Sunday, 7 August 2011

Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes, Marvel Comics UK weekly, #1, cover
It's time for me to lay my dirty stinking paws on my keyboard and remind us all - with the escape of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie - that, when it comes to simian antics, there was once something far better than any mere film.

There was a comic.

That comic was Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes Weekly kicked off with the beautifully painted cover to the left, Part 1 of an adaptation of the original Charlton Heston Apes movie, and a poster that at this very moment sits just two feet away from me, rolled up in a tube.

Happily, I remember more about the Planet of the Apes' title strip than that of the Star Wars comic I blathered on about the other day. I recall that, after the Charlton Heston Apes adaptation, we were given a beautifully rendered Mike Ploog series about two characters who may have been called Jason and Alexander. As that serial went along, it drifted a little too far from the feel of the original movies for my liking but at least it always looked great.

Planet of the Apes, Marvel Comics UK, Apeslayer makes his first appearance
Later we got the legendary Apeslayer and his remarkable resemblance to Killraven. I also recall a Tom Sutton series set on a giant ship - and an ape-tastic reworking of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

But the truth is such stories paled besides the back-up strips.

They kicked off in issue #2 with a Ka-Zar series that started off unpromisingly with a Jack Kirby adventure involving Kraven, before taking flight with a classic bunch of Barry Smith reprints that introduced Zaladane and Garokk the Petrified Man. Those early days also brought us Gullivar Jones on Mars while we later got Gil Kane and Roy Thomas' Warlock, the start of Marvel's Captain Marvel, the seemingly obligatory Man-Gods from Beyond the Stars and yet more Ka-Zar. There were also the delights of War Toy, Day of the Triffids and Farewell to the Master.

Arguably most impressive of all, we got the whole of Don McGregor's Panther's Rage, as the Black Panther tried to thwart a would-be revolution in his kingdom of Wakanda. We also got Mike Ploog's Man-Thing.

Planet of the Apes merges with Dracula Lives, Marvel Comics UK
Later, as Marvel UK's decline began, the comic merged with Dracula Lives before merging with The Mighty World of Marvel. It was an uneasy fit; Planet of the Apes stories in a comic otherwise devoted to the likes of the Hulk and Daredevil.

Still, at least - as far as I remember it - the stint in Mighty World of Marvel gave the Powers-That-Be the chance to run the adaptation of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, meaning the whole Ape cycle was completed before the strip disappeared from the UK forever.

And so the reign of the apes had proven to be as doomed as the reign of man before it.

But at least it was fun while it lasted, and through it I learned the meaning of the word "lobotomy." Now it's time for me to grab my mute girlfriend, climb on my horse and set off into the Forbidden Zone of watching Sunday night TV.

What will I find there?

My destiny.

Either that or the millionth series of John Craven's Countryfile; whichever is most likely to make me fall to my knees, punching the sand in despair at the mad folly of the human race.


Kid said...

I remember there being a word balloon with no lettering in it, inside somewhere. I understand it was caught and corrected, so two versions of #1 exist - one with a blank word balloon, the other with a full complement of lettering. I must dig out my copy and refresh my memory.

Steve W. said...

That rings a vague bell but it's so long since I read it that I'm not sure.

cerebus660 said...

Of course, interest in the Apes was high because of the short-lived TV series as well as the oft-repeated movies. I was a major POTA fan ( even joined the fan-club! ) and was gutted that, due to Marvel UK's usual crap distribution, I missed the first issue :-(
Still, POTA was a great comic with, as you say, some outstanding back-up strips - do you remember one called He That Hath Wings? Awesome Gil Kane artwork!
Like Kid, I'll have to dig out my back issues...

Steve W. said...

I do remember He That Hath Wings, and would've mentioned it had I been able to recall the title. I loved Kane's artwork on it.

I also remember a story that I think Neal Adams might have been involved with, where some astronauts shoot a "monster" that turns out to be God, and therefore inadvertently destroy the universe.

Wasn't there also an adaptation of AE Van Vogt's Black Destroyer about a panther-thing with tendrils that, one by one, kills the crew of a spaceship?

I also recall an adaptation of Frederic Brown's Arena.

As for the Planet of the Apes TV show, I never saw the first fifteen minutes of any episode of it because my dad insisted on us listening to a Radio 2 sitcom called The Family Branden that always overlapped with it. The heart-breaking privations of my childhood.

Richard Williams said...

Excellent article Steve, I remember buying this series when it first came out as I too was overcome by Ape Fever! I also enjoyed the strip by Mike Ploog featuring Jason & Alexander (Terror on the Planet of the Apes - as I recall) and also the pirate strip by Tom Sutton. Sadly, I never got my hands on any of the US originals which seem to demand a hefty sum these days, even on ebay!

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Richard. I wonder if the US originals were ever available in the UK, or if Marvel embargoed them over here, so they wouldn't compete with the UK ones.

Steve W. said...

Having said that, I believe that, thanks to the weekly schedule, the apes stories were often published in the UK comics before the US ones. So, technically, the UK ones were often the originals and the US ones the reprints.

John Pitt said...

Two years later and I'm trying to find out about the UK "vol. 2" of the POTA weekly from 2001 about the Tim Burton movie. Do you know anything?

Steve W. said...

Sadly, John, I'm totally unfamiliar with the comic and didn't even know it existed till you just mentioned it.

According to Wikipedia, Dark Horse did a multi-part adaptation of the movie but whether they were behind a UK weekly version, I don't know.

John Pitt said...

More digging has revealed that it was actually in 2002 & lasted for 5 issues and was either Dark Horse UK or Titan . It was a glossy magazine-sized comic, reprinting the US Dark Horse strips, together with pictures & posters. Now, if I could only find some for sale!! Right now I'd settle for scans of the covers!

Steve W. said...

John, you can find the original US Dark Horse POTA covers at the following address. I don't know if they're the same as the UK reprint covers:

John Pitt said...

Steve , I have finally managed to get images of this POTA vol2 which only lasted for 5 issues. As these are not available on any database would you like to post them on your blog as a mini gallery? It would be an exclusive for you. Let me know & I'll email you the pix & details. I would do it myself but I don't know how to. I am not after any credit - I just would like to see them on the net for anyone to see. Don't print this comment , just let your reply go to my email. Hope you want them. Cheers, John.

Steve W. said...

John, I don't have your email address but you can send them to stevedoesthings (at) gmail dot com and I'll see what I can do.

Mark T-B said...

If any of you fellow readers want to see these issues there's a full collection of the Marvel UK APES run -- issues 1-129 -- that can be found at Hunter Goatley incredible site PLANET OF THE APES ARCHIVE. Google "Hunter Apes" and prepare to enter the wonderful world of 1970s nostalgia!

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