Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Skull the Slayer #3.

Skull the Slayer #3
Some time back, I declared Skull the Slayer to be one of the ten most pointless super-heroes of all time.

My logic was that he was a modern-day man who spent his time bashing up dinosaurs in a strange land and was therefore simply replicating the USP of Ka-Zar, thus making him inherently redundant. On top of that, he didn't even have a sabre-toothed tiger to keep him company.

Of course, I did come to that conclusion having not read any of his adventures for over thirty years. Would my cynicism remain if I actually got round to re-reading one of the issues I owned as a youth, or would I come to realise I've misjudged him horribly?

What's happening is this. After a plane crash, war veteran Jim Scully and his three surviving co-passengers find themselves in a land of dinosaurs, robots, aliens, cavemen and whatever else writer Marv Wolfman decides to throw at them.

In this issue, after heading in the opposite direction to a herd of stampeding dinosaurs, they discover a mysterious tower with a mysterious secret within - it contains scenes from every era of Earth's history.

And they've just blundered into Ancient Egypt!

Skull the Slayer #3
Looking at it, now, the main problem with the strip isn't so much that it replicates Ka-Zar, it's that the two male leads - Jim Scully and Dr Corey - are so totally unappealing.

Scully's never wrong about anything and seems incapable of getting through a sentence without mentioning that he used to be in the army.

Corey on the other hand is a black man in a 1970s Marvel comic. This means that, like all black males in 1970s Marvel comics, he has to be angry about everything. He's angry about this. He's angry about that. He's probably even angry about the other. If he could be angry about being angry, he'd no doubt even be angry about that. After just three pages of him not being able to open his trap without complaining, you're positively desperate for him to get eaten by a dinosaur. To make matters worse, as the issue progresses, he seems to be transmogrifying before our eyes into Lost in Space's Dr Smith.

Skull the Slayer #3Of the other two characters, Corey's assistant Ann is fine, if not overly interesting, while the fourth member of their team - Jeff - basically fills the Rick Jones role of eager but useless teenage hanger-on.

Weighed against the less-than engrossing characters is the fact that the tale does at least present us with a mystery which keeps us reading in order to try and find out what's going on.

Mostly what strikes me reading it now is just how many things it reminds me of. With its characters roaming around trying to make sense of and escape a strange setting, it's in many ways a precursor to such TV fare as Fantastic Journey and Lost. 

There is, of course, the Ka-Zar thing.

And, with a character nicknamed Skull, and all the roaming around in a world gone weird while characters snipe at each other, it's impossible not to think of the glory days of Killraven.

The truth is I was wrong. It's not just a Ka-Zar rip-off. It does have an identity of its own and its central mystery does keep you wanting to read more. But, with its not exactly riveting characters blundering around lost, neither is it something you could see as having any viable long-term future without major changes.

Of course, having said that, you could easily re-write this issue as a Ka-Zar tale without having to do an awful lot of work. So perhaps I was as rightish as I was wrongish.

4 comments:

Colin Jones said...

I thought I knew every character that Marvel ever created but I can't recall this one at all. I don't seem to have missed much.

Dougie said...

I can remember buying this comic one lunchtime at school. Then I disoovered it was written by Marv Wolfman, whose histrionic, unlikeable characters have always left me cold.

Simayl said...

Skull the Slayer is a very poor comic, go with your first thoughts!

Colin Jones said...

Talking of Ka-Zar, he was the first Marvel character I read. My first ever Marvel comic was Planet Of The Apes No. 5 which also featured Ka-Zar and Gulliver Jones, only Ka-Zar was created by Marvel although he was obviously a blatant Tarzan rip-off - even 4 of the letters in his name are also in Tarzan's name !!

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