Sunday 7 April 2024

The Marvel Lucky Bag - April 1974.

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

Caroline Munro. She might be that nice old lady who presents TalkingPicturesTV's Cellar Club, these days. But, once upon a time, she was the hottest thing in cinema Fantasy. And, if you were an admirer, April 1974, no doubt, resembled paradise.

Because that month saw the release of not one but two movies starring the Berkshire beauty.

Hammer gave us the power and majesty of Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, while some other company gave us the greatest film of the 1970s when it unfurled no less a movie than The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

How we gasped as our favourite non-thieving pirate battled six-armed deities, living statues, centaurs, bat-things and anything else Ray Harryhausen could throw at him, in order to thwart the will of Tom Baker and gain the lust of Caroline.

But it wasn't all sword-swinging hi-jinks. It was, after all, a month which gave us The Sugarland Express, Caged Heat and The Beast Must Die.

It also offered up a never-to-be forgotten gem called Son of Dracula whose producers made the inspired decision to hire not Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing but Ringo Starr. 

I must confess I've never heard of this film before in my entire life.

And, strangely enough, I've never seen it on TV.

Not even on TalkingPicturesTV.

And they'll show anything.

Master of Kung Fu #17

Not content with having taken over Marvel UK's weekly Avengers book, the master of kung fu gets his own US mag which, oddly, begins with issue #17.

As we can see from the cover, our hero must overcome the deadly threat of Black Jack Tarr, brought in by Denis Nayland Smith to massacre Shang-Chi to pieces, following the martial artist's murder of Dr Petrie.

Happily, by the end of the issue, they're all friends!

Astonishing Tales #23, It, the Living Colossus

I'm not totally sure what's happening on that cover but it all looks dramatic, courtesy of garrulous Gil Kane.

Inside, Dr Vault uses his power to summon Fin Fang Foom in a daring bid to defeat the comic's star.

Given Fin Fang Foom's personality, I can't help feeling this is a plan that's destined to go wrong.

Man-Thing #4

I don't know what occurs in this one but I do believe the Foolkiller's involved.

I also think I had this issue. In which case, my not knowing what it involves is a shameful crime against swamp monsters everywhere.

Vampire Tales #4

A stylish cover by Boris Vallejo introduces us to a magazine in which we experience a Morbius tale they call Lighthouse of the Possessed.

We're also told Everything You Wanted to Know About Vampires and are gifted such backup treats as Somewhere Waits the Vampire, A Vampire's Home Is His Castle, Hell House Is Dying, The Vampire's Coffin!, The Drifting Snow and Lilith: The First Vampire. All capable, I'm sure, of sending you to bed, filled with dread and panic.

Tomb of Dracula #19

I'm including this one purely thanks to a cover which makes it look like the king of the undead is lying down ready for a spot of psychotherapy.

Within, we get one of those, "Enemies must forget their differences," stories, as Dracula and Rachel are forced to work together to survive a blizzard in the mountains.

Will it be as good as that Planet of the Apes episode in which Burke and Urko are forced to work together to escape the Bay Area Rapid Transit system?

I cannot say.

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1, Neal Adams

Neal Adams creates a cover we can't ignore, as a brand new publication hits our spinner racks.

Inside, our main tale is a Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin masterpiece as Fu Manchu demands answers from the priests who trained Shang-Chi, wanting to know why his son has turned against him.

We're also treated to a text article about Bruce Lee, as well as ones called What to Do till the Sensei Comes, Catching a Killer Red-Handed!, The Way of the Tiger, The Sign of the Dragon and the Click of the Nielsens! Plus Raising Caine On Thursday Night: What's Right With Kung Fu.

As if that wasn't enough to keep any combat fan happy, we finish off with the the origin of the Sons of the Tiger.

Kull, the Destroyer #13

I don't know what happens in this one but I know it's drawn by Mike Ploog.

Also, Thulsa Doom's in it, seemingly in the guise of someone called King Ardyon.

Also, the backup story's a 1959 reprint in which a restless clerk leaves England for a life at sea, expecting to create an empire for himself.

Only for the shocking twist to reveal that that clerk is called Robinson Crusoe.

Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer

They don't make covers like that, anymore.

And they probably never will again.

The world's most homicidal earth-mover makes his debut when a humble bulldozer's possessed by a deadly alien force and launches into an unstoppable rampage on a small island!

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve, it’s no surprise you’ve never heard of SON OF DRACULA. I don’t think it’s ever been shown on TV, or was ever released on home video. From what I’ve heard of it, it sounds like an incoherent goof, the kind of thing that happens when rich rock stars have too much time on their hands. I’m sure watching CAPTAIN KRONOS or GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD again would be a much better use of anybody’s time.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

That IS a ridiculous-looking TOMB OF DRACULA cover, isn’t it :) The highlight of the story is the part where Rachel Van Helsing saves Dracula from getting his ass kicked by an angry Transylvanian mountain goat.

We get a double dose of Morbius this month. In the four-color FEAR, Steve Gerber and Gil Kane introduce some far-out sci-fi elements into the storyline, and in the b/w VAMPIRE TALES, Don McGregor and Tom Sutton combine political paranoia and demonic cult activity and slather it with an almost overwhelming mood of decay and dread. McGregor’s dialogue and captions over-egg the pudding for sure, but it kinda works for me. Subtle it ISN’T — it all takes place in a fog-choked town called Malevolence, Maine, for God’s sake!

Tom Sutton really goes to town with the nightmarish visuals. Every page — hell, every panel — is a riot of textures and technique, all the architecture looks slightly askew, there are cobwebs and dripping moldy foulness everywhere, and Morbius himself never looked more hideous.

Overall, I don’t think McGregor’s Morbius series is nearly as successful as his Killraven and Black Panther strips. Most of it was drawn by Rich Buckler, who was never a great fit for Horror material. But the two chapters drawn by Sutton (this one and ‘Where Is Gallows Bend etc’) are very satisfying. McGregor’s writing may be too ‘Try Hard’ but at least he gives Sutton lots of fun, creepy story elements to illustrate, and that’s what I look for in a good Horror comic. ‘Lighthouse of the Possessed’ is one of my favorites.

Also, that same issue has one of Esteban Maroto’s few Marvel stories of the period, ‘The Drifting Snow’, and it’s a real beauty.

b.t.

dangermash said...

I,ve never heard of Cellar Club but I'll be watching it the first chance I get.

Anonymous said...

Cellar Club's the 5 minute bit, in which Caroline M introduces the movie!

Phillip

Anonymous said...

Sorry - specifics. Cellar Club's Friday night on Talking Pictures (around 9pm until 5 past - or something!)

Phillip

Anonymous said...

WORLDS UNKNOWN 6 is that rarest of things, a Marvel comic that I saw on the spinner rack during my ‘Comics Puppy Love’ stage and DIDN’T buy.

Much as I love Mike Ploog’s art, and generally enjoy Steve Englehart’s writing, for some reason I got the feeling KULL THE DESTROYER was kind of a ‘dead man walking’ once the Severin Siblings departed. I dutifully bought every issue and although it was a perfectly acceptable Sword and Sorcery comic in many ways, it somehow seemed as though neither Englehart or Ploog were giving it their best shot.Having a different inker every issue subtly reinforced the impression that it was a ‘Low Priority’ title for Marvel. The most memorable thing about this issue is the reveal that the murderous minstrel Ridondo miraculously survived being killed by Kull a few issues ago, and from this point on becomes Kull’s Sancho Panza. That cover for #13 is pretty nice tho!

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you - and possibly by the sound of it, b.t. - may be interested to know that Apple Films' 'Son of Dracula' can be seen in full on YouTube.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfkHN_QxNcw

Ringo Starr actually gets second billing after Harry 'I can't live, if living is without you' Nilson. And it seems from the credits that that song is actually in the film, although I can't confirm how much of it as by the time I got to that part of the title sequence I stopped watching (the five minute or so opening scene beforehand did not inspire confidence that the film was worth sticking through the terrible main theme for. Even though it was directed by Freddie Francis of 'Dr Terrors House of Horrors' and 'Tales From the Crypt' fame).

You forgot to mention that 'Foxy Brown' was also released this month, starring 'one chick hit squad' Pam Grier -

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMJCorShtSc
(That clip includes an objectionable archaic term btw)

So two Caroline Munro flicks notwithstanding, the competition for the hottest thing (really, Steve? ;) on screen was still fairly, er, stiff.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Sean, I seem to recall that Francis admitted taking the SON OF DRACULA gig purely for the paycheck, and that on the last day of shooting he told Ringo, ‘You’re a good lad, don’t take this the wrong way — I usually stick around for Post Production, but I haven’t the faintest idea what it is we just shot, so you’re on your own!’

I remember seeing Nilsson’s SON OF DRACULA soundtrack album in record store cut-out bins, for years, it seemed like.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

A few other items of interest from April 1974:

MARVEL TALES 50 — second half of a trippy Mysterio two-parter with velvety Romita /Mooney art.

MARVEL TEAM-UP 20 — Spidey and T’Challa Vs Stegron by Wein, Sal B. and Giacoia.

The last issue of Brother Voodoo’s four-color series in STRANGE TALES.

The first issue of RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL with gorgeous Nestor Redondo art and Alex Nino’s insane SPACE VOYAGERS back-up.

Lots of Luis Dominguez spooky goodness on various DC horror covers — WEIRD MYSTERY 11 is especially nice.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

A few other items of interest from April 1974:

MARVEL TALES 50 — second half of a trippy Mysterio two-parter with velvety Romita /Mooney art.

MARVEL TEAM-UP 20 — Spidey and T’Challa Vs Stegron by Wein, Sal B. and Giacoia.

The last issue of Brother Voodoo’s four-color series in STRANGE TALES.

The first issue of RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL with gorgeous Nestor Redondo art and Alex Nino’s insane SPACE VOYAGERS back-up.

Lots of Luis Dominguez spooky goodness on various DC horror covers — WEIRD MYSTERY 11 is especially nice.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Excuse the double post, please

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Rima the Jungle Girl was a fantastic comic, b.t. - one of my faves of the era - but the first issue had a May cover date. I take it you've been looking at Mike's World? In the Newsstand feature DC bi-monthlies get listed for the previous (off) month, while the Marvel ones appear in the cover dated one. Don't ask me why.

Strange Tales #173, the last of the (colour) Brother Voodoo run, was probably the best Marvel of the month. For some reason - possibly the character being thought of as too 70s in the decades afterwards? - the run generally is a bit under-rated, and in the last issues Gene Colan's work looked pretty good inked by Dick Giordano.

I was actually a bit disappointed my head didn't explode after reading your Morbius comments. I mean, the McGregor series wasn't as successful as his Killraven and Black Panther? Who could possibly disagree with that? Although it does rather beg the question of what we think about his Killraven and Black Panther...

Which is a discussion for this feature next time, as a late Jungle Action meant that #9 came out in May instead of April, alongside the next Amazing Adventures. I don't know why Marvel didn't do Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint, but it meant we got a regular Dauntless Don Double every month instead!
For now, let's just say I preferred Steve Gerber's Morbius, despite what in retrospect appear to be some dubious Malthusian ideas behind the storyline. Not to mention that old Marvel chestnut about evolutionary dead ends.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Correction: Strange Tales #173 was probably the second best Marvel of the month. For some reason I temporarily forgot about Conan #37.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Bringing up Brother Voodoo has reminded me of the 'Sugar Hill' film, which was released this month too. Sugar Hill was basically a Foxy Brown type character, only played by cut-price stand-in Marki Bey rather than Pam Grier, and with zombies and Voodoo.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjSxal7RxWg

Tbh, the film doesn't really have much in the way of redeeming qualities.

-sean

Anonymous said...

*Oh dear. A couple of comments above, I did of course mean we'd get a Dauntless Double every OTHER month.
Ok, I'll stop now.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Well Sean, guess I’ll have to try a little harder to detonate your brain-box ;) ….here goes….

Having given the matter some more thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘Lighthouse of the Possessed’ gets my vote for the best single solo Morbius story, even if only by default, and I think McGregor’s run in VAMPIRE TALES is the best ongoing series featuring the character. In general, I like the concept of the character (and his design) more than the execution of the actual stories. Honestly, i think he’s probably more effective as a straight-up villain than an anti-hero, and I think McGregor threads the needle better than Gerber or Moench. McGregor’s Morbius feels like a monster who kills people to survive, feels kinda bad about it but stops short of wallowing in self-pity.

But enough about Morbius. And Killraven and T’Challa too. What do we think of McGregor’s short run of POWER MAN (#28-34)?

b.t.

Anonymous said...

b.t., Its been a while, but my recollection of Dauntless Don's Luke Cage is that while not bad, it was a bit disappointing. And that was back when I thought he was the sort of literary giant who would surely have got a Nobel prize if only snooty critics took comics seriously (hey, I was a kid).

To be fair to McGregor, Frank Robbins' artwork was probably a factor...

-sean

Colin Jones said...

I've somehow never seen Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter - I've often heard of it over the years but never seen it.

Colin Jones said...

Is The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad better than Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Colin.

-sean

Steve W. said...

Colin, I like Eye of the Tiger a lot more than other people seem to but Golden Voyage is the better of the two.

Steve W. said...

Bt, I remember being disappointed that McGregor's Power Man stories weren't more wordy. At the time, I felt like he'd abandoned his USP.

Sean, thanks for the various links to the various films. I too only managed to get five minutes into Son of Dracula.

Steve W. said...

Having checked with the appropriate sources, I can announce that I had no Marvel comics from this month but had six DCs. They were:

Kamandi #16

The Witching Hour #41

Superman #274

Weird War Tales #24

Justice League of America #110

and

Batman #255.

Anonymous said...

I was excited about McGregor’s POWER MAN run at first. It looked like he was going to be using some of the same storytelling devices that had worked so well on both the Killraven and Black Panther séries, but transposed to a tough, gritty, urban environment: eccentric new villains with cheeky Ian Fleming/ Chester Gould-style monikers, an ongoing semi-serialized plotline, potentially intriguing sub-plots, suspenseful cliffhanger death traps, even a halfway-decent running gag. But then it just seemed to run out of gas. Pirhana Jones and The Cockroach gave way to ho-hum bad guys in spandex like Spear and the Mangler, sub-plots drifted away without resolution etc etc.

One of McGregor’s least successful bits was the introduction of white cop frenemy Quentin Chase. He was fine at first, good for some mild suspense as he seemed to be on the verge of discovering Cage’s criminal past, but when we started getting scenes of his home life, I felt he was getting way more attention than a supporting character ought to have. In retrospect, I wonder if he was a bit of an idealized self-insert on McGregor’s part.

b.t.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

b.t., b.t., I assumed the main point of that was the contrast between Chase's surburban lifestyle, and Luke keepin' it real in the city, you dig?
Maybe the character was a self-insert, but I don't know that we can assume that, as McGregor had a tendency to hammer his points home anyway (its a curious paradox that he would overdo stuff like that, yet still be fairly vague about what he was getting at).

Steve's point about Dauntless Don not being as wordy on Power Man as he had been previously rang a bell, and I think that disappointed me back then too (;
Although actually I'm just reading the first one online now - #28 - to refresh my memory, and it does actually have purplier prose than I remembered: "The junkies nod on the sidewalks, murmuring their 'in' slang... The broken people, the dreamless dreamers, stagger about, their eyes the color of the neon signs they pass as they seek a subway stairwell..." And that's just the first page!

Its a good start. My suspicion is that McGregor might well have been up against a fairly controlling editorial regime. He wasn't on the mag that long, and it seems by his last issue he was just scripting editor Marv Wolfman's plots.
I mean, Marv Wolfman ffs... Poor old Dauntless Don.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Hero for Hire rocked, Power Man not really so. Growing up in Gary, Indiana I truly felt an emotional connection to Lucas as the Hero for Hire. I loved the way he dealt with all that motherless freakin scum.

CH47

Anonymous said...

So - how was the total eclipse over there in the US then, Charlie?
Seeing as you're commenting here, I take it you lot haven't all been carried away in The Rapture this evening...?

-sean

Redartz said...

B.t.- quite right, that Rima debut was gorgeous. Grabbed that about the same time I picked up "Killdozer"!

Sean- can't speak for Charlie, but that eclipse was one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen. My wife, oldest son and I traveled north to the zone of totality. Glad we did. Hearing about it is just not like experiencing it- the sudden darkness, the dark blue-gray sky, the black disc of the moon framed by a glowing white Corona. It was one of those moments that turn you into a wide eyed kid again...

Anonymous said...

The last one, me and my brother went down south to Nebraska to a national park down there.
We didn't get the full treatment, it was only about 80-90%, maybe. Still, it was amazing. The light got weird (and I mean weird), it got cooler, birds stopped singing, crickets started up.
The buzzards came down to roost (lotta buzzards down there) and some were sitting in a row on an old wooden fence when we drove out, giving us the hairy eyeball. As close as I ever care to get to one.
Yeah, Red, the whole thing is uncanny.
It's great!

M.P.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was a state park, I think. Ashfall Park.
Anyway..

M.P.

Anonymous said...

Sean!

First things first, I am Roman Catholic. Thus I will not be taken up via the rapture. in fact, during the last cycle of rapture madness among evangelicals, there were Catholics who offered to take care of the pets of evangelicals, since the pets like Catholics would be left behind during the rapture. Google it. Probably around 2010?

Second, so I did go outside at lunch to look at this eclipse, the one in 2017 beat it, hands-down. The 2017 eclipse turned everything into shades of gray, everything got cooler, everything got silent. It was a magnificent experience.

Anonymous said...

by the way, Charlie has nothing per se against evangelicals. It’s just they are the ones who keep talking about the rapture and every handful of years they find another reason in the Bible that the rapture is imminent. Earthquakes, Floods, Eclipses, Tsunamis…. Various biblical quotes…Charlie just wishes they would skip the rapture madness and get straight to the second coming. It’s time!

Anonymous said...

Charlie, to quote Harry Dean Stanton from the film Repo Man, "When the $#!t comes down, I'm gonna be in this car heading north at a 110 per."

...Another great Stanton quote from that movie: "I don't want any commies in my car...Christians either!"

M.P.

Colin Jones said...

When the Earth and moon were formed they were close together so the moon looked huge in the sky but it's been slowly moving away from the Earth ever since. By complete coincidence we live at a time when the moon appears to be exactly the same size as the sun and so the moon exactly covers the sun during an eclipse but in the future the moon will have moved further away and will appear smaller and be unable to cover the sun. Yesterday on BBC Radio 4 a news-reporter said the eclipse was "as old as the universe" but such a sight is actually quite time-limited.

Anonymous said...

I recall the total eclipse here in... 1999 was it? I think you had to be in Cornwall to get the full effect, but where I was you got the sort of 80% M.P. wrote about. Eerie.

Fun fact: the first solar eclipse to be recorded was by the Irish five thousand years ago, carved onto the Whispering Stone at Sliabh na Cellach (Loughcrew) -

www.carrowkeel.com/sites/loughcrew/index.html

Ancient Egyptian and Chinese astronomers, eat your hearts out...

-sean

Anonymous said...

*Sliabh na Cailleach
Ffs, Irish spellcheck is correcting my Irish now?

Colin Jones said...

Sean, it was cloudy in Cornwall during the 1999 eclipse so nobody saw anything.

WEIRD FACT: The 1999 Cornwall eclipse occurred on August 11th and my father died suddenly 22 days later on September 2nd. The previous eclipse visible from Britain had occurred in 1927 - the year my father was born!