Thursday, 2 January 2020

January 2nd, 1980 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Have you ever been stuck on a train with a mummified caveman who's been possessed by an alien, while a Rasputin lookalike blunders around being weird?

If so, this night in 1980 must have felt like they'd made a movie of your life because that was when BBC One had the good sense to broadcast the magnificent madness of Horror Express, surely the greatest faux Hammer film of them all.

That's right. That means it's even better than The Creeping Flesh and The Blood Beast Terror.

How we gasped as Christopher Lee played a good guy, Peter Cushing played someone else, and Telly Savalas played a Cossack captain determined to completely take over the movie, despite only showing up halfway through it.

But it's time now to climb into our own Horror Express and ride it into the Dark Tunnel of Nostalgia, to see what other triumphs were dwelling within that fateful week.

Star Wars Weekly #97

I've not the slightest idea what happens in this issue's Star Wars tale but I'm working on the assumption that Han and Chewie still have an unconscious Wookie in their cargo hold.

Why they have it, I cannot say.

How they dispose of it, I also cannot say.

Whisper it quietly but I think the Guardians of the Galaxy may have finally defeated the Reavers of Arcturus and are now getting a bit of rest and recuperation.

Deathlok, on the other hand, is in no such mood for relaxation. He's in a right old mood.

And that mood gets even worse when he stumbles across a copy of Frankenstein in an abandoned library and takes it personally.

Which tale the Watcher's telling us this week is unknown to me but I'm sure its moral will well serve all who read it.

Hulk Comic #44, the Goldbug

The Hulk and Goldbug arrive in El Dorado, unsuspecting of the sinister scheme which has been hatching there.

Ant-Man finally manages to stop the Wasp being homicidal - but they're still stuck at insect size!

We're getting yet more backstory about Captain Britain and the Black Knight.

The female Defenders are still trying to tame the Red Rajah.

The Silver Surfer's in the realm of Mephisto and resisting all offers and temptations his diabolical host can throw at him.

Starburst Magazine #17, Star Trek

Britain's leading sic-fi mag's taking what appears to be a major look at the new Star Trek film which is packing cinemas across the globe.

It looks like we'll also be getting some coverage of Dark Star, which is always a thing to appreciate. After seeing that film, beach balls were never the same again, for me.

Rampage Monthly #19, the Hulk

I've no recollection of the Gamma Monster the Hulk has to face this month and I'm not sure what the connection is between it and a Frankenstein-themed cover.

I do, of course, recollect the X-Men tale, in which, having crashed a space shuttle, Jean Grey bursts out of the sea, as Phoenix, and the X-Men promptly go on holiday to Ireland, causing some serious leprechaun action of the inevitable kind.

I don't have a clue what Phaseworld is or why it dies or why Dr Strange is mixed up in it all.

Marvel Superheroes #357, Avengers vs Champions

Typhon decides to get revenge on Hercules by kidnapping the Beast in order to force Iron Man to fight Hercules.

Doesn't this just mean the villain's now going to have to contend with Hercules, Iron Man and the Beast? Doesn't this make him worse off than he was in the first place?

Speaking of being badly off, the X-Men are in a bind. They've been ordered to disband, by the FBI, but they have to undisband when an evil force starts summoning all mutants to converge in one place for unknown sinister purpose.

Dr Doom's making his millionth attempt to form an alliance with the Sub-Mariner and trying to impress the crown prince of Atlantis with his robots, not suspecting that those selfsame machines are on the brink of turning against him.

We also get an interview in which Jarvis reveals what its like working for the Avengers.

Doctor Who Weekly #12, Daleks

Hooray! There's a Dalek on the front cover!

Granted, it's on fire but I'm sure that'll prove to be a mere minor setback to it in its plans to rule the universe.

Inside, the Doctor's still having trouble with the City of the Damned.

Now that the War of the Worlds adaptation's over, we get the start of an Invisible man adaptation. How big a part did the Invisible Man play in the defeat of the Martians?

Who can know?

Well, HG Wells can but he's not saying.

We also get a picture story about K-9's finest hour.

Presumably, that was on one of the few occasions when he wasn't left behind inside the TARDIS because no one could work out how to get him to work outdoors.

Savage Sword of Conan #27

There's yet more sword and sorcery shenanigans from Britain's Number One receptacle of that genre.

We also get an interview with Boris Vallejo which I suspect would have been my highlight of the issue, if I'd had it.

Spectacular Spider-Man Weekly #356

It's an ever-loving calamity, as Spider-Man has to face the burglar who killed Uncle Ben - without the use of his powers.

Despite the claim on the cover, I'd have thought that, if Spider-Man was ever going to lose his powers before a fight, the best possible time would be for a scrap with the man who killed his Uncle Ben, as he's basically just some bloke.

Anyway, there's an obvious point here. And that's that Peter Parker could simply call the police in and leave it to them, what with the criminal being just some bloke.


Timothy Field said...

Drawing a blank here on these issues, must have had Rampage but don't recall the contents at all.

Steve W. said...

I definitely had the Rampage and Marvel Superheroes. I assume I had the Spider-Man and Hulk weeklies but couldn't swear to it.

Killdumpster said...

Horror Express is better than Blood Beast Terror, but only above Creeping Flesh because of Telly Savalas.

Too bad Telly didn't even attempt a Russian accent, but he still pulled that role off.

Riff Traxx does a good send-up on that film.

dangermash said...

A feature on Dark Star? The Grateful Dead song? No? Oh, it's about the film. I should have worked that out when I heard it was only 83 minutes long.

Anonymous said...

I remember staying up late to watch Horror Express such was the joy of school holidays. Didn't have any of the comics due to moving onto the US titles, as an actual comic shop had opened in Southend which carried both imports and the full range of locally distributed versions. A young Warren Ellis worked in this shop, seven or eight years later. Didn't get buried in snow those holidays, either. Not down south, anyway.

Hope everyone is now fully recovered from their New Years' Eve celebrations. Sean, I am in Oz (Brisbane) and twice replied to your post, seemingly without successful. Probably not unrelated to my morning after head...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

3 weeks in a row and no Who on the cover. What's the point of having our own mag when they have to bury your face between the covers?

Out of curiosity, is Who or any of the other comics, still being sold?

Anonymous said...

Dr Who still comes out Charlie, and is apparently the worlds longest running tv tie-in mag according to the Guinness Book Of Records.

C'mon Steve, I've mentioned Phaseworld in the comments recently - it was the otherworldly setting from that Dr Strange Annual drawn by P. Craig Russell.
The fourth part of the story was in that issue of Rampage; annuals were longer than regular US comics of course, but even so its ridiculous that a done-in-one would be split between that many issues of a monthly. Even the Reavers of Arcturus were seen off by the Guardians of the Galaxy in less time.

Don't get me started on the X-Men and leprechauns...


Anonymous said...

PS I was tempted to make a joke about DW recovering from New Year yet still being in Queensland, but then he's currently enjoying summer and I'm the one stuck on a grey, wet island off the north west coast of Europe, so...

Pretty sure that issue of Starburst was where I first read about Alejandro Jodorowsky, as Dan O'Bannon discussed Dune as well as Dark Star.


Anonymous said...

Oh, nearly forgot... Charlie, as Steve has been somewhat remiss in keeping you up to date on sporting events -


Anonymous said...


Summer is actually the worst time here because you have to avoid the sun as much as possible. This year it's even worse because half the continent seems to have caught fire. For a country in denial about climate change, that's some serious irony...


Anonymous said...

Well, sticking to the shade is a problem that doesn't seem so bad from where I am right now, but point taken.
Even more so with the fires...


Colin Jones said...

I remember buying Rampage and Marvel Superheroes on Christmas Eve 1979 while on the way to a pantomime. I can't remember the name of the panto but I definitely didn't want to spend Christmas Eve sitting through the bloody thing - I was forced to attend but I've never been to another panto since. Perhaps nowadays, being older and more broad-minded, I might enjoy a pantomime :D

It's difficult to feel sorry for Australia's current predicament, considering the Prime-Minister is a climate-change denier who recently won an election (but I realise many Australians didn't vote for him just like most Brits didn't vote for BoJo and his Brexit loons but we're still stuck with him).

Steve, are you watching the BBC's new version of Dracula? Any opinions?

Steve W. said...

Colin, I've not got round to watching the new Dracula yet. I plan to watch it at the weekend. I'll be sure to bore the world with my opinions on it.

Sean and Charlie, I can only apologise for my neglect of the darts - especially as history was made with whatever she's called having beaten a couple of men whose names I can't remember.

Sean, I suspect Phaseworld will remain an eternal mystery to me, no matter how many times It's explained to me.

DW, I hope the fires aren't causing you any major problems. It all looks fairly Apocalyptic, from what we see over here.

KD and Dangermash, thanks for your comments and a happy new year to you and to all commenters and readers.

Killdumpster said...

Oh yeah, I'm juiced for a new BBC Dracula! I'm not so stodgy that I can't appreciate new versions of the classics.

Hopefully there's not as much SJW-overdrive over your way, like here in the US.

If anyone wants to see an incredibly insane mincing vampire, I recommend Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (American title). It's a Paul Naschy film and actually fun, but there's a scene where a vampire dances like a fairy into a graveyard. LOADS of "cape-abuse"! Lol!
Highly recommend.

With a few additions, I'd say Dracula's assessment in the comics of the actors who've portrayed him was spot-on

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - Thanks for the Who info. Well, running 40 years + is quite a record!

Also, thanks for the dart info! It's nice to know that men still rule the world of darts. And I do look forward to Steve's reporting on the matches in April from Sheffield!

KD - I just don't understand what Single Jewish Women have to do with any of this, especially vampires? Help???

Also, I stumbled over a vampire flick called "30 days of night" where vampires attack this town in way-north Alaska where it is dark for 30 consecutive days in winter time. It says it was based on a true story... not sure what? It was entertaining for the 30 minutes I spent.

Anonymous said...

30 Days of Night woulda been a better movie if they had gotten a couple better lead actors.
The premise was interesting. Danny Houston was a pretty good head vampire.
And yeah, Kojak was great was as a maniacal Kossack officer in Horror Express. That was kinda the most interesting thing about the movie.
Telly was good at playing a villain. He was a good Blofeld, although Donald Pleasance was maybe the best.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

UK Dudes - if you are still awake - I am finally reading your "Comic Scene" #1 from this spring and it says Marvel UK really was pushing Hulk as the #2 character after Spidey.

My question is, "Why?" I ask only because, all things considered, Hulk was an average seller in the US. FF was #2 in the US, followed distantly by Thor, Hulk, DD, Cap, Sgt. Fury, and X-Men (in 1969) at

Why would not Marvel UK market the FF as #2? Or even Thor since you guys had Vikings and Saxons and Engels and all that?

Even in the blog today, up above, we have 2 Hulk mags. You guys just like the Jolly Green Giant I guess?

I'm just asking out of curiosity due to the article I was reading.

Steve W. said...

Charlie, it depends on the era. Once he had a TV show, the Hulk was easily the best-known Marvel character in Britain, so it made sense to use him to push sales.

Having said that, he nearly always hogged the cover of Mighty World of Marvel in the half decade or so preceding the TV show, so why he was given such prominence back then is anybody's guess.

Dougie said...

Colin, I've seen two pantos this season- one in Inverness and one in Ayr. I enjoyed them both and much more than I did when I went to see pantos as a teenager.

Steve, I also watched Horror Express that night- only seen it once, since. Telly is superb.

I bought Rampage, MSH, DW and that SSOC at the height of my Conan obsession.I read the recent Roy Thomas/Alan Davis two-parter on Xmas Day so nothing's changed much.

I'm still processing this week's Dracula. It was all over the place in terms of tone and style.

Colin Jones said...

So far I've watched the first two episodes of Dracula (downloaded from iplayer) and they are better than I'd expected (I love Sister Agatha) but episode 2 ends in a baffling way - the story seems to jump from the 19th century to the 21st century and Sister Agatha is now a cop?? I've just downloaded the final episode so hopefully all will soon be resolved.

On the subject of the Hulk - both my late parents could recognize Spider-Man and the Hulk but they were clueless about any other Marvel characters.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin - I have to say the same! My folks new Spidey and the Hulk... and of course Supes and Bats.

Weird they didn't know the FF, Thor, DD, et al.

BUT - if you look at comic book sales in 1969, the racks were thoroughly dominated by Archie, Supes, and Bats. So, I guess you had to be a "fanboy" to know the other Marvel characters.

FWIW - My dad did read Fawcett's "Don Winslow of the Navy" during WW 2 FWIW. I actually bought a back issue of Don W in the 1970s. My old man saw it and lit up: "I swear I read that thing as a kid, that very one!" It was from 1944 and he would have been 9. (He's still kicking at 85, lol.)

Steve W. said...

I can announce that I've now seen Episode 1 of the BBC's new adaptation of Dracula.

When it began, I did worry it was all going to be too familiar to be interesting but they had the sense to quickly move it into new directions.

I would say it was generally compelling, with a strong lead performance by Claes Bang.

It sagged somewhat at the convent, with the overly protracted initial confrontation between Drac and Agatha but then rallied after that. Tonally, it's riskily uneven, torn between the conflicting desires to be both funny and frightening but, overall, it's an entertaining watch.

Mina's a bit of a drip, Agatha's great. Jonathan's OK.

Steve W. said...

Colin and Dougie, the only panto I've ever seen was in 1968, Dick Whittington, starring Vince Hill. I remember being fascinated by the tail of the woman playing his cat. I think I found both it and her quite sinister.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Oh boy...

I've read the word sinister more times today than perhaps the totality of the past decade.

Once above, and once on the TV at the health club when President Bonespur was speaking and in the subtitles he was saying the Iranians had sinister plans.

My first thought was Bonespur figured the Iranians were teaming up with Simon Bar Sinister (Underdog villain) LOL.

Anonymous said...

Dodgy panto cats and mad American presidents - coincidence, or is there a sinister connection? You decide Charlie!


Anonymous said...

Sean, you guys had Hotspur and we wind up with Bonespur.

...Panto cats! I'd love to use that in conversation at some point, but I think it's gonna be challenging to work it in.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve, Sean, et al!

I didn't have a clue as to what Pantomime was. Nor did my highly cultured wife from France (aren't all French?) in a precise way. So, I youtubed it.

Do me, Charlie, and Sergei the Armenian a solid and check out the link below. Is this an example of what you mean by that? (I picked that link b/c it had the most hits on youtube for that. It's quite interesting and even entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Oh no it isn't, Charlie.

Actually, I didn't check out your clip - I've never been to a pantomime, and I'm not about to willingly watch a bit of one now. They're a weird English thing, like sex comedies that aren't funny and don't have any sex in them. And Brexit.
No wonder the French seem highly cultured in comparison.


Anonymous said...

Correction: it seems that the Scots may also be into panto - well, Dougie says he went to two recently - so... perhaps its British, rather than just English.


Steve W. said...

That clip you linked to was definitely not a Pantomime, Charlie. This, on the other hand, is a Pantomime:

Basically, imagine a Disney cartoon written by Benny Hill.

Sean, something that always struck me was the Xena and Hercules TV shows often had Panto elements in them. For instance, Hercules' sidekick would, from time to time, go under cover, in drag as, "Widow Twanky." I did always wonder who was responsible for the addition of those elements.

Anonymous said...

Having assumed that people were reading too much into some kids show Steve, I was a bit surprised when I finally saw Xena, and it was obvious that any subtext was quite deliberate.

So I can easily believe that the implication of any cross-dressing in Hercules - which I haven't seen - was intentional... but they have drag in America, right? (Which would possibly read as more specifically gay than it does to the Brits...?)


Steve W. said...

Sean, drag certainly exists in America but it was the fact that there were direct references to Panto characters and tropes that fascinated me, given that the intended audience would, presumably, be totally unfamiliar with those Panto characters and tropes.

Anonymous said...

Oh, they actually used terms like "Widow Twanky"? That is odd.
Its easy to picture maybe a British writer being involved, or from elsewhere with that cultural influence (Xena was filmed in New Zealand I think) - but you do have to wonder why the programme makers went along with it.


Dougie said...

I wonder if the Central Belt of Scotland has a particular thing for the cross-dressing, risque nature of Panto? From Rikki Fulton, Stanley Baxter and Jimmy Logan to (in more modern times) the late Gerry Kelly and now Johnny McKnight, whose dame is quite confrontational. I think it's a very specific sensibility. I find the English tradition- and the one I saw in Aberdeen years ago- too crude by comparison. The West of Scotland walks a line with vulgarity but there's an enormous streak of surrealism. In the early 2000s, the Tron in Glasgow was very post-modern and clever, especially the Forbes Masson shows.