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.


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

The previous Cap story set in Greymoor castle was one of the earliest Cap stories in Tales To Astonish: it's in the first and only volume of Cap stories that I have in Marvel Masterworks. I collected all 29 volumes before the series went on hiatus for a few years, after which they produced hundreds more volumes and messed around with all the numbering. So that's wherebI stopped. Anyway, the Cap stories started with 3 or 4 stories set in the 60s before they gave up on that and went back to war stories. This was the last war story before they went back to 60s stories. I remember a splash page in the next issue with Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch sat fawning around Cap telling him how much they enjoyed the story about Greymoor castle and asking f9r more boring war stories. Probably because anything's preferable to origin recaps and mourning Bucky. Some of the WW2 stories in TTA are revised versions of Cap stories that were originally published during the war and it's possible that this is one of them. I would get up to check but the dog's white comfortable sitting on me.

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

And the ASM comic this month is one I feel a strong connection to. It was one of six issues that I took the audience through at an actuarial conference 10-15 years ago where I gave a presentation on what actuaries can learn from the Amazing Spider-Man. I talked about how actuaries have a spider sense that they should listen to and not take for granted - if they had it transferred to someone else they'd soon miss it and the other person would be shocked at what actuaries have to put up with 24 hours a day with that incessant tingling.

I may have just blown my secret identity here. If anyone puts two and two together, I'm going to have to bring Mike back.

Anonymous said...

Dangermash - Do actuaries accidentally bump into other actuaries, and start fighting them? ;)

X-Men - as a one issue stand in for Byrne, Brent Andersen made a good fist of it, in my opinion. A real post-Byrne, 1981 artist.

Hulk - interesting the cover has speech bubbles, whereas the UK one didn't.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie concludes that 40 years ago today, Marvel editors were reading SDC's column called "10 years ago today" to see the covers of the "monster" the FF were fighting around issue 105-106 to come up with the "monster" on FF 229.

Steve - I hope you are well and pleasingly compensated for your contributions to Marveldom!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Good grief.. is that an overgrown Beaver that has Hulk in a full nelson?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

And FWIW... looking at Thor and discussing heralds, Thor became the Herald of Galactus a few months ago.

Thor got pissed at Galactus and basically stripped G of some power so that Galactus could be destroyed by "The Death Plague" or some such thing.

The weird thing is this "Plague" as I call it seems to indicated that "Marvel Zombies" is actually "canonical" or "becoming canonical" in the Marvel Universe.

(Thor and G had teamed up so G could acquire enough power to beat back The Plague, by chowing down on 5 planets but allowing Thor to remove the population first, but then G reneged on their agreement so Thor let him be destroyed by the Plague.)

Anonymous said...

Charlie, le Beaver was a Canadian super-type from Howard the Duck; thats actually the Soviet Super-Soldier Ursa Major hugging the He-Hulk on that cover.
He's Russian, and he can turn into a bear! How do the writers come up with this stuff?

Steve, in Cap #256 iirc the Demon Druid was actually looking for a book of magic - or maybe magick - to make himself more powerful.
The Demon Druid didn't look much like a druid, any more than in an earlier Cap appearance in the mid 70s, when he was simply called the Druid. But at least this time round he was drawn by Gene Colan, rather than Steve Does Comics fave Fr*nk R*bb*ns.
As you'd expect with a story set in a "haunted" castle, Colan did a great job.


Anonymous said...

I love the revelation that dangermash uses Spider-Man comics in actuarial presentations, and look forward to reading about his chess Spider-Gambit in a future comment thread.


Anonymous said...

...Pyron the Thermal Man?! Who came up with that, I wonder.
There was already a guy named Equinox, the Thermodynamic Man, for cryin' out loud. Does this cat have anything to do with the original Thermal Man? He was just your basic doomsday robot running amuck.
Plenty of them around.
You know who was cool? Jude, the Entropic Man.
Nobody could explain very well who this guy was and what he was doing, exactly, but whatever it was he was doing he was doing it with style. I guess that's all we can ask for, in the final analysis.

Charlie, you're saying Thor recently became the herald of Galactus?!I say thee nay!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

m.p. -

THis Thor series was out this past fall, so you might be able to get it on the cheap at the LCBS

QUite seriously, it is really well drawn and a great story even if I can't remember all the details.

Yep - Thor was G's herald.

IIRC, Thor think's Asgard is going to be destroyed by the Black Winter.

Somehow Thor and G make a deal to protect Thor's planet by THor becoming G's herald.

But Galactus needs to eat 5 planets due to their specific rare energies to stop the Black Winter. So there Thor became the herald as long as he could remove the populations first, i.e., prior to consumption.

G got greedy and ate the 5th planet before Thor could remove the population.

As it turns out, the Black Winter was not coming to eat Asgard and actually G was the unwitting herald of the Black Winter.

Frankly, I don't know why G even needed a herald? I mean it's not like he ever tried to save the populations. Did G get his Ya Yas out , or perhaps more calories, eating a terrified population?

Anonymous said...

Quite right M.P. - forget Thor, they should bring back Dazzler as the herald.

Is it just me, or is a winged horse very un-Conan?
We're in the post-Roy Thomas era, right? A winged horse, and for that matter a flying city, seem like the sort of generic fantasy story cliches that a writer without much of an interest in the Howard source material would come up with.
Still, at least there are apemen. They sound more appropriately Hyborian.


Anonymous said...

Sean, I agree with you.
There are no winged horses or floating cities in Hyboria.
Ape-men, giant snakes and spiders, ancient crypts, the undead and the occasional wizard or demon, yeah. They has those.


Anonymous said...

"They have" I meant.
poor typing skills!

Steve W. said...

MP and Sean, isn't there some wizard who has a chariot pulled by flying horses in one of REH's Conan tales? I think he leaps into it at the end of some battle or other.

Charlie, I think Galactus just kept heralds around because he liked the company.

MP, at least they didn't call him Pyrex. From what I can remember, Pyron was some petty crook who accidentally blew himself up and that, somehow, turned him into a walking inferno.

Sean, thanks for the Demon Druid info.

Phillip, I do mourn the loss of that speech bubble.

Dangermash, thanks for the Cap info - and the valuable life lessons we can all learn from Spider-Man.

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Phillip - I do remember one year when a punch was thrown at an actuarial convention. But for proper comic book actuaries, you need to look in DC where The Actuary was a one-off Batman villain.

Sean - I can't find any chess openings named after spiders but I know there's a Vulture Defence. Not something I ever played back in the day. And apparently there are openings that I didn’t know about named after kangaroos, scorpions, chameleons and medusas. Quite a rogues' gallery.

Colin Jones said...

Steve, the REH Conan story you're thinking of sounds like "Black Colossus". I haven't read it for ages but I think the obligatory evil wizard does go flying away in a chariot with a crazy monkey jumping up and down on his shoulder or something. But I can't remember if the chariot was pulled by flying horses or not - something tells me the chariot flew away without any winged equine assistance though I might be wrong on that.

Anonymous said...

Colin - I haven't read 'Black Colossus' in years either, but I've a sneaking suspicion it was in 'Conan the Adventurer'. There was one story in which the baddie said something like, "Aye, I am a god - I have long suspected it!" and jumped off a building, believing he could fly ( b.t. is the Conan expert - he'll know.)

Pyro (a similar guy) was in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Wasn't he a Londoner - born & bred - just like Blade?

Sean - Dangermash is a Queen's Gambit player. The mindset of a Queen's Gambit player is "Slow and steady wins the game." To opponents, they are like a boa constrictor - unless you throw a spanner in the works! I will restrain myself on the topic of chess openings with silly names - but it's a rich seam, indeed!


Steve W. said...

Dangermash, I'm pretty sure there's a chess opening called The Crab, which is as close to a spider as I can get.

Colin, that sounds like the story I'm thinking of. My memory is the sorcerer turns into an ape as he flies off, pulled by his flying-horse-drawn chariot but I haven't read it in years, so can't be certain.

Anonymous said...

Philip: I’m no expert, just an enthusiast. The deluded sorcerer leaping off a parapet to his doom rings no bells. Kinda sounds like something DeCamp and Carter would have come up with.

I agree that Pegasus-style winged horses seem more “Generic Fantasy” than “Howardian S&S”. Just did a quick check on two flying critters that I remembered in REH’s original stories, at the Internet Archive:

The flying chariot in “Black Colossus” (as recalled by Steve and Colin above) is pretty nifty:

“Up the valley a chariot came flying, making nothing of the heaped corpses. No horses drew it, but a great black creature that was like a camel. In the chariot stood Natohk, his robes flying; and gripping the reins and lashing like mad, crouched a black anthropomorphic being that might have been a monster ape. With a rush of burning wind, the chariot swept up the corpse-littered slope...”

Come on, that’s great stuff! Natohk grabs the Princess and races away, Conan in hot pursuit. The chases ends at some ancient ruins (“bathed in the lurid desolate splendor of sunset”) . The ape-thing tosses the sorcerer and the lady out of the chariot and then:

“...the chariot and its steed altered awfully. Great wings spread from a black horror that in no way resembled a camel, and it rushed upward into the sky, bearing in its wake a shape of blinding flame, in which a black man-like shape gibberish in ghastly triumph.”

Conan actually rides a demon-bat type thing himself near the climax of “The Scarlet Citadel”:

“Conan heard a sudden beat of wings in the stars, and recoiled as a huge bat-like creature alighted beside him. He saw its great calm eyes regarding him in the starlight; he saw the forty-foot span of its giant wings. And he saw it was neither bat nor bird.”


Anonymous said...

Two thoughts regarding this week’s Spider-man selection:

If I had to choose between Debra Whitman and Llyra, I might just have to go for the lady with blue skin and green hair, even if she does reek of Evil and the Briny Deep.

I’d long abandoned the monthly Spidey books before Deb’s storyline came to a close, and have always vaguely wondered how it came about. Did she go all Fake Phoenix as Chris Claremont might have done? Or did Gerry Conway pitch her off a bridge or some other tall structure for Old Times Sake? Maybe she learned his secret identity, blamed him for her dad’s death and went cuckoo like one of Daredevil’s exes? My gut feeling is, she most likely went out with a whimper, not anything remotely resembling a bang....


Steve W. said...

Bt, thanks for the Conan clarification. It's now official; winged camels are fine in Hyboria but winged horses are out.

I think Debbie Whitman had a mental breakdown but I could be imagining that. The way Peter treated her, you wouldn't blame her.

Killdumpster said...

Well, this time period definitely is starting to define when I wasn't too concerned about comics. Like Ian Dury once sang, "Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll" was all I cared about. And my car. And my motorcycle. And the girls, booze, drugs, and fun I can have with substances & mobility.

Don't get me wrong, I'd check out the spinner racks when I'd pop into a shop for rolling papers. I wouldn't grab a book unless it had an enticing cover. 50 cents for a book at that time would've cut into my pot/beer money.

What the hell was Llyra & The Frightful Four doing in a Spidey book anyway? Sandman, maybe Trapster, but LLYRA and the WHOLE TEAM??!!! Atlantis Attacks-type storyline? In a SPIDEY book? Hmmmm...

As far as Namor being overwhelmed by spidey-sense, doesn't he already exhibit a form of aquatic ESP? Can't see how monumental the extra sensebility would be.

Anonymous said...

I can see why after ten years of Conan comics a writer might want to do something a bit different; after all, theres only so many ways you can combine apemen, giant snakes, evil wizards, comely wenches, skeletons, and dodgy racist stereotypes.

But to refresh Conan it has to be with something that fits. A black horror that in no way resembles a camel, a demon-bat type thing, or even a winged elephant-headed alien seem ok in the Hyborian age, a flying horse doesn't.
Or, say, pointy eared elves - they're a definite no-no in Conan. I don't know why, but they just feel wrong.

I haven't a clue who Debbie Whitman was.


Steve W. said...

Sean, Debbie Whitman was a girlfriend of Peter Parker who he, basically, wiped his feet on at every opportunity.

I think she was also one of his students. So, no ethical problems there then.

KD, I do vaguely recall Namor being able to telepathically communicate with and control sea creatures, although it was an ability that most writers seemed to forget about.

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to see Conan killing elves, Sean!

At least not little cute ones. Maybe the big badass, arrogant elves from Lord of the Rings. I could see that.

No gnomes, either.

Nice summary, b.t.! Your obviously a REH fan. Black Colossus was a pretty good story. Some thief breaks into an ancient tomb wakes up an ancient undead wizard, (obviously) and all hell breaks loose. One of the things that always struck me was that Nahtok assemled a huge army, including Stygian charioteers charging into battle. When I read that I immediately thought of Yule Brynner.
A bunch of Yule Brynners, on chariots with whips cracking and arrows flying.


Anonymous said...

Okay, Sean, maybe Conan could kill the Keebler elves.

I would be okay with that. They're irritating.

And while we're on the subject, maybe the Punisher could waste Snap, Crackle and Pop. I would buy that comic.


Anonymous said...

Big arrogant elves, M.P.? Marvel (sort of) did that in Conan during the Barry Smith era, with Elric turning up for a couple of issues. I don't think that really worked as a Conan story, but then I guess it wasn't supposed to be a regular Conan story.
No doubt, say, a Weirdworld crossover would have been more inappropriate, but big or small I say keep all the pointy-eared f*****s out of the Hyborian age.

We can definitely agree on the gnomes. And don't even mention leprechauns... which you didn't, so well done.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

KD - I'm with you... Spidey doesn't belong fighting those cast of Kooks. Fighting The Enforcers was more his style.

KD - I thought the exact same thing when I read SDC"s excellent redux of the Spidey plot. 1) Subby already has a 6th sense for talking to sea creatures like Aquaman; Spidey sense would muck it up. 2) Since Subby can only spend an hour out of water (another little morsel that editors forget?) what the hell good would Spidey sense be anyhow?

b.t. where you from homeslice? After reading your comments above and at BitBA regarding "cars" I swear we were twins separated at birth?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the Keebler elves are M.P., but I expect you're right that they should be finished off.
But maybe thats another job for the Punisher. He might as well be useful for something.


Anonymous said...

They don't have Keebler cookies in the U.K.? That surprises me. Well, anyway, there's supposedly these little elves that live in what is apparently a hollowed-out tree. That's where those goofy little bastards make the cookies.

I've got that comic, where Conan teams up with Elric. If not for the Barry Smith artwork, I would consider it highly dubious. But this was when Smith was starting to find his own style and it was good.

But Sean, Elric was NOT an elf. He was weird lookin', sure, I'll admit that.

And you Irish wouldn't even HAVE a leprechaun problem if St. Patrick hadn't chased all the snakes out.
They were the only thing that was keeping the population in check!


Colin Jones said...

No, we don't have Keebler cookies in the UK, MP - or Keebler anything as far as I know.

Flying horses in the Hyborian Age may be all wrong but that's still a great Conan cover and I bought that particular issue. Can't recall a single thing about the story inside though.

Colin Jones said...

And thanks for all the Conan info, bt - Steve and I both remembered a flying chariot and some kind of ape being involved but we missed the flying camel :D

Anonymous said...

Colin - Keebler was one of Roger's personas, on American Dad. He was a middle-aged, hypochondriac, obsessed with old cars.