Sunday, 20 May 2018

2000 AD - April 1980.

What were you up to in April of 1980?

If you're a lover of theme parks, you may have been in Staffordshire because that was the month in which the good people of Madame Tussauds opened the Alton Towers Resort, and one of Britain's most successful tourist attractions was born.

Then again, you may have been too busy banging your head against thin air because it was also the month in which Iron Maiden's self-titled debut album escaped and found its way into the record shops.

Was it an equally great month for fans of the galaxy's greatest comic?

I can't say, as my knowledge of the contents of that month's issues is even more limited than normal.

Will I let that prevent me having an opinion about them?

Of course I won't. I'm just going to follow my usual policy of hitting the keyboard with my fingers and hoping that viable sentences emerge.

Looking at the cover to Prog 159 does make me wonder if this was the first time we saw Dredd communicating with his bicycle.

Whether it was or whether it wasn't, it is at least clear that the Judge Child storyline is still going on - and not just going on but dominating the front of the comic, with three of that month's covers being dedicated to it. The one issue that isn't fronted by it, Prog 162, has a Dredd significance all of its own because it's the issue which first introduced the world to Judge Hershey.

Judging by his dominance of the covers, Dredd was clearly now seen as the comic's superstar and main selling point.

Breaking that run, the not quite as iconic Robo-Hunter gets a cover, even though he himself doesn't actually appear on it. I have a vague notion in my head that the robot on the cover was based on Edward G Robinson. If it was, I suppose that would make sense, with the Robo-Hunter himself having clearly been inspired by Humphrey Bogart.

2000 AD Prog 159, Judge Dredd

2000 AD Prog 160

2000 AD Prog 161, Judge Dredd & the Judge Child

2000 AD Prog 162, Robo-Hunter

Thursday, 17 May 2018

May 17th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

In this week of 1978, things got distinctly strange, as Charlie Chaplin's coffin was found in a field a mile away from his old home in Corsier, Switzerland, having been stolen by two men in a bizarre and unsuccessful extortion attempt.

Fortunately, I suspect the comics we were reading that week would turn out to be far more edifying and life-affirming than that incident.

Star Wars Weekly #15

Star Wars' venture into Magnificent Seven territory continues with The Punch-Up in the Cafeteria but more importantly and impressively to my youthful mind, this issue (as far as I can tell) sees the start of Star-Lord's stint as a back-up strip.

I remember little of the actual stories themselves but I do remember being very taken with John Byrne's artwork which was a thing of beauty.

The other back-up strip this issue is the story from Silver Surfer #1 which reveals just why the Watcher isn't allowed to interfere in the affairs of others.

I do believe it had already been reprinted in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes mag, so it was somewhat familiar to UK readers, especially if they also owned Son of Origins of Marvel Comics. If they also owned Silver Surfer #1, they must have been completely sick of it by now.

Rampage #31, the Defenders vs Nighthawk

If I recall rightly, one of the Headmen has kidnapped Nighthawk and put his own brain in Nighthawk's body. What chance can the Defenders have against the awesome power of a man with the strength of two men, as long as it's night-time, and can fly, as long as no one pulls his jet-pack off?

Complete Fantastic Four #34, the Hulk

Hooray! I had the US original of this one. I got it on a Sunday and no comic acquired on a Sunday is ever bad.

From what I recall, the Hulk and the Thing have teamed up and now everyone's gunning for them. However the Hulk's radiation has affected Petunia's favourite nephew and I believe it all climaxes with him reverting to his Ben Grimm form.

It's also the comic that introduced me to that big arch in whichever city it is that it's in. Is it in St Paul?

Looking at that cover, I can't help feeling that those hapless bystanders in the arch are too big and must be kneeling. I also wonder why they don't have the sense to run away. They are definitely candidates for The Darwin Awards.
Mighty World of Marvel #294, the Incredible Hulk

The Hulk's still having trouble with Captain Barracuda.

Wouldn't it be weird if Captain Barracuda's real name was Barry Cuda? Talk about nominative determinism.



Super Spider-Man #275

Spidey's still having trouble with the Man-Beast in a tale that seems to be lasting longer than the Kree/Skrull War.

Perhaps more interestingly, the Avengers are still involved in the Celestial Madonna storyline and have, it seems, just reached the point at which Libra reveals Mantis' origin.

Thor, meanwhile, is battling with the giant aliens who suck planets up in their vacuum cleaners, as fuel for their own gigantic planets.

Less epically, Captain America is up against Stone-Face.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - May 1978.

As the sun pounds upon my window, it's time for me to once more fling myself into the past and look at what some of Marvel's less popular players were up to in comics that were cover-dated May 1978.

Granted, they're not really cover-dated May 1978 because, for who knows what reason, during this stage in their history, Marvel took to leaving the date off their covers.

However, they would have said, "May," on them, if that policy hadn't been adopted, and that's good enough for me.

Godzilla #10, Yetrigar

It's the story we've all been waiting for! It's Godzilla vs Bigfoot!

Admittedly, we might not really have been waiting for it, what with Godzilla being a thousand foot tall and, therefore, needing a thousand foot tall bigfoot to tangle with.

Given how hard it'd be for such a creature to escape detection by Science, I'm willing to bet there are no thousand foot tall bigfoots out there.

Invaders #28, the Kid Commandos

It would appear the Kid Commandos are making their spinny, fiery, punchy, palm-wavy debut in this issue.

I could claim to find that thrilling news but - leaving aside the fact that I could never be thrilled by anything that happens in an Invaders story - I've never heard of the Kid Commandos. I'm assuming they were intended to be Marvel's answer to the Teen Titans.

Whoever they are, I'm sure they make a valuable contribution to the war effort.

Nova #19, Blackout

I have to say that, to me, that cover feels more DC than Marvel.

It may be because it's drawn by Carmine Infantino who I've always perceived as a DC artist, no matter how much work he did for the House of Ideas, or it could be because the villain - Blackout - seems to use the same tailor as the Flash.

Thinking about it, Carmine Infantino used to draw the Flash as well, which leaves me wondering if the sartorial resemblance is more than pure coincidence.

Marvel Comics, Red Sonja #9

Our plucky heroine finds herself up against a very rude man who keeps sticking his tongue out at her.

No doubt, she'll soon teach that Brythunian/Turanian/Stygian/Kushite/Aquilonian pig a thing or two about manners.

Tomb of Dracula #64, Satan

We might not have been waiting for Godzilla vs Bigfoot but I bet we've all been waiting for this one. It's Dracula vs Satan, in the clash that had to happen.

But is this the same Satan who gave us the Son of Satan and Ghost Rider, or is he intended to be a totally different Satan and unconnected to the one in Marvel continuity?

Marvel Classics Comics #33, The Prince and the Pauper

Other than a prince and a pauper looking like each other and swapping places, I'm really not sure what happens in The Prince and the Pauper. There always seemed to be Sunday teatime adaptations of it on TV when I was a kid but I don't recall them ever holding my attention for long enough for me to find out what the actual plot was.

Rawhide Kid #145

Every month, I've been tempted to include the Rawhide Kid in these round-ups and, every month, I've decided against it, my notice diverted by more attention-seeking covers. But, this month, at last, he makes the cut.

Admittedly, this is because I feel like it's his turn, rather than because there seems to be anything particularly interesting about the cover.

Black Panther #9, the Black Musketeers

The world rejoices as the Black Musketeers make their pantherific debut.

I really don't know what they were doing in the strip. I can only assume Jack Kirby wanted to give us the Panther's equivalent of the Warriors Three but, instead, he somehow managed to give us the Panther's equivalent of the Four Stooges.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Forty years ago today - May 1978.

Only last night, a continent watched in awe as the eight millionth Eurovision Song Contest was played out in front of it.

In a triumph for good musical taste, the competition was won by a woman from Israel doing a chicken impersonation. The UK's entry came nowhere, despite the best efforts of a stage invader to make it memorable.

How very different from forty years ago when the contest was won by, erm... ...Israel.

Clearly, some things never change.

But what of the Marvel comics that bore the cover date of May 1978? Was change in store for their heroes?

Conan the Barbarian #86

Clearly not. It's another day at the office for Conan, as he and Zula fight the Devourer of the Dead to rescue BĂȘlit from certain doom.

Personally, I'd like to see her rescued from uncertain pronunciation because, after all these years, I still don't have a clue how to pronounce her name. Is it, "Bell-it?" Is it, "Bay-lit?" Is it, "Buh-litt?" Is it, "Bellee?" Is it, "Bailey?" I sense another controversial poll coming on.

Anyway, I confidently predict that Conan will overcome his monstrous foe, just like he always does. I am, though, intrigued by its sobriquet of, "Devourer of the dead." Doesn't that kind of describe most people? Frankly, I'd be more concerned if it ate the living.
Fantastic Four #194, Diablo

It's the return of everyone's favourite alchemist and everyone's favourite phony demon, as the Thing sets out to stop Diablo and Darkoth.

It would appear the fight doesn't go too well for Darkoth who ends up managing to pop his clogs.

If that's a bit of a downer, the exciting news is that, if the internet's to be believed, with his final breath, Darkoth reveals his true identity and then sacrifices himself to stop Diablo.

This poses the obvious question of just who is he? Is he someone we'd know, like Willie Lumpkin? It clearly wouldn't be much of a revelation if he's someone we've never heard of before.

Incredible Hulk #223

My memories of this one are hazy. In fact, the only thing I can recall of it is that Bruce Banner's mind transforms into the Hulk but he remains Bruce Banner physically, making him a stupid weakling, which is possibly the least aspirational thing ever.

Iron Man #110

I've no idea what happens in this one but it all looks exciting and clearly features both the Rigellians and Galactus' Punisher, so, that's got to give it some potential.

Then again, Jack of Hearts is in it, so my optimism may be unjustified.

Amazing Spider-Man #180, the Green Goblins

At last, Spider-Man discovers the awesome secret of the fake Green Goblin.

But can that save him from the other fake Green Goblin?

Spectacular Spider-Man #18, Iceman and the Angel

As far as I can make out, the Iceman's been brainwashed by someone called Clark and now the Angel and Spidey need to snap him out of it before he does something they'll both regret.

Thor #271, Iron Man

Thor and Iron Man go hi-tech as they battle to flatten the orbiting computer the world knows as F.A.U.S.T.

I don't know much about the tale but I do know that its reputed to feature a cameo by virtually everyone in the entire Marvel Universe.
Daredevil #152, Paladin is back

That has to be the most extreme example I've ever seen of that technique where the artist uses multiple images of a figure to create a sense of motion.

As for the story, it would appear that DD sets out to reunite Foggy and Debbie Harris, all while tangling with Paladin who's still out to get the Purple Man.

Avengers #171, Ultron

Ultron's getting randy again, which means the Avengers have to fight him as he tries to marry Jocasta.

Needless to say, Jocasta's having none of it and, instead, helps the Avengers put the kibosh on him.

I'm not totally sure what's going on with the Scarlet Witch on that cover, though.

Captain America and the Falcon #221

I've no idea what happens in the main feature but what really matters is that the back-up strip features the debut of  an awesome new hero, as Rick Jones collides with a TV screen at the Avengers Mansion, gains super-powers from it and becomes Captain Avenger.

Armed with whatever his new powers are, he defeats Baron Zemo.

Then it all turns out to have been a dream.

Really. Someone thought that was a good idea for a story.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

May 10th, 1978 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

There were two major events in the world in this week of forty years ago. Neither of them were comparable to Reg Dwight changing his name to Elton John but they were almost as big.

One of them was that, on this very night of that year, thanks to a 1–0 win over Club Brugge K.V. at Wembley Stadium, Liverpool F.C. retained the European Cup they'd first won the year before. It seems amazing to think that there was a time when clubs from outside the four big leagues could aspire to be more than mere cannon fodder.

A band who were definitely not musical cannon fodder were Boney M and, in this week of forty years ago, their double A-side Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl in the Ring hit the top spot on the UK singles chart.

Obviously, all Boney M songs pale into insignificance before the majestic glory of Rasputin, the greatest disco song ever to have been written about a Russian mystic who wouldn't lie down until his assassins had made at least eight hundred attempts to kill him. But, still, hitting the top spot in this week was a major achievement and the track went on to become one of only seven singles that have ever sold more than two million copies in the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, a great big Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to anyone who can name the other six without using the aid of Google.

Clearly these were triumphant times for Liverpool and Boney M but what of the stars of our favourite comics company? Were they enjoying heights of an equal height?

Star Wars Weekly #14

I would claim that, following the completion of the movie adaptation, Han Solo lives up to his name by getting heavily into solo action. Except he's not solo. Chewbacca's with him.

Other than that, I couldn't claim to recall anything that happens in this tale.

As for the back-up strips, I'm a little vague about them but I do know that Man-Gods From Beyond The Stars is still present.

Rampage #30, the Defenders

It's the tale we've all been waiting for, as the Defenders take on the power and might of Tapping Tommy, a villain I remember nothing of except for his name.

Anyway, whoever he is, it seems he's kidnapped Nighthawk, and now the rest of the non-team have to rescue him, even though the Tapster is armed with a gas bomb. What chance can a group made up of the Hulk, Valkyrie, Dr Strange and Nighthawk possibly have against a man armed with such a thing?

If that cover's to be believed, a lot less than you might have thought.

Mighty World of Marvel #293, Hulk vs Captain Barracuda

In a twist that no one could have seen coming, the Hulk finds himself up against the unstoppable menace of Kurt Russell from Escape From New York.

Having thought about it, it may be that he's still up  against Captain Barracuda and his baffling plan to turn people into ape-men for no good reason.

It does strike me that Captain Barracuda is one of the few Marvel captains who's actually a captain of something. Admittedly, he's captain of a big metal fish but at least it's more than Captain Britain can boast of.

Super Spider-Man #274, the Razorback and the Hatemonger

This story seems to have been going on for several centuries now. But, at last, we have the promise that we're finally going to find out who the Hate-Monger is.

Admittedly, seeing as I've pointed out in every post about this storyline that he's the Man-Beast, it's not likely to be a massive revelation when he finally pulls that hood off.

Come to think of it, it can't be that big a revelation to the characters in the story either, as he's from Counter-Earth and they'll never have heard of him.

I suspect that, in the back-up strips, the Avengers are still caught up in the Celestial Madonna mess and Thor is up to something or other in his solo adventures.

Complete Fantastic Four #33, the Hulk

In yet another shocking twist, I actually know what goes on in a comic.

Unless the cover's lying to me, it's the one in which the Hulk inadvertently brings down a plane the Fantastic Four are travelling on and they respond by giving him a good slapping.

In something that resembles a miracle, the FF break their previous habit of uselessness against the Hulk and actually win. In an even more miraculous event, it's 95% thanks to Sue that they win.

This tale was, of course, reprinted in the 1977 Marvel annual which I reviewed in a post that you can find by clicking on this very link, right here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Marvel Lucky Bag - May 1968.

Before I launch into the main business of the day, I must announce the result of the poll to discover whether humanity has the greatest love for Captain Marvel's red and blue outfit or for his green and white one.

As you'd expect for such a vital matter, it was a fervent contest but the results are in and I can announce that the red and blue suit won with 61% of the vote, compared to 22% for the green and white outfit. 15% of voters expressed no preference. Overall, there were thirty one votes cast and no spoiled papers.

The eagle-eyed reader will spot that this all adds up to a total of 96%. And that's why democracy can never work. No wonder Dr Doom never bothers with it.

The green and white one
  7 (22%)
The red and blue one
  19 (61%)
I love them both equally
  4 (12%)
I hate them both equally
  1 (3%)


But, far away from such dread democracy, dread reality has once more blundered into my life and forced my hand. In this case, because of Marvel's expansion in 1968, it seems I must supplement the legendary 1970s Marvel Lucky Bag feature with a 1968 version. Thus, within it, I shall be looking at the less high-profile comics Marvel was publishing fifty years ago.

Admittedly, at the moment, that's easy enough because my willingness to ignore The Howlin' Commandos and reprint mags means it's basically about two comics.

But what are those two comics?

Captain Marvel #1

Captain Marvel makes his cosmos-crunching debut.

Admittedly, he doesn't really. That was in Marvel Super-Heroes #12, as reviewed on here just the other day.

Confusingly, this book gets renamed Captain Marvel with issue #7, even though it already seems to be called Captain Marvel. It's madness. With that kind of confusion, no wonder he struggles to catch on.

Anyway, as far as I can make out, this issue is the one in which he has to fight the Sentry while making it look, to the onlooking Yon-Rogg, that he's doing it for the benefit of the Kree and not humanity, all while maintaining his secret identity of Walt Lawson and not making Carol Danvers suspicious.

Poor old Mar-Vell. His life really wasn't simple.

Still, at least, at this point, he didn't have Rick Jones and his vitamin C tablets to worry about.

Then again, the way things were going for him, he might have appreciated those vitamin C tablets.

Sub-Mariner #1

It's not just the man from another planet who gets his own comic, because the man from Atlantis gets one too.

I'm really not at all sure what happens in this issue but it seems his origin gets retold at some point. I would assume, from the cover, that there's also a quick retelling of his first meeting with the FF.

Of course, what really matters is that it's drawn by John Buscema, and I must confess that Big John's work on the Sub-Mariner's strip is my favourite work that he ever did for Marvel.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Fifty years ago this month - May 1968.

May, 1968, was a momentous month for all lovers of popular music - because it was in that month that a man called Reg Dwight changed his name to, "Elton John," and history was made. It's a little known fact that, on that self-same day, a man called Elton John changed his name to, "Reg Dwight," convinced it would boost his career and launch him on the road to mega-stardom. I can exclusively reveal that only one of those men turned out to have made a wise decision.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, the Beatles' Apple Records was also launched that month.

It's easy to think of it as just being a vehicle for the Fab Four's attempts to get their financial affairs in order but it should never be forgotten that, without it, we might never have heard of Mary Hopkin, Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston or Hot Chocolate, all propelled to various levels of fame by the label.

All this in mind, could the Marvel comics that bore that month's cover date possibly compare to those events, when it came to historical significance?

There's only one way to find out.

And while we're trying to figure out what that way is, we might as well endure my clueless ramblings on the subject, instead.

Avengers #52, the Grim Reaper

It's two epic occasions for the price of one. Not only do we get the first appearance of the Grim Reaper but we also get the Black Panther in solo action, as he saves the book's stars and, by the end of the tale, has become their newest member. It's not just a great event in its own right, it's an event which signals that my favourite era of the strip is about to begin.

Captain America #101, the Sleeper

Speaking of the Panther, what of the man who told him to join the Avengers in the first place?

I may not hold Captain America's strip in the same high regard that I do the Avengers but this is one of my favourite Kirby Cap tales, as the seemingly unstoppable Sleeper is revived from its slumbers.

I have said it before but, given their near invincibility, you do wonder why the Red Skull didn't activate all his Sleepers in World War II, instead of leaving them lying around in case he might need them. You never know, the Nazis might actually have won if he had.

Daredevil #40

It's bad news for all DD fans, as the crimson clobberer finds himself catapulted into a different time-phase.

Fortunately, his hyper-senses mean he's probably the only man alive who could get himself back into the right time-phase. There's luck for you.

Fantastic Four #74, Galactus is back

Galactus may have vowed to leave the Earth alone but that's never stopped him coming back and bothering it whenever he feels like it.

This time, he wants the Silver Surfer back - and nothing's going to stop him getting him.

Incredible Hulk #103, the Space Parasite

I must confess that, such are the vicissitudes of childhood memory, that there was a time when I always got the Space Parasite mixed up with the Space Phantom and, so, was highly confused when the latter showed up in The Avengers and bore no resemblance to the three-fingered, one-eyed, Hulk foe that I remembered him being.

I do, though, recall the Space Parasite dying at the end of this tale. Has he ever been revived since? I did always view him as one of the more striking Hulk foes of this era.

Iron Man #1

The Marvel Explosion continues, as the ferrous felony-fighter gets his own mag.

If I remember right, this is the one where he's having trouble with the Maggia and Whiplash on their water-logged boat. It's not a happy way to make your debut.

Amazing Spider-Man #60, the Kingpin

The Kingpin's determination to get his hands on the tablet that bestows eternal youth upon whoever can decipher it, leads to yet more conflict with Spider-Man.

Strange Tales #168, Dr Strange

Other characters might be getting their own titles right now but Dr Strange and Nick Fury are going to have to wait that little bit longer.

It's probably for the best. I really don't know what's going on in this issue.

Thor #152, Ulik

Having seen off the threat of the Sif-powered Destroyer, Thor's now out to sort out Karnilla and Loki for their treachery.

I have a feeling this all leads to the unleashing of Mangog. There's never a quiet day when you're a thunder god.

X-Men #44, Red Raven

It's the first X-Men comic I ever owned, and one of the very very very first American comics I ever owned, as the Angel escapes Magneto's lair, only to find himself in a battle with Red Raven who may or may not be determined to revive the long-defunct Bird-Men.

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, the spectacle of two red-and-yellow-clad men with wings was highly impressive when I was eight.

PS. Don't forget to come back on Tuesday for the senses-shattering sequel to this post.

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