Monday, 30 May 2016

Eerie (Warren/1980s)



Warren Comics produced a few memorable comics including the long running Creepy and Vampirella. There was a third title that lasted the course, Eerie. Like it's stablemates this was a magazine sized black and white format comic aimed at older audiences.

Starting as a horror title by the eighties it had become very much dominated by science fiction and the occasional fantasy story. One of the characters that appeared in this book was The Rook, a time traveller who went on to get his own book.

The quality of the stories varied depending on your tastes from issue to issue just like most anthology titles but there's some good stuff contained in these reasonably priced later titles. Warren also published their readers thoughts in a lively letters page at the beginning. Readers were not always happy! Nothing changes! (Hail Hydra).

Typical of the fare offered is in #116 (illustrated above) which contains four stories. The first, Blackjack is set in The Rooks continuity and sees his grandfather bugger off in time with a servo robot to the Jurassic age. Meanwhile The Rooks Time Factory is attacked by one of those super-villain types and there's a Blob like threat included.

Star Warriors comes up and next and is as corny as they get, though Cagim in which Merlin meets his younger inexperienced self is a bit better. As for the final feature...pass it by

 

The stories continue in a similar vein in #119 where the lead story, Zed Kamish is obviously influenced by 2000AD with it's bizarre opening at an interstellar bust stop on a small asteroid and tales of robot crime and rebellion. Humans beware is all I will say. Flesh bags that we are apparently.

There's Sindy Starfire set on Venus, but more like the wild west with native Indians n' all. A wronged woman who goes up against criminals and ends up being a fugitive herself. The final tale Haggarth is a disturbing tale of a young apprentice who regains his eyesight only to lose himself.

Personally I like these black & white format magazines but they are no more. Eerie went the way of the Dodo in 1983 with #139 being the last.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Out Now!

"DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Gets Square Bound 2nd Printing

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

Geoff Johns (w) Gary Frank/Ethan Van Sciver/Ivan Reis/Phil Jemenez (a)

A few years back DC comics published a universe changing story-line called Flashpoint. What emerged was a completely rebooted fictional universe with huge changes to their characters, some warranted, but many that didn't go down well with the established fan base. Over the five years or so that the "New 52" as DC re branded their line sales declined and even hardcore DC fanboys like myself quietly voted with their wallets and sales dropped.

The reasons are varied, but in my case it was simply because although there were some sterling new titles (now all gone!) I felt that I no longer "knew" these characters as I did and didn't relate to them in the same way.

It wasn't just the reboot itself after all people my age started reading DC in what has become known as the "Silver Age" which started with The Flash's relaunch in Showcase #4 (1956) until the first ever company "reboot" and one of the most famous stories in comic book history, Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 12 issue maxi-series that ran from April 1985 to March 1986.

 Comic-book cover, with superheroes tumbling away from Earth

There were two other "crisis" and a Zero Hour, mostly in an attempt to try and create a coherent continuity before DC produced Flashpoint which totally re-wrote the lot...except for a couple of inconsistencies due to tales of the Green Lanterns and The Legion of Superheroes, the latter set in the 30th Century.

 

Now we discover that Flashpoint was a lie. The Flash was not responsible for the change in reality. There is someone or something else out there that we have not met before (and no it's not the Warner Brothers executives).

DC Universe Rebirth is an 80 page low priced introduction to a storyline that appears to be going to take two years to run. Dc are relaunching their entire line with "Rebirth" one-shot and new number one issues except for Action Comics and Detective Comics which revert to their historical numbering. (Expect Action #1000 soon!).

The number of DC titles has shrunk and they are to focus on their big characters however these will be mainly fortnightly rather than monthly. The exceptions being the lower selling titles which will remain monthly.

Without too many spoilers this comic revolves around Kid Flash (Wally West) and brings back the core DC universe, with some mysteries to be resolved. One being the existence of three Jokers (?).

Oh and in case you didn't know Superman died (for real) in Superman #52 but fear not the Superman from the previous reality is here with his wife Lois and son Jon. Well this is comic books!

Worth reading? Hell yeah!!!

How "DC Universe: Rebirth" Fulfills Its Promise of Restoring Legacy to DC Comics

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Punisher #2 (Marvel UK/1989)



One of Marvel's most enduring characters is The Punisher, a quite violent comic that is better suited to more "mature readers" and in small writing under the company logo it does say "for older readers". There's not just a lot of violence (to be expected with the story of a man intent on wiping out criminals, permanently) but also more adult themes as Frank Castle finds himself seduced by a beautiful Chinese woman in the second issue.

Compared to some of the video games  that today's young-uns play I dare say a lot of people would find this material quite tame. Nevertheless this comic is a product of the time it was produced.

I picked up a couple of early issues to get a measure of what this title was like. It contains just the two features, The Punisher (obviously) and an adaptation of Robocop which was a popular eighties creation.

The Punisher story appears in two parts (both in full colour) with a black & white reprint of Robocop in the middle. Production costs were the obvious reason for this..

In this issue Frank Castle finds himself outside of prison and heads to kill the Kingpin, a foe more familiar to Daredevil fans. It's a trap and he is forced to rely on a group known as The Trust, but can he "trust" them.....

Meanwhile Robocop is starting to remember who he is.

Fun reading for fans of violent crime fiction.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Blue Ribbon Comics #12 & 13 (Archie Adventure Series)



In the early eighties as the comics industry began to go through a sea of change as it's readers got older Archie Comics decided to revive it's long defunct superhero line with Red Circle which was aimed at the new Direct Market opening up in comic shops. Due to low sales these quickly became re branded as the Archie Adventure Series.

One of these titles was Blue Ribbon Comics which had varied contents from issue to issue culminating in two decidedly unexpected and odd appearances of  Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in #12 and Charlton Comics Thunderbunny in #13.

The original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic had been long by this time though there was an unfinished run of two issues produced in the early eighties by JC Comics. John Carbanaro held the licence to the old Tower Comics characters and edited this one-shot appearance with Archie.

There were two stories, the first featuring the whole team in an all-out war with invaders from outer space that were led by a surprise villain in the form of one of Noman's rogue android bodies.

The back up featured a short tale involving Noman taking down his former research partner is a tale drawn by Steve Ditko.

If you have a soft spot for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents then this comic is for you.

 

The following issue, was a bit more obscure. Published with a wrap around cover and with no ads this tale featured all the Mighty Crusaders in an alliance with of all odd characters Thunderbunny, a short-lived Charlton character that I've never read before.

As usual the superheroes get in a fight with the bunny not understanding a word he says because he has a cold (doh!) but they team up for a fight with Intergalactic slavers in which the bunny appears to get it.

Oddly entertaining.



Blue Ribbon Comics lasted just 14 issues before Archie sadly closed down it's Adventure line again.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Psycho #4 (Skywald/1971)



With the success of Warren comics black & white horror magazines aimed at older readers and not subject to the restrictive comics code came competition. One of the more notable attempts to cash in on this market was Skywald who published a number of titles such as Nightmare and Psycho.

This early edition turned out to be a good read which was a good thing considering as these are not cheap. This 68 page large format comic contained a total of six stories plus a feature on Planet of The Apes.  The first story was somewhat in the vein of DC's Swamp-Thing and Marvel's Man-Thing and featured The Heap, a muck monster of their won invention.

There is in fact a one off four colour comic featuring the origin of The Heap which I already have somewhere..buried in a box and not readily located at the time of writing but here's the cover.



Other stories included Out of Chaos in which as the universe ends as a result of mankind's machinations Satan sets out to remake a new one in his image and has to face Heavens Hordes before he can confront the "third race" who are already giving birth to an embyronic new cosmos of their own. I'll have to track down #5 as this story ended at a door in space with the words "to be continued.

The other stories are the usual horror fare you would expect from a mag of this type including a rather good adaptation of Frankenstein in which you see Frankie help out freaks of nature against being exploited by the stories villain and learn what happened to the Doctor himself after he was hacked to pieces by the baying mob. Seems he lost his head...

Worth picking up a copy or two if you come across them.

Psycho ran for 24 issues between January 1971 and March 1975.

 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Superman #231 (DC/1970)



Superman #231 (DC Comics)

No Credits (w) & (a)

When I picked this up I failed to notice that the Superman on the cover wasn't actually Clark Kent. It was in fact Lex Luthor! So how so?

This was one of those "imaginary stories" that DC used to throw in to the mix in it's Superman and occasionally World's Finest titles. These were out of continuity tales that allowed the writers to play around with the Superman ethos.

This story The Wheel of Super-Fortune, opens with Superman (alias Lex Luthor) taking Lois Lane to his Fortress of Solitude to watch a movie about the deaths of notorious criminals Jonathan and Martha Kent. They has a son, kept in secret from the world.......Clark Kent.

Clark is the villain of this story but Lois still has a "thing" for him which tortures our hero who works as Lex Luthor reporter for the Daily Planet!

The battle between good and evil in this topsy-turvy tale begins.

Also featured in this issue is a reprint of an old story from Superman #112 (March 1957) which sees a more traditional match between arch-villain Lex Luthor and our boy Clark

 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Adventures of The Jaguar #2 (Archie/1961)



Adventures of The Jaguar #2 (Archie)

No credits (w) & (a)

As regular readers will know I have a bit of a soft spot for the Archie/Mighty/Red Circle super-heroes so when I saw a cheap copy of this (due to it's damaged cover in the right hand corner) I just couldn't resist picking it up.

And well worth the price of entry it was!

Three stories are so obviously written in a "simpler" age now long gone and are charming reminder of days gone by when the world seemed more promising than today's kids have to face. As a result they have the same kind of charm that readers would have got from similar DC titles published around that time and well into the mid sixties,

Plus of course a little pressure from the thankfully defunct "Comic Code Authority" that emasculated comics in the fifties.

This issue contains three stories plus a preview from companion comic The Fly.

The first sees our hero tackle Lilliputian invaders from another world out to conquer earth and wipe out humanity. Beaten by animal shrieks in the end. So much for advanced technology!

The second adventure sees The Jaguar face off...bacteria and that's the scene on the cover. Interesting idea of what artists thought bacteria might look like, hands, legs, eyes and all. Gets saved by a monkey. Don't ask.

Finally Jag faces off with The Sinister Space Whale, which it isn't...it's just a movie prop gone wild. Well this was the sixties.

Adventures of The Jaguar lasted 15 issues between 1961 and 1963.

Overall? Great stuff. More of this please! If the price is right...

 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Marvel Team-Up (Marvel UK/1980)



Launched in September 1980 with Spider-Man headlining the line-up, Marvel Team-Up was to be a short-lived title lasting only 25 issues before merging with Spider-Man & Hulk weekly the following year.

This being the re-launched line of Marvel UK, gone were the nice glossy covers (there was one letter bemoaning this in one of the issues I picked up) and there were more strips containing less pages which was supposed to give these comics a more "British" feel. Missed the point really. These weren't "British" comics and everyone knew that so in my view the change of format was a mistake.

However that alone was not the reason for this comics failure.

 

Aside from Spider-Man in reprints from the US Marvel Team-Up the only major characters appearing were the Fantastic Four.

The rest of Team-Up was a bit of a hodge-podge of minor and even third rank heroes ranging from early Ms Marvel adventures, through Morbius the Living Vampire (one of the few Marvel heroes I am not that familiar with, didn't appeal then or now) through what must have been seen as confusing What-Ifs which could be fun, but were usually rather hit or miss to The Torpedo, "Marvel's latest hero". Nah me neither. Looked naff to be honest.

A pretty average effort really, though will appeal to some.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Rampaging Hulk #1 (Marvel magazine/1977)



The Rampaging Hulk #1 (Marvel Comics)

Hulk: Doug Monech (w) & Walt Simonson & Alfredo Garcia (a)

Bloodstone: John Warner (w) John Buscema & Rudy Nebres (a)

The seventies saw a boom in the black & white magazine comic market with Marvel trying to cash in on the success of Warren's various titles. One of the longer lived Marvel magazines was The Rampaging Hulk which lasted 9 issues under that title before becoming simply The Hulk with issue 10 with colour stories for the rest of it's run.

The first issue contains two features, the adventures of the Hulk being the main story which focused on the period between the end of the Hulks first colour adventures and his subsequent re-appearance in Tales to Astonish #60.

It's often forgotten that the Hulk was not a success when first launched in 1962 and only lasted 6 issues before being cancelled. Although the Hulk himself guest starred in other Marvel titles such as The Avengers & The Fantastic Four, he was not popular enough at the time for his own comic.

 

The character of the original Hulk was somewhat different as well. Bit of a monster on the inside, let alone the outside before he became the rampaging simpleton that just wanted to be left alone.

That had all changed by by the time this comic came out and The Rampaging Hulk is generally considered "out of continuity" because of the discrepancies in the stores. Not that this matters much because if this first issue is anything to go by these magazine sized adventures are a great read.



Oddly the co-star of the book is Bloodstone, a minor character who appeared in Marvel Premier #1 & 2 before disappearing into comics limbo.

 

Monday, 16 May 2016

X-Men #35 (Marvel/1967)



X-Men #35 (Marvel Comics)

Roy Thomas & Werner Roth (w) Dan Adkins (a)

I first saw the advert for this comic nearly forty years ago and only now have I finally got around to buying a copy. Early X-Men comics attract quite high prices usually so obtaining a lower grade copy for a few quid was a good deal for me. I'm not one of those who collect high grade comics for value. To me this is probably in the condition I'd have it had I actually kept from the sixties. A good reading copy.

And after all that's what comics are for. Reading.

And a wee bit of fun this title was. Another misunderstanding leads to an unnecessary battle between Spider-Man who just "happens" to be deep in the country near a certain school in Westchester County, home of the mutants known as the X-Men when they get a warning

"beware the spider"

The Banshee's message has been cut off after an attack by Factor Three, one of many criminal organisations competing for world domination in the sixties Marvel Universe!

Solid story and art. Well worth the long wait.

To be honest I wasn't a great X-Men fan then and only ever purchased #18 back in the day (which I no longer own since you ask), but as I get older my tastes change and quite enjoy these early adventures though cost dictates British black & white reprints in old Power Comics or Marvel UK titles!

The early incarnation of the X-men didn't do that well becoming a reprint title only for a while due to low sales. Then came the New X-Men and that's a whole other success story for another day!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

TV Comic Holiday Special 1972



(1970 cover shown due to unavailability of 72 edition)

Like most British comics come the summer TV Comic produced the inevitable Holiday Special. A bumper edition of the weekly edition to keep the kids happy.

This edition from 1972 contains Tom & Jerry, Popeye, The Avengers (with Steed and Tara King by this time), Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Mighty Moth plus Tich and Quackers amongst others. Can't say I remember the latter but I'm getting old....

They also had Whacko, which had finished long ago and was better remembered from Buster!

There was Dads Army (still showing regularly on BBC2) plus two absolute favourites of mine Animal Magic with the late Johnny Morris and of course Basil Brush.

Here's some clips to bring back those memories.






Saturday, 14 May 2016

TV Comic (1964)

 

TV Comic was a long running comic which started in 1951 and ran for 1697 weekly issues until 1984. Aimed at younger readers this comic featured a mix of both colour and black & white strips, including early Gerry Anderson shows such as Supercar and Fireball XL5.

I'd have been just six years old when this comic came out and though I recall most of the shows referenced I only have vague recollections of reading the comic itself, probably from later years when TV Comic published The Avengers (that's Steed & Mrs Peel for American readers) plus Doctor Who.

Most issues around this era had Popeye on the cover, though there were exceptions and in later years this was replaced by Tom & Jerry which had a broadcast slot just before the news after "Children's Hour" (for those of you who remember the sixties/early seventies. I'm an old git now!

The issues I picked up included two long forgotten shows. Dickie Henderson (a comedian) and the Tellygoons a puppet version of The Goons from the BBC Home Service (Radio 4 in today's world).

Here's a couple of clips from those bygone days when life seemed so much simpler......






Monday, 9 May 2016

Marvel Super-Heroes #15 (Marvel/1968)



Marvel Super-Heroes #15 (Marvel Comics)

Medusa: Archie Goodwin (w) Gene Colan (a) 
Other features Various (w) & (a)

Over the past couple of weeks I've been dipping in to the run of UK Marvels The Complete Fantastic Four. In the opening run Sue Storm has been replaced by Medusa as the fourth member of the team. So when I noticed this sixties edition in my local comic shop I just knew I had to pick it up.

Medusa was originally introduced to fans as a villain in The Fantastic Four as part of the Frightful Four led by the ever egotistical Wizard.

 

It was only later we discovered that Medusa was in fact an Inhuman, genetically enhanced humans hidden in The Great Refuge. Her husband Black Bolt was their King.

In Marvel Super-Heroes #15 Medusa travels to the outside world to get help for her husband so that he may speak without using his incredible power and once again gets involved with the Frightful Four.

With great scripting by Archie Goodwin and terrific art by gene Colan this is well worth the price of entry.

This comic is a giant-size 25c edition (formerly Fantasy Masterpieces) which contains a number of reprints from the forties and fifties which may be of historical interest. There are appearances by The Black Knight, the Sub-Mariner, Black Marvel and the fifties Captain America who wasn't the Cap we all know....

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Savage Sword of Conan #1 (Marvel UK/1977)



One of Marvels great successes in comics adaptations was their rendition of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. In the US both the four colour and black & white monthlies were a big success and Conan was an obvious choice to launch in the UK.

 

Marvels first attempt to break into the UK market with Conan was one of their glossy covered weeklies. This lasted just 18 issues before being merged with the Avengers weekly.



A character more suited to older readers Marvel revived Conan a couple of years later with this monthly and much more "meaty" attempt. The first issue contains a full length story Iron Shadows in the Moon which sees every ones favourite cimmerian escaping in the marshes after his allies had been massacred in an ambush.

Conan was the sole survivor. In a twist of fate he comes across the inevitable damsel in distress who just happens to be at the mercy of the enemy that had just killed his comrades.

You can guess the outcome of that.

Escaping into the inland Vilayet sea the two fugitives seek sanctuary on one of the many, supposedly uninhabited Islands that it contains.

Except they hadn't reckoned for beasties, pirates or ancient curses.....

The format of the UK edition does change in due course but the early issues of this adult oriented comic are well worth a read.