Friday, August 5, 2011

Comic Retro View: Creatures on the Loose! #16

With pretty much all of the previous John Carter comics reviewed, on occasion I'll turn the spotlight on other similar comics. So get ready for "Gullivar Jones...Warrior of Mars!"

As our story opens former military man Gullivar Jones is leaving the Officers' Club when suddenly a man appears before him floating in the air. The man-named Lu Pov-has come to Earth to "summon" Gullivar to the planet Mars. But when Lu Pov collapses he gives Gullivar an amulet which immediately sends our hero on his quest. Once on Mars, instead of a barren world, he finds a great city and a beautiful princess Heru. Unfortunately she's just been given as a tribute to a race of lizard like creatures who serve Ar-Hap but Gullivar saves her. He also discovers new strength and agility while fighting them off-always handy on a distant planet. After rescuing her, the two get to know each other but just as things take a turn for the romantic, wingmen serving Ar-Hap kidnap Heru. Can our hero save her? I guess we'll find out in the next issue...

Previously started under the title Tower of Shadows, Creatures on the Loose! was an anthology book published by Marvel Comics, mostly filled with reprints of older monster stories. With this issue the company decided to add an original feature and-looking for something along the lines of their hit Conan the Barbarian comics-decided to give Edwin Arnold's Lt. Gullivar Jones a try. Written by Roy Thomas, the 10 issue story is a very loose adaptation which adds more swashbuckling and creatures to the mix to spice up the action. Gone is Arnold's humor-even though some in jokey references to Flash Gordon might get a chuckle. Thomas instead adds action-which was the hallmark of his Conan work-and it carries the reader through to the cliffhanger ending.

Probably the most interesting change made is how much Gullivar ends up resembling another Martian adventurer-John Carter. While many Edgar Rice Burroughs fans and scholars have debated the influence of Arnold's novel on Burroughs' work, Thomas here takes some ideas from Burroughs-especially giving Gullivar both super strength and the ability to jump higher. The wingmen are also Burroughs-inspired, in this case the Klobargen from the Carson of Venus series. Also interesting to note is that this issue carries a March 1972 publication date, meaning it hit the racks a good month before DC's first Tarzan comic (issue 207) which featured their first John Carter story. How's that for a coincidence?

But the real reason to seek out this issue if nothing else is the artwork. Drawn by the legendary Gil Kane, the comic is a four color spectacle-from the bright red lizard men to the beautiful-even if she is green-Heru, to capturing the action Kane gives the story the visual kick it needs. Kane later worked on Marvel's John Carter, Warlord of Mars series and this serves as a good warm-up for that series as he shows the same style and approach to both series.

In closing I'll give this first chapter a thumbs up. I wish someone would collect the entire "Warrior of Mars" arc though in a trade paperback (and while they're at it collect Michael Kaluta's Carson of Venus series from DC as well). Maybe in the future someone will.

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