Sunday, 28 June 2009

It Came From Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z : A is for...

Welcome to the first of It Came from Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z columns. The intention of this column is to spotlight a few of the more obscure Marvel UK characters - the kind who are probably less likely to come up in conversation or whose overall contribution to Marvel UK has not yet been acknowledged by this Blog.

We begin, as is frankly logical, with the letter A. And in my alphabetical world...


Let's go back to 1975, a year before Captain Britain becomes the first truly acknowledged UK scribed new Marvel material. This was the 70s and Planet of the Apes was huge, turning into a global fan phenomenon which inevitably sparked a licensing deal in the USA between Marvel and the studio for a Planet of the Apes comic. It was a Black and White comic, which was later reprinted in colour, and ran to 29 issues between 1974 and 1977, adapting the movies and also adding some new material.

At roughly the same time Planet of the Apes weekly began reprinting these stories in the UK (It should be pointed out that the standard format for Comics in the UK is, and has always been, weekly. Especially in the 70s the expectation for weekly content was a given. So don't you go telling ME DC were doing something new with 52! ;D). But of course, reprinting material weekly, when it was being originated monthly, threw out a bit of a problem.

And so it was that in March 1975, with #23, a new story set in the the Planet of the Apes universe began, featuring a new human character called APESLAYER.

The Plot and Concept of this new story is attributed to Marvel Legend Roy Thomas, with pencils attributed to Neal Adams and later to Howard Chaykin. With the script attributed to Gerry Conway.

Apeslayer was very much part of a world where Apes ruled, where he had been brought up a human slave, forced to fight in arenas for the amusement of the simian rulers of Earth, only to later free himself and make it his mission to wage war on his oppressors...

Pause there a moment. Does any of this sound a little familiar? In fact a little like another Roy Thomas concept from the 70s. In fact, does Apeslayer himself bear a certain physical similarity to Roy Thomas' Killraven - "Warrior of the Worlds" from Amazing Adventures?

Well, there might be a reason for that. He kind of IS Killraven... Yes. To fill in during waiting for new American material, the fledgling UK arm of Marvel comics turned Killraven into Apeslayer, to use as part of their Planet of the Apes series. And pretty much the only changes between the two were purely cosmetic - changing the length of Apeslayer's hair, removing Killraven's headband and armlets, changing Martians for Apes, and changing a couple of names here and there to make things work.

Seriously. These Killraven pages were two which I scanned for use in a forum thread on Paul Cornell's Wisdom series a couple of years back (Which features a young Killraven and a his Mother Maureen Raven - she, in fact, appeared there as one of the original members of MI13). Click to enlarge:

And here are their equivalent pages from Planet of the Apes' Apeslayer story (Again Click to enlarge):

Jonathan 'Killraven' Raven becomes Jonathan 'Apselayer' Dozer, Maureen Raven becomes Maureen Dozer...

Bizarre, isn't it? And the length of Apeslayer's hair does not actually match between Covers and the actual story. All very strange. It is exactly the same story, with the barest of changes made. Notice that some supporting cast members do not even get their name change, they remain the same - Ann Carver remains Anne Carver. Why the decision was made to bring this one under the Planet of the Apes license is certainly a curious one. To my knowledge Killraven had not been reprinted in the UK at that time, so maybe the editors thought that nobody would notice the similarities. It certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst UK readers, a few years back, when Marvel printed an Essential Killraven volume - to find themselves greeted by a rather unusual feeling of deja vu...

As far as likelihood of an Apeslayer revival goes? Not likely. He'll be covered under the Planet of the Apes license. Should anybody ever pick that up again by rights they could use him. But I doubt we'll see that happening any time soon.

For those wanting to read more of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes title they are actually available online, in pdf format, through Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive - which you may find worth a visit.

'A' could also have stood for:

The Anti-Being: Chaos Bringing enemy of Dark Angel and Death's Head II, and one giant mass of negative energy.

Afrikaa: African based Black Axe and Black Panther ally, powered by the Heart of Africa.

Abslom Daak - Dalek Slayer: Doctor Who character, who's purpose in life should be rather clear from his title.


  1. Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman are both active now on Twitter. I am halfway curious enough to ask either one for the story behind this.

  2. I was quite familiar with Killraven at the time this appeared, and couldn't quite believe their chuzpah. If you have the comics to hand, check out some of the appaling panels where they've grafted ape heads to Martian torsos.

    @Nilskidoo: I doubt either Conway or Wolfman were ever consulted. These were the days of "work for hire", after all.

  3. Yes Steve. Some of those ape heads really were crudely grafted on. It's hard to see the stories as that much more than a quick fix for a weekly book. But it really is odd.

    Of course, back then, Comics in general were not taken quite so seriously in terms of maintaining continuity. But Even still, re-branding an existing property is quite unusual.