Saturday, July 6, 2013
THE READING RHEUM #2: CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #16-21
I mentioned here that I'd probably never write anything more about Edwin Arnold's book GULLIVER OF MARS, but I do want to write a few words about the "Gullivar of Mars" published by Marvel in the early 1970s, in the issues above specified.
I remember liking this one pretty well at the outset. Though it's just another riff on Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter" series, it's a minor improvement on Arnold's lackadaisical, pseudo-comic adventure. In the first few issues, Gil Kane's art is strong, and the script introduces a rather interesting buddy for the colorless main hero: one totally independent of anything in the Arnold book, and one whom I liked a good deal better than Gullivar. This was "Chak," seen below as he and white-haired Gullivar are about to be devoured by your basic sea-creature.
Though the illustration gives the impression that Chak is a bird-man, the birdlike countenance is really a mask, crafted in imitation of his species' normal physiognomy. Underneath the bird-mask, Chak looks pretty much like a human being with purple skin. Chak was a mutant and the only one of his kind, which could have set up the series for some good angst, had it lasted longer. However, like a lot of Marvel series of the period, it soon fell victim to pinch-hitting, including various contributions by Gerry Conway, George Alec Effinger, Wayne Boring and (most pleasingly) Gray Morrow.
I have to say that though Roy Thomas was doing some of his best CONAN scripts during this period, his scripts for GULLIVAR show an unfortunate tendency for a lot of not-very-witty, super-referential "jokes." Later, Thomas would only get worse and worse at this, though GULLIVAR has two of his worst ever. In one, Gullivar, on the back of some alien horse-creature, pursues another rider while he remarks about "doing the Rogers thing-- Roy, not Buck!" And at one point he calls the completely red aliens of Mars-- one of whom is seen in the cover above-- "rednecks!"
Gullivar was revived for one black-and-white appearance somewhere, but to my knowledge has yet to be revived for an Ultimates version.