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Sunday, 5 December 2021

Fifty years ago today - December 1971.

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

A wise woman once told me diamonds are forever.

It was Shirley Bassey.

And December 1971 was when she told me.

I know this because it was the month in which the film of that title was released.

It, of, course, starred Seen Canary, returning to the role he'd previously vacated in recognition that George Lazenby could play the part better than him.

For some reason, Diamonds Are Forever is a film that doesn't seem to get much love from James Bond fans but, to me, has never seemed any better or worse than most films in the series.

Elsewhere in that month's world of cinema, an even more controversial film was unleashed.

And that was Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange; a film so devoid of both oranges and clockwork that it was banned for several decades by its own director, which I'm sure taught it a valuable lesson it would never forget.

Meanwhile, in space, the Soviet Mars 3 lander touched down on the appropriate world and transmitted a signal for a few seconds before going silent. Making it the first Earth craft to reach that planet. 

Amazing Spider-Man #103, Ka-Zar, Zabu, Gog, and Gwen Stacy in a bikini

It's all gone King Kong, as Rascally Roy Thomas sends Spider-Man to the Savage Land to fight Gog, a giant alien who's been adopted by Kraven.

It's never been one of my favourite Spidey tales - being too far removed from the web-spinner's natural milieu - but you do, at least, have to dig that Gil Kane cover.

And I know this issue's a favourite of Charlie Horse 47's, thanks to its high incidence of up-the-nose shots.

Avengers #94, Kree/Skrull War, Neal Adams, Mandroids

Neal Adams' stint on the 
Kree/Skrull War 
rumbles ever onwards, as the Avengers must face the Mandroids and then help free the Inhumans from Maximus' latest takeover attempt.

It's also an issue in which we learn anyone can access the Avengers' Mansion simply by climbing up out of a manhole. So much for all their fancy security systems.

Captain America and the Falcon #144, Cap and Falc break up, Femme Force, John Romita cover

Can it be true? Can Captain America and the Falcon really have broken up?

More importantly, can there really be a group of people who thought it was a good idea to call themselves, "Femme Force?"

Conan the Barbarian #12, Gil Kane cover

We might associate early Conan tales with Lord Barrold Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Smithington the 3rd but the cover of issue #12 shows just what Gil Kane can do when let loose on barbaric derring-doings.

Not only that but he gets to draw one of this issue's two stories.

However, in the first one, Barry gives us Conan becoming Captain of the royal guard in Zahmahn. But, when the jealous Queen catches him canoodling with a servant, she flings them both in the dungeon, to be devoured by the Dweller in the Dark.

In the second tale, Kane gives us the adventures of Kalligor who wants to marry a Baron's daughter and, so, sets out to kill something called a Hydragon.

Daredevil #82, the Scorpion, Gil Kane cover

It's Gil Kane again!

Mr Kline sends the Scorpion to capture the Black Widow, aiming to lure DD into battle.

During that fight, the Widow seems to let the Scorpion fall to his death, provoking accusations of murder.

While all this is going on, Foggy confronts Kline...

...and discovers he's a robot!

Fantastic Four #117, Diablo, Crystal and the Human Torch

It's the return of one of my favourite villains, as Diablo shows his class by taking over the Latin American country of Terra Verde and getting Crystal to run around with barely any clothes on.

You see? he's not all bad.

Incredible Hulk #146

It's the start of the yarn in which the Leader decides to replace the nation's politicians with evil robots that are made of pure evil.

Made of pure evil? No wonder people won't be able to tell the difference between them and the real thing.

Thor #194, Thor stops Loki from marrying Sif

Loki's in charge of  Asgard, and Thor's been sentenced to death. Can things get any worse for the forces of good?

Yes, they can because the villain's decided he's going to marry Sif, whether she likes it or not.

X-Men #73, El Tigre

It's the man called El Tigre!

Except I don't have a clue who that is.

Frankly, I don't have a clue who three of the seven people on this cover are.

I also don't know where Marvel Girl is.

Batman #237,  Night of the Reaper!

So, that's what Marvel's up to this month. And it's almost as thrilling as Christmas.

But what of its rival? What are a randomly selected collection of its mags up to?

In our main tale, Dick Grayson and his college friends travel to Rutland Vermont's Halloween celebration where he and Batman get entangled in a revenge plot against a Nazi.

In the book's other tale, Batman finds himself confronting The Screaming House.

Didn't Dracula find himself up against a screaming house in my previous post? There were, clearly, plenty of them about in the old days.

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love hits its second issue and, thus, we must battle to survive The Honeymoon of Horror and The Mystery of Dead Man's Cove!

But the highlight of this month has to be a one-page text piece by no less a scribe than future Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven, asking if you have psychic powers!

Flash #211, Kolossal Kate

I've only included this one because the cover features a woman who bears the magnificent name, "Kolossal Kate."

Sadly, I can shed no light upon just who she is or what she's up to.

The Unexpected #130

Nick Cardy gives us another memorable cover, as the book that aims to surprise us returns.

Thus it is that we get such terrifying gems as One False Step, Murder Spree, Death Mask, The Man Nobody Could See, The Ghost Who Laughed at Locks and You Don't Dare Dig the Gruesome Groupies!

You may have guessed that I have no idea what happens in any of them.

I do, though, have a massive need to know what the last of those stories involves.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

As a 10 year old, i distinctly recall buying Spidey, DD, Hulk, and Cap! And i have the Spidey and Cap out for my reading pleasure this afternoon!

But again all I can say is “Wow!” Another superb month!!’

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Not that Charlie has a nostril fetish but he counted at least 18 classic Kane nostril shots in 24 pages in ASM 103!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - Thanks for posting the Marvels alphabetically!!!

Fantastic Four follower said...

Loved Spidey 103 and 104.Great story and art. The FF and Avengers were also top comics and it is obvious that all that months Marvel comics were originally due to be double sized comics but were hastily, in some cases abruptly, changed to 2 single issues. The Captain America and Daredevil issues had beautiful art and so so stories. Likewise Thor was obviously a Labour of Love for John Buscema but the story was old hat!Conan was sensational and my personal favourite was the Hulk!!! Fantastic artwork and was it just me or did any appearance of the Leader give an extra sheen to the story?Finally Batman and Adams was quite simply the perfect combination. Truly an amazing month for comics. Stay well, great post.

Dave S said...

Dave's Cover of the Month, despite a nice Buscema Thor cover, is the stunning Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love.

Is it me, or is Kolossal Kate not very colossal?

Nice to see a few Gil Kane covers too- he loved a cover where you could see right up someone's nose, didn't he!

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

I'm not a fan of ASM #103-104 either. It's not just that ASM #103 is the immortal up the nose issue (the splash page has an even better nose shot than the cover) but it's the artwork too. I can stomach Kane when he has someone like Romita inking but Frank Giacoia”s inking on top if it makes for a very scratchy experience. Kraven just doesn't look like Kraven. It's like spotting Britney Spears in the supermarket with no makeup.

Anonymous said...

I'm jealous dm - I've never seen Britney Spears in the supermarket, with or without make up ):.
Still, she's free now, so you never know... I'll keep an eye out.

Don't worry Steve, I've got your back - I just read 'You Don't Dare Dig the Gruesome Groupies!' at the somewhat dubious
So - a group of witches see some smalltime band playing, one of them fancies the singer and offers to help him out.
Said singer assumes she's a rich kid groupie, but his career then starts to take off, so - because he thinks she's loaded - suggests they get hitched, it having been established that he's something of a breadhead (all the stories in Unexpected #130 are about greedy bastards getting their comeuppance).
He has second thoughts though when the wedding she sets up turns out to be at the local Satanic coven, and dumps the "crazy chick" at which point things take a downward turn for him...

Its not a good story actually.
In fact, its a pretty pisspoor comic all round. I've never read an issue of Unexpected before, but on this evidence I wondered whether it had lower page rates or something because the standard of writing and artwork was not at all up to what you'd expect from a 70s DC mystery book.
I read it so you don't have to, Steve.


Anonymous said...

"Can it be true? Can Captain America and the Falcon have broken up?"
Cap certainly seems worried about the possibility Steve.
When he's a lot more interested in spying on Sam Wilson getting it on with "that militant girl" than hanging out with Sharon Carter, the gay Cap innuendo writes itself...

My cover of the month is Batman #237, in part because I had the comic as kid and it made a strong impression on me.
As did the splash of Batman impaled on a tree and, later in the story, the flashback panel of the Nazi concentration camp (which I didn't know much about at that age) and the image of the Reaper reacting to the Star of David pendant.

And I certainly didn't know anything about Berni Wrightson, Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss, let alone that they were making a cameo as Dick Grayson's mates.
The story has long been considered a classic, but in retrospect the Rutland in-jokes make for an odd mix with the darker, anti-fascist stuff.


Charlie Horse 47 said...


Charlie is like 99.7% positive this is the Capissue that had the 4-page color insert for diamonds and ladies lingerie!

One would think all Marvel comics that month would have but Charlie only remembers it in Cap for maybe 2-3 issues?

W.t.h… hard to remember the important things in life anymore.

Anonymous said...

Geez, this is a strong crop of comics you've left us to ponder this week, Steve!
I'm familiar with the Marvel stuff, but the D.C. comics here are unfamiliar to me.
Man, D.C. had great covers back then, didn't they? That's spinner-rack bait right there.
On another note, Sean, we both know that horror comics (and horror fiction in general) are ALL ABOUT "bastards getting their comeuppance." That's why we like it, I figure.
Of course, there are always some innocent casualties, but their demise serves a higher literary purpose, I figure.
Like Dave S., I find that cover of "Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" intriguing.
I wouldn't mind seeing the inside pages of that, but I just know I'm gonna feel let down, ain't I?
Since most people around here don't live in mansions, I have a couple of suggestions for modern day gothic romances: "Trailer-house of Terror" or maybe "Duplex of Doomed Love."
"The Haunted Apartment", maybe?
I could go on and on, but breathe easy, I'm not going to.


Anonymous said...

I kinda like horror stories where everyone gets it M.P.
The great Cthulhu doesn't give a sh*t whether you deserve it or not.


Colin Jones said...

Steve, have you heard "Merry Christmas" by Elton John & Ed Sheeran? What do you think of it?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin! do you have a link to see the chart rankings of Christmas songs?

I have an endless fascination with the notion that Andy Williams or Bing Crosby can be shooting up the charts, lol

Anonymous said...

The interior art on that DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE is pretty nice — Tony DeZuniga on the lead story, Don Heck on the back-up.

The second half of CAPTAIN AMERICA 144 has a frustrating ‘failed experiment’ quality. It’s drawn by Gray Morrow, whose work, i admit, was not a great fit for superhero comics. His almost ‘photo-real’ approach resulted in somewhat stiff drawings of guys who look like cosplayers LARPing. That’s weird enough but someone (presumably Stan) was so freaked out by it that they had John Romita retouch most of the figures with a heavy hand to make it look like Standard Marvel Art and it’s just a total Neither Fish Nor Fowl mess. Shoulda just left it as it is and make a note to not have Morrow draw superheroes in the future, lesson learned, move on. Jeez, it’s only ten pages, don’t have a cow.


Colin Jones said...

Charlie, if you want to see the UK singles chart just google UK singles chart. You can see the official Top 100 UK songs (as compiled by the Official Charts Company or OCC). There's also a physical singles chart which only counts singles on CD and vinyl.

Andy Williams and Bing Crosby both have entries in the current UK Top 100.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

B.t. That Captain America is a bit of an odd duck, isn’t it? The first half of the mag looks like a battle royale but it’s just a demo battle to show that the Femme force is worthy of being financed by the federal government, lol. I had a laugh at the number of cameo shots of president tricky Dickie Nixon, lol

Charlie Horse 47 said...

B.t. Off the top of my head I cannot really recall gray Morrows work. It seemed suitable in the second half of the captain America but it was not an action packed short story. And it is clearly evident that the very last panel was done by Romita.But all in all I enjoyed that little story though I do understand what you mean by character is looking a little stiff for instance when the falcon premier his new red and white uniform.

Steve W. said...

Colin, I've just listened to the Ed Sheeran/Elton John record. It's bright and bouncy and I do prefer it to Step into Christmas.

Thanks, FFf. :)

Dave and Sean, I think I have to go for Batman as my cover of the month. It has a skeleton on the front of it, and I'll buy any comic that has a skeleton on the front of it.

Sean, thanks for the Gruesome Groupies info. I had a few issues of The Unexpected and those used the usual DC horror artists, like Nino, Alcala, Cruz, Talaoc, et al.

MP, I've just discovered that Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love cover was by Neal Adams, which I never would have guessed.

Charlie, this week's UK singles chart:

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Anyone else wondering how Marvel got that profile nude of Black Widow past the censors ???

Anonymous said...

(SNORT!) This is apropos of nothing guys, but I just saw the funniest thing on T.V.
I was flipping around channels, and there was this half-assed documentary about Ozzy Osbourne.
Anyway, long story short, Ozzy was down in Texas, drunker that a barrel full of monkeys (of course), and he pisses on the wall of the Alamo.
Now, we've all heard that story. That's rock legend, I guess. But the funny part is, when this Texas cop arrests him, he says, "How would you feel if I went to England and urinated on the wall of Buckingham Palace?"
Now, what they said Ozzy's response was to that is not something I'm going repeat verbatim here, but suffice to say, they said it sounded something like "Well, I don't @#X!@*%$#! live in &*#@*%!# Buckingham Palace so I don't &%^x@?!# care, do I!!!

I'm thinking, this cop probably didn't know who he was arresting, did he.
Seems to me, a man who has bitten off the head of a bat and snorted ants through a straw seems unlikely to take much umbrage by some random person micturating upon the Queen's Residence.

This strikes me as an example of what we call "not reading the room", or in this case, the parking lot.


Anonymous said...

I prefer John Romita inking Kane’s pencils on THE AMAZING NOSTRIL-MAN but don’t mind Giacoia. Better than Esposito or Colletta any day. The Kraven / Gog /Savage Land two-parter is super-weird but I’ve always had a fondness for it. Gwen as Fay Wray In A Bikini, count me in. JJJ playing Carl Denham in pith helmet and safari clothes seems really silly and out of character and seeing Peter shooting dinosaurs with a .45 automatic is all kinds of crazy.

Really not a fan of Neal Adams’ AVENGERS. Thor, Cap, Iron Man — none of them look ‘right’ to me when Neal draws ‘em. Seems like fans have been raving about his work on those Kree-Skrull War stories for as long as I can remember, but when I finally saw them (reprinted on Baxter paper in the 80s) I was kinda underwhelmed, and they haven’t grown on me in the years since. Shrug!

Adams’ Batman cover does look nice and I always forget that he did that DARK MANSION cover — it doesn’t look ANYTHING like his art. but it’s a spot-on pastiche of a gazillion Gothic Romance covers (even down to having just one lit window in the gloomy mansion in the background).


Anonymous said...

I thought those diamond and lingerie ad inserts were supposed to be for copies sold at Army PX’s? I only bought one issue with a diamond ad, a CONAN THE BARBARIAN from ‘75, purchased at a plain old Liquor Store smack dab in the heart of suburban Southern California. Must have got sent there by mistake.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

b.t. - I was able to satisfy me needs for Lingerie and Diamonds off the spinner rack, not having lived on a military base until 1985!!! Perhaps living near Chicago and the presence of military bases within an hour was why we got them?

Regarding the timing of the ads, I can't say... I thought 50 years ago.

But check out the collectible aspect, quoted below.

Lastly, for collectors, comics with these inserts tend to have a higher value than the regular cover. For example, here is a price difference between a regular copy and a “Mark Jewelers Insert” book. Werewolf By Night #32 is a very key issue for Marvel since it details the first appearance of Moon Knight. It is a very expensive issue as the Fair Market Value (FMV) for a graded 6.5 copy is estimated at $975. In contrast, the same issue with the “Mark Jewelers Insert” last sold for $1,975 on 10/31/20 on eBay. That is a difference in exactly a thousand dollars! So it is important to notice these differences and it is a big deal in determining the value of an issue.