Thursday 29 April 2021

April 29th, 1981 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Yet again, the day of the week is named after Thor. And that can only mean it's time for me to investigate what Marvel UK was doing, 40 years ago, and pray I can manage to summon up at least some clue about it all.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #425

Spidey has to fight a bunch of samurais, which you wouldn't have thought would be much of a challenge for a man of his talents.

I'm sure, though, that he'll make a right old meal of it before triumphing.

We also get rip-roaring, rollicking action from the Daughters of the Dragon, the Hulk and Dragon-Lord. All I can say is that someone at Marvel UK is obsessed with dragons, right now.

Presumably, Bruce Banner, Dr Phobos and the Soviet Super-Soldiers are still confronting the menace of The Presence.

Captain America #10, Mr Hyde, Marve UK

Captain America's finally on the oil tanker that's threatening New York - and confronting Mr Hyde who's threatening him.

Then again, it's not much of a confrontation. From what I recall, Mr Hyde knocks him out with remarkable ease.

Tragically, I can shed no light upon just what Iron Man, the Dazzler and Defenders are up to, other than to guess that Tony Stark's still trying to get the better of Justin Hammer and his armour-sabotaging tricks.

Marvel Action #5, Dr Strange and Dormammu

This week's Marvel Action wonders what would have happened had Dr Strange become Dormammu's disciple.

Presumably, the world would have been doomed, as there'd have been no one to protect it from Strange. Frankly, I can't imagine either the Ancient One or Mordo managing to stop him.

Maybe Dr Doom would have stepped in to do something about it, as he'd probably be the Earth's leading practitioner of sorcery who's not working for Dormammu.

Where's Agatha Harkness' phone number when you need it?

Thor and the Fantastic Four are also up to things but I don't know what.

However, I would assume the thunder god's still facing the Grey Gargoyle and his piratical space crew of animal men.

Future Tense and Valour #26, Conan the Barbarian

In a majestic moment of triumph for this blog, I know even less about the contents of this week's Valour and Future Tense than I do the other Marvel UK books.

But, from that cover, I'm assuming we're getting the tale where Conan finds himself battling a city of vertically-challenged people who worship a vertically liberated bear.

Can Conan possibly stop small people and huge bears?

Of course he can.

Apparently, we also get elves and Star Trek this issue but I could not claim to be able to shed any light upon them.

Is ROM in this one? I'm assuming he is.

Sunday 25 April 2021

2000 AD - March 1983.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Some things in this world were invented well before they should have been. The fax machine, for instance, was invented way back in 1843.

Another perfect example is the 3D printer which some of us always regard as the living embodiment of cutting-edge technology. But, in fact, the 3D printer was invented in the dim and distant days of March 1983 by a man with the distinctly uninventory name of Chuck Hull.

I am assuming he wasn't a relative of Rod.

Whether he was or not, he clearly deserves a round of applause for his ingenuity. I don't have a clue just how a 1983 3D printer would even work. I'm just hoping it wasn't relying on the 1980s miracle that was the dot matrix.

Nothing quite so futuristic was occurring in the cinema, that month, which saw the release of two notable films, in The Thorn Birds and Monty Python's Meaning of Life.

I must admit, I'd always been under the impression The Thorn Birds was a TV mini-series, so it shows how much I know. And I must confess to never having seen The Meaning of Life either. Fair play to me, though, I was, at least, aware it's not a mini-series.

But what of the music charts?

The UK album chart saw U2 top of the pack, at the month's outset, thanks to their LP War. However, a week later, it was deposed by Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Knowing, as we do, that the album went on to become the best-selling album of all time, we could be forgiven for thinking that, having hit the top spot, it stayed there for months.

In fact, it stayed there for just one week before being clobbered by Tears for Fears' The Hurting. However, that too had to make way, just seven days later, when it was KO'd by Pink Floyd's The Final Cut. There's no getting round it, that month's album chart was all action.

The UK singles chart, that March, was mostly dominated by Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart, which seems topical, given the death of Jim Steinman, just the other day. But, right at the end of the month, even Bonnie's leathery lungs had to submit to the chart powerhouse that was Duran Duran who grabbed the Number One perch with Is There Something I Should Know? 

I could not say what Duran Duran should or shouldn't know but I can confess there's something I should know.

And that's what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to at the time.

Obviously, I don't know.

I am aware, however, that Tharg's Time Twisters, Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Robo-Hunter and Harry Twenty on the High Rock all featured, that month.

Perhaps more intriguingly, we got the start of a brand new Alan Moore series called Skizz. Even though I must have read it, I've no memory of it. Nor do I have a clue what it was about.

Speaking of new series, we also got the start of a storyline called Invasion of the Thrill Snatchers, starring Tharg. I don't have a clue what that was about. Could it be that we got to see the enigmatic alien editor indulging in super-heroics?

Also worthy of note is the fact that we got the final pages of the miniature reprint of the first-ever issue.

2000 AD prog 306, Sam Slade

2000 AD prog 307, Judge Dredd

2000 AD prog 308

2000 AD prog 309

Thursday 22 April 2021

April 22nd, 1981 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Have you ever wanted to steamroller your way across No Man's Land, acting like nothing's an obstacle?

If so, this night in 1981 was your kind of night. For it was the evening BBC Two gave us a documentary bearing the unlikely title Arrival of the Water Carrier for Mesopotamia which detailed the story of the invention of the tank and its initial deployment in World War One.

The title was, of course, a reference to the fact the secret of the tank's development was preserved by contemporary government documents referring to it as a water carrier for Mesopotamia.

I do remember watching that documentary. I'm pretty sure it features an anecdote about how the army top brass were unconvinced such a device had any practical use and decided to prove it by having it fight men on horseback, convinced the cavalry would win.

I think you can guess how well that battle went for the cavalry.

Fighting a rather less futile fight was Steve Davis who, this week in 1981, won the World Snooker Championship for the first time. He would go on to win the competition six times in total and, along the way, earn himself the nickname Steve "Interesting" Davis.

Surely, no man could want a finer nickname.

Marvel Action #4, Thor vs the Grey Gargoyle

It's all go for Thor in his spaceborne search for Odin. First, he had to contend with the Stone Men from Saturn. Then, he had to thwart Sporr the giant amoeba. Now, he has to deal with the Grey Gargoyle who, by some means I'm not familiar with, is now in charge of a spaceship crewed by talking animals.

Whatever's going on, it can only be bad news for the thunderer.

I suspect, though, that it'll turn out to be even worse news for the Gargoyle.

Sadly, the activities of the Fantastic Four and Dr Strange, this issue, are not known to me.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #424, the Presence

This week sees the start of a brand new strip which goes by the name Dragon Lord. I'm not sure if I'm familiar with the strip but I suspect, from the title, that it's a Fantasy series, of the sort that wouldn't appeal to me.

Elsewhere, Spider-Man's up against The Smuggler who I think I remember being the original Power Man. It's a tale that leads Spidey to a restaurant on a Japanese ship, with the threat of deadly samurais showing up at any moment.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Professor Phobos is telling Bruce Banner the origin of the Soviet Super-Soldiers.

Captain America #9, Iron Man

Iron Man may be on the cover but it's still Captain America's book and, in his tale, Cap's about to encounter Mr Hyde and Batroc's plot to blackmail New York, with the aid of an oil tanker.

Iron Man finally has his big confrontation with Justin Hammer who, earlier, took remote control of the golden Avenger's armour, in order to kill some foreign dignitary. An act that saw Shellhead accused of murder.

It would appear the Fantastic Four are in the Dazzler's strip. I don't know if this indicates the Enchantress storyline is still going.

Future Tense and Valour #25, Star Trek

Robot insects have kidnapped Mr Spock, in the hope he can help them see-off an attack by a bunch of threatening aliens. And, now, Kirk and his mates are out to rescue him.

This is the limit of my knowledge about this issue, other than that ROM, Conan and the Micronauts are in it.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Marvel UK Collector's Editions 1981.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

As all regular readers know, I have a feature where I look back at what Marvel UK was up to, forty years ago this week.

However, in 1981, the imprint unleashed several collector's editions which weren't tied to any particular month or week.

As I don't have a clue when, exactly, they came out, I've decided to give them a post of their very own.

And this is that.

Captain America Collector's Edition, 1981, Marvel UK

It's a book that's truly worth having, as it reprints the whole of Jaunty Jim Steranko's, admittedly, short run on America's fightingest national treasure.

Cap gains a new Bucky, in Rick Jones, gets "killed" by Hydra and then gatecrashes his own funeral to give that criminal gang the smack in the teeth it's asking for.

It is, of course, the storyline which gave us our first taste of Madame Hydra and, no doubt, set the world asking, "Who'd win a fight between Madame Hydra and Madame Masque?"

I think we all know the answer to that one.

Actually, looking into it, it seems Madame Hydra made her first appearance eight months before Madame Masque. So, people probably weren't asking that.

Then again, Whitney Frost made her first appearance exactly a year before Madame Hydra but hadn't yet adopted her Madame Masque identity.

X-Men Collector's Edition, 1981, Marvel UK

Just as we get a big slab of Steranko from the Captain America collector's edition, we get a healthy chunk of Neal Adams from this one.

First, the titanic teens have to deal with the Living Pharaoh turning himself into the Living Monolith and then they must stop the Sentinels from merrily rounding up all the world's mutants.

How can even the X-Men possibly hope to defeat such menaces?

But it does seem to me that the Living Pharaoh/Living Monolith's far too keen on letting everyone know he's alive, as though he thinks it's a major achievement. I mean, I'm alive but you don't hear me calling myself The Living Steve.

Superman and Spider-Man Collector's Edition, 1981, Marvel UK

It's a tale I've never read, as Superman and Spider-Man meet for the second time.

On this occasion, they take on the mind-numbing threat of Dr Doom and the Parasite.

Surely, this is too much to ask of even Marvel and DC's totemic heroes.

But I must confess I don't know too much of what happens in this one, other than that it's drawn by John Buscema, written by Jim Shooter and also features Superman vs the Hulk and Spider-Man vs Wonder Woman.

I don't know if it's any good but it certainly sounds like it's giving us plenty for our money.

Thursday 15 April 2021

April 15th, 1981 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

I could claim I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

But I wouldn't. That sounds like far too much work.

Instead, I'll just try to teach the world how to make Coca-Cola.

In fact, I can't be bothered to do that either.

However, on this day in 1981, someone had clearly taught the Chinese how to do it because it was right then that that nation's first Coca-Cola plant opened. Could it be the People's Republic's industrial revolution of the past 40 years was kick-started by that move?

Who can know?

An economist can.

I'm not an economist.

Therefore, I do not know.

I do, however, know that week's UK singles chart was topped by Bucks Fizz's Making Your Mind Up, giving the frisky quartet the first of their three British Number Ones.

On the UK album chart, drama was not to be found, as Kings of the Wild Frontier held on to the top spot that now seemed to have been its for an eternity.

Marvel Action #3, Thor

Thor finally defeats Sporr the giant amoeba, thus rescuing Sif from its tentacular clutches.

Dr Strange and Clea are hanging around with a woman called Sibylla but I don't have a clue why.

The Fantastic Four are probably still battling those space parasites that give you super-powers and revert you to a prehistoric state.

And we get a free sticker with this issue, which seems to feature Thor throwing his mighty hammer.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #423, with Team-Up, Wonder Man

Is that one of those Dreadnought things that're always giving SHIELD bother?

If so, it looks like, this time, it's Wonder Man handing out the bother - and it's the dreadnoughts who're on the receiving end!

Elsewhere, Spider-Man's invading the base of Gideon Mace, looking to avenge the near-murder of the White Tiger who announces his retirement from super-heroing, at the end of the tale.

And I would assume the Hulk's still having to contend with The Presence, the Soviet Super-Soldiers, the Red Guardian and Glenn Talbot.

Captain America #8

Hooray! Not only do we get the long-awaited retelling of Captain America's origin but Batroc breaks Mr Hyde out of prison, so they can team up and cause nothing but nightmares for the city of New York!

I'm afraid I can shed no light upon the happenings in this week's Defenders, Dazzler and Iron Man stories.

I suspect not much has changed since last week's issue, though.

Which means we're probably getting Hela's war on Asgard, every super-hero in New York tackling the Enchantress' army of reprobates, and Firebrand trying to get the better of Iron Man.

Future Tense and Valour #24, ROM vs the X-Men

What's this? ROM finds himself up against the might of the X-Men?

Surely, even the ever-spirited space knight can't hope to defeat foes that powerful.

Or can he?

All I know of the rest of this issue is the Micronauts must confront the return of Baron Karza, presumably because the writers got tired of pitting them against such giants of comic book villainy as Plantman.

Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1981.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

It's not every day you're walking past a lake and there's a hand sticking up out of it, holding up a sword.

In fact, unless you're King Arthur, it's not any day.

However, that realisation does bring me to look at the cinematic releases which April 1981 unfurled upon us.

Of course, I can only be referring to the fact that one of those films was John Boorman's Excalibur. How I remember all that clanky, shiny armour. How little I recall of the rest of the film.

But it wasn't alone. For, that month also brought us such celebrated movies as The Howling and Atlantic City

I've seen all three films but none of them recently enough to have a strong opinion of them. Of the three, I think I enjoyed Atlantic City the most but I could be wrong.

Two films, released in April 1981, which I've definitely not seen are Going Ape! and Ringo Starr's Caveman.

Exactly what Going Ape! involves, I've no idea but I mention it purely because I feel such a title deserves recognition and, you never know, others who visit this site may have heard of it and have it on their list of favourite films of all time.

The Defenders #94, Hellcat

It looks like it's all action for the Defenders, as they answer a distress call, only to discover Hellcat's been possessed by someone called Avarrish who I would assume to be a demon.

My vast intellect detects that "Avarrish" is probably a play on the word "avarice." I, therefore, assume, that greed must be his or her big thing.

Epic Illustrated #5

The Brothers Hildebrandt supply us with a cover while the inside offers adventures for the likes of Almuric and Dreadstar.

For some reason, Judo Jim Starlin's billed as James P Starlin in this issue. I hope he's not starting to succumb to Barry Windsor Smith Syndrome

We also get an interview with those sibling cover artists, as well as various samples of their work.

Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu #99, Death Boat

It's ages since this site acknowledged the existence of Shang-Chi, and this seems as good a time as any to put that right, as Fu Manchu's son finds himself just one issue short of his century. This strikes me as a remarkable feat for a comic launched purely to cash in on an early 1970s craze.

Sadly, I don't have a clue what happens inside the book but have no doubt it'll be as stylish as ever.

Spider-Woman #37

Speaking of comics that have lasted longer than I would have expected, Spider-Woman hits her 37th issue - and still has a few left in her yet.

But that's an intriguing cover. It seems to involve a female version of the Banshee.

Not to mention the return of the Juggernaut.

It also features Nick Fury but I'm not so intrigued by that.

My in-depth research suggests the female version of Banshee is called Syrin and is the niece of Black Tom Cassidy who's involved in a plot to steal a load of vibranium.

What If? #26, Captain America had been elected president

Marie Severin's cover makes it clear what this issue's main subject is.

I haven't read the tale but am sure that, if Cap became president, he'd probably end up having to quit on some matter of principle or other.

The back-up tale asks what would have happened if the Man-Thing had retained Ted Sallis' brain.

I would assume the strip would just have been identical to Swamp Thing.

But I do know the tale includes a character called Bendix.

But wait. What? Isn't that the name of a washing machine manufacturer?

We also get a 6-page tale dealing with the history of the Eternals, which seems to involve a fair bit of Kree action; no doubt making them seem even more like the Inhumans than ever.

Ka-Zar the Savage #1

It's exciting news for us all, as Ka-Zar gets a brand new series of his own.

Admittedly, it's not quite his own, as he has to share it with Shanna the She-Devil.

Tragically, I know not what happens in the story itself.

But I'll be gobsmacked if dinosaurs aren't involved.

Marvel Premiere #59, Doctor Who

Doctor Who continues to, no doubt, hit it out of the ballpark in the pages of Marvel Premiere.

I don't have a clue what's going on on that cover but I do know the issue's main story's called City of the Cursed which sounds like the kind of place you don't want to visit.

There's also a Werewolf by Night tale called Full Moon on the Highway.

I'm not sure Werewolf by Night is an obvious bedfellow for Doctor Who but there you go. I'm sure Marvel knows what it's doing.

Sunday 11 April 2021

Forty years ago today - April 1981.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Once more, my time portal flies open!

Once more, I must leap, face-first, into it!

Avengers #206

It's life or death drama, as Pyron the Thermal Man runs riot on the streets of New York, incinerating everything in his path.

The Human Torch can't handle him.

The Avengers can't handle him.

Nothing can handle him.

Well, that's not strictly true. In fact, if memory serves me right, the Wasp can handle him.

And she does.

I've a feeling this tale's drawn by Gene Colan. If so, it's nice to see him back on the strip after a very lengthy absence.

It's also striking to see the Avengers seeming so out of their depth.

Captain America #256, the Ghosts of Greymoor Castle

Remember that English castle Cap and Bucky visited in World War Two? The one that belonged to the posh brother and sister who were working for the Nazis? The one whose intrigues almost led to the two heroes being put in a rocket and fired at Churchill?

Cap does and, for some reason I can't recall, he's back there, in the modern era.

And it's haunted!

Except it's not. Its once-treasonous owner's taken to clanking around in it, in a suit of armour, in an attempt to apprehend a ghost who turns out to be the Demon Druid on the hunt for hidden treasure.

Needless to say, it's not long before the druid is soundly defeated.

And he'd have got away with it too, if not for that pesky super-hero.

Fantastic Four #229

It's a very odd tale in which a giant human black hole shows up in New York and causes no end of mischief.

The Fantastic Four seem to be as out of their depth in this tale as the Avengers are in theirs.

What with him and Pyron, New York's not having a happy time of it, this month.

Iron Man #145

From what I can recall, a rival industrialist to Tony Stark decides to create battle suits for his employees, in order that they can defeat Iron Man and be a great advert for his business.

Iron Man soon sorts them out and sends that industrialist to the jail cell he belongs in.

Amazing Spider-Man #215, Llyra and the Sub-Mariner

Spider-Man finally discovers the truth, that the hot neighbour he's dumped Debbie Whitman for is, in fact, the evil Llyra.

And she never liked him at all!

And it gets even worse because, thanks to the Wizard's technology, she and the Frightful Four have transferred his spider-sense to Namor, which leaves both he and Subby distinctly out-of-whack.

Spectacular Spider-Man #53, the Terrible Tinkerer

The terrible Tinkerer makes his senses-shattering return.

And he's not alone - because his fun-filled lackey Toy's back, and stronger than ever.

To no one's surprise, except Spider-Man's, it turns out Toy's just a robot. This comes to light when Spidey wrecks him, which makes the Tinkerer sad, as Toy was his only friend.

Wait. What? His only friend? What about those aliens in his cellar? Did they mean nothing to him?

Incredible Hulk #258, The Soviet Super-Soldiers

This all seems strangely familiar.

The Hulk shows up in Afghanistan, fights some Russian invaders and ends up in Siberia whereupon he blunders into the schemes of The Presence, as well as the Soviet Super-Soldiers' attempt to save the world.

Oh, and Glenn Talbot shows up, as well, in a big, flying tank-thing because a story can never have too many events going on at once.

Thor #306, Firelord

After learning of Gabriel's "death" at the hands of Thor, Firelord sets out to avenge the murder of his friend, refusing to accept he was just a robot and had been asking for it anyway.

It is, thus, that we learn the origin of both Gabriel and Firelord and of how they came to be Galactus' heralds.

Basically, they were Captain Kirk and Mister Spock and bumped into Galactus who turned them into his heralds.

X-Men #144

It's the Everglades, and Cyclops finds himself in solo action against D'Spayre and his morale-destroying illusions.

Of course, any attempt to make the world's stiffest hero give in to despair's going to be a short-lived one.

Also inevitably, the Man-Thing shows up because that's what the Everglades are for.

Conan the barbarian #121

My memories of this are a little vague but I think Conan rescues a sizzling sexpot who turns out to be a goddess who owns a flying city filled with apemen she's turned into proper humans.

At first, Conan likes the cut of her jib but it's not long before he decides a good decapitation'll improve her attitude, no end.

Thursday 8 April 2021

April 8th, 1981 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

This week in 1981 was a bad time for people who don't exist.

That's because it was the week in which all the people who do exist got to do the UK census, leaving the nonexistent people feeling well and truly left out.

Still, they could at least take comfort in watching Bucks Fizz win that year's Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, thanks to that band's imperishable tune Making Your Mind Up.

The Fizz went on to make better records - and I'll fight to the death anyone who says they didn't - but nothing would ever embed them in the consciousness of the peoples of Europe in quite the way that track did. 

Marvel Action #2, Thor

It's the biology-defying return of Sporr, the giant, killer amoeba who now has designs on Sif!

I'm somewhat confused, though. Wasn't Sporr originally created by a Frankenstein-like scientist on Earth? Just how did it get into space, in order that it could pick a fight with Thor?

Back on Earth, the Fantastic Four are still having to deal with the space parasites that revert their hosts back to a prehistoric but super-powered state.

I cannot comment on what Dr Strange is up to. Not because I'm sworn to secrecy but because I don't know.

But I do know we get a free super-hero sticker!

As far as I can make out, the one you get is either going to feature the thunder god or the sorcerer supreme.

Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly #422, Team-Up

It is clear to me that the Hulk's still in Siberia and still being bothered by the Soviet Super-Soldiers when he most needs to be bothered about the Presence who's, once more, in danger of unleashing nuclear disaster upon the world.
On a slightly smaller scale, Spider-Man's out to get Mace and his gang, following their multiple puncturing of the White Tiger.

Apparently, Wonder Man's in solo action but I know nothing of that.

And Spidey's teaming up with The Shroud. Does that mean it's the story where they tackle Tatterdemalion or whatever he's called?

Captain America #7, the Defenders

By the looks of it, the Defenders are still rampaging around Asgard and, presumably, trying to foil Hela's plans for conquest.

Captain America's still up against The Guy Named Joe who's still out for revenge on the system, following the death of his son.

Firebrand's kidnapped Tony Stark in an attempt to lure Iron Man into a trap. This is an old George Tuska drawn story which long predates the stories Marvel UK's been running lately. I'm sure that won't lead to reader confusion.

In the Dazzler's strip, just about every super-hero in town's tackling the Enchantress' army of disco-wrecking wrongdoers, meaning the Dazzler can probably just go home and leave them to it.

Future Tense and Valour #23, Nick Fury and SHIELD

The Micronauts blunder into SHIELD's war with Hydra.

I can give no information as to what's happening in the worlds of Conan, ROM or Star Trek.

I can't help feeling this post's somewhat petered out.

Still, never mind. I feel petering out is a unique feature of this blog. One that helps it stay ahead of the pack and maintain its legendary status.