1974 is a distant, fragmentary year in my memory: the names Quatermass and Barbarella had an alluring aura of adulthood and exoticism. The first BBC2 Saturday night double bill season -the “Fantastic Double Bill”- began in the late summer of 1975. There were very few if any colour Marvel comics distributed in my area; it was very much the era of DC’s glossy archival 100-page Super-Spectaculars. HTV’s Sky – a teatime sci-fi/folk freak-out- was still a year away.
This was the period then in which I first pored over The Horrific World of Monsters, a Golden Hands book I must have read in primary school. I probably took it off the mobile library’s drab brown shelves very tentatively- a gloriously lurid picture book, like something authored by Lovecraft’s Arabic occultist.
Aside from dinosaurs, of which I already had a sound knowledge thanks to an album of Brooke Bond tea cards, the book contained a wealth of monsters from film, tv and mythology.
First, there were the cinematic horrors. The Alligator People who probably inspired Ditko’s Lizard story in Spider-Man. The hispid Blacula.The Blood Beast of Terror (sic) a vampiric moth-woman. A hideous and fascinating full-page picture of The Fly. The Gamma People, European zombies. The Monolith Monsters. The grasshopper Martians of the evocative Quatermass, which I knew had something to do with blobby space vegetables. And speaking of which, the Triffids: vague, spiny things with grotesque protuberances.
Then there were fabulously esoteric images from ancient Doctor Who: 1969 Cybermen who could, allegedly, be destroyed by laser gun. The Daleks of Skara (sic). A startling full-page photo of Varga the Ice Warrior and tiny Victoria, from unimaginably distant 1967. And from Star Trek: the Talosians who looked like frail elderly women with distended, bloated brains. The deadly robot Nomad and the gaping, corpse-like Salt Sucking Monster.
Next the creatures from myth and literature: Echdina, mother of the Hydra, Cerebrus and the Sphinx. The Lambton Worm. The Slavic Vodyany. Most intriguing of all, Tolkien’s Ringwraiths and their airsteeds.
But better even than that were the freaks garmered from the pages of early 70s Marvel: seemingly embargoed since the launch of the UK weeklies, these were rare glimpses into a new universe. Annihilus, the thinking insect who terrorised the Negative Zone via “seeds of life ” from an abandoned spaceship. The bizarre Bi-Beast, guarding Red Raven’s dead, aerial city. The Dark Messiah a ” cross between a tyrant and a hot gospeller” ( After more than 30 years, I now know Hot Gossip -of Kenny Everett infamy- is a pun!)
Then came far more familiar faces: the FF, the Green Goblin, the Hulk. Medusa of the Inhumans. Morbius. Mysterio. Dr. Octopus. The Sandman, a member of The Fearsome Foursome (sic). Finally, a Conway- Buckler behemoth rejoicing in the alliterative moniker, Darkoth the Death-Demon. Some of these were names and faces glimpsed in the quarterly pages of the occasionally racy Foom Magazine.
This was a fabulous compendium that ignited the imagination in a world where the second- and the best-season of ITV’s Tomorrow People had gone out in the spring. (Avoid the current, Twilight-inspired remake if at all possible!) Furthermore, Pertwee’s final season as Doctor Who was airing. Shang-Chi dominated the Avengers UK weekly and the twin, transgressive b/w weeklies Dracula Lives and Planet of the Apes would launch in the autumn. I bought myself a copy for Christmas a couple of months ago- vist this post to read another account of its bounty! http://stevedoescomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/HorrificWorldOfMonstersWhosWho.html
Next: The Shopkeeper of the World
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