Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Flo Steinberg, plus the SDCC Thor, JLA and Inhumans trailers (Potential Spoilers)

Fabulous Flo Steinberg by Lopaka42
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It's a strange thing how you can find yourself feeling attached to someone you know almost nothing about but, thanks to that mysterious phenomenon, it was oddly saddening to learn, a couple of days ago, of the death of Fabulous Flo Steinberg, Marvel Comics' legendary Corresponding Secretary of the 1960s.

It was Flo who answered fan mail, dealt with enthusiasts who visited the office in the hopes of seeing where the magic was created and acted as intermediary between Stan Lee and the company's various freelancers.

Not only that but, in 1975, she became a key figure in the rise of indie comics when she published the infamously ribald mag Big Apple Comix, using the services of such industry titans as Neal Adams, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

For  a woman so closely associated with the heyday of Marvel, she was there for a surprisingly short amount of time, from 1963 to 1968 but she clearly made her mark, becoming a household name for all readers of that company's output.

In the 1990s, she returned to Marvel, as a proofreader and continued to do such work up until her death.

It probably says it all that her demise made The Daily Express, The Mail and The Daily Mirror, and it's hard to think of any other comics company secretary who could manage such a feat.

Her other great claim to fame was, of course, acting as link woman on the Voices of Marvel Comics record from the 1960s and if you've never heard it or her magnificently Bostonian tones, you can find that very recording by clicking on this very link here.


In lighter news, a few days ago, it was the San Diego Comics Convention, an event that, if it works hard at it, looks fair set to rival the Sheffield Comics Convention one day.

And that can mean only one thing.

That a whole bunch of trailers were released for display at that very get-together.

Obviously, all sane people only care that a trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas special was unleashed. However, even I've grasped that, this being a comics blog, I should probably concentrate instead on the Marvel and DC trailers that were debuted.

The big ones were the latest trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League.

Of the two, you can't get round it, Thor:Ragnarok looks like a way better movie. In fact, the trailer contains just about everything you could ever want from a Thor movie - including a total lack of Odin - and the closing moment has to be surely the awesomest shot ever included in a super-hero flick.

Not only that but it turns out that Hela's antlers move.

This is the second Thor trailer now where my main concern has been with Hela's antlers. I can only conclude that I should only ever watch films about reindeers.

I must also confess that, every time we see Hela spin round, I start wanting her to start singing the old Wonder Woman TV theme tune. I'm the sort of man who knows how to wreck any film.

Regardless of all that, my incredible magic powers tell me this film will probably be a walloping great big hit.

In contrast, I have to say the Justice League film looks about as much fun as filling in your tax return but I am intrigued to find out why it seems to feature a member of the Borg in it.

Granted, I do suspect he's not really a member of the Borg and that the film doesn't involve a crossover with the new Star Trek show that's on its way. I also suspect that if I were any kind of comics blogger, I'd know full well who he is, but I don't. The truth is I am a kind of comics blogger. A useless kind.

We've also had the release of a new Inhumans trailer and I have to say I'm still not feeling it. In this one, we get to see Medusa's hair moving, which is an improvement on the previous trailer but, otherwise, the project's still leaving me cold. I also feel that putting Rag 'n' Bone Man on the soundtrack is such an obvious (and an already clichéd) thing to do that it merely has the effect of exacerbating the gnawing sense of a lack of inspiration about the project.

But those are just my opinions and may well be wrong. The trailers are below and you can share your thoughts on them if you so wish, or not share them if you do so not wish. As always, there is no pressure upon you to do either.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Avengers #158. Wonder Man vs the Vision.

Avengers #158, Wonder Man vs the Vision If there's anything we all like to see, it's super-heroes fighting each other.

In fact, it sometimes makes you wonder why comics companies have ever bothered to invent super-villains when they could just give us good guys trying to bash each other's heads in each month.

And so it is that, in The Avengers #158, we finally get to see the Vision vs Wonder Man, which, bearing in mind that the Vision has Wonder Man's brain patterns (whatever they are), means it's Marvel inter-hero antagonism taken to its logical conclusion, as we effectively have a super-hero fighting himself. No doubt, next month, we'll be treated to twenty pages of Captain America punching himself in the face.

The reason why it happens is the Vision's decided that Wonder Man has his eye on the Scarlet Witch and he's now in one of his, "I'm not human. What can an android know of love? I'd better fly into a tempestuous rage about my lack of emotions," moods.

Avengers #158, Wonder Man vs Vision, Sal Buscema
Sadly, despite making the cover, the fight only lasts a few pages before the Avengers get an SOS and set off to deal with Graviton who's still new to his powers and has seized control of the research facility where he works. Consequently, he's now having fun pushing the staff around and making the place float around like a balloon.

I do have to say I like the cut of Graviton's jib. He has the air of an early Silver Age Marvel villain about him, which means you could have imagined him turning up in a formative issue of Spider-Man or The Fantastic Four.

Inevitably, despite their vast numerical advantage, the Avengers soon fall victim to the fiend, mostly because none of them has the smarts to think of sneaking up on him from behind.

Avengers #158, Wonder Man vs Vision, Sal Buscema
I wish I could claim to have strong feelings about this issue but I don't. It's a solid tale written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Sal Buscema, with lots of conflict and drama. Personally, I could have done with the Vision vs Wonder Man action taking up the whole issue, with Graviton being tackled in the next one but at least we can't accuse the mag of skimping on action.

While I'm here, I do feel I should say a word about inker Pablo Marcos. I'm generally not a fan of his work as either a penciller or an inker but his style goes well with Buscema's pencils. For me, Buscema always benefited from having an embellisher who was exactly that, willing to add extra detail to his generally sparse pencils, and Marcos was just such an inker.

Avengers #158, Graviton triumphant
"But hold on a moment, you blathersome blundersquid!" I hear you cry. "Never mind all that cobblers about inkers and pencillers and writers and gravity and stuff! What about what we came here for? Who won the fight between the Vision and Wonder Man?"

Well, obviously, no one did. It being a 1970s Marvel mag, it's a draw, with both parties basically running out of steam before being interrupted by Iron Man who tells them off for causing needless damage to the mansion.

Reading comics back in those days, it could be so incredibly frustrating.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

July 20th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

As I write this deathless prose, I'm watching an episode of Star Trek in which Lieutenant Uhura is singing.

Faced with such terror, I have no recourse but to flee into the past. In fact, I'm going to flee so far into the past that I'm going to run face-first into 1977 and the wondrous comics that reside within that epoch.

But what will those comics contain? What?

Super Spider-man and Captain Britain #232, Kraven

It would seem, from my in-depth research, that this issue reprints part of the Defenders tale in which Thor battles the Hulk, in pursuit of the Evil Eye. I remember being very frustrated that, as always, their battle proves inconclusive.

But, from inconclusive to non-concluding. The Fantastic Four are still tangling with the Mole Man, Kala and Tyrannus, in a story that seems to have been dragging on since the beginning of the universe. It's odd that I have no memory of it feeling so interminable at the time.

Is the Manipulator that man who wanted to take over an African country with the aid of the Queen and the Royal Navy? What a bounder.

Mighty World of Marvel #251, Dracula and the Hulk

Dracula's getting stuck into his nuptials. I'm assuming the lucky woman is Domini.

As for the Hulk, I get the feeling this is the story in which Jarella meets her maker.

Didn't Thor fight the Crypto-Man straight after discovering the origin of Galactus, towards the end of Jack Kirby's run? I believe Kirby's plan was for Thor and Galactus to team up to fight the robot but Stan Lee nixed that and Thor had to tackle him alone.

Quite why Galactus would have wanted to fight Crypto-Man and why he would have needed Thor's help to do it, I have no idea.

Marvel UK, Fury #19

Just six more issues to go before Marvel UK's newest mag finds that, for it, the war is over.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

2000 AD - June 1979.

Today has been a pivotal moment in the history of humanity, with the announcement of a female Doctor Who.

Obviously, this has caused some consternation amongst the ranks of those who can't believe a woman can master the inherently male skill set of walking up and down corridors, holding a screwdriver and recklessly endangering everyone around them.

To me, it seemed a logical development after fifty three years of the part being played by men. It's a bit hard to claim the magic of the the show is that it keeps changing, if it doesn't really change any more than it has to.

Now all they have to do is make new showrunner Chris Chibnall regenerate into someone whose every Doctor Who and Torchwood script hasn't left me wanting to tear my brain out and bash it against the wall, in soul-destroyed torment, and they'll have it sorted.

But, if July 2017 is a pivotal moment in history, it's nothing compared to June of 1979, which gave us not one but two equally ground shaking moments.

The first was that McDonalds introduced the Happy Meal.

And the second was that Bryan Allen flew the pedal-driven Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel, which, if I remember correctly, was the first time a human-powered machine had flown across that stretch of water. What a grand new era of aviation it ushered in and, within ten years, we were all flying around in our own personal leg-powered planes.

Hold on a minute. We weren't doing that.

And we still aren't doing it.

Whatever happened to pedal-powered planes and how come I never heard of the concept ever again? Those things could fly across the Channel. Surely that was enough to make them catch on? Think of the saving in air fares and jumbo jet petrol.

While we contemplate that dread thought, it's probably best to look at what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to in that month of that year.

It seems there were interesting developments afoot.

For a start, in Prog 116, we get to meet Judge Dredd's niece Vienna. I must confess I have no memory at all of her but I assume she was named after Rigsby's cat in Rising Damp, as it was too early for her to be named after the Ultravox song. If she was Dredd's niece, does that mean she was Rico's daughter?

Prog 119 sees the start of Disaster 1990, a prequel to Invasion which also stars Bill Savage. But this means that Bill Savage had to live through a disaster and an invasion? He wasn't exactly what you'd call lucky, was he?

That issue, we also get the first appearance of the ABC Warriors, although weren't the ABC Warriors just the Ro-Busters by another name?

Finally, in Prog 119, we get a tribute to the latest James Bond flick Moonraker. I must confess that Moonraker was the first Bond movie I can recall not liking, as it was far too jokey for my tastes and I didn't like that Jaws was a good guy and was having a romance with his own personal Harley Quinn. With that film, I felt the makers were dismantling all the epic awesomeness of The Spy Who Loved Me (surely the greatest movie ever made), right before my eyes. I can't even remember the theme tune. That's how bad it was.

2000 AD, Prog 115, Dan Dare and the Mekon

2000 AD, Prog 116, Johnny Alpha

2000 AD, Prog 117, Judge Dredd

2000 AD, Prog 118, Johnny Alpha

2000 AD, Prog 119, Roger Moore

Thursday, 13 July 2017

July 13th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

All I can say is that this is a very exciting day for me.


Because, as of this week in 1977, the demise of Captain Britain's mag meant Marvel UK were only publishing three titles a week, meaning I now have to do less writing than I previously had to in order to complete these posts.

Granted, some might argue that this meant Marvel UK was dicing with death at this point in its history and that that was therefore a bad thing but I am, of course, determinedly reprehensible and therefore only care about myself.

So, let's see what they had to offer us in this thrilling new era of laziness.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #231

It's the team-up we've all been dreaming of, as Captain Britain's strip joins the pages of Super Spider-Man.

I have to confess it wasn't what I'd dreamed of. I was thoroughly fed up of Captain Britain by this point, with his talk of jubilees, empires and commonwealths, and his silly flying stick and his foes with monocles. To be honest, I really couldn't wait for him to go away.

I mean, if he'd been called Captain Sheffield, it would have been different. All his talk of subsidised bus fares, underpasses, dual carriageways, roundabouts, pigeons, ferrets, malfunctioning fountains, Rotherham's status as an independent town, the M1 and Synth-Pop would have been endlessly fascinating to me.

Mighty World of Marvel #250, Hulk and Dracula

I don't recall too much about this issue but I was a big Hulk fan and I loved Marvel's Dracula strip and I was a big admirer of Daredevil's underpowered but lively antics, so have no doubt at all that I enjoyed this comic very much.

Was Captain Marvel still in the book in this period?

If so, that would have made me love it even more.

Marvel UK, Fury #18

The great news for me is that there are just seven more weeks of Fury to go, which'll soon make my life on this blog even easier.

The bad news is it means there are only eight more weeks to go before Fury and his commandos join the pages of Mighty World of Marvel.

Captain Britain in Super Spider-Man? The Howling Commandos in Mighty World of Marvel? Was there to be no end to my torment in this era?

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Forty years ago today - July 1977.

As I type these words, it's the present.

And that can only mean one thing.

It's not the past.

But there was a time when the past was the present and the present was the future.

That time was forty years ago.

Granted, it was also any time at all in the entire history of the universe.

However, acknowledging that wouldn't give me an excuse to look at what Marvel Comics was up to forty years ago. So, it's best I draw a veil over that fact and plough on with my plunge into nostalgia.

Avengers #161

My memory of this story is that Ant-Man gives the Avengers' butts a good kicking with his awesome ant powers.

Whether that's what really happens, I couldn't guarantee, although I do remember him giving Iron Man serious problems by sending ants inside his armour.

Is Jocasta involved in this story? Is Ultron involved? I have a feeling they might be but I could be talking rubbish.

Captain America and the Falcon #211

I'm not sure what happens in this one but Arnim Zola seems to be involved.

You can't help feeling Cap must be fed up of Nazis by now. Thirty two years after the war ended, and they still won't go away.

Fantastic Four #184, the Eliminator

I remember liking this one. I do believe that nice man's kidnapped Agatha Harkness and that it all leads our heroes to Salem and civic witchcraftery beyond mortal comprehension.

Incredible Hulk #213, Quintronic Man

It's another one that I remember!

I also recall the Quintronic Man being a terrible idea for a means to tackle the Hulk, as it never made any sense to have five different people controlling one robot. I also remember them as not being the highest quality individuals anyway.

Iron Man #100

Iron Man hits the Big One Hundred.

Apparently, the Mandarin is present for this story but I don't know just what he gets up to.

I do detect a Jim Starlin cover though.

Thor #261

I really don't have a clue what's going on in this one either. It vaguely reminds me of that story where our heroes find themselves on an enormous planet full of giants with a vacuum cleaner that Hoovers up planets. However, I know it's not that one, as we've already done it.

Conan the Barbarian #76

Conan's nothing if not an iconoclast.

I'm sure he'd tell us that himself if it didn't have more than two syllables.

Daredevil #147

I don't think I've ever read this one.

Spectacular Spider-Man #8, Morbius

I'm not totally sure what happens inside but I am certain that's a Paul Gulacy cover.

I believe Morbius may be possessed by the Empathoid who makes him do bad things.

Admittedly, I'm not convinced Morbius needs to be possessed in order for him to do bad things.

Thinking about it, I believe that's the only Paul Gulacy artwork I've ever seen that doesn't involve Shang-Chi.

Amazing Spider-Man #170, Dr Faustus

Dr Faustus is doing the, "Convince Spider-Man he's going mad," routine that's normally left to Mysterio.

I did always like Faustus. I like a villain with brains, even if he doesn't have the brains to realise that a man of his talents doesn't need to commit crimes to make a fortune.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

July 6th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time to restring our rackets and stock up on Pimm's because, in this week of 1977, Virginia Wade won Wimbledon. What an unlikely thing it was for a British tennis player to win that competition and how certain we were that we'd never see a Brit emulate that feat ever again for as long as we lived.

But what of the stars of our favourite mags that week? Were they having a late rally? Were they giving their foes a backhand smash? Or was it simply game, set and match for the heroes of Marvel UK?

Marvel UK, Captain Britain #39, final issue

Virginia Wade winning Wimbledon, and now Captain Britain sharing a cover with the Queen in her Silver Jubilee year? Could this week possibly get any more British?

Capturing the zeitgeist as it did, it's no wonder the comic was a massive success and destined to last for many decades to come and...

...Wait? What's that? This is his last ever issue and, from next week onwards, he'll have to settle for being a half-hearted back-up strip in Spider-Man's mag before being scrapped completely? Did this nation have no appreciation for all he did for us?

Mighty World of Marvel #249, Hulk and Dracula Lives

I recognise that man with the horns and I recognise that man without the face. The trouble is I'm struggling to recall just why I recall them and just what it was they did that made them so recollectable to me.

I'm taking it, from the cover, that we've reached the period in which Drac gets mixed up with a Satanic cult and gets himself a wife, a love-life and a son. You never saw Christopher Lee getting up to that kind of thing.

Super Spider-Man and the Titans #230, the Tarantula

The cover rings a bell but the story doesn't.

But we have just one more week to go before the word, "Titans," no longer adorns the front of Marvel UK's second-longest running comic.

Marvel UK, Fury #17

Speaking of disappearing titles, there's just eight more issues left before Fury suffers the same fate as Captain Britain's mag.

But, hold on. Does this mean that, soon, Marvel UK will be down to just two mags a week? How come I never noticed at the time just how close to extinction the once magnificent enterprise was venturing?

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