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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6 comments:

  1. Killraven/War Of The Worlds in Amazing Adventures: probably in my top 5 of absolute favorite Bronze Age series. Lasted an amazing 22 issues. Slime dripping aliens, genuinely nasty human villains, quirky one-off characters, believable deaths, thoughtful & adult characterizations from Don McGregor – this book was a spectacular stew of (sometimes unintended) delight every 60 days. Even the Letters Page was a good read. I have them all (though I still need to track down the Marvel Team-Up appearance w Spider-Man just to be complete.)

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    1. The later Killraven stories by McGregor and Russell are real tour de forces which I appreciate more than I like alas. McGregor used to be one of my favorite writers, his verbage a nice warm blanket, but these days I grow a little bored with his meanderings. Russell's artwork is always lush and inviting but sometimes precious, his characters (not unlike Kaluta's) a bit meager.

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  2. A classic and firm favourite of mine can't you tell...

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    1. Hmm. What's the tip off?

      Kidding. Love that pose for the debut issue, one of those images which lingers with me long over the years. We get a lot of these poster shots these days, but they were rarer back then.

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  3. There's at least one additional page from the debut story fully pencilled by Adams that never saw print, but was replaced by a new page drawn from scratch by Chaykin. Adams claims his replacement wasn't a case of him blowing the deadline, but that he walked away from the job when it turned out Roy Thomas wasn't going to be scripting the book.

    Like the published version, the extra page drawn by Adams gives us a flashback to Killraven's childhood -- but featuring his father rather than his mother. Switching parents could have been a decision by Chaykin or Gerry Conway, and may also have been a factor in Adams wanting to drop the assignment.

    The lost Killraven page was published in Comic Book Artist #3, in an interview with Adams conducted by Arlen Schumer, which is online at the TwoMorrows site.

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    1. I'm not convinced by Adams when he protests about deadlines. He didn't work well in the Marvel environment really, nor for very long. His stint on the X-Men was pretty good, but other than that he was just showing here and there for one-shots and a few incredibly brief runs. I always got the sense he'd lose interest in the projects, or maybe he'd take on too much. He always seems to have disputes with his writers. Whatever the case he's one of those great talents who is measured on some relatively small output, though it's more than Steranko for sure.

      I have much more on Neal Adams next month.

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