Wednesday, 30 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1969

As you can see from the picture above, 1969 saw the first appearance of Havok, who was the long-lost brother of the X-Men's Cyclops. Well, one of them anyway.

1969 also saw the arrival of the 31st century Guardians of the Galaxy, as opposed to the 21st century whom I've come to love in recent years. In the pages of Captain America, a new hero was appearing, the Falcon, which gave the Marvel universe the grand total of 2 black heroes. (DC fans needn't gloat, since it'd be the mid-70s before they managed even one black hero.)

Meanwhile, in 1969, Tricky Dickie was being sworn in as President. The Beatles were splitting up. And man was landing on the moon. On the television, kid's icon, Scooby Doo made his debut, as did Monty Python's Flying Circus, as well as the endlessly-popular Benny Hill. At the pictures, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were Easy Riders, whilst Michael Cane was embarking on The Italian Job. Meanwhile, on the novel front, The Godfather was doing good business, and Billy Pilgrim was spastic in time.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1968

The third of Marvel's late-60s twin-books was Strange Tales, in which Nick Fury shared the spotlight with Dr Strange. The issue above, the Fury portion of which was created by Jim Steranko, featured all sorts of super-spy hijinks, with Fury taking on the Yellow Claw, or a reasonable fascimile, whilst Dr Strange was entering the domain of Yandroth, under the watchful eyes of Denny O'Neil (in one of his few jobs at Marvel) and Dan Adkins.

1968 also saw the arrival of Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, as well as the Vision, two heroes who would henceforth appear as second-stringers within the pages of the Avengers. Over in the X-Men, Polaris was being unveiled as the daughter of Magneto. That wouldn't last.

Elsewhere in 1968, Bobby Kennedy was, briefly, standing for President of the USA. Czechoslovakia was invaded by its next-door neighbour. And Enoch Powell became the most notorious politician in England.

At the pictures, Oliver! was winning the Best Picture Oscar, while Planet of the Apes and 2001 were becoming sci-fi cult classics. On TV, Dad's Army was gearing up for its 9 year run, whilst Philip K. Dick was writing sci-fi cult-classic-to-be Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?.

Monday, 28 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1967

Marvel's other two-hander book of the 60s was Tales of Suspense, in which arch-conservative hero, Iron Man, shared the headline with democratic poster-boy, Captain America, forging a friendship which would last the next 40 years...

Elsewhere in comics, 1967 saw the first appearance of the future X-Man, Banshee, begorah bejesus, as well as the Kree supersoldier, Captain Marvel, and fellow cosmic hero, Adam Warlock, or, as he was known in them thar days, Him. Yes, even by then, all the good names were taken.

In the real world, 1967 saw both America and Russia suffer space-related tragedy, with the destruction of Apollo 1 and Soyuz 1. Most of the Middle East was getting briefly embroiled in the Six Day War, and Concorde was unleashed.

On the telly, Patrick McGoogan was stranded in a Welsh village with a load of posh spies and a giant balloon, in The Prisoner, whilst wheelchair-bound Ironside was cracking San Francisco murders aplenty. At the movies, Mowgli was learning the bear necessities in The Jungle Book, Lee Marvin was leading the Dirty Dozen, and Dustin Hoffman was fending off Ann Bancroft in The Graduate. And on the radio, BBCs 1 through 4 were launched.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1966

By 1966, everyone who was everyone in the Marvel Universe had their own title. Even headliners of previously-cancelled books, like the Hulk, or remnants of the golden age, like Namor, were being given the chance to co-pilot a book - in this case, Tales to Astonish, which had starred Ant-Man, until Stan saw sense and put a couple of remotely ineresting characters into the book instead.

1966 would also see the first appearance of the Silver Surfer, herald to Galactus, and of the Mimic, another sometime hero / occasional villain. The Black Panther battled the Fantastic Four in his hidden kingdom of Wakanda.

Outside of comics, Rhodesia was becoming independent of British rule, after a fashion. Nigeria was in the midst of civil war. Oh, and England won the World Cup. Guess which one of these three events is constantly harped on about by the British press, and which ones have been quietly forgotten.

On the small screek, American geekdom was born with the birth of Star Trek, while superhero fans could watch the not-yet-a-cult-classic Batman show. Meanwhile, the world of children's movies was impoverished, with the death of Walt Disney; the Disney empire would, however, continue to grow.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1965

By 1965, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were collaborating (the depth of that collaboaration depends on whom you believe) on what is arguably the strongest run anyone's ever managed on any Marvel book. The issue above is one of many high points, with the Green Goblin (before he become obsessed with destroying Spider-Man, dead, reborn, or head of Homeland Security) falling out with the Crime-Master over who will rule New York's criminal gangs.

1965 saw the first appearance of Tarzan-knock-off, Ka-Zar, and the Swordsman, who, like Namor and the Hulk, would spend most of his career chopping and changing between heroism and villainy. Hercules would make his debut, taking on Thor, not for the last time. The Inhumans would make their entrance into the pages of Fantastic Four, another title which was setting a standard which later writers would struggle to even approach. Romance fans might like to note that this year also saw the introduction of Gwen Stacy, who would play something of an important part in the next few decades of Spider-Man.

Elsewhere in 1965, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing in America, with the events of Bloody Sunday heightening tension somewhat. In Britain, the Moors Murderers were arrested, and England's finest, Winston Churchill, was dead.

At the movies, the hills were alive with The Sound of Music. Omar Shariff was portraying Dr Zhivago, while Christopher Lee was camping it up in The Face of Fu Manchu. On the tv, Dr Smith was also camping it up in Lost In Space, while Larry Hagman was becoming a star in I Dream of Jeannie. Meanwhile, bookish types could thrill to the first of many Dune novels.

Friday, 25 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1964

Yes, Thunderbolts fans, that is the self-same Baron Zemo who would go on to become Captain America's WW2 nemesis, who would subsequently go on to found the Masters Of Evil, and whose son would in turn found his own team of Masters, start up the Thunderbolts as the biggest con in history, and eventually become an almost-good-guy. In his first appearance, though, Doctor Zemo was merely one of many Nazi stooges who took on Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos, and lost.

Famously, Sgt Fury was the result of a bet at the Marvel offices, in which Stan Lee wagered that he could make a war comic in the Marvel manner and make it a success. It worked, for at least the next couple of decades, thriving throughout any number of successes and failures at the House of Ideas.

Making a return to regular appearances in 1964 was Captain America, albeit only as a member of the Avengers. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver made their first appearance in this year, as did Daredevil, the Black Widow, Wonder Man, and Hawkeye.

1964 also saw the US Government suggest (god forbid) that smoking cigarettes might be harmful to ones health. The Beatles were conquering America. And IBM were unleashing the S360 mainframe! Meanwhile, the war was hotting up in Vietnam.

At the movies, Clint Eastwood was scowling his way through A Fistful of Dollars, while Santa Claus was Conquering the Martians. Meanwhile, on the telly, Top of the Pops was not yet tragically unhip. The Munsters and the Addams Family were both tearing up the airwaves, as was the Man From UNCLE. And a generation of kids were thrilling to the adventures of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1963

By 1963, Marvel was promoting the Human Torch as its breakout character, giving him his own spotlight title, Strange Tales, a holdover from the pre-superhero horror days, in which Johnny Storm fought such terrors as the Plantman - who would be lame in one form or another for the next. Eventually, Stan would work out that all the cool kids wanted to be the Thing, but for now, the Torch was the most over-exposed character in Marvel's books.

1963 would also see the first appearance of Iron Man, Nick Fury (in both his WW2 and 60s incarnations!), the Wasp, the Avengers, Dr Strange, and the Uncanny X-Men. Yowza!

1963, of course, also saw the death of JFK, and the first episode of Doctor Who, two events which would shape the remainder of the 20th century. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were playing Anthony and Cleopatra, whilst Steve McQueen was practicing bike skills in the Great Escape. Meanwhile, Peter Sellers was stealing the show in the Pink Panther.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1962

1962 saw the expansion of Marvel's new superhero line, with the introduction of the never-quite-not-lame-no-matter-which-identity-he's-using-this-week Hank Pym, seen here getting his arse kicked by a man who's only power is baldness (see also Lex Luthor, Wilson Fisk, Iain Duncan Smith, among others).

'62 also saw the arrival of the Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man, the pillars of the Marvel Universe, as well as the return of the Sub-Mariner, albeit as a bad guy who would pester the FF fir the next couple of years.

In the real world, 1962 saw us dodge nuclear apocalypse, during two weeks in October known to history as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Elsewhere, the military siezed power in Burma, sparking a new socialist paradise which has thrived ever since, according to the Burmese Tourist Board.

At the movies, a plethora of all-time classics were making their first appearance: Lawrence of Arabia; To Kill A Mockingbird; Cape Fear; How The West Was Won; Dr No; The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; Samson vs. the Vampire Women; need I go on? On the small screen, Z-Cars made its first appearance, whilst Roger Moore was polishing his halo as the Saint. Elvis was top of the music charts, and the Beatles were releasing their first single. Good times.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel -1961

And then, in November 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four. And nothing would ever be the same again.

Other things happened in 1961 as well. The Bay of Pigs, for instance. The raising of the Berlin Wall. The birth of the new South Africa. But all these things pale into insignificance compared to the arrival of the FF, don't you agree? Thought as much.

Monday, 21 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1960

Some days I'll write a long screed of junk regarding the subject of the day. And some days I'll just post a picture of a monster named "Shagg" and let the material speak for itself. This is one of those days.

Elsewhere in 1960, Ricardo Klement fell into the hands of Mossad, beginning a slow but certain trip to the gallows. Francis Gary Powers literally fell into the hands of the KGB, and would spend a couple of years in a Russian prison before going home. (Incidentally, his wikipedia entry is worth a visit, if only to read about his hilarious death). And Kennedy was beating Nixon to the Presidency.

At the movies Kirk Douglas was playing games as Spartacus, while Yul Brynner was leading the Magnificent Seven. On tv, the Flintstones were debuting, and perpetually-running soap, Coronation Street, began.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1959

Kid Colt, wikipedia tells me, is "the longest-running cowboy star in American comic-book publishing, featured in stories for a 31-year stretch from 1948-1979". Although, as it hastens to add, it was pretty much a reprint book from 1966. Observant viewers may note that the issue above, #87, features cover art by one Jack Kirby, who was about to become something of an overnight sensation.

Like other early Marvel characters, Kid Colt was introduced into the Marvel Universe, once again by Steve Englehart, who seems to have made a career looting past glories of Marvel:

Kid Colt's appearances have been sporadic over the years, but he's not going to complain. Not after what happened to his pal, the Rawhide Kid.

So, other than Kid Colt celebrating 11 years in publication, what else happened in 1959? Well, Castro was taking over in Cuba. Whatever happened to that guy? Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash. And the international community decreed that Antarctica should become a protected region, thus saving the world forever.

In France, Asterix turned up. Meanwhile, William Burroughs was writing the Naked Lunch, and Robert Bloch was writing Psycho. Juke Box Jury was starting up on tv, as were Bonanza (in colour, no less!) and the Twilight Zone. At the movies, Chuck Heston was starring as Ben-Hur. Cary Grant and James Mason were opposing forces in North by Northwest. But more important than that, Ed Wood's soon-to-be-the-most-famous-bad-film-in-history, Plan 9 From Outer Space, was out!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1958

War comics were big business for Marvel-Atlas, but by 1958, they were on the way out, with Marines In Battle one of the last hold-outs. Atlas itself was in trouble by this point, as its distributor had gone to the wall, forcing it to use the distributor owned by DC Comics instead. Funnily enough, DC weren't keen to give too much shelf space to their rival, so Marvel-Atlas was henceforth restricted to (depending on which figure you believe) 10, 12 or 16 titles, which may also help account for the sudden diminishing number of Atlas war comics.

Elsewhere in 1958, NASA was being born, the Busby Babes were dying in Munich, and Saint Clare of Assisi was being pronounced the patron saint of television. Oh, and Air Force Captain Bruce Kulka accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina.

Speaking of television, Gareth Jones severely inconvenienced the producers of Armchair Theatre, by dying (off camera, thankfully) halfway through a live show, while in America, the producers of several prime-time quiz shows were being equally inconvenienced by allegations of show-rigging. 1958 also saw the premiere of two British institutions, Grandstand and Blue Peter.

At the movies, Gigi was winning Best Picture at the Oscars, whilst in the world of books, Lolita was causing something of a stir.

Friday, 18 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1957

Created by ex-EC staffer, Al Feldstein, the Yellow Claw was a fairly unsubtle personification of the American fear of Communist China. Based on Fu Manchu, Yellow Claw had his own Nayland Smith equivelent, in the person of Jimmy Woo, an FBI agent whom he battled in the four issues of Yellow Claw in the mid-50s.

Yellow Claw made a return to the Marvel Universe in 1973, when Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema brought him to the pages of Captain America, in which he and his army of giant spiders attempted to destroy New York. Yikes!

Later, the Claw, accompanied by an army of ex-Nazis, would battle Nova and Nick Fury.

And later still (1993) he siezed control of super-terrorist crew, HYDRA, and had another go at taking on Nick Fury and SHIELD.

And then he vanished into obscurity, until 2006, when God's gift to Marvel Comics, Jeff Parker, introduced a new team of ex-Atlas heroes, fittingly titled Agents Of Atlas, with the Yellow Claw acting as the antagonist against whom the was brought team together.

If you're not reading Agents Of Atlas, then you really, really should be.

At the movies in 1957, Alec Guinness was helping build the Bridge on the River Kwai, and Henry Fonda was on a jury along with another 11 Angry Men. Meanwhile, b-movie fans could thrill to the adventures of the Incredible Shrinking Man. On television, a nearly-young Patrick Moore was presenting the first edition of the Sky at Night, whilst an also-nearly-young Jim Garner was set to play Maverick.

In books, Jack Kerouac had written On the Road, whilst for younger readers, Dr Suess was producing not one, but two, classics: Cat In The Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Score!

Oh, and in Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney met. Wonder would ensue.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1956

Patsy Walker has been around since 1944, and began as an attempt by Timely-Marvel to copy the success of their Millie the Model title. It worked: Patsy had her own book well into the 60s, through the whole Atlas era and into the Silver Age of superheroes. She clearly had her own fan base in the 60s Marvel bullpen, as Lee and Kirby gave her a cameo appearance at the wedding of Reed Richards and the Invisible Girl.

Even after her own book ended, she wasn't finished, as Steve Englehart brought her, and her husband, back, as guest stars in his run on Amazing Adventures in 1972.

A couple of years later, Englehart reintroduced Patsy, having her help out the Avengers against her soon-to-be-ex-husband and his employers. Along the way, Patsy somehow gained a costumed identity.

A couple of years after that, Gerry Conway, in pretty much his last act as writer of the Defenders, would bring Patsy / Hellcat to the team, where she would spend the remainder of the 70s and half of the 80s, before leaving the team to settle down with her new husband, Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan.

Patsy and Daimon languished in obscurity together, until 1993, when Hellstorm got his own book (it was the 90s, pretty much everyone in the Marvel Universe had their own book. I'm surprised Irving Forbush didn't have his own book). Fans of Patsy would probably be disappointed by her first appearance in Hellstorm...

Then later, Warren Ellis got hold of the book. And killed her off.

But this being comics, even that didn't stop the Powers-What-Be from using the character. Firstly, she was rescued from hell by the Thunderbolts.

And then, courtesy of long-time fan, Steve Englehart (it's that man again!), she got her own book again, albeit briefly.

And now, in 2009, in these days of Civil Wars and Secret Invasions, when everything's grim and gritty, and just when you think Patsy has nothing to offer anymore, she's back in a thinly-veiled "homage" to Sex and the City.

Honesty, whatever next?

Anyway, elsewhere in the real world in 1956, the people of Europe were thrilling to the first Eurovision Contest. Sadly, no Terry Wogan. Two planes collided in mid-air above the Grand Canyon, Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal, and frogman "Buster" Crabb vanished in Portsmouth harbour, sparking a flurry of conspiracy theories.

In the world of entertainment, Elvis was staying at the Heartbreak Hotel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was on at the pictures, David Niven was going Around the World in 80 Days, and musical fans could go see The King And I with Yul Brynner. But only if he wasn't busy. Boom boom.

On the small screen, Tony Hancock was making the move from radio to telly, and Hughie Green was introducing Opportunity Knocks, without which we might well be spared half the tripe on Saturday night tv. At the library, one could pick up a copy of Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, whilst theatre-goers could see a very young Alan Bates starring in Look Back in Anger. Something for everyone there, I'm sure you'll agree.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1955

Casper the Friendly Ghost had been around for a few years, when Marvel-Atlas started producing its own "tribute" title, Homer the Happy Ghost. Created by that paragon of originality, Stan Lee, Homer lasted for five years before they pulled the plug on him. Although what good pulling the plug on a ghost would do is anyone's guess.

To their credit, Harvey Comics didn't sue Marvel over Homer the Happy Ghost. Maybe they realised there was worse to come.

Elsewhere in 1955, two women were making history. Ruth Ellis was becoming the last woman to be hanged in the UK, whilst Rosa Parks was refusing to sit at the back of the bus.

At the movies, James Dean was making a name for himself in East of Eden, Alec Guinness was taking the lead in the Ladykillers, and Marilyn Monroe was fending off a man with a Seven-Year Itch. On television, British viewers (or at least those in London) could now choose between the BBC and ITV. Benny Hill was beginning a very long career on our screens, as was Dixon of Dock Green. Eamonn Andrews was being presented with his big red book, and about to become presenter of This Is Your Life. In the States, James Arness was starring in Gunsmoke, whilst Jackie Gleason was heading the cast of the Honeymooners. In music, Colonel Parker was becoming Elvis' manager, and Bill Haley was rocking around the clock.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1954

By 1954, horror comics were doing good business, with the example above a somewhat tame version of the sort of thing which youngsters might be bringing home from the drug-store. Such books had drawn the attention of Dr Fredric Wertham, a psychiatriast, who contended that comics such as these were unsuitable material for kids. The comic publishers of America, pressed to take action, hastily threw together the Comics Code, which among other things, did away with most of the horror and crime books, putting more than one publisher out of business in the process.

Elsewhere in 1954, the first Burger King was opening its doors. At the movies, one could relive the heroic adventures of the Dam Busters, or, if one were in Japan, could choose between watching Gojira terrorise Tokyo or the Seven Samurai saving some oppressed villagers. On television, viewers could see future Catwoman, Lee Meriwether, winning the Miss America pageant. Book fans could enjoy William Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies, or Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Young fans could thrill to Horten Hears A Who. Oh, and the first two volumes of Lord Of The Rings were available in all good bookshops.

Monday, 14 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1953

Young Men #24 saw the return of the superheroes, as Marvel-Atlas tried another throw of the dice. The return of Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch would be short-lived, since no-one seemed much interested in superhero books. In a couple of years, DC Comics would start a big push on superhero titles, and things would turn around, but for now, super-books were very much on the periphery.

1953 saw the end of the Korean War, but the Cold War was in full swing: America had made the first hydrogen bomb, the Rosenbergs were being executed as Russian spies, and Stalin was dying, or depending on who you believe, being assassinated. Britain and the US were overthrowing the government of Iran

At the movies, Burt Lancaster was starring in From Here To Eternity, Brando was playing Julius Caesar, and more importantly, Daffy Duck was starring in Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. On the telly, Patrick Troughton was playing Robin Hood, The Quatermass Experiment was in progress, and topical news prog, Panorama, was beginning a run on BBC tv which continues to this day. Meanwhile, Ian Fleming was writing the first adventure of a certain well-known British secret agent. And the first issue of Playboy was out.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1952

By 1952, Timely Comics was gone, with the Timely branding replaced by the Atlas one. As you can see, by 1952, Red-bashing was in full swing at Atlas Headquarters, and acts of violence were fine, so long as it was a Russian or a Chinaman at the business end of the bayonet.

Meantime, in the real world, Mrs Elizabeth Mountbatten was ascending to the throne of the United Kingdom, Eisenhower was becoming President, and Eva PerĂ³n was dead.

At the movies, Charlton Heston was running the Greatest Show On Earth, while Gary Cooper was facing High Noon. On telly, Ozzie and Harriet were beginning a 14 year sitcom run, and Bill and Ben were making their debut on BBC childrens' tv. Bernard Malamud was writing The Natural, which would one day be a not-very-good film, and EB White was writing Charlotte's Web, which would one day be another not very-good-film. Oh, and Agatha Christie's Mousetrap was hitting the stage.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1951

Millie the Model was one of the big successes of Marvel-Timely, lasting from 1946 right through the Timely and Atlas era, until 1973, by which time anyone not wearing a spandex costume could forget about having their own title. She still shows up every so often, when Marvel are looking for a little Golden Age nostalgia kick, but I think one can safely say her best days are behind him. Still, that doesn't stop Sub-Mariner staging a comeback every few weeks, so who knows?

Meanwhile, in 1951, in the world of media, Search for Tomorrow, America's first television soap opera, was debuting, as was The Archers on BBC radio. Sit-com fans could enjoy the first episode of I Love Lucy, and Dragnet made the transition from radio to television. In comics, Dennis the Menace (both of them) was making his dirst appearance, whilst The Catcher In The Rye was hitting the bookshelves. Disney was releasing Alice In Wonderland, Ronald Reagan was starring with a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo. The Thing From Another World was terrorising America. Oh, and the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" was born.

Friday, 11 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1950

I can't help but observe that that appears to be the woman from yesterday's entry, about to be eaten by the Shaggy Man. Anyway, by 1950, superhero comics had had their day (although Timely's Distinguished Competition were still producing a few superhero books), and Captain America had suffered the indignity of being turfed out of his own book. Which, as readers of Captain America since 2007 be able to testify, would not be the last time that would happen to him. Horror comics, exemplified by EC Comics, were the next big thing, and Timely wanted some of those comics dollars. After all, nothing could be more wholesome than horror comics, right?

In the real world, 1950 saw the start of the Korean War, as well as the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It also saw the first publication of the Eagle, the introduction of the Peanuts newspaper strip, and the publication of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, all of which are more fondly remembered these days.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1949

In 1942, Lev Gleason Publications had started publishing Crime Does Not Pay, ushering in a new genre of crime fiction. Naturally, Martin Goodman, Marvel-Timely's publisher, wasn't slow in picking up on the potential of the brand, and barely 5 years later, Official True Crime Cases was launched, becoming in time All-True Crime, in which blondes lured unsuspecting car drivers to their doom. Although seeing as the driver above doesn't seem to have noticed the cop hanging off the side of his car, I'm amazed he noticed the femme fatale at all.

At the movies, Orson Welles was talking about cuckoo clocks in The Third Man, and Mighty Joe Young was the terror of Hollywood. Meanwhile, up in the Highlands of Scotland, a boat was running aground, and the locals were enjoying Whisky Galore. On television, Clayton Moore was starring as the Lone Ranger, and the BBC was launching Come Dancing, which has, in one way or another, lasted forever. In the world of books, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was out, as was Nevil Shute's A Town Called Alice. And on stage, Death Of A Salesman was premiering. What a year!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1948

Superheroes might have been on the way out, but super-strong boxers? Another matter entirely. Marvel-Timely's answer to Popeye the Sailor, Powerhouse Pepper was a good-natured strongman (who it appears the Sandman would later base his look on), created by Basil Wolverton, a cartoonist who would spend much of the 40s and 50s working for Timely on various scary books, but who is best remembered for his work on this character.

Elsewhere in 1948, Olivier was back with another Shakespeare adaptation, Hamlet, which would win him an Oscar or two. John Wayne and John Ford were teaming up for Fort Apache. Bogie was starring in Key Largo and the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Good times. And Milton Berle was becoming a tv star.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Gandhi was being assassinated and Israel was declaring statehood and fighting with its neighbours, forever at this rate.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

70 Years Of Marvel - 1947

By 1947, the superhero books were in a decline, evidenced by the renaming of All Winners Comics to All Teen Comics, with accompanying dancing teenagers dressed in outfits that were almost as garish as those worn by the superheroes. Namor, Cap and the Torch still had their own books, but Timely had sensed that things were changing, and the remained of the 40s would see a move away from super-books to more family-orientated fare.

Meanwhile, at the pictures, adventure fans could see Danny Kaye living the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Those of a more arty disposition could watch Blanche Dubois depend on the kindness of strangers. Oh, and in the real world, aliens were turning up in Roswell. Or were they?

Monday, 7 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1946

With the war over, new comics characters no longer found themselves on the front lines. New heroes, like the Blonde Phantom, took to fighting more conventional battles, against gangsters and jewel thieves, all the while draped in the finest frocks that post-war austerity could muster.

One of Stan's creations, the Blonde Phantom would have, in all likelihood, have vanished into the mists of time, had she not been chosen by John Byrne to be sidekick to She-Hulk, in his 80s relaunch of that title. Here she is, folks!

He's a wacky guy, that John Byrne. Anyway, if comics weren't your thing in 1946, you could perhaps enjoy a visit to the picture house, to see Larry Olivier thesping it up in Henry V, or Jimmy Stewart getting all schmaltzy in It's A Wonderful Life. Meanwhile, British children were faced with the spectacle that was Muffin the Mule...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1945

Created by Simon and Kirby, who would shortly thereafter head over the street to DC Comics and create the spookily similar Newsboy Legion, the Young Allies were a group of children who decided to join in the war effort. Consisting of "the fat kid", "the smart kid", "the tough kid" and, um, "the black kid", the Allies were joined by teen superheroes, Bucky and Toro for most of their adventures, which saw them beat merry hell out of any number of Axis leaders. Good on you, lads!

In the real world, of course, WWII was reaching its conclusion, Hitler was killing himself, Roosevelt was winning a 4th term as President, before dying, and America was demonstrating the power of the atom in order to persuade Japan to give up.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

70 Years Of Marvel - 1944

Miss America was one of the more successful Timely heroines, though given how few of them there were in the '40s, this perhaps isn't saying very much. Created by Otto Binder, who who would go on to do a power of work for DC, Miss America gained her powers through a not-yet-a-trope lightning strike. She would go on to be a member of the All-Winners Squad, before disappearing at the tail end of the decade.

Years later, Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Roy Thomas, would make use of Miss America in one of his continuity-establishing exercises. According to Rascally Roy, Miss America had married fellow hero, the Whizzer, and the two of them had gone on to have children, two of which were now famous superheroes: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Later, of course, the Maximoff twins' parentage would be revised somewhat, and the Miss America connection would be severed.

Since then, Miss America's been pretty much gone, other than a brief reappearance, in the pages of X-Statix, a couple of years back. God bless Pete Milligan, for remembering a little bit of Marvel history.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the war was going badly for the Axis Powers, the Normandy invasion and the Battle of Guam among several setbacks. Terrible things continued to happen in various concentration camps, and Anne Frank was on her way to one of them.

July 6th saw the Hartford Circus fire, which killed several hundred members of the audience, when the big top they were, which was waterproofed by means of parrafin and gasoline, caught ablaze, Nasty stuff.

Film fans may note that 1944 saw the release of Double Indemnity, a nice bit of film noir, in which she-vixen Barbara Stanwyck persuaded Fred MacMurray to participate in a spot of mariticide. More related to our topic, Captain America was starring in a Republic serial, which by all accounts was terrible.

Friday, 4 September 2009

70 Years Of Marvel - 1943

In 1943, Germany was losing the Battle of Stalingrad, Italy was giving up the fight altogether, and Josef Mengele was arriving at Auschwitz, where some extremely unpleasant activities were being perpetrated.

Meantime, Timely Comics was publishing All Winners Comics. The All-Winners Squad was, as you may know, Marvel / Timely's first super-hero team. Perhaps confusingly, however, the All-Winners Squad wouldn't actually get together until 1946, 5 years after the launch of All Winners Comics, which, for the moment, would be just another anthology book, albeit one featuring the cream of Marvel / Timely's talent.

In the world of movies, the war was on everyone's minds, with Casablanca taking home the Best Picture Oscar. A very young Roddy McDowell was starring with a dog in Lassie Come Home. Basil Rathbone was churning out a new Sherlock Holmes movie every ten minutes or so. And Frankenstein was meeting the Wolf Man.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

70 Years Of Marvel - 1942

By 1942, America was firmly involved in WW2, and so were its superheroes. In addition to Cap, Namor and the Torch, there was a second wave of heroes turning out to help fight the Axis hordes. Let's see, who have we got here..?

First, on the left, we have Captain Daring, who, according to the link, fought the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler in the 31st century. I promise I didn't just make that up, although I suspect International Hero did...
Next up, we have the Fin, an American sailor who discovered that sinking to the bottom of the ocean gives you super-strength. Not one of Bill Everett's finest creations, the Fin vanished without trace at the end of the war. Shame, that.
In the centre, we see the Thunderer, so named because his costume contained a built-in microphone, which he used to amplify his voice, "thundering" at his enemies. So, sort of like Black Bolt, but far lamer than Black Bolt could ever dream of being.
Alongside the Thunderer is Citizen V, who longtime readers of my other blog may recall I have something of an affection for. A British soldier who adopted a secret identity, and who went on a one-man rampage across occupied Europe, striking terror into the enemy, Citizen V vanished without a trace at the end of the war, and was unheard of until 1997, when Kurt Busiek chose to use him, or a version of him, as the centrepiece of the Thunderbolts, a different sort of superhero team. In one form or another, he's been around ever since.
Next to Citizen V is Blue Diamond, a terribly obscure hero powered by a super-magical diamond, who made his one and only contemporary appearance in this very issue, spent the next 30 years in limbo, before being revived (albeit in flashback) by Golden Age aficionado, Roy Thomas.
And lastly, in that box down there, we have the Silver Scorpion, another hero who was plucked out of obscurity to be a member of the V-Battalion, courtesy of a 21st century retcon.

And there you have it, a genuine bona fide Golden Age legion of substitute heroes. Of course, most people were choosing to read about Cap, Namor or the Torch, which is why Ed Brubaker isn't currently writing about the exploits of the Thunderer, or, God help us, the Fin.