Tag Archives: Weirdness at the End of the World

KILLRAVEN THREE: THE WARLORD STRIKES

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven WarlordAMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #20 (September 1973)

Title: THE WARLORD STRIKES

Synopsis: We pick up an unspecified number of days after the end of the previous story. We also have yet ANOTHER change in creative team. This issue we have Marv Wolfman writing and Herb Trimpe doing the artwork.

Even more of the sophisticated promise of the first two installments is stripped away as Wolfman & Trimpe serve up a story so bland it would fit right into any given issue of DC Comics’ Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth. The only positive development is that it is at last established that Killraven and M’Shulla, the black member of the rebel band, are the closest of friends. 

Killraven and M’Shulla are being pursued by several human quislings who are trying to bring in K.R. alive for their Martian masters. They fail to say why, but we readers can guess that it’s because the Martians want to know how much Killraven was told by the dying Keeper Whitman back in part one. Or because they want to study K.R. in order to understand the mysterious “Power” that grants him certain abilities.

Killraven cornerOf course, since this issue doesn’t mention EITHER Keeper Whitman OR “The Power” (a pre-Star Wars variation of The Force) it’s also possible Marv Wolfman was planning to write out those aspects. The way this issue is written it COULD be that the quislings have orders to take Killraven alive just so he can be taken before the Warlord, whom we learn has a vendetta against our main character.

REVISION: To maintain continuity I would have made it so that it was definitively stated that K.R. was wanted alive precisely to be studied because of his paranormal powers and to learn how much the late Keeper Whitman told him about the true nature of Earth’s conquerors: namely that they are aliens and not the demons that conquered, superstitious humanity considers them to be.

And, as always, I’d have eliminated the tenuous War of the Worlds connection and made Earth’s conquerors regular aliens and not ridiculous “Martians.” 

As the running fight goes on and on, no mention is made of the forced abandonment of the Freemens’ previous hideout on Staten Island, now known to the Martians.     Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWO: THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven Sirens of 7th AveAMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #19 (July 1973)

Title: THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE

Synopsis: Killraven, wielder of a mysterious force called The Power, continues to lead his Freemen/ Rebel Alliance against Earth’s conquerors, led by the armored badass Abraxas, the High Overlord. (1973 means this was BEFORE Star Wars, so don’t leave comments claiming this ripped off that film series)

We pick up where we left off – Killraven, still reeling from some of the shocking information that the late Keeper Whitman just relayed to him about Earth’s alien conquerors, has just realized that his escape rout from Whitman’s underground lab has been blocked by three beautiful Sirens.

Those Sirens are Earth women scientifically modified to be irresistible to men through their physical perfection and presumably through pheromone enhancements. We learned last time around that these Sirens have been very successful at flushing out for capture many of the rebel bands scattered throughout post-apocalypse New York and New Jersey. Now they plan to bring in Killraven, leader of the most successful group of Freemen. Continue reading

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THE COMIC (1985): MOVIE REVIEW

The Comic bigTHE COMIC (1985) – Virtually every film buff today knows the tale of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert raising money from doctors, grocers and dentists in Michigan to finance their subsequent horror hit The Evil Dead

Over in the U.K. Richard Driscoll raised money from Welsh miners and doctors to finance his very odd movie The Comic. Raimi and company went on to lucrative careers in the entertainment industry. Driscoll’s story did not have the same type of fairy-tale ending. Not even with an established figure like John Eyres helping out financially when Richard’s original funds ran out.  

The Comic 2The Comic takes place “in another place and another time” according to one of the female characters. From appearances it’s a near-future police state in which fairly ambiguous laws are enforced by goose-stepping goons who wear their hair in ponytails. This film seems to be reaching for the heights achieved in cult films like Eraserhead and Café Flesh but falls so far short that it’s more like The Jar.

Writer/ director Driscoll also peppers in elements of MacBeth, Hamlet and King Lear but only succeeds in embodying the worst clichés of arthouse cinema. If this had been a latter-day student film or direct to video affair it would not deserve all the insults that reviewers throw its way. But if you’re cheeky enough to dump something like this on the theater-going public you’re just asking for a critical onslaught. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN ONE: WAR OF THE WORLDS

masc graveyard newIn the realm of pop culture it continues to be Marvel Comics’ world! Over the past few years Balladeer’s Blog has been reviewing some old, old, OLD Marvel stories from decades ago. From the research I’ve done, I feel the late 1960s through mid-1970s were Marvel’s creative height, with only the Uncanny X-Men title retaining consistent art and story-telling quality beyond that time period.

I’ve covered The Celestial Madonna Saga (1973-1975), which also contained The Avengers/ Defenders War and the original Thanos War within its own storyline. I’ve examined the 13-part Black Panther story titled Panther’s Rage, the original Kree-Skrull War and, most recently, the 7-part Adam Warlock tale The Magus

Readers requested more Marvel, so, since these are fun and light time-passers, here comes Killraven, the Warrior of the Worlds.  

KillravenWAR OF THE WORLDS/ WARRIOR OF THE WORLDS/ KILLRAVEN: In the early 1970s Marvel was experimenting with hybrid titles combining the old and the new by fusing licensed properties with unique Marvel twists.

The most famous and longest-lasting example was Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. In 1974 Marvel licensed the use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu plus other characters from the Fu Manchu tales. Rather than just churn out a Fu Manchu comic book series “the House of Ideas” instead combined it with the Kung Fu craze of the time and created Shang Chi, the son of Fu Manchu.

Shang Chi, as a surrogate Bruce Lee, and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, as a surrogate Braithwaite from Enter: The Dragon, were the core of the new series. Shang Chi started out as an operative of his evil father Fu Manchu, but realized the error of his ways and threw in with Sir Denis and his team to battle his father’s malevolent schemes.

The previous year – 1973 (so BEFORE Star Wars) Marvel had worked similar “synergy” by taking their license to do a comic book series based on H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and combining it with sci-fi post-apocalypse action. The main character was Jonathan Raven, aka Killraven, a charismatic rebel leading an uprising against Earth’s 21st Century Martian conquerors.

Killraven sword and gunKillraven’s use of a sword AND futuristic firearms in action set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop also brought a little John Carter of Mars appeal into the series. By 1976 the promising saga was canceled due to poor sales but gained a cult following in the decades since then.

Killraven’s influence could be seen in the original 1980s mini-series V, especially the element of humans being used as food by our alien overlords and the sentimental “heroic freedom fighters versus evil tyrants” appeal. Killraven writer Don McGregor incorporated similarly themed stories and characters into Sabre, his other post-apocalypse comic book series. 

Even Star Wars reflected some aspects of Killraven’s tales: the Rebel Alliance against the bad guys, the armored badass (Abraxas, the High Overlord in Killraven’s case) and, of course, the way Killraven wielded enigmatic, more than human abilities called simply “the Power” in K.R.’s series. (PLEASE NOTE: Killraven’s use of The Power came years before Star Wars and The Force.) The young sword-wielding hero was slowly mastering the Power as the series went along, but cancellation cut short his development of his paranormal gifts.

Killraven stampAnd yes, I know that both Killraven and Star Wars drew on the same vast inheritance of sci-fi tropes but the close proximity of K.R. (1973-1976) to Luke Skywalker (1977 onward) makes the comparisons inevitable. 

About fifteen years back, Tom Cruise was set to star as Killraven but eventually all K.R. elements were dropped from the project and Cruise starred in simply another remake of War of the Worlds instead. You have to wonder if the Marvel name would have motivated the filmmakers to keep the Killraven angle if the movie had been done AFTER Marvel became the dominant source for cinematic blockbusters that it is now.

At any rate, let’s dive into the very first appearance of Killraven in 1973: Continue reading

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FIFTEENTH CENTURY BLOCK BOOKS

antichristBlock Books from centuries ago were a form of illustrated storytelling, most often associated with religious topics. Naturally in a period of limited literacy the graven woodblock picture- stories made theological tales even more popular with the masses. In approximately 1455 – 1480 these “proto- comic books” addressed the Antichrist and the End Times.

These particular block books depicted the Antichrist being born “unnaturally” through a caesarean section with a demon serving as midwife. The block book Antichrist is a rare blonde depiction of this figure and he is shown getting an early education in black magic and in sexual depravity, just like Harry Potter. (I’m kidding! … Unless you count slash fiction) Continue reading

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HOMBRE (1981): SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPSE HERO

HombreAT THE END OF THE RIVER – More Weirdness at the End of the World, this time with an adventure featuring Spain’s answer to Mad Max: Hombre himself. This character was created by Antonio Segura and Jose Ortiz in 1981 in the Spanish publication Cimoc. Hombre went on to appear in notably “adult” comic books and magazines around the world, including reprints in Heavy Metal here in America.    

In this age of non-stop comic book adaptations for movies and television I’m amazed that the excellent Hombre series hasn’t been tackled in some form. The adult sexuality, graphic violence, Alien-style mutated life-forms, relentlessly grim storylines and gratuitous nudity are tailor-made for a cable series or R-rated films.

Hombre 2The title character Hombre roams our post-apocalypse planet armed to the teeth and ready to kill or be killed on a daily basis. His first-person narration echoes the best aspects of hard-boiled Film Noir detective stories while the action and mis en scene combine the best elements of Spaghetti Westerns, Post-Apocalypse movies and Martial Arts flicks. Think Six-String Samurai but without the rock and roll samurai.

There is no optimism in the world inhabited by Hombre. Antonio Segura’s writing features often tragic endings which must have put 1980s readers in mind of the downbeat stories on Hill Street Blues and Saint Elsewhere.

Hombre 3Segura mostly avoided easy narratives and my least favorite storyline involved Atila, the badass woman warrior. The character was great, but the tale seemed very UN-Segura-like to me. I probably would have liked her in her own spin-off story but having two such nigh-indestructible figures in one tale put things too far into the realm of upbeat fictional tropes to me. I’m virtually alone on that, by the way, since most fans LOVE the Atila story.

AT THE END OF THE RIVER – Back to the main topic of this blog post, one of the Hombre tales that best exemplifies the series’ aesthetic sensibilities. Our protagonist is the best there is at what he does, but in a much grimmer and more adult way than Wolverine ever managed.  Continue reading

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ENDGAME: MOVIE REVIEW

EndgameENDGAME (1983) – More Weirdness at the End of the World with yet another Italian imitation of The Road Warrior. These Spaghetti-pocalypse movies were to the 80s what Spaghetti Westerns were to the 60s and 70s.

Directed by the legendary Joe D’Amato under one of his rolodex-full of aliases, Endgame is one of the most watchable of these cheapjack end of the world exercises. It’s not good, mind you, just watchable.

D’Amato wasn’t the only one operating under an assumed name in this movie. Laura Gemser, cult sexploitation starlet, stars under the name Moira Chen. She portrays Lilith, a telepathic mutant leader. In Endgame‘s 2025 setting, World War Three has come and gone and mutants are feared and persecuted because of their paranormal powers.

Though there are scattered portions of Post-Apocalypse America where mutants are accepted and other scattered portions where mutants rule, in the big cities mutants are hunted down and killed on sight.

Endgame 2Lilith works like a figurative Mutant Called Moses (with apologies to Harriet Tubman) and has been heroically smuggling mutants out of the cities, Underground Railroad style.  

Her cover was blown recently and she needs to get herself and one last gathering of mutant fugitives out of New York City, to the west and safety. Among those mutants is Tommy, a little boy with so much power that Lilith has been telepathically suppressing it. Unchecked, Tommy could level whole neighborhoods.

The film’s male lead is Ron Shannon, played by Al Cliver aka Pierluigi Conti, fresh off my favorite BAD Post-Apocalypse movie, 2020 Texas Gladiators in 1982. Ron Shannon is your regulation world-weary, burned-out warrior, highly skilled at armed and unarmed combat. Continue reading

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