“Ymir’s Frosty Beard!”: The Weird And Wonderful Realms Of Bronze Age Comics

Because You Demanded It! Brad Gets Lost! But In Which Realm…?

Man-Wolf: “Good Lord! We were on a flying mountain!”

Garth Of Mournhelm: “Calling on yourself already, Stargod? Our world functions on a higher spatio-temporal plane than your own. More things are possible here than you have ever dreamed!” 

Welcome back, True Believers!

Oh, don’t mind the mess.

On this stormy night, your tour guide here is busy supervising his rabble of minions to sort out the multifarious All-Colour delights that have accumulated over this past year. So, what theme for this particular Bronze Age Bonanza? 

During these (dark) times, when most of us would just like to escape, plunging into pulsating pages of fantasy seem the most reassuring answer – why not escape with Brad? Another scintillating variety show has been assembled; mocha and cake await.

Fasten your seatbelts – the awesomeness has been set in an upright position.  

Now, let’s head along the Rainbow Bridge to my all-time fave Otherworldly destination: 

 

Asgard! And – hey! – Olympia too?!

“Thou wouldst hurl skyfire at him who did direct the forging of his son’s own storming-bringing hammer?! Verily, such effrontery doth cry out unto the heavens for punishment!” – Odin All-Father.  

Yes, yes, YES! 

After several months of tracking other cosmic goodies elsewhere, my attention inevitably falls back to the God Of Thunder –

with that legendary run by Big John Buscema especially topping mt shopping list. 

The Mighty Thor is one of my most beloved series; thus, now, more than ever, my scanners have been reprogrammed to seek out anything and everything Asgardian, especially as Thor: Ragnarok-fever gathers apace.

In The Mighty Thor #289 (November 1979) “Look Homeward, Asgardian!” – brought to us by the ever-reliable pen of Roy Thomas, and the ever-exquisite pencils of Keith Pollard – Thor, after seeing his father kneeling before the Celestials, angrily hurls himself at the One Above All. Instead of striking him, he is instantly transported into Olympia. Zuras tells Thor that he has 24 hours to find another solution to the Celestials predicament, before the Uni-Mind will attack. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Karnilla weeps over the body of Balder, then speaks to Frigga about her not being Thor’s real mother.

Jeez! This is a cosmic soap opera! 

Unlike the sentimental tosh we are bombarded with on the telly, this is all engrossing reading. Its one of those ishs where you are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting an awesome page to accompany my rambunctious ruminations, but little can compare to the sheer majesty of Odin riding on his eight-hooved steed: Sleipnir to the realm of Olympus: 

And then we move onto:

 

Lemuria.

“I’ve had enough! There is still time before the wizard Athmar Phong returns at dawn… I will not be in his power!” – Thongor.

From Thor to Thongor! 

Sadly, this is the only clever line you will find in this section.

It has been an absolute joy catching up with Man-Wolf – one of the more intriguing characters to initially spark this craving for classic Bronze Age comics. Unfortunatey, the series carrying his adventures: Creatures On The Loose was cancelled, with two episodes of the Star-God epic failing to see the light of day.

Having searched for earlier ishs: #s 11-17 – containing stories featuring Gullivar Jones (a precursor of John Carter Of Mars), we had to make do with a dose of sword-and-sorcery – #23 (May 1973) in the series: Thongor: Warrior of Lost Lemuria is based on “Thieves Of Zangabal” by Lin Carter. Th cover of “Where Broods The Demon!” features the promising blurb: sword-and-sorcery as only magnificent Marvel can present  it!”

At one point during my teens, sword-and-sopcery was all one craved, but even back then – “By Gorm’s Beard!” – trying to get into this particular ish would still have posed such an unwanted challenge. No point in adding the names of the writer and artist – you will not have heard of them. The art is below-average even by Marvel’s lofty standards, and trying to find suitable speech bubbles to quote proved to be an unnecessary chore. At one point, that green monstrosity (depicted on the cover) blurts:

“I weary of this, fleshthing! I have grown bored!”

Jeez, took the words right outta my mouth, Crocface…

Brad would much rather get stuck in: 

The Shadow Realm!

…than have to sit through another ish in this series.

Wonder Man: “I’m sorry, Mr Bertolini. It’s just that being Wonder Man, it’s hard for me to pretend those cannonballs are hurting me when I can hardly feel them.”

Mr Bertolini: “True, Signore Wonder Man, but I hired you because I thought you could a-act. And-a these cannonballs don’t grow on grapevines, neither! That was the seventh take! I‘m-a disgusted. Let’s-a break for lunch…” 

“At dawn today, our surveillamce planes detected what was apparently a… city materializing in the middle of the Mediterranean. We were sent to investigate when…

“…a tidal wave of hugh proportions swelled up and carried us several miles to this island.”

– so explains the confused captain of a US aircrafl carrier who encounters an otherworldly city: the Shadow Realm, reappearing in the ocean two millennia after it mysteriously vanished. 

In 1981, this series consisted of critically-panned fillers, However, during this period, Genial Gene “The Dean” Colan contributed his legendary art. Glad to say that the monumental ish: #211 – in which “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” were trimmed from eight members down to a combo of six – happened to be my very first Avengers mag!

Twenty years later, it is equally thrilling to have tracked down #207 (May 1981); “Beyond A Shadow…” is an astounding tale of science-fantasy. 

Fortunately, already in Italy is my comedic-double-act-of-the-moment: Wonder-Man (making a spaghetti western) and The Beast (working on his tan and letting the local signorinas stroke his blue fur and what-not). Pretty soon, all the Avengers are on the scene. In a touching interlude (spread out across four wonderful pages) Shadow-Lord tells Wonder-Man’s girlfriend that he is a member of an ancient tribe who “gradually learned to control certain forces of nature.” Feared and shunned by others, they – and their powers – withdrew into the obscurity of history.

But!

Sheesh, there’s always one, isn’t there?!

“Over the aeons, we became aware of a seemingly immortal force of awesome destruction – one who could potentially plunge mankind into an irreversible slide to its doom.”  

Such a tragic end: the Avengers are too late to realise that Shadow-Lord was just a Guardian; the real threat (the one he gave up mortalityand his love – to thwart) comes in the form of The Berserker: that immortal force who – having already conquered the world once in the guise of an ancient Roman emperor – no doubt proves his formidable villainry in the much-sought-after #208! 

All this, AND the Beast bedecked in Hawaiian shirt and shades:

“Oh my stars and garters!”

 

And then it goes all mystic as we are swept into:

The Unreal Realm Inside The Orb Of Agamotto(!)

“The slightest touch of my realm dispels life within you! The sizeable rock which smote the other spirit dispatched it almost instantly, as you saw! Even now, the submicroscopic particles always present in space cut through you…” – Death. 

“Inside was a world of unreality, where a prattling caterpillar told me I had ventured too near illusion in my escape from death, dooming me to this shadowy realm!” 

One of the undeniable pleasures to be gained from this hunt for yesteryears’ awesomeness is catching up with Doctor Strange.

Last year – to prepare myself for Bennybatch’s dip into the MCU – getting acquainted with the Master Of Th Mystic Arts seemed like the obvious – and somewhat tantalising – treat.

But!

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

Talk about getting MORE than you bargained for! Steve Englehart’s scripts are a revelation, and – yes! – the realism evoked by Gene “The Dean” Colan’s pencils is just as magical as anything The Master Of Mystic Arts can conjure.

In this study of the transdimensional realms, Ish #4: “Where Bound’ries… Decay” (October 1974) is brought to us by the equally brilliant artwork of Frank Brunner. Here, by using the necromancy of the Orb of Agamotto to help heal wounds inflicted by Silver Dagger, “suddenly, grotesque tentacles shot forth from the Orb, entangling me, drawing me… inside!”  

Blimey! Never a dull moment with Stephen!

In my restless pursuit of Bronze Age comics, who knew that a descent into the horrific Realm Of Death could make for such an engrossing read?

It is amazing how swiftly Doctor Strange has become one of my fave characters in all o’ Marveldom, and – Oshtur be praised! – this ish is a veritable classic, and would grace anybody’s collection (if you can lay your hands on it). 

Galador! And Wraithworld (in the Dark Nebula)

“…For Galactus has said before, and shall say again, that Galactus is supreme unto himself! Galactus is Galactus! That is all any lesser being ever need know!” – (guess who? 😉 ) Galactus

Regular Followers will know the squidgy and sentimental soft spot that Brad holds for ROM: Th Greatest of the Spaceknights, celebrated in this Post. 

The Marvel Milestone recognised as #25 witnessed ROM’s dramatic return to his beloved homeworld. AND is one of the single most amazing ishs to ever pass through these grubby mitts.

But nothing prepared this blogger for what would transpire in #26 – GALACTUS – YES! GALACTUS, the gargantuan World-Devourer – through his despicable herald: Terrax The Tamer, announces that Galador itself has whetted his dreaded appetite! Thus, the Spaceknights assemble to enact one of the Bronze Age’s most epic battles.

Yet it is the extraordinarily impressive #27 (February 1982) that tickles MY taste buds here. Delivered by the consistently-impressive dynamic duo of Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema: “Turnabout is Fair Play!” witnesses th deal that ROM has made: taking the Devourer of Worlds to the Dark Nebula, and thus rid the Spaceknights of the homeworld of their sworn enemy: the Dire Wraiths. 

But!

Wraithworld is unlike any planet Galactus has ever had to deal with before! 

“Rivers of molten metal scar the surface… Ash as black as night sweeps like a pestilence through the darkling sky!” he complains bitterly.

Moreover, vicious acid rain not only eats away at Galador-forged plandanium armour, but the relentless torrents corrode the mighty Galactus himself and melts his Energy Convertor into elemental slag! Having turned his impatient attention to the Black Sun, Galactus is then set upon by a flock of giant Deathwings: “sorcerous conjurations of a galaxy where all physical laws are ruled by magic most black!”

Not surprisingly, this ish holds a reserved place in my collection.

As one elated Spaceknight herein cries out: “Gods of Golden Galador, yes! YES!”  

Starshine: “Will he consume the Black Sun… or be consumed by it?”

Javelin: “Or will both perish in the attempt?”

ROM: “We dare not remain on Wraithworld to find out, Javelin! Not even our cyborg armour would survive the ensuing cataclysm!”

 

Last BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST(!) comes one of those pinnacles of Bronze Age excellence: 

The Other Realm (And Earth’s Moon)

“Yes! Leap at me, carrion! Come be kissed by my shining hand!” – Duna. 

Aha! THIS is more like it!

Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #45 offers a more satisfying dash of sword-and-sorcery than that Thongor could ever dare to dream… 

In fact, this is the first-part-of-two that should have appeared in Creatures On The Loose. It is really gratifying to see David Kraft and George Perez re-unite to conclude this classic cosmic ceper from beyond the stars – previous episodes were reviewed here:

The concluding instalment (in Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #46) is equally awesome. 

Just seeing Wolfie and his otherdimensional buddies on (flying) horseback jousting in mid-air with the cadaverous horde of Arisen Tyrk is perfect to while away any rainy day. This sums up – in the most groovy manner possible – what Bronze Age comics could deliver at the height of their creative powers.

Mesmerizingly illustrated, this ish not only provides a swell escape from my daily toils and troubles, but inspires me to conjure up my own weird and wonderful worlds. 

On that positive note, here ends this Bronze Age Bonanza!

Keep it cosmic!

“You crummy skeletons think you can pick us off that easily? Eat my fire, bonebags!” – Gorjoon. 

 

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“Life? It’s One Big Phantasmagoria”: Harry Dean Stanton: A Tribute

The Great Harry Dean Stanton Has Passed Away, Aged 91

“There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!” – David Lynch. 

After the overwhelming number of losses we suffered from the movie and music worlds last year, there would be no more heartrending Obituaries on this site. But after learning of the passing of great supporting actor Harry Dean Stanton yesterday, the opportunity to relate what his phenomenal body of work means to me should not go unmentioned.

Born in 1926 in rural Kentucky, after serving as in the Navy during the Second World War, he dropped out of studying Journalism at college – don’t blame you, Harry (that route didn’t become one of my best life-choices) – to attend acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949.

After gaining small parts in Western TV shows, he was able to make a poignant mark in a classic Paul Newman movie. Cool Hand Luke (1967) is one of the most powerful dramas ever produced. One of its numerous highlights is Harry’s moving rendition of that ol’ gospel song: Just a Closer Walk with Thee:

With his “weatherbeaten visage and anti-heroic mien” he lent considerable gravitas to a wide range of cool movies. Harry Dean Stanton was one of Kelly’s Heroes (1970); he played a gay hitchhiker in Two Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman’s existential road movie from 1971; and – goddamnit!things ain’t workin’ out” for outlaw Homer Van Meter, fleeing Ben Johnson’s G-Men in the brilliant Dillinger (1973):

“Here kitty kitty! Ah… kitty crap…” – Brett. 

Besides a brief appearance in The Godfather Part II, he got involved in another five-star masterpiece during th ’70s. Ridley Scott cast him as a crew member aboard the ill-fated Nostromo in Alien (1979)

At first, he felt reluctant to commit to a “monster movie,” but still managed to create an iconic hangdog cosmic labourer with – let’s face it – the coolest shirt beyond the stars… right?: 

In 1981, Harry played Brain in John Carpenter’s cult classic: Escape From New York.

Let’s not forget – how can we?! – his speed-sniffing car repossessor in Repo Man (1984) and Molly Ringwald’s hopeless dad in Pretty In Pink (1985).

He played St Paul in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1987); Toot Toot in the Stephen King adaptation The Green Mile (1999); and, appeared in several projects by David Lynch, including Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and, latterly, The Straight Story and Inland Empire.

“…You did scare the hell out of some pigeons though. Big and green, and buck-assed nude… You an alien…? From outer space, an alien?” – Harry The Security Guard. 

“I needed to get Banner from the horror of what he had done… He needs somebody who will just accept him,” said Joss Whedon in an interview to promote his blockbuster The Avengers (2012).

Having come face-to-face with the classic xenomorph, Harry would easily accept a green goliath in downtown Manhattan quite well. It was a pleasant surprise to see Harry Dean Stanton in a sweet – albeit brief – cameo in The Avengers (2012).

Harry Dean Stanton in the MCU? Well why on Earth not?! 

His participation came through The Avengers’ Director of Photography, who had just been making a documentary about this cult supporting actor. Overwhelmed at having the great man on board, Whedon ended up writing 13 pages devoted to this small and surreal scene, knowing that much of the filmed material would end up on the cutting room floor anyway. 

“I was like, oh, this is great, Banner falls into a Coen Brothers movie!” Whedon continued. “The fact that they [the producers] even let me keep that concept and that we actually landed Harry Dean to play it was very exciting.”

“And besides, to work with Harry Dean and to quiz him about Alien and The Missouri Breaks? What a privilege.”

“He ran through the flames toward the only two people he loved… but they were gone. His arms were burning, and he threw himself outside and rolled on the wet ground. Then he ran. He never looked back at the fire. He just ran. He ran until the sun came up and he couldn’t run any further. And when the sun went down, he ran again. For five days he ran like this until every sign of man had disappeared…” – Travis Henderson.

There was indeed a “peculiar kind of sadness,” about Harry Dean Stanton – mix of vulnerability, honesty and laconic perseverance. 

This would appear most evident in Paris Texas (1984) – his only lead role – perhaps the movie he will be best remembered for, and certainly the one with which he was most fond. Having got drunk with writer Sam Shepard, Stanton found himself offered the lead in Wim Wenders’ Palme d’Or winning gem.

When it came to choosing a suitable clip to honour his Lifetime Achievements, this one – obviouslyhad to be selected.

Brad and his father instantly fell for this mesmerising road movie. Dad enjoyed Ry Cooder’s music even more. Within this enigmatic movie lay some astonishing similarities: both he and Travis found themselves as father to a charming blond moppet relatively late in life.

After The Original Brad became One With The Force, this song remained on my mind – and in my heart – for many months after…

Very few supporting actors could elicit laughter, gasps, screams and tears from me, but with this fella from Kentucky, you could be certain you were going to see something really special. Every time.

Thanks for everything, Harry…

“After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play. If I never did another film after Paris, Texas I’d be happy” – Harry Dean Stanton.

 

“He’s A Friend From Work!”: The Joys Of Marvel’s Shared Universe

Asgardians Of The Galaxy!

Thor: “We’re the same, you and I. We’re just a couple of hotheaded fools.”

Hulk: “Yes, same. Hulk like fire, Thor like water.”

Thor: “We’re both like fire.”

Hulk: “Hulk like raging fire. Thor like smouldering fire.”

So much has happened since Brad last saw you!

Firstly, last week proved exceedingly exhausting – both physically and mentally. Writing has been so-so: reasonably good stuff, but not to my “usual” mind-blowing standards – been writing my wrongs, so to speak – ha! 

Actually, my creative output in the meantime has concentrated on my artwork – some extraordinary prelims and portraits produced; need to find the most effective means to publish them online! 

The most obvious reason keeping me away from you, my lovelies, involves Marvel comic books. Had two more successful shopping trips – rare interludes of bliss amidst the draining monotony of 21st century “life.” 

And typical! Stay offline for just one day last weekendreturn to technology to find a veritable stream of sensational stuff from San Diego Comic Con. By far the most amazing reveal came in the form of the second trailer for Thor: Ragnarok: 

Okay, so fart and furious fanboy here is a HUGE Thor fan – thus, naturally he believes this IS going to be one of the best Marvel Studios blockbusters ever. Looking at it calmly from a neutral perspective… BY THE BRISTLING BEARD OF ODIN!! ‘Tis STILL going to be a Winner!!

It will see the God of Thunder team-up with the Green Goliath. Incidentally, this is a pipping pairing that one could never have envisaged back in the day, nor has it emerged this past year during my valiant pursuit of Bronze Age comics. And yet this couple of hotheaded fools look like they could be a winning combination. Also, we are assured of a cameo from Bennybatch as Doctor Strange! Never has the old saying: “The more the merrier” been so apt! But this is in keeping with the spirit of sharing and co-operation that abounds in the original comics.

Embarking on this research to find out what history this Odd Couple had enjoyed together turned up some intriguing results well worth… sharing! 😉

This Post offers just a mere fraction of the degrees of collaboration to be discovered around the Marvel Comics Universe. 

Come and enjoy the ride, fellow Marvelites!

“Yes, Hulk was Avenger once… Didn’t like it…” – Hulk. 

In Defenders #10 (November 1973) The Avengers Vs. The Defenders Chapter 9: Breakthrough! The Incredible Hulk Vs. The Mighty Thor, both Hulk and Thor have arrived in Los Angeles, determined to find the Evil Eye. This signals the arrival of Dormammu: one of Dr. Strange’s demon foes.

Only the intervention of both afore-mentioned combined super-ensembles could break them apart!

Just before these details could be frantically jotted onto my shopping list, so it didn’t come as any surprise to learn that this ish is ultra-rare – going for ridiculous three-figure prices on e-bay.  

So, as you can see, once Hulk starts talking in the comics, he don’t ‘alf rabbit! Brad may look stoopid but even he is not daft enough to try and tell the big green fella to shut his cakehole…

 

We couldn’t finish this particular segment without a mighty THROOM!

Puny god…?

 

Spider-Man: “Iron Man!! I should have guessed! You’re Tony Stark’s bodyguard, aren’t you?” 

Iron Man: “That’s right, Spider-Man! What was all that ruckus I heard? What’s going on here??”

Earlier this month, in the surprisingly very entertaining Spider-Man: Homecoming, we were treated to the goofy Queens teen getting the mentor-treatment from Tony Stark/Iron Man.

Undeniably, Spidey is Marvel Comics’ most iconic figure, albeit one that admittedly never chewed up my pocket money. Deluged by sequels and reboots in recent times, it is now hard to imagine that the eternally youthful webslinger had to begin somewhere. And so it was, the very first ish of Spider-Man (March 1963), the young webhead received supporting turns from the well-established Fantastic Four. 

A great way to get acquainted with as many Marvel characters as poss – particularly upholding that Marvel spirit of collaboration –involves Spidey‘s second regular series: Marvel Team-Up (commencing in 1969), in which he was accompanied by a different Special Guest Star in each ish.

Marvel Team-Up #9 (May 1973) The Tomorrow War! features Spidey’s first and most memorable collaboration with the Armored Avenger. 

Never a dull moment at Avengers Mansion! When the awesome abode is enveloped in a mysterious energy barrier, both Iron Man and Spider-Man go to investigate. After unsuccessful attempts to breach the barrier, a portal appears and the two heroes travel into it. Finding themselves transported to the 23rd Century, the two battle all manner of futuristic weapons. With the aid of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man, they have to fight off Kang the Conquerer: a regular Silver Age Avengers foe.

However, following intense analysis, your correspondent still cannot fathom why Spider-Man is hyphenated, but Iron Man isn’t…

Nick Fury: “Stark – what about that little item I asked ya ta whip up fer S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

Tony Stark: “It wasn’t easy, Colonel, but I think I’ve got it! Do you want me to have it sent to your weaponry section?” 

Nick Fury: “Naw – just put it under yer pillow’n maybe the good fairy’ll letcha make a wish over it. What in blue blazes do ya think I want, Mister? Git it over ta me on the double, hear?” 

Isn’t it marvellous 😉 how some of Marvel’s best ishs could emerge from the most unlikely sources?

Even when Brad was, oh, about that high, The Silver Surfer held zero appeal: no groovy costume. And: zooming through the cosmos on a surfboard? Even when you’re SIX,  that concept sounds/looks bloomin’ bonkers.  

However!

Put that concept to the indomitable creative duo of Stan Lee and John Buscema = the thrill-power intensifies!

In #17 (November 1973), willed by Mephisto to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D., the Surfer has to confront Nick Fury, but along the way there are enjoyable cameos from Tony Stark and the Fantastic Four. Having vowed never to harm humans, the Surfer’s reluctance to engage in combat convinces the Earthbound heroes that a higher force is at work; thus, a truce is established which thoroughly dischuffs Mephisto no end!

Again, this classic tale could only have reached my collection via much cheaper, more accessible means: a reprint in a Marvel UK Weekly (working on a full study of these obscure titles for a forthcoming Post!)

J. Jonah Jameson: “I was afraid of this – the story about an alien on the loose has created a panic! But I felt it was my journalistic duty to print it! It didn’t hurt sales any, either! No one can dampen my mood tonight! …Except him!” 

Spider-Man: “The ol’ Spider-senses are tinglng a bit… but nothing like a deadly creature from outer space!”

Daredevil: “My hypersenses cannot pinpoint it!”

Captain America: “Is there really an alien wreaking death and destruction throughout the city or are the media acting irresponsibly?” 

Edwin Jarvis: “Are you not going to join the hunt for the alleged alien, sir?”

Iron Man: “No, Jarvis, the sight of a man encased in armor might be mistaken for the “robot-alien.” I don’t want to add to the panic.”

A random rummage through my own Bronze Age comic collection soon presents an example where multifarious members of Marveldom united to see off an alien threat (in, you know, that hub of extraterrestrial entanglements: downtown Manhattan).

ROM #23 (October 1981), sees the Galadorian Spaceknight himself regarded as the threat(!) Having convinced two local enhanced individuals that the real menace exists in the malevolent, shapeshifting forms of the Dire Wraiths, (in Power Man and Iron Fist #73 – reviewed here) the terrific trio have to convince Reed Richards, the security system @ Baxter Building (the F4’s HQ) – not to mention the National Guard! – that this plandanium dude is actually an honourable ally. 

In a staggering feat of generosity and goodwill (the likes of which yours truly can only dream of during working hours), Richards lends the Spaceknight a captured Skrull spacecraft so he can return to his home planet: Galador. As he departs, he utters the same line that Brad would say unto you, dear Follower:

“You have all shown me a side to humanity I have seen too seldom in my time on Earth. I cannot find the words to express my gratitude.”

“Soundlessly, the Skrull saucer bearing Rom lifts off from the Baxter Building.

“Farewell, my friends.”

“Soon, it passes beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

“Farewell, Earth.”

“Then there are only…

“The stars!” 

“…And beyond.”

 

By The Great Nebula!: My Bronze Age Comics Collection Has Outgrown Its Own Containment Vessel!!

Stop! Zap-Hammer Time! 

“You scoff, man of the Kree. What would you say if I told you that an Earthling had knowledge of the Omni-Wave?! A weapon capable of obliterating entire solar systems. And that woman knows how to build one!” – Ronan The Accuser. 

“And as the giant ship leaves the Earth’s atmosphere, the port through which she entered seals with a crackle of alien energy. 

“While deep within the awesome vessel: 

“Well, Johnny, I’ve always wanted to be on your show, but where are Doc And The Band?”

Yes!

We return, True Believers, to the bulging batch of bloomin’ bountiful Bronze beauties that constitute my ever-expanding Bronze Age comics collection!

And lo!

‘Tis a day upon which to rejoice! It is a year ago to the day since this collection began! So many excellent ishs have graced the substantial box recruited to stock them, but, in truth, some now lie scattered around the Drawing Room, straight through my Inner Sanctum (not surprisingly), and here, sprawled across my desk within my Control Centre as these words were frantically typed.    

Please don’t worry about that loud scraping you can hear in the background – have set me minions to work rearranging these gargantuan piles of Bronze Age awesomeness! 

So, where to begin?!

Ah, what the hey, this survey’s too good t’miss!

“I want an education. A chance to be all I could be – huh?!? Air force-? Well, why the heck not?!” – Carol Danvers. 

“The Millennia Bloom flares to life within the Crystal Cell, its gentle coruscating light painting Ms Marvel in rainbow colours…”

Welcome to the Bronze Age, man!

As previously mentioned on these Posts, Ms Marvel has proved too much of a hit-and-miss title for me. Fortunately, however, upon learning that the art for #19 (Aug 1978) was done by Carmine Infantino, before you can say: “Love me, love my zap-hammer,” it had taken a coveted place in the Bradscribe Prestige Collection i.e. top of the pile.  

The cover teases a cameo by Captain Marvel, but a dramatic intervention by Ronan (“You called me boy!”) the Accuser ups the thrill-power quite considerably. When wicked villain: Supremor subjects our heroine to a mind-probe, we are treated to a sensational biography of Carol Danvers: from her father letting only her brother go to college; her rebellion by joining the USAF; becoming NASA’s Chief of Security where she meets Captain Marvel; and being genetically reconstructed inside the Psyche-Magnitron by accident (in that inimitable Marvel way?).

And – oh yesstay one step ahead of Ronan’s zap-hammer… 

The Vision: “Even I, since Wanda, my wife, departed on extended leave, have felt an uncharacteristic emptiness, a gnawing. Almost… almost as though I were a bridge without a shore.” 

Jocasta: “Why, Vision, that’s lovely! It’s almost poetic!”

The Vision: “What? No! It’s not! Poetry is a human folly! And I… AM NOT…

…HUMAN!”

Well, bless my zap-hammer!

One of the indisputable joys of Bronze Age comics just has to be The Avengers. 

Constant changes of artists may have condemned Ms Marvel to a premature cancellation, but the ploy actually benefitted Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

Ish #194 (April 1980) offers a superb script by David Michelnie and ace art by George (Man-Wolf!) Perez, the condition of my ish is immaculate – surely, no other mitts have touched its pages these past 37 years! (Wake up – smell the mint). 

As a big fan of The Vision, his extraordinary character is developed very well here. And truly, one of the inestimable delights of this era is catching up with that forever-entertaining double act of Wonder Man and The Beast:

“These refreshments should be sufficient for the Avengers’ Conference. Though I do hope Master Beast will let some of the others try the banana cake this time” – Jarvis.

Drone R-II: “Is Galactus not awe-inspiring? Wil it not be an honor for you to serve him, even as I serve him?” 

Dazzler: “No! It will not be an honor! The only honor I want is a gold record – but then, that‘s not cosmic enough for you to understand.”

Ships computers have homed in on the being you seek, Master. Subject is located on the third planet of the Sol system: Earth. She is called Alison Blaire. Also… the Dazzler.”

Having dismissed the Dazzler – and she was a sensibly-dressed lass too! – ’twas not long before she made a triumphant return to the shopping list of Brad The Merciful. 

You only have to slip in the name of GALACTUS and yours truly will be guaranteed to snap it up!

In Dazzler #10 (December 1981) the genetic mutate who can convert sound energy into light is commanded by that colossal Devourer Of Worlds to venture inside a black hole and return his estranged treacherous herald: Terrax The Tamer to face the wrath of Galactus!

It impressed me so much that we are now on the lookout for Dazzler #11!

“And now, I know ye all would know how ’tis that a mere mortal became a new, more powerful incarnation of Thor himself!” – Loki. 

Since being overawed by that Thor: Ragnarok trailer a couple of months back, Hera – the Goddess of Death from Niffleheim – has been on my mind.

As the incomparable John Buscema’s penultimate ish as awesome artist, The Mighty Thor #277 (November 1978). “Time of the Trolls” sees the God of Thunder bereft of Mjolnir – nay! naught e’en a zap-hammer doth he hath!! – as he confronts the hordes of Hela.

In addition to some ultracool scenes with Hela, there is a suitably sinister turn by that ne’er-do-well God of Mischief: Loki. 

It won’t startle you to learn that Thor #278 has also swiftly swung into my possession! 

“Not bad, folks. I’ve seen some heavy stompin’ in my time… but this takes the cake. Hey, One-Eye, we got what we came for, right? That princess chick? How ’bout we head on home while we got the chance?” – Wolverine. 

Can’t complete this Post without including my fave team: the X-Men.

The now-legendary Claremont/Byrne run can go for up to TWENTY POUNDS EACH; the Classic X-Men series commenced in 1986 to reprint the earliest stories also featuring sterling artwork by Dave Cockrum – but even those ishs are now difficult to find. 

#14 (October 1987, but reproducing work first published in 1978): “Where No X-Man Has Gone Before!” sees our beloved mutants cast through an alien stargate to the other side of the galaxy where they must combat Gladiator and his gang of praetorian guards (i.e. more “costumed creeps”). Cyclops et al are aided in their struggle to free Princess Lilandra by – oh yes!the Starjammers. 

This series excelled because, in addition, each ish included a bonus story pencilled by John Bolton. The extra tale presented here: “What Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of…” is one of the best, with a lone Lilandra making a perilous spaceflight to reach Xavier…

Professor Xavier’s students have long held a special place in my heart (as well as my archives!) It has been an absolute blast catching up with this particular series – one of the main reasons why this belated Bronze Age quest set out in the first place.

And lo, they did NOT NEED zap-hammers to become legends… 

Phantastisch! Eat your heart out, George Lucas. This is a real Star Wars!” – Nightcrawler.

“Incredible! The body of one is so powerful, so dense that even the rays of the Analyzer cannot penetrate it, and the other one pulses with strange power… a force that is somehow concentrated in the brand on his chest” – ROM. 

Still actively seeking back ishs of Power Man and Iron Fist! 

Incidentally, the (mis)adventures of Marvel’s most boisterous boys were handled brilliantly by one of the few women writing comics at that time: Mary Jo Duffy.

Aha! When you can get three Marvel legends for the price of two – especially in the amazing classic that is #73 (September 1981) – you don’t hang around! “Wraith, Colour And Creed” begins with ROM: Galador’s Greatest Spaceknight rampaging through the terrified throng of Times Square, zapping (with his Neutralizer, NOT a hammer!) a select few, while sparing others. Just doing his noble duty, banishing DIRE Wraiths to limbo, of course, but as far as Luke and Danny are concerned, this is a “murderin’ tin man” and they’ve “gotta score t’settle.” The way in which Rom ultimately convinces them that he is indeed one of the good guys is superb.  

The guest pencils by Greg La Rocque are fab, while – as usual – Mary Jo crafts a splendid yarn. 

Ah, some great times were had back in the Bronze Age – still the BEST era for comics imo. 

Tell me: in the glossy Marvel mags of today, do Steve “Hydra” Rogers, Kamala Khan – or even the female Thor for that matter – wield a mighty zap-hammer?

Nah, thought not. Brad rests his case… 

“Birds… They turned into flippin’ birds an’ flew away. I saw it. If what Rom’s sellin’ us is straight, anyone I know could be one’a them things… anyone… Birds. Jeez…” – Luke Cage. 

 

The Unusual Suspects: Getting To Grips With The Guardians Of The Galaxy

Puttin’ The Groot In…

“This may not be the best idea…” – Rhomann Dey.

I can’t stop this feeling, deep inside of me…”

In other words, the sheer anticipation of waiting for the release of one of the MCU’ s finest…

Back in the Summer of ’14, when Guardians Of The Galaxy – Marvel Studios’ biggest gamble, featuring a bunch of unknown misfits – defied all odds to become the most successful (and our favourite!) movie of the season, but we were crestfallen to learn that we would have to wait THREE YEARS for the inevitable sequel.

Now! Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 opens next week, but here in the UK tomorrow.

Eager to learn more about this cool cosmic combo – especially during these past few months – this blogger did what he does best: research. Was amazed to discover that, once upon a time, the Guardians HAD been a part of my infant reading time, although they existed in a different guise.

Very different…

“Drop the leg and return to your cell!” – Kyln Prison Guard.

The original Guardians Of The Galaxy made their debut in the Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (January 1969), written by Arnold Drake and illustrated by the incomparable Gene Colan. They later starred in Marvel Presents #3–12 (Feb. 1976 – Aug. 1977), and were – apart from a certain Yondu Udonta – completely unrecgnisable from the irascible yet intriguing gang we embraced in the 2014 movie.

Their adventures took place in the 31st century in an alt-time-line of the Marvel Universe on Earth-691. Consisting of Charlie-27: a soldier from Jupiter; Martinex: a crystalline Pluvian; Yondu: Last of the Zatoans of Centauri IV, with a large red fin protruding from the back of his head; Starhawk: an anti-hero, aka Stakar of the House of Ogord; and Nikki: a genetically-engineered Mercurian girl. They were led by Major Vance Astro (who just happened to be an astronaut from 20th century Earth!)

Strangely enough, these earliest strips were reprinted in (Marvel UK’s) Star Wars Weekly (1978).

In later, sporadic appearances, they were aided in their ongoing struggle against the Badoon by such legends as Captain America, The Thing and the Defenders.

The Guardians we know and love from the movie did not make their comics debut together until 2008, although each character had made separate appearances much earlier.

Confusingly, Starlord also emerged in those same ishs of Star Wars Weekly, but with his own separate (reprinted) strip, illustrated by the great Carmine Infantino.

“Do you got any other cute little buggers like this one? I like to stick ’em all in a row on my control console” – Yondu Udonta.

“What matters is telling a great story,” director James Gunn explained while discussing the eight-month writing process from which this sequel came to fruition. Encouragingly, he describes Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 as a continuation, rather than a replication of what thrilled us first time round.

As you have probably surmised by now, Brad digs his SF quotes, and James Gunn (and Nicole Perlman!) did us proud with a cracking script full of witty and wonderful lines. So, naturally, one expects Vol. 2 to exude the same levels a’ fun and energy.

And then some…

“Some of our sets at the end of the film are over a trillion polygons, which is by far the biggest visual effects of all time…”

Fortunately, early Reviews sound promising. What sounds really encoraging is the development of most, if not all, main characters, plus the introduction of a few interesting new faces, such as Mantis and Ayesha. Considering how all Gamora did during her big screen debut was just twist and shout, it would be great to see her do something more substantial. Also, one of the faults of the first film – Nebula barely making her mark on proceedings – will be rectified this time as she now appears as a new member of the team!

Oh, Kurt Russell?! Whoa, this Post is already brimming with plenty a’ awesomeness as it is – phew! (This icon will be blessed with his own Bradscribe Post, possibly as early as next week!)

Yes, of course – and this goes without sayin’ – Baby Groot is just TOO ridiculously cute! Got Groot gifs gracing me Media Library already – and that ain’t a bad thing!

All in all, be prepared to laugh loads.

And cry buckets…

Last – and by no means least – you know what the MCU is like regarding its post-credit scenes: Vol. 2 has five – yes! Count ’em: FIVE!!post-credit scenes!

And who thought three years ago that we would be speculating as to who Sylvester Stallone – yes! Sylvester Stallone! – would be playing in Vol. 2? Supposedly he will feature somewhere among this special quintet of extras…

With Kurt Russell confirmed to co-star, people got excited over a potential Tango And Cash reunion.

Not so, laughed Gunn. “I think the more important relationship is between Stallone and Michael Rooker” he confirmed. “So [Vol. 2]’s more of a Cliffhanger reunion.”

Cliffhanger, eh? What better way to leave us on tenterhooks…

“Hooked On A Feeling! Blue Swede! 1973! That song belongs to me!” – Peter Quill.

It’s all a bit a’ fun…

So, the long-awaited Guardians Of The Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 2 Soundtrack was released this past week. Three years ago, just like everybody else, yours truly compiled his own list, trying to predict what Mummy Quill’s Awesome choices might be.

After rackin’ me mental jukebox, and twistin’ the Power Cosmic, these records (having been locked away in the vaults @ Brad Manor for the past three years), are what Brad came up with:

 

  1. Blind Faith – “Can’t Find My Way Home”
  2. Bob Seger System – “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”
  3. Cream – “I Feel Free”
  4. Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”
  5. Free – “All Right Now”
  6. Golden Earring – “Radar Love”
  7. Jefferson Starship – “Miracles”
  8. Pilot – “Magic”
  9. The Rolling Stones – “Time Is On My Side”
  10. The Steve Miller Band – “Take The Money And Run”
  11. Sweet“Hell Raiser”
  12. T. Rex – “Cosmic Dancer” (or “Life’s A Gas”)
  13. Thin Lizzy – “The Boys Are Back In Town”
  14. Traffic – “Dear Mr. Fantasy”

 

So…

1 & a half out of 14 – not bad, huh?

Personally GUTTED that no T. Rex track made it.

Come on!

Cosmic Dancer describes Peter perfectly, doesn’t it? But after the big reveal of who/what his Dad is, Life’s A Gas came to mind: “I could have loved you like a planet” – eh, eh?!

The Steve Miller Band was a crafty choice – in Peter’s case it’s: Take The Orb And Run – ha ha!

The Boys Are Back In Town could only be played in a sequel – thought that number would be an obvious choice…

And as for Jefferson Starship: that IS the tune Peter and Gamora dance to… surely?!

Hey, hey, see how it all works together? Ha, ha, not just a pretty face, me!

Okay, so the rest of me – espesh my (woeful) powers of prediction – s’outta place. Maybe should have plumped for this one – it’s probably the standout track of this compilation:

“I can’t believe I’m taking orders from a hamster…” – Denarian Saal.

 

“I live for the simple things… like how much this is going to hurt! Yeah, writhe, little man…” – Rocket Raccoon.

Doctor Strange: The Bradscribe Review

Open Your Eye…

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“It’s Strange” – Doctor Strange.

“Maybe, who am I to judge?” – Kaecilius. 

When you’re strange, faces come out of the rain.

When Bennybatch is Strange, Marvel go ALL OUT to make the fourteenth – and latest – entry in their formidable Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange, a spectacular and one-heckuva-trippy outing. 

Straight after the new, enhanced Marvel Studios logo is unveiled, we are led on a blistering ride of energy-harnessing and reality (re)shaping.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a long way from Holmes in the role of arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, whose self-centred world comes crashing down around him after losing the use of his hands in a horrific car accident. He is advised to travel to Nepal, where answers of a mystic kind can be attained… providing he foregoes his stubborn defeatist attitude that “this material universe is all there is.”

Cumberbatch has the right look, mood and elocution to create this extraordinary character – no wonder the studio upheld production until he had completed his Hamlet sting in London’s West End!

Having got over initial reservations concerning visuals designed TOO closely to the aesthetic originally concocted for Inception and The Matrix, such scenes as soaring through the multi-dimensional vortices and the confrontation with the dread Dormammu are suitably good fun.

“Have you seen THAT at a gift shop?”

Fortunately, complementing the impressive visuals is a really snappy script: bold, intellectual, coherent and invariably humorous. 

For a handy intro to this character, see here:

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“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?” – The Ancient One. 

Much controversy centred around Tilda Swinton’s casting as The Ancient One. Changing the ethnicity to Celtic (?!) was (ahem) strange, but when you consider that the original setting for all those mystic arts was switched from Tibet to Nepal so as to appease the Chinese box office, it all becomes so painfully politically “correct.”

By the Rings of Raggadorr, the Power of Yen conquers all it seems. Business is – annoyingly, regrettably – business. 

Wong (Benedict Wong)his forever-faithful, forever-making-tea manservant from the comics – has been upgraded to Head Librarian. Amazingly, the titular role and the librarian are both played by top British thesps who share the same forename: Benedict – how strange!

Kaecilius – as noted before, is a character NOT found in the comics. Maybe he is not given as many memorable dastardly moments as we would like, but hey! The fact that it is played to sinister perfection by Mads Mikkelsen, possibly my – and your! – fave villainous character actor provides enough reason to rejoice.

And when you’re starting to wonder how this visual treat ties in with the rest of the MCU, there IS the honorary Stan Lee cameo – that is hilarious! To help bring further MCU relevance to these proceedings, Wong helpfully states:

“The Avengers protect the world from physical enemies… we safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

Too right, Wong!

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“Steve Ditko is one of the greatest Marvel artists in history… We are now able to take his trippy comic panels and have the technology to put that into big 3-Dimensional space on a movie screen… it’s amazing” – Kevin Feige. 

Okay, let’s get the most annoying problem (which applies to too many movies these days, not just Doctor Strange) out of the way first.

As is all too painfully predictable in modern cinema these days, Rachel McAdams has woefully little to do here, worryingly described as the “love interest.” As is so often, her “appearance” is reduced to insipid underdevelopment. And Stephen shows little Interest anyway. Yet again, we are left wondering what necessitated her inclusion at all…

It would have been really groovy if Martin Freeman’s American character from Cap America: Civil War had made a cameo somewhere here! Talk about opportunity missed…

Once again – as expected, Vishanti be praised! – Marvel has produced another great hit. It’s well worth checking out. Remember to stay for the post-cred scenes; BOTH are impressive – one features a cameo from one of Marvel’s well-established heroes (Hint: he does NOT like tea!)

As for me, multiple repeat viewings are assured – while you go and enjoy this one, Brad will be pleasantly coming down. Preferably with tea.

No mushrooms! Just tea. With a little honey. 

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 Eyes of Agamotto out of 5 – hey, four Eyes is nothin’ ta snigger at!

Strange Love: Meditating With The Master Of The Mystic Arts

Strange Days Have Found Us;

Strange Days Have Tracked Us Down…

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“The realms of imagination are misty places to be sure, and their relationship to the… horrors of mankind have been given substance in DOCTOR STRANGE… A comic like this doesn’t come along very often… Its depth and underlying richness leaves it virtually alone in the field” – Ralph Macchio. 

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

How strange! 

The top minds @ Marvel Studios have, in their infinite wisdom, deemed it imperative to give us a movie featuring Doctor Strange: one of the most unusual characters from the extensive Marvel canon.

Being a Master of Arts myself (MA Hons. Archaeology) – ha, yes! Not just a pretty face, me! – with my trusty Trowel of Destiny, yours truly is perfectly qualified to dig through the ancient tomes and extricate musty reams of esoteric knowledge to elucidate some of the best – albeit the most extraordinary – stories featuring the Sorcerer Supreme, to prepare you for the forthcoming movie. 

Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the character made his debut in 1964, in Strange Tales #110, with his origins tale appearing in #116. The first volume of his own series began in the 60s, but, after a poor run, it was relaunched in 1974.

Once, Dr. Stephen Strange had been “a worldly man, seduced and jaded by material things. But then he discovered the separate reality, where sorcery and men’s souls shaped the forces that shape our lives. 

“In that instant, he was born again – a man who left us behind, as he strove to stand against those wretched DC movies the unseen subtle perils hovering thick and black around our fragile existence.”

From within his Sanctum Sanctorum, defending our dimension from the kind of malevolent threats we like to pretend only exist in our worst nightmares; he is aided by copious cupsa tea specially prepared by his ever-faithful Chinese manservant: Wong. 

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“You have saved me, Dr. Strange! I am Eternity! I am life beyond limits – beyond death – beyond end! In short, I am what you see before you: the Universe!” – Eternity.  

In recent weeks, the tale: Spawn of Sligguth (from Marvel Premiere #4, 1972) came into my eager possession. By the Flames of the Faltine! Goodness knows how, for this mini-series from 1972 seems to be extremely rare. The plot was the work of Rascally Roy Thomas and the art supplied by the Bashful Barry Smith.

The first eighteen ishs – written by Stainless Steve Englehart and drawn by Genial Gene Colan – are generally regarded as the Sorcerer Supreme’s most superlative run; so far, ishs # 6, 13 and 17 have been obtained, and their level of intellect and sophistication in storytelling is most impressive. Although the initial concept was all Ditko’s, Colan’s style enhanced the mystical nature of this material. Mere kids stuff it most certainly is not! 

Towards the end of the ’70s, Doctor Strange had become a member of the Defenders, the non-team consisting of Valkyrie and Hell-Cat. Through the tail-end of the 1970s, and into much of the ’80s as well, Roger Stern held sway.

Don’t worry if some of these classics are inaccessible in this dimension. Last year, Marvel resurrected the title and gave the “20th Century’s most powerful sorcerer” 21st Century makeover. Despite being more groovy than mystical, it is one of the more entertaining titles to emerge recently – the cover for #003 (see end image!) always cracks me up. 

For more of my magic-related comics stuff, see here: 

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“One thing you have to say about Marvel is: they are not at all enslaved to the source material, but they are, I think, very good at recognising what made each particular comic great” – Scott Derrickson. 

By the Blessed Beard of Bennybatch!

How Strange… is this?! 

We are just weeks away from the latest release in Phase 3 of the Marvel cinematic juggernaut. 

Having been afflicted with the double trouble from DC/Warner already this year, my expectations for comic book movies have now hit an all-time low – a situation that grates upon me like a spell of dread Dormammu.  

But- curse me for a novice! No need to fret, Dear Friends! 

Are we not in the ever-capable hands of the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe?! The last time they took a notable risk with such obscure material, they gave us Guardians of the Galaxy and look at how well that turned out!

From the look of the latest TV spots and exclusive clips,  the direction of Scott Derrickson appears to be quite capable. It seems most unlikely that you could get a more ideal actor than Benedict Cumberbatch to bring the Sorcerer Supreme to corporeal – and ectoplasmic – life!

To watch Sherlock shouting: “By Raggador’s Ring!” should be really fab!

The villain: Kaecilius does NOT appear in the comics, but no need to summon forth the Eye of Agametto to realise that in Mads Mikkelsen we should be assured of a well creepy turn.

May the power of the eternal Vishanti grant us a highly enjoyable outing to our respective local popcorn parlours come 4 November (or 26 October if you happen to stay on the tea-drinking side of The Pond)!

…And – Demons of Denak! – may it dispel whatever dark force that burns the back of my mind incessantly like the Crimson Crystals of Cyttorak, causing such grim foreboding at this ungodly hour. 

Speaking of tea, fancy a cuppa Jasmine?

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“Eh? What…? Tea, you say? I have been deep in meditation, lost in the vapours of the Cauldron of the Cosmos, for too long… 

“My thoughts are still unfocused… But I believe a soothing cup of tea would be just what I require. You sense my needs as always, old friend” – Doctor Strange.