POW! Annual 1968

Background

Here’s the intro from the “Pow!” section which either I or the Editor wrote. (I think it was me.): “Pow! is a weekly UK tabloid featuring black and white Spider-Man reprints, usually in several parts with the panels restructured. Nick Fury, Sgt. Fury, and Fantastic Four also often appear. Other stories feature typical UK style kids’ mag characters such as "Dare-A-Day Dave", and "Wee Willie Haggis, The Spy from Skye". Some of the stories are in mono-color (black, white and red), and some are in full color. The series later becomes "Pow! and Wham!" This annual reprints both stories from ASM #1. We don’t have a very comprehensive list of “Pow” issues but since Pow! #4 reprinted Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #2 (Story 2), it’s a good bet that the first three issues included the stories reprinted here. Which would make these stories reprints of reprints.

Story Details

  POW! Annual 1968
Summary: Spider-Man & Nick Fury Reprints (also non-Marvel Reprints)
Reprints: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1 (Story 1)
Reprints: Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #135 (Story 1)
Reprints: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1 (Story 2)

As mentioned above, “Pow!” often included “Dare-A-Day Davy” and “Wee Willie Haggis, The Spy from Skye.” They appear here as well; three times for Davy and four times for Willie. Also appearing are “Kicks” and “Nobby’s Night Mares” (each 3 times), and “The Dolls of St. Dominic’s and “The Group” (each 4 times), plus some one-pagers.

If you didn’t know Spider-Man appeared in this book, you’d never know it from the cover. Well, except for the big “Featuring the Fabulous Spider-Man and Nick Fury” blurb below the title. Still, Spidey isn’t shown. Instead, the characters from the short features are there. Kicks kicks an “anti-Haggis missile” at Wee Willie Haggis on his flying haggis, which misses. The Group is causing trouble. The Dolls of St. Dominic’s are their usual nasty selves, with two carrying spiked maces and one carrying a bloody knife.

The end papers feature the characters at a carnival. Kicks kicks down a stall, Nobby has a nightmare on the merry-go-round, Davy runs in front of the roller coaster car because he’s been dared to do it, and the Group and Dolls cause mayhem.

The stories begin with Kicks (“He’ll do anything for kicks.”) who is a tousle-haired boy who likes to kick things and/or get his kicks over things. He wants to stay up late, watching TV but his parents send him to bed. When he hears them sleeping, he sneaks downstairs but steps on the cat and falls down the stairs, trips on the lamp’s power cord, and gets entangled in a curtain when the TV blows up and shoots him with a vacuum tube. His father comes downstairs and whacks Kicks, thinking he is “Thieves! Marauders! Felons!” “Oooh! Take me back to bed, Dad!” says Kicks, “I promise I’ll never stay up late again! It’s too darn dangerous!” and Dad says, “Hee hee! The late night flick kick made him sick!”

The Dolls of St. Dominic’s are rambunctious students at a girls’ boarding school. In this segment, the headmistress tells them to be on their best behavior because parents are visiting. Instead, they throw all the adults in the swimming pool, dry them out in the boiler room and dump them into the sewer. Then they turn on all the taps in the school to “flush” the adults out. Unsupervised, they get ready to go to a “dance in the village.” “Hee! Hee! I bet that’s the last open day we ever have!” says one of them.

The Group is a gang of six kids (Brain, Luvvy, Fatso, Stupid, Shrimp, and Ringo) who tend to skip school. The school inspector, Horrible Horace the Hound of the Hooky Players, tells Stupid that there’s a party at school with “cream buns and other such goodies” so Stupid takes him to the Group’s hideout, which looks like a log cabin. But they’re waiting for him and attack him with a boxing glove on a spring, a water jet coming from a pipe coming out of their chimney and a board with a nail in it. The inspector runs off. Afraid he’ll get in trouble, Stupid hides in the one place where he figures no one will look for him…school! The teacher, who hates Horrible Horace, rewards Stupid for getting rid of the inspector by giving him lots of goodies to eat. Then the teacher catches the rest of the Group and makes them do lessons as they watch Stupid with all “the grub.”

Dare-a-Day Davy is, as his name explains, a guy who can’t resist a dare. There is a match between the Rangers and the Rovers and Davy’s friend dares him to sneak them both in without paying. After several failed attempts, Davy gets the idea of them disguising themselves as the clean-up crew. The man at the ticket booth lets them in but they find out that the match is over and they have to clean up the garbage themselves.

Nobby’s Night Mares is about a kid who falls asleep a lot (perhaps he has narcolepsy) and has nightmares, courtesy of a group of small horses…the Night Mares. In this episode, Nobby falls asleep while feeding bread to the ducks in the park. The Mares send him a nightmare featuring a monstrous duck who is tired of eating bread and wants to eat Nobby instead. But Nobby shoves a whole loaf in its mouth and kicks it in the beak. He ends up falling into the pond, which wakes him up. “Cor!” he tells his mother, “That soaking woke me up just in time! I was having one of the most horrible nightmares I can remember!”

Wee Willie Haggis: The Spy From Skye rides a propeller-driven inflated haggis labeled “MI 5 ½” (as opposed to MI6). Willie is from the Isle of Skye in Scotland and, as far as I can tell from my American perspective, the whole purpose of this strip is to make fun of Scots. Here, Willie’s boss (?) Professor H. Blob can’t figure out how the enemies have gotten their “top secret plans of our rocket base in Loch Loonie.” Willie notices that the bad guys are “printing secrets” through the center of sticks of Edinbugh rock (which, according to Wikipedia, is “a traditional Scottish confection” that “consists of sugar, water, cream of tartar, colourings and flavourings.” The bad guys (“Here he comes! The cunning wee spy has tumbled to our plan! Och aye! The noo! The noo! Bonnie wee hoots etc!” “Sometimes I think he over-does his Scottish accent!”) shoot Willie down with a bagpipe filled with porridge. Willie lands in Loch Loonie but has his inflatable kilt on so he makes it to shore. He defeats the bad guys then changes the lettering on the Edinburgh rock so it says, “Wee Willie Haggis was here.”

And now here’s Spidey. It’s a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1 (Story 1) much as it was originally except it omits the credits and the blurb about Spidey appearing previously in Amazing Fantasy #15 on the splash page, the “Spider-Man” and “Part 2” on page 7, the “Spider-Man” and “Part 3” on page 12, and it is horribly colored in black, white and red monochrome. When I reviewed the original way back when, I called it “A solid introduction of Spider-Man in his own mag” and gave it four and a half webs. I don’t mind the absence of the credits and “Part 2” and such too much but you have to take some points away because of the coloring limitations.

Back to the Dolls of St. Dominic’s who get some very bad report cards. But when the headmistress suggests a game of paper chase, in which the pursued leaves scraps of paper for the pursuers to follow, the Dolls tear up their report cards and stick them in the headmistress’ satchel. They hang around the school smoking and read fan magazines. (There is graffiti that says “I luv Micky, Davy, Peter, Mike, Ilya, and Mr. Humperdinck.” That’s the four Monkees, David McCallum’s character from “The Man From UNCLE,” and Engelbert.) When the headmistress returns, they (I kid you not) throw her through a plate glass window. But she has duplicates of their report card and she mails them. The Dolls ambush the postman, though, take their report cards and make paper boats out of them that they sail on a stream. The postman finds them, dries them out, and delivers them.

More Kicks. He finds a fenced in area with the sign “Beware of the Bull.” He goes in to play matador but trips over a fallen branch and loses his pants. The bull butts him onto the “Beware” sign. “The only bull I want to see now is in a corned beef tin,” he says.

The Group tries to form a band so they can be buskers and make money. But their music is dreadful and all sorts of mayhem results. (Luvvy says, “Victor Sylvester had better watch out.” Who is Victor Sylvester? I had to look him up. He “was an English dancer, author, musician and bandleader from the British dance band era.” More and more, I get the feeling that these short features were written by 60 year old men.)

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD is next, in a reprint of the first SHIELD story from Strange Tales #135, August 1965, entitled The Man For the Job!. At the start of the story, Fury is just a “chicken Colonel in G-2,” Army military intelligence. He is summoned to the Pentagon and finds himself in a “Master Matrix” that creates the mold for Life Model Decoy duplicates. (Since he’s Fury, he lies in the mold while smoking a stogie.) The scientists quickly make LMD duplicates of Fury that they dress up in similar clothes and provide with eyepatches. Fury leaves with an agent. (They can’t be in the Pentagon anymore because they depart using an elevator that comes up onto a city sidewalk, unless they’ve walked a long way.) A handful of LMDs of Fury are sent out ahead of them and they are gunned down by hidden assassins. The agent takes Fury in a car that is pursued by a plane that drops a napalm bomb in front of them. The car drives through without any damage and retaliates by firing “sidewinder missiles” that destroy the plane. The agent coyly lights a cigarette and tells Fury he works for a secret organization called SHIELD whose goal is to defeat another secret organization called Hydra. The car converts into an “air car” and flies up to the SHIELD helicarrier. A Hydra agent watches it go and reports in to his superior who must report his failure to kill Fury. The Supreme Leader tells him that the penalty for failure is to battle his replacement to the death on “the pendulums.” The trouble is that his replacement gets an electric pistol and he gets nothing. The whole Hydra crew hold torches as they watch, like extras in a 1930s Frankenstein film, plus the leader smokes a cigarette. Where is all that smoke going to go? The armed replacement wins, of course, and reveals herself to be Agent H, “the first female ever to attain so exalted a rank.” She recites the Hydra slogan. (“Hail Hydra, Immortal Hydra…blah, blah, blah.”). A bunch of other agents get behind her and stick their arms out in different angles, posing for the leader. It is a pretty cool effect.

Meanwhile, Fury has made it to the helicarrier where he finds Tony Stark (“the Playboy Arms Inventor”) in charge of “the special weaponry section of SHIELD.” They bring Fury in to a room with “some of the most famous Joes from every nation in the world: and they tell him about Hydra. They demonstrate Hydra’s goal to rule the world by showing him a globe with a Hydra mask on it and ribbons that encircle the Earth. They demonstrate their goal to stop Hydra by having Tony Stark use a “transistorized blast gun” to blow a hole in the globe. Then they tell Fury that they think he is the man to lead SHIELD. Fury doesn’t think he’s up to it but then he notices a wire under his feet and he realizes that someone has set a booby trap. He yanks the chair out of the floor (it is attached like a barber chair), races off with it, and smashes it through a window like the Dolls of St. Dominic’s smashing their headmistress through the plate glass. Fury takes charge and Stark declares, “Gentlemen, my work here is done! SHIELD has found a leader!” “Looks like somebody has to smash Hydra,” says Fury, “So it might as well be me!”

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD was born out the super-spy genre that gave us James Bond and the “Man From UNCLE” and would, soon after, give us “Our Man Flint” and “Mission: Impossible.” It seems a little hokey today even though Hydra is still being used in both comics and television series. What makes Fury stand out from its hokey origins is Jack Kirby’s artwork with its technological wonders: the master matrix, the flying car, the Hydra pendulums, the helicarrier. Jack’s imagination was going full-tilt. Stan does his usual fine job of dialoguing, particularly with Fury’s unusual speech patterns. There are only two changes in this reprint and one is the removal of the Lee-Kirby-Ayers-Simek credits. The other is the removal of the last panel that serves as a “Next Issue” blurb in the original. Here a new Fury drawing is added and his line, “So it might as well be me,” is moved from the penultimate to the ultimate panel. Oh, and the story is recolored badly, making it look like it was done by some kid with some kind of paint-by-numbers kit. I give the original story five webs but, again, the bad coloring drops it down a couple of levels.

Would You Believe It? is a one-page riff on Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The most interesting is, “Approaching a bend in a Lake District road, two London men in an open car in 1956 slowed down as they saw a Saloon approaching from the opposite direction. But when they went round the curve they found the Saloon had vanished – yet there were continuous stone walls on both sides of the road!” The rest aren’t worth mentioning.

It’s back to Dare-A-Day Davy where Davy’s friend dares him to “pinch a copper’s bonnet” which only gets him in trouble with the police. He returns home to find a “bonnet” on a hallway table. It belongs to a policeman who is dealing with Davy’s father over all the damage Davy caused. He spanks Davy, teaching him a lesson “999 times.” So, Davy is a kid? I didn’t get that from the first story.

Wee Willie Haggis is sent to recover Prince Charlie’s “breeks” (woolen pants), stolen for who knows what reason? And, well, he succeeds.

I don’t know where The Island of Beasts first appeared. It’s a pretty standard “evil genius” story. “Don Wilson and Tubby Hayes, who run a freight service between the islands in an old motor torpedo boat” accidentally land on the island of Tuan, run by Doctor Ling, an Asian bad guy in the Fu Manchu/Dr. No tradition. He has a giant monster named Tongor that he sics on the two men, capturing them. Instead of killing them right away, he brags about his plan for world-conquest in true villain fashion. He shows them his no-longer-so-secret weapon, the “ultra-sonic projector” and they end up using it on Tongor, driving him so mad that he crushes Dr. Ling. Later, the island is destroyed in an atomic test, even though it’s got to be near the islands that Don and Tubby service. Sure. Nuke it. Why the heck not?

Aaaaaannnnddddd, it’s back to the Dolls of St.Dominic’s of whom I am heartily sick by this time. The Dolls are mangling a game of field hockey when the headmistress comes out to tell them that the Mayor is coming to lunch and to inspect the school. A maid comes out to tell her that “cook’s bin an’ eaten a school dinner an’ poisoned ‘erself.” So, the headmistress (who doesn’t seem to learn) assigns the Dolls to make lunch. They intentionally make a horrible lunch that gets the Mayor so mad, he chases after the headmistress, allowing the Dolls to get back to their mangled field hockey game.

Back to Nobby’s Night Mares where the narcoleptic Nobby falls asleep while heading out to play in a school football (soccer) match. All the night mares don football outfits and play against him. It isn’t at all clear but it appears that Nobby is actually playing the real match in his sleep and, at the end, he jumps onto one of the mares to reach the ball with a header that goes in for the winning goal. In reality, Nobby somehow got up to the ball on his own. “What a header, Nobby!” says the coach, “How on earth did you get up to it?” “Ha! That’s a secret – and wild horses wouldn’t drag it from me!” says Nobby.

After For My Next Trick…, a one-pager telling how to do five magic tricks, Kicks returns. While his mum tries on hats at a department store, Kicks finds two girls trying perfume. He ties their hair together so that they tug on each other when they try to leave. Furious, Liz (one of the girls) kicks Kicks into a pile of hats. “These boots weren’t made for walking! Ha ha!” she says as she kicks him. (A reference to the Nancy Sinatra hit song, These Boots are Made for Walkin’. I love the Frug and Swim dance movements in this video.)

The Group wins tickets to the circus. Each ticket has a number and the Ringmaster has a drawing with the lucky number winning a bushel of food. The Ringmaster pulls 999 and the Group think they have it but a lady sneezes, scattering their tickets. They intrude on the circus to retrieve the ticket, only to discover that their ticket is 666. (I don’t think there’s a Satanic reference here…but there should be.) Only Stupid has stayed behind, eating his sweets. He finds the winning ticket on the floor by his seat and wins the food.

More Scots-bashing with Wee Willie Haggis. This story even refers to Scotland as “Bonnie Haggisland.” There is a rash of exploding kilts and Willie is sent by MI 5 ½ to investigate. He learns that “it’s a devilish plot to wreck the caber tossing and haggis hurling” at the Highland Games, because the athletes are too shaky in the legs to function after their kilts exploded. Willie discovers that Bad Baron Bonski is behind the plot. He has “nobbled the contestants so [his] mad mob can cop the prize money.” Willie thwarts the Baron. One of the grateful contestants tells Willie, “We’ll give you free haggises for a year!”

Now, here’s the second Spidey reprint: Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon from Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1 (Story 2). No credits again on the splash page. The blurb about the Fantastic Four is shorter, too. Oh, and the “Next Issue’ come-on in the last panel is gone. In my original review, I said, “The Chameleon isn't really much of a villain... at least, not yet. And I know it's early Silver Age stuff but there are still some pretty silly moments here. I mean, come on, really. The ‘multi-pocket disguise vest?’ The long distance message the Chameleon sends to Spidey's spider-sense? The Soviet submarine in New York harbor? ("Forget the plans! We've been seen!! Submerge!" Hah.) It all adds up to a story worth three webs” and it has to drop even lower than that because of (yes, again) the shabby coloring. I mean, the Thing is not even colored here. I don’t even mean he’s white instead of orange. I mean, they didn’t bother to color him at all!

Well I Never! is another Ripley’s rip-off. “If you break 1,000 eggs into a large basin you have the chemical equivalent of an average man.” Because of the eggs? Because of the basin? What is this telling us?

Can you stand one more episode of The Dolls of St. Dominic’s? I’m not sure that I can. The horrid Dolls decide to destroy the school play just for the hell of it. They probably put some people in the hospital by smacking them over the head with a large club and they possibly electrocute some of the dancers on stage while they throw rotten fruit at them. Is there any reason I should be on the side of these little monsters?

Nobby falls asleep again in another of Nobby’s Night Mares. This time he’s in line to see the film “Blackbeard the Pirate.” (The 1952 film with Robert Newton? Aarrrr!) The mares hire a bunch of nasty-looking pirates to take Nobby on their ship and have him walk the plank. (“Help! I’ve had one bath this week already!”) The plank breaks with Nobby’s weight, which wakes him up. He discovers that the line is gone and he is alone outside the theatre but he decides to skip the film. “I’ve had quite enough of pirates for now and for quite some time to come!”

This time, in Dare-A-Day Davy, Davy’s friend dares him to break into the crown jewels and put the crown on his head. Davy can’t resist a dare! Even when it’s unbelievably stupid. He sneaks into the Tower of London and finds that the crown has been pawned. “It’s an old tradition. Every Monday we pops ‘em into Uncle’s and every Friday we gets ‘em out for the weekend visitors,” says a Beefeater. Eventually the crown is returned by “the Man from Uncle” but he and Davy both slip on a banana peel that Davy left on the ground. The crown flies up in the air and lands on Davy’s head, winning him the dare.

The Group discovers that the Gasworks Gang (who look like rattier versions of the Group) have built their clubhouse right next to the Group’s clubhouse. Both groups get the idea to scare the others away by dressing up as ghosts, which scares both groups but doesn’t scare anyone away. Except, during the melee, a water main breaks under the Gasworks clubhouse, sending them sky-high. “Water way to go!’ says Brain.

Wee Willie Haggis tracks down a gang that is stealing artwork. The gang goes to the Gasworks Art Gallery (owned by the Gasworks Gang?) but Willie hides himself in a painting of “Monarch of the Glen” and captures them. “Yon crew don’t know they were dealing with a real old master!” he says.

Inspired by a stock car race, Kicks challenges Sam Sniggins to a soapbox derby. They race through the streets, wreaking havoc, like knocking a lamp post onto a policeman. (“Reckon I should have been christened Sterling Moss,” says Kicks. Sterling Moss was a famous British Formula One race car driver.) Kicks loses a wheel and ends up at the police station where the policeman takes him by the ear and brings him home to get “the stinging of Dad’s walloping.”

Finally, Engelbert Twerp and Duffle O’Gill, described as “the scaredest cowboys in the west,” are captured by Indians. (They are also, apparently, British cowboys. Duffle says, “Blimey!” and Engelbert says, “I don’t fancy being scalped…it’ll spoil my Beatle cut!” The Indians are horrible stereotypes, saying things like “Big Chief Sitting Pretty wants um word.” When they get to the “Big Chief” he shows them a copy of Pow! “Welcome to our weekly Pow Wow, white men! We have um weekly reservation for our Pow!” says the Chief. Other Indians are reading the latest Pow! One says, “I dare Davy to attack us!” Another says, “Hee! Hee! These crazy Dolls are um heap funny! Ha! Ha!” A third says, “Me like um Wee Willie…heap funny white Scottish nit!” Duffle says, “Ho! Ho! The Indians are civilized at last!” but I suspect they have a ways to go if they find Willie, Davy, and the Dolls funny.

General Comments

Okay, I’m not British, I’m not a kid, and it’s not 1968 so these non-Spidey and Fury stories are not for me. I tried to get into the swing of things but Kicks, Willie, Nobby, the Group, and Davy wore me down and the Dolls completely did me in. At least Kicks, the Group, and Davy seem to receive some sort of punishment and Nobby hurts no one but himself but the Dolls are vicious and violent and seem to win every time. Is this funny? Have I just turned into an old crank? I mean, I can support anarchy (and anti-school emotions) as well as the next guy but not when the point is to humiliate and hurt people who’ve done nothing wrong. Add to that, the poor coloring choices for Spidey and Fury and the demeaning Scottish, Asian villain, and American Indian stereotypes (okay, I get that it’s 1968 but still…) and this volume loses any points it may have gained by reprinting Spidey and Fury in the first place.

Overall Rating

I originally thought I would get a rating by taking my old Spidey ratings and tweaking from there but I think the general misery of the short features makes that unnecessary. I hate to do this because I feel like my age, my nationality, and the times make me ill-suited to review this volume, but I got little more than suffering out of it and I’m going to give it one-half of a web. Anybody who was a kid in 1968 England care to tell me what I’m missing?

Footnote

Next: I’ve been avoiding it long enough. From 1966, Esquire #394.