Saturday, 30 April 2016
Spider-Man is one of comicdoms most successful characters and his popularity in the UK has meant there has been a Spidey title in constant print in the UK even to this day. Over the years the format has changed and back in the seventies saw a merger with the short-lived, but fondly remembered Captain Britain weekly.
Gone was the (expensive) colour format that Cap had been given, but this remained an entirely unique creation by Marvel for the UK market.
I managed to track down a couple of issues and find Captain Britain embroiled in an adventure featuring both Werewolf by Night and Dracula. The latter seems to have taken a fancy to someone close to Brian Braddock.
Other than Spider-Man this comic also features the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, the latter having surprisingly lost their own solo title.
This combined comic lasted just 29 issues.
Worth tracking these down for the good Captain alone.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
One of the most famous comics of recent years was Batman: The Killing Joke by British talent Alan Moore & Brian Bolland and it's finally been made into a movie, albeit a cartoon.
Trouble is because of the storyline and it's contents its going to get an R rating.
This is he story of how the Joker crippled Barbara Gordon who was as we all know is Batgirl shocked everyone to the core when published. Barbara went to help the Batman and his allies as a computer based, wheel-bound hero known as the Oracle.
Personally I can't wait to watch this adaptation into the Jokers world of madness, but it's not for the feint-hearted.....
Here's the trailer.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Sub-Mariner King Size Special (Marvel Comics)
Stan Lee (w) Gene Colan (a)
From the early days of Marvel comics comes this reprint of the first solo Sub-Mariner stories in Tales to Astonish which Namor shared with The Incredible Hulk until a new distribution deal allowed both characters their own books!
The age of the story can be ascertained simply by the reference to Daredevil #7 on the opening "splash" page as subby returns to Atlantis only to find his throne has been usurped by Krang. On meeting the beautiful Lady Dorma he is betrayed, imprisoned and humiliated by his foe until he escapes.
The search for Poseidon's Trident begins across the seven seas.
This story originally appeared in Tales to Astonish #70 to #73 but you need to pick up Sub-Mariner King Size Special #2 for the rest!
This is a story that helped expand the fledgling Marvel universe back in the sixties and establish Stan Lee as the "main man" of the comics world.
Sadly I think Marvel (and their "Distinguished Competition) have lost their way since those days. Perhaps it's time to go back to basics rather than reboots.
No more "Secret Wars" or Crises just good old plain story telling is what the comic industry needs just like this.
Grab a copy if you can!
Monday, 25 April 2016
Lady Death: Chaos Rules #1 (Coffin Comics)
Brian Pulido (w) Brian Augustyn (a)
Long ago, a girl named Hope renounced her humanity to save her mothers soul from eternal torment in Hell. She is transformed by insurmountable odds and tragic circumstances into Lady Death, the ravishing conqueror of the netherworld. She ruled He;;. She faced the judgement war . She joined a Dark Alliance, then she disappeared. It's been twenty years. Now, find out what happened to her....
And so opens a new chapter in the journey of Lady Death, a comic I have not picked up for a few years now since then end of Chaos comics and her ill-fated outing with the short-lived Cross Gen company.
Not that Lady Death has been out of print. Stories have appeared under the Avatar and Boundless banner in recent years but with the "bad girl" era of comics now long gone continuing reading her adventures no longer appealed until now.
Lady Death is back and in the hands of her original creator Brian Pulido after a court case involving lawsuits and legal hassles galore. Pulido now has sole rights to the character and has decided to launch a new company to tell new adventures of the anti-hero herself.
I ordered this on a whim from the previews catalogue and I have to say I'm not disappointed. This is a solid "done in one" tale bringing the Lady Death we are familiar with back to life in Hell. The plot and artwork are solid making this an enjoyable read.
Woken from a spell through the intervention of Heaven, Lady Death returns to the fray looking for vengeance. Boy does she enjoy the hunt, even managing to satisfy her "needs" on the way. (This is a comic aimed at "mature" readers.)
Lady Death is apparently going to be published around four times a year in the same square-bound or "Prestige" format with a complete story in each, but building up to a major event that threatens all life on Earth.
Then there will be space vampires. Can't wait for that one.
Sunday, 24 April 2016
"The long awaited merger of Marvel's mightiest mags" headlined the first combined issue of Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives. Not sure by whom, but indicative of the way the British comics market operated. When a comic starts failing merge it with another title to boost readership.
I'm not sure what readers would have thought of this odd mixture of intelligent apes and vampires but here with long convoluted title it was.
Both comics had been launched in the same week back in 1974, with Dracula Lives lasting for 87 issues and for me much better than the US parent title as I think horror comes over much darker when printed in glorious black & white.
Gene Colan's artwork certainly suited the format.
It goes without saying that the two main strips were Planet of the Apes (by this time reprinted from Marvels black & white magazine as the four colour comic was long gone) and Dracula Lives.
The other features were Man Thing and Ka Zar.
Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives soldiered on until March the following year, when it ended up being merged with Marvel's long running flagship title Mighty World of Marvel.
Only the Apes survived....for a while longer.
Saturday, 23 April 2016
After several years of just reprinting US material in a British format, the Marvel Bullpen finally decided to give Brits their own, unique superhero.
One who could only be called... Captain Britain!
When these actually came out I was only purchasing the American versions of Marvel comics, a mistake in so many ways especially as I missed this seminal, if short-lived title.
Brian Braddock becomes Captain Britain and fights evil on Britain's shores. I didn't come across the good captain until he teamed up with Spider-Man.. The early issues of Captain Britain are not cheap, especially if they still have the free gifts. I noticed copies of these in my local comic shops Newsletter this morning. Outside my pocket money range I'm afraid at £35 for the first issue with Captain Britain Mask, but feel free to enquire at: 30thcenturycomics.co.uk.
I decided to skip to some later and more average priced editions but was not disappointed. One of the major innovations Marvel made with Captain Britain was to publish his adventures in full colour, which was a major (and expensive) move back then. Although poor sales didn't allow this to continue throughout the entire run this does make Cap a unique historical read.
Written by Chris Claremont with art by Hebe Trimpe & Fred Kida these tales are not just worth reading, but could do with a reprint volume (in original size) all on their own.
The back up strips include The Fantastic Four (in black and white) and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD also in glorious colour!
A pity it didn't last longer, but this short run is worthy addition to anyones collection.
Captain Britain was eventually merged into Super Spider-Man with the more than obvious title:
Sunday, 17 April 2016
In a rather unusual move, Marvel UK decided to not just give the Fantastic Four their own comic but to totally devote the entire magazine to their adventures. Each issue contained a complete reprint of an American edition plus at the back Marvel started serialising their adventures from the beginning.
When this came out I was literally just starting out at Polytechnic and besides being distracted bu living away from home for the first time, the halls of Residence were just a short walk away from They Were Dark & Golden Eyed in Soho so I tended to get the US editions when I needed a break from academia.
The first issue starts with an odd confrontation between Thundra and Benjamin Grimm in which the Frightful Four had a hand. The "back up story was the first part of the origin of the FF and their first meeting with the mysterious Mole-Man in a classic story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.
The second and third issues tell us of the mad scheme of Gideon and his quest for power. Guest starring the android Dragon Man, we find Mr Fantastic and Sue Storm separated due to marital problems with Medusa of the Inhumans as the fourth member of the FF.
This adventure take place over two issues and the backup in #3 introduces the Skrulls to readers. Nuff said!
The Fantastic Four where and still are the team around which the Marvel Universe was built and you'd think that this would be a great success. It wasn't and lasted just 37 issues.
The weekly frequency of this title may have been the problem. Too much focus on one feature when British titles were always anthologies. Great for people like me to pick up cheap reprints of old FF material, but perhaps too much for the younger readers this comic was aimed at in the late seventies.
There was one other problem. I am not sure how far behind British Marvel was with it's US parent title but just at 37 issues this represents just over three years of the monthly Fantastic Four. They would have soon run out of material even if the stories from the Annuals were used.
Either way The Complete Fantastic Four was merged with Mighty World of Marvel the following year, which was where the the FF had begun in British Marvel.
Saturday, 16 April 2016
One of the more fondly remembered children TV programmes is Catweazle, the story of an 11th Century wizard who suddenly finds himself in the modern world. Played by Geoffrey Bayldon Catweazle meets a young lad Edward ("Carrot") who tries to hide him from the rest of the world.
Starting in 1970, Catweazle ran for 2 seasons and a total of 26 episodes. This was essential family viewing on a Sunday in days when we all watched and shared TV programmes in our millions.
World Distributors published three "tie-in" annuals between 1970 and 1972. The first one (pictured above) contains Catweazle's origin story in text form plus a number of other comic strip and text stories featuring our heroes.
There's also some magic trick tips, puzzles and cartoons that featured in these types of annuals.
A wonderful piece of nostalgia.
I couldn't end this post without a "taster" of the show itself.
Here's the opening scenes from the very first episode. I saw it in black & white first time round, we didn't get a colour TV until later in the year.
Want to know more? Go to: www.catweazlefanclub.co.uk/
Friday, 15 April 2016
Bewitched #7 (Dell)
No credits (w)/(a)
Running from 1964 to 1972, Bewitched was a comedy programme which caught the imagination of a whole generation of not just us kids but the public as a whole. Starring the Elizabeth Montgomery (who died so tragically young at the age of 59) as a witch living in American suburbia with a mortal husband, Darrin played by Dick York.
Add the wonderful actress Agnes Moorhead as the interfering (and disapproving mother-in-law from hell) ABC television had a big hit on it's hands.
The laughs we had as Samantha used her powers (to the consternation of Darrin) under the noses of the nosey neighbour Gladys. Who could forget her long suffering and apologetic husband. Poor soul.
Sadly Dick York was replaced by Dick Sergeant due illness from 1969.
There were an incredible 254 episodes of Bewitched over 8 seasons.
Of course along came the inevitable comic adaptation from Dell in this case. Like most TV based titles this didn't last long and ran for just 14 issues between 1965 and 1969.
These comics contain passable artwork and script but obviously aimed at the younger reader. Charming and a reminder of simpler times.
Loved this. About time this series had a re-run, especially the early episodes in black & white!
First and last issues (#14 is a reprint of #2)
And a reminder of the theme tune!
Wednesday, 13 April 2016
One of the more interesting of Marvels superheroes Doctor Strange is finally getting the recognition he deserves with a new movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The good Doctor has been around since the early sixties having been created and drawn by two of comicdom's greatest talents Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Doctor Strange originally appeared in Strange Tales # 110, though his actual origin did not appear until #115. Strange Tales was an anthology book which Doctor Strange shared with the Human Torch (from the Fantastic Four) and Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD respectively until Marvel got it's new distributor and was able to expand their range of comics in 1968.
Stephen Strange was a rich successful surgeon who was somewhat vain and selfish until an accident prevented him from carrying out surgery as his hands were irreparably injured. Searching for a cure Strange heads for the mystics of the Himalayas and meets the "Ancient One".
The struggle for magical supremacy begins.
Steve Ditko's artwork makes these early adventures the best of the run, though those that follow do their best and as the Marvel universe expands we meet The Living Tribunal and Eternity amongst others who will form an essential part of the "backbone" of the "Marvel Age of Comics".
Sadly the first solo volume of Doctor Strange (using the numbering inherited from Strange Tales)only lasted 15 issues.
Of course like all good heroes Doctor Strange doesn't just disappear. Over the years there have been several solo series, but most of all there was..The Defenders, Marvels "non-team" starring not just the "Doc", but the Hulk, Prince Namor, the Sun-Mariner and the Silver Surfer just to name the core members. that had many a weird and wonderful adventure.
Needless to say this isn't the first time Doctor Strange has been committed to film (though the first attempt should have simply been committed full stop). A TV film (best forgotten) appeared in 1978 as Marvel tried to capitalise on the success of The Hulk.
Much better (and one that I already have on DVD) is the animated version released in 2007.
But now we are at last seemingly to get the real deal. Can't wait for this one and here's the first official trailer.
Monday, 11 April 2016
Despite the success of The Hulk TV show, his won solo title which at the beginning contained original strips but soon became a reprint title like most Marvel output didn't last that long. The inevitable merger came and off went the Hulk to join Spider-Man in a joint weekly comic simply called Spider-Man and Hulk Weekly.
Gone where the unique glossy covers that made British Marvel stand out on the new stands and a new innovation made them look like more traditional comics. A mistake in many fans eyes.
Actually the Hulk was the only UK Marvel I picked up around the late seventies but in the end transferred fully to the full colour US editions that were readily available not just in shops but in the only comic shop I knew at that time Dark They were and Golden Eyed in Soho when I was a student. Great place, sadly missed!
The two main strips in this comic were pretty obvious from the title, but the other stories appearing here were Daredevil and She-Hulk (alternating with Spider-Woman). At least in the issues I picked up.
Marvel were experimenting with other formats for it's comics bringing out non-superhero titles such as Fury, Valour and Forces in Combat none of which lasted that long. Even Marvel Comics, previously their flagship title Mighty World of Marvel had gone. The era of the monthlies was upon us.
Both Spider-Man and The Hulk are still on the news-stands today in their own full colour US sized editions (but with many extra pages), but for me Marvels golden era was coming to an end.
I miss the weeklies.