Tuesday 30 May 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 54. Back-to-Back artists.

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

The Steve Does Comics Megaphone
Image by Tumisu
from Pixabay
Even as I type these words, another month is about to end and a new one begin, reminding us there's just one thing in this world that never changes. And that's the fact the world always changes.

But hold your horses, Father Time, because there's one other thing in this world that never changes.

And that's the feature the internet has grown to love and fear in equal measure.

It's the one in which you the Reader get to decide what we're talking about. Many are the things that have happened in the past month and many more are the things that have happened in the past year.

Then again it may be things that have happened in your early lifetime - or before your lifetime or even down in the darkest depths of prehistory - that tickle your fancy.

And what of the far-flung future? That place that Sarah Connor knows it's best to avoid? Who knows what miracles, myths and monstrosities it may unfurl before our very eyes?

Whatever or whenever it is or was or will be, that you wish to discuss, all you have to do is mention it in the comments section below and a veritable tidal wave of talk will, doubtless, be unleashed.

Sunday 28 May 2023

Detective Comics #443 - Manhunter Meets Batman!

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

Detective Comics #443, Batman meets Manhunter
Everyone knows the greatest comic ever created is Detective Comics #443.

Admittedly, I say that without ever having read it.

But who needs to read it? It's got Batman. It's got Manhunter. The cover's by Jim Aparo. The insides are by Walt Simonson. It's a 100-page comic and its lead tale is blessed with the title Gotterdammerung!

There's no more chance of it not being the greatest comic of all time than there is of a Red Nails adaptation by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith not being the greatest comic of all time.

Admittedly, if the tale's author Archie Goodwin had titled it Batterdammerung, it would have been even better but I can only conclude the man lacked my remarkable taste and good judgement.

So, now that we know it's the greatest comic of all time, without even having read it, how does it stand up when one actually does read it?

Detective Comics #443, Rooftop Batman
In the wet streets of Gotham, a man has died.

That man is Dan Kingdom - private eye, master of the martial arts and friend of Batman - assassinated before he could tell the dark detective something about the prime minister of a land called Congola.

Fortunately, Bruce Wayne is, that very night, hosting a party for that very prime minister, giving his alter-ego the perfect chance to find out just why Kingdom was killed and what beans he was about to spill about whom.

Not so fortunately, the party's barely begun when the prime minister's assassinated too. It's starting to look like Batman's a straight-out jinx.

Unconcerned about that, our hero leaps into action and goes in pursuit of the killer but, before he can make him talk, is attacked by a mystery villain called The Enforcer who promptly decks him.

Detective Comics #443, Manhunter meets Batman
The Enforcer flees but Batman tracks him and the assassin to Nairobi where he encounters Paul Kirk - the Manhunter - who's planning a final and decisive attack on the secret HQ of the deadly Council who resurrected him from his death in World War Two and now plan to take over the world.

Not liking the sound of that kind of thing, Batman offers to help Kirk and his friends but is spurned by them because of his reluctance to kill. Batman takes it in good spirits and says that, in that case, he's headed off back to Gotham.

So, Kirk and his friends  Asano Nitobe, Christine St Clair and Kolu Mbeya set off to the Australian outback where the Council are currently keeping their headquarters.

On the plane there, we get a recap of how Kirk was resurrected by the Council, after dying in World War Two and now feels like a man out of time, giving us an impression of him as a dark Captain America.

But no sooner do they reach that secret HQ than it turns out Batman was fibbing and, by means not at all explained, has got to to the scene first and has already taken out two of the council's killers, convincing Kirk he might be of some use after all.

Detective Comics #443, Manhunter wins
Thus it is that Batman fights the returning Enforcer while Kirk goes off in pursuit of Dr Myrkros, the coordinator behind the Council's schemes.

It's during this fight that we discover The Enforcer is none other than the supposed assassination victim Dan Kingdom and that the body found in Gotham was merely a clone of him, created by the Council!

Elsewhere, Kirk confronts Myrkros who's got himself a psionic helmet and uses it to blast the hero with deadly radiation. Thus, does Paul Kirk die a second time.

Detective Comics #443, nuclear explosion
Or does he?

Realising it's all gone belly-up, Batman leads Kirk's friends away from the base and steals a plane in which they escape.

But, as that plane flees, a nuclear explosion erupts behind it, letting its passengers know that Kirk didn't die from the psionic attack but achieved one final resurrection before, at last, succeeding in destroying the base, Mykros and his Council all in one go. At last, the man who should have died decades ago can know peace.

It has to be said it's a very simple and straightforward tale that goes from plot point to plot point in the most linear and obstacle-free fashion possible but it wraps up the Manhunter saga efficiently enough and looks pretty as it goes about it.

Detective Comics #443, the Enforcer decks Manhunter
Perhaps its main weakness is that, being designated a Batman tale, Bruce Wayne's alter-ego seems far more competent than Paul Kirk, managing to find the Council's base before Kirk and his friends do and defeating The Enforcer who seems to be too much for Kirk to handle. This is unfortunate, as the thrust of the tale is to wrap up the Manhunter saga and should, you'd have thought, therefore, centre around Kirk and his friends.

Detective Comics #443, Batman and Manhunter become partners
Come to think of it, strictly speaking, Batman could have been totally written out of the tale without any need for the central plot to be changed.

Oh well. Who cares? It's drawn with style and, as I've said, the cover's by Jim Aparo. The insides are by Walt Simonson. It's a 100-page comic and its lead tale's blessed with the title Gotterdammerung. If that doesn't keep a human being happy, what will?

Detective Comics #443, Batman decks Dan Kingdom

Thursday 25 May 2023

May 26th, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

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

A video I recently watched on YouTube argued that time isn't real and that past, present and future all exist simultaneously. In which case, let's look at what's happening, right now, in 1973.

The Mighty World of Marvel #34

In our first Hulk tale of this issue, Hulkie-Baby must do battle with the awesome might of the Boomerang - who's out to steal a thing called the Orion Missile, on behalf of the Secret Empire.

And, in the second Hulk tale of this issue, Hulkie-Baby must do battle with the awesome might of the Boomerang - who's out to steal a thing called the Orion Missile, on behalf of the Secret Empire.

Well, if an idea's good, use it twice. That's what I always say.

Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four are back home, after being rescued from a microscopic realm, by Ant-Man - only to discover Dr Doom's kidnapped Alicia!

The Grand Comics Database tells me that page 11 changes John F Kennedy to Richard Nixon, while page 12 removes all reference to the Iron Curtain and replaces Nikita Khrushchev with a generic dictator.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #15

Spidey and the Human Torch have their habitual squabble before uniting to deal with the rubbery fingers of the Beetle. The villain, you see, is out for revenge, following a prior defeat at the hands of the flaming one.

Thor, meanwhile, is having problems with the lethal Lava Man, a foul fiend who's been released from the depths of the Earth, by the malevolent machinations of Loki. No sooner does the menace reach the surface than he claims ownership of the entire planet.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 53. Five objects that had a powerful influence on your childhood.

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

The Steve Does Comics Megaphone
Image by Tumisu
from Pixabay
It's time, once more, to slap some democracy on the table.

And we all know what that means.

We're going to need a stronger table.

Not only that. We're going to need an active comments section.

You guessed it. It's the short-awaited return of the feature in which the first person to comment gets to decide the topic of the day.

And what will that topic be?

That is a thing that only you can decide.

So, whatever it is you want everyone else to get off their chests, say so below and let us see what kind of a vortex of vox pop unfolds.

Sunday 21 May 2023

May 1983 - Marvel UK monthlies, 40 years ago this month.

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

Every so often, a long-established publication falls for a hoax.

Off the top of my head, I'm struggling to think of any.

However, one that I can definitely recall is The Hitler Diaries, that detailed insight into the mind of one of the 20th Century's worst painters.

Those diaries first hit the headlines in May 1983 when German magazine Stern published them. Needless to say, they caused quite the kerfuffle before being exposed for the total cobblers they were.

Definitely not total cobblers, that month, were Aberdeen FC. That's because they achieved the near-astonishing feat of defeating the mighty Real Madrid 2–1 and, in doing so, won the European Cup Winners' Cup, becoming only the third Scottish side to pick up a European trophy.

Winners were also present on the UK singles chart. May threw its doors open to the public with Spandau Ballet's True at Number One. That was then replaced by New Edition's Candy Girl which was, in turn, dislodged by the Police's tribute to stalking Every Breath You Take.

Over on the British album chart, triumph initially paid a visit to David Bowie who topped the listing with his Let's Dance LP. That then had to make way for Spandau Ballet's True which was then crushed beneath the wheels of the juggernaut that was Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Starburst #57, Xtro

The nation's favourite sci-fi mag returns, to take a look at Xtro,
Island at the Top of the World and Tenebrae. And it chats with Evil Dead director Sam Raimi.

All this and much much more for just 95 pence of your Earth money.

Star Wars Monthly #169, Darth Vader

Judging by that cover, it would seem our gang are facing a terrible Death in the City of Bone which is certainly a title to be reckoned with.

Elsewhere, Indiana Jones is up to something or other. 
Bones are probably involved in that one, as well. But, whatever Indy's fate, I can almost guarantee an ancient artefact will be involved.

The Savage Sword of Conan #67

This month, we're blessed with a tale called For the Throne of Zamboula in which Conan is captured and tortured by Zafra the wizard. Once he escapes, our hero then finds himself in the middle of a revolution!

For those who like their slaughter in large doses, we also get another installment of the text article the world knows as A Study of Warfare in Conan's World.

Blakes 7 #20, Marvel UK

I don't know much about the contents of this issue but its cover boasts that it features 40 star-packed pages. So, it must be good!

I do know, though, that we get the concluding part of the picture strip Target Practice.

Doctor Who Magazine #76, Turlough

Things are changing in our fave TV show, as world's oldest schoolboy and vaguely treacherous companion Turlough joins the cast. Thus it is that we get an interview with Mark Strickson, the actor who plays him.

We also get a chat with producer John Nathan-Turner but I suppose we all took that for granted. John never seemed to encounter an interview he didn't want to do.

But what's this? A retrospective on Snakedance, one of my favourite Fifth Doctor adventures? Who could say no to that?

Marvel Superheroes #397, the Wendigo

It's a sad day for all comics fans, as Marvel Superheroes hits its last issue. Can it be true? Can a comic starring the X-Men and Avengers really not survive in the UK comics market of 1983?

However, it goes out in style, as Wolverine and Nightcrawler find themselves in Canada and up against the nightmare menace of the Wendigo.

In their strip, I do believe the Avengers are clearing up after their encounter with Marcus and Immortus.

And, following that, we also get to see Jarvis the butler in eight pages of sensational solo action!

The Daredevils #5, Captain Britain

Just when he was hoping for a quiet life, four interdimensional beings invade Braddock Manor and abduct Captain Britain who they want to testify on behalf of Saturnyne in her upcoming trial.

Elsewhere, Alan Moore gives us his thoughts on sexism in comics.

He then gives us a three-page article on the links between music and comics.

And then he reviews some fanzines.

Egads! Is there no stopping the man?

There's certainly no stopping Ben Urich who confronts the hospitalised Daredevil, with knowledge of his origin and true identity...

Somewhat oddly, we round off the issue with a picture strip called Star Death, reprinted, seemingly randomly, from the pages of Doctor Who Monthly.

Thursday 18 May 2023

May 19th, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

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

There are world wars, there are cold wars and there are cod wars and, this week in 1973, the Second Cod War heated up, big-time, as Joseph Godber (British Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) announced that Royal Navy frigates would protect British trawlers operating in the disputed 50-mile limit around Iceland. Bjork had yet to announce her response.

No doubt aiming to escape such Earthly conflict was the United States' first space station Skylab, which launched that week.

Elsewhere, the British House of Commons voted to abolish capital punishment in Northern Ireland.

And, on the UK singles chart, there was a brand new Number One, thanks to Roy Wood's Wizzard with their overpoweringly Spectoresque See My Baby Jive.

However, when it came to the British album chart, there was no change at the top, with David Bowie's Aladdin Sane continuing to hold off the challenge of the Beatles'  Red and Blue albums.

The Mighty World of Marvel #33

Galloping gamma rays! As announced a couple of weeks ago; from this issue on, we get twice as much Hulk as we used to!

Whether this reflects the popularity of the character or the lack of popularity of Daredevil or whether it's down to some other factor altogether, I could not say.

But Hulky Baby does it in style, with the return of Tyrannus who's been separated from his fountain of youth and become a feeble old man. This leads to our hero having to fight the Mole Man's worryingly named Octo-Sapien before falling into the Fountain of Youth and reverting to Bruce Banner.

Then, he has to deal with the nightmarish threat of the Boomerang who's out to steal the plans for the object known to humanity as the Orion Missile.

Meanwhile, in their strip, the Fantastic Four are still tiny and still in the process of having to be rescued by Ant-Man...

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #14, the Scorpion and Merlin

It's an absolute classic, as Spider-Man has his first encounter with the Scorpion when J Jonah Jameson and Farley Stillwell transform a no-mark lackey into the wall-crawler's deadliest foe yet.

Elsewhere, Thor must confront the madness of Merlin who's awoken from a deep sleep and is now determined to use Washington DC landmarks against the thunder god.

But the big news is - as mentioned by Dangermash, the other day - from now on, we have not one but two pages of letters!

And not just any letters. If that front cover blurb is to be believed, we get two pages of my letters.

Truly the human race is blessed as never before.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

2000 AD - April 1985.

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

Sheryl Crow once sang that a change would do you good.

That shows how much she knew.

After all, Coca-Cola tried a change in April 1985 and it did the company no good at all.

It's true. That was the month in which the company infamously changed its long-standing formula and unleashed the triumph that was New Coke.

Sadly, public response was so overwhelmingly negative that the original formula was back on the shelves less than three months later.

Also on the market, that April, were werewolves.

At least, they were lurking in your local cinema which, granted, is not technically a market. It's more of a theatre. However, that theatre was filled with the twin delights of Ladyhawke and The Company of Wolves, both of which featured thrills of the lycanthropic kind.

At least, I think they did, as I always get Ladyhawke mixed up with Hawk the Slayer. So, I could be wrong.

Then again, I get Hawk the Slayer mixed up with Beastmaster.

Over on the UK singles chart, it was not werewolves but people called Phil, Philip or Phyllis who ruled the roost, with the early month dominated by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins'  Easy Lover which was soon dethroned by USA For Africa's We Are the World which then lost its crown to Move Closer by Phyllis Nelson.

Amazingly, despite its eight million contributors, there was no one called Phil, Philip or Phyllis on We Are the World - although it did contain the keyboard player Greg Phillinganes.

On the British album chart, there was no such churn, with only one record holding the top spot during the month. And that LP was Hits 2 by those indomitable Various Artists.

But what of the galaxy's greatest comic?

It was giving us the familiar diet of The Ballad of Halo JonesSláineJudge DreddRogue Trooper and The Hell Trekkers.

However, Prog 412 hit us with big news by revealing that Whoopee was merging with Whizzer and Chips. And, with that news, a small part of my childhood died.

But, hooray, my inner child has been revived by the discovery that Prog 415 came with a free set of six Masters of the Universe stickers!

I have the power indeed.

2000 AD #412, Judge Dredd

2000 AD #413

2000 AD #414, Judge Dredd

2000 AD #415, Judge Dredd

Sunday 14 May 2023

The Marvel Lucky Bag - May 1983.

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

There was only one game in town, this month in 1983.

And that was a thing called Return of the Jedi.

How we loved that unforgettable combination of slugs, bikinis, mayhem and teddy bears.

And, with the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, it wrapped up the Star Wars saga forever, meaning we'd never need another movie from that franchise, ever again.

But you know what we would need?


Especially not overly popular ones...

Fantastic Four Annual #17

The Fantastic Four get their 17th annual and I don't have a clue what happens in it. But I do know it features the very first appearance of Barney White!

I don't have a clue who Barney White is.

I like to think he's the husband of Betty White, meaning we have a triptych of famous Barneys and Bettys, made up of the Rubbles, the Hills and, now, the Whites.

Kull the Conqueror #1

At bloody last! Kull gets his very own comic!

Hold on. Didn't he already have his own comic?

And wasn't that also called Kull the Conqueror?

And wasn't there an issue of it published last month?

I don't have a clue what's going on with that but I do know our Antediluvian action man finds himself in rocky waters and up against the Eye of the Tigress.

Marvel Super Special #26, Octopussy

But forget all of that. This is what we've all been praying for - a comic book adaptation of James Bond's greatest adventure Octopussy!

But which film's Octopussy? Is that the one with the Russian general who steals an atom bomb and plans to use it?

The one in which our hero must dress up as a clown, in order to save the world?

Marvel Super Special #27, Return of the Jedi

Speaking of Return of the Jedi, Marvel wastes no time in giving us its very own take on the tale, as delivered by Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and Carlos Garzón.

Super-Villain Classics #1, Galactus

And another brand new comic sends our spinner racks into a spin, as Super-Villains Classics gives us the origin of no lesser character than Galactus.

It would appear to be faithful to the version first given us in Thor's mag, all those years ago, even including artwork by Jack Kirby, although with new panels supplied by John Byrne.

The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior #1

At last, we get the saga of Crystar the Crystal Warrior!

You guessed it; I don't have the Scoobiest who Crystar is, or what use a warrior made of crystal would be to anyone.

According to the Grand Comics Database, this is what happens:

Zardeth delivers a prophecy to the kingdom of Crystallium, which leads to a split between the princes Crystar and Moltar.

To save Cystar from death, a wizard sends him into the Prisma-Crystal, where he emerges as a warrior of crystal.

To save Moltar from the magical crystal rain, Zardeth sends him into lava, where he emerges as a man of hardened lava.

The transformed pair, thus, begin to battle for the right to rule!

U.S. 1 #1

Don't even begin to ask me what this thing is.

All I can say is it's brought to us by Al Milgrom and Herb Trimpe and its tale inside is called U.S.1, Comin' at Ya!

Also, that its central character goes by the unlikely handle Ulysses Solomon Archer.

Thursday 11 May 2023

May 12th, 1973 - Marvel UK, 50 years ago this week.

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

Stability was the order of the day, this week in 1973, when it came to the music charts.

After all, still atop the singles mountain were Tony Orlando and Dawn with Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, while, top of the album woodpile was David Bowie's Aladdin Sane which was successfully holding off the twin challenge of the Beatles' Red and Blue albums.

I have mixed feelings about Mr Orlando's single but these are the 45s I did approve of on that week's chart:

See My Baby Jive - Wizzard

Giving It All Away - Roger Daltrey

Brother Louie - Hot Chocolate

Walk on The Wild Side - Lou Reed

Cum On Feel the Noize - Slade


Whatever Happened to You? by Highly Likely which turns out to have been the theme tune from Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads? Making it, surely, the best theme tune ever possessed by a British sitcom.

Should you wish to peruse the issue further, that week's UK singles chart may be found here.

While the corresponding LP chart resides right here.

The Mighty World of Marvel #32, Hulk vs Hercules

It's the clash that had to happen!

And it happens because Hercules has his sights set on Hollywood. When his train to the capitol of cinema's stopped by the Hulk, there's only going to be one outcome. And that outcome involves knuckle sandwiches.

But, next, we get an oddity. As mentioned in last week's post, Daredevil's been banished from the pages of Marvel's flagship title. But what none of us was likely to have foreseen is that, for one week only, his strip's replaced by a tale called The Sub-Mariner Must Be Stopped! in which the Thing and Human Torch discover Namor is heading towards New York and decide to stop him.

And they do stop him. But that's when they're told he was heading for New York to take part in peace talks - and, by attacking him, the dynamic dunderheads have sunk the chances of those ever happening.

We finish this issue with The Micro-World of Doctor Doom! in which our heroes have been reduced to microscopic size and must now suffer the indignity of having to be rescued by Ant-Man.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #13

And it's yet more trouble for the Human Torch, as he's kidnapped by Sandman and the Enforcers. And, now, only Spider-Man can save him.

Elsewhere, an evil scientist forces Don Blake to help him with a duplicating machine which then replicates Thor. Fortunately, it can't copy his enchanted hammer and thus is that villain undone.

And there's more.

But what is the more in question?

I don't have a clue but I do know that, according to the cover, we'll get, inside, a special message from Stan Lee!

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Forty years ago today - May 1983.

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

Yet another bank holiday's come and gone.

And that means it's my duty to, once more, press my nose to the time grindstone and discover just what Marvel can offer us that had a cover date of exactly 40 years ago.

The Avengers #231

That awesome basket of menacing malevolence Plant-Man manages to take over SHIELD, thanks to his plant replicas of its agents. Needless to say, the Avengers are soon on hand to dispose of such vegetabletastic villainy.

Conan the Barbarian #146

After all these years, Conan gets a comedy episode, as, on a drunken night out, he ends up helping a trio of sex-starved witches to achieve something or other before they return to their own dimension.

Captain America #281

Does Cap never learn? After the disasters that were his alliances with the original Bucky and then Rick Jones, he now decides it's a good idea to team up with the 1950s Bucky who's out to turn over a new leaf and not be a psycho anymore.

Elsewhere, Spider-Woman discovers Viper's not really her mother.

Not that it does Cap and Bucky any good. After barely any time at all together, they're captured by the Constrictor.

Fantastic Four #254, Mantracora

The FF are still in the Negative Zone and find themselves in a tale called The Minds of Mantracora, a title that must have been inspired by the Doctor Who story The Masque of Mandragora. I may believe in coincidence but I certainly don't trust it.

Regardless, Reed has his psyche sucked out of his head and used to power the bad guy's spaceship.

The Incredible Hulk #283

I'm not totally sure but I think the Hulk and his chums spend an entire issue laying siege to the Leader's giant, hidden space base.

Only to find out he's not there.

Iron Man #170

With Tony Stark too drunk to do anything, Rhodey has no choice but to don the Iron Man armour and battle the deadly attack of Magma who's out to destroy Stark's factory.

Fortunately, Rhodey then discovers he has help from an unlikely source. None other than Iron Man's deadliest enemy.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #78, Dr Octopus

The Black Cat remains in hospital - and Doc Ock's out to kill her!

Can our hero possibly stop him?

Thor #331

Thor continues to battle the faith-based zeal of the Crusader - and proves startlingly ineffectual when confronted, for once, with someone who can actually hurt him. Fortunately, Odin gives him a good pep talk and then it's business as usual.

The Uncanny X-Men #169

The X-Men have to travel into the world beneath New York, after the mutant gang known as The Morlocks captures the Angel.

And he's not the only one with problems, because a disease-stricken Kitty's abducted by her weirdo subterranean stalker Caliban.

The Amazing Spider-Man #240, the Vulture

The Vulture's back in town and out for revenge against some bloke or other.

Daredevil #194

When a notorious but repentant crimelord is dying, Daredevil sets out to protect him from the murderous intents of the Amish-like community that spawned him.

And this is my pick for Cover of the Month.