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Sunday, 13 June 2021

Forty years ago today - June 1981.

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

Mere days ago, there was a solar eclipse.

I didn't see it.

It was cloudy. 

It's always cloudy when I want to look at the sky.

Will such torment never end?

Not if Fate has its way.

But what of the stars of our favorite Marvel comics? Forty years ago, were they being eclipsed by their multifarious nemeses, or were they, as, always shining brightly within their firmament?

Conan the Barbarian #123

Conan bumps into Murillo, for the first time in ages, only to discover that, having become ruler of a kingdom, the former rogue in the house has grown corpulent and lazy.

But not too lazy to lead Conan and his men on a mission to discover why his subjects keep vanishing.

This brings them to a cave and a battle for survival with a bunch of diminutive creatures ruled by a woman called Elaynia.

I assume she'll spend the whole of next issue trying to get her leg over with Conan because he has that effect on women, especially the bad ones.

Captain America #259, Blockbuster

A super-arsonist is on the loose in New York.

And only Cap can stop him.

I've a feeling it's all to do with big business and an insurance scam.

Fantastic Four #231, Stygorr

The Fantastic Four find themselves facing the menace of Stygorr, which I would be excited about but I'm struggling to remember just who he is.

It is, however, nice to discover the Negative Zone has a third inhabitant, on top of Annihilus and Blastaar. It was starting to look like the most lifeless place in the universe.

Incredible Hulk #260

The world's mightiest mortal finds himself in Japan and under attack by Glenn Talbot's demented flying tank. While, nearby, a film director blathers on and on about his principles.

Iron Man #147, Blacklash

Blacklash is still out to kill Tony Stark's security chief who's got a contract out on him, thanks to him having once aroused the wrath of the mob.

But Iron Man's not going to stand for such homicidal happenings.

However, Blacklash might have other thoughts on that matter.

Not that it does him any good because the security guard's still alive and well at the end of the tale and the mobsters have had their cards well and truly marked by the golden Avenger.

Amazing Spider-Man #217, Sandman and Hydro-Man

It's what you've always dreamed of. Sand and water combine to take on the webbed wallcrawler.

But not until after the villains have fallen out with each other because they've both taken a fancy to the same woman.

I believe this is the issue in which Peter Parker's Country singing neighbour Lonesome Pincus makes his senses-shattering debut.

Spectacular Spider-Man #55, Nitro

Nitro makes his explosive return.

And his daughter makes her first appearance, as she and her lawyer try to clear the villain's name, only to discover, the hard way, that the powder keg pensioner fully deserves his terrible reputation.

Thanks to the machinations of Loki and Karnilla, a snow giant's unleashed upon the streets of New York and, now, Thor has to bring it down.

I think this one has a subplot about a snowplough driver, or something.

Uncanny X-Men #146, Arcade

The X-Men are still prisoners of Dr Doom and Arcade, and each member of the team's been put in a prison specifically designed to thwart his or her powers.

Needless to say, it all looks hopeless for our mutant heroes.

Or is it?

At the issue's conclusion, it's a shock for Doom, as it becomes clear that one X-Man - Nightcrawler - has escaped his cell.

Daredevil #171, the Kingpin

The Kingpin's in New York, ready to sort out the gangsters who are out to get him.

But, first, he must deal with Daredevil who's aiming to get his hands on the evidence Kingie has against those gangsters.

This turns out to be a terrible idea, as the Kingpin promptly beats the hero up.

Rather less happily for the villain, his wife Vanessa's killed during his attempt to rescue her from his foes.

Avengers #208, the Berserker

An immortal Roman soldier called the Berserker is on the loose, armed with a bucketload of alien-created weapons.

How can the Avengers possibly hope to stop him?

And how does it all tie in with Rachel Palmer and the mysterious objects the Shadow Lord gave her, before his death, last issue?


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hulk fighting flying tanks really invokes Steranko's History of Comics Vol 2 when he is reviewing the Blackhawks. (They had a decent 30 year run, with the last 10 or so at DC.)

Steranko remarked how in the late 40s early 50s the Hawks were no longer saving the world from Fascists with their fists and instead, due to the changing times, were now fighting flying tanks and huge robots.

Blackhawk # 42 cover states "Is it possible? Can it happen? Flying tanks?" Then I think there is another such cover like 100 issues later but with commie red stars on the tanks, lol.

And of course, Cap sort of struggles with the same challenge. Instead of fighting fascists he's now fighting arsonists. Perhaps the Red Skull being the only villain to really anchor him to his roots. But on this issue when I see the dude pointing his gizmo, I think of Cap fighting Paste Pot Pete like around Cap #108 or so. ANother guy with another gizmo...

That is a pretty cool Cap cover though!

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

This ASM is the first time we find out Lonesome Pincus' name after PP smashes through their adjoining wall, driven mad by Lonesome's singing. Lonesome appeared a few issues before, though, queueing for the lift and not saying anything while PP looks around trying to guess which of these people I’d the country singer. And Lonesone's voice appears even earlier, song8 * songs in the flat next door.

But anyway, what do people make of that DD cover? Kingpin's head is tiny and his belt is too tight, with his stimach hanging over it. And DD's chest looks like it started as his back before some redrawing.

Darren Clayton said...

Was DD really bi-monthly all through the Miller glory years?

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd say Miller's glory years were just starting at this point, but yeah - DD had been bi-monthly til #170. It was very nearly cancelled around #158, which is apparently why Marvel let a newcomer on the book as regular artist in the first place.

Steve, I read somewhere that Stygorr in FF #231 was originally supposed to be Annihilus but whoever was editing the comic during the Moench/Sienkiewicz run wouldn't allow them to use returning villains. In theory that's a pretty good approach to reinvigorating the World's Greatest Comic Magazine - a big part of the FF's appeal in its Kirby-era heyday had been the continual introduction of original ideas - but just using stand-ins isn't the most creative way of doing that in practice, and seems a bit pointless.


Factory Yoyo said...

This is about the point I stopped reading comics. This batch of crap was probably the final straw.

Steve W. said...

Charlie, Cap did at least have all those endless flashbacks to keep him in touch with his roots.

Dangermash, thanks for the Lonesome Pincus info. I wonder if he ever considered doing a duet with Rick Jones.

I don't mind the portrayal of the Kingpin or of Daredevil here. Fortunately, this period was before Miller's ideas on human anatomy became completely unique.

Darren, it would appear that Miller's work is what finally rescued Daredevil from the indignity of a bi-monthly status.

Sean, thanks for the Stygorr info. I suspect I will forever get him mixed up with Stegron.

Steve W. said...

Factory, I think the Daredevil story's a good one and the X-Men one's OK. The other ones this month are definitely uninspiring.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Is there a Whiplash AND a Backlash out there in Marvel world???

Anonymous said...

This ain't exactly a stellar pack a' comics here, Steve.
It seems like Marvel was just drifting along. All of the weird funky vibe they had in the early to mid-seventies was gone. The whole thing seemed corporate and sterile to me. Maybe it was that S.O.B. Shooter. Even the ads sucked. There was no way a kid could get his hands on some X-ray glasses, fake blood or a joy buzzer in that market. And the D.C. reboot was still years away.
There were a couple okay titles here and there, like Miller's Daredevil, maybe the Avengers, but mostly it was crapulent.


Anonymous said...

I had Amazing Spiderman, Daredevil and X-men this month. I agree with Sean that Daredevil was at the start of its decent run. I never really got the bi-monthly schedule idea. Was the editor saving a loss making title in the hope that it would regain popularity? Doesn't sound like much of a plan, but what do I know, as X-men and Daredevil both recovered bi-monthly scheduling to dominate the sales charts for years. I also initially preferred Cockrum's art on his second stint on the X-men, over Byrne, but posterity probably counters this opinion. Spidey finished with Sandman and Hydro-man merging into a giant, malicious sand castle, which plays out next month. And they say there were no great ideas at this time... ;-)


Redartz said...

Yes, kind of a mixed bag from Marvel here. Daredevil was good, X-men pretty good, Iron Man pretty good, Peter Parker pretty good. But Amazing Spider-Man was...trying to be diplomatic...disappointing. This title really tanked until Roger Stern came over from Spectacular.
And speaking of tanking titles, Avengers was in free fall. I'd bought the book religiously for years, but within a few more months I'd drop it for good.

Sean- intriguing about Stygorr and the FF. That era on Marvel's Fab Four rather left me cool. Strange that so many of Marvel's top books seemed forgettable at that time. Or maybe it's just me. Could be why I started turning to Indies from the likes of First and Aardvark-Vanaheim...

Anonymous said...

dangermash: Aside from Kingpin’s itty bitty teensy tiny head, I think Miller’s DAREDEVIL cover is fine. It’s MUCH better than his cover on this month’s SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, at least.

The only one of these I bought off the stands was the Daredevil. I probably flipped through the pages of some of these others when they were new, but found them easy to resist. I sometimes wonder: if I was 12 years old in 1981, would I have been as dazzled by this batch of Marvel Comics as I was by the stuff that first turned my head back in 1973? Were the comics I loved in the dawn of my collecting days really that much better than this lot?

Steve: I was thinking maybe there were some better comics from the other publishers this month, but I took a quick look at Mike’s Amazing World and there isn’t much excitement to be had from DC, Archie or Charlton. The most exciting item is the first issue of Fantagraphics’ AMAZING HEROES. Oh, and maybe CEREBUS.

Anonymous said...

When buying "on spec", the cover sells the comic. The covers for these are largely terrible. In many cases, the protagonist's face isn't even orientated towards the viewer. Surely, this must be art 101. Iron Man is slightly better, but not much!


Anonymous said...

Red, fortunately the next issue of the FF sees the return of John Byrne, and the start of his run as writer and artist. Following straight after the Moench and Sienkiewicz, it seems like a signpost on the way to comics becoming more interesting again after the doldrums of the late 70s.

Although you're a little premature bringing up First, as they didn't arrive til '83 (I looked it up, as I would have placed them earlier too; the first of that wave of colour comic publishers was Pacific, with Kirby's Captain Victory coming out in late '81).
At this point, US independents were still closer in feel to undergrounds - b&w, and on occasional or fairly erratic schedules. Other than Cerebus - which was unusual in coming out monthly - at this point it was still magazines like Heavy Metal, Epic and er... 1994 (hey, they published a lot of work by the mighty Alex Nino) that seemed like the future for English language comics.


Anonymous said...

Seeing Nitro up there makes me depressed about Captain Marvel. Did they really have to kill the guy? It seemed gratuitous. I understand that comic got cancelled, and Shooter wanted to clear the field for a new Captain, in this case an African-American woman, and I'm fine with that. Bring in some new characters, some diversity. Both were sorely needed.
But did they have to kill off Mar-Vell? Just have him retire to Titan, pass the mantle to Monica Rambeau, maybe in turn take up the mantle of Mentor. Kill that guy off.
That way, you can call him back up the next time the universe is threatened during the annual crossover event. He could be like the Obi Wan Kenobi of superheroes. Maybe he could become a farmer like Thanos did for a while. They could sit in the local diner together in overalls drinking coffee complaining about the weather and the "dang gummint", secretly lusting after the waitress.
Hey, I come from farm country.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP, I figure if Marvell and Thanos were sitting together in a diner they'd have more important things to discuss than the waitress.

For instance they could ponder the great imponderables:

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

Who was more important: Kirby or Lee?

How did Eng and Chang manage to marry and conceive children?

Anonymous said...

Here's another imponderable, Charlie: How can you be disgruntled unless you first had been gruntled?
I'm not sure I've ever been gruntled. I dunno, maybe briefly in the summer of '93.


Anonymous said...

Its just one of those things M.P., like why "inextricably" is never used without "linked".

Whats so great about bringing a superhero back whenever the universe is threatened during an annual crossover event? Thats just boring. Better to have finished Mar-Vell off.
Of course, it would be even better if they'd killed off Rick Jones for good too while they were at it...

Disagree on the farmer thing as a general rule. Whats the point of a culchie superhero?


Anonymous said...

Sean, I respect your opinion but we're gonna have to agree to disagree about Mar-Vell.
The guy is a classic! He's old school.
They're gonna do that annual crossover B.S. whether he's there or not.
At least he could bring an element of class and dignity to the debacle.
I hadda look up "culchie" and I never envisioned Mar-Vell and Thanos as uncouth Irish potato farmers, or rural "knackers". When Thanos was doin' his "Farmer John" bit, it looked like it was corn he was growing. Some sorta grain cereal-type crop, maybe. He was a gentleman farmer.
Which reminds me; you guys ever heard Neil Young's version of "Farmer John?"
It's kinda hilarious, actually.
It's on the U-tubes.
"Farmer John, you got a lovely daughter..."


Anonymous said...

M.P. is correct. Mar-vell is outstanding.

Yes, he could have become a farmer, returning to save the universe.

The story of Cincinnatus springs to mind (he retired to his farm, after a distinguished military career, but came out of retirement to save Rome!)


Charlie Horse 47 said...

And that's how the city of Cincinnati got its name in Ohio b/c so many soldiers were members of the Society of Cincinnatus! And if you get a chance to get to Washington D.C. (you know, that town at the bottom of a swamp) check out the Society's HQ.

It is really quite interesting and, when I was there a few years ago, paid tremendous homage to the French contribution to winning the Revolutionary War for the colonists. (Spoiler Alert: the colonists could not have won without the French.)

Anonymous said...

Charlie - I sometimes wonder if the American Revolution's success, helped bring about the French Revolution - the French rulers wouldn't have helped the colonists, if they'd known the consequences for themselves!