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Sunday, 2 May 2021

Fifty years ago this month - May 1971.

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

What's that you ask? "Is there life on Mars?"

I don't have a clue but, in May 1971, we, no doubt, felt we were about to get an answer, as NASA's Mariner 9 was launched on a one-way mission to that very world.

Would green things with tentacles and cold intellects vastly superior to our own be waiting for it?

Or would it just be rocks and a place that looked like a gravel pit in Surrey?

Amazing Spider-Man #96, Green Goblin drugs issue

Stan Lee and Gil Kane smash down the doors of the Comics Code and give us an anti-drugs message to rock the world.

Even more importantly than that, Mary Jane Watson gets to dance in some kind of stage show, and Norman Osborn suddenly remembers he has an alternate identity.

One that involves sitting on a flying broomstick!

You can't accuse Marvel of short-changing us.

Avengers #88, Psyklop

It's one of my favourite Avengers tales, as the action-loving assemblers brave giant caterpillars, swamps, Shazam references and voodoo rites, to prevent Psyklop from doing the work of the Elder Gods.

But the heroes don't arrive in time to prevent him shrinking the Hulk to the size of an electron.

I do believe this was my first-ever exposure to the work of Sal Buscema, and I have to say it was quite an introduction.

Captain America #137, Spider-Man

I know little of this tale but am led to believe it involves the Falcon trying to break free of Cap's shadow, by capturing Spider-Man.

I suspect that idea doesn't end up going to plan.

Conan the Barbarian #5, Zukala's Daughter

It's the first Conan tale I ever read; way back, in that legendary Fleetway 1972/1973 Marvel Annual of which UK comics fans still speak in hushed whispers.

Our battling barbarian strolls into town and is promptly attacked by a tiger who's actually a beautiful woman who can change shape.

This leads him to confront her not-so-beautiful father Zukala, and the prerequisite punch-up breaks out.

Daredevil #76

It would appear this is the issue in which Daredevil helps bring El Condor's revolution to an end.

That does pose the question, is that bird on the cover supposed to be a condor?

Because it really doesn't look like one.

It just looks like a crow.

And not even a very impressive one.

Fantastic Four #110, Agatha Harkness, Annihilus

It's deus ex magica, as Agatha Harkness is brought in to weave the spells that will enable Reed Richards to flee the Negative Zone without leading Annihilus back to the Earth.

It's all good dramatic stuff from John Buscema but I'm not sure what that look on the Thing's face is about.

For that matter, what are he, Johnny and Sue actually looking at? They seem to have their backs to the scene Agatha's helpfully casting for us.

Incredible Hulk #139, many foes has the Hulk

How could anyone not love this tale, as the rascally Leader decides the best way to beat the Hulk is make him fight all his foes, one after the other?

Needless to say, thanks to Jim Wilson, things quickly go wrong for the villain who's as high-handed as he is high-headed.

Iron Man #37

It's one of those Iron Man tales I've no recollection of ever having read, even though I'm certain I must have.

I'm assuming the man with the beard is Kevin O'Brien who I recall ending up with his own, green, suit of armour.

Ramrod's in this one but appears not to be the same Ramrod who once fought Daredevil.

Thor #188, Infinity

Things are coming to a head because Odin's still managing the unique feat of possessing himself.

I am, though, struggling to remember just how Infinity's defeated.

I do recall Hela nearly ageing Thor to death at the tale's climax and The Silent One intervening to save him but that doesn't explain how Infinity's thwarted.

Phantom Stranger #13, Neal Adams

That's Marvel looked at but what of DC? Is Marvel's deadly rival up to anything interesting this month?

Not as far as I'm concerned, it isn't but these are the two books from it I'd probably snatch from the spinner rack, had I pocket money to spare.

Admittedly, I'm singling out the first of them purely because it's the Phantom Stranger and I could never resist buying his comic.

Also, this one has a cover by Neal Adams and interior artwork by Jim Aparo.

Quite frankly, if a combination of Adams, Aparo and Strangeness of Phantomness doesn't make you want to buy a comic, there's no hope for you.

Teen Titans #33

Hooray! It's one of the first American comics I ever bought, as the Teen Titans return from the past, with a caveman in tow.

Needless to say, they then set themselves the task of civilising him and helping him adjust to the groovy present in which he finds himself.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Damn fine review Steve! You've earned your keep today amigo!

And thank you for the DCs! They are very much a part of our comic psyche, even if we did not read them as much as marvel. For sure the Adams / Aparo works in this time frame are superlative!

Fantastic Four follower said...

Loved Fantastic Four with John Buscema, superb artwork which looked like Big John was enjoying taking over Marvels flagship title. His artwork was sensational over those original 3 years he was on the title.I read, would you believe, in the FF's letter column that for his last year or so(#130-142)that he only did breakdowns.Joe Sinnot completed the finished art. At the time I did not notice any difference but the artwork is highly detailed in this issue you have reviewed#110 and continued at a very high level until the late #120"s. The colouring in those issues especially #107-116 also seemed super sharp and noticeably richer. As you can guess I loved those comics and there seemed to be extra time and care taken with them. They are a quantum leap in quality from the previous John Romita issues(#103-106)which were flat and must have frightened the wits out of Stan Lee as they looked poor! Buscema restored FF to previous glories especially the Hulk crossover. Great Post about my favourite comic title! Keep up the good work my friend. Ps The Romita issues sold better than the final year of Kirby..... shows what I know.

Anonymous said...

Theres no accounting for public taste FFf.

Is there life on Mars? I don't know Steve but apparently its a god-awful affair, according to the girl with the mousey hair. Who ever she was.

You have to give credit to Stan Lee for putting out Amazing Spidey without a Comics Code seal - DC weren't willing to do it for Green Lantern - but it was a bit wasted on the story.
Unspecified pills that make a kid jump off a roof top?
Maybe this was one time Stan should have bothered to some research.

The Phantom Stranger was a bit annoying, but all the same I'd probably have snatched that issue up too if I'd seen it anywhere.


Anonymous said...

*to DO some research
Maybe I should be bothered to read my comments through more carefully before posting. Duh.


Anonymous said...

To quote Alexi Sayle: "Is there life in Peckham?"


Colin Jones said...

I heard David Bowie's 'Starman' in my local Tesco just a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

Did all the children boogie, Colin?


Anonymous said...

"The brute that shouted love at the heart of the atom!"
A strong crop of comics today, Steve. I've got a few of these. One is that Captain America comic. Now that is an amazing cover. That's spinner rack gold, right there. Sal Buscema, I think, but I dunno who the inker is. How could a kid resist a showdown between Spider-Man and Cap and the Falcon? Was this their first encounter? But I've forgotten what happens in that one.
I agree whole-heartedly with Charlie that's it's great to see old D.C. comics showcased here. I'm not very familiar with D.C. at this period so I'm a bit curious. It certainly adds some variety!
Barry Smith's Conan is up there, and it was this very day I was reading the NPR website and there was an interview with him.
Apparently, he has completed and published his magnum opus, a massive graphic novel entitled Monsters. He's been working on and off on it for like, thirty years.
This piqued my curiosity to the nth level and I googled it and checked out some of the pages.
Holy moly, it's dark. I won't get into it here. It has unsettled my already unquiet brain. I think I will try and score a used copy somewhere, when it becomes cheap.
M.P. is a thrifty cat.


Anonymous said...

I believe Monsters started out as a Hulk graphic novel M.P.
My understanding is Windsor-Smith came up with the idea that Banner was abused as a child, but - because it then turned up in the regular comic after someone (allegedly) saw his early pages in the office - fell out with Marvel, and kept what he'd already done to rework as a creator owned project. Like how his third X-Men/Storm story became the Ad Astra book... except he got a bit more carried away with Monsters and spent ages on it.

You can already get it at a very reasonable price for a 350 pg book if you shop around (I'm waiting on a copy in the post). And thats here! Pretty sure it must be cheaper in the US.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP - You frugal cat!

If Sean is getting it, you know it's worth the read. He's never steered me wrong on any World Ware stuff involving France.

That said, you could just ask your library system to buy the damn thing if they don't already own it. I've done that and they buy them, as long as the book is not in the system already

To be sure MP, I see the value of having your local library in Dakota get their own copy, that way you can steal it and have your own copy for free if you don't mind the "Stolen from the Dakota Library" stamped on it. But really, many of these books are great the first time through and then it might be decades before you read it again, so why have the stuff taking up shelf space? And besides, you, me, and the whole mess of us will be dead in decades anyhow...

We are at the "last time I'll read this" stage of the library circulation desk amigo.

Anonymous said...

They hang people who don't return library books out here, Charlie.
It's the Dakotas.


Steve W. said...

Thanks, Charlie. :)

FFf, yes, I loved it when John Buscema took over the Fantastic Four. In fairness to John Romita, his final issue was excellent. I feel he'd got the hang of drawing the strip by then.

Sean, The Phantom Stranger was the least-defined comic I ever read. Some issues, he was the protagonist. Some issues, he was just the narrator. Some issues, he'd just appear, lecture the central character then vanish again. Some issues, he was there as a consultant. Some issues, he was he was totally unknown to the public. Some issues, everybody seemed to recognise him. Just who he was and what his powers were, was anyone's guess. And yet, somehow, I loved it.

MP and Sean, that Barry Smith graphic novel does sound intriguing.

Colin, sadly they don't play any music at all in my local supermarket. I dread to think what they'd play if they did.

Phillip, I like to think Peckham is a magical place filled with strange beings with a message for all humanity.

Anonymous said...

Steve - Exactly so. William Blake claimed to have seen an angel in a tree, on Peckham Rye. You can't get much more magical than that. I can't remember if it had any message for him, though! But doesn't 'angelus' mean messenger...or something? Not wishing to offend anyone's religious beliefs. Also, Regan encountered Brian Blessed at Peckham junction (?), in an early Sweeney episode. Regan & Blessed's characters were both 'strange beings'. Regan's message to humanity usually being something like, "We're the Sweeney, son - and you're nicked!"


Charlie Horse 47 said...

A little detail on the Cap issue since I broke it out of the long box last night for a read!

1) The Mole Man has levitated Cap and Falcon out of the center of the earth and Cap dutifully tells the US Army General they can't bury their atomic waste in the earth's core lest the world face the wrath of the fearsome Mole Man.

2) Falcon trails Spidey thinking he can turn him over to the cops and become famous. Apparently Spidey's spider sense is oblivious to being tailed by Falcon and his falcon.

3) Eventually Falcon does take down Harry Osborne and he and Peter P's apartment thinking Harry is Spidey b/c that's were Falcon's falcon followed Spidey too.

Lot's of "political" talk!

- Falcon jokingly says "Cap you are going to accuse me of being a racist b/c I don't answer your questions?"

- Falcon leaves for a few minutes Cap b/c he wants to eat some "soul food."

- Sharon faints when she does not see Cap initially come out of the earth's core b/c she is overcome with stress.

- The Soapbox! Stan must really feel beleaguered b/c he basically says if he pisses off half of Marveldom with each issue he is doing his job! "Stan is not a lackey to current trends or special interests!" Wow.

Crazy times.

And of course Everett is still inking Colan - very, very nice!!!

Anonymous said...

Steve, clearly you've never been to Peckham!
Although perhaps its magical - or even magickal - qualities will be revealed in Alan Moore's forthcoming Long London. For anyone interested -


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - when do we learn what was on the Hit Parade 50 years ago? Next posting?

Steve W. said...

Sean, I shall look forward to it.

Charlie, the hit parade will be covered in tomorrow's post. I won't give anything away but it's good news for Aunt May.

Sharon faints in that issue? Good old Stan. He really knew how to write strong, independent women.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Regarding FF 110, FFFollower (above) is spot on...

The Buscema issues are superior to the Romita issues in pacing and art.

Regarding the cover, where Ben, Johnny, and Sue are staring at us, that is a lift from page 15. They are looking at the "device" that is allowing them to see Reed in the Negative Zone. Reed has stretched to his thinnest possible while Annhilus is blasting at him. That would suck. All that while Reed, et al. are dancing around the "event horizon" for the "exploding atmosphere."

The issue is quite good. And it's amazing the difference in tone compared to Captain America. No contemporary issues being discussed here like pollution, equal rights, war.

Sue does have tears in her eyes and slaps Ben for being a knob

Ben can't control it due to the experiment Reed did (a Romita issue) to allow Ben to convert from Thing to Ben at will. Ben actually does a switch in this issue. Pretty cool.

My only quibble is that given the infinite nature of space, everyone in the Negative Zone is in a rather tight perimeter trying to find the entry port to earth. It was especially obvious when Reed fails to grab Janus who is just on the other side of the "event horizon" for the exploding atmosphere which sucks in Janus and presumably kills Janus.

But that's just a quibble and does not distract from the issue.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

WOw... the best line of May 1971 Marvel Offerings must come from FF 110!

"Keep back! It's shaking.. throbbing... glowing with mystic force!"

Conjures up many tangential thoughts, lol.

Also, I retract that there were no politics in this issue! J Jonah and Robbie get 4 panels this issue of FF. J Jonah blames the events on "commie radical liberals!" LOL. Robbie says, "Who would you blame the ice age on?"

McSCOTTY said...

What a wonderful selection of comics and everyone is (imho) a classic.
The Adams cover of Phantom Stranger issue is a cracker. Avengers 88 is one of a my all time favourite comics it fun story with some of Sal's best ever art (and that's saying something), the first time I read this story was in the weekly Mighty World Of Marvel when it was presented as a Hulk story.

CH: From memory in the UK charts of 50 years ago Knock Three times by Dawn(possibly with Tony Orlando in the bands title) was number one for ages - the charts also featured the Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar, Hot Love by T-Rex and the classic (?) Bridget the Midget by Ray Stevens. I think its a fair bet that Simon and Garfunkel were still number 1 in the LP charts with Bridge over Troubled Water and Sticky Fingers by the Stones would have been up there as well along with Led Zeppelin 3 - and waiting in the wings in later 1971 was the wonderful and much missed David Bowies Hunky Dory LP.

Anonymous said...

I first read 'Many Foes has the Hulk' in his treasury edition (#5). I'm surprised it was published as late as this as it seems like a product of the mid to late 60s. Likewise I read FF #110 in fabulous black and white in the first issue of Captain Britain. The FF always felt more substantial than the (admittedly lightweight) Captain Britain or beautifully illustrated Nick Fury stories, which soaked up the colouring budget.

Wasn't the girl with the mousey Angie, before she got on the peroxide?

Put your trousers on son, we're the Sweeney and you're nicked! ;-)


Anonymous said...

Phil, are you an admirer of William Blake? I guess I am too, sorta.
He was definitely plugged into something, metaphysically speaking. I can't help but wonder what he saw when he looked out at the world with his eyeballs.
Those paintings were startling! His version of God seems primordial. Maybe he was brilliant and shit nuts at the same time.
I was always thought it was cool that Roy Batty quoted him in Blade Runner!
I guess when an android starts quoting Blake, it's time to run.
Also if an android starts quoting Dante or Milton or Mary Shelley, get outta there fast. You're probably in big trouble.


Anonymous said...

Trahsers DW, surely?
Put yer trahsers on...


Anonymous said...

Only if he's wearing a pwopa pair of Lionel's ;-)


Anonymous said...

M.P. - Blake gets quoted in the Mentalist, too. "Tiger, tiger" being how members of the Blake Society (dirty cops, run by Red John) identify themselves to each other. Claremont dedicated an entire X-Men annual to Dante - albeit loosely - didn't he? The most famous Milton quote must be Ricardo (Khan) Montalban & Kirk, in Star Trek - "Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." I always want to say "reign in Hell"! Hauer's performance in Blade Runner, & his role as Vortigern in Merlin, are two of his best!

DW - Thanks - that is the correct line from Regan! There's a good one about a pillow case, too!


Steve W. said...

McScotty, there are indeed some great issues this month. I would say my favourites are the Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Conan, Hulk and Thor ones.

DW, I agree. The FF were always the real highlight of Captain Britain's comic, well ahead of the title strip.