Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Raven Is Red!

I believe I'm correct in saying that the first work the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby produced for Timely (not yet Marvel) Comics which saw publication was the cover to Red Raven Comics #1 and only, the first Timely Comic hero to have his own self-titled comic. The duo did the cover to this one-shot wonder though they did not do the story inside dedicated to the main character. They did produce a story for the newly created Vision and Mercury characters.

It's not now known for sure who wrote or drew the lead Red Raven feature though some sources credit Louis Cazeneuve on the artwork. Joe Simon is most often credited with the writing.The yarn blends elements of Flash Gordon (the Hawkmen of Mongo) and Tarzan of the Apes (lost and orphaned child raised by an unknown peculiar non-human culture) and gives us a blend which is well and truly weird. After his parents die in the plane crash which brings them all to a floating island hidden in the clouds the man who will become "Red Raven" alone survives and is adopted by the Bird People of the island who have evolved from Birds. These altruistic Bird People give him his own wings and when he is of age send him back to his own people to help fight for order and justice. He quickly gets embroiled with gangsters and has to fight for his life and the lives of others on several occasions. But he is victorious and poised for more action, but alas the vagaries of publishing mean that action will come over two decades later.

Flash forward to the Marvel Age of Comics and a title which, truth told, was on hard times. The X-Men were having a rough time in 1968. In the pages of their low-selling comic they had gotten new costumes but just as soon as that happened they lost (seemingly) their mentor Professor X. Then they were captured by Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was from these miscreants in the pages of X-Men #44 that the Angel escaped and headed out to get help from the Avengers.

While resting for a moment in the ocean on a rocky outcropping, he quickly discovers is the tip of a submerged island which immediately rises up. Inside the island is a vast complex which houses the inert forms of strange men with wings. He is attacked by Red Raven who it turns out was saving mankind when he submerged the island decades before but not before using their own technology to put the Bird People into suspended animation. It seems the Bird People in this telling were quite hostile to the people below and the Red Raven felt the need to stop them. He and the Angel fight for a moment but it doesn't matter as he makes the island slip into the sea yet again as the Angel continues his mission.

In 1970 in the pages of Sub-Mariner #26 the Red Raven returns yet again, this time with a much different and more aggressive attitude.

Since the altercation with the Angel the Red Raven has gone mad and when the Sub-Mariner discovers the island of Bird People he finds a Red Raven willing at this point to unleash them on a helpless world. But he is stopped when he discovers that his attempts to stop them decades before had not merely put them to sleep but had in fact killed them. Overcome with grief he destroys the facility and the the Sub-Mariner escapes as the Red Raven seemingly dies with the people who once upon a time had saved him.

Now years later in his grand scheme of retro-continuity in The Invaders storyline as reflected in Marvel Premiere #29, the Red Raven is revived and made part of the Liberty Legion and so becomes a larger part of Marvel's World War II history.

Even later the character is dusted off and used in turn-of-the-century issues of The Defenders, but despite vaguely remembering I enjoyed these issues, I cannot be bothered to care too much about it all since in these days such events have lost any sense of continuity. But truthfully when it comes to the Red Raven, the word "continuity" has never been all that applicable.

For the record the "Red Raven" name was dusted off and used for a villain in the western Rawhide Kid series. As far as I know this Red Raven has never been connected to the larger mythology of the original Golden Age hero.

And so as the cover of this reprint of the story in X-Men #44 says, the "Red Raven Lives Again!". May he always.

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