Sunday 11 February 2024

Forty years ago today - February 1984.

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

A wise man once said, "Time, time, time. See what has become of me."

That man was Paul Simon and I've no idea what he meant by it.

However, I do have an idea about something else.

And that idea is that I now need to strip to the waist and wrestle so violently with Time that it runs backward and I can, at last, see just what was going on in the Marvel comics which bore the never-to-be-forgotten cover date of February 1974.

Fantastic Four #263

A totally bizarre story meets our eyes, in which the Fantastic Four must defeat legendary comic book artist Neal Adams who's kidnapped the Human Torch so he can use the hero's power, to agitate the Earth's core and accelerate our planet's expansion.

Granted, the villain isn't named in the story as Neal Adams. Instead, he's called Alden Maas but even I can spot that's an anagram.

Regardless, at the tale's climax, we discover the Mole Man isn't best pleased by nefarious Neal's plan.

And I think we can assume that can only be bad news for the plucky penciller.

The Incredible Hulk #292, Dragon Man

It's time for a revenge match, as Bruce Banner visits the circus - only to discover it's the Circus of Crime!

Spotting Bruce in the audience, the Ringmaster sets his latest recruit the Dragon Man on him but that's clearly not going to stop the Hulk from wrecking the hypnotic huckster's latest money-making scheme.

Iron Man #179, Radioactive Man

Still working as a hero for hire, Rhodey takes a job in Hong Kong, trying to discover what ruined a load of film stock.

And it turns out the Radioactive Man destroyed it.

As far as I can remember the glowy scientist has no interest in the film stock and is on another mission altogether.

Needless to say, that doesn't prevent the villain and the armour-clad hero from clashing.

The Amazing Spider-Man #249, Kingpin and the Hobgoblin

Spidey gains an unlikely ally when the Hobgoblin decides to show up at an exclusive club, many of whose members he's attempting to blackmail.

Unfortunately for the villain, the Kingpin also happens to be a member of the club and decides to help our hero in his battle with the flying felon.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #87, the Black Cat

In his other mag, Spidey displays an epic gift for terrible judgement when he decides to reveal his true identity to the Black Cat, even though she's clearly not a full shilling.

Unfortunately for the wallcrawler, it turns out she doesn't fancy Peter Parker, only Spider-Man, meaning he's going to have to keep his mask on at all times if she's to avoid having a psychiatric meltdown in his presence.

The Uncanny X-Men #178

It's a veritable nightmare for the X-Men when Mystique breaks into their HQ in an attempt to liberate Rogue from their clutches.

Only for her to discover her "daughter" doesn't want to be liberated.

Beneath the streets of New York, the Morlocks are also up to things. Things which I suspect can't be good things.

Conan the Barbarian #155

From what I can remember, Conan rides into yet another town and finds himself up against yet another sorcerer.

The good news for him, this time, is the sorcerer's a bit of an amateur and easily defeated - even with a demon on his side.

Daredevil #203

It's not one of Daredevil's finer tales, as the man without fear finds himself battling an annoying stage magician who loves to commit crimes.

This leads to him re-encountering one of the gang who used to taunt Matt Murdock by calling him, "Daredevil," when he was a kid.

Off the top of my head, I can't remember if it's the villain or his victim who's our star's former tormentor.

I do remember, though, that the villain's lumbered with the rather unfortunate sobriquet of, "The Trump."

Also, for no good reason, Matt has a mental meltdown about it all.

But, sadly, not one that's actually interesting.

Thor #340

It's the cosmos-crunching conclusion to the Beta Ray Bill saga, as that character, Thor and Sif finally encounter the demons from another dimension who've been wiping out Bill's people.

Needless to say, those scoundrels don't last long when confronted by that power trio, and the day is soon won.

Not only that but, afterwards, Odin gives Bill a civilian secret identity that's fit to rival Don Blake himself.

The Avengers #240, Spider-Woman

I suspect loose ends from other comics are being tied up in this one when the Avengers must go to the aid of Spider-Woman whose body's in a hospital bed, thanks to her spirit being trapped on the astral plane.

As you might expect, the gang lacks the skills needed to help her but, fortunately, they know how to contact Dr Strange who certainly can do something about it all.

In further news, it's only in the last few days that I've discovered Spider-Woman's alter-ego Jessica Drew isn't named in honour of TV detectives Jessica Fletcher and Nancy Drew.

Captain America #290, Mother Night

When Cap's friends are tormented by a series of nightmares, there's only one person can be responsible.

Mother Superior - the daughter of the Red Skull!

And that's the limit of what I remember about this one.

And about her.


Anonymous said...

Well, here we are. I don’t remember any of these comics so I must have stopped buying Marvel comics pretty much altogether by that point. I’ll have to check out Mike’s Newsstand to see what else was on sale that month — there must have been SOMETHING to entice me to part with my ill - gotten gains….

Steve, are you putting us on about the Neal Adams thing? As we all know, the ‘real’ Neal Adams had some….interesting theories about our world expanding — but was that something that was public knowledge back then? Was John Byrne mercilessly spoofing the guy in his monthly funny book? Or — holy crap — was the real Neal Adams actually inspired by his anagramatical counterpart’s theory, and make it his own? Did art imitate life in this instance or vicey versa?

If Byrne did indeed base Alden Maas on Neal Adams, knowing that Adams had some Weird Science concept of our earth expanding, siccing the Mole Man on him is some truly masterful trolling. (Insert CITIZEN KANE slow clap clip here)


Steve W. said...

Bt, I'm not putting you on. Neal Adams really is the bad guy in that Fantastic Four issue.

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

An 80% female Avengers team if the corner box is anything to go by!

Anonymous said...

That’s wild, Steve. Kind surprised I never heard of it before today. I didn’t realize Adams’ theory was that well known, that long ago. I think I only heard about it in the early 2000s, when it actually got some traction in the newspapers, IIRC.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Matthew, my recollection is that Alden Maas - the owner of Wonderworld theme park and creator of Maxie Mouse - was modelled ón Walt Disney, with a touch of Howard Hughes thrown in.

The Neal Adams thing seemed like an additional in-joke on top - his contributions to geological science weren't as well known to fans in the pre-internet era (as Anonymous points out above) - although quite possibly not an affectionate one.
After all, the character was supposed to be crazy and a bit of a megalomaniac. And we're in the era when Byrne regularly seemed to be trolling his fellow comic pros, giving the kind of interviews about being a Marvel company man which inspired Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby to take the piss out him with their their Destroyer Duck character Booster Cogburn.


Anonymous said...

Huh. Thats the Shroud behind the Scarlet Witch and Tigra on that Avengers cover. Isn't it? I didn't realize he appeared anywhere outside of Super-Villain Team-Up and an issue of MTU. So was he an Avenger then...?!?

dangermash, There was actually a 100% female Defenders line-up for a short while around the end of the 70s.


Anonymous said...

A dull month at Marvel by the looks of things, at least for the A-list. Apart from Thor obviously.

But never mind because things were happening at DC, especially for all lovers of purple prose in comics, as they put out the awesome Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 - "Its raining in Washington tonight, plump warm summer rain that covers the sidewalks in leopard spots..." - and Nathaniel Dusk #1 by Don McGregor (don't worry, I'm not going to quote from his script too) and Gene Colan.


Colin Jones said...

Today (12th Feb) is exactly 50 years since the first episode of BAGPUSS was broadcast!

Redartz said...

Only had a few of these books, as I too was phasing out of Marvel. However, that issue of Amazing Spider-Man was pretty good. The m
First section of a really nice 3 parter, with solid art and stories (Roger Stern scripts, pencils by JRJR and inks by Dan Green). Having Wilson Fisk (spoiler alert) pull Spidey's bacon out of the fire impressed me at the time as a novel twist.

Incidentally, the art on this 3 parter gets progressively better- next up is Klaus Janson inking, then Ron Frenz and Janson on the finale. As a package it remains my favorite Hobgoblin story...

Interesting tidbit you all share about that FF story and Neal Adams. Hadn't heard that; now I have to go reread it...

Anonymous said...

I googled the ‘Alden Maas’ thing and it appears the character started as a combination Howard Hughes/ Walt Disney spoof, and when someone pointed out that the character’s ‘expanding earth’ theory was similar to Adams’ theory, Byrne decided to lean into it. I couldnt find anything about Neal’s reaction to Byrne’s piss-take. Byrne later took a nasty shot at Len Wein in the pages of SHE-HULK.

I looked up the February 84 comics at the Newsstand and it turns out I actually bought quite a few that month, including some Marvels (but those were mostly reprints)

BLUE RIBBON COMICS 5 (Private Strong reprints by Simon and Kirby)
CAPTAIN AMERICA SPECIAL EDITION 1 (Baxter Steranko reprints)
DC PRESENTS 66 (Superman and The Demon drawn by Joe Kubert)
ÉCLIPSE MONTHLY 5 (Rio by Doug Wildey)
ELEKTRA SAGA 1 (Baxter Miller reprints)
EPIC ILLUSTRATED 22 (Marada the She-Wolf by Claremont and Bolton)
GREEN LANTERN / GREEN ARROW 5 (Baxter Adams reprints)
MARS 2 (Hempel and Wheatley)
MICRONAUTS SPECIAL EDITION 3 (Baxter Mike Golden reprints)
MS MYSTIC 2 (finally!!!)

And as Steve pointed out above, the one undeniable classic of the month, the mighty SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING 21. It’s hard to convey the impact that book had on me at the time. From the first page, I read that thing with my jaw practically on the floor. It felt like a seismic event, like we were witnessing the comics medium ascending to the Next Level in real time.


Anonymous said...

Yes Swamp Thing #21 changed the game with its first page.

'I rather think there will be blood. Lots of blood. Blood in extraordinary quantities.'

A bit like waking in the middle of the night to use the loo, and glancing bleary-eyed at your phone to see your team 6:0 down...


Anonymous said...

I thought it was quite a good game myself, DW...

b.t. The amazing thing about that issue of Swamp Thing is that it was only the second full length comic Moore had ever written (the first being of course #20, which had to wrap up the earlier storyline).
Had you read any issues of Warrior at that point? By early '84 there were only a couple of episodes of Marvelman left to go and not that much more of the original V for Vendetta run, so Moore had already arrived at that kind of approach (in smaller increments). But if you weren't aware of that stuff 'Anatomy Lesson' must have seemed even more impressive, coming from out of nowhere.

A bit surprised you don't seem to have got Nathaniel Dusk #1 that month. Or, from Eclipse, Sabre #8. Mind you, even I didn't get that - seven issues into that series was where Dauntless Don lost me (not counting the b&w Morbius). Nathaniel Dusk on the other hand is good, probably the work of his that stands up best today.

DC Presents #66 was a good one. Nothing special storywise - Etrigan's next appearance (in Swamp Thing #25 I believe) was a big improvement - but it looked absolutely fantastic.
Same goes for Action Comics #552 that month. Pretty much what you'd expect from Superman, although you did get a load of obscure old DC characters turning up in it, like Immortal Man, Rip Hunter, Cave Carson, Dolphin and Congorilla. But the big draw was Gil Kane!

Also: American Flagg #5 - futuristic basketball and ladies undergarments in Cuba, by Howard Victor Chaykin.


Anonymous said...

Apologies for getting you mixed up with Matthew at the top there, b.t. I've no idea why I did that..


Anonymous said...

I think SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING 21 was my first exposure to Alan Moore’s writing. And yes, i suspect my reaction was much like most American readers who had never seen his UK comics: just floored that this guy we’d never heard of before was writing comics at a level of sophistication we’d never imagined possible. We knew McGregor had been aiming to make mainstream comics that were more ‘adult’ and sophisticated, and Claremont too, to a degree. But Moore was actually doing it. His stuff was a quantum leap beyond.

I immediately went searching for more of his work, somehow found out about his Marvelman and V for Vendetta stuff, hit every comic book store in the San Fernando Valley looking for back issues of WARRIOR and actually managed to acquire them all in the space of a week or two. I was pleased to find those two strips were just as impressive as his Swamp Thing stuff.

I also really liked the art by the Bissette / Totleben team and snagged all their previous SWAMP THING issues (they’d drawn a few of Marty Pasko’s issues in addition to Moore’s debut on SOTST 20, right?)

Ah yes, i bought AMERICAN FLAGG 5 too. I probably got NATHANIEL DUSK 1 too but I don’t recall my reaction to it. I got all the SABREs years later. Honestly, I think they’re some of his very worst work, beyond self-indulgent. They read like someone doing a parody of his style.


Anonymous said...

No worries, Sean, I got you mixed up with Steve vis a vis SWAMP THING 21, so we’re even ;)


Anonymous said...

I'd missed Moore's earliest Swamp Thing stories, but as a teenager I did pick up ST#50, the battle in Hell.
I bought it off a spinner rack in a gas station. I was floored. I'd never read anything like it.
I didn't even know who Etrigan was back then, but he appeared to be some kind of talking cat with psychotic tendencies.
Naturally, as time went on I acquired the previous issues.


Matthew McKinnon said...


A dull old month, as people have rightly pointed out.

I must have picked up the Iron Man and the Daredevil, and of course the THOR which I clearly remember buying. Lovely colours on that cover.

And of course Swamp Thing 21, which I read and re-read in astonishment. I'd been following Moore right through from his earliest 2000AD stuff and even for me it was a revelation. Like a great first album by a band whose work you'd only known through singles.

I did pick up the Elektra Story baxter reprints as well - I think it took me a while to pick up all the DD back-issues so it was useful to have the reprints. I think I still have them somewhere in the loft. Marvel really were trying to squeeze the last drops out of Elektra whilst she was popular but not viable as an ongoing character [and since Miller was AWOL working for DC at this point].

Colin - I know! We'll be watching a couple of episodes of Bagpuss tonight in celebration. It seems odd to me that I must have watched it when it was first broadcast, as I'd always assumed that when I saw it in the early 70s it was a repeat [like Trumpton and The Clangers etc]. But no - I was there for the first screenings!

I love Bagpuss- it's in my Top 10 TV of all time: so much love and care in every frame.

Sean - I'm sure you mistook BT for me because he commented first, and I'm usually eagerly leaping in on topics & comics I'm familiar with.

McSCOTTY said...

I had pretty much stopped buying Marvel comics as at this time with the exception of Thor . Interesting info on Adams Steve I'll need to try and track that issue down to see what it was about.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Bagpuss is only 50? Keith Richards might be a mess but even he's aged better.

Anonymous said...

b.t. Yeah, Sabre was awful. Following it was like sitting through a football game where your team lose 6-nil. I imagine.

I don't think the original 'graphic novel' - the first independent comic (allegedly) aimed at adults I ever bought - was too bad, although that was in large part down to Paul Gulacy's artwork (although these days I have to admit I find it too stiff).
But after that, Sabre did make Killraven seem succinct, and to the point. Poor old Dauntless Don - he did a childbirth issue in #7 a good two or three years before Affable Al's Miracleman #9, and no-one noticed (possibly I was the only person still reading it at that point?)

Btw, Ms Mystic came out in early '89. Seriously.
Obviously Pacific Comics had been defunct for a while, so it was published by Continuity. They relaunched the series, putting out reprints of #s1 and 2 first... and even they came out late, six months apart!


Anonymous said...

Anyway, I'm not up on American 'football', but do I understand correctly that - as predicted - Joe Biden and the deep state stole the Superbowl?


Anonymous said...

Well Sean, it depends. If Taylor ends up endorsing Trump ( as he’s been openly begging her to do the past few days) I’m not sure how anyone can make the case that Biden had anything to do with Taylor”s boyfriend’s team winning the Super Bowl. But if she’s “disloyal’ to Trump and endorses Biden, then it’s obvious that Biden and the George Soros-backed Deep State HAD to have rigged the Super Bowl. It’s called “logic”, son.


Anonymous said...

Re: SABRE — I’m sorry, Sean, I think even that first graphic novel is crap. It’s embarrassing . It can be entertaining to read if you approach it the right way — McGregor free of the shackles that were holding him back at Marvel! Finally getting express all his important Big Thinks in a once-in-a-generation masterpiece of love, pain, betrayal, sex, swordplay, gunfire, women in skimpy outfits, Jimi Hendrix, Kirk Douglas and Woody Allen, man!

The cover of issue #3 says it better than I can — Sabre aiming his gun at his knife-wielding lover as she screams: “YOU’RE A POET OF DECIET, SABRE! I’M GOING TO KILL YOUR FLOWERY VERSES OF HONOR, MY LIVE — FOREVER!” I mean, come on — that’s HILARIOUS.

And Gulacy’s art— I hate to say it, but as much as I hated to see his run on MASTER OF KUNG FU come to an end, maybe it was time. His art on that strip had been getting more and more stiff and lifeless over the last five or six issues. From SABRE and onward, I just wasn’t that keen on his art anymore.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

SEAN - Ditto what B.T. said. It was a fairly exciting second half though.

UK Gents - not to bug you but I notice the Talksport App on my smart phone and PC is showing a fair amount of Super Bowl related stories. I am just curious if that is b/c they know I am in the USA and are giving me stories that they think I am interested in or if you are seeing them too?

Anonymous said...

‘Flowery verses of LOVE’ , not ‘live’ — obviously


Steve W. said...

Charlie, I'm afraid I don't have the Talksport app and cannot comment on its content but I would imagine it's reacting to where you are and acting in a way that it deems to be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

b.t., You're not wrong about the first Sabre - being better than what came later is (very) faint praise. And that was really because of Paul Gulacy, and I have to disagree with you about him.

The short version: Gulacy's work was always stiff and lifeless.
The long version: I liked his work a lot in the second half of the 70s. That kind of tight, referenced stuff is much more appealing when you're younger - for me it was anyway - and the Sterankoisms stood out more back then too. I'd say he improved over the course of his MOKF run and was better in the period just after.

Going back to MOKF for the first time in ages, I was actually shocked by his early issues and couldn't understand how I'd never noticed how off his figures were (and not in an interesting or stylized way) and it was only fairly late in the run that he really got on top of his proportions. More or less.
Although by then the inkers let him down. I mean, Pablo Marcos? Jack Abel? Oh dear. #50 was good though with ah, Mike Esposito.

That Black Widow story Gulacy drew for Bizarre Adventures was probably the last time I paid much attention to him. The next thing I recall seeing was the first couple of issues of Six From Sirius which were... well, to be fair, just as accomplished. More so really, with his painted colour. But that kind of thing didn't hold much appeal for me anymore.


Anonymous said...

PS Yeah, Sabre #3. Most ridiculous word balloon on a cover ever. What were they thinking?
Anyway that was a savage put down of Dauntless Don's writing you did there. Who ever you are, what have you done with b.t.?