Friday, 23 January 2015

Revenge of the Teddy Bear!



Ghost Manor #50 (Charlton Comics)

Various (w) & (a)

When I saw this cover going through the back issue boxes in my local comic shop I just had to have it. The use of such a benign object as a teddy bear for horror purposes was so appealing.

The story entitled Terrible Teddy follows a criminal who is in shock from having run over a young boy whilst making his getaway. Despite his remorse, the story is not over. A very loyal and vengeful Teddy Bear is after him.

This short story published in 1980 will entertainer and amuse. For all their obvious faults the now sadly departed Charlton Comics did publish some gems in their time.

This is one .

Pick up a copy if you see one!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Superman vs Muhammad Ali



Superman vs Muhammad Ali (DC Comics)

Danny O'Neil& Neil Adams (w) Neil Adams (a)

I noticed in The Times today that Muhammad Ali is 73 today which reminded me of this wonderful story published back in 1978. The story was considered so large it was published in what is known as a "Treasury Sized" format, which for younger readers is tabloid size.

The story, approved by Muhammad Ali, shows the World Champion giving Superman boxing lessons as they team up to save Earth. These moves are illustrated as part of the story as the two prepare for their match.

Now you will probably ask how such a match is at all possible. Superman has superpowers and  is invulnerable amongst other things, so how does Ali get a fair fight.

The ring they forced to fight in negates Superman's powers and he reverts to being as strong as a "normal human being" (his Kryptonian origin aside).

The artwork by Neil Adams is superb, although Joe Kubert was originally chosen for the gig. DC didn't like Kuberts rendition of Ali, and hence the change.

In 2010 this was finally reprinted in two formats. A hardback reprint of the original over-sized edition and a "deluxe edition" in a smaller format with extras.

Best read as a giant size edition methinks!

Its also worth examining the wraparound cover as it is full of cameo appearances from both the fictional DC Universe and the real world.

Just remember its 1978.

The full wraparound cover of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.

Who can you spot!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Alan Class comics

CREEPY WORLDS #96

From time to time I like to pick up a copy or two of the old Alan Class comics that were published from 1959 to 1989 over here in the UK. These were a full 68 pages for just one shilling when I were a lad and usually contained mostly horror and science fiction tales reprinted from various American comic companies.

The range was actually quite wide. Atlas/Marvel, Charlton and ACG. They also ran some superhero stuff and reprinted many early adventures of Marvel Superheroes plus the lesser known Archie, ACG and Tower Comics lines.



For someone who had missed the early editions of a number of Marvel titles these were a good way of catching up. However these comics varied in content from issue to issue and frankly it was pot luck what you got the next time you picked up a copy or two as these stories were not even printed in chronological order!

And of course they were never dated. This allowed unsold copies to be redistributed to different areas

Nevertheless they did have a certain appeal, especially if you were a fan of the short horror/sci-fi story that was all the rage back then.

They were of course in the usual British black & white format, but the Steve Ditko stories really stand out as a result showing what genius his artwork was!

Creepy Worlds # 96 is fairly typical of most issues. The lead story featured on the cover was very much inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers This contained a number of other short mystry tales including the rather amusing tale Dog Gone. about a man down on his luck which changes when he adopts a stray pooch. Not that his new wife is in on the secret. Big mistake.



Alan Class published quite a few titles over the years, but the six that managed long runs were Suspense, Sinister Tales, Creepy Worlds, Secrets of the Unknown, Uncanny Tales and Astounding Stories.



These comics are well worth picking up if you come across them. Thing is the original US editions containing these stories are both difficult to find and usually a bit pricey. so represent value for money if you want a piece of comic history in your hands!

A great addition to any collection and not too pricey!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Back issue spotlight: Sea Devils #12



Sea Devils # 12 (DC)

Back in the early sixties DC comics published a number of odd titles which relied on non-super powered folk facing monsters and other perils. The best known (and longest lasting) was Challengers of the Unknown, though older readers may also recall Blackhawk. One of their lesser titles was Sea Devils which lasted 35 bi-monthly issues from October 1961 until June 1967.

Not one of DC's better efforts but like many other titles of this era a sign of simpler times if nothing else. If I recall correctly I only ever purchased one edition of Sea Devils back in the day and wasn't that impressed. However looking at some of the wonderful covers that adorn the front of these "funny books", a couple more have entered my collection.



Their stories leave a little to be desired but are fun reading, even the issue that prompted this review.

The Threat of the Magnetic Monster is an issue long adventure that focuses on the youngest member of the team, Nicky who alone of the Sea Devils does not get an award for bravery. After several false attempts to set him up as a hero along comes the statutory monster.

Supposedly "freed by an undersea earthquake" (don't ask) this bizarre creature with magnetic properties starts sinking ships. The creature manages to capture the three adult divers leaving the inevitable rescue to Nicky using torpedoes from a long sunk submarine.

Hurrah the world is saved.

But nothing to write home about.

More for the DC completest than the casual reader.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

DC Comics Presents Annual (1982)

Cover for DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982)

The advertising for the forthcoming major story in the modern DC "New 52" Universe, Convergence states that every story counts.

This is one such story from 1982 when the DC multiverse universe was a very different place and the "golden age" versions of their superheroes lived on Earth 2.

Golden Age

Hence Superman could team up with Superman.

In this particular extra long adventure (which take place across no less than three earths you also get a third "Superman" except he's a villain and called Ultraman. There's three Lex Luthors, one has hair and another becomes the first superhero of Earth 3.

Then there's three Lois Lanes, one of whom is in love with Lex, the good one that is.

And so the adventure begins.

Superman (Clark Kent)

Old Lex escapes from prison by swapping places with his Earth 2 counterpart and they are both released, the authorities being no wiser. The plan is for the different Lex Luthors to defeat and kill Superman.

Problem is Earth 2 Lex ( I hope you're keeping up with this) also wants to destroy Earth, which "our" Lex doesn't want to do. The triple team up of the two Supermen and the good Lex does save the day.

Written by former Marvel honcho Marv Wolfman with art Rich Bucker & Dave Hunt this is is a cracking little adventure from  the early eighties as DC comics began to change.

Recommended if you can find a copy! 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos



Sgt Fury & his Howling Commandos King Size Special #5

Stan Lee (w) Jack Kirby (a)

Nick Fury is a character that has been around for quite a few years not just in comics form (1963) but according to Marvel canon was a Sergeant in the Second World War. The fact he is still somewhat sprightly in the 21st century is of course one of those things you just have to accept as a comic reader.

For those of you only familiar with Nick Fury from the Captain America and Avengers films might notice a slight difference in his appearance. That's because the films used the Ultimates version of Fury rather than the mainstream Marvel Universe one.

This King Size Special was published in 1969 and contains two reprinted adventures from Sgt Fury issues 6 & 7 from 1964. The stories are full of wise cracking American GI humour and "attitude" that would be somewhat unfamiliar to British readers, who were used to quite different types of war stories.



Whilst these adventures are fun, they do lack the gritty realism found in Commando, Battle and other War picture libraries that were popular in this country at the time.

Nick Fury and his DC equivalent Sgt Rock managed to lead a team in every theatre of the war virtually without loss to the central team. Nevertheless the first story The fangs of the Desert Fox sees Fury come to the aid of the British and attempt to assassinate Rommel. A mission they are pulled out of before they succeed.

However the presence of a racist in their ranks who takes exception to the Jewish and Black members of Fury's team provides an interesting sub-plot that was probably quite controversial in its time. After all it hadn't been that long since the outcry in the deep south over the Kirk/Uhuru kiss in Star Trek.

And then there was Martin Luther King.

Of course both Lee and Kirby were Jewish, so no strangers to the dangers of racism.



Whilst Sgt Fury was probably never that popular in the UK despite having appeared in Pow! (Odhams), Fury and Forces in Combat (Marvel UK), his re-booting as the Director of SHIELD is what most of readers know him as.

But that's a feature for another time.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Random comics from past times



With only three new comics out this week, I thought this was an ideal opportunity to do a bit of random collecting.

Over the past couple of years I've started collecting a small number of British comics, of which the Power Comics (Wham!, Smash! & Pow!) were my favourites, but I thought it about time I started branching out to titles I was unfamiliar with.

TV Tornado is one comic I vaguely remember but certainly wasn't a regular reader. Containing strips such as The Saint, The Lone Ranger and Tarzan from well known TV series, some of the other strips Magnus: Robot Hunter and The Phantom were just reprints from US comics of the time.

Disappointingly The Invaders and The Man from UNCLE were just text stories. Not for me. Comics are for comic strips.

Jet on the other hand is a comic I'd never read before. It lasted a mere 22 issues before merging with the long running Buster. However I must say some of the strips seem to be well worth picking up further issues of this title for. Von Hoffman's Invasion is cracking stuff, as is Bala the Briton. Other strips include the rather ridiculous Dwarf, normal fare for the time but more entertaining was Carno's Cadets which pitches school cadets against alien invaders.

Humour strips include The Kids of Stalag 41 which lasted in Buster for much longer than its parent title. Face Ache, is also a strip that will amuse those of us from a certain generation and maybe a few youngsters today if they ever got the chance.



Next up are a couple of very early Marvel UK titles, Mighty World of Marvel and its first sister paper Spiderman Weekly. I may not be a big fan of modern Marvel stuff, but these early stories penned by Stan lee himself with mainly Steve Ditko on art duty are a joy to read in the larger black & white British format.


Not sure exactly why I chose a copy of Forces in Combat, a Marvel title from 1980, but an interesting selection of stories including Sgt Fury, ROM, Kull and Master of Kung Fu. Most of these characters were second tier even in the eighties so this title didn't last long. 

Since it's Christmas/New Year, the Hurricane Annual 1970 seemed a good choice. Never read the comics but did have a couple of these annuals in the sixties. Originally a "companion paper" to the long running Valiant comic, Hurricane merged with Tiger after just 63 issues in 1964/65. The Annuals however continued until 1974!

Strips included Typhoon Tracey, The Juggernaut from Planet X, Sgt Rock (of the SAS not the DC one), Casey Jones (!) and Danny Jones, Time Traveller amongst others. Still reading this one!

Weirdwondertales12

Finally a couple of old American editions. Weird Wonder Tales contains a rather amusing if outdated science fiction tale HAAG! Hunter of Helpless Humans. This is a reprint of a tale from 1954 by Stan Lee/L.Leiber and drawn by Steve Ditko!

Finishing up this random haul is a copy of Army War Heroes from Charlton Comics, a rather odd little publisher that used comics to keep its printing presses running! This issue is worth the entry price for the cover alone. Stories of The Iron Corporal and Archer are mildly entertaining but certainly not up to the standards of even the sixties I'm afraid to say!

This was a fun exercise worth repeating one day! Hope you enjoyed my choices and it helped bring back memories of simpler times!