Friday, 19 July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home (5 Stars)

I've finally got round to seeing "Spider-Man: Far From Home", the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's sad that it has to continue without Stan Lee. I was hoping that there might be a cameo that he filmed before his death, but none came. He's gone.

It's still too early for a full review, because I don't want to give away any spoilers. I'll just make a few points for now.

Mysterio says to Spider-Man that he's come from Earth-833, and Spider-Man's universe is called Earth-616. This is definitely a mistake, but whose mistake is it? Did the script-writer make a mistake, or did he deliberately put false words into Mysterio's mouth? Everyone knows that the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place in Earth-199999, not Earth-616. Apart from that, where did Mysterio get the number from? Did he read it in a comic?

The girl in Peter Parker's class, MJ, confuses me. She's not Mary Jane Watson, but she's still Peter Parker's love interest. Curious.

It's good to see a romance finally developing between Ned Leeds and Betty Brant. After all, they got married in Amazing Spider-Man #156 (May 1976). This assumes that they're even meant to be the same characters. In the film they've swapped hair colours, they're younger, and Ned's even a different race.

You see what I mean? I've never understood why screenwriters need to change so much of what was written into comic book canon by Stan Lee. Oh yeah, it's a different universe, so they can write whatever they want? That's a lame excuse.

I'm so happy that J. K. Simmons has returned to play J. Jonah Jameson, the chief editor of the Daily Bugle. He last played the role in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films from 2002 to 2007, which supposedly took place in Earth-96283. Nobody else could possibly play the role.

I was surprised to see that most of the cinema audience stood up and left after the mid-credits scene. Usually German audiences are better educated and know they should wait for a post-credits scene. In this case it was an important scene which will have repercussions for the future films.

Happy Hogan is dating Aunt May? I'm sure every comic book fan has a sick feeling in his stomach.

Overall the film has a more juvenile atmosphere. It seems to be written for teenagers, which couldn't be said of the previous Spider-Man films, even "Homecoming". That's not necessarily a criticism. It's a good film. I can't wait to see where the MCU will go next.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Blues Brothers (5 Stars)

I've known about this film for years, but I never watched it until today. All I can ask is, why did I wait so long? It's an incredible film on so many different levels. I love the action, I love the comedy, I love the car chases, I love the music and I love Charles Napier.

The film begins with the petty crook Jake Blues being released from prison on probation. His brother Ellwood takes him to meet the nun who leads the orphanage where they grew up. They find out that the orphanage will be closed because it owes $5000 in back taxes. After visiting a church service they have a religious epiphany and decide that God wants them to raise the money. The nun would never accept stolen money, so they reunite the band that they had before Jake went into prison. If they can play one big concert they'll have enough money.

So far so good. But they have enemies who want to prevent the concert taking place. The police want to arrest Ellwood for driving with a suspended license. A Nazi group wants to kill them for pushing their leaders off a bridge. Jake's ex-fiancee wants to kill him for standing her up at the altar. This leads to ridiculously over-the-top car chases.

There are a few lists online of the best car chases. I don't agree with any of them. I'll make my own list, and this film will definitely make it into the list.

Princess Leia with a big gun? That's enough in itself to make the film worth watching.

I've classified this film as a musical. I don't know if that's technically correct, but it fits my personal definition. The cast breaks into songs at random points, rather than music being performed as in real life. That's why I've classed "Rocketman" as a musical but not "Bohemian Rhapsody", even though they both have the same amount of music in them.

It's always a joy to see Charles Napier in a film, even in a small role. I'll never understand why he didn't become one of Hollywood's greatest stars. Sometimes I think that success in the film business is just a lottery.

The only way I can make up for ignoring "Blues Brothers" for 40 years is to watch it again soon. In my blog "soon" is a vague word. If I don't watch it again within 12 months, I'll buy a beer for the first person to remind me. That's a promise.

Success Rate:  + 1.8

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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Matrix (5 Stars)

The remastered version of "The Matrix" has been shown in cinemas around the world to celebrate its 20th anniversary. This is something that should happen more often. What I mean is, old films should be shown in cinemas more often. If a film was a good film five years, ten years or 20 years ago, it'll still be a good film today. There used to be a cinema in Stuttgart that only showed films of the past. It usually showed a different film every day. I remember that it used to show "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill" on a regular basis, about once a month.

Admittedly, I'm talking about a cinema that closed more than 20 years ago. That was the time before DVD's, so there was more of a market to watch old films. Today there are Blu-ray discs, and true cinema fans have large television sets, but it's no comparison to what I watched tonight. Seeing "The Matrix" on a 14.2 meters x 6.6 meters screen overwhelmed me.

The cinema was almost full tonight. I assume that most of the people in attendance were fans of the film, but there were a few young women sitting near me who hadn't seen it before. I envy them. I didn't see "The Matrix" in the cinema when it was first released in 1999. I saw it a year later on television. It's a film that was made to be watched on the big screen, and seeing it this way for the first time must be an experience.

Watching it today I noticed, more than ever before, how Laurence Fishburne is overacting. He speaks slowly, deliberately, enigmatically. Normally I wouldn't consider this to be good acting, but it's perfect for this film. Anything else would have spoilt the effect.

I got into a discussion with a friend about the sequels. He doesn't think they should have been made. I disagree. I've already discussed this subject briefly in the past, but maybe I can go into it in more detail next time I watch "The Matrix Reloaded". Maybe what I've already written is enough. I don't know. I'll have to read it again to make up my mind.

Success Rate:  + 5.4

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Yesterday (5 Stars)

Director Danny Boyle never disappoints me. All of his films are special, but there's something that sets him apart from other great directors like Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch and Steven Spielberg. These directors all have a distinctive style. You can watch a new film by any of them and recognise who made it. I'm not saying that as a criticism. Why should Quentin Tarantino be a second-rate Spielberg when he can be the world's best Tarantino? Danny Boyle is someone who doesn't have a recognisable style. If you look at the films "Slumdog Millionaire", "Steve Jobs" and "Trance" they're not recognisable as the works of the same director. They're all brilliant films, but totally different to one another.

And "Yesterday" is another film that's untypical for Danny Boyle. Or maybe I should say it's typical, because what's typical for his films is that there's nothing typical about them.

The film is about Jack Malik, a struggling musician from Lowestoft. That's a well known town in England, but if you're from any other country you'll have to look it up on a map. Jack is about to give up his musical career and return to his previous job as a teacher, when he's involved in an accident. During a global blackout he's hit by a bus and knocked off his bike. When he wakes up he finds out that the world is subtly different. There's no Coca Cola, there are no cigarettes, and the Beatles never existed.

Jack remembers most of the Beatles' songs, so he begins to sing them as his repertoire. At first he says that they were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but when he realises that nobody knows them he says that he wrote the songs himself. Within a month he becomes the world's most famous singer-songwriter.

I have a great respect for the Beatles, especially the creative team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Together they wrote countless brilliant pop songs in a few years. They continued to write songs after they split up, but alone they never reached the creative peaks that they did together. I grew up with the Beatles. As a young child I listened to the Beatles records that my parents bought for me. Sitting in the cinema this evening I could sing along with the songs.

However, I have to question whether the Beatles or their songs would be so successful today. It's possible that "Yesterday" could move people as an emotional ballad, but I can't imagine "She Loves You" being a hit if it were written today. The same applies to all of the Beatles' early hits, from "Please Please Me" to "A Hard Day's Night". I wouldn't say that they're dated, but they're still a product of the 1960's. The youth of today has moved on. That's my opinion, anyway. What do you think?

Maybe the film "Yesterday" will awake more interest in the music of the Beatles. I hope so. Their music is too good to be forgotten.

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Sun At Midnight (3 Stars)

If you want to know why I don't need to go on holiday, this is a film you should watch. It's all filmed on location in northern Canada, in and around Fort McPherson in the Arctic Circle. That's a place that I've never visited and will probably never visit, because it would cost me a fortune.

In addition, standing in these locations personally would be a lot less pleasant than looking at the pictures on my television screen. The characters are shown shivering in the cold. That would spoil my enjoyment of a holiday.

The scenery is beautiful, but why should I be there in person when I can enjoy it from the comfort of my own home?

But by now you must be getting impatient. You want to know what the film's about.

16-year-old Lia lives with her father in a large Canadian city. I don't recognise it, but that's not relevant. All that matters is that she's a modern girl living in a modern world. Then her father has to go away to do a contract for two months. This is too long to leave Lia alone, so he sends her to stay with her grandmother while he's gone. She lives in Fort McPherson, a small town near the northern coast of Canada. According to Wikipedia the population is only 700, of which 695 are indigenous. I'd call them Indians, but that isn't politically correct today. In America, Indians are now called Native Americans, so would the population of Fort McPherson be called Native Canadians? Somehow that doesn't sound right.

Whatever the people are called, Lia doesn't feel comfortable. It's a different world. After two days she runs away, heading to Dawson City, hoping to find a better life. She sails along the Peel River in a motorboat stolen from her grandmother, but she has no idea of the distance involved. Her boat breaks down, and she's found by an old hunter called Alfred. He tells her that even if the boat were working she would be travelling for four weeks.

Alfred is searching for reindeer, who are known as caribou. They are practically the holy animal for the local people. They don't just eat the meat, they use their hide to make shoes and other clothing. The reindeer have disappeared, having gone to graze elsewhere, and Alfred is searching for them. He doesn't have time to help Lia himself, so he brings her to three fellow hunters who are waiting for a plane.

In the first night one of the hunters tries to rape Lia, so she flees and meets up with Alfred again. She accompanies him on his search for the caribou, and a strong bond develops. It's heartwarming to see how these two very different people become friends. It isn't just Lia who needs Alfred, he needs her as well. On their travels Alfred is mauled by a bear, so Lia has to bring him back to civilisation.

Admittedly, very little happens in the film. We see Alfred and Lia walking through the deserted scenery. That's it. But it's beautiful scenery, and we grow to love both characters as the film progresses.

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Friendship (4 Stars)

Friendship is good, free hugs are better. Or maybe they're both equally good, in the right context. Friendship is something that can last a lifetime, but a rightly timed hug can give a happiness boost when you need one.

This is an amazing true story. What I mean is, it's amazing that it really happened. It falls into the category that truth is stranger than fiction. There are certain changes made for the sake of dramatisation, but the main events are true. The biggest change is that in the film two friends travel from Germany to America, but in the true events it was a larger group of young men. That's an appropriate change. It means that the viewer has less characters to get used to.

The film takes place in 1990, between the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 1989) and the reunification of Germany (October 1990). It was an awkward transitional period, marked by events that I summarised in my review of "Goodbye Lenin". It might be useful for you to read through the list of events to get a rough idea of what was happening. I lived in Germany at the time, though far from Berlin. For me it was confusing. There were news reports every day, with the political situation following faster than I could follow it.

In these turbulent days the two young men Tom and Veit decide to travel to America. Their passports and their drivers licenses say they come from the DDR, and the general reaction in America is, "What's that? Is it a club?" They want to travel to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but they only have enough money to fly to New York and they have to hitchhike the rest of  the way. Eventually a trusting American lends them his brother's car. That's one of the things that's so hard to believe. What sort of man would let a stranger or group of strangers drive his car across America?

The boys make their experiences with the American police. Are all American policewomen this sexy? It's enough to make me want to get arrested. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like she's in the mood for a hug.

The poor boys have to be searched thoroughly. They have difficulty explaining why there's a Darth Vader helmet in their trunk. After all, they've never seen any of the Star Wars films, so they have no idea what it is. Someone else put it there! Honest!

In New Mexico they make money by selling pieces of rocks that they claim are parts of the Berlin Wall. That's easy to believe. Americans are stupid enough to fall for a con trick like that. Most Americans, anyway. I apologise to my American friends who're reading this.

The most difficult thing to believe is that they made money in Las Vegas by becoming strippers in a gay bar, wearing Russian army uniforms and dancing to the East German national anthem. In the DVD's extra features Tom Zickler, who's based the story on himself, shows photos to prove that he really did it.

It's a cute buddy movie and road movie that skates a thin line between comedy and drama. I strongly recommend the film to anyone who can speak German.

A friendship like this is worth more than hugs. But I'd rather have both.

P. S. Blogger annoyed me today. I wanted to write this review earlier, but there was a software update and I couldn't upload any photos. I was prepared to write this review re-using my old photos, but luckily it's been fixed now.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Cabin in the Woods (5 Stars)

Radiate simply, the candle is burning so low for me,
Generate me limply, I can't seem to place your name, chérie,
To rearrange all these thoughts in a moment is suicide,
Come to a strange place, we'll talk over old times we never spied.

Somebody called me Sebastian,
Somebody called me Sebastian,
Work out a rhyme, toss me the time, lay me, you're mine,
We all know, oh yeah!

Your Persian eyes sparkle, your lips, ruby blue, never speak a sound,
And you, oh so gay, with Parisian demands, you can run around,
And your view of society screws up my mind like you'll never know,
Lead me away, come inside, see my mind in kaleidoscope.

Somebody called me Sebastian,
Somebody called me Sebastian,
Mangle my mind, love me sublime, do it in style,
We all know, oh yeah!

You're not gonna run, babe, we've only just begun, babe, to compromise,
Slagged in a Bowery saloon, love's a story to serialise,
Pale angel face, your eye-shadow and glitter is outta sight,
No courtesan could begin to decipher your beam of light.

Somebody called me Sebastian,
Somebody called me Sebastian,
Dance on my heart, laugh, swoop and dart, la la di da,
We all know you, yeah.

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Star Trek 10: Nemesis (3½ Stars)

This was the least successful of the Star Trek films, but even if it had made more money it would have been the last film starring Patrick Stewart as captain of the Enterprise.  There are different factors that make it a final film. William Riker and Deanna Troi get married, rounding off the romance that's been simmering ever since the first episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". There's also the death of Data, and it's difficult to imagine a new film in the series without him.

The enemy in this film is a man called Shinzon, who was cloned by the Romulans from Jean-Luc Picard's DNA. It gives a new meaning to the words "We're the same, you and I", which have been spoken by screen villains in varying forms for the last 50 years. It would have been too corny for Shinzon to say this, but I was still disappointed that he didn't.

Shinzon has advanced to become the leader of the Romulans, and he has a plan of how to destroy the Earth, but it's more important to him that he can defeat Captain Picard. He's obsessed with him. Captain Picard is Shinzon's nemesis, more than the other way round.

I find this film less appealing than any of the Star Trek films that went before. Something about it seems too laid back. Even when facing major crises, Captain Picard and the other members of his crew carry on talking calmly. It's as if they're burnt out after so many television episodes and so many films.

But don't they make a beautiful couple? I wish Will and Deanna all the best for a long, happy life together.

Success Rate:  - 0.9

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Thursday, 11 July 2019

Traumfabrik (4 Stars)

"It doesn't matter if what's happening on the screen is true. What matters is the feelings that we have when we watch. They're always genuine".

If anyone wants to make a film that I'll like, here are a few simple steps. Write a love story. Add a touch of humour. Then give the story a political background. Finally, add a meta-element by making it a film about films.

Maybe that's not the only sort of film I like, but anyone who makes a film like this will win my approval.

In 1961 Emil Hellberg returns home after serving in the East German army for four years. His brother Alex works as a carpenter making props at Babelsberg Film Studio, and he promises Emil he can find him a job. Emil wants to become an actor, so he's given a job as an extra. While working on the set of a pirate film he falls in love with the French dancer Milou, an understudy of the great French actress Beatrice Morée. They promise to meet the next day, but the next day is 13th August 1961. In the early hours of the morning construction begins on the Berlin Wall. Milou is staying at the Savoy in West Berlin, and she's not allowed to return to the studio. In fact, almost all of the actors are staying at the Savoy, so the film has to be cancelled. Beatrice and Milou are flown out of Berlin in a hurry, because they expect a war to break out.

The studio is in a shambles. Even among the studio's employees, nobody knows who has left and who has stayed. In the confusion Emil pretends he's a director called Karl Boborkmann. He writes the screenplay for a film about Cleopatra, which will be the biggest film ever made at the Babelsberg studios. This attracts the attention of the Communist Party, because they're eager to show that East Germany can make bigger and better films than the West. He offers the lead role to Beatrice Morée, because he knows that when she comes to East Germany she'll bring Milou with her.

What Emil/Karl doesn't know is that after returning to Paris Milou got engaged to Omar Kinski, the actor he's cast to play Julius Caesar.

The film is full of the magic of the film business. The title means "Dream Factory", and it really is the stuff of dreams. There are many exotic scenes of Cleopatra in her palace, with soldiers, elephants and dancing girls, in contrast with the ugly reality of life in East Germany. Even under Communist rule the people were allowed to dream. Emil was also a dreamer, but he didn't dream about Cleopatra, he dreamed about Milou.

It's a beautiful film, an example of the high quality of German films. I hope it will be made available in English.

Klaus Schulze - Klaus Schulze Goes Classic (1994)

Klaus Schulze - Klaus Schulze Goes Classic

KS Canon 38

Track Listing:

1.Die Moldau (Friedrich Smetana) 12:00
2. Rosamunde (Franz Schubert) 07:53
3. Der Freischütz: Ouvertüre (Carl Maria von Weber) 10:22
4. Lautenquintett (Klaus Schulze) 10:53
5. Ungarischer Tanz Nr. 2 (Johannes Brahms) 09:01
6. Norwegische Tänze Nr. 1-3 (Edvard Grieg) 10:33
7. Violinkonzert op. 61, 1. Satz (Ludwig van Beethoven) 17:18

Rating: 4 Stars

This is the 38th solo album recorded by Klaus Schulze. It was released on CD on the German label ZYX in 1994. Since then it has never been re-released on CD, but it was re-released as a double-LP in 2012 with the title "Midi Klassik".

"Klaus Schulze Goes Classic" is unique among his albums as a collection of musical pieces written by other people. It consists of small pieces written by classical composers. Klaus claims the writing credits for one of the seven tracks, but even this piece is strongly influenced by other composers. This album is his homage to those he considers the greats of classical music. Rather than jazzing up the pieces, he plays the notes without alteration, with the instruments replaced by computer midi voices. This retains the power of the original music. It doesn't sound like Klaus Schulze's music, but it's very, very good.

The original CD release sold out quickly, and there were requests from fans for a new release for years. KDM refused, claiming that the CD had sold badly and that no record label would release a CD that would make a loss. This was evidently untrue, as proved by the fact that it had sold out. It seems that KDM personally didn't like the album, so he assumed that everyone else would share his opinion.

The second proof that KDM was wrong was the release of illegal bootleg copies of the album in the late 1990's. If you want to know what music fans want to buy, look at the bootleg market.

The third proof that KDM was wrong was the request from the Russian label Vinyl Lovers to make an official release of the album as a double-LP. There is definitely a market for "Klaus Schulze Goes Classic", as long as KDM doesn't wait until everyone has bootleg copies.

This is a translation of the album's liner notes:

"Klaus Schulze Goes Classic" is a co-production of Klaus Schulze and the expert computer programmer Werner Eggert. Together they have attempted to weave new sounds and (to a lesser extent) interpretations into historical compositions.

The originality of the old music has purposely been respected. At the same time, they have deliberately avoided conventional hackneyed "pop versions", which simply add a percussion track to the main melody, all squashed into three minutes. The aim was to maintain the serious character of the compositions, but to heighten listening pleasure by using modern technology.

Schulze's approach involved the exclusive use of electronic instruments, although not in the "highly respected" style established by Walter Carlos and Tomita. The less said, the better! Klaus Schulze is considered internationally to be the pioneer, if not the founder, of modern electronic music, and has been successfully composing for modern instruments for the past 25 years. In the early days of his career he used synthesizers. Today, of course, it's computers.

Schulze says, "I felt very drawn to the old composers and wanted to combine their music with my musical and technical experience. I am well aware that these recordings will not necessarily be appreciated by hardcore fans of classical music or even fans of electronic music. But over the last 25 years I have grown accustomed to this type of resistance, and I don't need to apologise for my work in any way. Nevertheless, I offer one apology for this particular project: experts in electronic music in particular should remember that the children of today can only gain access to the beautiful music of the past via suitable technology and a contemporary approach. I myself have two boys aged 13 and 15, who, like all their friends, listen to today's music, Techno and Trance; in other words, electronic music".

Sir George Solti once said, "If we don't try to find access to young people, the whole classical system will disappear when the last classical music concert-goers have died".

Klaus Schulze is trying to build such a bridge with this album, not as a saviour but as a servant who's delivering and translating creativity.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Marvel Years 09.02 - February 1969

Silver Surfer #4

Title: The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

Villain: Loki, Mephisto (flashback), Galactus (flashback)

Regulars: Shalla Bal

Guests: Odin, Thor, Heimdall, Balder, Sif, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg
        Hulk (cameo), Thing (cameo), Hercules (cameo), Zeus (cameo)

This story is slightly out of sync with the current Thor comics, as a consequence of being a bi-monthly comic. It takes place before last month's Thor #160.

Loki is pondering on a way to kill Thor. Scanning the Earth, he sees the Silver Surfer and learns of his past.

Loki visits the Silver Surfer while he's sitting with a lion talking philosophy. Of course, these are Stan Lee's own thoughts. Loki fights with the Silver Surfer to find out how strong he is. When he's satisfied that he's strong enough, he tells him that a tyrant called Thor wants to conquer Asgard. The Silver Surfer is childishly naive and believes him. Loki's power allows the Silver Surfer to cross Galactus' barrier and visit Asgard.

The Silver Surfer fights Thor and the other Asgardians, until he finally realises he's been tricked. Loki sends him back to Earth.

The splash page says that this is "perhaps the greatest fantasy saga of all time". I wouldn't go quite that far, but this is nevertheless a magnificent story, much better than you might guess from the shortness of my mini-review.

Title: The Terror of Tim Boo Ba

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Howard Purcell

This story is a retelling of a story from Amazing Adult Fantasy #9, published in February 1962.

Tim Boo Ba is a mighty tyrant who conquers, enslaves and murders people all across his world. Nobody can stop him, until a sudden flood wipes him away. His planet only existed on a table in a child's room. It was destroyed when the child's mother spilt water on it.

It doesn't matter how big you are, someone is always bigger.

Thor #161

Title: Shall a God prevail?

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Galactus

Guests: Recorder, Ego

This is a truly epic comic. The story is mind-bending, and it contains some of Jack Kirby's best artwork.

Thor and the Recorder are rescued by aliens who call themselves the Wanderers. They come from one of the first planets destroyed by Galactus, and they live for revenge. The battle between Galactus and Ego continues. They're evenly matched, though Galactus has a slight edge. The spacecraft of the Wanderers is damaged and has to land on Ego. Thor channels Ego's force through his hammer, causing Galactus great pain. He leaves to find easier prey.

The Incredible Hulk #112

Title: The Brute battles on!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Herb Trimpe

Villain: Galaxy Master

The Hulk fights against the Galaxy Master, a shape-changing being that has enslaved the planet. Princess Daydra, the niece of the planet's chief warlord, leads a rebellion to support the Hulk. The Hulk succeeds in killing the Galaxy Master and is sent back to Earth on a space ship. While he's travelling he turns back into Bruce Banner, and he begins to suffocate.

Sub-Mariner #10

Title: Never bother a Barracuda!

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Gene Colan

Villain: Naga, Karthon the Quester, Barracuda

The person that we saw reaching for the Helmet of Power last issue identifies himself as Karthon the Quester. He belongs to a race called the Lemurians who are distantly related to the Atlanteans. The helmet was created by their leader Naga to give himself eternal life, but he didn't know it would corrupt him. While they're fighting over the helmet they're captured by Captain Barracuda, who is sailing nearby in a submarine. We last saw him in Strange Tales #120.

While Sub-Mariner is fighting with Barracuda, Karthon escapes with the helmet.

Doctor Strange #177

Title: The Cult and the Curse!

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Gene Colan

Villain: Asmodeus, Sons of Satannish

Regulars: Clea, Ancient One

Asmodeus has cast Doctor Strange into a foreign world after removing his Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto. Fortunately Doctor Strange suspected this, so he made the Eye of Agamotto invisible and took it with him.

The Book of Vishanti returns to the Ancient One, because it's under a spell to always return to him. Asmodeus travels to the Ancient one, using Doctor Strange's form.

When Doctor Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to return to Earth he's blocked, because his form is already on Earth. When did that become a mystical law? He bypasses this block by changing his appearance.

So this is the new Doctor Strange? Yuck!

Doctor Strange defeats Asmodeus, but not before he's cast a spell to unleash Ymir and Surtur on the world.

Ymir is the Frost Giant defeated by Odin in Journey Into Mystery #98. Surtur is the Fire Demon defeated by Odin in Journey Into Mystery #99.

Doctor Strange #178

Today I've taken the unusual step of listing next month's Doctor Strange issue a month in advance. It's not something I like to do, but Roy Thomas has forced me to do it. The release date is totally out of sync. This story in this issue is concluded in Avengers #61, which is released this month.

Title: With one beside him

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Gene Colan

Villain: Tiboro, Sons of Satannish,

Regulars: Clea, Ancient One, Victoria Bentley

Guests: Black Knight

After assimilating their mystic energy, Asmodeus banished the remaining Sons of Satannish to the kingdom of Tiboro, who we last saw in Strange Tales #129.

Only the Sons of Satannish know how to reverse the spell that has summoned Ymir and Surtur, so Doctor Strange has to go there to free them. He needs a mystic anchor to bring him back, so he goes to England to request Victoria Bentley's help. She's currently enjoying a party with her new neighbour, Dane Whitman aka the Black Knight. Doctor Strange recognises the mystic energy in the Black Knight's blade and asks him to accompany him.

The assistance was needed. It's the Black Knight who defeats Tiboro by destroying his wand.

The Avengers #61

Title: Some Say the world will end in fire, some say in ice!

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Avengers: Hawkeye, Black Panther, Vision

Villain: Ymir, Durtur

Guests: Doctor Strange, Black Knight

This issue has a double splash page, which fortunately isn't a single picture. This is page one ...

... and this is page two. It's impressive, isn't it?

In next month's Doctor Strange #178 (sic) Doctor Strange rescued the Sons of Satannish from Tiboro's dimension. He finds out that the Crystal of Conquest, a weapon that we briefly saw in Doctor Strange #176, can defeat Ymir and Surtur. It's only one object, but several times in this issue it's also called the Crystals of Conquest.

Here's a major blunder. Roy Thomas should be ashamed of himself. The Black Knight was injured in a fight with Marduk, one of the Sons of Satannish, so Hawkeye asks Doctor Strange to operate on him. No way! The car accident in Strange Tales #115 damaged his nerves, so he could never operate again.

The Avengers delay the attack of Ymir and Surtur while Doctor Strange prepares the spell. The Crystal(s) of Conquest brings the two together, and their powers cancel each other out, sending them back to wherever they were summoned from.

And I still don't like Doctor Strange's new look.

Fantastic Four #83

Title: Shall man survive?

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Fantastic Four (Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Crystal)

Villain: Maximus, Aireo, Falcona, Leonus, Nebulo, Stallior, Timberius

Regulars: Susan Richards, unnamed baby

Guests: Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton

The Fantastic Four and the Royal Family of the Inhumans escape and fight Maximus, who's aided by Aireo, Falcona, Leonus, Nebulo, Stallior and Timberius, the same gang who helped him in Hulk Annual #1. Note that Stallior is still among the bad guys, even though he loudly proclaimed his innocence at the trial in Hulk Annual #1. It's Crystal who delivers the final blow to Maximus, proving her worth even though she's still a child. Maximus flees in a rocket.

But what else is going on in the world? Susan Richards is looking after her newly born baby boy. He looks enormous. Is he really only three months old?

A note to mothers: Susan lets him sleep on his stomach. There's a lot of argument about which is better for babies, sleeping on the stomach or the back. Even the experts can't agree, however many PhD's they have hanging on the wall. All I can say is that sleeping on the stomach is more common in America, while sleeping on the back is more common in Europe.

And she has to think of a name. After three months? What's the law in America? In England babies have to be named within 12 months, but in Germany the time limit is one week.

On the other side of the world the Thing is yelling his battle cry louder than ever before: It's clobbering time!

Johnny and Crystal are young lovers and have to celebrate their victory in the most natural way. Be quiet, Karnak! Weren't you ever young? But what a beauty Crystal is! I wouldn't hesitate to kiss her, child or not.

Amazing Spider-Man #69

Title: Mission: Crush the Kingpin!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jim Mooney

Villain: Kingpin

Regulars: Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe Robertson, Randy Robertson

Spider-Man has lost track of the Kingpin's getaway car – it was probably driving too fast – but he's still searching for him, aided by his spider sense. Eventually he finds him, and he defeats him after a short fight. Instead of fleeing the Kingpin lets himself be arrested and tells the police that Spider-Man will free him. The policemen believe this, because it confirms what they've read in the Daily Bugle.

Spider-Man retrieves the ancient tablet and wants to deliver it to the police, but they fire at him. This makes him so angry that it pushes him over the edge. If everyone treats him like a menace, he might as well be a menace!

Captain America #110

Title: No longer alone!

Writer: Jim Steranko
Artist: Jim Steranko

Villain: Madame Hydra

Regulars: Rick Jones

Guests: Hulk

Jim Steranko takes over the writing and drawing for Captain America, for a few months, at least. All I can say is that it's incredible. I don't know why, but his artwork is always best when he's the author as well. It must be because he's more motivated.

Captain America is strolling through New York, quietly smoking his pipe, when the Hulk comes smashing through the wall.

It's difficult to say exactly when this happened. The Hulk was in a rampage through New York in Incredible Hulk #104 to #106. It's difficult to fit the events into that story. They must have taken place after page 5 of Incredible Hulk #106, because that's the last time we see Rick Jones, but before page 8, which is when he's captured by Yuri Brevnov. Or maybe Jim Steranko just didn't care about continuity?

After the Hulk leaves, Captain America carries Rick Jones back to his apartment. He leaves him to recover, but when he wakes up, Rick puts on Bucky's old costume and says he wants to be Captain America's sidekick.

A few minutes later they're called into action. And what action! This double-page picture is a masterpiece. There's no gap in the middle, probably because it was the middle page spread. That's the only place double-page pictures should ever be used.

Hydra is attempting to poison the city's water supply, so they're down below ground.

Hydra has a new leader, who calls herself Madame Hydra. Wow! A skin-tight green catsuit and a whip! Hail Hydra!

Young, inexperienced Rick Jones is in over his head. He doesn't stand a chance against Madame Hydra. If I were in his place I wouldn't even try. If the last moments of my life consisted of being whipped by a beautiful woman, then having her wrap her whip around my neck, I'd be happy to die.

Rick isn't that lucky. Captain America saves him. But it's not as bad as it seems. If Rick doesn't die today, he lives to be whipped another day. I wonder what that is in Latin. I'd like it as my personal slogan. "If I don't die today, I'll live to be whipped another day".

Daredevil #49

Title: Daredevil drops out!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Gene Colan

Villain: Biggie Benson (gangster)

Regulars: Willie Lincoln

Dropping out is cool. What does society have to offer anyway? But that doesn't apply if you're a super-hero. As Ben Parker once said, "With great power comes great responsibility". Matt Murdock obviously never had an Uncle Ben, so he quits. He doesn't want to be Daredevil any more. That's his plan, but he doesn't get very far. A robot attacks him in his apartment.

The robot has been sent by the gangster Biggie Benson, who we met in Daredevil #47. He wants revenge for being imprisoned after he set up Willie Lincoln. As you know, Marvel comics thrive on coincidences. When Matt is left unconscious on the ground, it's Willie who finds him.

Daredevil is attacked by the robot again. At the end of the comic it's crushing him to death.

Iron Man #10

Title: Once more the Mandarin!

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: George Tuska

Villain: Mandarin

Regulars: Janice Cord, Jasper Sitwell

Guests: Nick Fury

The Mandarin tries to disgrace Tony Stark by publishing fake photos of him meeting with Communists. The meetings all took place while he was in action as Iron Man, so he doesn't have an alibi.

Tony Stark goes into hiding, only going out in public as Iron Man. Nick Fury and Jasper Sitwell stop Iron Man to talk to him, but when he refuses to answer they fire at him.

Iron Man answers a phone call from the Mandarin's fiancee, Mei Ling. When he arrives the Mandarin is waiting for him. The trap is too well prepared, and Iron Man is captured.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #9

Title: The Name of the Game is Hate!

Writer: Gary Friedrich
Artist: Frank Springer

Villain: Hate-Monger (Adolf Hitler)

Regulars: Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jimmy Woo, Laura Brown

Guests: Reed Richards (flashback), Susan Storm (flashback), Ben Grimm (flashback)

The Hate-Monger returns to kill Nick Fury. After he was killed in Fantastic Four #21 we found out he was Adolf Hitler. How can he be alive again?

Together with Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones and Jimmy Woo, Nick flies to the Hate-Monger's hidden lair. It's just in time, because he's planning to obliterate all of mankind so that the Earth can be inherited by a new master race.

With the help of Laura Brown, who was acting as an undercover agent, Adolf Hitler is killed again. But you know what they say: You just can't keep a bad man down.

Captain Marvel #10

The story itself is only average quality, but the front cover is brilliant. According to the Marvel Database, the cover was drawn by Marie Severin.

Title: Die, Traitor!

Writer: Arnold Drake
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Number One

Regulars: Yon-Rogg, Una, Carol Danvers

The splash page shown here takes place at the end of the story. So let's start at the beginning.....

Captain Marvel is ordered to investigate the organisation that was responsible for building the giant robot that we saw in the last two issues, and if possible he should ally himself with its leader, known only as Number One.

As Walt Lawson he's travelling by car with Carol Danvers, when he sees the occupants of another car attempting to shoot them. He jumps out of the car, pulling Carol with himself. While he's distracted by a flying dinosaur the occupants of the other car kidnap Carol and say they want to talk to Walt Lawson. It's the so-called Organisation, still attempting to kill Dr. Lawson.  Captain Marvel goes to the meeting place.

Captain Marvel fights with the Organisation and kills Number One. For this he's considered a traitor to the Kree, and Yon-Rogg orders his execution.

X-Men #53

Title: The Rage of Blastaar!

Writer: Arnold Drake
Artist: Barry Smith

X-Men: Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman

Villain: Blastaar

Marvel Girl is experimenting with a device invented by Professor X that turns her thoughts into radio waves. This attracts Blastaar, who's been floating in the Negative Zone since Fantastic Four #53.

I don't quite understand the physics in this issue, even within the fantastic confines of the Marvel Universe. Blastaar says that he's afraid to touch the Earth, because he would be destroyed in an anti-matter explosion. Why? That didn't happen last time he was on Earth. Also, how did the machine draw Blastaar to Earth? Last time he needed a door.

Most of all, I don't understand Cyclops' scientific explanation of why Blastaar accidentally died after wasting his energy fighting with ice mannequins created by Iceman as a distraction. Does Arnold Drake know what he's talking about? I'm not saying that Stan Lee's scientific explanations were always scientifically accurate, but at least they made sense.

Iceman has advanced to the top of my hate list. "Sometimes I think we made our biggest goof when we gave women the vote". That's disgusting male chauvinism. I wouldn't even speak words like that as a joke.

This is the first comic drawn by the British artist Barry Smith. While visiting America in 1968 he drew five comics for Marvel, after which he went home. Was that even legal? Two years later he received a work permit and returned to America to become a regular artist at Marvel.

Title: Welcome to the club, Beast!

Writer: Arnold Drake
Artist: Werner Roth

X-Men: Professor X, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Beast

Hank McCoy rebels against the Conquistador, but he's too weak to overcome him. Professor X and the X-Men rescue him.

Curiously, Professor X states that he has telekinetic powers. That isn't true, is it? It looks like another Arnold Drake mistake.

Other comics published this month:

Millie the Model #167 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Rawhide Kid #68 (Larry Lieber, Larry Lieber)
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #63 (Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers)
Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders #11 (Archie Goodwin, Dick Ayers)
Not Brand Echh #12 (Roy Thomas, Marie Severin)