Sunday, 26 July 2015

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

Returning after a slight delay this the second in a series republishing earlier entries from the It Came From Darkmoor archives.

The following article was first posted in July 2009. There has been one piece of additional information added (as you'll see when you reach the end of the article) and a little bit of reformatting to suit the modern shape of the blog, but otherwise it appears here pretty much as it did back then. Once again, I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the second 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 continue, as I guess would only be sensible, with the letter B. And in this alphabetical series...

'B' is for BLOODSEED

Lysander Bloodseed, in fact. 

Or if not in fact then certainly at least in theory.

Bloodseed was the brain-child of former Marvel UK E-i-C Paul Neary, Death's Head II artist Liam Sharp, and Motormouth artist Cam Smith. As with other titles such as Mortigan Goth (A link for those with shorter memories) and Dances with Demons, Bloodseed was created for the somewhat short-lived Marvel UK sub-imprint of titles which went under the banner of Marvel Frontier Comics - a more adult orientated line of books which were more akin to DC's Vertigo line than to standard superhero comics. 

The aesthetic for Bloodseed is quite an interesting one. On the surface it does very much seem like a European-styled Fantasy comic, with the familiar presence of swords, monsters and magic. 

Bloodseed fights with a sword, he has magical healing powers, he battles fantasy monsters and giant ape-like brutes. You can see elements of Tarzan here, of Conan, of Marvel's Ka-Zar, pr other pulp adventure characters of this kind. It would not be out of place in a European fantasy anthlogy, and I do mean that in a positive manner.

It's also likewise relatively European in its attitude towards nudity. 

Yes, Bloodseed is fighting naked on that page, if that's something which you felt needed clarifying. 

There is also a heck of a lot female nudity throughout the book - something which would certainly not escape the attention of a teenager (and certainly didn't with this one) reading this book back in 1993. There are female naughty bits EVERYwhere! And frequently with very little attempt to cover them up.

But, by and large, it's not purely for titillation. It is plot driven nudity for the most part. When we join Lysander Bloodseed's story he is dragging his naked and only semi-conscious self through the snowy wastes of a planet he later discovers to be named Themax-2, trying to remember how it is that he came to be here, and perhaps more importantly who the hell he actually is. 

The answer to which (to his current mind, anyway) is that he is Lysander, Warrior-King of Elyssium, a Kingdom in the land of Utopia. Elyssium is a Warrior Nation, whose landscape looks like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where the men are built like Tarzan and the women built like porn-stars - all of whom appear to hold a fundamental distaste for the wearing of clothing. He rules as King, and Elyssa - a busty amazon type with flowing black hair and seemingly just as much distaste for clothing as the rest of her kin - is the loyal consort at his side. His one true love.

Sound just a little too good to be true? 

Well, you'd not be wrong. 

And how can he be King of Elyssium when a woman named Elyssa is also wandering the land, with the same set of memories, also believing herself to be the Queen of Elyssium? In her memories she rules Elyssium, with Lysander as her royal consort. And he's certainly not the Lysander we've already met...

The same memories, but two different people both believing them to be their own. 

The truth of course, is that these are all false memories - implanted visions of a past that seemingly never was. Despite seeming like a fantasy world, it is at least partly a fa├žade. A fair amount of what Bloodseed has been seeing is revealed to be a holographic computer simulation. Part of a method for both controlling and testing him. 

He's actually the latest in a line of humanoids created by a company called "Gene-Corp" on behalf of an unnamed client. He's not the first, merely the latest in a production line of Bloodseeds, being tested for survival. As was another one-armed Bloodseed who Lysander later encounters, a dead test subject wearing the same armour as him which Elyssa stumbles upon, and in fact Elyssa herself.

Each Bloodseed appears to be 'birthed' out into the world, with these false memories in their head, and placed into a Darwin-esque scenario where they are expected to kill off the other test subjects. Each subject is a peak physical specimen, possessed of the ability to heal others by touch, some kind of telekinesis, and (if they reach the correct point in the program) they will be given a 'Helmet of Truth' a semi-sentient mask which allows the wearer to discern what is real from hologram. 

Lysander and Elyssa's progress in these trials eventually alerts the attention of Gene-Corp's Chief Engineer, who having convinced Lysander to remove his helmet (unfortunately triggering Elyssa's programming, and setting her trying to kill him) then contacted his client. And that's kind of the twist in this tale. Their client goes by the name of Lord Juno. And he comes from Earth. 

Only he's a dinosaur. A very eloquent, English speaking dinosaur.

Beyond that we know very little more.

Because, unfortunately, two issues complete issues of Bloodseed is pretty much all we got.

What does this all mean? Well that, I guess is purely open to your own interpretation. 

For my own part (and I'd add that this purely conjecture, here) I speculate the following:

Lord Juro can speak. Maybe, just maybe, he is part of some kind of super intelligent/super evolved race of Dinosaurs. From Earth, but who fled Earth just before whatever ice age/meteor strike/catastrophe actually brought about extinction of their lesser evolved kin. 

They used to hunt humans. For sport. And after thousands of years elsewhere in the galaxy they have decided that they missed doing that. That is something they used to enjoy. It's about time they brought that back.

As far as they know though, there are no more humans. They figure them to have been wiped out, along with everything else on Earth. How could anything have survived that ice age/meteorite/catastrophe? 

So as far as they know, that's an avenue they cannot go down.

Juro's people therefore approach Gene-Corp to rectify that. A gene-tailoring company on the other side of the galaxy, capable of growing them some humans to hunt. Selectively bred, peak of their physical condition, humans. Humans designed to give them a challenge.

Themax-2 is the test world for this enterprise. But it's only part of a grander plan. The first step in a much larger scheme. A plan being to return to, and repopulate, the Earth with new genetically engineered subjects just like Bloodseed, and then to use this planet as some kind of messed up dinosaur hunting reserve.

But as I say, that is only conjecture. The way I've thought it through in the past 20+ years.

In reality it's honestly hard to say what the actual plan for Bloodseed was. For all we know Lysander may have been returned to the modern day Marvel Universe? For all we know Elyssa would have killed Lysander and traveled back to Earth herself? Maybe there would even have been some explanation as to what that giant glove/claw Bloodseed is wearing on the cover of #2 was?

Is that a glove? Or is it his actual hand? It's hard to say.

I mean it looks like it could be made of the same materials as the helmet, but what if-?

But I digress.

While I get the feeling that there was actually a longer story planned out for Bloodseed we didn't get to read it. While it was initially planned as a four issue limited series it was cut down to just 2 issues by the time it saw print. Two issues and (what seemed to be) a Prologue tale in the Marvel Frontier Comics Special

All of the Frontier titles came out during the tail end days of Marvel UK, shortly before the US office closed things down and sold off parts of the business elsewhere. 

The promised second series never came to pass.

Bloodseed remains a character and a series which still holds a certain amount of interest for me. Compared to Liam Sharp's later work some of the artwork here does seem a little rough around the edges in places, but I do see some early roots of a later style in play here. And conceptually I do believe there was a decent story being taken through its paces in the two issues we got. There aren't enough series with these kind of European fantasy elements at Marvel these days. It's a great shame that we never got to see how it could have panned out.

Update: If you are curious about Bloodseed - or indeed any of the other Marvel Frontier books - then January 2016 might just be your lucky month. Earlier this week this week, as I sat down to prep this article, I was alerted to the following listing which had turned up on Amazon:

The UK store listing is without a description of the collection. However, on the US store page the following blurb on display:

A forgotten gem from Marvel UK is uncovered, dusted off and collected in its entirety for the first time! Who is Bloodseed? And what is his mission in a barbarian world of talking pterodactyls, giant lizards and remnants of technology from a long-lost civilization? Something is haunting author Sam Wantling's dreams - could he be a Child of the Voyager? Will James Owl survive his dance with demons when he discovers that he is the heir to a great Native American spirit?

That's right. A complete collection of all the books which were put out under the banner of Marvel Frontier Comics. An unexpected release to have found its way into the wilds. Not least because this does actually appear to be a release from Marvel in the US. Most previous UK material has been reprinted by Panini Comics here in the UK.

I would definitely recommend this collection, based on that promised content. Having reread all of the Frontier books a few years back I can confirm that they actually have aged pretty well. These were the books which seemed to be defining the direction in which Marvel UK was trying to go in those later days for the Imprint. Doing something a little different. Darker and more serious tales within the Marvel Universe.

It's only a shame that it had to end when and where it did. 

'B' could also have stood for: 

The Battletide: A demonic gestalt entity, powered by the souls of fallen warriors, which tore its way through the universe. As seen in the mini series Battletide and Battletide II.

The Bane: The big, bad, adversary of the Knights of Pendragon and age old nemesis of the Green Knight. 

The Bacillicons: Digital analogues of human mercenaries brought into play to hunt down and kill Digitek, in the pages of his limited series.


  1. Or B could be for Black Axe, who was definitely not a ripoff of Highlander, no, no, definitely not, because Connor MacLeod is an immortal with a sword and Black Axe is an immortal with an axe. Very different.

    1. But, Kelvin? Did Connor MacLeod fight with a sword so utterly impractically designed that it woouldn't have in any way been practically useful as sword?

      Was Connor MacLeod's sword taller than he was? :)

      Yeah, in those early 90s days of bug guns, big muscles and big... other things... Black Axe was right at home. It all looks a bit tragic by today's standards, but back then it was the norm of the day.

      He wasn't included here, no. But largely because some 7 months earlier I had posted up a 'Who the Hell is..?' article on Black Axe. You can find that here:

    2. I would love to see him back, but I think it unlikely!

    3. Weirdly, Black Axe did show up in an issue of the eponymous X-Men title a couple of years ago (I think towards the end of Victor Giscgler's run?)

    4. Now I heard people mention this at the time, but couldn't find the issues in question. I'd have to say that after the whole Vampire Event Gischler produced I wasn't really impressed, and have somewhat churlishly avoided his future work at Marvel. Was it of any particular note?