Thursday 28 February 2019

February 28th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week. Plus - special bonus feature!

Where were you on February 26th, 1979?

If you're in the dark about that, you're not alone. A large chunk of the world was in the dark as well because a total solar eclipse was arcing its way above the northern USA, southeastern Canada and Greenland. It was also partially visible over almost all of North and Central America and western UK.

Needless to say, I've no memory of any of this. No doubt it was cloudy in Britain, as it always is whenever anything interesting's going off in the sky. This is, of course, when I make my habitual complaint about the Northern Lights having been theoretically visible over my home city at least four times in my life and it having been cloudy on every single occasion.

What's that you say? "That's like totally tragic, Steve."?

Too right it is. And you know what else is tragic?

The Bee Gees.

Or at least they were back then - because hitting the Number One slot on the UK singles chart that week was their unstoppable hit Tragedy. It may have had a negative title but so powerful was it that few singles have had more of an air of inevitability about their climb to the top.

Still, even the Bee Gees didn't know the full meaning of the word, "Tragedy," because, even as that release was hitting its apex, there was tragedy of a far grander scale being played out in the newsagents of Britain.

And that was that, yet again, there were no Marvel UK mags anywhere to be found. The rest of the nation might have gone back to work after the recent national industrial unrest but, clearly, Marvel UK had loved the Winter of Discontent so much they were refusing to give up on it.

All of which poses an obvious question. Just what am I going to write about this week? Am I going to fake it and waffle on about any old rubbish, in the hopes that no one'll notice, like I did last week?

Captain Britain #3No, I'm not. Ever generous to a fault, I'm going to give you my review of the first ever issue of Captain Britain I ever read. It may have come out in 1976, and not in 1979, but it is at least relevant to a post about Marvel UK.

So, here goes.

Brian Braddock's in his local bank when a bunch of distinctly over-armed thugs burst in to rob the place. Needless to say, it's not long before his altered ego Captain Britain is in action and giving them a good bashing while the police hang around outside, randomly shooting at the building in a way that never really happens in real life because it's likely to kill all the customers they're trying to save.

Cap makes quick work of the villains but if he thinks his troubles for the day are over, he has other thinks coming. Handing them over to the police means he has to encounter Chief Inspector Dai Thomas, part Jack Regan from The Sweeney and part J Jonah Jameson from The Daily Bugle. At once, the CID man makes it clear he doesn't like costumed vigilantes on his patch and the flag-wearing adventurer had better watch his step. Can our hero's day get any worse?

Captain Britain #3
Yes it can because he then has to go to the Coffee Bean Flying Finish and endure the taunts of fellow student Flash Thompson Jacko Tanner who's trying to make time with Gwen Stacy Courtney Ross. For the first time in human history, a super-hero's professional career clashes with his love life. There's also an appearance by Brian's friend Sandy York who, erm, seems to be Roy Thomas.

At the climax of it all, a homeless man reveals himself to be Britain's first super-villain the Hurricane. Granted, that's not much of a revelation, as we've never heard of the Hurricane before but it leads us into the To Be Continued caption.

Captain Britain #3
It's an action-packed outing for the captain and introduces us to his not at all Spideyesque supporting cast. With its obvious lack of originality, and shortage of pages in which to develop its plot, it's not going to win any awards but it is efficient in the way it goes about its business and Herb Trimpe's artwork is simple and uncluttered, the colouring being noticeably better aligned than in US books of the same vintage. The paper stock's also better than in Marvel's American monthlies, meaning the colour's a lot stronger.

The higher production values do suggest someone at US Marvel was taking this book quite seriously, which is intriguing, as Marvel UK was originally just a way of making money by churning out low quality reprint books.

Surprisingly for a Chris Claremont written tale, the adventure's not loaded with people speaking like they've escaped from Mary Poppins, although I do feel that, in 1976, you would have struggled to find one woman in Britain who was called Courtney.

There is one annoyance though. The last page of the tale is in black and white. A message at the top of it tries to convince us this is a special bonus feature included to give us the pleasure of colouring it in ourselves but it's obvious to all but the most naive that this is simply the place in the book where the coloured ink budget ran out.

Captain Britain #3
After this, we get a monochrome Fantastic  Four tale. It's the John Buscema drawn one in which The Thing can revert to normal whenever he wants to but has also turned evil and goes on the rampage around the streets of New York. Can the FF stop him before he kills anyone?

I'm sort of guessing they can.

The main appeal of this tale is, of course, the elegantly efficient artwork of Buscema at his peak.

Midway through this, we get a full page Nick Fury pin-up credited to, "Stiles/Tartag." Clearly, Tartag is John Tartaglione but I must confess to not having a clue who Stiles is.

Next, we get the Captain Britain Fun Page, featuring a Spot The Difference challenge and a game in which you have to guess the first names of various Marvel characters. It's not the most challenging thing you'll ever encounter.

Next, we get a page promoting that year's Marvel UK annuals and Bring on the Bad Guys, along with a coupon we can clip out, in order to send off for them.

Captain Britain #3, SHIELD
The issue's final strip is a Jim Steranko drawn SHIELD tale of the 1965 New York blackout, with evil wrongdoers of an Asiatic appearance launching some sort of attack beneath the Statue of Liberty. What they're up to is not revealed in this issue but Captain America's on hand to give assistance to Nick Fury.

If the colour on Captain Britain's strip is appealing; on this one, it isn't. The colour seems far too strong, especially on people's faces, and is also not lined up with the artwork as well as on the main strip. I think I've said in the past that Steranko's work on SHIELD tends to leave me cold and I'm not a fan of either Nick Fury or his spy agency, so it's a tale that lacks any great appeal to me.

And there you have it, the first issue of Captain Britain I ever owned. Reading it now, all these years later, it's more likeable than I thought it was at the time, although the Fantastic Four strip is the only one that I feel any desire to see the next part of.

Happily, next week, our favourite books are back in the shops and I can get back to declaring that I don't know what happens in them.

Sunday 24 February 2019

Captain America #135 - More Monster Than Man!

Captain America #135, gorilla
There was once a long-standing belief in the American comic book industry that the sure-fire way to sell any book was to put a gorilla on the front of it.

Whether that theory was correct or not, I can neither confirm nor deny, being bereft, as I am, of a doctorate in psychology but, in retrospect, perhaps the industry had a point.

My reading of American comics began in earnest in that hot summer holiday of 1972 when green flies, black flies and ladybirds seemed to be waging a vast war against each other wherever you looked. I'd read one Spider-Man comic before that and one Superman comic but it was during that holiday that my super-hero reading truly became a, "thing."

And one of that very first batch of American comics I read was Captain America #135, which did indeed have something that vaguely resembled a gorilla on the front of it.

Had the presence of the sinister simian led me to buy it from that Blackpool indoor market stall? Or was it some other quality that had piqued my interest?

I don't know but I do know that, once I got it open, the thing that most gripped me about the story was Captain America's costume. That collision of colour and shapes was like taking LSD, opening up a whole new way of viewing the world, for me. Once you'd seen a thing like that, how could you ever go back to drab reality?

Well, that's all well and good but that was then. What of now? Reading that tale again, for the first time in decades, what do I make of it?

Captain America #135
I make of it that it's great. Facially challenged SHIELD boffin Doctor Gorbo dreams of wooing his youthful assistant Julia who only joined SHIELD in the hope of finding a boyfriend. I assume she didn't tell Nick Fury that at the job interview or I suspect another candidate might have got the position.

Sadly, Julia might be desperate for a man but she's not so desperate that she'd settle for Dr Gorbo. In response, Gorbo reacts as the lovelorn have always done throughout the centuries, and makes himself a serum from ape blood and then swallows it.

No, it's not some kind of weird suicide attempt. It's an attempt to become a Captain America style he-man who can sweep Julia off her feet.

Captain America #135, Ape!
Unfortunately, he instead becomes a King Kong style gorilla who could sweep anyone off their feet, by sheer brute force alone.

However, he's not just any ape. He's a criminal ape. Armed with genius intelligence, super-strength and the power to mentally control dogs (No, I'm not sure how the last bit ties in thematically with him being a super-ape) he goes on a crime spree.

Needless to say, it's not long before Cap and Falc are on his tail and failing to stop him.

But, in between all this, there's the small matter of a huge drill that's going to dig a hole deep enough for the world's nuclear waste to be buried in.

And wouldn't you know it? No sooner do Cap and the gorilla start fighting but they manage to inadvertently fall down it.

Captain America #135, drill
Are they doomed?

Are they about to go splat when they hit the bottom?

We'll have to wait for next month's issue, to find out.

Actually, I had to wait five or six years to find out, when Part Two of the tale was finally reprinted in Marvel UK's Super Spider-Man comic.

Captain America #135, death plunge
In all honesty, a number of the very earliest comics I read as a child have turned out to be less than special when I've re-read them as a grown-up but this one is a definite exception. We get to see the Falcon meet Nick Fury for the first time and prove his fighting skills by grappling with Dum Dum Dugan. We get some trademark Stan Lee soap opera, as Cap tries to patch things up with Sharon Carter after their latest bust-up. We get a super-intelligent gorilla, a big machine that's drilling down into the depths of the Earth and we get a dramatic ending. What more could you ask to be crammed into a twenty page story? And there really is something strangely compelling about the sight of Cap and his opponent plunging down into a bottomless pit.

Most of all, there's Gene Colan's art which is amongst the most appealing I've ever seen from him, aided considerably by Tom Palmer who is, surely, indisputably the best inker Colan ever had or ever could have had.

So, maybe I did buy the thing purely because it had an ape on the cover.

Or maybe I didn't.

But I can safely say that, in convincing me to get, it, the comic certainly didn't make a monkey out of me.

Thursday 21 February 2019

February 21st, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

If you were the sap who bought a franchise selling igloos in the Sahara, then this week of forty years ago was the luckiest break of your life.


Because, on February 18th 1979, the Sahara Desert experienced snow for a full 30 minutes. There are no reports as to whether anyone had a snowball fight or whether the gritters had been out.

But it just goes to show how even the most reliable of places, people and things can surprise you.

And you know what else surprised us that week?

Marvel UK.

You know how?

By not existing.

Well, that's not strictly speaking true. It still existed. It just had no presence in our shops because - thanks to industrial action - that week, for the first time since the autumn of 1972, there were no Marvel UK mags published.

How did we cope?

How did we survive?

I'm not sure we did.

My memory certainly didn't, because I've no recall at all of this event. Possibly, my lack of appetite for the post-Revolution weeklies meant the dearth of Marvel action had no impact on my delicate psyche.

And it's not like we had much new happening elsewhere to excite us. Blondie were/was still Number One on both the UK singles and album charts and Superman was still dominating the world's box offices.

Even if we had had something new at the cinema to watch, we'd have had a tough time getting there because, in a blatant act of solidarity with the Sahara, Britain was in the grip of its third coldest winter of the 20th Century, with temperatures dropping so low the mercury fled our thermometers and went on holiday in the Bahamas, and snow piled up as high as our heads.

I should, of course, at this point, annoy all young readers by rambling on about how the schools stayed open through all of it, not like nowadays with all the namby-pamby teachers taking the day off the moment a flake of snow hits the ground but the truth is our namby-pamby schools closed too, mostly because school boilers back then were guaranteed to fail the moment the temperature fell below 30 degrees C.

That's how great the 1970s were. Nowadays, they wouldn't have a clue how to make technology like that.

Sunday 17 February 2019

2000 AD - January 1981.

I would say that January 1981 was a great month for John Lennon.

Except that, obviously, it clearly wasn't.

However, thanks to his death, he did find himself dominating the British singles chart. In fact, in the whole of that month, that chart had just two Number Ones.

The first was his, then venerable, single Imagine which claimed the top spot for the bulk of the month, before being deposed, in the last week of it, by his more recent track Woman.

When it came to the UK album chart, Lennon spent the entire month at Number Two, with Double Fantasy, as Super Trouper by ABBA and then Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants hogged the chart's peak position.

But there were other musical developments happening away from Britain because, that month, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that, from now on, there would no longer be a Grammy Award for Disco, with the decision later being described as, "The official date of death," of the genre.

If the discotheques of the Western world were now to be verboten to all who sought Grammy approval, perhaps we could seek out refuge in the cinemas instead.

Or perhaps not. That January seems to have seen the unleashing upon the world of just four, "mainstream," movies; My Bloody Valentine, Sphinx, American Pop and Eyewitness.

I must confess I've never heard of any of these films, although I have, of course, heard of the band called My Bloody Valentine. Did they take their name from the movie? It would appear that they deny it, despite it being hard to believe they could have come up with the same name by pure chance.

Well, this is all very fine and dandy but what of the whole point of this post, which is The Galaxy's Greatest Comic?

I can't claim there's a lot to report, mostly because I have, as always, no recollection of the comics' actual contents - but I do have the feeling there wasn't anything too out of the ordinary going on. The usual strips were still running; Strontium Dog, Dash Decent, The Mean Arena, Judge Dredd and The Meltdown Man.

It is intriguing, though, to see that Judge Dredd was up against someone called Captain Skank. I have no idea who Captain Skank is but he certainly has a name that conjures up all kinds of images.

2000 AD Prog 193

2000 AD Prog 194

2000 AD Prog 195

2000 AD Prog 196

2000 AD Prog 197

Thursday 14 February 2019

February 14th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

All we lovers of Love know that today is Valentine's Day.

And, you know what? It was Valentine's Day in 1979 as well. Who would have thought that Love and Romance were around so long ago?

Clearly, the mood of Love was in the air, back then, because we got the signing of the Saint Valentine's Day Concordat between the Trades Union Congress and British Government, which ended The Winter of Discontent and meant the nation could look forward, at last, to getting its full quota of Marvel comics.

But, only days earlier, on February 12th, over a thousand schools had closed due to a heating oil shortage caused by the lorry drivers' strike. I remember that strike very well and felt it was a thing they should have made a regular event.

Someone else with something to crow about that week was Trevor Francis who became Britain's first ever £1 million footballer, as Nottingham Forest "bought" him from Birmingham City for that sum.

Actually, if I remember right, Forest signed him for £999,999, as they didn't want him to bear the burden of being Britain's first £1 million footballer. Needless to say, everyone ignored that £1 difference and burdened him with the tag anyway.

On this night of that year, BBC Two was showing Tigris: The Sumerian Voyage of Thor Heyerdahl  which seems to have involved the legendary adventurer sailing down the Tigris and arguing that reed boats were the technology which allowed civilisation to spread across the world.

Around the same time, BBC One was broadcasting an edition of The Risk Business which detailed Clarks' move away from making sensible shoes and into producing experimental shoes.

What experimental shoes are, I have no idea but I do, of course, remember Clarks shoes fondly, from my childhood, as they were the company who famously put compasses in the heels of their shoes so we could find our way home if we were ever lost in one of Britain's many vast rainforests - and also included small replicas of animal footprints in their soles so we could identify the tracks of any mystery species we might encounter.

As genuinely wonderful as this was, I must confess that, in all my life on this planet, I have never had need for either of those shoe modifications.

Thanks to Clarks' shoes, we all knew where we were going. And someone else who blatantly knew where they were going were Blondie who were Number One on the UK singles chart and the album chart, with Heart of Glass and Parallel Lines respectively.

But, when it came to that first chart, for how long could they hold off the threat of ABBA's Chiquitita which was lurking menacingly at Number Two?

The album chart was looking quite New Wavey. Not only were Blondie at Number One but Elvis Costello was at Number Four with Armed Forces, while Ian Dury's New Boots and Panties was at Six. Granted, something called Action Replay by Various Artists was at Number Two and the Bee Gees' Spirits Having Flown was at Number Three, while Don't Walk - Boogie by Various Artists was at Five.

I'm assuming, from their titles, that both those Various Artists albums were Disco compilations.

But that's enough waffling about side issues. All that matters is Marvel - of the UK kind - and, with all that strike action finally over, no doubt there'll be plenty of Marvel UK goodness for us to look forward to.

Star Wars Weekly #54

No there isn't.

Clearly, it's going to take some time for the Winter of Discontent to be made glorious summer by that son of Skinn because Star Wars Weekly is the only comic Marvel UK has to offer us this week.

And I don't have a clue what happens in it. I can't even determine which issue of the US mag is being reprinted here.

I would assume that Warlock and the Micronauts are still present. Based on previous form, I also suspect there'll be a Tales of the Watcher type story, as well.

Beyond that, all is mystery.

But, then, what is Valentine's Day without a little mystery?

Tuesday 12 February 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - February 1979.

Plunge with me, dear Reader. Plunge into the gaping maw of Yesteryear, as I seek to discover what a selection of Marvel's less celebrated characters were up to in the books that featured the name of this month of forty years ago.

Godzilla #19

Godzilla's now the size of a man and still having trouble with SHIELD.

I can't help but feel it's all getting a little undignified for him.

Human Fly #18

The Human Fly's booked to do a show on a reservation but it's all a scam by the local bar owner.

It's a 1970s Marvel tale involving a section of America's native population, so, as you can imagine, it's filled with angry locals complaining about, "The white man," all delivered with a stereotyped subtlety that only 1970s Marvel could muster.

Fortunately, the Human Fly's a living saint and, therefore, instantly gains the trust of the locals as he seeks to help them overcome the money-grabbing machinations of the bar owner.

Tragically, the mystery stuntman has just one more issue to go before his title is squashed by the fly swatter of history.

Kid Colt #228

The first thing that strikes me about this it that it's issue #228. It thoroughly amazes me how a comic which can rack up that many issues could have so totally flown under my radar in my youth. As far as I can make out, the book ran continuously from 1949 to 1979, which is a remarkable achievement.

Anyway, it seems our gun-toting hero escapes jail, only to hide out on a pirate ship and then have to fight for his life when his presence is discovered.

I do wonder if this is the same Captain Barracuda as the one who used to turn up in the Sub-Mariner's strip. If so, he must have been getting on a bit by that point.

Amazingly, having managed to last for 228 issues, Kid has just one more to go before his book bites the bullet.

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu #73

In a tale so bizarre it's worthy of Killraven, Shang-Chi and Leiko set off to rescue Black Jack Tar from an island filled with what are possibly the most surreal robots ever, including a giant, talking caterpillar.
Micronauts #2

The Micronauts find themselves on Earth and having trouble with a lawnmower.

Thinking about it, I do wonder if the Micronauts' comic was an influence on the movie Small Soldiers? There are clear similarities.

Ms Marvel #22, Death-Bird

She might be a marvel but, like Kid Colt and the Human Fly, Carol Danvers has just one more issue of her comic left.

The book may not have lasted long but it did introduce both Mystique and Death-Bird to the world, so it did at least achieve something.

What If? #13, Conan

In a neat twist, the time-travel related events of Savage Sword of Conan #7 lead to the barbaric brawler ending up in modern day Manhattan and having a fairly routine adventure in which he takes on muggers and looters before finding his way back home by means I can't remember.

Basically, it reads like a non-super-powered Hulk story.

Shogun Warriors #1

I've a feeling I may have had an issue of Shogun Warriors but I don't have a clue which one.

Needless to say, this book's drawn by Herb Trimpe who was, surely, the only man for the job.

Is it any good? I don't know but I am willing to bet it involves giant robots fighting giant monsters.

How much resemblance any of this bears to Pacific Rim is anyone's guess.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Forty years ago today - February 1979.

I can think of no clever ways in which to introduce this post, so I shall get straight on with looking at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in the mags that bore this cover date of exactly forty years ago.

Avengers #180, the Monolith

On an island in the middle of nowhere, the Avengers are up against a living statue called The Monolith - although I must confess that, when I first saw this cover, I assumed it to be the Absorbing Man.

Regardless, it all ends happily for the Avengers.

But not so happily for Bloodhawk who breathes his last, thanks to a would-be super-villain called the Stinger.

Conan the Barbarian #95

Conan finds himself in a cave and having to fight a small dinosaur.

When will he ever learn to stay out of caves?

Apparently, he also has to fight the hordes of the Beast-King of Abombi.

I don't have a clue who they are.

Clearly, it's a very big cave.

Captain America #230, the Hulk

Cap sets out to rescue the Falcon from Alcatraz, where the Corporation are holding him prisoner.

Unfortunately, they're also holding Bruce Banner who turns into the Hulk and has a punch-up with Cap which then leads to a woman turning into a psychic caveman called the Animus.

I'm sure it all made sense at the time.

Fantastic Four #203

If I remember rightly, a hospitalised boy inadvertently creates evil replicas of the FF who then go on the rampage and create all kinds of trouble for the real team.

Incredible Hulk #232, Captain America

It's the senses-shattering conclusion to the tale that was set up in this month's Captain America with the Animus and a captive Falcon.

Needless to say, it all ends well for everyone, except the villains who end up either dead or mindless.

Iron Man #119

With its crew unconscious, the SHIELD Helicarrier drifts into Soviet airspace, and Iron Man has to defend it against the full might of the Russian military.

That done, Tony Stark discovers SHIELD have been buying up shares in his company, in an attempted takeover.

Amazing Spider-Man #189

A mystery villain who's clearly Professor Smythe has kidnapped John Jameson, wrapped him in bandages, for some reason, and commanded him to kidnap his own father.

With a set-up like that, how long can it be before the Man-Wolf puts in an appearance?

Spectacular Spider-Man #27, Daredevil

Spidey's still blind and he and DD are searching the city for the man who caused it.

Oddly enough, in The Amazing Spider-Man, he's not blind. I'm not sure how that works.

But that cover does always bring to mind Captain Britain's battle with Lord Hawk.

Thor #280, Hyperion

The good Hyperion recruits Thor to help him fight the bad Hyperion. After that, it all starts to get a bit confusing for everyone involved.

But, of course, what really matters is that this issue's drawn by Wayne Boring. Wayne Boring is probably the best ever name for a comic book artist.

X-Men #118

The X-Men turn up in Japan, just in time to blunder across a scheme by Moses Magnum that I think might involve earthquakes.

Needless to say, given the location, it's not long before Sun-Fire shows up, determined to annoy everyone he meets.

I think this might be the issue in which we first find out that Wolverine is a former resident of Japan.

Thursday 7 February 2019

February 7th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

This was the week, forty years ago, in which the Winter of Discontent became the Week of Reduced Content as, thanks to industrial action, two of Marvel UK's six mags failed to appear. However, such was the power of Star Wars that even the full might of the TUC couldn't prevent it hitting our news racks. Nor, it seemed, could anyone stop the appearance of Rampage Monthly, Savage Sword of Conan or Starburst.

Star Wars Weekly #53

It's another blank from me when it comes to what happens in the main strip but I do know that, elsewhere in the book, the Micronauts are having trouble with Baron Karza's death tank.

In fairness, you'd expect to have trouble from something if it bore the name, "Baron Karza's Death Tank."

The only other thing I know about the rest of this issue's contents is there's an ad for the previous month's Starburst magazine, which is a full page photo of Davros in Genesis of the Daleks.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #16, origin of red sonja

I don't have a clue what the secret of Skull River is but I do know the tale's drawn by Jim Starlin, so it's bound to be great. It also features a character who has that old Starlin standby of tiny skulls where his pupils should be.

Solomon Kane's fighting the forces of Voodoo in Africa in a tale that seems to be officially credited to Neal Adams and Pablo Marcos but, to my eyes, looks like it's mostly drawn by Howard Chaykin, with Adams concentrating on the faces.

Elsewhere, we get the origin of Red Sonja, as she catches up with the man who killed her parents. This tale's definitely drawn by Chaykin - because it says so in the credits.

Rampage Monthly #8, The Hulk

It's the big one, as Rampage suddenly becomes my favourite Marvel UK mag by launching the New X-Men upon the British public.

My only previous exposure to the new team had been in the pages of X-Men #100 which had both baffled and excited me. Who were all these new people and why were they so much better than the people who'd been in The X-Men whenever I'd previously read it?

Now I was about to find out - and love every minute of it.

Apart from the leprechauns.

I could have done without the leprechauns.

But The New X-Men, tales from Rampaging Hulk, and Gene Colan's Doctor Strange? How could anyone not love this mag? Dez Skinn gets a fair bit of stick for how he handled the weekly books but there's no denying that, when it came to the monthlies, he knew what he was doing.

Starburst Magazine #7, Battlestar Galactica, cylon

Starburst tootles along with what seems to be the seventh consecutive issue that covers the first Superman movie. I'm kind of getting the idea there might not have been enough sci-fi films hitting the cinemas to fulfill the needs of a magazine dedicated to the form.

Still, it's good to see the Cylons get a cover. Admiring their shininess is almost enough to make me think I actually liked the show.

Tuesday 5 February 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - February 1969.

One of my earliest memories of school was of us being made to do gymnastics to the somewhat soporific sound of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross.

But there was a good reason why it was in our gym teacher's thoughts, as it kicked off February of 1969 at Number One on the UK singles chart.

It was then succeeded by the Move's Blackberry Way and then (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice by Amen Corner.

Obviously, I'm well familiar with the Move, thanks to the presence of Roy Wood, later of ELO, Wizzard and Christmas fame but I must confess my knowledge of Amen Corner comes almost entirely from their strange guest slot in the horror movie Scream and Scream Again, which featured a gang of rubber murderers on the loose.

The final British Number One of that month was Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt, a song surely invented for buskers to sing, even though I've never heard a busker singing it.

On the album charts, things were dominated by three LPs; The White Album, The Best of the Seekers, and Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations. All of which claimed the top spot at some point that month.

I must confess to having been previously unaware of the collaboration between the Supremes and the Temptations. Thanks to this blog, I learn something new every day.

And you know what else I've learnt?

I've learnt what some of the less high-profile Marvel mags that bore that month's name were up to.

Captain Marvel #10

Granted, I've not learnt that much because I haven't the slightest clue what happens in this one.

Apparently, it features someone called The Organisation, which is a very generic name. I assume they're bad guys but what their aims are, I couldn't say.

Dr Strange #117

That bounder Asmodeus has taken on the form of Dr Strange, in order to fool the Ancient One for, no doubt, nefarious purposes.

As a result, the real doctor suddenly decides to start dressing like a super-hero.

Somehow, this all leads to Ymir and Surtur being unleashed upon the world and a crossover with this month's Avengers issue, as discussed mere days ago.

Mick Fury Agent of SHIELD, the Hatemonger

The Hate-Monger's back!

And he's still Hitler!

Or at least he's another Hitler. It seems there were a lot of them about, back then.

Adolf's out to launch a nuclear attack on every nation on Earth.

He also has a collection of the still-active brains of all his former advisers.

The tale also seems to feature dinosaurs.

I don't have a clue what's going on.

Silver Surfer #4, Thor

It's a classic cover for  a tale in which Loki tricks the Silver Surfer into going to Asgard and battling Thor.

I've still never read this tale. I shall have to do so at some point.

This cover's credited to John Buscema but you can tell brother Sal had a sizable input too because Thor has very big wings on his hat, very big boot flaps on his knees, and the back of his cape rises high above his shoulders, all of which were Sal hallmarks when drawing Thor, rather than those of John.

The Sub-Mariner #10, the Barracuda

I do believe this tale gives us the origins of both the Serpent Crown and the kingdom of Lemuria.

Whether it gives us the origin of Captain Barracuda as well, I couldn't say.

For that matter, is that him on the cover? If so, I have to say he doesn't look like he did in that Hulk story he turned up in. In that, he was a normal-looking man with a beard and an eye patch.

Sunday 3 February 2019

Fifty years ago this month - February 1969.

If you'd ever wanted to cross the Atlantic, in large numbers, February 1969 was your kind of month because it was when the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet took flight for the first time, launched from a Boeing airfield in Washington.

Making a far less passenger-packed but far longer journey that month was the Mariner 6 probe which was sent blasting into space, on a mission to Mars.

In more terrestrial matters, the 18th of the month saw Lulu marry Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.

Avengers #61, Ymir and Surtur and Dr Strange

It's one of my favourite Avengers tales, as Doctor Strange recruits the team to help him fight Ymir and Surtur.

It's John Buscema at his best, even if Marvel UK insisted on redrawing the Vision as Thor when they reprinted it, on the grounds that their readers hadn't yet been introduced to the Vision.

Captain America #110, the Hulk

And it's another classic, as Rick foists himself upon Cap again, in his latest quest to get in the way at every possible moment.

Judging by that cover, the Hulk's clearly been helping himself to Hank Pym's growth serum and is now forty foot tall.

In retrospect, it does seem amazing that Rick Jones never helped himself to Hank Pym's growth serum. It's the sort of thing you could see him doing.

Daredevil #49

Biggie Benson sets a killer robot on Daredevil, for reasons I can't recall.

For that matter, I can't recall who Biggie Benson is either. I assume, from the name, that he's a gangster. How a gangster has access to killer robots, I've no idea.

Come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever read this one. I'm pretty sure I missed the Mighty World of Marvel issue in which it was reprinted and only saw the tale's second - Barry Smith drawn - instalment.

Fantastic Four #83, the Inhumans

I've read this one, on multiple occasions, thanks to Marvel UK and also to The Essential Fantastic Four.

Sadly, despite that, I remember nothing at all of it. I gather Maximus has gained control of the Great Refuge again and the FF have to stop him again. It really must feel like it's Groundhog Day when you're an Inhuman.

Hulk #112

No such vaguenesses about this one. It's a Marvel masterpiece, as the Hulk finds himself on another planet and having to fight the Galaxy Master, a villain who really does need a good punch in the mouth.

Iron Man #10, the Mandarin

The Mandarin's worked out that Tony Stark's really Iron Man, which doesn't take that much to work out, and has convinced the US government that the industrialist is a traitor. Now SHIELD are out to get him.

Can things get any worse for our hero?

Yes they can.
Amazing Spider-Man #69, the Kingpin

The Kingpin's stolen an ancient tablet which contains a secret too insane to imagine - and Spider-Man's out to get it back.

Needless to say, it doesn't all go according to plan and it's not long before he's facing death.

Of course, he could just have called the police and told them where the Kingpin was...

Thor #161, Galactus vs Ego

Thor gets caught up in a battle between Ego and Galactus when the latter decides to eat the former.

It's a classic story but there's no way Thor should be able to beat Galactus - and especially not by firing his hammer at him. Weaker foes than the Big G have withstood such an assault.

X-Men #53, Blastaar

We might have to wait until next month to experience the work of Barry Smith on Daredevil but we can thrill to it right now on the X-Men.

Admittedly, "Thrill," might be putting it a bit too strongly, as he's still in that phase of his career where it looks like he's drawing comics while wearing a blindfold.

I believe this issue reveals that Blastaar is powered by hatred and will, therefore, always return, as long as there is hatred in the human heart.

Er, what?