Who's groovier, Michael Jackson or the Bee Gees?

Thursday, 23 November 2017

November 23rd, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this week of 1977, ABBA were at Number One on the UK singles chart with Name of the Game.

But, elsewhere on that chart, Punk and New Wave were starting to make their presence felt, with Elvis Costello's Watching the Detectives, Tom Robinson's 2-4-6-8 Motorway, the Boomtown Rats' Mary of the Fourth Form, The Jam's Modern World and the Sex Pistols' Holiday in the Sun all featuring.

Then again, upon that chart, we could also find the Carpenters, Crystal Gayle and The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, while the determinedly alarming Ram Jam Band were battling it out with The Dooleys, and Kenny Everett was going head to head with Nazareth. Truly the singles chart of 1977 was a schizophrenic place indeed.

Speaking of which...

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #250, Dr Faustus

He might be a master of psychology but that doesn't mean Dr Faustus can't get physical.

If I remember right, the sinister psychiatrist's plan is to convince Spider-Man that he's his ally, so he'll help him commit a robbery. I remember Doctor Octopus having also used this self-same tactic many moons earlier.

Needless to say, just as Octopus failed in his bid, the Freudian felon also comes a cropper, as our hero quickly regains his senses and lets his fists give Faustus and his men the aversion therapy they've been asking for.

Rampage #6, the Defenders

My first assumption was that the large character on this cover is the Living Colossus but, as far as I'm aware, Livvie is a good guy who even once tackled  the might of Fin Fang Foom for the good of humanity, while the individual on this cover appears to have nothing in his heart but ill will.

On other matters, I espy the Valkyrie making her first appearance on the title's cover and clearly setting out to emulate more established heroines like Sue Storm by finding herself in the grip of a giant hand on her debut frontispiece.

The Complete Fantastic Four #9

Speaking of Sue Storm, this is it. As predicted by Colin Jones last week, this is the issue in which Reed Richards zaps his own son in order to stop him doing something or other.

To be honest, I'm not sure what it is he's zapping him to prevent but it's clearly something potentially hazardous.

Maybe he was about to explode or something. I hate it when people do that.

I do believe this issue's back-up strip reprints the Silver Age revival of the Sub-Mariner, caused, of course, by the Human Torch dropping him into some water and restoring the trunks-wearing warmonger's memory.

Mighty World of Marvel #269, Daredevil vs Kilgrave and Electro

How on Earth is Daredevil still alive? He's just been simultaneously shot by two people (one of whom seems to be aiming for his genitals) and electrocuted by a third.

And still Killgrave and Electro are trying to get him to surrender. I would have thought that, after a triple whammy like that, surrendering wouldn't even be an option.

Still, it's good to see Daredevil get a cover in a comic that's normally dominated by the Hulk.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

2000 AD - October 1979.

It's a Sunday on which I find myself watching Peter Benchley's The Beast on the Horror Channel. To no one's surprise at all, the beast in question is a huge, man-eating sea creature intent on terrorising all who set foot in the water.

This time, that creature's a giant squid of malevolent intent. You can't help feeling Peter Benchley has done more damage to the good name of sea creatures than any other man in history.

But I must take a break from all this underwater adventure, in order to submerge myself instead in a far drier medium; the arid wasteland that is my attempt each month to think of something to say about what the galaxy's greatest comic was up to thirty eight years and one month ago.

Sadly, I can't tell you what it was up to thirty eight years and one month ago because that month's covers furnish me with even fewer clues than normal. Seriously, would it have killed Tharg to have put some captions on the front of them for me talk about? I'm starting to think he's got it in for me.

Therefore, all I can say is that it's nice to see the comic getting not one but two prestigious Eagle Awards; one for Top British Comic and one for Top British Character. As far as I can make out, these were the first Eagle Awards the book had ever won, which, given that it was launched a full two years earlier and was, right from the start, clearly a cut above the typical British comic, seems astonishing.

Then again, the Awards up until that point seem to have been completely dominated by American publications and creators - with even Favourite British Comics Writer having been previously won by Chris Claremont. With that flexible a definition of Britishness, it's a miracle John Byrne didn't win Favourite British Artist, to boot.

On other matters, that creature on the cover of Prog 136 looks very Lovecraftian. There's more than a hint of the creatures from At the Mountains of Madness about it.

And that is all I have to say on the subject of this month's issues.

That in mind, I shall return to my television's life and death struggle with a giant squid and ponder upon just how long it'll be before Peter Benchley gives us a nightmare tale of seamen battling to rid a town at last from the menace of  a giant fishcake.

2000 AD, Prog 133

2000 AD, Prog 134, Judge Dredd

2000 AD, Prog 135

2000 AD, Prog 136

Thursday, 16 November 2017

November 16th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

It's time to get your white suit on and strut your way down your local high street because forty years ago this week saw the release of Saturday Night Fever, that Disco classic that went on to become the biggest-selling album of all time - at least until Michael Jackson's Thriller came along and proved that, if anything, he was somehow even groovier than the Bee Gees.

But if we were all getting down and burning it up that week, what of the stars of our favourite comics company?

Were they tripping the light fantastic?

Or were they merely dancing with tears in their eyes?

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #249, Dr Faustus

That dastardly psychiatrist Doctor Faustus tries to defeat our hero by convincing him he's going mad.

Admittedly, it's not the most original ploy of all time. As far as I can remember, by this point, Mysterio had already tried exactly the same plan on at least three separate occasions.

And one of them wasn't even the real Mysterio!

Rampage #5, the Defenders vs the Executioner

Hooray! The Defenders find themselves fighting the Executioner.

Given that he's just a thug with an axe, that might not seem all that exciting but, where stalks the Executioner, surely the Enchantress can't be far away.

And where stalks the Enchantress, surely a certain sword-wielding, horse-bothering heroine can't be far away.

Mighty World of Marvel #268, the Hulk and Dr Druid

The Hulk is a mere pawn in Doctor Druid and the Maha Yogi's game.

I must confess I don't have a clue what the Maha Yogi's game is but I suspect it's not Subbuteo.

Complete Fantastic Four #8, Annihilus

Annihilus is back!

Isn't this the one where Reed Richards does something or other to his son to stop him being dangerous or something?

As you can see, I'm fully clued up about it all.

But I've always wanted to read this tale, ever since a panel from it was featured in the book of Monsters I was given one Christmas.

And you can read my ramblings about that book by clicking on this very link right here.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Forty years ago today - November 1977.

Pray for me, Dear Reader, for I am currently watching a film called Super Shark. It features a giant shark that can both fly and walk on land. A walking tank has just showed up to fight it. I can safely say that that tank is the stupidest thing I have ever seen and I doubt it'd even be able to take out a broken-down bubble car.

Clearly, confronted by such madness, I've no recourse but to flee into the depths of the internet and see what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to back in the days when we only had to worry about one cinematic shark and it only took three drunks in a boat to stop it.

Avengers #165, Count Nefaria

The Whizzer there, possibly the one Avenger who has the least to fear from a falling building - what with him being best able to run away from it - seems to be the one most negative about his own survival chances. The older generation, sometimes I despair of them.

Meanwhile, Count Nefaria continues to pursue his nefarious plan to do whatever it is he's nefariously planning to do.

Conan the Barbarian #80

It looks like it's another day at the office for the world's best loved barbarian.

Captain America and the Falcon #215

It looks like Jack Kirby's return to the strip is over.

It also looks like we might be getting yet another retelling of Cap's origin and history. Did any Marvel hero ever get their origin and history retold more than Cap did? It seemed to happen every other issue.

And he never could make up his mind what the scientist who created him was called.

Daredevil #149, the Smasher

I love how the picture clearly depicts Daredevil thinking, "Help! Help! I'm in trouble here!" and the speech balloon's saying completely the opposite.

As for the villain, I don't have a clue who The Smasher is. The name rings a bell. Had he turned up before with a different costume? Or had there previously been another villain of the same name?

Interesting to see that the cinema's displaying a poster for The Deep, an adaptation of which Marvel had out at the same time as this issue was on the spinner racks.

Fantastic Four #188, the Molecule Man

That bounder the Molecule Man has taken control of Reed Richards. How can he possibly be stopped now?

Come to think of it, how can he be stopped now? I genuinely don't remember how his scheme was thwarted. Was the Impossible Man involved?

Incredible Hulk #217, the Circus of Crime

Hooray! Not only do we get the Hulk's long awaited rematch with the Circus of Crime but we get a Jim Starlin cover as well.

No one drew the Hulk quite like Starlin did.

Well, admittedly, Steve Ditko sort of did but in a slightly more cartoony way.

I seem to remember this story being quite confusing to me, as the Hulk befriends the honest members of the Circus of Crime. Just why did the Ringmaster want to recruit honest people to the Circus of Crime? Wouldn't that go against the whole concept of it?

Iron Man #104

I've no idea what happens in this one but I suspect that Midas and Madam Masque may be involved.

Speaking of masks, I do always wonder just how Iron Man's face plate manages to display his facial expressions like that.

Amazing Spider-Man #174, the Punisher and the Hitman

As if one homicidal maniac with a gun wasn't enough, now The Punisher shows up as well. Spidey never had these problems in the 1960s.

Spectacular Spider-Man #12, Brother Power and Sister Sun

I vaguely remember Brother Power and Sister Sun. Didn't they launch some sort of cult or other? I think I've mentioned in the past that I've often considered launching a cult of my own. I do feel I should be worshipped by all who meet me.

Thor #265, The Destroyer

The last time I encountered the Destroyer, he was serving as a herald of Galactus in The Fantastic Four. Is that still the case in this issue or had the Big G got bored of him by this stage?

Come to think of it, the last time I'd encountered Galactus, he'd been turned into a being of pure thought, by the High Evolutionary. This would suggest he no longer needed the Destroyer. This would suggest someone else is operating him. But whom? Whom?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

November 9th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

The last few weeks have been exciting ones for all fans of Marvel UK, with the launch of not one, not two but three thrilling new titles. Would it happen again this week? Were we to get yet another new publication to even further empty our wallets?

No, we weren't. But we did at least get four already existing titles to spend our money on.

And these were those.

Mighty World of Marvel #267, the Hulk

I really don't have the foggiest what's going on in the Hulk story. That man on the motorbike looks like someone who would have turned up in a Captain Britain tale. How Dr Druid ties into it all, I have no idea. And who the Maha Yogi is, I have even less idea.

Otherwise, I am fully clued up about the tale.

Meanwhile, it's always nice to see Daredevil tangle with Electro, what with the voltage-happy villain having been the first super-criminal he ever met.

Admittedly, it does make Electro look a bit rubbish if  even Daredevil can keep beating him.

As for the Nick Fury story, didn't one of the Howling Commandos get killed at some point?

I hope it was the English one. He used to get on my nerves, with his stupid umbrella.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #248

I don't really know what happens in the main Spider-Man tale but it doesn't matter anyway - because it seems that this issue features his legendary Claremont/Byrne team-up with Captain Britain, which was easily the good Captain's best adventure up to this point.

I do fear though that it may have served to fool American readers into thinking the UK clobberer was a lot more impressive than he really was.

Rampage #4, the Defenders

As far as I can make out, in this issue, the Defenders travel into the realm of the Undying Ones and finally get round to rescuing Barbara Norris from her captivity there.

It's an action that I'm certain will have no long-term consequences at all for the non-team.

Complete Fantastic Four #7, the Miracle man

I didn't have this issue - but I did have the US original of it and loved it deeply.

In the middle of nowhere, the Miracle Man creates a city for himself, populated by silent but obedient servants, and the FF get to fall down a huge hole and have a ride on a raft, while the absent Mr Fantastic does things with the Negative Zone, and Sue has a fright from a mysterious visitor for Franklin. On top of that, it's drawn by John Buscema and features the return of Wyatt Wingfoot. What more could one want from a Fantastic Four tale?

OK, I admit it. One could want the return of Tomazooma - but one would have to be mad to want that.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Marvel Lucky Bag - November 1977.

Grab your Time Hats, pilgrims - because it's time once more for me to take a vaguely random look at what some of the less high-profile Marvel titles were up to forty years ago.

Will I have included this month's issue of Dynomutt in my selection?

Will this month's Yogi Bear mag make the cut?

There's only one way to find out.

Avengers King-Size Annual #7, Thanos and Captain Marvel

Ooh look! Judging by the number of people involved and the identity of the villain and the fact it's an annual, this looks like it's a big important issue.

And I have no doubt it is.

Does this mean it's the one where Thanos gets turned into a statue?

Also, I detect Adam Warlock in the background. Does that means this is the one where he begins his brief flirtation with being dead?

And just what role does Captain Marvel get up to in this tale?

Those questions aside, it has a predominantly purple cover, which isn't something you can say every day in the magical world of comics.

Captain Marvel #53, Black Bolt

Speaking of Captain Marvel, this is the one where he teams up with Black Bolt who I seem to remember gets beaten up at one point by a gang of ruffians possibly belonging to some Kree villain or other.

But so noble is he that, even then, he refuses to make a sound, for fear of the harm he might do to them.

I have to admit that if I had the power to destroy people just by speaking, you'd never be able to get me to shut up. Frankly, within a week, there'd be no one but me left on the planet.

Somehow, I can't help feeling I'm not cut out to be a super-hero.

Marvel Comics, The Deep #1

Here's a mystery. I took one look at this cover and wondered if Joe Kubert had any involvement in it, which seemed a bit unlikely, seeing as it's a Marvel production.

Anyway, the usually reliable Grand Comics Database furnishes no answers. It merely lists the penciller as, "?"

It also lists the inker as Tom Palmer but the inks don't look very Tom Palmeresque to me.

So, if you know who produced this cover, feel free to say so.

That aside, I was totally unaware that Marvel had done an adaptation of the watery movie that was in no way an attempt to cash in on the success of Jaws.

Come to think of it, I've never seen the movie either.

However, it's hard to believe it could be up to the standards of Jaws 3-D.

The Defenders #53, Red Guardian

If I remember right, the Defenders spend some time in Namor's undersea realm before it's hit by an earthquake.

When they go to investigate, they uncover a plot by an overambitious Russian, which leads to both he and the Red Guardian getting turned into some sort of hyper-beings.

I can't recall what happens after that but I have no doubt that chins get punched and bad guys get thwarted.

Invaders #22, Asbestos Lady

I admit it. I'm only featuring this issue because it features Asbestos Lady.

Why do I get the feeling she probably didn't have a long career?

Marvel Comics, The Pit and the Pendulum, Marvel Classics Comics #28

Ever ready to raid the vaults of Horror, Marvel Classics Comics gives us its take on Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.

I've seen the Vincent Price version of the tale but can recall little of it. I have no doubt it featured plenty of monologues.

Marvel Special Edition, Star Wars #1

It's the sensation that's sweeping the galaxy, as Marvel gives us its adaptation of George Lucas' filmic phenomenon.

All of which is a bit strange as, even as this hit the shelves, their newly launched monthly Star Wars mag was halfway through serialising the thing. Clearly, Star Wars was so popular that Marvel was happy to have two comics on the bookshelf that were directly competing with each other.

Star Wars #5

Speaking of which, the cover of Star Wars #5 is clearly happy to take certain liberties with the movie's plot.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Fifty years ago this month - November 1967.

Hooray! It's Bonfire Night!

And that can only mean one thing!

It's time for me to sit down and write a blog post about the comics that Marvel were producing fifty years ago, as generations of Britons have done ever since that fateful night in whenever it was.

Avengers #46, Ant-Man is back

It's an event even more exciting than Bonfire Night, as Ant-Man returns.

I admit it, despite his uselessness, I've always liked Ant-Man, so this is a tale that was always going to appeal to me. Especially when it features a helmetless Hank Pym battling against his former formic allies. Plus the return of the nearest thing to an arch-enemy he has - his girlfriend's chauffeur!

But it's a terrible threat that Ant-Man faces. Look, the ants have already decapitated the other Avengers and left their heads lying on the floor.

And they've decapitated the Whirlwind and flung his head up in the air. Is there nothing that can stop them? Nothing?

Daredevil #34, the Beetle

Speaking of people with insect-inspired powers, the Beetle's still causing trouble for the Man Without Fear, at Montreal's Expo '67.

My knowledge of Expo '67 comes entirely from reading Marvel comics of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Never let it be said that comics are not educational.

Fantastic Four #68

Unless I miss my ever-loving guess, this is the one where The Thing turns evil, for the millionth time.

This time, it's thanks to the machinations of the Thinker who poses as a world-famous scientist in order to fool Reed Richards into letting him try to, "cure," The Thing.

Sadly, it's also, in my opinion, the issue when the strip's great era under Lee and Kirby came to an end. From now on, most of the team's adventures and foes would be noticeably less inspired than they'd previously been.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, Dr Octopus

In which Aunt May learns that it might be a good idea to check a prospective lodger's references before taking him in. The fact that he's got a string of criminal convictions and keeps threatening people might just suggest he's not the ideal housemate.

Admittedly, when I say she learns that lesson, she doesn't. Somehow, even after this story, she remains convinced he's a good guy. Grargh! That woman!

Strange Tales #162, Dr Strange vs Nebulos

Nebulos is suitably nebulous in my memory, as I don't have a clue who he is. I do recall having read this tale though. Was Dan Adkins responsible for the artwork?

What's that big stick thing Strange is holding? I suspect it might be significant.

Tales of Suspense #95, Iron Man vs the Grey Gargoyle

The Grey Gargoyle's on the loose.

Wasn't this the story that led into the Iron Man story that appeared in Origins of Marvel Comics as an example of the modern Iron Man tales?

Tales to Astonish #97, the Hulk

I don't remember the Legion of the Living Lighting being very interesting, or very formidable but I did like their costumes.

Didn't they once hire the Boomerang as their agent? I'm not sure that gives me much faith in their judgement as an evil empire.

Thor #146, the Circus of Crime

Stripped of his powers (which means he can only lift five-ton weights) Thor must take on the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime.

Needless to say, even in this weakened condition, once he gets over a little temporary hypnosis, the crooked carnies prove to be no more than a minor obstacle for him.

X-Men #38

I believe this is the issue where we discover who the Mutant Master is.

Somewhat disappointingly, he turns out to be some sort of exploding space octopus, instead of the super-mutant we'd been promised.

I never thought I'd be disappointed by an exploding space octopus but somehow I was.

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