Thursday, May 26, 2011

BRONZED BEAUTIES 2: Skull the Slayer 3

The Bronze Age, comics forgotten era.
In the 1970's comic companies pushed their content in new and wildly different directions inspired by the anything goes social attitudes of the times, while also balancing new fan fostered talent at the helms of post Comics Code adherent, kid friendly books.
While not much born of the era had lasting impressions, there's a cool factor to the books that's singular in style, and inescapable if one looks just a bit closer...
That's where I come in, with Bronzed Beauties, my weekly look at some of the books from the era, that feature more were-men, cyborgs, man-things, barbarians, sorceresses, dinosaurs, monsters, and damsels in distress than any other time, all in striking and vibrant (or should I say faded) four color ink!

THE BOOK: Skull the Slayer
COVER PRICE AND YEAR: 25 cents - January 1975
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER (HOW COOL AND/OR CRAZY IS IT): It's got everything we want right on the cover folks... colors and inks that pop (along with the logo and graphics), with two caption boxes... including, "MECHANICAL MURDER IN THE WORLD OF THE DINOSAURS!"...
Now I would've dropped a question mark or two after that, but the cover communicates the WTF factor well enough on it's own... with what appears to be our titular hero smashing a robo-saur while saving another friend and damsel in distress. Why are there dinosaurs and space age clothes?? Why is the dinosaur mechanical? Who is Skull the Slayer?!? I'm sold!

WHO'S IT ABOUT (AND HOW COOL AND/OR CRAZY ARE THEY): Skull the Slayer and his three companions... trapped a couple million years in the past. Apparently there were dinosaurs in this era, since we're introduced to Skull and crew, as he rides a dinosaur like a bronco in the first page splash! It seems this quartet have some differing views about their circumstance, and opposing and criss-crossing friendships amongst themselves, as they argue and bicker while giving us new and returning readers some exposition to catch somewhat up to speed. Looks like our hero, Skull (aka Jim Skully), was a war vet (Viet Nam) who picked up a belt off a dead alien that gives him super-strength and other abilities. Skull's all reckless and headstrong, while he's clearly got a friend/sidekick amongst the group, in the shaggy headed hipster Jeff, and a girl, Ann, with divided loyalties, from romantic feelings for Skull, and a connection to the fourth member, her boss, the older Doctor Corey, who is the source of constant friction with Skull.
ART (INSPIRED OR PEDESTRIAN): I'm not familiar with the artists here, who are Steve Gan on pencils, and with Pablo Marcus helping on some inks. Gan is a quite capable artist though, with a strong classic illustrative style, and of a high ability, making for quality art that holds up to time, without being transcendent or otherwise remarkable.
STORY (WHAT CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS): Marv Wolfman of Teen Titans fame scripts here, and after the aforementioned first splash page with Skull trying to tame a single dinosaur, the team must escape a stampeding heard of them, only to stumble upon a massive and mysterious graveyard, with remains of what may be pilots who've disappeared in... the Bermuda Triangle (of course)... among other strange things! And, after scoring some space age newer and cleaner threads (from the cadavers), the group next find a giant tower, that upon entering, appears enormous and cavernous inside, with different levels representing each era of Earth!!

So naturally they duck into the prehistoric era, and must square off with a Tyrannosaurus... that of course is revealed to be... a robot!
(That's right folks, the cover wasn't mere hyperbole!!! We actually get to see everything teased within the pages of this issue!)
So anyway, while Skull and the others survive the robo-saur, the good doctor disappears only to end up captured in... ancient Egypt (with a big reveal on the final shocking splash page)!!!
GUESTS (ARE THERE ANY, HOW COOL ARE THEY): Guests are commonplace in this era, but StS issue 3 doesn't have any. Probably because we're still early in the origins and story of the concept here (because I know a certain medieval Avenger makes an appearance very soon!).

ADS (WHAT COOL STUFF ARE THEY SELLING): Nothing can come within a mile of the full page ad for BIG JIM'S P.A.C.K. (Professional Agents / Crime Killers)!!!
Wow! It's GI Joe meets Bionic Man, with killer Kirby (esque? or genuine?) artwork!!! Pure genius, and a forgotten gem of a toy property! (You can check out some more on Big Jims PACK HERE)

OVERALL BRONZE FACTOR (ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10): The writing here moves nicely, and the character interaction works well to serve the story, which is all very simple and in purpose of four-colored adventure and mystery, that's well fleshed-out by the art. So, what it lacks in originality, or depth, it makes up for in spectacle and silliness. Fueding characters hurling cheasey quips at one-another, while threats and intrigue of great head-scratching variety await around every corner... Skull the Slayer is a bit like Lost meets Flash Gordon, so I'd give it an 8 out of 10 on the bronze factor!

See you next week for BRONZED BEAUTIES 3!!!


Clayton Hollifield said...

Digging this bronze age stuff - maybe should be called the "Hostess Fruit Pie" era!

Fingers crossed for some Devil Dinosaur soon...


Jason Martin said...

Sweet man, glad you dig it! :)

Yeah, I've got Devil Dinosaur on the short list ;)
(I may have to go to more than weekly posts... and cancel all my new comics... there's just too much cool stuff!)

And man, yeah, those damn Hostess ads ran for so long, they're synonymous with the era... and dang if I hand't been stuck trying to find a theme for the rating system (might have found it!)... thanks! :D