Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Return to Marvel's Planet of the Apes covers

Here's another set of Planet of the Apes covers from Marvel's 1970s magazine.  These covers are different from the last set--not related to the movie adaptations.  They showcase Marvel's original apes stories.

Planet of the Apes 14 cover with logo, gorillas on the hunt

Planet of the Apes #14:  Killer Gorillas on a Manhunt!  I love how the gorilla in the center is aiming the rifle right at the viewer.  The orange hue shining against their uniforms and the water is really cool.

Planet of the Apes 3 cover, Forbidden Zone

Planet of the Apes #3: Jason and Alexander travel to the Forbidden Zone.  A very popular vacation destination on the world of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes 4, Cookskin cap wearin apes

Planet of the Apes #4: Jason and Alexander meet Gunpowder Julius and his band of coonskin cap wearin' Apes!  This was one of the wildest inventions of Doug Moench and Mike Ploog.

Planet of the Apes 26 cover, Nordic barbarian apes

Planet of the Apes #26: Gorillas mashed up with Viking armor, on a conquering cruise!  This wasn't the only sea-bound Apes adventure.  Doug Moench and Tom Sutton also did a series of "city-ship" Apes stories that were wildly imaginative.  Nuff said.

Update: While I received these POTA covers from a different source, I learned that they originated from Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive.  Dave Ballard wrote to alert me--he was also the person who retouched the covers.  Check out that website, they've got some unpublished Doug Moench scripts and many other cool Ape-related things.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marvel Planet of the Apes: Movie-themed covers

Marvel had some great Planet of the Apes cover paintings in the 1970s, that evoked scenes from the movie series.  Here's a number of them, with the cover logos removed.

Planet of the Apes 7 cover, Statue of Liberty

Planet of the Apes #7: The classic Statue of Liberty is shown in the background as Brent (James Franciscus) and Nova flee a Gorilla posse.

Planet of the Apes 8 cover, on the run with Nova

Planet of the Apes #8: Brent and Nova again on the run in a Beneath-inspired cover.  I had a great crush on Linda Harrison, who played Nova in the first two movies.  I thought Earl Norem, who painted this cover, liked her a lot as well.  Uncle Sal Abbinanti recently disclosed his Nova thirst on Around Comics episode 252, to the bewilderment of Tom Katers.

Another interesting aside:  Linda Harrison starred as Wonder Woman in an unaired 1967 pilot, according to Wikipedia.  She would have been a natural fit for the WW costume!

Planet of the Apes 10 cover, mutants blow up the POTA

Planet of the Apes #10: The Gorillas have met their match with the mind-bending mutants.  Brent and Nova cuddle next to the nuke for safety.

Planet of the Apes 12 cover, Escape

Planet of the Apes #12: Cornelius--the good hearted chimpanzee who aided Taylor and Brent in the first two films--makes his Escape from the Planet of the Apes.  The cover shows a scene we never saw in the movie--Cornelius' astonishment at watching his planet explode.

Planet of the Apes 21 cover, Conquest

Planet of the Apes #21:  Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.  Watch out Jessica Simpson, those red-suited Gorillas are taking over the world!  I love this movie and the rioting scenes!  Roddy McDowell's speech (as Caesar) at the end is worthy of Shakespeare.

Planet of the Apes 27 cover, Battle

Planet of the Apes #27: Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the climatic fight between Caesar and Aldo in the trees.  Aldo actually killed Caesar's kid in this movie.  I cried buckets.

Did anyone have the reaction that I did when after seeing Battle?  I desperately wanted to learn what happened to Caesar and his Great Society.  The ending shows the Lawgiver making a sermon in the future, where Caesar's statue sheds a tear.  More tragedy must have occurred after the final film.  It seems like this mystery will never be solved.  Nuff said.

Update: While I received these POTA covers from a different source, I learned that they originated from Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive.  Dave Ballard wrote to alert me--he was also the person who retouched the covers.  Check out that website, they've got some unpublished Doug Moench scripts and many other cool Ape-related things.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marvel Goes Ape with Merchandise

How big was Planet of the Apes in 1974?  Big enough for these giant-size ads in Marvel’s black and white magazines.

Planet of the Apes and Spidey Giant pin-ups

Here’s my favorite: Giant-sized wall-hanging figures with eight movable parts.  Cornelius is featured front and center, with Spider-Man on his side.  The Cornelius figure is actually taken from a Mike Ploog drawing from Terror on the Planet of the Apes—the Alexander character.

Don’t ya just love that guy in the suit and tie staring admiringly at these giant pin-ups?  If a respectable adult likes them, it must be ok for a kid to buy it!

Someone still has these fading figures on a wall somewhere.  I just know it.

Planet of the Apes Merchandise

If you wanted to declare your Apes devotion in public—you could wear one of these nifty belt buckles—and choose between the Chimpanzee, Orangutan, and Gorilla factions.  Notice something funny here: in this ad, there is a chimpanzee called Alexander as well as Cornelius!  There are also a couple mistakes.  The Cornelius image looks like a Gorilla; General Ursus is spelled Urus.

What I really love about this ad is how it also markets the product to Apes fans living in Texas.  If you don’t want a belt buckle, you can have a western tie!  Just the thing to wear to the rodeo.  Nuff said.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Marvel's 1974 Trip to the Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes 1 cover, sans logo

The entire nation, nay—maybe even the entire planet, was crazy about the Planet of the Apes in the early 1970s.  My love for the film series started as forbidden fruit.  I saw the original movie on a marquee while on vacation in Hawaii.  The title alone instantly grabbed my imagination.  I desperately wanted to see it, but I knew my parents would never go.  There was an Apes movie marathon that I tried to see at age 11, but the theater turned me away because some films were rated R.  Finally, in 1972, my brother in law took me to see Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.  What an epic Shakespearian movie that was, with Roddy McDowell’s Caesar leading an ape revolt, with that stunning speech at the end!  I caught up on rest of the Apes mythology when the original film was broadcast on CBS (around 1973?).  The high ratings on national TV resulted in an Apes TV show, which I highly anticipated.  Just when I thought the news could not get any better…

Planet of the Apes promo

Marvel Comics announced in the bullpen bulletins that they would produce a Planet of the Apes black and white magazine!  Marvel and POTA, that was like Peanut Butter and Jelly in my mind.  The John Romita illustration of a chimpanzee in chains, with a militaristic gorilla holding him captive, just whetted my appetite even more.  Was that chimp supposed to be Caesar, who led the apes to freedom in Conquest and Battle?  I was desperate for either the TV show or Marvel’s comics to continue the story of Caesar.

It seemed like an eternity between seeing that ad and finding the actual magazine on sale.

Marvel Planet of the Apes 1, 1974, cover by Bob Larkin

When Planet of the Apes #1 did arrive in 1974, it was truly a giant-sized smorgasbord of Ape entertainment.  Two huge comic stories and a plethora of articles sandwiched in-between.  In the front section, Terror on the Planet of the Apes by Doug Moench and Mike Ploog.  I’ll cover that series later, but I will say, even though it didn’t feature Caesar, it was superb.  The feature in the back was a retelling of the first film, with art by George Tuska.  I was a bit disappointed in these film adaptations—just rehashing stuff I already knew—although I see why Marvel did it.

Planet of the Apes 1 inside photo cover of Roddy McDowell as Galen, 1974

What I want to focus on now is—how great a magazine POTA was for hardcore Apes fans.  From the minute I opened the cover and saw this picture of Roddy McDowell firing a rifle (if I’m not mistake, taken from the TV show), I was in heaven.  This was only the beginning of behind the scenes material.

Rod Serling interview in POTA 1

There was an interview with Rod Serling—the freaking creator of Twilight Zone—on the conception of the first film, where he provided the initial treatment.  Serling’s vision featured an Ape City that resembled modern day New York, with automobiles and skyscrapers.  Because Sterling’s version would cost way too much money, producer Arthur Jacobs went in another direction and gave Mike Wilson the script to rewrite.  A few of Sterling’s ideas that made it into the completed film; the Statue of Liberty ending and the scene with the stuffed astronaut’s belonged to him.  The interview just didn’t cover Apes, they also discussed Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and his other work.

How great would a modern day Apes film be if they used some of Serling’s ideas?  Tim Burton hinted at that world in his remake, but didn’t get the chance to make the sequel that would carry it through.

Maurice Evans behind the scenes makeup article in POTA 1

In addition, there was a behind the scenes article on the special effects makeup used to turn the actors into apes.  If you have the Apes DVDs, you’ve probably seen these documentaries that feature John Chambers’ Academy Award winning process.  This article covered that stuff in great detail, and featured this photo of Maurice Evans taking a break during the first film.  It’s odd seeing sneaky Dr. Zaius with an umbrella to keep the sun away!

Roddy McDowell behind the scenes Planet of the Apes #3 photo

Later issues of POTA would have many more articles to satisfy the cravings Apes fans, including interviews with Roddy McDowell (who was the iconic face of the Apes films for me) and a series of interviews/articles on the POTA CBS TV show.  Quite a few of these articles were written by Chris Claremont after he visited the set during the production.

POTA Lawgiver subscription ad in POTA 1

Was there any chance that I would ever miss an issue of this incredible magazine?  No way.  I took a “Lesson From the Lawgiver” (in this ad from the first issue, drawn by Pablo Marcos) and subscribed immediately.  The magazine lasted for three years until issue 29, and while some issues fell apart, almost each of them had something to make you go Ape over. Nuff said!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Marvel's Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 6 cover by Frank Brunner

Around the same time period as Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars, Marvel also published a magazine devoted specifically to science fiction.  Editor Roy Thomas expressed his love for many famous science fiction writers by adapting their stories into comics form.  Theodore Sturgeon, Michael Moorcock, Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison were a few of the notable names.  There were articles designed to appeal to any SF fan who might be reading Analog--such as the interview with Frank Herbert in issue #3.

The cover to Unknown Worlds #6 that you see above was beautifully painted by Frank Brunner.  There seemed to be a rash of crucifixation covers at Marvel during this period.  Conan was nailed to a cross in Savage Sword, Warlock kind of got hammered in the Hulk.  Maybe those covers really helped sales?

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 2 cover by Mike Kaluta

Unknown Worlds lasted only 7 issues (6 regular plus a special), and I have to admit, there's only one issue that sticks out in my memory.  Issue #2 featured a memory story called "War Toy" by Tony Isabella and a newcomer named George Perez.  It's a great yarn about a robot who serves in the military, but even better, the cover featured this character in a painting by Mike Kaluta.  Kaluta was clearly inspired by that famous 1945 photograph at Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal.  Yeah, it's cheesy, with the soldiers and War Toy raising that intergalactic America flag, but what the heck.  I love it.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


I bought a few of those Marvel SF mags, and enjoyed their stories from "very much" to "so-so", so thanks for this memory-prodder. But you didn't mention the cover artist here for #6 -- was it possibly Frank Brunner? If so, it's not his best work, but he still deserves a mention?
Regarding the "Man-Gods from the Stars" mag, I never got hold of any of those -- but I must admit that I, in the early/mid 70s was deeply suckered into the Von Danichen mythos! Sad, but true. I wised up after a few years, but while it lasted it was sure cool to think that space aliens had been on earth thousands of years ago -- and perhaps even gemetically modified apes to create Homo Sapiens!
Yes, that is Frank Brunner who did the cover to Unknown Worlds #6! In my haste, I forgot to mention that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Neal Adams and Alex Nino on Man-Gods

Marvel Preview was the black and white magazine equivalent of DC Comics First Issue Special.  It premiered a new series with every issue, and none, except for Star-Lord, appeared more than once.  The first issue was published in 1975 with a great Neal Adams cover.

Neal Adams cover to Marvel Preview 1, 1975

The inspiration for "Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars" was taken directly from the book Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Däniken.  This book was tremendously popular; you could find it not only in bookstores but in almost all supermarket checkout stands.  The theory--or fantasy--that extraterrestrial visitors interacted with early civilizations was irresistible to people fascinated with UFOs and TV programs like In Search Of... (hosted by Leonard Nimoy).  I didn't buy that stuff, but I certainly could buy any magazine with an Adams cover like this one.

Alex Nino Page from Man-Gods in Marvel Preview 1, 1975

The story was a pretty good yarn by Doug Moench, from a concept by Roy Thomas.  But what was really surprising was the art by someone I never heard of before: Alex Nino!  I was blown away by his unique vision and style.  His panel construction and storytelling was also unique, as you can see in this panel, where a pre-historic woman is chased by a saber-toothed tiger.  The alien captain observes from a vantage point and has to decide whether to break his non-interference pledge.  He will, because he's crushing on this loincloth babe.

Alex Nino Last Page from Man-Gods in Marvel Preview 1, 1975

There are three things about Marvel Preview #1 that stand out: the cover, Alex Nino, and this last page where the captain admits to his ship-mate that he had not only violated the rules--he had sex with the loincloth chick!  Nino's representation of her face amid the backdrop of the galaxy was incredible.

I followed Nino's work for a number of years after this story.  I remember buying a huge coffee table book featuring the art of Alex Nino, with lots of original drawings and color work.  Nuff said.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jim Starlin Star-Lord Painting from Marvel Preview 14

Following his friend Berni Wrightson, Jim Starlin also did a Star-Lord piece:

Jim Starlin Star-Lord cover to Marvel Preview 14 1978

This painting appeared on the cover of Marvel Preview #14, 1978.  Starlin painted in this medium (oil? acrylic?) for many covers, portfolios, and series such as Metamorphosis Odyssey.  It’s interesting that Starlin depicted Peter Quill without the helmet and wielding a sword instead of his blaster. 

Ya gotta love that crazy cosmic afro chick in the foreground!  Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Claremont, Byrne & Austin's Classic Take on Star-Lord

After his first appearance in Marvel Preview #4, what made Marvel decide to take a second shot at Star-Lord?  Were the sales good on that issue, or did the editors see the potential in the Berni Wrightson pinup?

Over a year later, we saw the sequel in Marvel Preview #11 (1977).  With Englehart no longer available to continue as writer, editor John Warner assembled the perfect creative team to revive the character: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin!  In his editorial, Warner called the creative team (with Tom Orzechowski on letters) magic"Five people forming a perfect and balanced synthesis of concept and execution, each one's contribution enriching the one before it." 

Starlord splash in Marvel Preview 11 1977 by John Byrne and Terry Austin

The splash page opened like an epic movie.  In this one page, we already know the Byrne has figured out the essence of the character that Wrightson pinup showed us.  Marvel Preview #11, like most Marvel magazines, was printed in glorious black and white.  I think the artwork by Byrne and Austin looks superior that way, but just for contrast, I'll show some panels from the 1981 Star-Lord Special Edition comic that reprinted this story in color.

Windholme opening splash in Star-Lord Marvel Preview 11

Like many great films or novels, the story doesn't open on the main character.  The reader is treated to a double page spread of a world called "Windholme" that has been invaded by an enslaving alien race.  We are introduced to two supporting characters: Kip, a native who has psychic abilities, and Sandy, a young woman with street smarts and good at hand to hand combat.  Take a look at the detail on the first half of this page--Byrne and Austin knocked themselves out drawing this scene as the humans are corralled into space-ships.  They are going to be "sealed within our slave-pens" as the Anubian lord says on top.

This story was written by Chris Claremont in his prime.  I hear people on various message boards and podcasts slamming Claremont and Byrne; I find it sickening.  It's hard for them to imagine that Claremont was once as popular as Bendis or Johns.  He wrote this issue of Star-Lord as his terrific Iron Fist run concluded, and as he was taking the X-Men to encounter the Shi'ar Empire.  In a text piece after the story, Claremont talks about his love for science fiction novels, especially his love for Robert Heinlein. "I grew up reading his so-called juveniles," Claremont wrote.  "Hell, I read every book of his I could get my hands on as soon as I could find them."

Star-Lord's reimagining as a swashbuckling anti-authority hero puts him square in the Heinlein mold.  George R.R. Martin may have been another influence: Windholme reminds me slightly of Windhaven, an early Martin story that appeared in Analog (1975).

Starlord in his invisible Ship

As the reader sees Star-Lord for the first time through the eyes of the alien starship's bridge--he appears to be just sitting in empty space!  If you see this bridge in other panels, there is a wink and a nod to classic Star Trek.  Star-Lord isn't merely sitting on his butt...he's sitting in a wondrous spaceship that is invisible.

Starlord's sentient Ship

Peter Quill's ally throughout this issue and all the ones following it was a sentient, morphing starship--simply called Ship--that shared a unique bond with him.  Ship had a female persona and was most definitely in love with Peter.  Her conversations with Peter were quite humorous at times.  If you remember the first Star-Lord story, Peter Quill was a jerk, but Ship's interaction with Peter---plus his heroic actions--make him an extremely likeable character in this tale.

I'm not really up on the latest take on Star-Lord in the Annihilation series and everything that followed.  From Wikipedia I see that Ship was destroyed in Annihilation: Starlord Conquest.  Sounds like Keith Giffen, blowing up things he doesn't care for!  While I like what I've seen so far in the new Guardians of the Galaxy, that Peter Quill seems like a watered down version of the one I fell in love with.  Who in their right mind would get rid of Ship?

Montage of Starlord in action

When Star-Lord invades the alien slaver ship, we are treated to a terrific montage of him battling the alien slavers.  From this point on, he hooks up with Kip and Sandy, and starts to track down the real masterminds behind this operation.

Splash of Cinnabar by Byrne and Austin

The concepts, planets, and alien races in this epic story just keep on coming.  We see another terrific splash page introducing us to Cinnabar, a hellish world with anti-gravity palaces built by the merchant lords of the galaxy.  Again, just great line and detail work here by Byrne and Austin.

To show you that Byrne invested a great deal of energy in this project, he also wrote a text piece in Marvel Preview #11, where he discussed the portrayal of aliens in the Marvel Universe and the aliens he designed for this story.  Byrne writes: "...STARLORD is a fantasy.  It's Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.  It's Star Trek.  And so we bend the truth a little, to allow for cross breeding, and romances between alien races."

Starlord swashbuckles with a sword

Eventually all trails lead to Prince Gareth and his band of aliens--the exact same aliens who came to Earth in Marvel Preview #4 and killed Peter's mother.  It's a great chance for Peter to pick up a sword and deal with them in typical swashbuckling style.  The dispatching of the villains isn't even the end of the story--there's more revelations about Peter's past, and hope for his future, that rounds out this tale.

This Star-Lord story is one of the best comics ever produced in the 1970s.  At 50 pages in length, with a self-contained narrative, it should really be called a graphic novel.  Everyone involved in the production recognized that they had captured lightning in a bottle.

Claremont and Byrne's epic story propelled Star-Lord into more stories, although this would be the only time that Byrne and Austin drew the character.  Star-Lord appeared in three more Marvel Preview magazines (14, 15, 18), the first two written by Claremont and drawn by Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek.  There was the full color Marvel magazine, Marvel Super Special #10 by Doug Moench, Gene Colan, and Tom Palmer.  And in 1980, regular Marvel comic appearances in Marvel Spotlight by Moench and Tom Sutton.  None of these stories ever came close to the original magic captured in Preview #11...which is why the character faded away after a while.

If you are a classic Marvel fan and can find Marvel Preview #4 or the Star-Lord Special Edition color reprint for sale, by all means pick it up.  Nuff said!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Berni Wrightson Star-Lord pinup

Sometimes it’s the artwork that sells you on a character more than the story.  Doc Savage, the Shadow, Conan—my appreciation of those characters all started with the cover paintings.  With Star-Lord’s first appearance in Marvel Preview #4, it was this frontispiece by Berni Wrightson.

Berni Wrightson StarLord pinup in Marvel Preview 4 1976

I just think this is magnificent.  Peter Quill blasting out the brains of an alien against the backdrop of—another planet—another moon?  The whiteness of that object highlights Star-Lord in the foreground, a very clever page design that Wrightson probably whipped out and thought nothing more of it.  Nuff said.

Update: Comment from my old MT blog...


Wow, I have never seen that great Berni Wrightson piece before -- thanks! I've actually had the pleasure of talking to Wrightson on a transatlantic phone line almost twenty years ago. In 1990 I was working as Associate Art Director for Norway's Book-of-the-Month Club, and some editor decided we should publish Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" novel in a nice hardcover edition. I had much earlier bought a signed/numbered 10-print limited edition portfolio of Wrightson's superb pen-and-ink illustrations for that novel, so I showed those pages to the editor -- and I was then instructed to, somehow, buy the rights from Wrightson for using a dozen illustrations in our edition. So I called Marvel in NYC, explained all, some editor there reluctantly gave me Wrightson's home phone number -- apparently, some fans could be annoying stalkers! -- and then I phoned up BW, explained our Norwegian book project, and offered him my budget of $1,000 for the usage rights. He happily agreed right away -- it was pure windfall profit for him, natch! And then we published the book some months later -- and I sure hope the accounting folks did the right thing, and paid him and sent him a few copies (I didn't get to follow up, alas, as I had by then quit that job.) So that was the story of my little brush with Wrightson's pen-and-ink greatness!

Star-Lord's Black and White Origin in Marvel Preview #4

In September, we celebrate Marvel’s science fiction heroes and stories that originated in the 70s and 80s.  Some of these continue on in the current Marvel cosmic line, most notably Star-Lord!

Marvel Preview 4 1976, First appearance of StarLord

Star-Lord premiered in the black and white magazine, Marvel Preview #4.  It had a gorgeous cover, painted by Gray Morrow, showing the character gliding through an alien planet.  This cover and the costume design had me sold right away.  Here was a guy who looked like an intergalactic cop patrolling the galaxy with a fancy gun strapped to his waist.  Archie Goodwin’s editorial echoed my sentiments:  I Say It’s Space Opera And To Hell With It!

In his introduction to the story, writer Steve Englehart mentions that Marv Wolfman came up with the character name Star-Lord, leaving it to Steve to conceive and flesh out the details.  Englehart described his interest in astrology—and several astrological details are sprinkled throughout Star-Lord’s origin.  Surprisingly—despite Englehart’s interest in mysticism and philosophy—the lead character Peter Quill seems like a real dick in this first appearance!

StarLord splash page by Steve Gan Marvel Preview 4

The artwork in this first story was by Steve Gan.  Was he a Filipino artist?  You can see similarities to Tony DeZuniga, but also some inspiration from Joe Kubert.

Many science fiction stories have the same structure as Western stories.  Star-Lord’s origin is one of them.  The story opens with Peter Quill’s birth—he’s born into conflict immediately, as Meredith’s (his mother) husband believes that Peter isn’t his son.  Well, he’s not, and it’s a plot detail that Chris Claremont would develop later.  He takes baby Peter outside to kill him with an axe, but dies from a heart attack.  The baby boy goggles at the nighttime stars in a precursor of things to come.  Later, Meredith is murdered by aliens from another world.  Peter Quill swears an oath of vengeance and will do anything it takes to get it.  Which bears a similarity to countless Western tales about young cowboys whose families are slaughtered by Indians and swear vengeance!

Peter Quill receives the StarLord costume in Marvel Preview 4

Peter Quill acts like a jerk for the rest of the story, cheating his way into a space program, even killing other astronauts in order to become the Star-Lord.  He’s transported away before being killed by a firing squad by “the Master of the Solar System” (who looked too much like the wizard Shazam to me) who gives him the Star-Lord costume.  Peter Quill has the ability to fly in space and shoot an elemental gun.  The Master gives Peter his big chance to murder the dirty aliens who killed his Mom, and the story ends with the hope that now—with his hatred finally extinguished—Peter will become a true hero.

StarLord promo 1974

Truth being told, the origin story was a lot less than I had hoped for, after being hyped up from the promo ads and covers.  I loved Englehart, but I couldn’t believe he wrote such a flawed character.  I was expecting something more…Heinlein-esque…which Chris Claremont and John Byrne would deliver a year or so in the future.  Tune back into Giant-Size Marvel for the rebirth of Star-Lord!  Nuff said.