Friday, 7 December 2012

Who remembers Science Fiction Monthly?







Everyone knows that Steve of Steve Does Comics is a connasewer of the visual arts. Why, only last week, I was drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa in order to improve it to the exacting standards I always maintain.

And, because of that love of the visual arts; in the mid-1970s, there was one magazine alone whose arrival on our living room carpet I always anticipated.

That magazine was the New English Library's Science Fiction Monthly.

Science Fiction Monthly was not a comic - and therefore has no business being on this blog - but it did have a comic strip in it, one I recall little of other than that it swiped copiously from Barry Smith's classic adaptation of Conan's Red Nails.

The rest of the magazine was a mighty thing indeed, huge in size, making a Marvel Treasury Edition look tiny, and packed with stories and art.

I actually don't remember that much about the fiction it featured. I seem to recall there being a tale about the Pied Piper that may have used the idea of it all being down to ergot poisoning. And there was another one about acid rain. There may also have been one or more old Tarzan stories reprinted in it.

Another highlight for me was an interview with Space: 1999 special effects maestro Brian Johnson who later went on to work on the The Empire Strikes Back and Alien.

Most of all, it was a good showcase for artists like Bruce  Pennington, Chris Foss, Tim White and Roger Dean whose output supplied it with a whole string of eye-catching covers.

Later in its life, it switched from the broadsheet format to a smaller tabloid form which, bearing in mind that its main selling point was the giant size of its artwork, probably wasn't the best of ideas.

Was the magazine any good?

As far as I can make out, not according to anyone else. Personally I don't recall enough of it to say - plus I was only ten at the time - but I do remember the pretty pictures and, as I'm a comics fan, pretty pictures are good enough for me.

If you want to see more fabby covers of Science Fiction Monthly, you can see them right here.

And if you remember the mag and want to say so, you can do that in the comments box below.

On the other hand, if you don't remember the mag and want to say so, you can do that too in the comments box below.

Monday, 3 December 2012

December 1972 - forty years ago today!

The Four Seasons may have once sung of late December 1963 but it's December 1972 that catches the eye of Steve Does Comics. In what state of mind do we find our favourite Marvel heroes? Will they walk like a man or simply plunge into the Frankie Valli of despair?

Amazing Spider-Man #115, Dr Octopus, Aunt May points a gun at our hero

Spider-Man comes up against his deadliest foe yet - Aunt May, as the wacky widow proves just how completely clueless she really is.
Avengers #106, the Space Phantom

I seem to remember this being the return of the Space Phantom.

I can't recall exactly what his scheme was but I'm sure it was suitably nefarious.

I do always wonder who'd win a fight between the Space Phantom and the Living Eraser but that probably says more about me than anything else.
Captain America #156, Cap vs Captain America

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

Is this the 1950s Captain America who's fighting the "real" one, or is that another story altogether?
Conan the Barbarian #21, Barry Smith

Much as I love Barry Smith, I've never liked this cover. Conan's legs look too long for the rest of him, his sword and axe don't seem to be pointing in quite the right directions and the man he's resting his foot on doesn't seem to have a thick enough body. I prefer the similar Smith picture where our hero's stood in a pool of water.

But who cares about that? It would appear that Conan's the first comic book to ever win an Oscar.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #94, the Indestructible Man

More trouble for our heroes.
Fantastic Four #129, Medusa and Thundra

Poor old Ben Grimm. It can't be easy being made of rocks and having to fight off all those women all the time.

Then again, seeing disembodied heads looking down at you must be quite disturbing too.
Iron Man #53, Raga

I genuinely have no clue what's going on here.
Thor #206, the return of the Absorbing Man

The Absorbing Man. All that power, and still he can't beat anyone.
X-Men #79, Cobalt Man

Before he goes mad and harasses the Hulk, the Cobalt Man goes mad and tries to make ex-men of the X-Men.
Incredible Hulk #158, the Rhino and Counter Earth

It's another of my Hulk faves as he and the Rhino get a lovely trip to Counter-Earth.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Fifty years ago today. December 1962.

There's less than a month to go before Noddy Holder comes down the chimney, kisses our mothers by the Christmas tree and gives us whatever presents we deserve. But just how much festive cheer were our favourite Marvel heroes feeling in this month of 1962?

Fantastic Four #9, the Sub-Mariner

Not a lot, apparently.

It's a tale of Christmas hardship that Charles Dickens himself would be hard-pressed to top, as the Fantastic Four find themselves penniless and having to work for their deadly enemy the Sub-Mariner.
Journey Into Mystery #87, Thor in chains

It all goes a bit homoerotic, as Thor enters cover territory normally reserved for Wonder Woman.

Give her back those chains, you Norse numbskull. She needs them.
Strange Tales #103, the Human Torch and the Fifth Dimension

Can it be? Can pesky aliens finally have discovered the Human Torch's secret and unguessable weakness?
Tales to Astonish #38, Ant-Man

Is that Egghead?

If it isn't, it certainly should be, as Ant-Man finds himself defeated by flypaper.

But, betrayed by his own ants! Frankly, when you hear news like that, it's no wonder Hank Pym went mad.

Then again, some might suspect the sanity of anyone who thinks that hanging around with ants is normal.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I Need An Earth Girl! Vital questions answered.

I Need An Earth Girl by Stephen Walker
Available from Amazon.Com, Amazon UK
and Smashwords.
Hooray! Just as I release my startling new novella I Need An Earth Girl! noir maestro Paul D Brazill of You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? has given me an excuse to plug it by nominating me for the ME! ME! thingy that's doing the rounds. It seems the recipient has to answer the following ten questions and then pick on five other people to answer the same questions.

1. What is the title of your book?

I Need An Earth Girl!

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

After watching the first Dr Who Christmas Special, back in 2005, the one that introduced David Tennant, I said to myself, "I'm going to write one of those!" And so I did. Admittedly it took me seven years to finally get round to it but, as we all know, you can't rush genius.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Science Fiction. Some might label it Science Fantasy, as I'm perfectly happy to play fast and loose with the laws of Physics in order to achieve my ends. I think it's also probably Space Opera, although possibly on a more human scale than that title might threaten.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

All of the major characters are aliens. One is sort of a bird woman, another is an insectoid and another is an octopod, so I don't have a clue. Are there any actors out there with eight arms? Squid James?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sentenced to death, queen Petra 97 becomes a space adventurer but soon discovers that being an official heroine of the empire doesn't guarantee people will be pleased to see you

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It's out right now and it's self-published. My wild, independent streak sees to that.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I think it was two or three days. Normally I break a story down into scenes and then work my way through it a scene at a time, getting each one right before going onto the next. This time, I went straight through it from start to finish, as one piece of narration with no scene or chapter breaks.

Trouble was, when I read it back, I didn't like the effect and therefore completely rewrote it in my usual way, breaking it up and adding scene beginnings and endings.

Also, thanks to the initial method I'd used, I found there was a lot of telling and not showing going on. Therefore I had to totally restructure it in places to better dramatise the situations that were being described.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can't think of any. I suspect that's more thanks to my ignorance rather then my having totally reinvented literature.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said, Dr Who did. Also, I quite fancied doing what I'd been doing with my Department of Occult Investigation stories but to do it in space, so I could do things on a bigger and more imaginative scale. There's also a couple of things in there that were my attempt to do a Jack Kirby.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, there's a fair bit of nudity - although none of it's by humans.

Most of all, I hope people'll like the fact it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are life and death matters involved and, of course, our heroine learns an important lesson about both herself and the universe but it does have a tongue-in-cheek side to it too. I think the characters are quite endearing. They're not like us. And yet, somehow, they are.

I Need An Earth Girl! can be downloaded from:
Amazon.Com, Amazon UK and Smashwords.

Cover credits: 
Teddy Bear 27 by Waugsberg (own photograph - eigene Aufnahme) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Earth From Space by NASA (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_from_Space.jpg 

Overall cover design, copyright Stephen Walker, 2012, available under Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)

Argh! Now I have to nominate someone.

In that case I'll try nominating:
Ryan Harvey at the Realm of Ryan.
Craig Smith at the Fantasy/Reality World of a Writer.
Mercedes Ludill at MercedesLudillBooks.
David P Perlmutter at Wrong Place, Wrong Time.
Jeff Whelan of Jeff Whelan.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Charlton Comics.

Ghostly Tales, Charlton Comics
Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Charlton Comics
Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Charlton Comics
Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Charlton Comics
Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Charlton Comics
Many Ghosts of Dr Graves, Charlton Comics
Ghost Manor, Steve Ditko, Spiders
Ghost Manor, Charlton Comics
Ghostly Haunts, Charlton Comics
Ghostly Haunts, Charlton Comics
Ghostly Haunts, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Midnight Tales, Charlton Comics
Yang, Charlton Comics
Yang, Charlton Comics
Yang, Charlton Comics
Yang, Charlton Comics
Yang, Charlton Comics
Ghostly Tales, Charlton Comics

E-Man, Charlton Comics

Twitter is a wonderful thing. With it I can find out eight times a day that Justin Bieber has died - and, nine times a day, that he's not. That Kristen Stewart has only one facial expression and that someone is saying terrible things about me if I only click on that link to find out who.

Through it, I've also created an army of mind-slaves who hang on my every @, # and RT. With them, like a bad Dr Who villain, I shall take total control of this planet.

But it's not all good news. As those followers could tell you, earlier today I made an attempt to write a post about Charlton Comics but then found I didn't have anything interesting to say about them. This is odd, as I have a lot of affection for them and have always loved a plucky underdog.

So, instead of pontificating, I shall just post the cover of every Charlton Comic that I recall having owned.

All I will say is:

1) Midnight Tales is my favourite Charlton comic. A book of strange and alluring charm.

2) I've always loved the covers Tom Sutton did for the company. I do feel he's a shamefully overlooked talent. His cover for The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves #45 is especially wonderful.

3) Speaking of which, I always loved the tale in that issue, where a wimp in Hell turns out to have a deadly secret.

4) I always loved the story from The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves #41, in which bright green druids are up to no good at Stonehenge. I got the comic in Lytham St Annes. That fact shouldn't make any difference to my liking for the mag but, somehow, it does.

5) I always loved the story from Ghostly Tales #107, in which some adventurers discover just who they've been travelling with. I first read that mag in the Woolworths restaurant, Blackpool - the big Woolworths near the Tower. This should make no difference to my feelings for the mag but somehow it does. I also first read Midnight Tales #7 at that very same sitting. This shouldn't make any difference to my liking for that mag but, somehow, it does.

6) I'm pretty sure the only issue of E-Man I ever owned contained an early John Byrne haunted house story featuring the robotic Rog-2000, which was always a favourite of mine.

7) I wish I could recall exactly what happens in the issue where Yang fights a Bigfoot.

8) Their strange crinkle-cut pages, not-quite glossy covers and not-always properly aligned printing marked Charlton mags out as clearly cheaper and technically inferior to the output of their slicker rivals at Marvel and DC but it also gave them a homespun charisma, like Robin Hood tweaking the beard of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and therefore made them all the more endearing.

Anyway, that's my thoughts over and done with. Any thoughts you may have on Charlton Comics are indeed welcome.

And, if you wish to know more about Charlton and its battles with the odds, you can find it here.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Stamping out that sort of thing.

Killraven Marvel Value Stamp #35
Black Panther Marvel Value Stamp #50
Brother Voodoo Marvel Value Stamp #20
Marvel Value Stamp
images from
Like Dracula, Steve Does Comics leaps from its grave.

Like the Harker family, they try to stop it with a steak through the heart.

Frankly, I get the feeling they aren't the finest vampire hunters the world can supply.

But it's coming up to Christmas - and that can mean just one thing.

Christmas cards.

And that can mean just one thing.

Envelopes.

And that can mean just one thing.

Stamps.

And that can mean just one thing.

Marvel Value Stamps.

And that can mean just one thing.

I didn't have any.

In fact, that's not true. I actually had three.

Well, OK, that's not true either. I had loads because I had loads of Bronze Age comics but I only had three that I ever dared to physically cut out of the comics and do something with.

I'm pretty sure that was because I had more than one copy of the comics in question and was thus willing to take the scissors to them.

Weird War Tales #24, clawing hands are met by the beckoning finger of death
See the dread fate that awaits those who seek out
Marvel Value Stamps!
The three I cut out featured the Black Panther, Killraven and Brother Voodoo and, in the absence of anywhere else to stick them, I glued them in my scrapbook, somewhere between those cards you used to get with PG Tips, and the copy I drew of this cover to Weird War Tales #24.

In fact I only copied the skeleton. I couldn't be bothered to draw the rest, so I instead drew him in the Time Tunnel

Why he was in there, I'm not totally sure but I like to feel it was a salutary reminder that death is everywhere, even in the Time Tunnel.

Happily, death isn't in The Star Maidens or I wouldn't be able to cope with life.

I was never actually sure just what one was supposed to do with Marvel Value Stamps. Was there a booklet you could buy to stick them in?

If so, I never heard anything about it. But I always suspected that the real reasons for the Marvel Value Stamps' existence was to make you buy two copies of every comic. One to keep, knowing it'd be worth a fortune some day, and one to cut to pieces. In this way would Marvel double their sales with little extra effort. What cunning devils they were.

Anyway, that's my heartwarming tale of Marvel Value Stamps. If you have any of your own, you know just where to post them.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

November 1972. Forty years ago today.

Hark! What's that I hear through my window?

Why, 'tis the gentle sound of fireworks exploding with the force of atom bombs.

It can only mean one thing. It's that time of year again. The one where we fling effigies of unpopular people on the bonfire and laugh as their faces melt.

Well that's all very well and good but what fireworks were our favourite Marvel heroes inflicting on us forty years ago?

Conan the Barbarian 20, Barry Smith

I remember this one dearly, as I spent quite some time, as an eleven year old, copying panels from it with my trusty pencil.

And, though I say it myself, I like to think I did a rather nifty Barry Smith impression.
Amazing Spider-Man 114, Hammerhead

Hammerhead makes his debut. A foe who always gave Spider-Man far more trouble than he should.

All Spidey had to do to beat him was remember to punch him in the stomach instead of the top of the head.

Did he ever learn that lesson?

No he didn't.
Avengers 105, Beast Brood

The Avengers come up against the Beast Brood.
Captain America and the Falcon 155

A tale with which I think I'm totally unfamiliar.

But does that blurb mean the world didn't gain its favourite super-soldier in the way we all thought it did?
Daredevil and the Black Widow 93, The Indestructible Man

DD's radar sense obviously on the blink there.

I did always wonder if the Black Widow's costume was made of leather or rubber.

I did finally come down on the side of rubber, even though leather was clearly more practical.
Fantastic Four 128

I have no recall of this one at all, even though I'm sure I must have read it in the pages of Captain Britain.
Incredible Hulk 157, the Rhino

Another of my favourites, as the Leader takes possession of the Rhino's body and still manages to mess up.
Iron Man 52, the Living Volcano

Poor old Iron Man. He really does seem to come up against a remarkable number of people who can melt things.
Thor 205, Mephisto

I've commented before on Thor's strange air of defeatism on most of his covers.

Here, it's got so bad he can't even be bothered to voice that defeatism. He'd rather just kneel there looking pitiful.

What a sorry sad-sack of a thunder god he really is.

But, blow me down, Sif's actually promising to be some use in a punch-up for once.
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