Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Salute to Killraven by Don McGregor and P Craig Russell

Marvel Fanfare 045 Killraven by P Craig Russell

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.

Amazing Adventures 39 Killraven cover by Craig Russell

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.

AA 30 Killraven data sheet

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.

Amazing Adventures 29 Killraven cover.

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!

6 comments:

  1. I am lucky enough to still have most every issue of the variously titled Killraven and after the early artist go round it was a joy to watch P Craig Russell's prodigious talent develop. Apart from his Black Panther, I think this may be Don McGregor's best work.

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  2. When I finally sold everything that I collected form 1968 to 1977 even Neal Adams material went...but guess whose comics I could not bring myself to get rid of?
    I am very fortunate to own the original comics I bought from the UK newstands at the time. I LOVE THOSE COMICS and Jungle Action too. Don was weaving such mythology that it still haunts now. I have just been re-reading Sabre as well and LOVE DON! Say it loud!

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  3. I agree Norman, I bought most of the Killraven issues off the UK newstands and its a great run. I only have a few issues of Jungle Action (more's the pity)though I have read the complete Panther's Rage in the black & white UK weeklies (think it was Planet of the Apes). I was always amazed by how much script Don McGregor put into every issue but he was without doubt an amazing writer and far ahead of his peers & contempories alike!

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  4. This is one of my top 3 favorite comics series; read them as a teen and they made a deep, deep impression on me. Always happy to see others giving props to the classic McGregor and Russell version!

    That said, the Linsner redo was a lot better than I expected.

    Also, that cover is definitely Kane pencils. I suppose those could be Russell inks, but it looks like Romita inked KR's face. I'd bet Romita inked Old Skull's face on the cover of #39, too...

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  5. I was not a big fan of Don McGregor & P Craig Russell’s work on Killraven during the 1970s.I like Russell,but Don McGregor was clueless as to what to with book.Don could write himself out of a paper bag.And you read,the current publication Marvel Comics The Untold Story,the editors hated his work and books,he was writting were not selling.If KR was Don MacGregor's best work,I'd hate to see if worst.Despite great potential,War of the Worlds was utter crap.KR needed a Roy Thomas to steer the book along,like he did with Conan.And Killraven,needed to fight Martian .Don McGregor did really do that.He filled with allot of annal confusing crap.

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    1. I think McGregor's work is not everyone's thing. I did note those comments in Marvel Comics the Untold Story. I just read a recent article (below) by McGregor in Comics Bulletin, where he wrote: "Furthermore, to the best of my memory, after Marv Wolfman told me that Roy was coming back as editor, Wolfman told Roy he didn’t want me as a writer and I better head tail back to Warren Magazines." I recall that as soon as Killraven was cancelled, Wolfman snagged Russell to draw his Dr Strange annual. I think I've seen comments that other creators find McGregor too wordy and self-indulgent. I loved it as a teenager and I think there is still something special about his style. In an age where artwork dominates modern comics and writers don't really "own" their material, McGregor's work stands out from the pack as a truly personal statement.

      http://comicsbulletin.com/columns/5490/roy-thomas-hired-me-to-work-on-staff-at-marvel/

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