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.


Anonymous said...

'Spider-man & Hulk Weekly' # 424

On Marvel UK covers, the colour yellow is a firm favourite (as Steve astutely pointed out, a couple of weeks ago.)

On this week's cover, Sergei is coloured bright yellow. This is significant because it underscores one of Marvel UK's nasty habits - changing the colours on covers.

Compare this cover to the original, in which Sergei is coloured gold!

On the inside cover, the letters page has a reader lavishing praise on the art of Sal Buscema & Ernie Chan - so it's not just M.P. & myself who like that artist & inker combination!

This week, 3/4 of the stories have an oriental theme. In the main Spider-man story, Spidey's after some samurai, on a floating Japanese restaurant. Similarly, in Team-up: 'Spider-man & the Daughters of the Dragon', you've got Iron Fist & Davos. Finally, there's Showcase, featuring Dragon Lord, another samurai-type character. Could this oriental theme be the influence of 'Shogun'? But'Shogun' didn't appear in the UK until 1982.

In the Spider-man story, Spidey can't do right for doing wrong. Spidey sees an ambulance being chased by a car, and humorously wonders if it's a remake of 'Police Surgeon'. In the UK, our version of 'Police Surgeon' was 'Dangerfield' - the basis for Monkfish! More specifically, Monkfish M.D.!

Anyway, Spidey carries out a traffic stop on the car, only to discover it's full of cops, whilst the ambulance - which he allowed to escape - had the bad guys in it - gangsters who'd got their hands on the Smuggler - A.K.A. Power Man! Spidey goes after the ambulance and, amidst a shootout, the hoods flee with the Smuggler. Luckily, though, they've left a discarded matchbook, with the name, 'The Chrysanthemum and the Sword' - a floating oriental restaurant - on it. What would writers do without discarded matchbooks?

I bet that restaurant isn't as good as 'Slow Boy's' Jazz Club, in Blade!

Spider gets caught up in some interdepartmental rivalry between Lieutenant Keating, whose car he stopped, and detective Snider, who likes Spidey marginally more.

We get a couple of pages of flashbacks, recapping the Smuggler's history, for the benefit of new readers, then we're back on track.

Back at Peter Parker's workplace, his mate Phil Chan is answering the phones, because Deb Whitman's called in sick - you'd call in sick if you had to put up with Peter's treatment of her! Besides, in 1981, women were always expected to 'answer the phones' - sheesh!

The page count ends on an oriental theme, as Spidey's about to board the floating restaurant, and take on some samurai!

Anonymous said...

The Hulk

In a flashback, we see Dr.Phobos (the Russian Professor X) give each one of his Soviet Super Soldiers a special gift - except Ursa Major, who get nothing :(

Vanguard gets his hammer & sickle, which turns other people's power against them - and Darkstar gets a special pendant/amulet, to channel her powers.

Back to the present - Darkstar uses her darkforce to transport Crimson Dynamo to the hospital, after the Hulk wacked him. After that, everyone sets off after Sergei.

Crosscut to Glenn Talbot, who's in the War Wagon, pursuing the Hulk. Russia scrambles some MiGs, but Glenn disables them with a sonic weapon - boring!

The page count ends with the Soviet Super Soldiers stumbling on Sergei & Darkstar, who are "communing", and seem as indifferent to them as if they are insects!

By the way, if Phobos is the Russian Prof X, why didn't he recruit Colossus?

'Spider-man & the Daughters of the Dragon'

The story begins with Iron Fist, lying in bed, critically ill, attended by Misty, Colleen, Spidey - and a female doctor, who shoos them away ( It's a female doctor because this is a Claremont & Byrne story, with 'strong female characters'.)

The young reader is wondering, didn't I get last week's issue? Why is Iron Fist injured? (This thing about starting the story 'in media res', also happens in Iron Man, this week.) But, don't worry, it will all be explained, via a flashback. This thing about a writer altering the sequence of events - well, we won't go into it here!

Doctor Alice can't find anything physically wrong with Iron Fist, but he's fading fast, because Davos absorbed the Iron Fist out of Danny.

We get a recap of why Davos is filled with resentment, at not becoming the Iron Fist, and his rivalry with Wendell Rand.

Back in the present, Misty bears her soul to Danny Rand, only to discover he wasn't unconscious, and heard it all - embarrassing, or what? Luckily, Danny says he feels the same way - what a gentleman!

Nightwing is a bit like Bethany Cabe's detective agency, isn't it? Misty's got a big gun, and Bethany's got a big gun. Misty's got Colleen Wing, as a partner - Bethany's got Ling McPherson as a partner. But, I digress...

The story ends with Spidey attacking Steel Serpent/Davos, and getting his butt kicked!

The Dragon Lord

This is a weird Steve Ditko story, with large panels.

A monster, that looks like Godzilla (the Wani), smashes up a Japanese fishing village. A samurai gets some gunpowder from a Portuguese ship (Shogun influence?) to defeat the monster. If he fails, he will be disgraced and have to commit seppuku. Shogun again?

'Captain America Weekly' # 9

If Spidey has an oriental theme, Captain America has a slightly French one, this week. In Captain America, you've got Batroc, and his French lady helper. Likewise, Iron Man starts with lots of French citizens & cops, being very angry at Rhodey.

Hyde was going to pay Batroc 5 million bucks, for breaking him out of Ryker's, but stiffs him on the cheque, just as Doom stiffed Luke Cage - and look how that turned out! Batroc attacks Hyde, but finds the big man's more than he can handle. Anyway, Batroc agrees to throw in his lot with Hyde - not having much choice.

Meanwhile, Bernie Rosenthal's trying to win over Steve Rogers, by making him breakfast, but discovers his taste in music is just like her father's. I wonder why? After Steve's all nighter at the drawing board, he goes to hand in his storyboard to 'Carmine'. Surely this isn't a reference to Carmine Infantino? On a radio, Steve hears about the tanker hijacking, and French accents, and heads to the DA, suspecting Batroc's involvement.

Hyde & Batroc board the Roxxon oil tanker, after Batroc's French lady friend distracts all the sailors.

Ryker's = Alcatraz, Roxxon = Exxon, Maggia = Mafia

Anonymous said...

Iron Man

Last time (I won't say 'last week', because it was George Tuska) Justin Hammer's amphibious assault squad had cornered Tony & Rhodey, them being vastly outgunned, and outnumbered.

This week's story begins with Rhodey standing amidst wreckage on the beach, with the French cops & citizens very angry with him.

What happened to the battle? Did I not buy that issue? Well, don't worry, you'll find out via a very, very long flashback, which goes right back to Iron Man's battle with Melter, Blizzard & Whiplash, and his firing a repulsor through the ambassador, right to the present moment. This is just as well, really, because for the last two weeks, the young reader has had George Tuska, and may have forgotten what s/he's been missing.

Anyway, Rhodey & Tony got rifle-whipped & pistol-whipped, respectively. Justin Hammer took Tony, but left Rhodey on the beach. Justin Hammer gives Tony a speech about how he's been his secret industrial competitor/rival, and how his scientist Phillip Barnett has sabotaged his armour.

The editor's page note (written with a black pen, not even typed!) says some of the recapped events happened in issue # 7. No they didn't, because this is # 9 and, before that, we've had 2 issues of George Tuska!

The page count ends with Tony using a karate chop to break the clavicle of one of Hammer's goons (Cap was such a good martial arts instructor!)


Reed is testing Dazzler's powers, by having her fight the FF. Dazzler says Johnny's a hunk, but too macho to take seriously. I'd call the Torch a lot of things, but "macho" isn't one of them! The Latverian ambassador's displaying Doom's crown jewels at the UN building, in the hope of nicking them. Seriously? Would anyone ever do this to Dr.Doom? Silly story.

The Defenders

The Anything Man's attacked by some more gangsters, and discovers he can make himself bullet proof. Dr.Strange thinks Anything Man's powers are caused by the Omegatron; and he & the Defenders tell the guy to stop using his powers, as it's too dangerous. The guy refuses and, in a fit of overconfidence, challenges the Hulk, calling him 'Little Man' !


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hmmm Mr. Spock and Robot Insects...

There is a really wicked episode of Black Mirror dealing with robot / RC bees. This was more unsettling than usual for Black Mirror because the next day I read an article about the CIA working with nano-RC flies and mosquitoes for spying and possibly assassinations.

Anonymous said...

Back in '81 the British army fighting a war in Mesopotamia was something out of historical documentaries Steve - who would have expected them to be doing it again some twenty plus years later? They had better tanks in the 21st century, although it didn't seem ultimately to do them much good.

Anyhow, moving on...
I am familiar with that Thor story. In a flashback the Grey Gargoyle explains how after he was fired into space in a rocket (when Spidey and Captain America foiled a nefarious plot of his in MTU and) and drifted around til he was found by talking animal space pirates.
Iirc, theres a running sub-plot about the Executioner and the Enchantress attacking Asgard. Which does seem more like the sort of thing a villainous Asgardian sorceress would do than entering a singing contest in a New York disco.


Anonymous said...

*he drifted around til he was found...
Sorry about the rogue "ands" there - poor editing.

It is a bit weird to reprint that Spidey/Daughters of the Dragon story without the previous Iron Fist one. Not that its hard to follow on its own, but those Claremont/Byrne joints were popular back then so why not use more?
I suppose the creative team probably made more difference to the readership of the monthlies. Which makes you wonder why they didn't reprint them - along with the first Power-Man & Iron Fist stories that followed on - in Rampage, as that little run had a bit of a crossover thing going on with the X-Men.


Colin Jones said...

Wasn't Steve Davis's "Interesting" nickname invented by Spitting Image? Steve Davis was one of the celebrities who appeared at the Tory Youth Conference during the 1983 general election - the notorious event hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck and Bob Monkhouse when Kenny Everett said "Let's bomb Russia" while wearing those huge foam hands. I made a mental note of all the celebrities present at that event and decided not to like them anymore - that'll teach 'em! Actually, I couldn't stand Kenny Everett anyway and his career went downhill afterwards which served him right.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Tarbuck once even baked Thatcher a cake for her birthday Colin... and he was from Liverpool!
These days I suppose you'd expect a lot of Northerners at an event like that - seeing as the tories have done so much for them over the years (irony alert!) - but back then it was a bit weird.


Colin Jones said...

Well, Tarby got a huge tax cut from Thatcher so he probably baked the cake in gratitude.

And don't forget Liverpudlians Cilla Black and Ken Dodd - two more Maggie fans.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Phil, Sal and Ernie were a winning combo! The Incredible Hulk was good in them days. Remember the baleful Bi-Beast?
Sean, I remember that running sub-plot and the Executioner manages to get clobbered by Balder, of all people. Of course, it was all some master plan of Loki's. Again with Loki.
I would suggest that space pirates that look like human/animal hybrids abound. Did this comic come out before Star Wars?
On another note, gentlemen, there is a fantastic website where one can read a whole host of comics online, for free. New and old stuff. Even obscure stuff.
I'm not sure how it's legal, and you can expect some pretty racy advertising on occasion!
Try the "genre" or "advanced search."
I'm currently perusing old Daredevil comics on this site.
It beats reading the news on my computer, I can tell ya that.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, you're right M.P., it was Loki behind it all.
Which has to be pretty high on the list of most boring reveals ever.

I think the relevant US Thor came out just before Star Wars. But Star Wars takes loads of stuff from old comics anyway, which have had human/animal hybrids and space pirates in them for ages.


Steve W. said...

Phillip, thanks for another titanic summary.

I'm not sure I'd trust a man called Dr Phobos.

Sean, Charlie, Colin and MP, thanks for your comments too.

MP, yes, those are interesting adverts. I think one definitely needs one's cookies disabled when visiting that site.

Colin Jones said...

Let's remember Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers - I know the Rollers get a lot of flack but I've never understood why as they were a perfectly decent pop group in my opinion (apart from their terrible fashion sense obviously).

Steve W. said...

I agree, Colin. At the time, they seemed a nightmare plague upon music, which would never go away but, listening to them now, they fit comfortably in with what was going on at the time, with bands fusing a retro sound with the Chinny-Chap Glam formula. Musically, they really weren't a million miles away from the likes of Sweet.

Anonymous said...

The Bay City Rollers? Seriously?


Colin Jones said...

Sean, don't be such a snob.

Anonymous said...

I can be as ironically post-modern about pop music as the next 21st century metropolitan elitist Colin, but I draw a firm line at the Bay City Rollers.
You've got to have some standards, otherwise where does it end? Before we know it, you and Steve will be eulogizing the late Jim Steinman next...


Colin Jones said...

Bat Out Of Hell
Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
Dead Ringer For Love
Read 'Em And Weep
Total Eclipse Of The Heart
I'll Do Anything For Love But I Won't Do That
It's All Coming Back To Me Now...

...I rest my case, Sean :)

Anonymous said...

You forgot Born In The USA, Colin.
Oh wait, that was Bruce Springsteen (I always get those two mixed up).

To be fair to Steinman, at least he had the good taste to have himself painted on a record cover by Richard Corben. Which is more than you can say for the Bay City Rollers.
Or Bruce Springsteen for that matter.


Anonymous said...

As for the Bay City Rollers, I've got a certain fondness for glam rock. I dunno why, probably because I heard it a lot when I was a kid. There's something in the guitar, like some kinda grinding melodic chainsaw in the background.
Stuff like Gary Glitter (yeah, I know about him) Sweet, T-Rex or Slade.
Even VERY different bands like Abba and early ACDC seemed to have elements of that style, which I'm not smart enough to describe.
It's definitely goofy, but sometimes goofy is a good thing.

I don't know about the weird clothes and the giant platform shoes. How did those guys keep from falling over on stage?


Redartz said...

Steve- comparing the Bay City Rollers and the Sweet? Interesting, never thought about that pairing. Love Sweet (guess you could say I have a sweet tooth; sorry), but was kind of 'meh' about the Rollers.
Indeed, I find the most interesting thing about them is the origin of their name. Apparently they were trying to decide on a group name, and one fellow threw a dart at a map on the wall. It hit on Bay City, Michigan (actually a pretty cool city, they have a terrific flea market in an old warehouse building). And thus was history made...

Anonymous said...

Apologies for going off topic:

Colin's read this in Fortean Times already, but for the benefit of the rest of us, 'Hearken to the Witches Rune' is on Haunted Generation:


Steve W. said...

Redartz, I didn't know that about the origin of the Rollers' name. I'd always assumed they were named after somewhere in California.

Phillip, thanks for that link. It's revealing to discover a Playschool presenter was involved in occult happenings. I always had my suspicions about that show. Those toys were made of pure supernatural evil.

Anonymous said...

Steve - especially Hamble!


Colin Jones said...

Phil, I added the Haunted Generation website to my bookmarks list a couple of months ago (should have done it long before that) - the website article on Toni Arthur and her occult album is even better than the original Fortean Times article because it includes links to songs from the album and we can even watch an episode of Play School from 1975. They're spoiling us!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

It is funny from 5000 miles away, to hear you guys bust down the Bay City rollers LOL!

I can say that here in the USA, us tuff dudes who would spend their free time drinking beer and playing pool, notably during our high school years at lunch hour, would actually play their songs on the jukebox, LOL. And we’d sing along!

To be sure, we also listen to Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, the Beatles, etc. but the Bay City rollers were cool with us!

Anonymous said...

M.P. - Oddly, my memories of the Bi-beast storyline are hazier than the preceding Sal & Ernie issues. Didn't the Bi-beast & the Hulk take a dive off the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, whilst fighting? I'll have to fish it out, sometime, to jog my memory.

Colin - Fortean Times/Haunted Generation are playing a very dangerous game. If they give the readers improved versions of their articles, for free, on Haunted Generation, there'll be less incentive to buy the mag!

Apologies for going off topic again, but Jim Salicrup's on Eating the Fantastic:

There's some fun stuff about Stan's toupe - but lots more, too. It's a long one - so you might get yourself something on which to munch!