Some Time in The Future, Somewhere in Space:
An Earthship Careens Madly Through The Interstellar Void, Screaming At The Top Of Its Lungs Like A Lost Child.
“Excellent! Soon I shall be “rescued,” and my mission of sabotage against the fleshers shall begin” – The Skelon Astronaut.
During every stay back in the UK, it’s always pleasant to seek out that box in the wardrobe – the one stashed away from the perils of light and dust.
In these dark and difficult times, it is gratifying to have something to fall back on – to escape into. And as writing about other, more mundane, subjects has brought little enjoyment, or success, this week, something therapeutic was called for…
The first phase of my comic-collecting: 1979-1982 probably amounted to no more than 50 books – by all accounts a measly haul for a kid with such a voracious appetite for sci-fi action and adventure.
You may think that yours truly is a Marvel Man, but actually, the majority snapped up during those heady days were predominantly DC – such faves included Legion of Super-Heroes, All-Star Squadron and Dial “H” For Hero.
Just about all my comics were acquired at the news emporium on the concourse of London Victoria railway station, on the way home from Grandma’s gaff (but only during school holidays).
We had so little time before train departure, so snap decisions were the order of the day. My judgment was invariably hugely influenced by how wicked the cover looked. Primarily a team title rather than a solo title would be more economical, but if Legion of Super-Heroes – especially the Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series – was on display, that got snapped up instantly.
To this day, it’s beyond me why only one issue of Mystery In Space #116 (eerie and compelling outer space fare); Shogun Warriors #18 (actually the premise for Pacific Rim!); and Ghost Rider #52, which inspired me to draft my only (so far) screenplay focussing on a comic book character – came into my eager mitts, but then again, poor distribution played a regrettable part in these proceedings…
In addition, Mum was not so keen on me acquiring too many comics anyway.
Speaking of cool covers, they mostly got cut out and compiled into a well wicked (we never said “awesome” back in those days!) scrapbook (hey, does anyone still keep them these days?!) which subsequently, much to my dismay, “vanished without trace.”
Of the various interior pages and very few complete ishs to survive, here is a peek at a select few:
“My belt of gravity-resisting Ninth Metal can’t possibly halt that bomber’s plunge, but I’ve got to try!” – Hawkman.
There is a fondness for a particular DC title that made its debut in 1981.
Can still remember finding the first issue of All-Star Squadron (dated September 1981) set in the alternative world of Earth-2, with its iconic cover.
That Fabulous First Issue ended up being my one remaining copy until picking up #10 during my second phase of collecting ten years later.
The Squadron itself was a superhero ensemble formed just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. They are presented with the dilemma of disbanding the team so individual members can go and enlist in the armed services. Undoubtedly, the main attraction with this title was Hawkman, and the 40s detail which always looked amazing.
“No! Our orders are to destroy Herne and recover the medallion. That trinket is the key to our destruction. Stay… I will deal with Herne personally” – Algol The Terrible.
It was not all about DC and Marvel Comics.
Alternatively, a regular pocket-sized book called: Starblazer – “Space Fiction Adventure In Pictures” appeared in the UK from 1979 onwards. Although acquiring only half a dozen of these, they were a welcome form of diversity at a time when SF comics were multiplying at such an unprecedented rate. With over 200 books, the title offered some of the finest writers and artists in the business until its demise in 1991).
For most fans of this obscure series, the first one bought happened to be the best. You really couldn’t get any better than Algol The Terrible, famous now for being one of the earliest weeks of acclaimed comics writer: Grant Morrison.
Algol‘s appearance and actions were impressionable enough to guarantee him a place in my Top Villains Of All Time.
And his gimmick?
A stash of sonic javelins slung in a quiver across his back – a weapon so potent they “could vibrate any solid object apart.”
Standing defiantly against him was Herne The Outlaw, one of Starblazer’s very few recurring characters.
“C’mon, Brad, quit bothering me. I said I don’t want to go out with you anymore” – Vicki Grant.
Last, but by no means least, it’s back to the endearing DC stable for Dial “H” For Hero (which appeared in several issues of Adventure Comics).
Legion of Superheroes served me very well, so it’s such a shame that none of my copies survived. Issue 272 contained a Preview of Dial “H” For Hero; these particular pages have survived the cull, and are steeped in cosy nostalgia for me.
Based on a really cool idea, Vicki Grant and Chris King, two high school students, stumble upon a couple of strange lockets that, when activated, turn them into different superheroes (albeit only for one hour). This title appealed because of its innovative concept: different heroes (and villains!) were each created by a reader who had submitted their own ideas. In the panel where the good/bad guy/gal made their first appearance, that creator’s name, age and hometown were mentioned.
My particular fave was “The Silver Fog was created by Harlan Ellison, Age 46.” His dramatic, if unconventional, entrance on the splash page is lovingly reproduced for you below:
Would have given anything to see my Danger Man recreated by the legendary Carmine Infantino, but that exceptionally high airmail fee dashed all my plans before they could get anywhere.
In case you were wondering where exceptional faves: ROM and Thor can be found, they will be getting their own Posts in due course…
That wardrobe doesn’t store as many comics as one would have liked, but that box contains some of the most significant works sifted through on rainy days or sleepless nights down the years. Most importantly, these comics played a major role in influencing and shaping my own writing.
And yes, Brad always had a soft spot for Sunspot: