The Mystery Men of June part four

For the fourth post in this month’s series, let’s revisit a familiar location in my blogs: Rothesay on the island of Bute, in the summer of 1975…

This was the last summer holiday before I went to Secondary School and my first visit to Bute. My abiding memories are of the radio: Barbados by Typically Tropical, Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees and Come Up and See Me by Cockney Rebel; walking our dog Lucky in the Skeoch Woods; and this sultry newspaper image of everyone’s favourite distaff Avenger:

I also bought this paperback on arrival  because I had already read most of James Blish’s ST books:

The cartoon series must have been shown in 73-74, I think. I certainly remember thinking that this novelisation of the animated adventures seemed more sophisticated but, with hindsight, they were probably less economic and stylish.

This was still a period of scarcity for Marvel comics and the era of DC’s 100-page-reprint was pretty much over. The Distinguished Competition rallied by publishing a line of pulpy heroes similar to those launched by Marvel, with varying degrees of success, a few years earlier. This line included a boy caveman title, Kong, and a very loose adaptation of Beowulf. Number One issues were very rare in my experience so with slim pickings on the island, I was drawn to this book:

I still think Justice Inc. would be a great title for a publication from the Justice League stable. The eerie impersonator know as the Avenger was a chillier, less patrician version of the Man of Bronze.

In one sense, a pulp adventure hero was an unsurprising choice. Although Marvel’s colour Doc Savage series had been abortive, a b/w magazine was launched to cash in on George Pal’s film.

Also, on the paperback spinner in the ferry terminal, I had glimpsed this book, indicating the extent to which the heroes of the Thirties were keyed into the Nostalgia craze that dominated early-70s Pop culture in the US.

I read two further adventures of the Avenger in the next six or seven months. They were pencilled by Kirby, whose dynamic, urban style suited weird adventures in Art Deco New York. They were among the last work The King did for DC before returning to Marvel for Captain America, 2001 and The Eternals.

I have vivid memories of this four-month-old issue of Kamandi, with a vision of Canada overrun by giant insects.

At the showery conclusion of the holiday however, I got this comic in Port Bannatyne, I think, as we left the island:

Stalker is a collaboration between Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood. It’s the grim tale of a boy’s quest for vengeance and the terrible price he is willing to pay. With a debt to Moorcock’s Elric, the demonic hero is more akin to a medieval Son of Satan than Marvel’s Conan or Kull.

No  Sword and Sorcery comic book is complete without a map:

I only read one more issue-the second- as part of a grab-bag from Lewis’s in Glasgow around 1978 or 79. In those days, I found Ditko’s pencils cartoony and simplistic (!)

The third title of the Adventure wave was one I wouldn’t sample until early ’77:

Claw was a smorgasbord Sword and Sorcery title. The late Ernie Chan pencilled a Buscema Conan-clone and David Michelinie threw him into Moorcockanian cosmic adventures. I liked the early Keith Giffen pencils on this title but I would only purchase two more issues. Claw went on hiatus then returned -with a map! (My S5 boys were raving about Tolkien today- the appeal of fantasy maps is deathless.)

I only got one further issue before it succumbed to the DC Implosion, although, apart from The Warlord, it was the longest-lived of the Adventure line.

Subsequent visits to Rothesay in the last decade have never recaptured the pulpy thrills of that sweltering summer, nearly forty years ago, although the town is largely unchanged.

I will be returning to the 100-page Super-Spectaculars in the near future but some recent ebay purchases have changed the order of posts. Stay tuned!

Coming soon: The Mighty Crusaders

All images are copyright of their respective owners. (Paintings by Nicola Jones)

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