This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero item from Balladeer’s Blog will look at Marvel’s unusual character Skull the Slayer.

skull 1SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #1 (August 1975)

Title: The Coming of Skull the Slayer

Villain: A Tyrannosaurus Rex

Synopsis: Jim Scully, Army nickname “Skull”, is a Vietnam Vet and former POW trying to adjust to life back in the United States. Unfortunately, while he was MIA his wife divorced him and has found a new man. His parents passed away before even finding out that Jim was still alive.

Worst of all, when Scully is reunited with his younger brother, it turns out he is a junkie who tries to kill him. Jim kills his brother in self-defense, and then, overwhelmed by all the horrors of his homecoming after years in a POW camp, he goes on the run, fearful that he’ll be sent to prison for his brother’s death.

Scully is at last tracked down in Bermuda and is being extradited on a flight back to the United States when that aircraft disappears in the Bermuda Triangle. It crash-lands in a primitive rainforest that is apparently where all those who disappear into the Bermuda Triangle end up.

skull and t rexIt is not truly the Earth of millions of years ago, because it is anachronistically populated by dinosaurs and primates that were never alive during the same time periods. The only survivors of the plane crash are Scully, a young Native American man named Jeff Turner, an African American physician named Raymond Corey, and Corey’s young research assistant Ann Reynolds.

The quartet’s attempts to accept their plight are interrupted by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. With his combat experience, Jim Scully improvises weaponry to kill the several ton beast, becoming Skull the Slayer.

NOTE: In a way, Skull the Slayer could be viewed as the ultimate 1970s series. You have a returning Vietnam War POW, a Native American who rages against the treatment of his people, an African American genius who rages about the racism he has faced and a woman who rages about the sexism she has faced … AND you have the Bermuda Triangle!

        Because all roads lead to bad movies with me, it reminds me of the potential cult film that never survived Development Hell – Bruce Lee Meets Ilsa in the Bermuda Triangle

skull 2SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #2 (November 1975)

Title: Gods and Super-Gods

Villains: A tribe of cavemen

Synopsis: We get a bit more character development from our cast. Despite their individual quarrels with society at large, Dr. Corey, Ann and Jeff want to try to get back to the normal world from this time-lost dimension. Skull, however, feels he has nothing to go back to and is just fine staying where they are, given his experience in the jungle and at survival.

skull pointingOur main characters become captives of a group of cavemen and are surprised to see that they worship the mummified remains of an extraterrestrial who became trapped in the Bermuda Triangle long ago. Skull uses his unarmed combat abilities to overcome some of the cavemen so he and the others can escape.

Intrigued by a combination belt/ harness worn by the alien, a harness with a skull logo for a belt buckle, Scully removes the blue belt/ harness from the corpse. Unlike the shriveled remains of the alien, the harness is in pristine condition and grants Skull superhuman strength.

skull torso shotAs our heroes flee the cavemen, they are attacked by another dinosaur, and this time Skull the Slayer’s enhanced strength lets him kill the creature more swiftly than he slew the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Skull and Dr. Corey have been getting on each other’s nerves and nearly engage in a fistfight, but Jeff points out that Skull’s new superstrength makes it an unfair fight and he could easily kill Dr. Corey. 

skull 3SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #3 (January 1976)

Title: Tumult in the Tower of Time

Villains: Robot dinosaurs

Synopsis: As our four lead characters continue trudging through the prehistoric jungle, the feud between Dr. Corey and Skull escalates, with Corey viciously reminding Jim that he killed his own brother and deserves prison if they ever get back to the normal world.

Eventually, the foursome come across several human corpses from different time periods all lying around an odd tower which seems to be of alien design. Skull and the others work up the nerve to enter the tower’s doorway and descend a staircase.

They go through a doorway at the very next landing down, and when they emerge from the tower they find themselves in what Dr. Corey identifies as a much later, but still prehistoric, time period than the one they crash-landed in on the level above.

skull the slayer action figureSkull winds up letting Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey escape back into the Tower of Time while he battles dinosaurs which turn out to be robot replicas of dinosaurs. Even more confused now, Skull follows the others back into the tower and descends several levels before going through the door Ann and the others left open behind them.

Emerging from this door-like portal, Skull sees that this level of the Tower of Time is ancient Egypt, and that his friends have been taken captive by Egyptian soldiers.

skull 4SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #4 (March 1976)

Title: Time out of Mind

Villains: Slitherogue and android Egyptians

Synopsis: Skull attacks the Egyptian troops holding the others captive. After a lengthy battle, numbers tell the tale and even Scully becomes a prisoner of the Egyptians, who turn out to be androids just like the dinosaurs on the previous level.

Our heroes are presented to the alien who commands the androids, a reptilian member of an alien race called the Scorpians. His name is Slitherogue and he informs Skull and the others that they are the first Bermuda Triangle castaways to survive on multiple levels of the Tower of Time.

Slitherogue does a Villain Rant, revealing that he and other members of his race became stranded in the Bermuda Triangle just like our heroes did. Taking advantage of the bizarre conditions of this pocket dimension, the Scorpians set about constructing the Tower of Time and created robot versions of Earthly life-forms from all time periods.

Eventually, Slitherogue killed off the rest of his fellows from Scorpius and took sole control of their master plan. Using the Tower of Time’s various levels as a military training ground for his androids of conquest – and once he finds a way of making a portal between the Bermuda Triangle’s dimension and the real world – he will send his race’s android creations forward in all time periods simultaneously, thereby conquering every era of the Earth.

(It’s a comic book. Just go with it.)

skull corey and annSlitherogue has his androids use Skull and company as slave labor, just as they are doing with other ancient Egyptians who got time-lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Before too long, Skull manages an escape for himself, Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey, but Jeff is killed.

The three survivors flee across the desert to reach the doorway/ portal which will let them descend to another level of the Tower of Time. It’s a long way, though, and an entire army of the ancient Egyptian robots are pursuing them.

skull angryAnn sprains her ankle (how cliched) and cannot go on. Skull, showing another of his antihero characteristics, tells Dr. Corey they need to just abandon her to their pursuers because, as they’ve seen, not even his power harness provides enough strength to beat back the overwhelming numbers of the androids.

Dr. Corey angrily calls Scully a ruthless killer again and refuses to leave Ann’s side. Skull runs on ahead, and soon the android Egyptian warriors have overtaken and slaughtered Ann and Dr. Corey.

black knight and merlinScully reaches the doorway/ portal and descends many, many more levels of the Tower of Time. This time, he emerges in Medieval England and winds up fighting alongside Marvel Comics’ original Black Knight character from the 1950s.

The Black Knight and Merlin help Skull and accept him as an ally against the alien, whom they consider to be a demon working with Morgan le Fay against Camelot.

skull 5SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #5 (May 1976)

Title: Magic, Myth and Madness

Villains: Slitherogue and his androids

Synopsis: The alien Slitherogue joins Morgan le Fay and her robotic monsters and knights to prepare for battle with Skull the Slayer, the Black Knight and the forces of Camelot. He reveals that Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey weren’t really killed and he summons them back to consciousness. They are still furious about Skull’s willingness to abandon them and agree to fight alongside Morgan le Fay and company in hopes of getting to kill Skull.

Mounted on robotic monsters, Morgan le Fay and her army attack. In the midst of all the fighting, Skull is attacked by Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey. Their conflict ends in a truce when Dr. Corey is injured by an arrow and needs tending to.

morgan le fay and black knightThe Black Knight destroys Morgan le Fay, revealing her as nothing more than another of Slitherogue’s androids. The Black Knight learns that he and everyone else there are androids and there are no real humans in the Tower of Time.

Skull and the others leave Camelot and return to the “real” level of the Tower of Time, which, unfortunately, means they are still trapped in the time-lost dimension of the Bermuda Triangle.

skull 6SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #6 (July 1976)

Title: Swamp

Villains: Dinosaurs and Incans

Synopsis: Skull, Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey emerge from the Tower of Time and resume trying to survive in the prehistoric jungle of the Bermuda Triangle. While they continue tending to Dr. Corey’s wound, little do they know that back in the phony “Camelot”, the android Black Knight is confronting Slitherogue.

Apparently disgusted with learning he is just a robot and weary of the endless war-gaming in the Tower of Time, the Black Knight kills Slitherogue with his sword. With his dying breath, Slitherogue pulls the self-destruct lever of the tower. Back in the Bermuda Triangle, Skull and the others see the tower collapse into ruins and realize Slitherogue’s master plan has been forever thwarted.   

skull pulling out arrowAs the quartet continue making their way, they wind up lost in a swamp, where Skull must use his enhanced strength from the alien harness to kill more creatures that try to prey on them.

Elsewhere, in the world outside the Bermuda Triangle, just a few days have gone by since the plane carrying our heroes got lost in the Triangle. The only survivor of that plane to bail out before the plane got lost in the Triangle is Corporal Freddy Lancer, the Military Policeman who was accompanying Scully back to face trial.

Lancer and his inflatable life raft are recovered by a search team being overseen by Jeff Turner’s father, Senator “Stoneface” Turner. Senator Turner is very interested in Freddy Lancer’s story about how the plane seemed to disappear into a vortex in the sky, since that means there is a chance his son is still alive.

Skull and the others encounter an entire tribe of Incans, who became lost in the Bermuda Triangle themselves. Led by their Jaguar Priest, Villac Umu, the Incans take our main characters to their City of Gold.

skull 7SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #7 (September 1976)

Title: Bury My Heart in the City of Gold

Villains: Villac Umu and Viracocha

Synopsis: Viracocha, the Supreme Inca and ruler of the City of Gold is advised by Villac Umu to have Skull, Jeff, Ann and Dr. Corey imprisoned and sacrificed. An “Indiana Jones movie” type of ancient trap, triggered by changing sunlight, plunges Skull into one pit with a stegosaurus and the other three into a separate pit with grounded pteradons. 

bury my hBack in the real world, Senator Turner has used his connections and money to finance a mercenary expedition led by Freddy Lancer to fly back into the Bermuda Triangle to see if they can find any survivors from the lost flight. 

Meanwhile, in the Bermuda Triangle, Villac Umu the Jaguar Priest, tries a coup by shoving Viracocha the Supreme Inca into the pit with Skull and the stegosaurus. Eventually, Skull’s harness-enhanced strength lets him kill the dinosaur, while Ann kills the pteradons in the other pit.

Our heroes are reunited and are shocked when Viracocha reveals himself to really be Captain Victor Cochran of the U.S. Navy, who became stranded in the Bermuda Triangle 31 years earlier and eventually rose to leadership of the stranded Incans.

sku 8SKULL THE SLAYER Vol 1 #8 (November 1976)

Title: Riders on the Sky

Villains: Villac Umu and his Sky Riders

Synopsis: “Viracocha” convinces the rest of the Incans in the City of Gold that Skull and his companions are gods, and that the Jaguar Priest Villac Umu is evil. Villac Umu seems to be defeated, but has a secret plan up his sleeve.

Skull and the others are presented with a feast by Viracocha/ Victor Cochran and his people. Privately, Cochran explains to our heroes how he resigned himself to never getting back to the normal world and fell in with the time-lost Incans, learning their ways and language and rising to his current position.

skull and the othersElsewhere, Villac Umu succeeds in summoning forth his secret army of Bermuda Triangle castaways from assorted time periods, wielding all kinds of weapons from across the ages and all riding winged dinosaurs. Cochran is killed by a spear during the battle and Skull is rendered unconscious by the magic of the Jaguar Priest.

NOTE: And this cliffhanger ended the Skull the Slayer series, which was canceled because of poor sales. Not even the Jack Kirby cover could help. The storyline would be wrapped up in two issues of the Thing’s team-up series Marvel Two-in-One, reviewed below.

mtio 35MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Vol 1 #35 (January 1978)

Title: Enter: Skull the Slayer

Villains: Villac Umu and his army

Synopsis: The Thing aka Ben Grimm, is serving as a test pilot for an experimental aircraft out of a base in Florida. His flight path takes him into the Bermuda Triangle, where he falls victim to the same kind of vortex that all of the triangle’s other victims have been caught up in over the millenia.

Through a comic book coincidence, the Thing crash-lands by the City of Gold, where he is attacked by Villac Umu’s forces. Ben joins forces with Skull the Slayer, Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey to utterly rout the villain’s army.

skull and thingNOTE: Despite the time that went by in real life, the story is presented as if the Thing has arrived shortly after the cliffhanger ending of Skull the Slayer #8. And hey, why not, given the time anomalies that the series covered regarding the Bermuda Triangle.

Skull and the others recount their escapades to the Thing. Afterward, Ben offers to fly them all back to the vortex that sucked him into the Bermuda Triangle, but they soon realize his experimental craft is too damaged to take off.

In hopes of cannibalizing enough parts from their own crashed plane, Skull and company lead Ben on a quest to return to the remains of the plane that brought them there. Along the way, they battle assorted dinosaurs and this issue ends with the Thing, Skull and the others surrounded by hostile dinosaurs.

mtio 36MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Vol 1 #36 (February 1978)

Title: A Stretch in Time …

Villains: Villac Umu and his Sky Riders

Synopsis: Our heroes survive the encounter with the dinosaurs and then arrive at the site of the plane crash that stranded Skull and the others in this odd dimension. The Thing gets that plane flight-worthy enough to reach the site of his crashed experimental plane, because the plane had only enough fuel to get that far.

By cannibalizing parts from the older plane, the Thing makes his experimental craft flight-worthy and our heroes take to the air. Ben is a good enough pilot that he is able to find the airborne vortex and flies himself and the others through it and back to the normal world, in the skies off the coast of Florida.

However, Villac Umu spotted the departing craft and followed our heroes through the vortex astride his pterodactyl and leading an entire flock of others. At Cape Canaveral, it turns out Mr. Fantastic is on hand. He was summoned by the folks at the Cape when Ben’s plane disappeared.

skull goodbyesTogether, the Thing, Mr. Fantastic and Skull defeat Villac Umu and his army of pterodactyls, which are attacking Cape Canaveral. Villac dies, but the pterodactyls survive. Skull turns himself over to the police, and Ann, Jeff and Dr. Corey agree to be character witnesses in his self-defense claim during his trial for his brother’s death.

The Thing and Mr. Fantastic plan to take the pterodactyls to the Savage Land, Marvel Comics’ prehistoric rain forest deep within the Antarctic continent.

NOTE: Beginning in the 1990s, Marvel tried reviving the character Skull the Slayer as a regular superhero AND as a new version of their Golden Age superhero the Blazing Skull.

        In my opinion, there might have been a workable series in the concepts put forth in Skull the Slayer, but the stories were so disjointed and all over the place that the original series felt like one of the many short-lived products from the failed Atlas/ Seaboard comic book company of 1975. Skull might have worked better in just occasional appearances as a backup series in one of Marvel’s black & white magazines, like Savage Tales.  






Filed under Superheroes

2 responses to “SKULL THE SLAYER: HIS 1970s STORIES

  1. This sounds fantastic. Is it available online? Everything about Scully the Slayer sounds pretty much perfect to me. I actually think he could be my favourites comic book character ha, superb. Thanks for sharing this and fantastic read as always.

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