I was a big fan of Don McGregor & P Craig Russell’s work on Killraven during the 1970s. It had a short but sweet run with some of the most lyrical stories ever done in Marvel’s history. Killraven fans kept hoping for the return of the rebel warrior and his band of free men, M’Shulla, Carmilla Frost, Old Skull, etc. Marvel Graphic Novel #7 in 1983 was a great return to this world, but that was the swan song. You will notice the above pinup by Russell is dated 1989. It appeared in Marvel Fanfare #45, an issue devoted to pin-ups. When I first saw this, I thought, wow, they called up Craig and had him do a special illustration! However, there may be more to the story.
On the Killraven Wikipedia entry, there is this tidbit of inside-comics:
In the late 1980s, Don McGregor wrote 50 to 60 pages and P. Craig Russell began illustrating a final story, "Killraven: Final Battles, Final Lies, Final Truths" (also referred to as "Final Lies, Final Truths, Final Battles"). The story never saw print, according to McGregor, because Marvel would not assure Russell the company would print the story in Marvel's best format at the time. In this intended finale to McGregor's story, "Killraven would take that war back to the intruders" on Mars itself.
While I like that pinup a lot, I prefer Killraven with longer hair. Hey, I’m bald like Old Skull, and a guy has got to dream, right? Amazing Adventures #39 was the last issue to feature Killraven (or War of the Worlds) and I loved, loved this cover by P Craig Russell. It is a very iconic cover, capturing the spirit of these freedom fighters. Old Skull (looking really envious of Killraven’s hair) holds a flag, somewhat like the classic Iwo Jima photograph from WW 2. The horse is straining at the reins, buckling to be free. The wind is at their backs and an explosion is going off in the background. Even the caption reading THE FINAL GLORY just gives you chills. I looked around for the original artwork to this cover and have not been able to find anyone who has it. One collector wrote on ComicArtFans that this was a Holy Grail! I am sure many fans would love to own it.
I think when I bought this comic, I had already known it was cancelled. I was pretty disgusted, because it seemed like all of Don McGregor’s books at Marvel were getting shut down.
There were obviously many more tales that McGregor had planned for Killraven. Just look at this data sheet from Amazing Adventures #30. This was a fact file written by Martian intelligence on their greatest enemy. We learned here for the first time that Killraven’s brother, Joshua, was alive and had been given the name…Deathraven. Oooooo. A lot of sub plots and elements were teased and meant to pay off over time. The one about Deathraven did, finally, in the Marvel Graphic Novel #7 that I mentioned earlier.
Marvel has tried to revive Killraven a few times without McGregor and Russell. Joe Lisner did a Killraven one-shot in 2001 and Alan Davis did a 6 issue mini-series in 2002. While I appreciated Davis’ artwork, it was still missing that lyrical collaboration between the original creators.
Another cover that I’ve always admired is the one above, to Amazing Adventures #29. Killraven is a madman with a sword, jumping on top of that aerial sled to slice and dice those guys before it goes over the cliff! I have always assumed this cover was penciled by Gil Kane and inked by Russell. Marvel Wikia states that it was all done by Russell alone. Some other sites disagree. What do you think? Nuff Said!