Tuesday, 19 May 2015

What If? featuring Thor (2006)



What If: Thor #1 (Marvel Comics)

Robert Kirkman (w) Michael Avon Oeming (a)

One of the more fun titles on the market were those like What If which showed superheroes in alternative worlds and scenarios. Just for the fun of it.

This one off issue published in 2006 shows Thor saving Asgard from being eaten (literally) by becoming the herald of Galactus. Written by Robert Kirkman of Walking Dead fame who certainly produced a good script and of course this is all turns out to be a plot by Thor's evil half brother Loki.

Art is from Michael Avon Oeming who illustrated the Powers series written by Brian Michael Bendis which I understand may become a TV series to watch out for in the not to distant future.

My own first experience of this type of story were the so-called "Imaginary Stories" that DC used to publish about Superman in the sixties. Marvel was to take this further when it launched the first of two main runs of What If in the late seventies.

I have picked up a couple of these:

  



What if indeed!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Spider-Man Comics Weekly (1974)



Spider-Man Comics Weekly (Marvel Comics UK)

Various (w) & (a)

Spider-Man Comics Weekly was the second of Marvel Comics weekly UK titles and their longest running though the name changed over the years. I didn't buy these comics when they first came out as they appeared around the time I left school and became more interested in booze and girls as you do at that age. However like the Marvel Superheroes magazines that I purchased recently these are a great way of catching up with old stories that in their US format without spending large amounts of money that none of us can afford at the moment.

I was a great fan of the old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spiderman whose adventures I caught up in with Marvel Tales and Power Comics reprints in Pow! back in the sixties.

 

Those were the great days of Spidey and his supporting cast.

Spider-Man #46 was the Christmas issue for 1974 and contained a complete story reprinted from the 1967 US edition To Die A Hero which I have read sometime in the past but cannot recall in which format. It features the death of Frederick Foswell. The back up feature was a shortened Thor strip presumably from Journey into Mystery but I'm not to sure about that, perhaps someone can enlighten me!

Marvel announce in this issue the change of format that most readers will be familiar with. The change to "glossy covers". Being quite inexpensive I picked up three of these for now.

 

The Spider-Man stories were shortened (presumably because they were catching up with the monthly US editions) and Iron Man joined Thor as a back up.



Cracking comics well worth being part of your collection and from the days when I did think Marvel Comics deserved their acclaim.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Marvel Black & White: Monsters Unleashed #1 (1973)



Monsters Unleashed (Marvel Comics)

Writers & Artists (various)

The first issue of Marvel Comics second attempt to compete with Warren in the Black & White magazine more "adult" orientated market.  Like its longer established rival this edition contained a number of stand alone horror stories which like all anthologies vary in quality.

Kicking off with The Man Who Cried Werewolf a story about love, betrayal and revenge the scene is set for the appearance of all the usual monsters. A Vampire Tale set in a court room, Zombies in One Foot in the Grave and a woman whose beauty is somewhat fake.

Robert E Howard's Puritan adventurer Soloman Kane appears in Skulls in the Stars and there's a science fiction story World of the Warlocks to round off the issue.

In future issues much of the content is taken up featuring the line of Marvel line of supernatural characters such as the Man-Thing, Frankenstein and even the Wendigo.

Monsters Unleashed lasted 11 issues plus one annual. Worth tracking down.

  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Archie Adventure Series: The Fly (1961)



The Fly #15 (Archie Comics)

Writers & Artists (various)

With Archie comics currently re-launching their superhero line for the modern reader I noticed that the most successful of their characters has yet to appear,The Fly. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1959 ran erratically through to the mid sixties.

This series was best remembered for its absurd and sometimes laughable stories and plots which is actually what makes this a fun read.

Tommy Troy was given a magic ring by Turon from the dimension of fly-people which allowed him to gain super powers. Later the character inexplicably grew up becoming Thomas Troy a lawyer.

This comic published in October 1961 contains three short stories. The Invincible Spider Machine and features recurring villain The Spider, an alien making mischief in The Master of Disaster and The Prey of The Shark Men which is exactly who we meet on the beach.

 

The Fly lasted 30 issues before being transformed into Fly-Man and Archie's failed attempt to emulate Marvels success by branding their titles as the Mighty Comics Group.

British readers like myself were more familiar with the Fly as a result of the reprints in the Alan Class range of comics.



Eventually the entire line simply disappeared off the market as the sales dropped and Archie returned to publishing it's core line.

 

Come the comics boom in the eighties Archie re-launched and re-branded their comics as Red Circle. Personally I thought they were pretty good but The Fly lasted a mere 9 issues in this early direct market attempt. The latter issues were even drawn by Steve Ditko.



The question now remains when will The Fly return?

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Marvel Flashback: Tales of Suspense #87 (1966)



Tales of Suspense #87 (Marvel Comics)

Iron Man: Stan Lee (w) Gene Colan (a) 

Captain America Roy Thomas (w) Jack Stirling (a)

One of the comics I used to read from the mid sixties was Tales of Suspense which had a "double feature" line-up of Iron Man and Captain America. This format was also used in the companion titles Tales to Astonish (Sub-Mariner/Hulk) and Strange Tales (Doctor Strange/Nick Fury Agent of Shield) which helped make the "Marvel Age of Comics" something to remember.

These early days of Marvel Comics were held back by a disastrous distribution contract which led to restriction of Stan Lee's efforts by their main rival. Hence the use of split formats to feature more characters.

This particular issue sees Tony Stark/Iron Man conduct an experiment in his factory frightening the locals and attracting the criminal element leading to a confrontation below the Earth. The disappearance of buildings is blamed on Stark when in fact the sinister Mole Man was the real culprit. Iron Man heads towards an ambush.

Meanwhile The Peerless Planner impersonates Captain America in a short story which sees our hero being blamed for a series of bank robberies. Doesn't end well for the villainous one.

Eventually a new distributor allowed Marvel Comics to expand with Captain America taking over the Tales of Suspense title along with the numbering whilst Iron finally gets his own comic with a brand new number one.

Excelsior!

 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Archie/Dark Circle: The Fox #2



The Fox (Archie/Dark Circle Comics)

Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid (w) Dean Haspiel (a)

The second issue of The Fox hit stands this week and what a joy to read it was. Talk about our poor hero attracting the weird.

An ordinary bank robbery turns out to be a trap and The Fox faces Brontosaurus, and no he doesn't look anything like one.

The second shock?

His son turns into a superhero.. The Ghost Fox. Talk about keeping it in the family! Dads not happy though...

Then the Mad Gadgeteer attacks after rescuing his prey from a giant who goes by the name of The Insidious Elasto.

The nearest title that I can compare this to is Invincible. The humour, the violence and story telling would make a good inter-company team up opportunity at a later date. After all they teamed up Invincible with The Tick so why not!

I can't recommend this title enough.

Here's a sneak peak!




The other Dark Circle title currently in the shops id the Black Hood #3. Very gritty and grim in comparison.

 

Coming soon The Shield and a house ad for The Hangman has now appeared.

Now all we need is The Fly...... and don't forget Fly Girl (or woman since since this is the modern age!)

Archie and their Dark Circle imprint are worth keeping an eye out for.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Marvel Superheroes (UK Magazine 1979)



Marvel Superheroes (Marvel UK)

Writers & Artists (various)

Over the past year or so I have gradually taken an interest in Marvel UK comics which when originally published I had little to no interest in mainly because I had easy access to the original format US editions. However as time moves on and I find it either difficult to obtain or afford certain Marvel editions these have become a useful way of "bridging the gap".

On a whim I decided to pick up five issues of Marvel Superheroes a monthly black & white comic which continues the numbering from Mighty World of Marvel/Marvel Comic weeklies, hence there is no "number one" issue and this begins with issue 353.

The issue pictured at the top of this post shows one of those inevitable fights between superheroes which seems to take place as a matter of course not just in Marvel Comics but their "Distinguished Competition" as the company used to refer to their main rivals.

The presence of the Ant-Man, shortly to be a major movie was a bonus as back issues starring the character have rocketed in cost of late.

 

The Avengers took the lead spot in this comic but the Champions strip starring Hercules, Iceman, Black Widow and the Ghosts Rider proved an interesting read especially since I had never read the American originals. The X-Men also appeared mainly wandering around the Savage Land fighting Ka-Zar and/or Magneto.

 

The comic was redesigned (a common event of Marvel UK publications) and we were treated to a Jim Starlin pencilled adventure from one of the Avengers annuals which actually looked very good in the larger black & white format of UK comics.

These comics are not expensive and worth collecting if you can find copies. There are 45 editions of Marvel Superheroes (last issue being #397) which ended up being merged with The Daredevils.

I'll be dipping in to Marvel UK again at a later date.