World in Action

A belated Happy New Year! At the end of the space year 2015. I finally got around to completing the trio of World Distributors UK Marvel annuals that were issued at the end of 1974.

annuals

Apologies for the poor focus with my phone’s camera ( but feast your eyes on the rug from Johnstons of Elgin)

Last year, I wrote about the Spidey annual: https://materioptikon.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/a-warrior-fighting-a-lonely-war/

Prior to that, I blogged about my favourite of the trio, the Avengers annual:  https://materioptikon.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/personal-magentism/

As I said last year, I found these annuals in the pillowcase at the end of my bed, in the room I shared with my brother, when I was eleven years old, over forty years ago.

The Hulk was never a huge favourite of mine. Since MWOM had featured two Hulk stories from the spring until the autumn of ’73, however, I knew the green goliath very well. Although Dardevil and the FF were co-starring with Banner in the winter of ’74, they didn’t make it into the annual. The reprints within included one story I had seen advertised in the first FOOM magazine some two years prior, so being able to read more “contemporary” Marvel tales was a boon.

Mwom

UK reprint, one year later

Stainless Steve Englehart’s Hulk was an infantile innocent and the author’s affection for and encyclopedic knowledge of  the fledgling Marvel Universe saw Ol’ Greenskin encounter antagonists as diverse as the Mimic and Tiger Shark. Here, however, Englehart satirises religion with a parody of Jules Verne.

The Phantom from 5,000 Fathoms: the Hulk has escaped from the Soviet villain Gremlin but becomes a prisoner of the gnomish Captain Omen and his Infra-World. Six miles below the surface, the green galoot meets two generations of  Omen’s crew, physically adapted to the terrible pressure and their freaky Toad-Whale steeds.

Meanwhile, blocky, brash  Col. John D. Armbruster ( which I always read, probably deliberately, as “Arm-buster”) is heading a mission with Glenn Talbot to rescue General Ross from Russia.

The Green-Skinned God: after four decades under the sea, Omen’s crew have formed a revolutionary underground and the Hulk is seen as their saviour.  A quisling betrays the movement but after a clash with the bizarre and inexplicable Aquon, ” half-man, half-fish, all hate!” the rebels disembark for the surface. Then we have the unforgettable climax as the “children… (become) bursting, bloody pulps”. The story ends with pathos and futility as the foolish Filius tries to return to his father’s ship: ” Pater! Pater…he’ll change his mind! I know he will!”

This gruesome mix of child-like distress and body horror must have made an impact on a lot of other British kids that festive season…

The Destroyer from The Dynamo: back in the Big Apple, terrorists accidentally cause an accident that spawns an energy- monster. Hawkeye continues his struggle to go solo in a timely nod to the stories in the UK Avengers annual. Englehart makes Clint both a little pathetic and vainglorious: ” This is a job for-me!”

Hard-luck hero Hawkguy caused 60s-throwback monster Zzzax to dissipate but ironically, puny humans think Hulk has saved NYC! Clint will go on to gig with the Defenders against Attuma and the Red/Mad Ghost. Meanwhile, Thunderbolt Ross is rescued but Talbot is tragically shot in the final moments of the mission – his fate will be explored by Len Wein.

He Who Strikes the Silver Surfer: the annual goes back to the Sixties here.  I think this Marie Severin story took place after the Cosmically-Powered Dr. Doom saga. The tragic twist of the story is that Norrin could cure Banner but it all goes wrong, natch. I was never keen on this story and it wasn’t reprinted in MWOM. It sets the stage however for the return of the New Men and the transformation of the High Evolutionary into a Trek-Style higher being.

To conclude, it’s a vibrant and unforgettable hardback and certainly my second -favourite of that epochal Xmas.

In the next  post, we’ll look at the 1977/78 UK Avengers annual and the 1940s Vigilante movie serial.

All images are copyright of their respective owners

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