Last week, as I was preparing the August 2020 Hatch, Match and Dispatch feature, I was paging through my (sadly incomplete) collection of Marvel UK’s Indiana Jones comics when I encountered a mystery that I’d spotted back when the comics were new but about which I’d subsequently forgotten…
Publisher: Marvel UK
From: Oct 1984
To: Aug 1985
Duration: 10 months
Absorbed into Spider-Man Comics Weekly.
I really liked this comic and it’s a shame it didn’t stick around: at only 50p for fifty-two pages it was good value, and wasn’t packed with filler or — like so many other Marvel UK titles of the time — three-page chunks of other Marvel comics.
Indy had a lot of colour, too, though production limitations meant that it only appeared on half of the pages. Still, that didn’t distract from the strips, which were great — especially from issue #7 when they started reprinting Marvel’s adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark…
Aside: take a look at the editorial credits for that issue:
Apologies if this sounds terribly patronising, but the comics industry back then was still very much a “boys’ club” so it’s a welcome change to see so many women contributing to one title.
Indiana Jones was absorbed by The Spider-Man Comic, joining with issue #646 (only twenty weeks before that comic ended): here’s the announcement from the final issue of Indy’s comic:
But I digress… I’m sure you want to know more about the mysterious mystery, right?
Towards the back of Indiana Jones issue #7 I spotted the classified ads and gave them a quick glance, as one does…
… and the one in the top-left caught my attention. Let’s have a closer look:
Instantly, my mind was transported back to 1985 when I first bought the issue and spotted that notice. I spent a long time pondering over that ad: what was this all about?
I recall that it triggered a day-dream about a lowly worker in the sub-basement of the Netherlands Embassy whose job was to check through all of the UK’s comics, newspapers and magazines looking for material that was potentially dangerous to the Netherlandians.
This mild-mannered worker was named Hans, I decided, on the assumption that Hans sounded a bit like it might be a Dutch name. And his surname was Olo, naturally, since in this daydream he was being played by Harrison Ford. Hans had been working in the embassy for many years, always passed over for promotion because he was just too darned wet to stand up for himself.
And then one day, in December of 1984 — probably within hours of having had his application for a day off on Christmas Day turned down — Hans stumbled across the December issue of Marvel UK’s Indiana Jones comic… and spotted the offending advertisement within!
Imagine the reaction, up in one of the higher levels of the Netherlands Embassy (in a large, uncluttered room that has actual windows) when the Ambassador and their staff are casually discussing land reclamation or tulips or windmills or something and Han meekly bursts in, unannounced, clutching the comic.
“What’s the meaning of this?” cries the ambassador. “Who the devil are you?”
A subordinate replies, “Why, that’s… that’s young Olo, from Periodical Checking!”
Another exclaims, “Someone from Periodical Checking? Up here? On the fourth floor? At this hour? Without a pass? On a Wednesday? Wearing those shoes? Impossible!” This person — who has wandered in from a previous day-dream about how I might cope in a Charles Dickens book — pounds his clenched fist on the large mahogany-veneered table. “I won’t have it, sir! No, I will not!”
Hans approaches the Ambassador and says, “Begging your pardon, your most exalted excellency, but there’s no time for obsequiousness, if that’s all right with you. Look!” He brandishes the comic. “It’s the V.S.W.K. up to their old tricks again!”
The V.S.W.K. — the notorious Venomous Spider-Wasp Krew, a band of evil villains hell-bent on taking over the world! Clearly, they were becoming more organised and were now recruiting Home Typists in order to, somehow, further their dastardly cause! And since this was an Indiana Jones comic, the V.S.W.K. were very likely treasure-hoarding pirates, too! Not just megalomaniacs, this lot: they’re so bad they’re gigalomaniacs!
No doubt the Dutch Ambassador to the Netherlands of Holland immediately put plan Omega Delta (or whatever it was called) into action: he must assemble a taskforce of top agents to tackle this new threat. Hans is reassigned to assist the ambassador, which is just as well because almost immediately all the agents are killed — leaving Hans as the only one who can save the day. He must create a new team, assembled from some very dodgy candidates: a man framed for murder who was only seconds away from execution, a disgraced navy seal who wants one more chance to redeem himself, a gruff army sergeant who reluctantly joins the team because he’s due to retire in a few days, a pretty woman, and a chirpy kid small enough to climb through a convenient plot-hole.
I don’t remember the rest of the daydream but I expect it was epic.
Unfortunately, my comic-collecting back then was kind of sketchy so I didn’t own any Marvel UK comics from December 1984. Thus, I was unable to check back to the original ad, and so the mystery remained mysterious.
Time did what it does best, and passed, and I forgot all about it for thirty-six years… until last week.
Thing is, though, I’ve acquired some more back-issues of the Indiana Jones comic in the intervening three-point-six decades, and among them is issue #3…
… the December 1984 issue!
So, at last, more information on the V.S.W.K. mystery is about to be revealed: the original classified ad!
Brace yourselves, readers!
Here it comes:
OK, that’s a lot less sinister-looking than I’d been expecting, but it just goes to prove how dangerous the Venomous Spider-Wasp Krew really were, insidiously insinuating themselves into our lives in the guise of a junk-mail company.
For all we know, the V.S.W.K. are still at large, somewhere out there plotting and planning and preparing for the day their dastardly dreams can be made manifest.
We can only hope that our old friend Hans Olo is still out there somewhere with his taskforce, being diligently vigilant, always ready to put their lives on the line to protect us ordinary people who will never realise just how close — and how often — we have come to complete annihilation.
Or, maybe, just maybe, the ad had a typo in the address or something.