Sunday, 30 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #18 - Gullivar Jones on Mars, Part 3.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Gullivar Jones and Phra
The last we saw of Gullivar Jones, he was still stuck on Mars and about to be fed to a giant sea monster called Phra, by a bunch of spider-bat-men who clearly have too much free time on their hands.

I think we've all been there.

The pair of them having been grabbed by Phra, he and the captive Wing-Man Chak are taken to Phra's secret lair where, while the monster's napping, Jones switches on a handily-placed computer that promptly tells him the entire history of Mars.

It seems that, long ago, disaster befell that world's inhabitants and so they fled their cities and went their separate ways, before evolving into the many and varied forms that now inhabit the planet.

That dealt with, Jones soon makes short work of the newly awoken Phra, and he and Chak walk off to have a sulk about things.

It's clearly an issue for major changes, as, after producing just two instalments of the strip, the original creative team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane are gone, replaced by George Effinger, Gerry Conway and Ross Andru.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Phra
To be honest, I 'm not sure I know who George Effinger is but Gerry Conway's fingerprints are all over the story, with Jones speaking in the same sort of way Conway usually had Peter Parker speaking.

It has to be said, this is vaguely annoying. It's one thing for a socially inept youth in New York to be talking like that, it's a whole other thing for a military veteran on an alien planet to be doing so.

Creatures on the Loose #19, Evolution - Martian style
As he did with The Amazing Spider-Man, Ross Andru makes the strip's move away from Kane virtually seamless, as his style's not a million miles distant from his predecessor's and, in this issue, there are places where he seems to be deliberately aping Kane's style. Either that, or Kane did some uncredited touching-up on some of the panels, in the name of consistency.

To be honest, as giant menaces go, Phra's something of a wash-out, being stupid, clumsy, ineffectual and lazy in equal parts. The truth is he spends most of the story asleep before being blown up. Clearly, you just can't get good monsters these days.

On the other hand, it is nice to see him appear on the cover's top left corner box, rather than Jones being there - a pleasing nod to the title's origins as a monster mag, rather than a super-hero one.

Creatures on the Loose #18, Chak the Wing-Man
Something that's become blatant by this issue is that the good guys all look like Earth people and the bad guys decidedly don't. This feeling's strengthened when it's revealed that Chak, the only nice Wing-Man we've encountered so far in the strip, just happens to have a human head, and his pterodactyl face is in fact a mask designed to conceal his true appearance. You can't help feeling that, in the interests of tolerance and open mindedness, it would have been nice for him to be depicted as having a pterodactyl head just like his more morally dubious brethren.

But that's enough of him. The person you have to most feel sorry for is poor old Princess Heru. Just two issues after Gullivar Jones was announcing his undying love for her, he seems to have now forgotten all about her.

As the last time we saw her, she was being abducted to be handed over to a ravenous ravisher, of ruddy complexion and no-doubt ruddier mind-set, such behaviour on Jones' part seems most ungallant, to say the very least.

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