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Thursday, 8 July 2021

July 8th 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

This town is coming like a ghost town.

Or at least it was in this week exactly forty years ago.

That's because it was the week in which the Specials' song of that name hit the Number One spot on the UK singles chart.

And rarely has a chart-topper caught the mood of the times quite like that did.

For, even as that was occurring, all around the country, Britain's cities were being engulfed in flames, as riots broke out on a scale few of us had ever seen before.

Was this it? Was it the end of civilisation?

No. It wasn't.

After all, how can civilisation ever hope to end when we've got Cliff Richard?

And have Cliff Richard, we most assuredly did because - possibly not reflecting the times quite as strongly as the Specials - that week, his album Love Songs claimed the top spot on the UK album chart. 

Captain America #20, the Dazzler

I can reveal almost nothing about the contents of this week's issue but, clearly, the Dazzler's in it and fighting a man dressed in blue.

He vaguely reminds me of The Tick.

I suspect he's not The Tick.

Elsewhere, Iron Man's fighting the Hulk.

I can only assume it's the story where Tony Stark gives Bruce Banner refuge in his factory and sets about trying to cure him, only for things to rapidly go Hulk-shaped.

Meanwhile, Cap's up against the Demon Druid. In which case, it's probably the tale where the star-spangled super-doer investigates goings-on in a haunted English castle and finds it's all gone a bit Scooby-Doo in there.

But wait? What's this? It seems this is the last-ever issue of Captain America, as, next week, it merges with Marvel Action to give us a comic that's, no doubt, twice as good.

Spider-Man and Hulk Team-Up #435, Woodgod

Hooray! Woodgod makes his senses-shattering debut!

Granted, it's not really his debut. Nor is it that senses-shattering because I'm pretty sure Marvel UK's already published this tale, way back in the long-ago days of Star Wars Weekly

Also, the character himself recently guested in the Hulk's strip.

Back in New York, Spider-Man's still tackling Jack O'Lantern and the hostage situation the pumpkin-powered plonker's created.

Needless to say, the fiend proves no match for our hero.

Marvel Action #15, Damocles

Thor finds himself facing the power of Damocles who I remember being a man with a huge big cannon on the back of his van.

Obviously, Thor soon dispatches him but this is not so much a tale of thunder god vs villain, as a tale of brotherly love, rivalry and estrangement between Damocles and his sibling.

Also, this week. it appears the Human Torch is up against Hammerhead in a tale with which I'm unfamiliar.

Marvel Super Adventure #10, the Black Panther

Horror of horrors, the Black Panther finds himself facing a follically-challenged yeti, and Daredevil's fighting Mr Fear on his big, flying disc thing, who's out to make the world think the man without fear is a coward.


Anonymous said...

These Marvel UK covers are kind of baffling. Weird enough that Captain America gets routinely booted off the cover of his own title so Iron Man or Dazzler can hog the spotlight, but now some genius has decided that the best way to sell the latest issue of SPIDER-MAN / HULK is to use an image of nobody’s favorite Man-Goat on the cover. It’s like they’re deliberately TRYING to get the books cancelled. Shrug!


Anonymous said...

I assumed during the Dez era there was a push to make the weeklies look British comics. Hence the Spiderman Hulk logo resembles the 2000AD and Target logo of the era and the covers are overly busy. But, these just seem dumb. You have the perennially popular Spidey and hulk and neither is featured front and centre on their own comic. Strange.

Did any single song so succinctly capture the early 80's Thatcher era like Ghost Town? What a tune. I'm off to listen to it now.


Anonymous said...

Probably Tornado rather than Target.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

b.t. I was wondering the same, lol, about the covers!

And is there an assumption to be made the Gorgon of the Inhumans has not been seen in the UK before b/c that's the first thing I think of when I see Woodgod? Now mind you, I've never heard of Woodgod until SDC, over the past few weeks...

Plus the whole notion of using the word "wood." I mean, pardon my innuendos, but woodgod = woodie god = sporting lumber god that is "bursting." It just seems like this could have been one huge joke to the weed-heads working at Marvel.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Why in the hell was there rioting in the UK 40 years ago? If you guys don't want to get into it, lmk, and I'll just google. But for some reason I find your words far more poignant.

Anonymous said...


Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 and the whole of 1980 and early 1981 saw the UK in recession with, then considered, mass unemployment (Maggie's millions). Racial issues across Britain and violence in Ireland escalated and generally everything seemed a bit crap. Anecdotally, 13 year old DW didn't understand why the 1981 home international football championship (an annual football tournament between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) was abandoned for the first time since the second world war. I'm sure wiki and others can/will expand, but this was a depressed time, well-captured in the music of the time (Ghost Town, for example).


Anonymous said...

I should stress the home international were not a big deal but demonstrate how little things stick in the mind.


Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday, Charlie!
I'm a bit surprised you've never heard of Woodgod before SDC.
What, have you been living in a cave? Although if you were, you might have run smack into him because he might have been living in the same cave.
I'm not too surprised he never got his own comic. We're talking about a guy who doesn't wear pants. That's why the Beast never got his own comic. He was never gonna be more than an occasional guest star, but they coulda done more with him, I think. Put him on a team of super-villains doing secret ops for the government.
I know that's been done, but something like that.
Woodgod, Will-o-the-Wisp, the Shroud, a female Skrull, maybe...

Steve, I sense you have a fondness for that Damocles storyline. I do as well. Thor was just coming back from that big Odin-quest arc that lasted a long time and they decided, wisely I think, to give the readers a pause with a more subtle story. It's the story of two brothers who find themselves in opposition, a theme that would have resonated not just with Thor but the readers. You look at Damocles and think "Loki."
And not the funny, cartoonish Loki either, but the nihilistic, destructive and self-destructive version of the character.
Damocles' brother, who still loves him, is forced to be his executioner and is left sobbing beside his corpse. The look in Thor's eyes in one of the final frames says it all.


Anonymous said...

Mirabile visu! It's raining again in the Dakotas! It's been raining a bit on and off for a couple days, just half-ass, but's it's raining like hell tonight. Thunder, lightening, the whole deal. Like it used to do.
It's been like a desert around here lately.
That thunder is a wonderful sound.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP did you see the great white Buffalo?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

MP - failing to see the great white Buffalo did you possibly see any "white men with their thick and empty heads?"

Just joking... I know South Dakota has neither though Illinois has plenty of the latter!

Charlie Horse 47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Horse 47 said...


This is the first time I've heard the song Ghost Town. Nice. Though with the opening beats I immediately thought of "Waiting in Vain" by Marley. Not sure if that beat belonged to Marley or it is just common for reggae?

Did you know the video for "Ghost Town" by the Specials was "directed by acclaimed designer Barny Bubbles?" I did not. But that's what it says.

Steve W. said...

Charlie, there's a video on YouTube that covers the creation of Ghost Town, its musical and social context and its links to the 1981 riots. This is it:

As DW says, it was not a happy time in the industrial north and midlands.

MP, that's what it's like every day in summer, around here. There are times when you need gills to survive a British summer.

I do feel there's something extremely memorable about Woodgod. Not so much in his later appearances but in that first one. He really is a hero like no other.

Bt, it is indeed strangely random that he'd be on the cover and even more random that he'd be in the book at all. It's not like he had an ongoing series they could publish. Plus, I'd have thought Future Tense would have been a more logical place for him to turn up.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I did actually know the Ghost Town video was directed by the late Barney Bubbles, underground artist and acclaimed designer of lp sleeves for such legendary albums as Space Ritual by Hawkwind, and The New World's Fair by Michael Moorcock.

As to the reason for large scale rioting in the UK... I think it takes a mix of out of order policing - disturbances caused by that are fairly common (well, in London they definitely are) - more general social discontent for it to spread, and hot weather.
That last is the key really. I thought there'd be more civil disorder after the first lockdown ended last summer, but while the kids did kick off round our way one weekend when the cops closed down a rave, it rained for a while afterwards.


Anonymous said...

The more interesting question is not why most cities in the UK rioted in '81, but why Sheffield didn't.
I recall Steve suggesting here once that its because Sheffield's hilly.
Seems unlikely to me though - Rome was built on seven hills too, and they've rioted regularly for centuries (without even having to put up with the South Yorkshire cops).


Anonymous said...

...Charlie, are you referring to the film, "The great White Buffalo" or the song by that dickweed Ted Nugent?
The movie was lousy; Charles Bronson never was in a good movie after 1974, unless you count the small role he had in The Indian Runner.
The Nugent song wasn't bad, but the problem is, as I have clearly pointed out, he is a dickweed.
I live in a city, and you gotta go way out in the country to see any buffalo.
Steve, I know you guys get plenty of rain in the U.K. (understatement of the year) but to see one of these huge thunderstorms, those weather fronts, advancing across the plain is something you never get bored of, like seeing a rainbow for example. It's sunny and hot, and then you see this enormous dark front advancing from the west and eating up the sky like something out of Mordor. It looks like the wrath of Morgoth is being unleashed. End of the world. Biblical. The air pressure drops, or at least does something weird, birds start making a lot of noise. When I was a kid, my dog, who usually acted like he was the cock of the walk, would go absolutely batshit crazy, as if he knew thunder was coming. He knew all right. When it finally came, he was either diving under my bed or up into it, if I was there, shakin' like he was trying to shit out an acorn. But I think people tend to like it, for some reason, unless their roof gets torn off.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi MP- I was joking about the duckweed Nugent’s song… I associate the Dakotas with the Sioux, Custer, ghost dances, Buffalo…

Sean I am inclined to agree the weather makes a difference. Never heard of a riot in winter here.

MP i am with you on the big thunder storms. I suspect we see them way more than our UK cousins… I mean Indiana and Illinois are basically flat and you get these storm fronts coming eastward feom the plains…. awe inspiring!!!

Anonymous said...

M.P. :

Thunderstorms are indeed an amazing spectacle. You described the combination of splendor and weirdness perfectly. Even crazier are tornadoes — I’ve only experienced one in my lifetime, and that was more than enough, thank you very much!

I was only four, i think, living in Ohio. Playing outside by myself, maybe half a block away from home. Pretty much as you described, the air was hot and thick, and those monstrously huge dark clouds seemed to grow out of nothing, very rapidly. And yes, that strange drop in pressure or whatever it was.

I don’t think I’d ever seen lightning before and I was too little and ignorant to be afraid of it at first, just stood there staring at it in stupid awe for a few seconds. Two or three bolts radiated outward from the cloud horizontally, and then the first big crack of thunder hit, scaring the hell out of me. The sky kept getting darker and the storm cloud got bigger and bigger. In retrospect, I think it wasn’t actually growing as much as it seemed — it was probably hurtling forward in my direction.

As all this was happening, the sky seemed to turn a really weird dark GREEN. I don’t know if that’s something that commonly happens with tornadoes or if my memory is just faulty. But in any case it was like something from a nightmare. It finally sunk in that I was in a lot of danger. I knew I should run home, but that would mean running TOWARD the terrifying cloud — our house was in that direction.

I heard someone yelling my name from behind me, and next thing I knew, my two older brothers went running past me toward home. I really REALLY didn’t want to run toward that cloud, and the crazy sideways blasts of lightning, but also didn’t want to be left all alone out there, so I followed. I saw Mom running towards us as we got closer to the house, screaming at us to hurry.

Next thing I remember, we all were all down in the basement, clinging to concrete support pillars as the roaring storm passed
overhead. The sound was terrifying, like standing right next to a freight train. Besides the wind, we could hear all kinds of solid objects banging into the house. It seemed to last a long time, but Mom told us years later that the worst of it only lasted a minute or so.

I never saw the funnel but it apparently touched down a few blocks away, in an empty field, fortunately. Our neighborhood survived with minimal damage, There was debris all over the place, clothes, trash, trash cans, broken crates, small trees and bushes, things like that. But I don’t think a single home was damaged badly, no roofs were torn off, no windows broken. We got really, really lucky . But man, it was sure scary.


McSCOTTY said...

DW the Home internationals were cancelled in 1980/81 due to Bobby Sands the Provo IRA err member dying in jail after a hunger strike. England and Wales refused to travel to Northern Ireland to play them as there was severe unrest. I think we ( Scotland) had already played NI in Glasgow. Terrible times for all let's hope BREXIT doesn't rekindle the Irish issue again.

Anonymous said...

Its alright Paul, Brexit is leading to a 32 county Republic.
Star Trek actually predicted unification would happen in 2024 -
- so not long to go now til its sorted out. The British government have already moved the border to the Irish Sea! Whoever expected a tory like Boris Johnson to do so much for Irish Republicanism? (;


Anonymous said...

Well that killed the conversation didn't it?
Sorry about that Steve.


Steve W. said...

In fairness, Star Trek predicted World War 3 would break out in the 1990s. I'm not sure I'd put too much faith in it as a prophet of things to come.