of the would-be Moreau and planning to use the scientist's own creations against him.

Ant-Man finally stops the menace of the pensioner with the ageing ray.

In fairness, he doesn't really stop him. The old duffer accidentally drops his ageing gun and a member of the public uses it to return everyone, including Ant-Man, to their normal ages, meaning Ant-Man's contribution to the tale is basically nothing.

Elsewhere, the Black Knight's still dithering about, getting nowhere in his quest to do whatever it is he's trying to.

Nick Fury's still out to thwart the Yellow Claw.

Night-Raven's out to thwart a tiger that's been unleashed by the Tongs he's pursuing.

In their home city beneath the sea, the Deviants have unleashed the full fury of Karkas.

In New York, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner and Professor X finally see off the threat of Galactus - thanks to the power of What If? - but at what cost?

Marvel Comic #350, Godzilla vs Red Ronin

His US comic may have bitten the dust but, in the UK, the only thing Godzilla's biting is Red Ronin, a giant robot operated by a child who's doing his level best to prevent his foe getting hurt.

Sadly, for that boy, the rampaging reptile doesn't share his reservations about destroying opponents.

Spider-Man Comic #331, Medusa cover

This is an odd one. We get a reprint of  Spider-Man's first-ever meeting with Medusa, in the 1968 John Romita/Don Heck drawn tale where the tonsorial terror gets hired to promote hair spray.

I can only assume the presence of such an elderly tale is down to a shortage of new material to reprint, thanks to the strip having basically caught up with the US mags.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - July 1979.

Fear!

Fear!

FEAR!

It was everywhere you looked, in July of 1979.

If it wasn't in your cinema, it was on your TV.

That's because it was the month which saw the terror of The Amityville Horror unleashed in our picture houses, that tale of a nightmarish house, made all the more terrifying because everything that happened in the film was true. Or at least that's what we were told. And, surely, no one would lie to us about such a thing.

But our cinemas didn't just have to survive that horror because it was also the month in which they once more played host to the prince of darkness, as Dracula returned to them, this time portrayed by Frank Langella, the man who later played Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. You have to hand it to Frank, there aren't many people who've played both Dracula and Skeletor in one lifetime.

But, even on the small screen, there was no escape from dread because it was the month which saw the debut of Sapphire & Steel, that serialised saga of transuranic lightweight elements battling evil, thanks to David McCallum and Joanna Lumley. Who were they? Where did they come from? What was going on?

I've no idea but it kept us entertained for three years, so it must have been doing something right.

Micronauts #7, Man-Thing

The Micronauts find themselves up against the swampy savagery of the Man-Thing and end up having to be saved by a child with more gumption than all of them put together.

Baron Karza, meanwhile, has plans to invade the Earth.
Warriors of the Shadow Realm, Marvel Super Special #12

It's some sort of Lord of the Rings type thing that I know nothing of.

If they ever make a movie of it, they can put that on the poster; "'It's some sort of Lord of the Rings type thing that I know nothing of! Three Stars!' - Steve Does Comics."

Marvel Preview #19, Kull the Destroyer

Not to be outdone by Conan, Kull gets the big, fat magazine treatment.

I can still never remember which one's Thulsa Doom and which ones Thoth-Amon but, whichever is whichever, one of them's causing trouble this issue.

Tarzan #26

Tarzan gets captured by an evil carnival owner who intends to put him on display in New York City. Can our hero escape or will he have to be saved by Korak and/or Jane?

And what are the chances he ends up climbing the Empire State Building?

What If? #15, Nova

The Watcher asks, "What if four other people had become Nova, including a wheelchair-bound Peter Parker, a vengeance-obsessed woman, some bloke and a criminal?"

Those may not be the exact words the Watcher uses.

And, of course, the answer is it would have turned out unhappily for all of them.

Then again, the youth who did become Nova in our continuity had his comic cancelled after just two dozen issues, so perhaps we have to accept that being Nova has never done anyone any good in any world.

Spidey Super Stories #41, Nova and Dr Octopus

Speaking of Nova.

Marvel's clearly determined to keep him going, in the absence of his own comic, because, hot on the heels of his What If appearance, he's now teaming up with Spider-Man to tackle Doc Ock in a tale written for very young children deemed unable to handle too much tension in their lives.

Godzilla #24, last, final issue

And Nova's not the only one having to face up to the loss of a comic because, after just two years, Godzilla's book finally bites the dust, as the behemoth literally walks off into the sunset, after seeing off a joint attack by the Avengers, FF and SHIELD.

To be honest, two years is about eighteen months longer than I ever expected the venture to last.

Marvel Spotlight on Captain Marvel #1

Marvel Spotlight returns, and so does Captain Marvel.

I can pass no judgement on the contents of this comic because I don't know what they are.

I gather, though, from the internet, that various familiar faces, like Dax, Mentor and Eros, put in appearances.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Fifty years ago this month - July 1969.

A wise man once claimed giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon. That man was Sting. To my knowledge, Sting has never been to the moon.

Two men who have been to the moon are Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who, in July 1969, landed on that dusty globe and introduced its inhabitants to the game of golf.

Despite this, the moon has still never won a major golf tournament.

Back on Earth, that month, Prince Charles was made Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarfon Castle.

The town of Swansea was granted city status.

Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones drowned in his swimming pool. Clearly undeterred by the bad news, mere days later, the band performed in Hyde Park, before an estimated crowd of 250,000 people.

BBC Two first broadcast Pot Black, that month, the mini-tournament which did so much to fuel the massive increase in snooker's popularity in Britain.

But it wasn't all good news on the sports front because football demonstrated its power to bring nations together... ...by starting a war. After Honduras lost a game to El Salvador, rioting broke out in Honduras, aimed at Salvadoran migrant workers, which prompted El Salvador to invade. Fortunately, the war didn't last long and, within days, everyone was friends again.

Meanwhile, as decimalisation drew ever  closer, the old halfpenny ceased to be legal tender in the UK.

Avengers #66

Barry Smith leaps aboard, as the Avengers discover there's a traitor in their midst.

Yes, it's true. The Vision has turned against them! But why?

Because Ultron's back. That's why. And this time, he's indestructible.

I do feel Smith's pencils in this story are done few favours by Syd Shores' inking but the penciller's flair for layouts and story-telling is already apparent and signs of greater sophistication are already starting to show through when it comes to his drawing style.

Captain America #115, the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube

Gasp! The Red Skull's got his hands on the Cosmic Cube again - and he's going to use it to kill Captain America on the spot!

Only kidding. Of course he isn't. Instead, he's going to toy with his foe for an interminable length of time, giving the star-spangled hero every possible chance to defeat him.

Is this the one where the Skull and Cap swap bodies?

Daredevil #54, Mr Fear

From the cover, I'm assuming this is the moment Mike Murdock gets his just deserts.

The trouble is, I can't remember Mr Fear being involved.

I do, though, remember a factory blowing up and polishing off the non-existent sibling for good.

It'd be nice to say he'll be missed but I suspect there'll be celebrations wherever comics are read.

Fantastic Four #88

That's a very trippy cover for a very strange tale.

It's the one in which Sue picks a house to raise her and Reed's son in and, inevitably, chooses the worst possible house in existence, as it's filled with death traps and is part of the Mole Man's plan to send everyone in the world blind.

Incredible Hulk #117

If I remember right, the Leader's got his hands on America's nuclear missiles and is planning to use them.

Only the Hulk can stop him

But can the Hulk get past the Leader's giant, rubber humanoid?

Iron Man #15, the Unicorn and the Red Ghost

I've got a feeling this one involves the Mad Ghost recruiting the services of the Unicorn before that villain realises he's been conned and teams up with Iron Man to defeat the non-corporeal commie.

Amazing Spider-Man #74, Silvermane

Spidey has to prevent Silvermane killing Curt Connors, as the ageing mobster tries to gain himself a bit of immortality.

Thor #166, Adam Warlock

Adam Warlock makes his second appearance, still under the moniker of, "Him," and tries to make off with Sif.

Needless to say, that doesn't go down well with Thor.

X-Men #58, Cry Havok

I've never read this one but, from the cover, I'm assuming it involves Havok getting his costume and becoming an official super-doer.

From what I read in other comics, as a child, Havok has considerable trouble controlling his powers in this tale and is an unwitting menace to mankind.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

July 4th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Have you ever wanted to be able to walk down the street, listening to your favourite music, instead of the rumbling of traffic and the chatter of pedestrians?

If so, you need to leap into your time machine and head straight on back to 1979 because, in this week of that year, the Sony Walkman went on sale for the very first time and never again would your favourite artists have to endure the inner torment of you abandoning them because you had to leave the house.

But why would you want to leave the house? You had all sorts of Marvel UK goodness to stay indoors for.

Star Wars Weekly #71, Princess Leia

Beyond the fact the Watcher and Warlock are in it, I've no idea at all what occurs in this week's issue.

I do assume the Micronauts are also present, though I know not if they've made any progress in their battle against the Man-Thing.

Hulk Comic #18, Gograth

Hulkie's still on an island run by a madman who thinks he's the new High Evolutionary.

Ant-Man's been prematurely aged by a pensioner who's still mad about having lost his job.

Night-Raven's about to have a punch-up with a tiger.

The Eternals and Deviants are still trying to work out what to do about the Celestials.

They'd better hurry up. They've only got fifty years in which to formulate a plan.

In the Watcher's latest What If? tale, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner and Professor X are startled to find Galactus landing on their roof and find themselves having to devise a plan, fast, if they're to save humanity.

Can't they just wait for the Watcher to give them an Ultimate Nullifier whilst claiming he's not allowed to interfere? It worked the last time round.

Also, Nick Fury's up against the Yellow Claw who's been turned into a computer.

Marvel Comic #349, Godzilla vs Red Ronin

I know Godzilla's tackling Red Ronin but that's all I can assert about this issue.

I do note, though, that the blurb claims this comic contains just five stories, compared to the usual six. Could it be the mag's moving toward a more sensible page-count for each strip?

Starburst Magazine #11

I've always been intrigued by that cover and what's going on with the maskless Darth Vader.

As for the features advertised in the cover's left sidebar, have I seen The Humanoid? Is it that film with Richard Kiel in it? Or am I thinking of a totally different thing?

Savage Sword of Conan #21

No back-up strips this month, as Conan has a great big, long adventure in the desert, including a stop-off to fight a giant lobster that's got its sights on the obligatory damsel in distress.

Rampage Monthly #13, the Hulk

I vaguely recall the main tale in this issue but remember little of its details.

I think there may be a young boy in it and a circus.

If there's a young boy and a circus, I can only assume there must also be a cruel ring master who's in the habit of being unpleasant to that boy.

If there is, I've no doubt the Hulk'll soon put a stop to his activities.

The X-Men are still trying to prevent Count Nefaria taking control of NORAD.

And, apparently, Dr Strange is suffering a reduction in his powers, following his fight with Stygyro.

I do feel that, over the years, I've mentioned Stygyro far more times than he really merits.

Spider-Man Comic #330, What If Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?

All I know of this issue is the FF discover the Sub-Mariner's made off with Sue, when a projection of him appears in the Baxter Building and tells them so.

Can the rest of the Fantastic Five possibly hope to stop him, even with Spider-Man in their ranks?

Marvel Superheroes Summer Special 1979, Hulk vs Thing

Hold on! Wait! What? This isn't one of our familiar mags!

And it's true. It's not.

That's because, in a fit of daring, the Dez Skinn Revolution decided to launch four summer specials in 1979 and, you know what? I actually had this one.

Not that that means I can say anything much about its contents. Sadly, I remember all but nothing of them.

I've a feeling Thundra and the Impossible Man may be in it and that the Hulk and Thing swap bodies, at one point

Frantic Summer Special 1979, Superman

Marvel UK's answer to Mad and Crazy hits the newsagents, with a one-off summer special that proves successful enough for the book to return as a monthly mag, later.
TV Heroes Summer Special 1979, Mork and Mindy

I know nothing of this, other than that, unlike Frantic, it wasn't successful enough to spawn its own monthly mag.

I must confess, from that cover, it doesn't look the most promising thing ever.

Spider-Man Summer Special 1979, The Punisher

I didn't have this one but am confident it centres around the Spidey/Punisher/Moses Magnum tale which also featured in Marvel UK's 1977 Spider-Man Annual.

This book also includes a reprint of Spider-Man's origin and a Steve Ditko drawn look at the hero's powers and abilities.

As if that wasn't enough, we also get a text feature about the TV show which wasn't exactly setting the ratings alight at the time.

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