Sunday 30 July 2023

The Joker #1.

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

DC Comics The Joker #1, 1975
I recently saw a Xeet on Elon Musk's swinging new social media site X which argued that Spider-Man and Batman have the best villains' galleries of any heroes.

To be honest, I wasn't convinced.

Spider-Man clearly has an awesome list of foes but, while Batman has plenty of enemies, I'm not convinced any of them are what you'd call top-notch. Even the Joker seems fairly second-rate when compared to Spidey's best antagonists.

But am I right?

There's only one way to find out.

And that's to look at the comic in which Batman's arch-nemesis gets to have adventures all on his own.

And that comic launches with The Joker #1 from way back in the sunny days of 1975.

Denny O'Neil's tale kicks off when a man called Señor Alvarez helps Two-Face escape from prison but leaves the Joker behind, on the grounds that he only wants the help of a top criminal, and the Joker doesn't qualify.

The Joker#1, the villain escaped from prison
Not willing to take that snub lying down, the clown prince of crime organises his own escape, with the help of a helium-filled balloon and then sets out to prove he's a better criminal than Two-Face, by attacking his rival's not-so-secret hideout.

Sadly, this all results in him being knocked out and tied to a conveyor belt that's headed for a circular saw.

Thanks to his acid-powered buttonhole, the villain escapes and sets out to thwart Two-Face's plan to steal some old coins from a local museum. This intervention results in the dastardly duo knocking themselves out and being returned to the prison cells in which they belong.

The Joker #1, knocked out
I must be honest and admit I suspect that, even if I'd read this as an eleven-year-old, when it came out, I wouldn't exactly have been grabbed by the tale.

The first thing that strikes me is that, throughout it all, the Joker talks like Lost in Space's Dr Smith on cocaine which gets tiresome very quickly.

Secondly, as drawn by Irv Novick, he's so skinny that it's impossible for him to seem threatening in fight scenes. Admittedly, that's not totally Novick's fault. As far as I can remember, a pipe cleaner physique was bestowed upon the villain by all artists during this period. But I would say this issue takes the trend too far.

The Joker #1, Surprise!
But the yarn's fatal flaw is that neither crook comes across as a master villain. They just come across as silly and so hamstrung by their own gimmicks that they become ineffectual; metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot every chance they get.

This is especially a problem for Two-Face whose insistence on everything he does incorporating the number 2 that it makes his every move totally predictable.

I would assume the two crooks knocking themselves out and being hauled off back to jail is down to the strictures of the Comics Code which doesn't want criminals to be seen getting away with wrongdoing. While that may be ethically admirable - and will, no doubt, protect all of us readers from having our minds warped - it does ultimately make the story feel futile and trivial.

The Joker #1, buzz saw
All in all, I feel the whole thing pales when compared to Marvel's early 1970s Dr Doom series, in terms of art, mood, characters and writing. Also, neither of these silly ninnies would last more than two panels against Spider-Man.

That is, however, only my opinion, and others may think otherwise.

Others may think the Joker and Two-Face are among the greatest threats ever unleashed upon the comic book world.

They may think this is the greatest comic they've ever read.

If so, they are free to say so, below.

Thursday 27 July 2023

July 28th, 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 was a time when Gary Glitter was famous purely for being a pop star. And this week in 1973 was one of those times. That's because it was the week the not-at-all glamorous glam rocker hit the top spot on the UK singles chart with I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am!).

Amazingly, the singer was only in his twenties at the time, despite the widespread perception of him as being wildly superannuated.

Meanwhile, on the British LP chart, the roost was still being ruled by Various Artists' That'll Be the Day.

The Mighty World of Marvel #43, Hulk vs Sub-Mariner

It's a full-blown 22-page epic, as Subby decides the Hulk's exactly the ally he needs in his war with the surface dwellers.

The trouble is that's the exact moment the Puppet Master decides he knows just what it takes to get revenge on Subby.

And that's a mind-controlled Hulk!

Cue the obligatory punch-up and, surely, the Hulk's greatest story, so far.

Elsewhere, for the eighty billionth time, the Watcher breaks his oath to not interfere, and recruits the Fantastic Four to deal with the valency-violating villainy of the vilely verminous Molecule Man.

And, whatever you do, don't miss Marvel UK's Swap Shop inside!

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #24

Public-spirited as ever, J Jonah 
Jameson offers a $1,000 dollar reward for the capture of the burglar the world knows as the Cat.

Always on the lookout for a quick buck, Spider-Man decides he's going to win himself that reward. But who is the Cat and where can he find him?

Meanwhile, Thor finally disposes of Mr Hyde and the Cobra.

But, when his alter-ego Don Blake returns to the office, he discovers Jane Foster hates him, thanks to his plan for defeating the villains having involved him "betraying" the thunder god she adores.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 58. Comics or franchises you gave up on.

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
Last week, in this feature, I complained that, from all sides, I was being assailed by rain.

Reader, I am still being assailed by rain.

Will the endless deluge never end?

Clearly, it won't or it wouldn't be endless.

Therefore, I must, once again, take refuge within my domicile and, as water pours down my window panes, look to the internet for entertainment.

But what is that entertainment to be?

That, I do not know. For, it is the return of the feature in which the first person to comment below gets to choose the topic of the day.

Will it deal with past, present or future?

I cannot say.

Will it deal with matters material, vegetable or spiritual?

I cannot say.

Who can say?

You can say!

And you can do it right below!

Sunday 23 July 2023

July 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

When it came to matters meteorological, July 1983 was a month of contrasts.

On the one hand, the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was registered at Vostok Station, Antarctica, racking up a bracing −89.2 °C.

On the other hand, the UK was embracing a heatwave, as temperatures reached 33 °C in London.

The hot hits of the time were Rod Stewart's Baby Jane and Paul Young's Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home) which respectively held the Number One spot on the UK singles chart, that month.

On the British album chart, however, the month began with Wham!'s Fantastic gripping the top spot before it was displaced by Yazoo's You And Me Both which then had to make way for The Very Best of the Beach Boys.

The Daredevils #7

It's double trouble in this month's main strip.

For a start, the former Captain UK is having nightmares about the Fury having killed all her friends.

But, also, Captain Britain's attending a kangaroo court where Saturnyne's quickly condemned for her recent failure.

Elsewhere, Steve Moore and Steve Jones consider comics published in Japan, Alan Moore reviews fanzines, and Night-Raven encounters the Snow Queen.

In Daredevil's strip, the Gladiator holds a group of kids hostage in a museum.

And, finally, we get a reprint called Black Sun Rising, taken from the pages of Doctor Who Monthly.

The Mighty World of Marvel #2

In our main story, Mystique and her mates are out to kill Senator Kelly but Kitty's future self helps the X-Men thwart the plan, therefore changing the future.

As the future's previously consisted of the Sentinels wiping out Mutantkind, this is clearly a good thing.

Or is it...?

In the rest of the mag, Frank Plowright presents his Abbreviated History of the American Comic and the Scarlet Witch and Vision star in a tale called Faith of Our Fathers.

Doctor Who Magazine #78

All I know about this one is it presents us with a Patrick Troughton interview and looks back at the contributions of original Master actor Roger Delgado.

There's also a brand new comic strip begins but I don't know what it involves.

Blakes 7 #22

Well, this all looks like cause for concern. After all, if the cover's to be believed, inside we see Avon in trouble and Vila close to death!

Beyond that, I can say nothing of this issue's contents other than it seems that, yet again, Paul Darrow writes.

All I can do is hope he writes as melodramatically as he speaks.

The Savage Sword of Conan #69

And I've drawn a complete blank on the contents of this one. From that cover, it looks like our hero finds himself up against a monster that's 90% man, 10% ant and 110% trouble.

Star Wars #171

All I know of this one is it features the Return to Stenos and more action from Indiana Jones.

Fortunately, I know more about the contents of this one. 

For instance, I know Britain's greatest sci-fi mag takes a look at brand new movie Videodrome, even if the censors may end up not letting us see it

Inevitably, we get a look at the filming of Return of the Jedi.

And, less inevitably, legendary horror/sci-fi dramatist Nigel Kneale talks about this involvement with John Carpenter's Halloween III.

Thursday 20 July 2023

July 21st, 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

Things were livening up in the world of American politics, this week in 1973 because it was the week in which former White House aide Alexander Butterfield told the US Senate's Watergate Committee that President Nixon had secretly recorded potentially incriminating conversations. 

News that was almost as big was happening on the UK singles chart, that week. Because, in a pleasing development for all lovers of musically unchallenging duos, the top spot was suddenly claimed by Welcome Home by Peters and Lee, a pair who've been the subject of much debate on this site in the past couple of weeks.

Me, personally, I've no great opinion on the song, as the only thing I can remember about it is the first line of the chorus. Which is probably not a good sign.

Also, the only things I remember about Peters and Lee themselves are that one of them was a man and one of them was a woman and one of them was blind and one of them wasn't.

Over on the British album chart, that duo were having to settle for second spot, as the Number One position there was still being gripped tight by Various Artists' That'll Be the Day.

The Mighty World of Marvel #42

For once, we don't get a cover from the likes of Rich Buckler or Jim Starlin.

Instead, we get Mirthful Marie Severin's original cover for the tale within. And what a striking image it is, even if the reproduction here doesn't do it full justice.

Inside, with Thunderbolt Ross's base under control of the Lord of the Living Lightning and the threat of a missile barrage looming, it's down to the Hulk and Glenn Talbot to save the day.

But here's an oddity. Instead of another story from the Severin era, this issue's second Hulk tale is no less an epic than Heaven is a Very Small Place! the Roy Thomas/Herb Trimpe yarn in which our hero's fooled into thinking he's found a town that happily accepts his presence, only for it to all have been a mirage.

Someone at the company was clearly proud of that tale, as I remember Mighty World of Marvel reprinting it on at least two other occasions after this one.

On top of that, this week, we get the second part of the Fantastic Four's first encounter with Rama-Tut.

But all that pales into insignificance beside the news that we have the chance to win £1 week for a year. Which, by my reckoning is £52.

According to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, that's £538.14 in modern money!

By the way, that means this 5 pence issue of Mighty World of Marvel would cost 52 pence at 2023 prices.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #23, Dr Strange

Unless I miss my guess, we're getting the tale in which Spider-Man helps Dr Strange tackle the sneaky sorceror Xandu who has the Wand of Watoomb.

In the issue's other masterpiece, if Thor thought he had problems when he had to fight the Cobra and Mr Hyde individually, now he has to fight both of them at the same time.

In all honesty, that really shouldn't be a major problem for him. Even Daredevil managed to beat them - and DD was distracted at the time by trying to figure out if he should marry Karen Page as Matt Murdock or as his own non-existent twin.

But who cares about that? What really matters is that in this mag too we can also win ourselves £1 a week for a year.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Speak Your Brain! Part 57. Which toys did you regret not owning?

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
From all sides, I am assailed by rain.

Truly, I can do nothing but take refuge indoors and look to the internet for entertainment.

But what entertainment will it offer me?

That, I cannot say, as we've hit that fork in the road they who dare speak of it know as Speak Your Brain. It's the fork in which the first person to comment gets to pick the topic of the day.

And who can know what that topic might be?

The Shadow might know.

The Phantom Stranger almost certainly does know.

And, as for Professor X, it's a shoo-in that he knows.

For they are blessed with the power to read the very darkest of men's thoughts.

I, however, am not and must, like any mortal, wait with breath bated to see what transpires.

Sunday 16 July 2023

2000 AD - June 1985.

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

Do you like getting your kicks?

If so, June 1985 was a terrible month for you because that was when Route 66 - the only place you could officially get your kicks - was decommissioned. 

Granted, I don't actually know what, "decommissioned," meant but I would assume it meant you couldn't use it anymore.

Not that I knew why you'd use it, as I never had a clue where it started from and where it led to.

For that matter, I still don't.

A safe bet is it didn't lead to my local cinema.

Which is a shame because, lurking in that theatre was a whole feast of offerings, including but not limited to, The Goonies, Prizzi's Honor, Cocoon, Return to Oz, Pale Rider and St. Elmo's Fire. The latter of which featured a theme song which briefly made an unlikely US AOR star of John Parr from Doncaster.

Return to Oz made a star of Fairuza Balk and is one of those sequels they always say should never have been made. But it also happens to be one of those few sequels I prefer to its predecessor. Yes, I am the man who preferred Babe: Pig in the City to Babe.

It does seem weird to see that Pale Rider came out in the 1980s and not the 1970s. Then again, that could be because I always get it mixed up with High Plains Drifter which did come out in the 1970s.

The UK singles chart, that June, kicked off with Paul Hardcastle's 19 at the helm before it was dislodged by the Crowd's charity single You'll Never Walk Alone which was dislodged by Sister Sledge's Frankie.

The British album chart ushered the month in with the Style Council's Our Favourite Shop on top. But even that had to make way for Bryan Ferry's Boys and Girls which had to make way for Marillion's Misplaced Childhood which had to make way for Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, rendering the LP chart's summit a veritable revolving door.

But what of the galaxy's greatest comic? What was that up to while all this churn was occurring?

As so often in the past, it was giving us a diet of Sláine, Tharg's Future-Shocks, Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and Strontium Dog. While, less familiarly, Judge Anderson was still battling the Dark Judges.

But what's this? Judging by the cover to Prog 424, it would seem her colleague Dredd was about to come up against Mega-City One's answer to the Silver Surfer.

2000 AD Prog 420

2000 AD Prog 421

2000 AD Prog 422

2000 AD Prog 423

2000 AD Prog 424

Thursday 13 July 2023

July 14th, 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 was no change at the top of the UK album and singles charts, this week in 1973, with 

Skweeze Me Pleeze Me by Slade and Various Artists' That'll Be the Day still reigning supreme.

Like anyone with any sense, I do, of course, love a good dose of Slade but other singles I approved of on that week's chart were:

Life on Mars - David Bowie

Albatross {1973} - Fleetwood Mac

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting - Elton John

Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings

Stuck in The Middle With You - Stealers Wheel

Can the Can - Suzi Quatro

I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren


See My Baby Jive - Wizzard.

Should you wish to peruse the matter further, that week's singles chart lives right here.

While the corresponding album chart resides here.

The Mighty World of Marvel #41

There's just no rest when you're the Hulk. No sooner has he returned to Earth than he's brainwashed by the evil organisation the world knows as The Living Lightning.

Or it would do if it had ever heard of it.

Under this mind control, our hero attacks Thunderbolt Ross and, while Ross is dealing with that, the Lord of the Living Lightning only goes and takes over his military base!

Elsewhere, the Marvel time streams are about to get a whole lot more complicated because, seeking a cure for Alicia's blindness, the Fantastic Four travel to Ancient Egypt and are promptly met by Rama-Tut, tyrannical time traveller from our distant future.

Spider-Man Comics Weekly #22

It's a pivotal day for Peter Parker because it's the day he graduates from high school.

But it's a big day for Mark Raxton, as well. Thanks to an experiment gone wrong, he turns into the Molten Man - and Spider-Man's just the kind of guy he'd like to take his frustrations out on.

It's all eventful for Thor, as well because Odin travels to Earth to stick his nose into the thunder god's relationship with Jane Foster.

But wouldn't you know it, the moment he's gone, Loki frees the malevolent giants Skagg and Surtur, in an attempt to hold on to power in Asgard forever.

That's the plan, at least. Sadly for Loki, Thor, Balder and Odin defeat the giants and that means there'll be no supper for Loki tonight.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

The Marvel Lucky Bag - July 1983.

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

Plenty of famous films hit our eyes when we entered our local cinema in July 1983. Amongst other treats, we were blessed with such gems as Staying AliveZeligJaws 3-DKrull and National Lampoon's Vacation.

I must confess the only one of those I've seen is Krull. Therefore I can pass no judgement upon which is best but, somehow, I have the suspicion it's probably not Krull.

Dreadstar #5

Skeevo, Syzygy and Oedi take out advertising with the Commune but it's exciting times ahead because, as the Instrumentality tries to bushwhack them, they meet and battle Tuetun.

Frankly, I found all that out from the internet. I don't have a clue what any of it means. It's just a string of near-random words, to me.

Kull the Conqueror #2

And I know even less about what's going on in this one.

I do know that, in some way, it involves The Amulet of Ka.

And, obviously, it involves Kull.

Marvel Fanfare #9

In this thrilling issue, we get a Man-Thing tale called Rock 'n' Soul!

But we're doubly blessed because we also get an adventure called Mowgli's Brothers, adapted, as you might suspect, from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Marvel Team-Up #131, Spider-Man and Frog-Man

Hang onto your lily pads, tigers, because, this issue, Spider-Man teams up with Frog-Man!

I'm assuming he's not the Frog-Man who used to fight Daredevil?

Anyway, the White Rabbit's also involved.

Not that I have a clue who she is either.

I'm going to assume she's the villain of the piece.

The Thing #1

Marvel Two-in-One may have died but you can't keep a bright orange rock monster down.

And so it is that the Thing gets his very own book in which he returns to Yancy Street to reminisce over his early years, including the death of his brother and the formation of the Fantastic Four.

To be honest, sitting around reminiscing doesn't sound like the most thrilling way to start a new series.

Then again, it's by John Byrne. So, I'm, sure he knows what he's doing.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #7

Today's Marvel Universe is brought to you by the letter, "M."

And that means we get a whole string of one-page profiles of various super-doers whose names begin with that very character.

Dazzler #27

Bouncing Bill Sienkiewicz gives us a cover that I suspect is likely to be far more intriguing than the story within.

Then again, I know nothing of the story within, other than that it's called Fugitive and is brought to us by the team of Frank Springer and Vince Colletta.

The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior #2

It would appear that, In order to save Koth's life, Ogeode must discover more about the physiology of the Crystal warriors.

To do this, he sends his daughter into the Prism-Crystal, so that she, herself, can undergo the transformation.

U.S. 1 #3

We're on issue #3 now and I still have no idea what this comic's about.

I do suspect CB radio's involved.

Marvel Age #4

It would seem we get coverage of Return of the Jedi - and we get Bob Layton being interviewed!

Granted, I only know that because it says so on the front cover.

We also get Rock and Rule but I don't have a clue what that means.

We also get Other Stuff.

That is good. It's always good to get other stuff.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Forty years ago today - July 1983.

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

Let us leap from the cliffs of Nostalgia and see what treats we bang our heads on when we land upon the beckoning shores below.

Daredevil #196, Wolverine

Daredevil teams up with Wolverine, in an attempt to prevent Bullseye being smuggled out of the country but soon finds himself repulsed by his new ally's eagerness to butcher his foes.

Iron Man #172, Firebrand and Captain America

Things are getting so bad for Tony Stark - thanks to his drunkenness - that Rhodey tries to get Captain America to have a word with him.

Unfortunately, he might not live long enough to receive that pep talk, as Firebrand is back and has set fire to the building Stark's currently discombobulated himself inside.

The Amazing Spider-Man #242

From what I can remember, the Mad Thinker's still in jail and reached the conclusion that Spider-Man must have a special sense which warns him of danger.

Having decided this is the key to making his own predictions more accurate, the villain telepathically sets one of his androids on the hero, in an attempt to study him in action and learn his secret.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #80

I do believe this is the one in which J Jonah Jameson goes completely mad and, in order to show Marla he still has the reporting instincts of his youth, investigates corruption down on the docks.

Needless to say, every man and his dog tries to kill him, along the way. Needless to say, Spider-Man secretly helps him out whenever he needs it.

I'm assuming this story was inspired by the Daredevil yarn, from not too long ago, in which Foggy Nelson went off to investigate New York's criminal underworld.

Not, of course, that I would ever accuse Spider-Man in this era of borrowing ideas from Daredevil.

Captain America #283

Viper's captured Cap and Nomad and has a balloon-based plan to spread the Bubonic Plague across America!

Fortunately, the dynamic duo have an unlikely ally in the Constrictor who doesn't fancy living in a world ravaged by the Black Death.

The Uncanny X-Men #171

It's good news for all X-Men fans, as Rogue joins the team!

It's not such good news for everyone else, as no one in the gang wants her near them - especially Ms Marvel who just wants to knock her block off.

Sadly, for them all, they're overruled by Professor X and, so, an X-Man she becomes.

Meanwhile, Storm's descent into darkness continues...

Thor #333, Dracula

Can it be? Can Dracula have turned Sif into a vampire? And can the lord of the undead be a match for Thor, now that he has the blood of an Asgardian goddess in his veins?

Here's where we find out, although I must report that, even with the blood of an Asgardian in his veins Drac's still not a match for Thor, and the story does basically nothing with Sif having become a vampire.

Conan the Barbarian #148

Much as I love John Buscema, that's not one of the best covers he's ever produced.

Inside, the barbarian stumbles across a town where a plague keeps turning people into trees.

And it's not long before Conan himself becomes distinctly deciduous! However, I must confess I can't remember just how he turns himself back into a person again.

Fantastic Four #256, Annihilus

By all sorts of Reed Richards style scientific gobbledygook, the Fantastic Four escape death in the Negative Jone and inflict the fate upon Annihilus that he would have had befall upon them.

Sadly, it's not in time for Alicia who's had a good knocking about from the villain. And, meanwhile, just what's happened to Franklin?

The Avengers #233

It's a cross-over with this month's Fantastic Four, as the world's mightiest super-team battles to penetrate an energy-neutralising force field that's been flung up around the Baxter Building, by Annihilus.

They finally succeed in their efforts but it's an attempt that leaves the Vision in a seemingly lifeless heap.

The Incredible Hulk #285, Zzzax

Still out to rebuild his life as a scientist, Bruce Banner sets about constructing a new lab for Stark Industries but, unknown to anyone, one of the brand new parts contains Zzzax - and only the Hulk can stop him!