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.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

You know... they should of stuck with Wonder Man's greenish-uniform. Gimme a single example where a the subsequent uniform was better than the original green.

I mean in all seriousness why in the world did they change Triton purple?

Anonymous said...

'Spider-man & Hulk Weekly' # 423

Well I never. The cover's a giant robot - yet again! To be serious, a cover should create tension/suspense. On this cover, in contrast, Wonderman has already won - it's a done deal (a fait acccompli, as Charlie would say!) Thus, this cover's an opportunity missed!

On the cover's inside, the letters page is printed in a tiny font/typeface, for some reason (no consideration for future middle-aged readers, re-reading this comic - where was Paul Neary's crystal ball?) The main letter's from a Sheffield 6 guy, named Steven! The surname, however, is different!

The Hulk

Last week, M.P. & myself were discussing parallels between Sergei & the Red Guardian, and the Star Trek episode with Gary Mitchell ('Where No Man Has Gone Before.') M.P. made the very astute point that Gary Mitchell had become so powerful that, whatever humanity he had left, wasn't a consideration any more. Exactly the same point is made in this Hulk story.

Sergei, the Presence, has transformed the Hulk, and Ursa Major, back to their human forms, and is about to 'eliminate' them, whereupon the Red Guardian stops him. Sergei replies, "It is so easy to disregard the sanctity of human life when one has transcended humanity."

As M.P. said, this was Spock's point, about Gary Mitchell. Incidentally, the Red Guardian interceding for clemency on the Hulk & Ursa Major's behalf, reminds me of Edward III's wife, interceding on behalf of the Burghers of Calais!

This week, we learn the identity of the mystery man, lurking in the shadows - he's professor Phobos, the Russian equivalent of Professor X! As soon as Sergei & the Red Guardian have departed, Professor Phobos uses his mental powers to free Banner & Ursa Major from Sergei's force field - no mean feat!

Phobos ran Russia's equivalent of Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters (the Super Soldier School.) "What's so jolly funny, Master Steven? That's no proper table manners!" (Oops - no, that's Terence Stamp in 'Young Guns'- but it's a similar thing!) In a flashback, two Lada driving (there's nothing wrong with Ladas!) KGB agents drop a couple of infants off, with Phobos & a young Ursa Major, at the Super Soldier School. Phobos doesn't like the KGB agents' attitude, and uses his mental powers on them, whilst Ursa Major turns into a 'beast' (it doesn't say 'bear', so Charlie could be right about him being a beaver!), and scares them silly!

Anonymous said...

Spider-man & the Shroud

A hypnotized Spidey (yeah, right!) delivers the Shroud to evil, femme fatale, Dansen Macabre. Dansen Macabre is going to cut the Shroud's head off, and use it as an ornament for Shiva's altar. What with her doing a captivating dance, and wanting the Shroud's head, is anyone else seeing parallels with Salome, and John the Baptist? Anyway, the plan's a dud, because Spidey & the Shroud were faking her out! Spidey wasn't hypnotized, and that wasn't the real Shroud Spidey carried in. The real Shroud swings through the window! Dansen Macabre tries to defeat Spidey & the Shroud, by doing the shimmy shimmy shake - but Spidey's wearing special lenses, so it doesn't work - and the Shroud's blind, so it doesn't work on him, either!

Moments later, Dansen Macabre disappears, and heads for the door - which Spidey blocks, with his webbing! The Shroud, being a gentleman, then punches her unconscious! When Spidey asks what will they do with her, the Shroud suggests they leave her, as they couldn't convince anybody - besides, he can't show his face at a police station. On hearing this, Spidey goes absolutely ballistic, and attacks the Shroud, saying Dansen Macabre was right about him wanting to take over the L.A. mobs.

Spidey knocks the Shroud out (again!), but finds he's only got the Shroud's cloak in his hands. At the airport, on his way home, Peter Parker is confronted by the Shroud, in his civilian garb. Peter tries to pretend he's not Spidey, but the Shroud says his secret's safe, and shares one of his own - he's blind. Peter grabs the Shroud, as he walks off, but his hand passes right through his dark form! Next week - Iron Fist!

Showcase: Wonderman

Stan Lee said superheroes must be summed up in a single sentence, if they are to be successful (see Jo Duffy interview.) Here's my summation of Wonderman:

Wonderman: "A hero with most of Thor's strength, but none of his self-belief." That's why Wonderman vacillates between bravado("My fists hit like Thor's hammer"), and freezing up in battle (e.g. against Power Man, prior to Nefaria.)

I digress.

Simon and his old vice president, after a commando-style raid on Simon's old factory, find a cache of weapons. The Maggia are using it as a munitions base!

As regards mystery ladies, last week I was remiss. I mentioned Dansen Macabre, & Audrey, in the Punisher - but I forgot to mention...

The mysterious female Maggia boss, at Wonderman's old industrial plant, who's only ever shown in shadow! She summons a Dreadnought, which Wonderman easily beats, whereupon she congratulates Simon, but tells him he's made enemies who will not forget it, and also presses a self-destruct button! Wonderman survives, but his old vice president, Madison Dash, does not! The Maggia isn't the only one (singular, Charlie?) with a score to settle!

Anonymous said...


Spidey gets by Gideon Mace's goons, who are all shooting at him, and gets to the head honcho. Seeing the giant prosthetic mace on the end of Gideon's arm, Spidey sardonically quips, "Let me take a wild're Mace, right?" After some fisticuffs (macicuffs?), Mace's goons point their guns at Spidey, who uses Mace as a human shield. Mace orders his men to sacrifice him, and shoot anyway!

They do! This leads to a hospital scene with Mace's gurney going into surgery, passing the White Tiger's gurney going out!

Hector Ayala has survived having 12 bullets removed, owing to the Tiger amulets. What's interesting is the amulets are similar to Warlock's Soul Gem, in one respect. You remember how if the Soul Gem is removed, Warlock was like a puppet with its strings cut (such was the gem's parasitic nature)? Well, it's the same with the Tiger amulets. Nevertheless, Hector removes them, and goes 'cold turkey'. Surely, he could have tried removing one at a time? Hector gives up super heroics, as his girlfriend & friends are no longer safe. I suppose if the amulets return to the Sons of the Tiger, that paves the way for Bob Diamond, in Kerry Gammill's Iron Fist!

Anonymous said...

'Captain America Weekly # 8'

The cover says Cap is Marvel's # 1 defender of justice. What about Foggy Nelson?

The letters page has 2 letters from Ireland - make of that what you will.

Captain America

It's a bit basic, this week. You get a rehash of Cap's origin, followed by Batroc breaking Mr.Hyde out of Ryker's, using something of Hyde's own invention, called 'The Sapper'. That's it, really. I know we laugh about how many times Cap's origin's been retold, but every comic is one reader's first comic. My favourite American comic - for sentimental reasons - is the origin of Captain America, as told in Captain America # 215, as this was my very first American Marvel comic. What's more, that comic started my interest in American history - specifically, the American Revolution (The Patriot & The Spirit of '76.)

Iron Man

It's still the George Tuska tale, with Iron Man battling Firebrand. The point of the tale being that just because someone's a pacifist, it doesn't make them a coward. Roxanne Gilbert steps in front of Firebrand's blast, to save Marianne Rodgers. Before this, there's some strange scenes with Iron Man flying underground, beneath a graveyard, to emerge, taking Firebrand off guard! Anyway, David Michelinie returns next week.

The Defenders

It's giant robot time again, with Dr.Strange and Nighthawk finding the Omegatron's head in the sand, like Ozymandias (Roy Thomas made this reference years ago, with Ultron!) Meanwhile, a supposedly ordinary dude is playing tennis with a generic blonde, when they are attacked by some gangster types. Suddenly, the ordinary dude starts manifesting super powers, which shock him just as much as everybody else!

This story's entitled 'The Anything Man' - this fits several DC heroes, with powers that mean they can do almost anything. That's why I was more of a Marvel guy!

The Dazzler

The Enchantress, defeated, vanishes. An old guy, hiding under a table, impressed by Allison Blaire's singing, gives her a record producer's business card. The nasty guy won't give Dazzler an audition, so all the superheroes intimidate him into giving Allison her shot. She hits it out of the ball park, and gets a record contract. The end!


Anonymous said...

Yay, break out the nipple clamps, Dazzler got a record contract! I like a happy ending.

Steve, Dr Strange and Clea where hanging round with Sybilla - the last of the sybils of Apollo - because they were on holiday in Rome.
I know that from reading the fairly uninspired story in Dr Strange #46, which is memorable for a shorter, but much better back up drawn by Mike Golden and P.Craig Russell.

Do I detect a bit of enthusiasm for Bucks Fizz in your posts?


Anonymous said...

I think the Peoples Republic of China's industrial revolution was kickstarted a few years earlier Steve, when purging the Gang of Four (not the one from Leeds) bought the Cultural Revolution - a sort of proto-Brexit - to an end.
Their GDP started rising in '78.


Steve W. said...

Sean, the Fizz were a truly awesome tour de force of Pop perfection.

Thanks for the Sybilla explanation.

Phillip, thanks for yet another epic summary. I take it the mysterious female Maggia leader is Madame Masque?

Charlie, I suspect they ditched the green because Wonder Man was no longer a villain and the colour was, thus, no longer deemed appropriate.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - there were two things that could get me to buy a comic if it was on the cover: green uniforms and gorillas. You two?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Phil, that was Wonder Man's deal, wasn't it. Doubt and confusion. Of course, waking up after some sorta death-like state for years...
First he was a "zuvembie" which Wikipedia seems to say was term coined by REH of all people and Marvel used it as a euphemism for "zombie", which was vorboten under the Comics Code Authority.
Remember those guys? They were group that kept the Hulk's pants from disintegrating.
A shadowy cabal which meant in secret, about which little is known.
Wondy was pretty much a punching bag, at least until he fought the Vision to a standstill in Avengers 158. (a classic fight!)
In the '80's he became more formidable, but Marvel seemed to have lost their angle or gimmick with the character. He was less interesting.

I remember Omegatron, he was a pretty cool villain! Some sorta doomsday robot with a doomsday countdown, right? If he completed the count, it's all over baby. I never saw the connection between his severed head in the sand and Shelley's famous poem before, but it seems kinda obvious now.
If Breaking Bad was available to you guys in the U.K., the promo from the final season was Brian Cranston reciting it in a mocking hollow, doom-like voice which never fails to give me the willies. It's on You Tube.

Steve, you might be onto something. Green in Marvel Comics is usually associated with either a bad guy, like the Goblin or Enchantress, or somebody rather sketchy or dubious, like Vision or the Hulk. She-Hulk and Fandral are exceptions, I guess.
And let's not forget Leap-Frog.


Steve W. said...

Charlie, the two things on a cover that could make me buy a comic were skeletons and mystery men.

MP, thinking about it, it is sort of hard to know what the point of Wonder Man's existence was. The Avenger' strip already had Thor, so it didn't really need another strongman.

Anonymous said...

M.P. - To me, Wonderman vs the Vision is Marvel's greatest superhero battle. Pablo Marcos's rich tones make Sal's pencils look even better in black & white - so I definitely agree, it's an all time classic!

For Wonderman's power, another defining moment (also Sal & Pablo Marcos) was when Simon knocked the Submariner unconscious, with one punch. No one had done that before - not the Thing, not Hercules, not the Hulk - nobody! Maybe Namor had been out of the ocean too long!

(Marvel's second greatest superhero battle? The Silver Surfer versus the Human Torch? Hulk vs the Jack of Hearts? Hulk vs the Thing (John Buscema version)? Daredevil vs Spidey was good, too. Captain Marvel vs Drax? I must have forgotten some others.)

Steve - Yes, Madame Masque's the obvious candidate. You'd have thought, in the final panel, they'd have given a glint of a rivet around the mask, or something - as a teaser - but the reader doesn't even get a hint. They missed an opportunity!

As regards the point of Wonderman, during the Orca storyline, the reader was told that Thor was as powerful as all the other Avengers put together. To me, this made the other Avengers seem slightly redundant. Why not just send Thor out, and not bother with the rest of them? As a remedy(?), Jim Shooter increased the power of Wonderman, Iron Man, and the Vision, so that any one of them was extremely formidable, even without Thor. Of course, this led to the problem of villains having to be more & more powerful - Ultron, Nefaria, Korvac, etc. But, to me, this was the high point of the Avengers. You know all this, already - and have probably thought of other things I haven't!

Perhaps the idea of lack of self-belief, which Jim Shooter explores, through Wonderman, is also important. Even a more powerful opponent can lose to a less powerful one, if their self-belief is lower. Captain America routinely defeats stronger opponents, as his self-belief is strong. Wonderman is vastly more powerful, but...his self-belief often lets him down!


Anonymous said...

Hulk v the Jack of Hearts? Love the ironic northern humour, Phillip.

Charlie, sounds like you should keep an eye out on Ebay or wherever for DCs Tales of the Unexpected #14. Featuring the Green Gorilla on the cover!
You're welcome.


Anonymous said...

Sean - You're my superior, when it comes to irony - 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'?! ; )

Charlie - In the UK, 'Tales of the Unexpected' was also a tv show with an almost legendary theme tune & opening sequence.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP - would it be worth mentioning that the Grinch Who Stole Christmas was also green?

Phillip - Tales of the Unexpected was that the same as in USA then or was it possibly our Twilight Zone or Night Gallery?

Sean - You have indeed found a green gorilla, LOL. Honest to cripes your ability to research stuff or know about French comics etc. just amazes me. I am humbled!

Colin - You need to get back to BitBA and establish some rules! This guy named Charlie is creating controversy e.g., why is King Kong considered sci fi? Charlie thinks that being simply born big does not qualify as sci fi?

Killdumpster - You really are missing out at BitBA. I mean, if there was ever a topic right up your alley, Colin put it in play! I mean B&W Sci Fi flicks is synonymous with KD?

Steve - Love your blog man!

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Charlie, now that I think about it, Kermit the Frog is also green. We could keep going all day on this, but I sense that that way leads to madness.

Phil, on great battles, I thought the battle between Starhawk and Korvac was incredible, largely due to George Perez' pencils. Avengers #168.
Starhawk was clearly outmatched from the get-go, but man was that fight a cosmic spectacle.
Same as when Adam Warlock fought the Stranger on the Moon's Blue Area in Marvel Team-Up.
That was pretty one-sided too, at least until the Gardener showed up. M.P. is a cat who digs the cosmic stuff.

At the risk of appearing to agree with my friend Charlie (enjoying those Alter-Ego mags this week, Charles) he raises an interesting question.
Why would King Kong be considered Sci-Fi? I don't see how he is, either. Maybe Godzilla is, because you got your radiation mutating a dinosaur.
This is a bit of a quagmire.


Colin Jones said...

Charlie, get thee to BiTBA forthwith to read my opinions on what is and isn't science-fiction!

Colin Jones said...

But I'll ask the same question I asked on BiTBA - does Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale" count as science-fiction? Many would say yes (including me) but Ms. Atwood claims that she writes "speculative fiction" and NOT sci-fi which she describes as "talking squids in outer space". I'd say that the sci-fi genre is very broad and certainly includes King Kong and even Dracula too.

Anonymous said...

Colin, I say thee nay!
Dracula is GOTHIC literature. There's nothing scientific about it.
Now Frankenstein, yeah. That's both gothic and sci-fi.
But the way I figure, you got your supernatural over here and your sci-fi over there.
These things can get mixed; like say, when Superman fights Dracula.

Speaking of Superman and Dracula, I would like to have a cross made out of Kryptonite, so I could keep both of them off my ass.


Colin Jones said...

MP, I suppose you're right that Dracula is Gothic literature but life's too short to worry about petty labels - your example of Dracula vs. Superman proves that sci-fi/horror/fantasy/superheroes are all really just one big genre which readers of "proper" novels would ignore anyway.

Anonymous said...

"Proper" novels like The Handmaid's Tale, Colin? (;

I have an old copy - it doesn't have an airbrushed pic of a spaceship on the cover (which were still de rigeur on sci-fi paperbacks in the 80s) and it wasn't displayed in the science-fiction section of the bookshop. So if Margaret Atwood says it isn't sci-fi, fair enough imo.
On the other hand, genres change over time and if enough people agree with you about The Handmaid's Tale - which might well be the case these days - then maybe it is sci-fi.

I don't entirely agree about petty labels. Sure, who cares what a book or film is called if you get something out of it... but genres are also quite useful for sorting through the massive cultural tsunami around us.
At what point does "sci-fi" - the "jazz" of the literary world - become so broad as to be a meaningless term?


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Fair point Sean.

It had become a bit absurd by the 80s with record labels. "Back in the day" it was just rock and blues with blues meaning "black groups." Fair enough, I guess. I mean, if you were looking for Michael Jackson you looked under blues. It made no sense on one hand and perfect sense on the other.

That said, why not just put things in alpha sort... unless they figured you might by another blues record, besides the one you came in to by, if they were clustered together?

Colin Jones said...

Sean, if The Handmaid's Tale isn't sci-fi then neither is 1984 or Brave New World and both of those have always been regarded as sci-fi classics.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I guess then Mad Max would be considered "speculative fiction" about a dystopian future. No scientific advances have been made.
If anything, people have gone backwards.
The hero is eating dog food out of a can, for cryin' out loud.
But you're right, Colin, it don't make a lick of difference what the label is.

There's something wrong with me; I have trouble reading ANY fiction that isn't horror, sci-fi or fantasy.
Real life stuff, well,...I get enough a' that stuff in real life.

I should go now; they're getting my thorazine shot ready.


Anonymous said...

Colin, 1984 might be regarded as science-fiction now, but it was a "proper" novel when it came out, back when science fiction was generally identified with pulp.

But as I mentioned, genres change. Margaret Atwood is showing her age a bit if she still uses the term "speculative fiction", which is really from the 70s. The disputes about the genre at the time are covered in the old BBC short doc about Michael Moorcock from '79.

(M.P. a search for "Time Out Of Mind Moorcock" should do it, if you're interested).


Anonymous said...

I am indeed Sean!
Strangely enough, this very day I went down to the local library to pick up a couple books I had ordered through the "inter-library loan" system. What it is, is if your local library doesn't have a book you wanna borrow, they can borrow that book from another library, even if it's another state. Then they ship it to your local library and you can go pick it up. Do you guys in the U.K. have a similar system?
Free of charge. Mirabile visu! You can get your sweaty paws on just about anything. I had ordered an anthology of short stories by the diabolical author Laird Barron, whose work is worth checking out. It's kinda like Ernest Hemingway meets H.P. Lovecraft. A master of horror, that Barron.
The other book was The Weird of the White Wolf by Moorcock.
I thought I was requesting the original novel, the prose version, but what I got was the graphic novel by Roy Thomas and P. Craig Russell.
Well, that's pretty good too! I'm not gonna gripe about it.

Although, spelling out the name "Moorcock" to a female librarian on the phone when I was ordering it was a bit awkward...


Anonymous said...

Actually M.P., I should maybe point out that old BBC thing doesn't go into the sword & sorcery/fantasy side of Moorcock's work much.


Anonymous said...

Not the whole “Labels” argument again! :) When is something New Wave or Synthpop or Electro-Pop or Power Pop or Punk or Proto-Punk or Post-Punk or Steampunk or Cyberbunk or Splatterpunk or Cowpunk? Danged if I know!

I think there are two things going on with Atwood’s rejection of the SF label. One, literary snobbery: she thinks SF is disreputable trash fiction packed with robots, googly-eyed monsters, spaceships, time-machines and ray-guns, but she wants her work to be taken seriously. Two, commercial considerations: she thinks she might sell more copies of her books (and stay in print longer) if they have tasteful (dull) dust jackets and aren’t kept in the SF section next to the Star Trek and Warhammer books and the Tolkien knockoffs.

Which is fair. Vonnegut was the same way, especially once college students got hip to his stuff in the mid-60s.


Anonymous said...

I would say Vonnegut is in a class by himself!