Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Killraven - Only The Computer Shows Me Any Respect. Amazing Adventures #32.

Amazing Adventures #32, Killraven, Only The Computer Shows Me Any Respect
 As I stand in the middle of Argos - studying its catalogue, for high-end tripods to support my state-of-the art single megapixel camera - people often say to me, "Steve, I know you're a very busy man and don't like to be interrupted by those you view as beneath your contempt but what's your favourite ever literary depiction of tripods for sinister effect?"

I of course reply, "Well there was John Christopher's The Tripods, famously reimagined by the BBC as a show about wine production in Southern France but, when it comes to three-legged terror, I have to go for War of the Worlds, HG Wells' reminder of the dangers of getting too big for your boots."

"But Steve," they say, "you're too big for your boots and it doesn't seem to have done you any harm. After all, here you are in Argos, where only the top people shop."

"Pshaw!" I declare. "My toes are so tough that, when footwear proves too small to contain them, they merely burst out of my shoes, giving me the stylish look you see before you today."

Not only that but, as I roam the corridors of Sheffield's hi-tech virtual reality enormo-dome, otherwise known as the Flat Street Odeon, people often say to me, "Steve, pretty impressive, isn't it? But did you know this used to be the Fiesta Club, once the haunt of stars like Bobby Knutt and the Black Abbots but not necessarily those actual stars?"

All such talk of tripods and virtual reality inevitably forces my mind onto the subject of what has always been my favourite ever Killraven story, Amazing Adventures #32, which is low on tripods but high on virtual shenanigans.

Doing their usual meanderings, Killraven and his band of freemen come across an abandoned virtual reality entertainment complex that gives your fantasies - and nightmares - physical form.

Needless to say, it's not long before they're all philosophising and getting into trouble.

Thanks to Old Skull and his fantasies, Killraven finds himself up against a fire-breathing dragon; a conflict which forms the issue's "A" plot.

Amazing Adventures #32, Killraven, Hodiah Twist meets the hell hound
But the tale's most memorable sequence is its "B" plot, a flashback to Hawk's youth which finds him arguing with his father and leads to the appearance of Hodiah Twist, a Sherlock Holmes figure so self-assured he refuses to believe the Hound of the Baskervilles is real even when it's killing him.

In a lot of ways, the sequence now seems spiritually hackneyed. Hawk is an American Indian and, this being a 1970s Marvel comic, that means he has to be a bitter and sullen man, brooding on broken treaties and the grimness of the Reservation.

Still, if the theme is over-familiar in a 1970s comic book, the flashback's sudden diversion into an Arthur Conan Doyle parody makes it oddly charming and memorable, the English moors allowing a drastic change in the strip's visual palette.

Amazing Adventures #32, Killraven, Old Skull meets a dragon
Don McGregor's script is as verbose as ever but doesn't seem as intrusive or deadening as it sometimes can - possibly because there's very little plot for his words to get in the way of, allowing them plenty of space to expand into and to make it clear that he sees a comic book as a legitimate form of short story writing.

But, ultimately, whatever its literary pretensions, it's a comic, and a comic's nothing without pictures. As always Craig Russell plays a blinder. Given a chance to fling in the psychedelic, the archaic, the futuristic, the industrial and the cute, he seems to be having a ball drawing it all.

It's not a comic I love as much as I did when I was young - frankly, there'd be something wrong me me if I did; I must confess to having been quite obsessed with it at the time - but it'd still go on my list of 1970s issues you have to have read in order for your Bronze Age comics education to be complete.

Amazing Adventures #32, Killraven goes wiggy, Craig Russell


Dougie said...

First read it in Port William in Galloway in Aug 76! Hadn't really got a clue what was going on and didn't enjoy it as much as the doomy "Death in the Family".

Nowadays I find it achingly pretentious but still rather beautiful, man!

Kid said...

Still taking the mushrooms I see, Stevie. I can't actually remember if I ever bought a Killraven comic (probably did), but I just wanted to see my name in print. Now I'd like to see it in lights, so I'm thinking of changing it to 'Exit'.

Chris Smillie said...

Killraven I remember from Planet of the Apes weekly, where Marvel UK simply swopped Martian heads for apes. Didnt work very well, I'm afraid.

Kid said...

Steve, jump back over to my Batmobile post - I've put up a video of it.

Steve W. said...

I'm on my way over, right now.

Simayl said...

Can't beat Killraven by McGregor and Russell!

Anonymous said...

McGregor & Russell really created an issue that was ahead of its time here - a story about virtual reality and its detrimental effects, 20 years before it became a reality! This foreshadowed the rise of the Internet & virtual reality. Genius!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

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