Sunday 31 March 2019

The Flash #195. Fugitive From Blind Justice!

The Flash #195, Neal Adams cover
It's time to get out your stick of rock and don your Kiss Me Quick hat because it's the return of the feature in which I look at the comics I bought in Blackpool in 1972, when I was just starting out on the reading journey that would lead to me becoming the least-informed comic book blogger on the internet.

I've already tackled Captain America #135, X-Men #44, Action Comics #402 and Teen Titans #33 and now it's time to look at the very first Flash comic I ever owned.

I've mentioned, before, my obsession with costumes in these early reads and it was the same again for me with this one. The comic's combination of red and yellow (just like Red Raven and the Angel) and the lavish use of lightning motifs impressed me no end when I was eight.

But I cannot fail to acknowledge that, like Captain America, the Angel, Red Raven, and Kid Flash in Teen Titans, the tale features a man who's sporting wings. Is this coincidence or was I magnetically drawn to pinioned pugilists back then?

I cannot say.

This is what happens.

It's 1970 and the Flash is signing autographs outside a Jerry Lewis telethon, establishing that Jerry Lewis exists in the DC universe, even though it's clearly not our universe.

Someone else who exists in the DC universe is Jack Kirby's long-standing accomplice Mark Evanier who's among the lucky youths the Flash gives an autograph to. He also gives autographs to a bunch of other people but I don't recognise their names, even though I suspect that they too are real people.

No sooner has he done that than he's blinded by a camera flash in the local park.

It turns out it was no accident and now, with the hero temporarily sightless, a bunch of gangsters can blow his brains out.

Flash #195, dog rescues the Flash
Except they can't - because, just as they get a bead on him, a dog appears and chases them off.

Who is this mystery canine with the civic-minded streak?

Sadly, the Flash doesn't get to find out because, the moment he regains his sight, the pooch runs off and, obviously, the Flash can't chase after it because, erm, er...

Anyway, the next day, the Flash's alter-ego Barry Allen finds out the dog's called Lightning and has been sentenced to death for killing his millionaire owner Philip Bentley.

Can our hero prove Lightning's innocence and save him from the firing squad?

No, he can't.

After twenty four hours trying to do so, he settles, instead, for just kidnapping the dog and heading back to the scene of the crime with him.

Flash #195, fight
And it's a good thing he does because no sooner have the pair got there than they discover Bentley was killed by his own brother - and by the mobsters who tried to kill the Flash the day before. Holy Incredible Coincidence, Batman!

Ignoring the killers' gas attack, the Flash and Lightning soon mop up the wrongdoers, and the Flash gets a confession from the victim's brother by threatening to set the dog on him. I'm no lawyer but I'm not convinced a confession secured by threatening the accused with a good savaging is legally valid.

Not that the judge cares. He's perfectly happy to lock the men up on such dubious evidence and, not only that, he's happy to let Barry Allen legally adopt Lightning, even though he doesn't have a clue who Allen is.

This does make me wonder whether Lightning was ever mentioned again. He was certainly not in any of the Flash stories I ever read.

Leaving aside the unanswered question of Lightning's seeming super-speed in parts of this tale, there is one other oddity about the story, and that's that, after the Flash kidnaps the dog, the pair of them rescue a drowning blind man. There seems to be a fairly heavy hint in this section that the man's only pretending to be blind, which leads you to assume he'll be revealed to be the killer but nothing ever comes of it and it's not mentioned again.

Flash #195, Roller Coaster phobia, nightmare
That sensational tale of canine capers was brought to us by Robert Kanigher, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson and we're clearly in luck this month, as we get not one but two tales in this issue; the second being delivered by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Vince "The Eraser" Colletta.

Thinking about it, this might be the only time I've ever read a tale in which Kane's inked by Vincent, and the combination of the two men's styles lends the adventure a far more cartoony look than I'm used to from the penciller.

In it, Barry Allen's haunted by nightmares about roller coasters and has been ever since he went on one as a teenager. This fear's led to him refusing to ever board one again, until, many years later, he's chaperoning a police station sponsored basketball team and is nagged to go on it by them.

Wouldn't you know it, barely have they got the thing started than he spots disaster ahead.

The track's buckled!

Not for long it hasn't because, moving so fast that no one can see him, Allen changes into his Flash outfit and fixes it.

Flash #195, Roller Coaster repair
Quite how he does this isn't totally clear. He seems to be hammering it back into place with his bare hands. Just what are the Flash's hands made of that he can bend steel with them?

Anyway, that's that crisis dealt with, that phobia cured and that issue finished.

Is it as pleasing to me as those recently reviewed Captain America and X-Men tales?

Not really.

To be honest, although nicely drawn and competently written, it's not a particularly memorable issue, which might explain why, up until I re-read it yesterday, I could only recall that it mentioned Jerry Lewis and featured a roller coaster. Call me an animal hater but having seen too many Lassie films means I'm really not that interested in crime-fighting dogs and I'm not sure I buy a super-hero comic to find out how its star overcame his fear of fairground rides. Overall, I'd say it's an OK issue but fairly run of the mill.

As far as I can remember, this only leaves one comic left to review that I bought in that fortnight, and that's Brave and the Bold #96. Will it impress me?

Tune in to find out...

In the meantime, the other named people the Flash stops to sign autographs for in this issue are called Irene Vartanoff, Peter Sanderson, Angela Adams and Ken Tracy. Am I right in assuming they're real people, or are they just made up?

Thursday 28 March 2019

March 28th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this day in 1979, British politics was flung into chaos, as James Callaghan's embattled Labour government lost a motion of no-confidence by one vote, forcing a General Election. He might have seen off the Red Skull in 1976 but, clearly, the memories of his fellow MPs were short.

And, if things were in turmoil in Parliament, it seems there was also kerfuffle on the roads, as BBC Two's Money Programme was covering the nightmare prospect of the £1 gallon.

I assume they were talking about petrol, not wine.

Then again, if Britain thought it had it bad this week, things were threatening to get positively apocalyptical in the US, as Three Mile Island decided it fancied having a crack at destroying half of Pennsylvania.

With all this going on, we were clearly all going to be in need of a great big dose of escapism.

And we knew just where to get it.

Star Wars Weekly #57

We're back to the photo covers - and this one's a wraparound, with the front of that beastie's head appearing on the comic's rear.

As for the contents, I do believe that Luke and Leia are captured by, "Furry snow stompers." I don't have a clue what that means but they don't sound very threatening.

No doubt, facing greater peril are the Micronauts in Daytona Beach, while Adam Warlock tackles a bunch of clowns in the tale that notoriously attacks everyone working at Marvel who isn't called Jim Starlin.

Marvel Comic #335, Conan

I have to say that's a far better cover than we're used to getting from post-Revolution Marvel UK.

Judging by that blurb, it would seem the X-Men are featured in some way.

As they currently have their own strip in Rampage Monthly, I assume that, here, they're merely guesting in someone else's story. But, in whose, I cannot even begin to fathom. If I remember right, the strips in this book are Godzilla, Conan, Dracula, Skull the Slayer, Daredevil and Shang-Chi. I'm struggling to work out which of those the X-Men could possibly be guest-starring in.

Spider-Man Comic #316

For some reason, this issue gives us a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #119, in which our hero travels to Canada and tangles with the Hulk.

Given what happens in this week's Hulk Comic, I wonder if the choice of a Canada based tale is mere coincidence?

I would assume it's not.

Hulk Comic #4, Walt Simonson

I do believe this cover was drawn by Walt Simonson.

Was it created especially for this book? Its simplicity would suggest so. I must concede that getting Walt to produce a cover is quite a coup for the title.

Admittedly, it's not actually a good cover but it is, at least, a bad cover done by a good artist.

When it comes to the interior, our hero finds himself having to foil child kidnappers on a cruise ship.

When I say, "Child kidnappers," I do, of course, mean kidnappers of children, not kidnappers who are children.

I do believe that, in these early tales, our hero, in his human form, is merely referred to as, "Banner." Presumably, no one at Marvel UK could decide whether to call him Bruce or David.

Obviously, if I was writing these tales, I'd solve the problem by calling him Bob, like Stan Lee did, all the way through Fantastic Four #25.

Elsewhere, The Protector attacks Ant-Man, with a water pistol, forcing the tiny wonder into a desperate battle to avoid falling into a sewer. I think I'm starting to see why Ant-Man's strip never really took off.

Nick Fury and SHIELD are in South America, battling to keep a despot in power for the forces of freedom.

Reprints of The Eternals start this week, even though I've no recollection of them ever appearing in this mag.

Captain Britain and the Black Knight are getting to know each other, by trying to smash each other's teeth in.

Like Ant-Man, Night-Raven's tackling a protection racket. Unlike Ant-Man, he doesn't have to worry about being washed down a sewer by a water pistol.

And, finally, the Hulk is still in Canada and tackling the senses-shattering menace of the Mimic.

Sunday 24 March 2019

X-Men #44, Red Raven, Red Raven!

X-Men #44, Red Raven vs Angel
Dear Reader, turn your clock upside down and travel back in time with me to the dim and distant days of 1972 and that indoor market on Lytham Road in Blackpool.

I've only just started reading American comics and, during this fortnight-long summer holiday, I get my hands on the issue of Captain America in which our hero finds himself battling a talking gorilla that can control dogs. I also get a Batman comic in which the cowled crusader is confounded by bolas. I get an issue of The Flash which mentions Jerry Lewis, and an issue of Teen Titans in which our youthful do-gooders have a caveman in the back of their van.

What I also get is an issue of the X-Men.

Naive fool that I am, I'm still too inexperienced in the ways of super-herodom to know that I don't actually like 1960s X-Men comics and, so, the tale seems a thrill ride to me, in which the main appeal is that one of its be-winged characters wears a yellow and red costume and the other  wears a red and yellow costume. It's amazing how costume colour can be the most important factor in story-telling, when you're eight.

But that was then. This is now. We're back in 2019 and, for the first time since I re-read the tale in a mid 1970s' issue of Mighty World of Marvel, I have my hands on that story once more.

Will I be as impressed by it now as I was then?

There's only one way to find out.

X-Men #44, trapped by the Toad
The X-Men have been captured by Magneto - and the Toad can't wait for them to be executed.

Magneto, however, harbours hopes that he might yet convert them to his cause, and so imprisons them in his dungeon.

Unfortunately for the magnetic menace, the Angel manages to escape and flees the island, in search of the Avengers.

Sadly, grown tired from flying, he seeks rest on a lump of rock protruding from the ocean - a rock which turns out to be the mere tip of a submerged island!

And, now, that island is submerged no longer - because it's the home of Red Raven who's put his own people, the Bird-People, into suspended animation to prevent them trying to wage a disastrous war against humanity.

X-Men #44,  Red Raven and the bird people
His story told, Red Raven knocks the Angel out and then re-submerges his island, vowing to keep the Bird-People in their deep sleep for another twenty years.

Regaining consciousness, to find the island gone, the Angel takes to the air and sets off, once more, in search of the Avengers.

The story's credited to Stan Lee but, with its revival of a Golden Age character, it'll come as no shock to anyone that it's plotted by Roy Thomas. Oddly, though, there's no acknowledgement of Red Raven's previous use by Marvel. You could easily think he's a newly minted character.

X-Men #44,  rock
Don Heck and Werner Roth's artwork isn't going to win any awards but it's efficient in its story-telling and isn't in any way off-putting.

There are some oddities to the tale.

There's the manner of the Angel's escape from Magneto's clutches. He finds some sort of laser cutter on the floor, next to where he's being held captive, and uses it to slice through the net that's holding him. That's a remarkable piece of luck and I wonder if it is a piece of luck or if the device has been left there by either Quicksilver or the Scarlet Witch who are currently back with Magneto, after their initial Avengers stint, and are clearly not happy to just go along with his megalomaniac plans.

Quicksilver can fly! During the Angel's escape bid, Pietro actually takes to the air and flies after him for a short spell before having to return to Earth. It's clear from the dialogue that this power has never been used before but was it ever mentioned or used again?

X-Men #44,  Red Raven
Red Raven must be the least observant man in the history of the planet, as, according to his flashback, he managed to reach adulthood before realising that he alone, among the Bird-People, doesn't have wings. How on Earth do you not notice a thing like that?

Red Raven also seems to be totally mentally unstable, oscillating randomly between wanting to kill the Angel and wanting to save him, wanting to fight him and wanting to talk to him. I do wonder if the Bird-People's plan to invade the world even ever existed or if he's just convinced himself it did.

The Toad really is an obnoxious little psychopath in this tale. My memories of the character are of him being a servile weakling, bossed around by Magneto and wishing he was free of his influence but, in this one, while Magneto seems content to be reasonable about things, the Toad is constantly goading him to commit murder.

X-Men #44,  Red Raven vs the AngelThere's no sign of the Bi-Beast. How can we have a story about the Bird-People without mention of the Bi-Beast?

Admittedly, that's almost certainly because he hadn't been invented yet. But, when reading the tale from a 21st Century perspective, his absence does feel highly noticeable.

Anyway, all that aside, did I strike gold with my first ever X-Men comic, all those decades ago?

No I didn't. It's clearly not some kind of classic and it's not as compelling or as accomplished as the Captain America tale I reviewed the other week.

Having said that, I did enjoy it more than I do most Silver Age X-Men tales. Possibly, the fact that it's not really an X-Men tale at all and is clearly Thomas taking an opportunity to reintroduce a half-forgotten character to the then modern age, makes it more appealing to me.

I therefore come to the conclusion that I did get lucky with it in 1972, as there are few 1960s X-Men issues that I would have been better off having.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Dan Cooney, The Graphic Novelist's Guide to Drawing Perspective - Review.

Dan Cooney, The Graphic Novelist's Guide to Drawing Perspective
For many years, mankind has been puzzled by the strange quirk of fate that means the people who live a long way away from us are smaller than the people who live closer to us. An even greater mystery has always been where do those tiny people disappear to when you try to go there and conquer them?

But now, at last, Steve Does Comics can exclusively reveal they're not tiny at all. They're normal-sized and it's all an illusion caused by a thing called perspective.

But it seems I'm not alone in having realised this, and entire books have been written on the subject.

One such book is the one I was sent the other day by the good people at Search Press. Written by Dan Cooney, The Graphic Novelist's Guide to Drawing Perspective sets out to explain and demonstrate all the budding artist could ever want to know about the phenomenon and how it can be incorporated into our masterpieces.

It's a very exhaustive book indeed which, as you'd expect, deals with the horrors of one-point, two-point and three-point perspective but also touches on a whole range of other things necessary to the artist, such as the materials needed for drawing, the importance of carrying a sketch pad with you, as you seek out examples of perspective in the real world, advice on how to place your vanishing point, the Rule of Thirds, tips on drawing the human figure, how to use perspective to make your work feel more dynamic, and a whole heap of other stuff of value to the artist. In doing so, it uses a plethora of images, not only by Cooney himself but by a number of other industry professionals. Needless to say, I was especially impressed by Judge Dredd showing up.

The book's extremely thorough and technical in how it goes about its business and perhaps its most useful feature is that it's packed with designated worksheets on which you can carry out the exercises laid out in the book, meaning it functions as a course in perspective rather than just being a reference or instruction book.

So, if you've ever wanted to gain a fuller understanding of just how to incorporate perspective into your visual work, this is the book for you.

Thursday 21 March 2019

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

As I write these words, it's the Spring Equinox, that magical time of year when winter's officially over and night and day are of equal length - approximately three foot seven.

It's also, the internet informs me, the night of a supermoon. Whether this means our satellite gains incredible powers and starts becoming desperate to protect its true identity from its girlfriend, I have no idea but I certainly won't be getting into a fight with it any time soon, just to be on the safe side.

But, of course, the moon isn't the only thing in our lives that's super.

So is a certain kind of star.

The kind of star who has three pages dedicated to him or her every week in the comics produced by Marvel UK exactly forty years ago, back when supermoons seemingly never happened. If they did, I don't remember ever hearing about them. In fact, I don't remember ever hearing about supermoons at all before the World Wide Web became a big thing.

No wonder YouTube keeps recommending those videos to me that claim the moon doesn't exist and is merely being projected onto the sky by NASA.

Star Wars Weekly #56

As so often, I don't have a clue what happens in this issue but I do know that's a very Wally Woodesque villain from Carmine Infantino.

Admittedly, I'm only guessing that he's a villain but, from his stance, that seems a fair guess to make.

I'm wondering if this cover was created specially for Marvel UK, as I can find no trace of it on the front of the original US mags.

Also, judging by last week's cover, Marvel UK now seems to be printing Star Wars stories several months in advance of the US division.

If so, I assume that that, technically, makes the US comics reprints of the British ones.

Hulk Comic #3

In order to rescue a girl from imminent death, the Hulk has to fight an alligator - and struggles horribly to beat it. In fact, it nearly kills him and he's lucky to escape with his life.

Yes, it's the all-new British version of the Hulk, the rubbish one who owes far more to his TV portrayal than he does to his Marvel Comics incarnation.

We also get Ant-Man trying to clear his lab of communists, the Black Knight and Captain Britain bumping into each other in a cave and coming to blows, more of the Real Hulk and the Beast in Canada and some Night-Raven action involving a protection racket.

SHIELD are up to something too but I don't know what.

Marvel Comics #334, Godzilla

Gasp as Godzilla starts his American rampage.

He's turned up in Alaska and SHIELD are out to stop him.

This is all I know of the contents of this issue.

Spider-Man Comic #315, Moon Knight

I know Spidey's up against Moon Knight who's the subject of a Maggia assassination attempt.

That is all I know.

I can't help feeling this feature's a bit rubbish this week.

I hope it's better next week. Even I'll be sending emails of complaint if it's not.

Sunday 17 March 2019

2000 AD - February 1981.

When the brave man or the fool looks within the dread Necronomicon - that blasphemous tome by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred - and seeks out the later chapters, in search of the one true defining horror above all other horrors, he will find a page.

That page must never be gazed upon.

For it contains a terror so fearsome that it could hurl a man over the cliff of insanity and onto the breakers of madness.

Upon that page are just two words.

February 1981.

For that was the month in which all lovers of anything that vaguely resembles music had to endure the nightmarish spectacle of Ultravox's era-defining Vienna being kept off the top of the UK singles chart for week after week after week.

At first, there was a respectability in Fate's treatment of the platter. After all, it was initially kept off the top spot by John Lennon's Woman.

But then it suddenly had to endure the ignominy of being kept from the pinnacle by Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce, a man who not only couldn't spell, "Your," but couldn't even be bothered to do the decent thing and end his name with an, "é."

Week after week, we huddled around our radios on Chart Day, waiting for the inevitable announcement that Vienna had finally risen to Number One, only to be told, yet again, that it was still at Number Two.

Few who survived that period have ever truly got over the ordeal, nor recovered their belief that there might, within this universe, be anything that could be called justice. If Watergate signalled the death of innocence for a generation of Americans, somehow, Vienna's endless run at Number Two did the same for a whole generation of Britons.

Over on the album chart, thankfully, things were decidedly less fraught, with neither of those acts vying for the Number One slot.

In fact, the album chart was topped by just two albums that month; John and Yoko's Double Fantasy and then Phil Collins' Face Value. How little we guessed at that time, that that latter album signalled the beginning of an insanely gigantic solo career for a man once perceived as being little more than Peter Gabriel's stand-in.

That's all well and good but what of sci-fi - and the comic which did more than any other to provide us with it?

As always, I know less than I should. But I do know the cover of Prog 198 is a wrap-around one, with its rear-half revealing that the pesky swarmers are standing on the bovver boot of a reclining skinhead. Quite what that's about is anyone's guess.

I also know that this era features a strip called Return to Armageddon, which seems to star a protagonist who's immortal and has been deformed by someone called the Destroyer, leading to him being put in a cage in a freak show, while customers are challenged to try and kill him. I've no memory of this strip at all but I can say that, even by the standards of 2000 AD, it sounds a bit grim.

2000 AD Prog 198

2000 AD Prog 199, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 200, Tharg

2000 AD Prog 201, Judge Dredd

Thursday 14 March 2019

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

At first I was afraid. I was petrified.

That's right, I'd just realised I have to write another blog post.

However, it seems I'm not the only one to know what it is to feel the cold grasp of terror in my heart because, in this week of 1979, Gloria Gaynor was feeling it too.

For, it was in that week that her iconic single I Will Survive climbed to the top of the UK singles chart, holding off Elvis Costello's Oliver's Army in the process.

The Number One album that week was Spirits Having Flown by the Bee Gees.

And there was good news for all fans of those acts because the 8th of that month saw Philips give the first public demonstration of a fancy new technology called the compact disc. I still remember how Tomorrow's World presenters would smear jam all over one, hit it with a hammer and then put it in the microwave to demonstrate its near-indestructibility.

Personally, I never dared do that with any of my compact discs, as I wasn't quite so convinced of their resilience.

Nor, given recent turmoil, was I convinced about the resilience of our favourite comics company.

Still, there was at least an easy way to find out how they were doing.

Star Wars Weekly #55

The nation celebrates as Marvel UK's best-selling mag returns after disappearing without trace last week.

What hasn't returned is my memory of its contents. As so often with this book, I've not the slightest clue what happens in this issue. I would assume that Warlock and The Micronauts are still the back-up strips and that there's still a Tales of the Watcher type twist-ender in there, as well.

Hulk Comic #2

There's nothing like having a great cover to encourage people to buy your comic.

Which makes it a mystery why this issue has one of the dullest covers I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, the logo, the drawing, the blurb at the top, the whole thing looks like the latest issue of a self-produced fanzine, rather than a major title from one of the world's great comics publishers.

When it comes to the contents, still very much following the formula of the TV show, Bruce Banner arrives in a new town, encounters a taxi driver called Jody and then rescues her, as the Hulk, when she gets trapped beneath the burning wreckage of her cab.

Hold on. Taxi driver? Jody? Is it mere coincidence or am I seeing some sort of tribute to a certain Martin Scorsese film?

Elsewhere in this issue, Nick Fury has to deal with a traitor in his midst.

We also get a Tharg's Future Shock type tale about a man arranging a meeting with aliens, in order to dominate mankind. Needless to say, it does not end well for him when they finally do show up.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man sets out to foil a group of communist agents who've burst into his lab but, instead, he ends up having to fight an ant. There aren't many super-hero strips where you have to use the phrase, "Has to fight an ant."

Night-Raven's dealing with some hoods by pretending to be a blind man.

Strangely, the issue finishes off with a second Hulk strip - and it's the Herb Trimpe drawn one where our hero goes to Canada and encounters the Mimic and the Beast. Whether this tale's there to appease fans of the real Hulk or whether it's meant to acclimatise new readers to the feel of the true Hulk comics, I've no idea. However, it had already been reprinted, several years earlier, in The Mighty World of Marvel, so its presence here probably annoyed me at the time.

Marvel Comic #333, Godzilla

Rargh! Take that, world! Godzilla's US comic may be mere months away from cancellation but that doesn't prevent the big green galoot replacing the Hulk as the star of Marvel UK's flagship title.

Beyond that, I can reveal nothing of the contents of this book.

Spider-Man Comic #314

And all I can reveal about this issue is that it features a team-up between Spider-Man and Moon Knight.

I would assume, therefore, that it's reprinting Spectacular Spider-Man #22, in which the dynamic duo find themselves up against a Maggia plot to bump off the nocturnal croissant flinger.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - March 1979.

As I type these words, there is a heavy scent of failure in the air - and not just because Parliament is trying to sort out Brexit yet again.

Forty years ago, Marvel Comics seemed to be going through a crisis of its own. The company had produced 44 books which bore the cover date of February 1979 but, the following month, it published just 39 books. Three months after that, it produced a mere 30 books. At this rate of decline, it was going to have to move back into that tiny back office Stan Lee was sharing with just Flo Steinberg and Sol Brodsky in the early 1960s.

But what of my randomish collection of lower profile Marvel mags which bore the cover date of March of that year? Were they among those sentenced to die?

Captain Marvel #61

The current Captain Marvel may be cleaning up at the box office right now but it was a different story four decades ago, with Marvel's original holder of that title having just one more issue to go before cancellation.

I have very little idea what happens in this tale but I believe that Mentor's computer's turned evil and only the Captain and an eclectic gathering of Titans and Eternals are available to do anything about it.

Godzilla #20, the Fantastic Four

It's the clash that had to happen, as Godzilla meets the Fantastic Four.

Admittedly, it didn't really have to happen. In fact, I would have bet good money on it not happening ever. Somehow, the two franchises don't feel like they should exist in the same world.

But it turns out they do and it means we get to see blue-eyed Benjy get to have a punch-up with Japan's greatest menace.

Sadly, even bringing in Marvel's Number One family fails to produce a sales boost sufficient to prevent the rampaging reptile being cancelled just four issues after this.

Human Fly #19, last issue

"Is this the end of the death-defying daredevil?" asks the cover blurb?

Yes it is. The Human Fly helps the dwellers of a reservation see off a bunch of bad guys but he can't stave off the curse of poor circulation and this is, thus, his final issue.

Marvel Team-Up #79, Spider-Man and Red Sonja

Good grief! I've finally found a comic that isn't staring death in the face!

If I remember rightly, Kulan Gath is up to no good in a museum and it all leads to Mary Jane turning into Red Sonja - presumably because they both have red hair - which is one of the best ideas ever in the history of comics.

Battlestar Galactica #1

Hooray! Marvel gives us its adaptation of the pilot episode of everyone's favourite Star Wars rip-off.

Granted, it's already given us it before. In fact, I think this is the third Marvel comic to feature that adaptation, so far. The company clearly has high hopes Battlestar will do for its fortunes what Star Wars did a couple of years earlier.

I suspect such optimism will prove to be misplaced.

Nova #24

This is a very odd story story, in which the Sphinx steals a spaceship and, after recruiting Nova, the Comet, Crime-Buster, Powerhouse and Doctor Sun, sets off in search of death, or something.

The only problem is Diamondhead has stowed away on board and is looking for a scrap.

Given how many people there are available to fight him, if I were Diamondhead, I'd keep a low profile instead.

Those who like to sit by guillotines, doing their knitting, while awaiting the fall of the blade, will be interested to know this is the second-to-last issue of the book.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Forty years ago today - March 1979.

What's that?

It's a finger.

What's it doing?

It's beckoning me to follow it into the dark passageways of Recall and look at what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in the books that bear the cover date of this month in 1979.

Conan the barbarian #96

Conan turns into Ka-Zar and teams up with a lion, in order to rescue Bêlit from her evil captors.

While he's doing that, she's trying to get her fellow female prisoners to rise up against their oppressors.

Conan, meanwhile, fights an electric eel and beats up a leopard.

Captain America #231

If I remember right, I think Cap falls out with SHIELD and does some vacuuming.

Meanwhile, The Corporation are still up to no good and some bad guy or other is doing the Hate-Monger thing and getting a crowd of people, including Sharon Carter, to want to kill foreigners.

Daredevil #157, Death-Stalker

Hooray! Gene Colan gets to draw Death-Stalker - the villain he was born to draw - as Daredevil wakes from his coma, to help the Avengers take on the fedora-wearing heel.

Romantics will be pleased to know it all leads to him getting back together with the Black Widow.

Sadly, determined party-poopers the Ani-Men are out to kidnap Matt Murdock.

Fantastic Four #204, Skrulls

Three of the FF go off to help some aliens fight the Skrulls. Why do I get the feeling there's more going on with that than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, left behind, the Torch goes to college and finds himself a target of a mystery villain.

That villain is The Monocle!

Who would have thought we'd ever get to see him again?

No one. That's who.

Incredible Hulk #233

I've no idea what happens in this one but I gather that SHIELD are involved.

Is it me or is that a genuinely terrible cover?

Iron Man #120

Tony Stark's happily getting himself drunk when his plane's hit by a flying tank.

It turns out it was thrown by the Sub-Mariner - and the inevitable fight breaks out.

But Starky's got more problems than he realises because it turns out Peter Cushing's sabotaging his armour, by remote control.

At least, he looks like Peter Cushing.

Therefore, in my head, he's Peter Cushing.

Amazing Spider-Man #190, Man-Wolf

Professor Smythe's gained control of the Man-Wolf's mind and is using him to try and kill JJJ.

Needless to say, Spidey's not going to stand for that. And doesn't.

Needless to say, JJJ shows no gratitude to him at any point in the story.

Spectacular Spider-Man #28, Carrion

Apparently, in this issue, Carrion trashes Peter Parker's apartment.

What a bounder. You can see why he's viewed as being one of Spidey's greatest foes.

Wasn't Carrion the clone of Professor Warren, or am I thinking of someone else?

Uncanny X-Men #119, Moses Magnum

Moses Magnum is still trying to destroy Japan, for some reason I can't recall.

With a grim inevitability, the X-Men are having more trouble stopping him than they really should have. This is, after all, a man who was stopped by Luke Cage. No disrespect to Luke but he's not the X-Men.

Avengers #181

It's the big one. Henry Peter Gyrich shows up and, on behalf of the US government, decides to cut the Avengers' roster to a more manageable size.

Obviously, this doesn't go down well with our heroes.

Not so obviously, they go along with it, like a bunch of Muppets.

Can't they spot a bad guy when they see one?

Thor #281

The Space Phantom recruits Thor's help to save his own people.

Inevitably, it all turns out to be a trick.

What the trick is and how Thor gets out of it, I don't remember.

I'm sure it's highly dramatic though.

Iron Man #120, Peter Cushing and Stan Lee?

STOP PRESS! In response to a comments section request from FB, I'm adding a couple of panels from Iron Man #120, which features a villain who's clearly Peter Cushing and a pollution-happy military officer who seems to be Stan Lee.

Thursday 7 March 2019

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

In this week of 1979, the sounds of jubilant rejoicing could be heard all throughout Britain as, the length and breadth of this country, came the sound of Marvel UK's comics hitting people's front doormats.

It's true. After weeks of industrial chaos, everything was back to normal for our favourite comics company.

Or was it?

For, among those comics, one was missing.

And that was Star Wars Weekly. Having continued production right through the thick of the problems, the moment those problems were sorted out, the comic promptly disappeared.

Still, if we were feeling bereft, perhaps we shouldn't have been. After all, there was a new arrival this week, with the launch of a brand new title.

What could it be?

And how would it change our lives?

Hulk Comic #1
And here it is! Marvel UK's brand new mag!

Like the rest of the Marvel Revolution's weekly output, it was blessed with a highly imaginative (and search engine unfriendly) title, being called Hulk Comic.

But, the green Goliath aside, what was inside it?

The Black Knight, SHIELD, Night-Raven and Ant-Man were inside it.

But something strange was afoot. Aside from Ant-Man, those strips didn't look like they should do.

In fact, they seemed strangely British.

And that was no accident because Dez Skinn had hired some of Britain's finest comic book talent to create brand new tales for those characters. Suddenly, after years of thrilling to the work of Jack Kirby, John Buscema and John Romita, we were thrilling to the work of David Lloyd, Steve Parkhouse and Dave Gibbons.

While it was admirable that Skinn was willing to give work to British creators - and there was no doubt about their talent - the truth is the Hulk Comic was a very strange concoction indeed. American heroes written and drawn British-style had that Uncanny Valley feeling to it. It was sort of Marvel but not quite Marvel. It also didn't help that the Hulk who featured in these tales owed far more to the TV incarnation of him than he did to the original comic version.

Marvel Comic #332, the Hulk

But hold on a minute. What's this? The Hulk now has his own weekly title and yet he's still in Marvel Comic?

As far as I an remember, the overlap only lasted for one week and then the green menace was replaced by another green menace, in the form of Godzilla.

I do believe that, in this issue, Jade Jaws is still battling the Thing. I hope it wraps that tale up or it looks like we're never going to find out how it ends.

Something else I might never know is what else happens in this issue, as I don't have a clue.

Marvel UK, Savage Sword of Conan #17

Hooray! It's the return of, "Britain's Number One Sword and Sorcery Magazine!"

Admittedly, it's probably Britain's only sword and sorcery magazine, so it's not that much of a boast.

As for the contents, the cover implies the lead tale is Alex Niño's redoubtable People of the Dark but there's nothing in the sidebar that suggests it is.

I do know that, elsewhere, Red Sonja befriends a unicorn in a Frank Thorne drawn tale.

I don't have a clue what Solomon Kane's up to, other than that he's still in Africa.

Rampage magazine #9, the Hulk vs the Avengers

It's the early 1960s and the Hulk meets the Avengers before they become the Avengers.

Meanwhile, various other people are in the process of becoming the X-Men, as a whole new bunch of recruits are in the midst of their first adventure together, which I recall as mostly being made up of them bickering among themselves.

Spider-Man Comic #313

That somewhat anomalous early Ross Andru Spidey tale looks to still be ongoing.

Other than that, I can say nothing of this comic's contents.

Starburst Magazine #7, the Cylons

Now here's a strange thing.

Some people might notice that I covered this issue last month.

That's because, I've since discovered this is actually the issue for March 1979, not February, even though it's the issue after January's and it's supposed to be a monthly title.

What madness is Marvel UK trying to inflict upon me?