Sunday 2 June 2024

Fifty years ago today - June 1974.

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

They claim you can't turn back time but whoever They might be, they're total fools because we're about to do just that.

And it won't even cost us a penny!

It may, however, cost us our souls...

Fantastic Four #147, The Sub-Mariner

I'm struggling to remember what happens in this one.

In fact, I'm struggling so badly that it's making me suspect I've never even read it.

Regardless, it seems the Sub-Mariner's got his eye on Sue Richards again.

I predict that, as always, he will be foiled in his amphibious amorousness.

Amazing Spider-Man #133, the Molten Man

The Molten Man's still in a bad mood.

This is mostly because he's trying to find a cure for the condition that's turned him into a raging human inferno - and Spider-Man, for no good reason, keeps trying to prevent him from finding one.

Avengers #124, the Star-Stalker

The Avengers find themselves up against a space-dragon thingy called the Star-Stalker
, as the Celestial Madonna Saga rumbles on.

Does this one take place in a Vietnamese temple? I feel like it does.

Captain America and the Falcon #174, the Secret Empire

I'm pretty sure I've never read this one and, therefore, have no idea what happens in it but, if this is the Secret Empire storyline, does that mean the man in the silly-looking hood is President Nixon?

Also, how have I got it into my head that Nixon is involved in the Secret Empire storyline?

It would appear the X-Men play a role in this tale but I don't know in what capacity.

Conan the Barbarian #39

Happily, I'm far more clued up about this one.

That's because it was reprinted in Marvel UK's 1977 Avengers Annual and I can confirm the cover accurately depicts what happens inside. Conan must come to the rescue when a giant crocodile threatens to nibble on the latest nubile young woman to enter the barbarian's life.

Daredevil and the Black Widow #110

No sooner has he returned to New York than Daredevil's once more tackling the forces of Black Spectre.

But, shock upon shock, it turns out that all of its soldiers are women with tattoos!

How can our hero hope to defeat women with tattoos?

And things go from bad to worse when the Black Widow is mind-controlled into working for the organisation - whose leader turns out to be that sexy baboon of bad intent the Mandrill!

Incredible Hulk #176, the Man-Beast, Counter-Earth

The Hulk's on Counter-Earth and having a barney with the President and his horde of beast-men.

It, of course, all leads to an encounter with Adam Warlock in which the Biblical parallels bash us over the head until we can't possibly fail to notice them.

Back on Earth, Glenn Talbot escapes from his Soviet captors.

But is there more to his escape than meets the eye?

Iron Man #68, Sunfire and the Unicorn

I know nothing of this one, other than what's featured on the cover.

And that means we get the return of the Unicorn and Sunfire - and, it seems, a new mask for Iron Man!

Also, the presence of Sunfire suggests to me that this one likely takes place in Japan.

Thor #224, Hercules and the Destroyer

The Destroyer's back - and causing all kinds of mischief. I don't know why he's back and I don't know why Hercules is involved in it all.

I am going to hazard a guess, though, that this is the tale which leads to Thor suggesting the Destroyer should become a new herald for Galactus.

For some reason, this leads me to guess that it's going to end up in the Hudson river.

X-men #88, the Frankenstein Monster

And we complete our look at Marvel with an absolutely terrible tale in which the X-Men must tackle Frankenstein's Monster 
when it comes out of hibernation and goes on the rampage.

But what's this? Things aren't what they seem? And it is in fact, a space robot?

Mary Shelley must be turning in her space grave.

Batman #256, Catwoman

That looks like a comprehensive assessment of Marvel's offerings, to me.

But what of the other lot? The ones perpetually locked in a power struggle with Marvel? The ones the world knows as DC? Just what do they have to offer us in a random sampling of their comics which bear that month as their cover date?

I do suspect this may have been the first issue of Batman I ever owned.

And what a way to start, as we're presented with 100 pages of fledermausian frolics.

For a start, when Robin decides to investigate shenanigans at a circus, it's not long before his billionaire mentor also gets involved and it turns out Catwoman's caught up in it too!

But let's all hold our horses - and our tigers - because it turns out she's not the villain of the piece!

But there's more.

Thanks to the power of reprints, the dynamic duo find themselves having to survive an island populated by robot dinosaurs, we explore what would have happened had an animal other than a bat blundered into view when Bruce Wayne was trying to decide upon a guise in which to fight crime, Batman must tackle a villain fixated with pennies, we discover the significance of a bullet-proof vest, meet a villain called Dr Doom, explore the Secret of Batman Island and take a look at the history of Catwoman's costumes.

I think that lot would keep anyone happy.

The Flash #227

It's as dramatic a cover as you could imagine.

But is the tale inside as dramatic?

Not as far as I can remember, as the scarlet speedster has to contend with Captain Boomerang's latest crime spree.

Meanwhile, in this month's backup strip, it's trouble for the Green Lantern when his power ring starts compelling him to commit anti-social deeds. Can he restore normal service? Or has a brand new super-villain been created?

Superboy #202

I've never read this one but I have a Nick Cardy cover and a list of story titles that are sure to set my imagination ablaze.

Those story titles are:
Lost: A Million Miles from Home!
The Legionnaire Who Killed!
The Verdict of the Legion!
The Super-Stalag of Space!
The Test of Brainiac 5!
The Execution of Matter-Eater Lad!
Duo Damsel's Double-Play!
The Lore of the Legion!
The Wrath of the Devil-Fish!
The Superboy of Bigville!

I have to say most of those titles sound very high-stakes. I'm definitely buying this book if I see it on the spinner rack, this summer. I'm just hoping at least some of the Legionnaires manage to make it out alive.

Superman #276, Captain Thunder

But let's face it. This is what we all came here for.

At last, we discover what would happen if Superman ever fought the original Captain Marvel, when the man of steel must confront Captain Thunder, an alternate universe version of that hero who's found himself trapped in Metropolis and compelled to assist criminals whenever he uses his powers.

Swamp Thing #10

It would appear that Anton Arcane and his Un-Men attack the Swamp Thing - only for him to be  rescued by the resurrected corpse of someone called Black Jubal.

I've no idea what any of that means but I have no doubt at all that it's great.

The Witching Hour #43

In our main story, we can only watch in dread while a village eagerly awaits the arrival of Satan.

But has everyone in the community been acting badly enough for them to gain his favour?

Or have some of them been a little too nice?

And because even that isn't enough for the true lover of horror, we're then treated to The Gun That Couldn't Stop Killing and When Time Went Mad, the details of which I'm struggling to recall.


dangermash said...

Yeah, I'm thinking Nixon and Avengers in 'Nam.

And that FF issue. Is that the one where it's part of a plan by various friends (Thing? Torch? Wyatt Wingfoot? Inhumans? Black Panther? Namor?) to reunite Reed and Sue, who have been ON A BREAK ever since Reed used some gun to wipe out Franklin's mind to stop him exploding?

Good to see Unicorn looking dangerous in Iron Man too. I can’t help thinking that when Count Nefaria recruited him in X-Men 21-22 alongside Eel, Plantman, Porcupine and Scarecrow he wouldn’t have been happy when he turned up on his first day and met his new colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Dangermash, you’re in the ballpark. We’re supposed to think Subby has kidnapped Sue because he still has the hots for her (even though he hasn’t shown any sign of that in his own bi-monthly book). So he and the FF boys fight!fight!fight! until Sue declares she loves Namor and wants to stay with him. A few issues later, we discover it was all a hoax perpetrated by Subby (and Triton of the Inhumans, I think — Medusa might have been in on it too) designed to get Reed and Sue back together. And it worked!

Yep, The Avengers are in a Vietnamese temple, fighting an interstellar dragon. I think this might be the issue where Mantis starts having feelings for the Vision. The story barely makes sense, but who cares — the Buscema/ Cockrum art is f***ing BEAUTIFUL.

And it is indeed Tricky Dick under that purple hood in CAP 174. I think part of the Secret Empire’s diabolical plan involves draining the X-Men’s mutant energy for some reason or other.

CONAN 39 is the second issue in a row with Big John inking his own pencils. It’s so pretty. Sigh…

Bob Brown was supposed to be Daredevil’s regular penciller at this point but every few issues Gene Colan had to step in and pinch-hit for him. DD 110 was one of those Colan fill-in issues and I didn’t mind it one bit.

IRON MAN 68 — the debut of Iron Man’s nose. Dang, that looks dumb.

I always gladly broke my ‘Marvels Only’ rule for SWAMP THING, and that month I also bought THE WITCHING HOUR. IIRC, the cover story was drawn by Alfredo Alcala. It might have been the first Alcala art I ever saw.


Anonymous said...

I am going to dispute b.t.'s claim about the fella in the hood in Cap #174.
It turned out in the following issue that Number One of the Secret Empire was a figure in high political office that Cap recognized - "Good lord! You!!" - but he wasn't revealed as anyone in particular. Englehart intended it to be Nixon, but that isn't actually stated or shown in the comic.

The Marvel wiki does not include Number One in its list of Richard Nixon appearances (I rest my case!) -

Thats right about mutant energy though. The Secret Empire had some captured X-types - Beast, Angel, Iceman, Havok, and some villains - hooked up to machine draining them, although I don't recall what for either.
I'm fairly sure that Prof X reveals the Falcon is a mutant in that issue though. His power being the ability to influence Redwing. Seriously.


Anonymous said...

b.t. is correct about Iron Man's nose being dumb.

And I also like that issue of Witching Hour, mainly because of Alfredo Alcala's excellent artwork in that story about the dodgy village. Love the stripper Satan cover too.

The highlight here though is Swamp Thing #10, the last to be drawn by Berni Wrightson. He plotted the story too, mainly it seems as a vehicle for drawing whatever he wanted to - a twisted Frankenstein take on Anton Arcane, Un-Men inspired by Tod Browning's Freaks, zombies in a graveyard, that kind of stuff.
Which tbh, Steve, doesn't really hang together that well as a story even if you know what its all about. Its hard to see what Black Jubal, an executed slave, has to do with Arcane.
But who cares? It looks fantastic.


Anonymous said...

b.t.'s also correct about Cockrum's enhancement of Bob Brown (Klaw & Solarr), followed by John Buscema. Cockrum's Vision, in particular, is a standout.

Iron Man's nose. Some of this relates to Arvell Jones, an underrated artist who (sometimes allied with Keith Pollard) did some fine 70s stuff (e.g. Black Panther in Superheroes pack, & cover of Avengers & SSOC Weekly # 116). Actually, that Black Panther card pic I've just referenced is also lifted from an Avengers Weekly.

Jubal was a Western take on Othello. Thus, 'Black Jubal' having a subtext relating to racial issues is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Regarding hooded figures. Could Andre in the Fly have inspired scenes in the Elephant Man? Watergate - if not Nixon - was referenced by Iron Man in Englehart's Avengers, so this may have been on his mind. Was Englehart still writing Cap, then? I'll look it up tomorrow. I'm calling it a night.


Anonymous said...

As much as I enjoyed Cockrum’s art on GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS and THE X-MEN, his finishes over Buscema’s layouts on AVENGERS 124 and 125 will forever be my favorite examples of his work. Also, I don’t think Bob Brown’s art ever looked better than when Cockrum inked him on AVENGERS 126.


Colin Jones said...

Steve, thanks for the explanation about "Season 1" of the new Dr Who series.

Colin Jones said...

Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency - he seems like a saint compared to modern Republicans.

Anonymous said...

Steve- honest to cripe i just love how your blog shows me comics that i have not seen in 50 years nor ever at all!

Btw… the Superman cover againt a Cpt Marvel lookalike… why is that cover so readily recalled by Charlie? Like he’s seen it a million times? Charlie has vague recall of it being a Treasury-sized Edition or such?

Anonymous said...

Anton Arcane is one of my favorite villains, although I don't know what that says about me.
The absolute epitome of evil. No depths of depravity to which he wouldn't sink. Mad scientist, sorcerer, sadist, and when he finally got killed (after several close calls) he went to Hell.
Down there, he worked his way up in the ranks to become a demon.
Occasionally he would manage to escape.
Still, like all great villains, he could be entertaining, he had the best dialogue. An ironic flair, if you will.
What more can you ask from a villain, if not a flashy, dramatic over-the-top performance?
Like Shakespeare's take on Richard III.


Anonymous said...

b.t. - Returning to Bob Brown, in this era (74/75), what surprises me is: artists inking Brown's work, on many occasions. Daredevil - Terrex & Kerwin J Broderick issue - Bob Brown inked by Sal Buscema; Daredevil 108 - Bob Brown inked by Paul Gulacy; Avengers - The Collector issue (coats of Hercules, etc) - Bob Brown inked by Don Heck; Klaw & Solarr - Bob Brown inked by Dave Cockrum. A pattern emerging? Bob needing help meeting deadlines, perhaps?

Charlie - I think Superman vs Cap M/Shazam (albeit a vertical not horizontal pose)was a house ad, circa 77/78! Maybe that's what's ringing a bell!


Anonymous said...

b.t. - I should have put inverted commas around the word 'inking' !


Redartz said...

Steve, I had most of those books you spotlighted. Oh, that sweet spot of 1974...

That Molten Man tale in ASM always held a warm place in my memory, but it did raise the queston of why Spidey didn't just help him out.

Also was a fan of that FF story. Any time Namor and the FF would face off, there were sure to be fireworks. Kind of like the fun of those Thing/Hulk battles. Then there was the Buckler/Sinnott artwork, which I greatly enjoyed.

Wish I still had that Avengers issue so I could check out the artwork therein. Buscema and Cockrum sounds like an interesting combination. Dave sure did a bang-up job on Giant Size Avengers (sure to be seen here soon).

And regarding the Captain America /Secret Empire arc- it's remarkable, looking back and pondering the impact then of Watergate. Sadly it almost makes one nostalgic, comparing those times to the sheer lunatic chaos of American politics today. I doubt any comic book writer would dare to script the things we've seen and heard in recent years- it would seem to far-fetched...

dangermash said...

With the Marvel sliding timeline that keeps correcting itself by doing things like us Tony stark was shot in Afghanistan rather than in Vietnam, surely it can't be long before it becomes generally accepted that Trump was head honcho in the Secret Empire?

Anonymous said...

Redartz - there's plenty online!


Anonymous said...

Also, in the middle(ish), the page with the Vision's optic blasts zapping the Star Stalker:


Fantastic Four follower said...

1974 was the golden year for me,as I have bored before!There seemed to be a freshness about Marvel...Fantastic Four had the same villains;Dr.Doom,Submariner,Frightful Four Ultron and Omega but the stories seemed to be told in a different way...a new slant.Spiderman was the same as Vulture,Doc Ock,Hammerhead,Molten Man re-appeared yet the stories seemed new.I also have that love of comics that were non-distributed over this year,including the Giant Size issues,all retaining the 25 cents price tag.I do believe that Fantastic Four was a last hurrah until Byrne arrived as I think the title declined dramatically over the next few years.For me Fantastic Four after #150; Spiderman was great until #149;Thor until 236; Avengers until #144;Hulk until #193; Captain America until 179;Ironman until #80;Marvel 2 in 1 after #12; Marvel Team Up after #24, you get the gist.I bought everything until late 80s but for me this was the summit.Keep up the great work.

Colin Jones said...

I've just heard that Labour has a 21-point lead among GB News viewers!! GB News is supposed to be Britain's answer to Fox News so I get the feeling they're doing something wrong!

Nigel Farage is due to make a big announcement at 4pm. He might be standing as an MP for Reform UK after all - unless he's planning to defect to Labour :D

Anonymous said...

So, Farage's face is going to leer at us, on tv, for the next 4 1/2 weeks. Marvelous! Why couldn't Farage just "let the general public down", instead.


Anonymous said...

He's let down Trump instead, Phillip! What happened to Farage having to stay in America to help him win in November? How is the West going to be saved now?!?

In other election news today, Sir Keir said he had no problem with using nuclear weapons! That should help Labour win, as this country seems to want a prime minister willing to incinerate us all. I don't know why. I suppose it's one way of getting the NHS waiting list down.

What a depressing election. Still, at least no candidates have said they shot any pet dogs yet.


Colin Jones said...

Perhaps Farage doesn't want to be seen hanging around with a convicted criminal so he's gone off Trump!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Fantastic Four Follower, '74 was a good year for Marvel.
A young new crop of writers were pushing the envelope.
And that was about the time I started to take an interest.
I needed something to distract me from the drudgery of first grade.
Those torturers had us sitting in desks!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

DC's Adventure 433 with The Spectre deserves a spot here, somewhere, anywhere! T

If for no other reason than DC had been cranking out this comic since like 1939? That's / There's some serious longevity in the world of DC.

Anonymous said...

But then they flipped it all over with the Crisis.
Probably necessary, I think.


Anonymous said...

Changing DC with the Crisis wasn't even desirable M.P., let alone necessary.
They already had a multiverse which had lots of strange old characters and ideas in it that could be revisited while still allowing them to do whatever new stuff they wanted. Instead they decided to imitate Marvel, and have one single universe which could (supposedly) be taken seriously. Because, I don't know, super-pets like Krypto or whatever were too 'comic book' for comics?

The proof they got it wrong is all the different continuity resets they've had since.


Anonymous said...

Sean I’m with you! I found Earth 1,2,3, etc. perfectly fine. As to how DC would deals with characters who now would be basically 100-110 years old now… Idk.

Marvel was lucky in that regard in that they only had 2 characters to deal with -Cap and Subby - and super serum and genetics easily addressed with that.

Anonymous said...

Charlie - Nick Fury (WWII) - The Infinity Formula kept him youthful! Ben Grimm (& Reed?) - Weren't they in WWII, as well? I forget...


Anonymous said...

I recall reading a 90s FF comic in which Ben had been a pilot in the first Gulf War rather than World War season 2, Phillip.
Cue discussion of Marvel's sliding time scale... But not from me, because I always found that concept annoying and ignored it. More to the point, decades on from the 70s now that Marvel have more history and even their 'Silver Age' characters have been around a good sixty years they have Earth-616 and so on. Its the only workable way of dealing with that much continuity.


Anonymous said...

Btw, Charlie, seeing as Phillip mentioned Nick Fury and you were asking about new comics recently...
You might be interested in the Fury: My War Gone By mini-series by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov from about ten years ago, published under Marvel's Max imprint (ok, admittedly its not that recent, but I read it not so long ago and at least its from the 21st century).
Anyway, its not bad, and the cold war setting - Cuba, Vietnam etc - seemed like the kind of thing you might enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Sean - Looking it up, Ben Grimm was a famous WW2 war hero, known by everyone who could read a paper (?)

Just as well he didn't require a secret identity.

Reed Richards was a super spy, for the OSS. Reed's great spycraft obviously explains why he's always leaving the door to the Negative Zone room unlocked, almost every issue. Someone like Reed's clearly a safe pair of hands for America's national secrets.


Steve W. said...

Don't worry, Charlie, I'm sure the Spectre will be making future appearances in this feature.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I did know Ben Grimm was a WW2 vet, Phillip. Obviously he couldn't have had a history in Desert Storm back in the 60s and 70s (;... thats why I ignore the sliding time scale!