Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Marvel Lucky Bag - August 1977.

At last! It had to happen!

Because you The Reader demanded it, it's arrived - a brand new feature where I look at what the Marvel non-big hitters were up to in the mags cover-dated exactly forty years ago.

Needless to say, thanks to Marvel publishing nearly four dozen titles a month at the time, there's no way I can cover their whole output without going mad. Therefore, I've decided to revive the tradition of the Lucky Bag, that grand old childhood delight, where you'd buy a bag of sweets without knowing just what was going to be in it.

Admittedly, in my experience, there was always a pair of plastic lips in it. I, however, promise that the posts in this feature will never contain a pair of plastic lips.

Nova #12, Spider-Man

Just as Nova is guesting in Spider-Man's mag this month, so Spidey is guesting in Nova's, as they slug it out and then team up to solve a murder mystery that only a man with a love of calendars could ever hope to fathom.

Rampaging Hulk #4, Jim Starlin cover

Jim Starlin gives us what this mag informs us is his first ever painted cover.

And what a great cover it is.

Inside, if my memory serves me well, the green goliath teams up with a bald sorcerer to battle an evil witch who looks exactly like you expect an evil witch to look.

Tomb of Dracula #59

Dracula doesn't seem to be getting on too well with his own followers.

2001 #9, Machine Man

Machine Man makes what I believe is only his second ever appearance.

Marvellous as Machine Man may be, I do wonder what Stanley Kubrick would have made of it all.

Defenders #50

The Defenders defy the odds and hit their fiftieth issue.

I'm pretty sure I've read this one, but my memories of it are fuzzy.

It's good to see Hellcat still in there. You don't get enough super-doers wearing bright yellow.

Godzilla #1

It's the comic the whole world's been screaming out for, as Godzilla makes his mighty Marvel debut.

My memory of the strip is that it wasn't exactly compulsive reading but it did at least give Herb Trimpe something to do in his post-Hulk days. So, I suppose it served some kind of purpose.

Iron Fist #14, Sabre-Tooth

It always seems surprising that a villain so strongly associated with the X-Men - and with Wolverine in particular - should make his debut in the distinctly non-mutanty Iron Fist.

Then again, I seem to recall Deathbird making her debut in Miss Marvel of all places.

It only goes to prove the 1970s were an an unpredictable place.

Eternals #14, the Hulk

It was never totally clear whether The Eternals took place in the same universe as the other Marvel strips - and things got no clearer when the Hulk showed up, only for him to turn out to be a robot.

Just what was going on?

I have no doubt it would all have been too much for my tiny little mind to cope with, had I read this issue at the time.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Forty years ago today - August 1977.

August of 1977 was a big month for fans of space exploration. On the ground, the Big Ear telescope, working on behalf of SETI, received the legendary Wow! signal that has baffled and perplexed the world ever since. Was it proof of alien life sending us radio signals?

Who can know?

All we can say with certainty is that, clearly, we were all going to have to keep watching the skies.

And, if we did, we'd see another space-related event because, in that sky, the Enterprise space shuttle had a famous test run in which it launched from the back of a flying Jumbo Jet.

Of course, if 1977 had any real class, the Human Fly would have been standing on top of the space shuttle as it took off. I can only conclude that NASA has no sense of showbusiness.

Sadly, back on Earth, things weren't so thrilling for Elvis Presley and Groucho Marx who both chose that month in which to meet their maker.

Someone else who was suffering was Daredevil who lost his monthly status and found his mag moving to a bi-monthly schedule. Could it spell curtains for the man without fear?

Conan the Barbarian #77

What a terrible bit of speech for that mystery hand-waver to be lumbered with.

Like Conan cares if death's ten feet tall. He probably can't even count anyway. He's probably like, "Ten? That's the number after One, isn't it?"

There's a lot to be said for ignorance when you're a barbarian and it comes to walking into mystery rooms.

Fantastic Four #185

The FF are on a mission to rescue Agatha Harkness from the menacing witchcraftery of her home town.

Was her home town Salem?

Isn't Salem a real place?

And I thought people in Europe had plenty to gripe about with the way Marvel insisted on stereotyping them.

Iron Man #101, the Frankenstein Monster

It's the story the world's been crying out for, as Iron Man tangles with Frankenstein's Monster.

I have actually read this one but can't recall what happens in it.

I think there might be a mad scientist involved.

Is water also involved or was that in another story?

Amazing Spider-Man #171, Nova

Speaking of water, Spider-Man teams up with Nova in a murder mystery that's resolved thanks to the order of the months in a year.

Thinking about it, the solution to the crime does rely on a fairly unlikely coincidence that is almost certain to never happen in any murder you might ever want to try and clear up in real life.

Spectacular Spider-Man #9, the White Tiger

The White Tiger makes his debut.

I can't really remember much about this one. Or the White Tiger, for that matter. Doesn't he steal a parchment during a student protest? What he wants the parchment for, I know not.

Thor #262

Apparently, Thor's still on his quest to find the missing Odin.

Captain America and the Falcon #212, the Red Skull

After months of me saying, "Is this the issue where he gets blinded?" at last we reach the issue where he gets blinded. I knew we'd get there eventually.

Regardless, I didn't like it. It's a very unpleasant thing to happen to our hero and I don't like it when bad things happen to people.

Avengers #162, Ultron

I assume we've reached that story where Ultron decides to make a robo-wife for himself, using his, "Mother's," mind.

I can't help feeling there's something a little strange going on with this tale.

Incredible Hulk #214, Jack of Hearts

I remember reading this and not having a clue who Jack of Hearts was.

I did however decide that I wasn't impressed by him.

And that costume has way too much going on in it.

X-Men #106

From the cover, I'm assuming this is the fill-in issue in which doppelgangers of the original X-Men appear from nowhere, in the Danger Room, and start fighting their new counterparts and it all turns out they're products of Professor X's id.

It wasn't the greatest X-Men tale of all time - especially as it had only been six issues since the last time the new X-Men had had a punch-up with the originals.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

August 10th, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

Despite my best efforts, I can't find anything interesting that happened in this week in 1977. So much for the past being better than the present.

Therefore I'll just give a second plug to my legendary Steve Does Trailers blog that's already shooting up the UK blog charts, like an Ed Sheeran record on speed, and then get straight on with looking at what gems Marvel UK was giving us almost exactly forty years ago.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #235, Stegron

This tale was my first ever exposure to Stegron.

I knew at once that I didn't like him.

Leaving aside his lack of social skills, he seemed a blatant knock-off of the Lizard, who's always been my favourite Spidey villain.

Clearly this meant I could never tolerate the Jurassic interloper - especially when they had him fighting the Lizard who we all know would make mincemeat of him.

Meanwhile, the seemingly interminable Mole Man saga is finally over and we get what sounds like a very overcrowded Fantastic Four tale that features not just the Inhumans and Frightful Four but also the full-on feminist force of the titanic debut of Thundra.

Elsewhere, Captain Britain is up against a werewolf. Unlike his barney with the Loch Ness monster, I have vague memories of this tale but must admit they are indeed very vague.

Elsewhere, the Avengers and Defenders are still working their way through the climax of the Evil Eye Saga.

Mighty World of Marvel #254, Incredible Hulk, statue of liberty

I had two copies of this issue and therefore used the cover of one of them as a wrapper for one of my school exercise books. I remember that remarkably well.

Sadly, I recall nothing at all about the actual insides of the comic. I'm assuming the Hulk is still on his post-Jarella rampage.

Marvel UK, Fury #22, train is destroyed in an explosion

Just three weeks to go before this book climbs into its own personal bunker and decides to end it all.

Ooh! PS. I need to make a public service announcement that I should have made years ago but have never remembered to post.

In the blog's sidebar, there's a gadget that says, "Subscribe To."

It then says, "Posts," and, below that, "Comments."

If you install a feed-reading extension on your browser and then click on the bit of the gadget that says, "Comments," from that point on, your browser will tell you when there are new comments and show them to you. This means you never need miss a comment again for as long as you live. This is especially useful if people make comments on older posts where you'd be less likely to notice them.

You should also find a similar, "Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)," link at the bottom of the comments section, which should work in the same way.

I assume it also works with any feed-reader app you might have on your phone but I've not tried it yet, so can't guarantee it.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Fifty years ago this month - August 1967.

Do you remember where you were when Fantastic Four #1 hit the newsstands?

I don't.

I wasn't even born.

And you might not have been either but now's the chance to find out how it felt to have been present at the start of such a tumultuous venture, by being present at the start of another tumultuous venture.

That's right. It can only mean I've launched yet another blog. This time it's Steve Does Trailers, in which I give my thoughts on the latest movie and TV promos that have smashed, face first, into the internet.

So far, the highlight of it has to be my discovery of the existence of Toxic Shark, a film clearly destined to challenge Citizen Kane for the title of greatest movie of all time. Then again, there's also my weird inability to read the word, "It," properly and my thoughts on Valerian, the new Doctor Who Christmas special and Star Trek: Discovery.

Admittedly, as most of my blogs last about three months before I either lose interest in them or forget they ever existed, it might not be around for long but, while it is, you can get it while it's hot by clicking on this very link or using the link that's buried somewhere in the sidebar.

Meanwhile, back to this blog's business at hand...


Galloping galaxies! August 1967 was a big month for all people with telescopes. Not only did we get the first ever discovery of a pulsar, by graduate student Jocelyn Bell of  Cambridge University but NASA also published the first ever map of the dark side of the moon.

By sheer coincidence, Pink Floyd, a band inextricably linked to that second event, released their first album Piper at the Gates of Dawn in that month. What a tangled web Fate weaves.

But what webs was Fortune spinning for our favourite Marvel heroes in the comics that bore that month within their corner boxes?

Avengers #43, the Red Guardian

"The most talked about super-villain of the year!" makes his debut.

And it's true. I don't think anyone's stopped talking about him ever since.

Admittedly, that prediction by the blurb writer may have been somewhat overly-optimistic. However, I had a soft spot for the Red Guardian, even if he didn't last very long.

Wasn't he armed with a tiny little disc that was supposed to be his equivalent of Captain America's shield?

Or was it his belt buckle?

Whatever it was, I was never convinced it was going to be of much practical use in a fight to the death.

But is this the issue in which Hercules fights an imaginary hydra? I get the feeling someone had been watching Jason and the Argonauts before plotting this tale.

Daredevil #31, the Cobra and Mr Hyde

The one in which Daredevil's lost his hyper-senses and is therefore genuinely blind but, like a total moron, decides to fool Hyde and the Cobra into thinking he's not blind, by walking across a tightrope, towards them, despite not being able to see.

That has to be the worst plan any super-hero's ever come up with.

More staggeringly, it actually works. At the sight of DD, "Fooling around," on the rope, Hyde and the Cobra decide he's too much for them and flee in a panic.

What kind of super-villains are they? Even with his powers intact, they'd have next to nothing to fear from Daredevil. Are these really people who once had the guts to take on Thor?

Anyway, all they had to do was cut the rope when he was halfway across. Did this not occur to them?

Fantastic Four #65, Ronan the Accuser

It's another landmark FF tale, as Ronan the Accuser makes his dazzling debut. It's just a shame he was used so poorly in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I've always seen him as a major villain, not some disposable, cardboard non-entity.

Strange Tales #159, Captain America vs Nick Fury

Nick Fury takes on Captain America in mortal combat.

I think we all know who's going to win that one - especially as it seems that Fury's stupid enough to try to karate chop Cap's indestructible shield.

No wonder his UK comic only lasted six months.

Tales of Suspense #92, Captain America

And Fury's getting tangled up with Cap again.

I have a feeling that, this time, it's a life model decoy on the cover and it's all a cheat designed to foil Hydra/AIM/Whoever.

Tales to Astonish #94, the Sub-Mariner

I know nothing at all about this tale but Dragorr looks like a fairly hum-drum villain.

X-Men #35, Spider-Man

I know nothing at all about this tale either but Spider-Man's clearly involved.

From my knowledge of the Silver Age Marvel formula, I'm going to assume Professor X mistakes Spidey for a mutant and sends the X-Men to potentially recruit him to their ranks, only for it all to degenerate into a scrap when the various parties display their usual maturity levels upon encountering a super-powered stranger.

Amazing Spider-Man #51, the Kingpin

The Kingpin has well and truly arrived in the Spiderverse, thanks to a classic cover.
Thor #143

The one that was reprinted in Origins of Marvel Comics.

Despite that, it's not one of my favourite Thor tales from this era and I seem to recall it having rather atypical inking for a late 1960s thunder god adventure.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

August 3rd, 1977 - Marvel UK, 40 years ago this week.

On this night in 1977, BBC Two was broadcasting a repeat of Nigel Kneale's legendary 1954 adaptation of Orwell's Ninety Eighty-Four. The one which famously starred Peter Cushing and a box full of rats. Given the BBC's history of destroying its archives, it comes as something of a shock to discover the recording still exists.

Sitting here in 2017, the year 1984 is a long-distant memory but it's sobering to think there was a time when it was still seven years in the future.

And that time was 1977.

And that time is where we're about to go, in the happy days before Britain was called Airstrip One and Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #234, Light-Master

Light-Master is still causing trouble for our hero.

Even more bizarrely, the Mole Man is STILL causing trouble for the Fantastic Four. Seriously, this story's been dragging on for months now. Were they reprinting it one page at a time?

Elsewhere, the Avengers and Defenders have teamed up and have now entered Dormammu's Dread Dimension, in an attempt to prevent him doing whatever it is he's planning to do with the Evil Eye.

Come to think of it, what was he planning to do with the Evil Eye? Was his actual purpose in purloining it ever revealed?

Meanwhile, Captain Britain's still battling Nessie.

As someone forced by Marvel UK to read Captain Britain every week, I was, by this point, mostly still battling apathy.

Mighty World of Marvel #25, Hulk and Dracula

Jarella's dead and the Hulk is out for vengeance.

I don't remember the Dracula tale at all. I'm assuming, from the presence of old time pirates, that the story contains a flashback sequence, possibly to the early days of Drac's vampirehood. I do remember that, in his mag, he liked to spend plenty of time in agonised reflection upon the events that made him what he is today.

Ooh. Hold on. Maybe the ship is the ship that first brought him to England? Maybe he's on his way to Whitby. Whitby is nice. He'll like it there.
Marvel UK, Fury #21, out of ammo

Just four issues to go before someone will be telling this comic, "For you, Fury, the war is over."

Monday, 31 July 2017

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 20: The Human Fly #7.

Marvel Comics #7, the Human Fly stuntman leaps of a snowmobile to fight a grizzly bear that is menacing a terrified child
One of the seminal activities of my youth was watching The World of Sport every Saturday, which, when it wasn't giving us clinically obese men, in overly tight trunks, falling over on top of  each other in Preston Guild Hall, in the name of wrestling, would often give us sporting events from around the globe.

Thus would we get such sights as hawk-flying from the Middle East, elephant polo from India, alpaca shearing from South America and a whole plethora of other events unlikely to ever be staged in our own back yards.

From America, we'd get the esteemed sports of  tree felling, fence painting  and suicidal recklessness. The suicidal recklessness usually involved men in outlandish clothing leaping over things.

Obviously, the most famous of these daredevils was Evel Knievel who mostly made it onto British television by nearly killing himself on what seemed like a regular basis.

But there was another man who strived to make a crust from dangerous stunts - and that man was the Human Fly.

To say the Human Fly was a man of mystery would be an understatement. I can only recall him ever appearing once on British TV and that was when he was standing on top of an airborne Jumbo Jet in order to prove a point whose purpose not altogether unevaded me.

Who was the Human Fly?

What was his true identity?

If World of Sport presenter Dickie Davies was to be believed, that was the greatest secret on the planet. One that could only be revealed if he was ever defeated in combat. Obviously, by that, I mean if the Human Fly was defeated in combat, not if Dickie Davies was defeated in combat. I happen to have faith that no man could defeat Dickie Davies in combat.

But. Oh. No. Hold on. I'm thinking of the wrong man. The being-defeated-in-combat thing was about Kendo Nagasaki, the enigmatic, master-of-the-martial-arts, wrestler from the Far East who, upon being unmasked, turned out to be a man called Peter from Stoke-on-Trent.

Nonetheless, the Human Fly's secret identity was seemingly just as guarded.

Given that we were allowed to know nothing about him, and that he seemed to have no powers other than standing on top of things, he seemed a strange candidate to get his own comic but, with the abandon that distinguished Marvel in the 1970s, he did indeed get his own mag. And, Reader, I had one issue of that book.

I think it was the one pictured at the start of this post but I'm not sure. So memorable was his mag that I can't even be sure which issue it was that I had. However, that bear looks familiar, so I'm guessing it's this one.

Sadly, I can find no panels from any issue of his comic online, apart from one of him lounging around playing a guitar - in full costume - so I can reveal nothing about his adventures or how Marvel managed to make a hero of him.

Sadly, and possibly predictably, the anthropomorphic insectoid's comic only lasted nineteen issues before being swatted flat by poor sales, which suggests the public at large failed to take to the strip. But, at least before he went, he had the honour of teaming up with Ghost Rider in one adventure.

Bafflingly, he doesn't seem to have ever teamed up with Spider-Man, despite the obviousness of such a move. Perhaps the fact that the webbed wall-crawler already had an enemy of that name who was famous for appearing in Hostess ads was deemed to be too potentially confusing for readers?

It does strike me that, in being cynical about his book, I'm being somewhat unfair to the man. For all I know, he may well be the greatest stunt man who ever lived and also a thoroughly marvellous human being. I just wish I could recall his comic well enough to pass judgement.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 19: Werewolf by Night #28.

Marvel Comics, Werewolf by Night #28, Dr Glitternight, Gil Kane cover, attacked by bat creatures, helpless blonde
As all regular readers know, the only reason for this blog to exist is so I can declare that I don't remember things.

And that can only mean that it's time to once more plunge into the Vale of Forgetfulness and revive the feature that tries to elevate ignorance into an art form.

It does strike me that, when I was young, I must have really really really loved Werewolf by Night, as I seem to have had zillions and zillions of issues of the thing.

This is odd, as my recollection of that time is that I didn't particularly like it. The werewolf seemed to be neither use nor ornament and seemed to have pitiful fighting skills for a lycanthrope.

Then again, I didn't particularly like Superman and I had great piles of comics featuring him as well. Undoubtedly the past is a strange and mysterious place.

Did I like the issue to the left of this very post?

I don't have a clue, as I don't recall anything about it. In fact, as with all the comics I've covered in this feature over the years, if I hadn't once accidentally blundered across the cover on the internet, I'd have been blissfully unaware that the issue had ever existed, let alone passed through my hands.

Who was Doctor Glitternight and what was he about? Beats me. I do know he sounds like someone who couldn't make up his mind if he wanted to be in a Pub Rock band or a Glam Rock outfit and, so, ended up sounding like someone unnecessarily fond of Prog. For that matter, was Doctor Glitternight his real name and, if so, just where did he get his doctorate?

According to the internet, he was some sort of ancient being from another dimension, who practised necromancy and turned Jack Russell's sister into a blue werewolf demon thing. I do vaguely recall the blue werewolf demon thing - and far preferred her to the werewolf who was supposed to be the star of the comic - but all memory of her mystical creator still eludes me.

Anyway, what really matters about him is that he enabled Gil Kane to produce a truly striking cover. Only a lunatic would be fail to be impressed by the work Kane put into drawing all those bat things and by the elegance of the picture's composition. It's also nice to see the blonde from the covers of all those Conan mags putting in a guest appearance. She really was the hardest working woman in comics.

As part of my in-depth research for this post, I've done a Google search for images from this issue - in the hope that they'd jog my memory - and haven't found a single panel from it, which suggests that I'm not the only one who's forgotten its existence.

I can only assume it must be down to whatever magical powers it is that Doctor Glitternight possesses that so little trace can be found off him in the murky realm that mortal men call the World Wide Web. Truly his abilities are awesome.
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