Sunday 28 April 2019

2000 AD - March 1981.

If your life's ambition has always been to fill your living room with nothing but shelves, there's been no better time to be alive than March 3rd, 1981, because it was on that day that Homebase opened its first DIY superstore, in Croydon, Surrey.

And it was even better news if, once you'd got those shelves up, you wanted to fill them with nothing but computers, because just two days later saw the launch of the ZX81, the pioneering British home computer which went on to sell over 1.5 million units worldwide and become a legend wherever nostalgia for machines with terrible keyboards and no memory rears its ugly head.

However, there wasn't such good news for fans of scarves that month because, after a mighty seven years in the role, Tom Baker left Doctor Who, to be replaced by Peter Davison, in the final episode of  the serial Logopolis. After all this time, I still don't have a clue what was going on at the end of that episode. If anyone can explain it to me, I would be highly grateful to them.

Speaking of the inexplicable, the UK singles chart kicked off the month with Joe Dolce's Shaddup You Face still keeping Vienna off the top spot.

However, even Joe couldn't hold on forever and he was soon replaced by Roxy Music's whistle-tastic cover of Jealous Guy, while the month ended with This Ole House by Shakin' Stevens at the summit - which meant Kim Wilde's Kids in America inherited Vienna's coveted role of, "Zeitgeisty 1980s synth classic kept off the Number One spot by a record that no one seems to like."

Meanwhile, in that month, the UK album chart was topped by Phil Collins' Face Value and then Adam and the Ants' Kings of the Wild Frontier.

But what of the galaxy's greatest comic? What joy was it bringing into our lives at that time?

It was still bringing us Strontium Dog, The Mean Arena, Return to Armageddon, Judge Dredd and Meltdown Man though I don't have a clue what the talking polar bear on the front of Prog 205 is about.

I also don't know what Tharg's Futureworlds is about but it sounds even more exciting than the Sinclair ZX81.

This is all the information I have to impart about this month's issues because that is all the information I have.

2000 AD Prog 202, Johnny Alpha

2000 AD Prog 203

2000 AD Prog 204, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 205

Thursday 25 April 2019

April 25th, 1979 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

A wise man once said a week is a long time in politics.

Not in 1979, it wasn't. A week ago, in that year, the UK had been experiencing an election campaign. And, this week in that year, it was still experiencing an election campaign. I hope they didn't try to stretch it out for a third week. Such a thing would have been madness and could have put us all off democracy for life.

But who cared about that?

No one did.

All we cared about was Leo Sayer.

I know that because, forty years ago today, he was at Number One on the UK album chart, thanks to his latest LP, The Very Best of Leo Sayer.

Despite this, in all truth, I couldn't claim to have been a Leo Sayer fan. Once he stopped dressing like a clown and sounding a bit sinister, his magic quickly faded for me.

Star Wars Weekly #61

I have no idea what happens in the main strip this week, other than that the man on the cover, with half his face missing, is clearly the villain of the piece.

Elsewhere, the Micronauts are still looking for their missing colleagues, in the world of humans.

This week's Tales of the Watcher is The Thing From Planet X.

The Thing From Planet X would appear to be an evil plant that wants to take over the Earth and can only be stopped by the crashing of the spaceship he's hijacked. I hate it when plants get ideas above their station.

I've no information at all on the doings of Adam Warlock this issue but am confident that he and Thanos are still battling to bring down the Magus.

Hulk Comic #8

The Hulk's now being pursued by the law, as is his brand new friend whose name escapes me.

The Black Knight and Captain Britain are still fighting against whoever it is they're fighting against.

Nick Fury's trying to have a date while dealing with multiple assassination attempts.

A contract killer's still out to bump off Night-Raven - and it looks like he might succeed!

The Eternals are still preparing for the arrival of the Space Gods.

But, of course, the news everyone's been desperate to hear is that the Scarlet Beetle has finally made his debut in the pages of the Ant-Man strip.

And it's time for celebration because I can, right now, confirm that that red insect of terror is in this issue, has recruited an army of insects, has stolen Hank Pym's growth formula and is now all set to conquer the world!

Marvel Comic #339

Godzilla's still in this comic - and eating Seattle.

This is all I know.

I also know you shouldn't try to eat Seattle. It's rude.

Spider-Man Comic #320

In a development almost as exciting as the Scarlet Beetle showing up in Ant-Man's strip, the Hypno-Hustler shows up in Spidey's.

If the Scarlet Beetle and the Hypno-Hustler should ever team up, what force on Earth could ever hope to stop them?

Sunday 21 April 2019

Brave and the Bold #96 - Batman meets Sgt Rock in, "The Striped Pants War!"

Brave and the Bold #96, Batman and Sgt Rock
XTC once claimed that, "Sgt Rock is going to help me."

Well, he certainly didn't help me.

He didn't help me remember I'd once read a comic which featured him.

That comic is Brave and the Bold #96, and it was one of that small batch of books I got from that legendary indoor market on Lytham Road, Blackpool, in the summer of 1972, when I was first starting out on my career as a super-hero fan.

But this one was different. While I had at least some memories of those other comics; for years, the only thing I could recall about this one was that it featured the word, "Bolas."

Needless to say, this made it a somewhat difficult comic to identify. But, at last, after 47 years, I've finally discovered its identity and have got my hands on a copy of it.

But, now that I have it, will it be revealed that my total inability to recall its contents was justified?

Brave and the Bold #96, Batman Toro
The US ambassador to a South American country's been kidnapped by terrorists and, now, Bruce Wayne's been sent there, as stand-in ambassador, to sort out a somewhat undefined treaty. Not only that but, by an incredible coincidence, Batman has also been sent there, to try and rescue the real ambassador.

But Wayne and Batman aren't the only United Statesians present, because Sgt Rock is currently working in the embassy, as head of security.

Brave and the Bold #96, BolasThere's only one problem. It quickly becomes apparent that Rock has turned traitor and is involved in the kidnapping.

Needless to say, it's not long before Batman is on the case, nearly getting himself killed at every opportunity and leaping to all the wrong conclusions - because, in a shock revelation, it turns out Rock isn't a traitor at all and that the real bad guy is exactly who you knew it was going to be the moment you clapped eyes on him.

The ambassador is safe, Batman is happy and Sgt Rock's reputation is restored.

I do have to say it's pretty obvious why I remembered all but nothing of this comic for almost fifty years because it's easily the least memorable of that handful of books I got from that market. The script is mostly devoid of Bob Haney's usual madness, while Nick Cardy's artwork feels both unrefined and workmanlike.

Cardy is one of my favourite cover artists of all time but the few examples I've seen, over the years, of his interior artwork have totally lacked the magic he managed to imbue into his covers. In this case, it feels like he's trying to draw like Joe Kubert but is struggling with it, mostly because of tackling the endeavour with too thick a brush.

Brave and the Bold #96, Sgt Rock threatens Bruce Wayne
As for Sgt Rock, the reality is that he comes across like he may be intellectually subnormal, as well as a complete and total jerk. I've never read an issue of his own comic and, so, have no idea if this is how he was always written or if it's unique to this tale, but it's very difficult to warm to him here.

And, no, I don't have a a clue why the tale is called The Striped Pants War.

Anyway, I do believe I've now reviewed all the comics I got on that summer holiday. This, therefore, is my ranking of them:
  1. Captain America #135.
  2. X-Men #44.
  3. Action Comics #402.
  4. Teen Titans #33.
  5. The Flash #195.
  6. Brave and the Bold #96.
Brave and the Bold #96, Batman and Sgt Rock

Thursday 18 April 2019

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

I shall start this post by giving a quick plug for Back in the Bronze Age, after they were kind enough to do the same for this blog. Over there, right now, you can discuss songs that bring a lump to your throat and whether super-heroes can get too powerful.

But some people can never get too powerful.

And that's politicians.

And so it was that, on this night of exactly forty years ago, BBC One and BBC Two were giving us hefty coverage of the then-current election campaign, with Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and David Steel battling it out to see who was going to be next Prime Minister.

I will make the daring prediction that it will be Margaret Thatcher.

Star Wars #60

It's one of those rare occasions when I actually know what happens in an issue of Star Wars Weekly.

Luke rescues Leia from someone or other and then destroys someone's base or other, by some means or other. I do feel that's as fine a summary of a story as the world has ever seen.

Meanwhile, the Micronauts are still in our world and on the search for missing colleagues.

Then we have a Tales of the Watcher story in which the protagonist tells his psychiatrist he is haunted by a recurring dream in which he keeps meeting an alien.

Needless to say, the sensible shrink pooh-poohs the significance of his dream. After all, as he says, there's no way such a creature as a, "Human," could ever exist.

Elsewhere, Thanos has joined Warlock's battle with the Magus.

Hulk Comic #7

The UK-produced Hulk tales disappear without trace and we get a Sal Buscema offering in which our hero meets some bloke, via a bar fight, and decides to go and live with him - until the man's girlfriend alerts the authorities.

The Black Knight and Captain Britain meet The Walker and get more info on just what's going on.

Ant-Man defeats the commie agent who's out to discover his secret and produce an army of tiny communists - and discovers he was, in fact, a woman in disguise!

At the tale's end, Ant-Man rides off, slowly, on an ant, as agents of the law watch, speaking about him, with awe. It's one of the stupidest comic book panels I've ever seen and serves to highlight just how duff the whole concept of Ant-Man is.

I think SHIELD have finally succeeded in restoring dictatorship to a South American country.

The Eternals are still preparing for the arrival of the Celestials.

And Night-Raven has a contract taken out on him. That'll teach him to not annoy the wrong kind of people.

Marvel Comic #338, Godzilla

This is where our luck runs out, in terms of me having any idea what's going on, because all I can say about this issue is that Godzilla would appear to be eating a train.

So much for all those claims that railway food is no good.

Spider-Man Comic #319, the Cyclone and Moon Knight

And all I know about this issue is that Spidey and Moon Knight are still fighting the Maggia and the Cyclone.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Forty years ago today - April 1979.

When I was a young, I saw a TV show which may or may not have been called Extraordinary.

In it, the presenter claimed there's a tribe - possibly in Indonesia - who believe we're all travelling backwards in time, on the grounds that, when you walk forward, you can see where you're going but can't see where you've been. Therefore, as we can see the past, it must be ahead of us and, as we can't see the future, it must be behind us.

Logic like this can turn your whole mindset on its head.

Sadly, as I've never been able to find any reference to this tribe anywhere on the internet, I've always suspected the show made it all up.

But if it is true, that can only mean one thing; that it's time for me to walk, face-first, into the past and find out what Marvel's greatest heroes will be up to in the books which will be cover-dated this month of forty years ago.

Avengers #182

It's a weird one, as Wanda and Pietro's minds get kidnapped and put inside a pair of marionettes, by a man who claims to be their father.

Needless to say, it's not long before the rest of the Avengers are on hand to get confused by it all.

Conan the Barbarian #97

It's Conan, Bêlit and a big, friendly lion against a whole jungle's worth of deadly animals controlled by the inevitable sorcerer of bad intent.

Needless to say, it's not long before those animals are making a snack of that sorcerer.

Captain America #232

It's all hands to the pumps, as Cap tries to stop a race war erupting in New York.

And, for once, it's not being orchestrated by the Red Skull!

Or the Hate-Monger!

Or the Sons of the Serpent!

Fantastic Four #205

Three of the FF are in a galaxy far, far away, battling an army of Skrulls who're out to conquer some planet or other.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Human Torch has returned to college and is blundering straight into the Machiavellian machinations of The Monocle.

I do believe this tale ties in with the later issues of Nova.

Incredible Hulk #234

It would appear that The Corporation get a fake Machine Man to kidnap one of the Hulk's friends.

I'm assuming this'll lead to a confrontation between Hulkie and the real Machine Man.

Iron Man #121, the Sub-Mariner

After the inevitable fight, Iron Man and Subby team up to take on a fake army that's out to steal a bucketload of vibranium from an island populated by just one man.

Amazing Spider-Man #181, the Spider-Slayer

Surely the most promising cover blurb of all time, as we're assured we're about to get the last ever Spider-Slayer.

Professor Smythe is dying, thanks to the vast quantities of radiation his spider-slayers have been emitting over the years, and decides to kill JJJ for it.

Needless to say, Spidey's out to put a stop to that, even though Jameson's currently publicly accusing him of killing his son John.

Spectacular Spider-Man #29

Carrion's up to no good.

Then again, when isn't he?

Then again, if you're Carrion, there's not a lot you can do apart from be up to no good. Looking like that, it's not like he can go to the cinema, or do the grocery shopping.

Beyond that, I can say little, as my recall of this tale is limited, even though I have a strong memory of the cover.

Thor #282, Tempus

It would appear Thor has to battle someone called Tempus, in order to get to Immortus' castle and get his hammer back.

Which leaves me more confused than ever. I could never keep track of whether Immortus was a good guy or a bad guy. I'm not sure Marvel could either.

X-Men #120

The X-Men have to take on Alpha Flight, after a storm forces them to make an emergency landing in Canada.

Shouldn't Storm be able to stop there being a storm? Isn't that the kind of thing she's there for?

Thursday 11 April 2019

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

Are you a fan of terrifying bunny films?

If so, this week in 1979 was a great one for you.

That's because Art Garfunkel's Bright Eyes climbed to the Number One spot on the UK singles chart, holding off Squeeze's Cool for Cats which was the first of two consecutive Squeeze singles to stall at Number Two.

As if that wasn't enough excitement for fans of popular music, there was even more in store because, on this night in 1979, BBC One was showing The British Rock and Pop Awards 1978, introduced by those kings of Rock and Roll rebellion, Bob Wellings and Kid Jensen.

The lucky winners were to receive their trophies from such current chart stars as Dave Dee, Georgie Fame, Mary Hopkin, Hank Marvin and Dusty Springfield.

Who were those winners?

I don't know.

It was a long time ago and I can't remember.

But, apart from the obvious categories, there was a Nationwide Golden Award for the artist or group with the most all-round family appeal. Giving out an award for having the most all-round family appeal, now there's a Rock and Roll concept for you.

Star Wars Weekly #59

It's clear from the cover blurb that the usual characters are starring in their usual adventures but, by amazing coincidence, the back cover of this issue features a chance to win a Raleigh bike, courtesy of KP Outer Spacers. All you have to do to earn your prize is think of a good name for a planet.

How the judges are to decide what's a good name for a planet, I have no idea.

Spider-Man Comic #318, the Cyclone

The Cyclone may be on the cover but it seems we're still in the story which sees Spidey team up with Moon Knight, in order to battle the Maggia.

The rest of this issue's contents are a mystery to me.
Hulk Comic #6

I am more enlightened about this comic, however.

The Hulk fights an escaped android and trashes it, in a handful of pages.

Ant-Man is trapped by communists who are determined to discover the secret of his awesome powers, so that their homeland can conquer the world, with an army of tiny soldiers.

The Eternals are still confronted by the return of the Celestials.

The Black Knight and Captain Britain are still getting to know each other.

Night-Raven is still killing mobsters.

SHIELD are still trying to restore a South American despot to power.

Marvel Comic #337, Skull the Slayer

Skull the Slayer makes the cover of Marvel UK's flagship title.

I know little of the rest of this week's contents but I'm still unhappy that Marvel UK have renamed Shang-Chi's strip SI-6, in order to make it sound more like the TV show The Professionals.

Did they really think people wouldn't notice it was a martial arts strip and bears no resemblance at all to Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins' greatest triumph?

Tuesday 9 April 2019

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1979.

It's time to once more smash History in the face and look at what Marvel's less celebrated stars were up to in the books whose cover-date is exactly forty years ago.

Defenders #70, Lunatik

The Defenders are having another crack at stopping Lunatik.

I always hated Lunatik, mostly because he seemed to be giving everyone far more trouble than he should have.

He was just a bloke with a stick, wasn't he? Why was he so hard to stop?

Godzilla #21, Devil Dinosaur

It's the clash we've all been waiting for, as Godzilla takes on Devil Dinosaur.

I have memories of it being a somewhat one-sided battle, with Devil Dinosaur lucky to get out of it in one piece but I could be remembering wrongly.

Anyway, needless to say, it's not long before, nagged on by Moon-Boy - the prehistoric Rick Jones - the two monsters are teaming up to tackle a mutual foe.

Warriors of the Shadow Realm

I know nothing about this book at all.

I've looked at a summation of its contents, on the Grand Comics Database and, after reading that, I still don't have a clue what's going on in it.

But I do know it looks like the sort of thing that wouldn't grab me.

Interesting that the cover format basically follows that of the then-current Marvel UK monthly mags.

Marvel Premiere #47, Ant-Man

I do believe this is the issue in which Scott Lang becomes Ant-Man, after stealing Hank Pym's costume.

I'm not sure why it was felt necessary to have a new Ant-Man but, as Lang is still around today, the idea seems to have worked.

Marvel Two-In-One #50, Thing vs Thing

It's the battle that had to happen! 1970s Thing vs his 1960s self!

As far as I can make out, 1970s Thing uses Dr Doom's time machine to travel back and give his 1960s self a cure for his condition.

Judging by that cover, it seems that both Things greet the situation with the maturity levels we're used to from Marvel heroes.

Sunday 7 April 2019

Fifty years ago this month - April 1969.

If there was one bike that every child, in my youth, wanted, it was a Raleigh Chopper.

And that means April 1969 was the most awesomest month ever, as it was the month in which the banana-seated, high-handlebarred vehicle was launched upon the world, from a factory in Nottingham.

This means the first half of 1969 saw the introduction of both the Chopper bike and the Space Hopper. Truly, the future had arrived with a vengeance.

And there were other sci-fi vehicles making the news as well because April 1969 saw the unveiling of the very first plans for the Space Shuttle, and saw the Harrier jump jet enter military service for the first time.

Elsewhere, Skamania County, Washington, made it illegal to shoot Bigfoot.

So law-abiding are the people of Skamania County that, since that law was passed, fifty years ago, not one Bigfoot has been shot by them.

But it wasn't all good news for Bigfoot. If he got too close to that glowing box in the corner of his living room, he was in serious trouble. For, in that month, Americans were warned, by their government, to stay more than six feet away from their colour TVs at all times, after one-in-five sets tested in Suffolk County, New York, had been found to be emitting above-legal levels of radiation.

Avengers #63, Goliath

It's the tale no comic fan will ever forget, as Hawkeye randomly decides to become the new Goliath and, by an incredible coincidence, his first adventure in that guise leads to him having to fight a giant monster.

The first time I ever encountered the Clint Barton Goliath was in that Avengers/Hulk tale in which Psyklop kidnaps Bruce Banner's more robust alter-ego. It left me highly confused, as I couldn't understand why Hank Pym was suddenly talking like the Thing.

Captain America #112

Hooray! Cap's book surprises us all by retelling his origin!

I believe this is the issue after he decides to fake his own death, in order to get away from Rick Jones.

At least, I think that's his motivation. It's straight after the tale in which Rick foists himself upon Cap, as the new Bucky, so I assume that must be the reason.

The cover boasts that it's an, "Album issue." I don't have a clue what that means. As far as I can remember, it's just a standard format comic book.
Daredevil #51, Barry Smith

It's another job for Barry Smith when DD battles a robot and then discovers he's dying from radiation poisoning.

Clearly, he's been standing too close to his colour TV.

Incredible Hulk #114, Sandman and the Mandarin

The Sandman teams up with the Mandarin in yet another attempt to beat up the Hulk.

Needless to say, the attempt fails.

I really don't recall anything much about this tale. Is it the one in which Sandy falls into a vat and gets turned into glass?

Iron Man #12, the Controller

It's the first appearance of my favourite Iron Man villain, as the Controller decides to take over his local town, and then the world.

I'm going to be controversial here and say George Tuska is my favourite Iron Man artist.

Amazing Spider-Man #71, Quicksilver

Abandoned by Magneto, Quicksilver decides to seek out the aid of the Avengers but ends up fighting Spider-Man instead.

What should be an easy victory for a man who can hit Spidey before he even knows he's there is a complete disaster, thanks to Quicksilver forgetting he can't run through solid objects.

X-Men #55

The X-Men are still up against the Living Pharaoh but, more importantly, we get the revelation that Alec Summers is a mutant.

We also get the second part of the origin of the Angel.

Thor #163, Pluto

I do believe this issue's big, shock revelation is that the mystery villain who's captured a chunk of New York is none other than that nefarious lord of Hades, Pluto.

Admittedly, the shock's somewhat diluted by the fact that he's on the cover.

I do believe this story sees the second ever appearance of Warlock who's having a nap in a building which Pluto and his mutates from the future are occupying.

Fantastic Four #85

The FF are still trapped in Latveria and have been brainwashed into thinking their super-powers don't work.

Thursday 4 April 2019

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

Charter Square, Sheffield, Standing Stones in the Heart of the City 2 development, Children of the Stones, Escape into Night
Do you know what happened in this week of 1979 that was interesting?


Granted, revolutions happened and people got executed and wars started and ended but I mean things that interest me.

Therefore, in the absence of any 1979 news to relay, I shall, instead, post a photo I took, the other day, of the standing stones with eyes which are currently taking over the streets of my hometown.

Those of a certain vintage and nationality, who remember the 1972 TV show Escape Into Night, will find these objects strangely familiar - and know their presence can only lead to trouble...

Star Wars Weekly #58

Speaking of trouble, it would appear that Imperial forces have captured Leia, and imprisoned Luke in a "War Sled" that's on a collision course with the ocean!

How you collide with an ocean, I have no idea.

We also get a Tales of the Watcher outing in which only a pilot deemed too old for military service can save the world from an alien invader.

Once he's triumphed, we then discover the alien invader never existed and was just the pilot in disguise, aiming to prove he isn't too old to do his job. Some might call it showing initiative, some might call his actions irresponsible and self-centred.

Elsewhere, the Micronauts are still in Daytona, while Adam Warlock is still on his quest to find the Magus.

Hulk Comic #5

Isn't that cover image based on a John Buscema panel in which the Hulk's grappling with the Silver Surfer's board?

Regardless, the main tale involves Bruce Banner being chased into a swamp by soldiers, only for him to be attacked by a monster with his brain on show. Banner really doesn't have any luck, does he?

Elsewhere, Ant-Man defeats The Protector and reveals him to be a small jeweller in a big exo-skeleton.

Nick Fury's still battling to restore dictatorship to a Latin American country, the Eternals are still awaiting the arrival of the Celestials, Night- Raven's up against people causing trouble in a card game, Captain Britain and the Black Knight are up against a giant who ends up trapped in quicksand.

Bruce Banner, too, gets trapped in quicksand, in the Hulk tale. I can't help feeling that's too much quicksand for one issue.

Marvel Comic #336, the Vision

Unless I miss my guess, that cover image is taken from the front of FOOM #12.

Unless I'm even more mistaken, I've not got a clue what happens in this issue at all, other than that Godzilla's probably in it.

Spider-Man Comic #317

Spider-Man's, clearly, still up against the Hulk, in Canada. I've no idea what story the cover relates to.

Nor can I shed light upon anything else that happens in this issue. The internet is letting me down badly this week.

Savage Sword of Conan #18

I do have to say that's not the greatest SSoC cover I've ever seen. It sort of looks like something Margaret Brundage would have knocked up, had she still been doing Conan covers in the 1970s.

It seems to be a redrawn and re-painted version of the cover to issue #13 of the US version of this mag, so I wonder if it was created specially for Marvel UK. The original was by Richard Hescox but I don't have any notion who did this version.

I do know this issue contains a lovely pin-up of Red Sonja splashing about in some water.

Starburst Magazine #8, Space 1999

Starburst looks forward to the release of Alien which I'm sure I remember getting lukewarm reviews when it first came out, proving you should never listen to critics.

On the other hand, Damnation Alley got terrible reviews and the critics were totally right about that one.

Rampage Monthly #10, the Hulk

Bruce Banner gets work in a mine but soon discovers sinister doings are afoot.

The New X-Men are still squabbling, and battling Krakoa, The Living Island, in their debut adventure.

I believe that Doctor Strange and Clea have gone back in time and are meeting various historical figures, including Francis Bacon (the 16th Century statesman, not the 20th Century painter).

There's also a Star Wars themed competition in which, by designing a droid, you can win a day trip to watch The Empire Strikes Back being filmed.