Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Martian War!

In The Martian War by Kevin J. Anderson we get to look behind the scenes, a secret history of sorts, as H.G.Wells along with a bevvy of more and less famous and some infamous colleagues wage a secret conflict against the notorious Martians.

Anderson introduces us to a young H.G. Wells and his paramour Jane Robbins, a bright and beautiful former student who plays a major role in the adventure. Along with the scientist-philosopher T.H. Huxley these two end up on an impossible odyssey away from Earth and venture to the Moon and later to Mars itself. Meanwhile Percival Lowell and his collaborator Dr.Moreau explore the nature of Martians on this very Earth.

I am loathe to say too much about this sprawling adventure which has wonderful pace and a delightfully playful style. I don't want to ruin the surprises which abound. We get to meet face to face many of the vintage Wells characters from stories as widespread First Men in the Moon, The Food of the Gods, The Invisible Man, and more besides.

You won't regret tagging along on this wild and wacky misadventure as we find out what really happened so long ago when Martians and men met for the first and last time.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Martian Dispatches!

War of the Worlds - Global Dispatches is an utterly fabulous collection of true yarns by a host of dandy sci-fi writers which has a single wonderful conceit. What if the Martian Invasion described so memorably by H.G.Wells had spread across the globe and what would have been the reaction of various significant literary and historical figures to that event?

The answer is this book, filled with just-the-right-sized stories purportedly by and or about the likes of Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London, Emily Dickinson, Jules Verne, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, Joseph Conrad, and H.P. Lovecraft.

The anthology originally came out in 1996 and I grabbed up a copy then, but recently I found it again having been reprinted by Titan Books and it was even more fun this time.

The stories are at times light-hearted, at times intense, at times revealing, but always entertaining. Even the least of them is fascinating in the offbeat picture it paints of the Martians, which are almost always presented consistent with the original novel .

Favorite moments are the stories in which Twain connives to get some profit from the Martians, in which the Martians display their amorous side in Paris, and in which we learn how the Martians are really quite nimble if only in the frozen North. The funniest story for me was when the Martians run up against some tough as nails cowboys in the American Southwest. Needless to say the invaders are less successful in a country where firearms are more plentiful and the will to use them downright gleeful. 

This one gets my highest recommendation. It's an absolute hoot and a half.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Martians Illustrated Again!

Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum

In 1976 Marvel Comics was publishing a number of new adaptations of a host of classic tales and soon enough War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells was picked to be a part of the run. Dave Cockrum apparently was given the nod to design the tripods for this one though the story itself was written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Yong Montano and Dino Castrillo, two of the reliable cadre of Philipino artists who powered through Bronze Age comics.

Below is a glimpse of two of the better splash pages.

Here's a nice peek at Dave Cockrum's own work and his design for the Martians and their awesome war machines.

Marvel adapted three other Wells stories.

To read Marvel's The War of the Worlds in all its glory check out this very Groovy link.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Martians Illustrated!

The War of the Worlds has been adapted to virtually every medium, but few as memorable as the vintage Classics Illustrated rendition by writer Harry Miller and artist Lou Cameron. The cover is without doubt one of the best in the whole of the Classics Illustrated run.

Cameron does his own distinctive interpretation of the invaders, creating a robust variation on the tripods. These have a slightly modern flavor to them.

And this issue of Classics Illustrated is unique to my experience in that in addition to several full-page images it has a center two-page spread, which must've been quite awesome in the early 50's when such tour de forces were quite rare save for Simon and Kirby.

The story by Wells has been simplified for comic use here and perhaps some of the horror stripped out for the benefit of the young target audience. The infamous Black Smoke is not evident as the invaders just plow ahead with highly visible heat rays. Also gone are the red weeds which create such a weird atmosphere in the latter stages of the story. Otherwise the tale stays true to the general structure of the Wells original.

This one has been reprinted by Jack Lake Productions who have the Classic Illustrated right these days. The asking price is steep, but for the War of the Worlds completist necessary, though I personally have this one as well as a rough copy of the original for less money.

Classics Illustrated adapted five of the Wells novels, but War of the Worlds was easily the most successful. Here is a glimpse at the others.

To read the Classics Illustrated War of the Worlds in some of its majesty check out this link.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Night Of The Living Martians!

I picked up The War of the Worlds, Plus  Blood, Guts and  Zombies on a lark when I found it discounted for almost no money at some store I forget now. It seemed a harmless prank of a comic and maybe I'd give it a chance some time. That time has come.

The story mirrors the original novel, in fact is identical to it through large sections. Eventually after the Martians land radiation from their bullet-like capsule triggers a change in people which results in their rising from the dead, even when they've been roasted by the infamous heat ray.

That a zombie plague is unleashed by radiation from space is reminiscent of the off hand explanation which is proffered in the George Romero classic Night of the Living Dead. There the suspected culprit was an irradiated satellite, but that is not conclusive in any way. Here the trigger is clearly the coming of the Martians, though the zombies are not agents of the invaders.

So this story is unlike Ed Wood's notorious Plan 9 From Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space) in which outer space aliens reanimated the dead as part of a larger world-conquering scheme. The evident fact that the plan is ridiculous and doom to utter failure aside, the three animated corpses do constitute at least a meager threat, at least to humans too stupid to get out of their way.

In this novel the zombies seem to rise in the shadow of the invasion and create a separate but still dangerous threat to the humans who are besieged seemingly on all sides. The story sadly though is all too familiar and anyone having read the original will quickly notice that the zombies are mostly a sideshow who pop up now and again to menace people, but don't really offer a formidable threat on their own. They seem to get forgotten for long sections of the story.

Sadly this book is a missed opportunity with little imagination displayed aside from the original conceit of adding zombies to the invasion story. I expected more variety and more twists, but quickly became bored with the proceedings. There are a couple of supposed shocks, but they are too few and much too far between to keep it zesty.

It's an oddball book which I cannot really recommend. It's just rather dull.

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The Di Fate Martian War!

Vincent Di Fate supplied a marvelous rendtion of the Martian machines for this Graphics Classics cover. See below for an unencumbered version.

Here's a more traditional rendering of the Wellsian monstrosities.

And here's the George Pal variation.

Martians, gotta' love 'em! Especially when they get the Di Fate touch.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Amazing Adventures Of Killraven!

One of the truly outstanding ideas was when Roy Thomas decided to follow up on H.G.Wells and co-created the Killraven series, called throughout most of its run "War of the Worlds". Essentially the notion is that after the Martians lost the first time, they returned a hundred years later and succeeded. Then in 2017 (coming right up it's hard to believe) they have established their rule on Earth, one populated with people and other things who work for and against the Martian masters. One of the greatest foes is Killraven, trained gladiator who escaped in Sparticus fashion and leads others in a guerrilla war against the invaders.

The debut issue which is the eighteenth issue of Amazing Adventures (which earlier hosted The Inhumans, Black Widow, and The Beast)  is plotted by Thomas and scripted by Gerry Conway and the first part is drawn by superstar Neal Adams who does a bang up job. With some polished inking Frank Charamonte, the pages positively glow with energy and verve. Take a look.

But apparently he couldn't get it finished on time and up and comer Howard Chaykin stepped in to finish the story for it to see publication.

As you can see, in the story Killraven confronts the "Keeper" who kidnapped him and killed his mother so many years before and learns the history of the Martians and also that he might have some gifts which will help to defeat them.

In the second installment, written by Gerry Conway with Chaykin returning on pencils. Frank McLaughlin steps in to offer up some sleek and exceedingly good inks. In this one Killraven and his men M'Shulla, Hawk, and Arrow confront Martain-mutated women called Sirens who can control men. Killraven is taken back to the gladiatorial ring but fights his way out and they even manage to bring down a Martian walking machine with the Staten Island Ferry during their escape.

Set in the environs of New York City in the initial chapters, the saga offers up the usual post-doomsday scenery of a sunken Statue of Liberty and other broken icons of 20th Century existence. The scenario painted is a grim one with the Martian masters firmly in control of a shattered Earth and people all too willing to work alongside their conquerors who we all know have a special taste for humans.

But this initial burst is a brief one. The series will stumbled during its early days and by the next issue Conway and Chaykin are gone, and Killraven even gets a costume change thanks to writer Marv Wolfman and artist Herb Trime, though the design looks like the work of John Romita to me. Later Don McGregor partnered with Craig Russell to make some lush and vivid comics in this run.

But these earliest adventures, especially those first several pages by Adams have a really raw sci-fi adventure quality which later installments will give over for a more super-heroic feel to the series.

More to come.

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