Sunday 5 January 2020

Fifty years ago this month - January 1970.

Time may be a relative but I'll be a monkey's uncle if I understand a word of what I'm about to say in this paragraph. That's because I'm about to say that, in January 1970, the Unix time epoch was reached at 00:00:00 UTC.

I'm sure that's a pivotal moment in human history but I don't have a clue why.

But I do, at least, understand one thing that was pivotal - and that's that, in the UK, that month, the half crown coin ceased to be legal tender.

Admittedly, I lack all understanding of what a half crown was actually worth. Knowing the old Imperial monetary system, it was probably worth fifteen eighths of a quarter of five half-sovereign pieces or something that was equally nice and easy to calculate when trying to pay for something in a shop.

In a rather more user-friendly vein, were the Jackson 5 who, that January, scored their first ever Number One single on the Billboard Hot 100 with I Want You Back.

The cinemas, meanwhile, were seeing the release of two horror movies.

The first was Scream and Scream Again which I think is about rubber people committing murders while Amen Corner keep randomly appearing, to sing a song, for no noticeable reason.

The second was The Dunwich Horror. My horror senses tell me it was almost certainly an adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story of the same name. I think I've seen it but can't be certain.

Slightly less horrifically, the month also saw the release of the movie MASH.

But, Reader, can you guess in advance what the link is between MASH and one of the comics I'm about to look at below?

The Avengers #72, Scorpio

This is that very link because this issue appears in a 1974 episode of the MASH TV show where it's seen in the hand of a sleeping Radar O'Reilly. The Grand Comics Database really is the fount of unlikely knowledge.

Is this the first appearance of Zodiac? I'm fairly certain it's not the first appearance of Scorpio.

I could regale you with details of this tale but I must confess that, even though I've read it on more than one occasion, I don't remember anything about it.

I know Rick Jones is in it and the cover tells me Captain Marvel is too.

I think the story might begin with Rick creeping around on the roof of the Avengers Mansion, in a furtive manner.

There you go. It would appear Rick Jones is the most memorable element in this tale. It must be a classic.

Captain America #121, the Man Brute

If I remember right, some petty thug's given super-strength, by a mad scientist, so he can beat-up Captain America but, with the sort of luck only Stan Lee can bestow upon a man, the place where they're fighting just happens to be randomly blessed with the presence of that thug's son.

Needless to say, this revelation makes the bruiser lose all interest in the scrap, and Cap lives to fight another day.

Daredevil #60, Crime Wave

Daredevil takes on Crime-Wave in a tale I'm struggling to recall anything of.

In fact, I'm struggling to even recall Crime-Wave. I get the feeling he was probably stuck behind the Masked Marauder in the queue to gain entry to the Super-Villain Hall of Fame.

Fantastic Four #94, the Frightful Four

Hooray! Agatha Harkness makes her sorcerous debut, as the Frightful Four decide to launch their latest attack and she makes sure they live to regret it.

Incredible Hulk #123, the Leader and the Murder Module

It's another belter, as the Leader steals the government's Murder Module and attacks the Hulk with it.

Attacking the Hulk with a notoriously unstable mode of transport may not be the best idea any human being ever had.

I do always wonder, though, why the Leader steals the Murder Module. Can he really not build one of his own?

This is, of course, part of the brief run of stories in which the Hulk retains Bruce Banner's intelligence, except at times of high agitation.

Iron Man #21, I Quit!

Tony Stark decides to give the job of Iron Man to boxer Eddie March, not realising Eddie's been told that another blow to the head could kill him.

Amazing Spider-Man #80, the Chameleon

It's the tale where Spidey effectively announces to the world that he's Peter Parker, by telling everyone that he recognised the Chameleon in a crowd because he was disguised as Peter Parker, and Peter Parker's the one person Spidey knows he couldn't possibly be.

Strangely enough, no one draws the obvious conclusion from this statement, even though there's only one conclusion that could be drawn from it.

Thor #172

My memories of this are fuzzy. Does a dying billionaire kidnap Thor so he can have his mind transferred into the thunder god's body, and it turns out his device doesn't work on gods?

X-Men #64, Sunfire

I've never read this tale, and Sunfire's in it, so I'm not likely to.

I gather, though, from the cover, that he's now causing maximum irritation in America?


dangermash said...

I had to do a bit of googling but:

- Avengers #72 does turn out to be the first appearance of Zodiac

- that Daredevil villain turns out to be Foggy's assistant Mason Hollis. Years later in Watchmen, one of the heroes is Hollis Mason.

And one that I didn't google. That Spider-Man story is the first one that I can remember reading. I think it appeared in a Fantastic Annual or Pow Annual around 1968-70, years before Marvel UK kicked off.

Killdumpster said...

Damn, the only book I had from this presentation was Thor #172, and for the life of me I can't recall the story.

Scream And Scream Again is a favorite of mine. Any film with Chris Lee, Cushing AND Vincent Price could not be good. Lots of intrigue & shock value, for back in the day.

If I recall correctly Dunwich Horror was kinda bland, but I'm not sure. I probably have it somewhere, so that sounds like a rewatch.

TC said...

Scorpio had previously appeared in the Steranko issues of Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1968. Avengers #72 revealed that he was Nick's brother Jake (thus explaining the enigmatic ending of Nick Fury #5), and that he was a member of Zodiac.

IIRC, Avengers #72 did begin with Rick Jones skulking around on the roof of Avengers HQ, where he bumped into Captain America. Rick was angry at Cap for beating him up a couple of months earlier, but Cap explained that it was the Red Skull in Cap's body that did it.

Captain Mar-Vell appeared in a flashback, when Rick described a run-in that he had with Scorpio.

The Dunwich Horror was, of course, based on Lovecraft. It may have been Sandra Dee's first adult role, and she may have hoped it would help her shed the "Gidget" and "Tammy" image.

Ads for Scream and Scream Again made it appear that Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price co-starred in it. But, IIRC, Cushing's part was barely more than a cameo, and Lee and Price did not have any scenes together until near the end.

Anonymous said...

A half crown was 2s/6d Steve, which became 12.5p in new money.
That would have got you two and a half import Marvel comics at the start of 1970, but you wouldn't have got much change from getting a couple at 6p each after decimalisation. We got ripped off!
Bloody Edward Heath, eh?


Killdumpster said...

It's still great fun viewing.

Killdumpster said...

Yeah, I have Dunwich Horror, in a duel set with Die, Monster, Die!, also lightly based on Lovecraft, and the better of the two films, in my opinion.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I can't get me head around the concept of pantomime. (Admittedly have not had the time yet to see the link from previous blog.)

When you said, "Benny Hill meets Walt Disney" I was thinking Rick Jones with the Avengers or Cap or Hulk? Would that be Pantomime?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Me and Charlie still think Sunfire was the most biggest blown opportunity in the Marvel Galaxy.

We mean, all the ingredients were there: Asia, Nuclear Bomb (attack or testing?), cool uniform, cool power, american imperialism, japanese imperialism...

What a Marvel SNAFU.

(Adams art was cool in that XMen as I recall.)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - thanks for the alphabetical posting. It's done wonders helping me teach Charlie the alphabet.

I only had the Cap and Xmen.

I can't recall any of the stories...

All you Marvel experts, isn't there another Hulk cover where he is being chased by the Leader in a War of The Worlds 3-legged thingy? THe cover seems so familiar but not quite exact with a certain vague memory I have.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Did Roy the Boy have a fetish for DD and purple?

Purple Man, Crime Wave, Masked Marauder...

I am probably missing a few and not contemplating the Frightful Four in this seriously frivolous inquiry.

TC said...

Yeah, it is.

dangermash said...

So why did we have a 2/6 coin and a 2/- coin (or 12.5p and 10p in new money)? That would be like having a £1 coin and a £1.25 coin. Pre decimal days were just bonkers.

Killdumpster said...

Just remembered that I got that Thor issue because one of my neighbor pals had a relative who worked for a magazine distributor.

My pal would get a small stack of comics occasionally, with half the covers ripped off.

If I helped him with his farm chores, he'd let me have a handful of them. Though not very collectable, I got a bit of good reading. It helped this poor kid keep up with what was going on with our heroes.

Steve W. said...

Sean, thanks for the pre-decimal currency clarification.

Dangermash, don't forget we also had the guinea which was worth the highly logical value of £1.05.

Charlie, I do have the feeling the Leader made a second attempt to use the Murder Module but I don't recall when.

I would say Rick Jones with the Avengers/Hulk/Captain Marvel was more a mix of Tragedy and Fiasco.

TC and Dangermash, thanks for the Zodiac/Scorpio info.

KD, I shall have to give The Dunwich Horror a watch to see if I've seen it before.

Anonymous said...

Well dangermash, the half crown makes sense if you think of it as a fraction of a pound ie 1/8, with a crown being 1/4 and half a, 1/2.
Of course, crowns weren't in everyday circulation at this point, so I expect there were (or recently had been) convenient everyday uses for the half crown that kept it around, even though there were 2 shilling coins.

Obviously a decimal currency is more straight forward than counting in multiples of 12, but it doesn't follow that it can't have odd quirks too - like, why are there still 2p coins?


Killdumpster said...

The Dunwich Horror isn't completely awful, Steve. Just keep in mind it was produced by Roger Corman.

Have to agree with you about the Murder Module. The Leader should've been able to build his own, and maybe a better version.

TC, I thought Scorpio first appeared in S.H.I.E.L.D, and he was Nick's brother, but in the mid to late 70's wasn't he someone else in the Defenders? An LMD maybe?

Wish I had a chance to go to the shops that month. Though I had read most of the tales later, in my younger days I'd have been amazed by all the great villains.

Totally agree with the assessments on Sunfire. I always enjoyed his appearance in any title.

If he would've been a perm member of the "new" X-Men, I could see him and Wolverine having a type of "Thing vs Torch" repartee. Only to more extremes.

Anonymous said...

Sunfire was annoying. Not as high on the list of annoying characters as Rick Jones, but still...
I do agree with the Charlies though, that there was potential for an interesting Japanese superhero at that point, but Marvel blew it. But that wasn't unusual with characters that weren't American (not sure what the excuse for Rick Jones was).


Killdumpster said...

Rick Jones was originally created for us to "identify" with, Sean. Normal human kid who gets to hang with, or get involved with the adventures of our heroes.

He was like Jimmy Olsen on overdrive, and not as silly.

I understand he's the whipping boy on this site, and that's ok.

You have to admit, Rick makes a good topic for fun banter.

Killdumpster said...

Hell, the Avengers were going to make him a full member, but Cap voted him down because of his "Bucky issues".

Killdumpster said...

Like it or not, oh my brothers, Rick Jones was a pivitoble character in the building of the Marvel universe.

Redartz said...

January, 1970; for many of us the first opportunity to experience the change in a decade. Particularly trying to remember not to write "1960-someting" on your homework papers.

I had none of those comics at the time, but picked up several many years later as a collector. Aaaaand, none of them really stand out in memory.

Thanks all for the lesson in the British monetary system! Once upon a time, I sent for one of those 'coin grab bag' offers in the back of a comic book. Hoping for a gold coin or a priceless rarity, I got a half penny coin (one of those exotic "foriegn coins" they advertised). Had no clue what it was , but knew there was a queen on the obverse and a ship on the reverse. And wondered how useful it was, as a half cent in the US would be essentially worthless...

TC said...

IIUC, the Defenders fought Scorpio and a revived/revised Zodiac in the mid-1970s. I'm still vague as to whether it was Jake Fury, an LMD, a clone, or just some other villain who used the same code name.

Anonymous said...

Scorpio first showed up in Strange Tales in the late '60's. At that time Strange Tales was a double feature, with Nick Fury agent of Shield and Doc Strange.
I dunno if Scorpio was meant to be Jake Fury originally, because Jake himself didn't show up till later in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which was set during W.W. 2. In that comic he was portrayed as Nick Fury's punk-ass younger brother, who thought fighting in a war was for saps. Nick got him straightened out, so to speak, and he enlisted. A decision he later lamented.
I don't think they established that Jake was Scorpio until he and the Zodiac showed up in the Avengers.
Dave Kraft unearthed Jacob Fury/Scorpio in the Defenders as a complicated character study of an aging super-villain and failure who, full of boiling resentment, stakes everything on an insane plan to change the world with a new L.M.D. Zodiac.
Then the Hulk shows up, along with several other Defenders and Moon Knight. You can guess how it goes from there. Jake retreats to his last refuge, realizes the futility of his life and the choices he's made, puts on a Judy Garland record and blows his brains out.
He was not a very interesting character until Kraft got a hold of him. Kraft made him into a tragic figure who the reader can't help but pity or even identify with, an object lesson in how unchecked lunacy and anger can destroy a person from the inside, even if their intentions aren't wholly bad.


Killdumpster said...

Yep, MP, I actually have semi-recollection of the Scorpio/Defenders strory arc. I believe Wonder Man was somewhere in the mix.

Redartz, while I loved getting stuff in the mail in the 60's and early seventies, I didn't fall for the "bag o' coins" con.

I did fall for the "Put On Your Own Spook Show" kits a couple of times. One had a '45 record of sound effects & instructions for fear. I was usually disappointed, as raising $1 + 25 cents postage & handling took some effort. Lol.

It's wild that the stuff I ordered from Honor House (life-sized Frankenstein, atomic sub) are collectable now. Just like everything else from our childhood.

Anonymous said...

I read a couple issues of that Scorpio arc in the Defenders when I was maybe nine or ten years old, and for some reason I was firmly struck by it. It wasn't like any comic book I had read.
It sticks with me now because Jake Fury was obsessed by his own age, which was 52, and his need to salvage something from his own life.
I'll be 52 this year, and I'm having similar thoughts. Loss, regrets, the lateness of the hour and the need to run really, really fast to try and catch up. All that happy middle-age bullshit.
Scorpio might have been a maniac, but his assessment of the struggle of the individual in a rigged system were spot-on.
He had a point.


Anonymous said...

What do you want to move faster for M.P.?
I used to think it was a good idea to live fast and leave a beautiful corpse (well, ok, live fast - the second part was never really an option), but now in my fifties taking longer to get to the finishing line has a lot of appeal.
Sure, you have to be more of a boring git, but a bit less fun seems worth the trade-off for more days above ground.

Steranko never revealed who Scorpio was, so thats that as far as I'm concerned - its a mystery.


Anonymous said...

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

-Robert Browning


Anonymous said...

"In heaven, all the interesting people are missing."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

-sean (not that I believe in heaven anyway)

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Having grown up a few miles down the road from the Jackson's, and being but a few years younger than the MJ, he was "the biggest deal" for us.

We all wondered and admired aloud how he didn't have to go to school, touring the US of A and all.

In hindsight, I've wondered many times if the kid ever did get any schooling to speak of. Perhaps not much at all, which may explain a lot. None of his older brothers were as half baked as he was IIRC but they all had more public schooling, such as it was, in his part of Gary Indiana.

Anonymous said...

Redartz, I own one of those half-penny coins you mentioned with the Queen on one side and a ship on the other! My coin is dated 1967 which, I think, was the final year those old Imperial half-penny coins were produced.

I remember my mother telling me that she'd been worried she wouldn't understand the "new money" - in fact, she understood it easily and she admitted she wouldn't want the old money back. Not even the Brexit crackpots want to bring back the Imperial currency...yet.

Redartz said...

MP- A few middle age ruminations. They are hitting me heavy this year; over New Year's my wife reminded me that I turn 60 this year (gee, thanks). Yes, just another year, but there seems a big mental leap between 59 and 60. Ah well, I'll echo Sean- slowing down a bit and taking life day by day. And keeping mentally and physically active, which never seems to be a problem...

Colin- that coin was pretty attractive, IIRC. Nice looking coin! But I still wonder what you could get for half a penny...

Steve W. said...

Red, I've taken my life in my hands and attempted to do some maths. Using the Bank of England's inflation calculator and the online Currency Converter, I've worked out that a UK half penny in 1970 would be worth the equivalent, today, of 25 cents. So, if you can find anything that can be bought for 25 cents nowadays then, in 1970, it may have been possibly to get it for one UK half penny.

Steve W. said...

In other news, I've now seen part 2 of the BBC's Dracula adaptation. I found it very enjoyable. I'm such a saddo that the most exciting moment in it for me was spotting that the elderly Duchess on the ship was Catherine Schell from Space:1999.

McSCOTTY said...

I only realised from this list that 1970 was a pivotal year re US comics for me Steve Issue 80 of ASM was my first ever US Spidey comic (I of course read his stories in POW and Alan Class reprints prior to that) and Captain America 121 was my first US issue of his comic as well. I also remember writing 1970 in the hand drawn margin of my primary school jotter with crystal clarity, 50 years ago!!! yikes

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose value is why even the "new" decimal half penny was eventually discontinued, because it became pointless. Which brings me back to the question of why theres still a 2p coin - thanks to inflation its basically the modern half p.
1p might not buy you anything, but at least it has a purpose, to give you change from 99p.
(Some might suggest getting rid of the penny too, and just charging £1 instead. But thats far too logical for the Brits)

Thanks a lot Redartz. I noticed quite a change soon after turning 50, unlike going from my thirties to forties you're saying that kind of thing happens again at 60!?!
I thought it would be gradual decline from now on. Bollocks.


Anonymous said...

Colin, Brexiters might not want the return of old money, but a lot of them are in favour of pre-metric weights and measures, which are just as awkward.
Although of course they're (at least partly) still in use. Its an odd state of affairs when you think about it, to have two systems at the same time.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I want to personally thank Peter Quill’s, aka Star Lord’s, earthly momma Meredith Quill for recording The J5’s “I want you back” into the Musical Cannon of the MCU! “Awesome Mix Vol 1” from Guardians of the Galaxy!

Steve – just out of curiosity was this song really #1 at this time in the UK or were you wondering if one of us would find the UK connection, i.e., Laura Haddock is from London? All 5’8” of her you sly one, you!

Steve W. said...

Charlie, I Want You Back was Number One in America. In Britain, it peaked at Number Two.

Steve W. said...

McScotty, sadly I didn't have any of the above comics. I think that, at this point, I was still totally unaware of Marvel's existence.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Redartz - thanks for reminding me I'm getting older! Not! LOL!

I was hopeful to be as Steve's hometown Sheffield... "forever caught between the past the and the future.

Anonymous said...


Hang in there, Red. We're all in this soup together.


Anonymous said...

Steve, the 'Radio Times' Christmas double-issue mentioned that Catherine Schell would be playing an elderly aristocrat in Dracula so I watched out for her. Would I have realized who it was if I hadn't been told in advance? Probably I'd have thought: "Who's she? I know her from somewhere" :D

Sean, it'll be interesting to see if the Brexiteers really try to bring back the old weights and measures. Reality will soon start catching up with this ridiculous nationalistic fantasy.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Would you believe that Don Heck drew the 1st appearance of Sunfire in Xmen #64! He was helped greatly by Tom Palmers inking but I liked the issue much more than the next issue by Adams which was heavily'fixed'by various bullpen staff at the time.

Steve W. said...

Colin, I didn't recognise her until she opened her mouth. That voice is instantly recognisable.

Fantastic Four Follower, I always find Don very unpredictable. Some of his work is effortlessly stylish and some is just a total mess.

Fantastic Four follower said...

That months issues were brilliant to me as a child but it is hard to be objective as every Marvel comic up to 1974 were fantastic and I found no fault with any Marvel in that time period. Looking back I still love FF #94, Kirbys last memorable issue with the exception of #100, before he left. Cap #121 remains a favourite but I appreciate the artwork more than I did then. Similarly with DD #60 the story seems weak whereas at the time it was a big mystery. Avengers #72 was part of The Roy Thomas run that produced hit after hit(#66-88) and,let's keep this between ourselves, I never really cared for the Kree/Skull war but I understand why everybody else loves it! The Thor issue is another personal favourite with a cover that seemed to be promoted or advertised in every single Marvel comic that month.Kirby was in his prime and looking back the stories were winding down but for me they were never better. Nostalgia does that to you. Spiderman was another title that at the time seemed 10 out of 10 every issue but looking back from 50 years later(unbelievable) it is very easy to pick out the average issues from the classics! The Kangaroo issue #81 does not hold up yet the very next issue #82(Electro) is a classic, in my opinion. Remembering buying these comics off the comic rack in Belfast and life was great!!

Fantastic Four follower said...

Steve:You are spot on. Harlan Ellison described him as the worst artist in Comics, which he wasn't, but he declined quite rapidly from his glory days but then so did the very best, Kirby and Ditko!

Dougie said...

The X-Men, Avengers and FF were all a big deal to me. Heck and Tom Palmer really don't jar after Adams and Palmer. I always liked the Zodiac too.