Saturday 15 March 2014

Creatures on the Loose #16 - Gullivar Jones on Mars.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars
It always seemed to me that there was one obvious drawback to getting super-powers.

Which was that, to get them, you first had to actually do something.

For instance, you had to steal a rocket ship and fly it through cosmic rays. Or you had to build a gamma bomb and then let it explode at you. Or you had to attend a science show and let spiders bite you.

If you wanted lots of powers, you had to do all these things and take refuge from aliens, in a cave, whilst banging a stick against a wall.

Reader, you know by now that banging a stick against a wall is beneath the dignity of a man of my quality, no matter how strong it might make me.

You can imagine, therefore, just how impressed I was, as a child, with Gullivar Jones.

After all, he managed to get his super-powers just by walking down the street.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones meets his destiny
Admittedly, he then got sent to Mars - which is a bit of a downside - and had to fight big red lobster men but he did at least get to snog a princess, so it wasn't all bad news.

I first came across Gullivar Jones in the pages of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes, a mag that seems to be getting a zillion and one mentions round here lately.

And I was impressed at once.

Not only did it have the lazy person's guide to getting super-powers but it was drawn by Gil Kane in a genre I always felt suited him best.

But of course, those tales were just reprints. Gullivar Jones made his real Marvel Comics debut in Creatures on the Loose #16 and what happens in that issue is that Jones, having just quit the army, is leaving the officers' club for the last time, when a man on a flying disc descends from the heavens, declares Jones is going to be a saviour and sends him back through time to Mars to fight evil wherever he finds it.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones

You will of course be aware this is remarkably similar to John Lennon's claim that the Fab Four got their name when a man descended on a flaming pie and told them to call themselves the Beatles. Whether it's the same man in both cases, I'm not at all sure.

To be honest, anyone with any sense, upon arriving against his will on Mars, would promptly burst into tears and be too busy sobbing to do anything.

But Gullivar Jones isn't just any man.

He's an interfering busybody.

Creatures on the Loose #16, Gullivar Jones and Princess Heru
And so, the instant he arrives, he leaps into action to rescue the aforementioned princess from the aforementioned lobster men and then gets to road-test her tonsils before she's snatched by pterodactyl people and he's left, out cold, on a funeral barge and heading towards his doom.

This of course all makes Jones sound like a rip-off of John Carter but the magic of Wikipedia tells me he was originally created by Edwin Lester Arnold in 1905 and therefore predates Carter by a good seven years. The fact that Carter's had a string of books and a movie made about him, and Jones hasn't, only goes to show there's no justice in the world.

In terms of characterisation, in this issue, we get to learn next to nothing about Jones, and even less about the Princess, so it's all a bit shallow - and, to be honest, feels more DC in that regard than Marvel. But it's beautifully drawn and zips along. And, most of all, with its strange alien world to explore, it holds out the promise of more action, adventure and bizarreness to come in the very next issue.

Does it produce that bizarreness?

We'll have to find out next weekend when I take a look at that very next issue.

And, if Brian Blessed isn't in it as a hawk man, I shall very disappointed with them.


Anonymous said...

Steve, two quick questions. First, I noticed on your Planet of the Apes covers that they sold for 8p. When I was getting into comics they were 20 cents Merican. Later they went to 25 and immediately were loudly proclaimed as "still only 25 cents". Was there ever a time in the UK when the comics were "still only 8p"?

And B, was your attempt at mocking the Time Police successful and it's just been retconned from our memories or did anything come from it?

The Prowler (feeling like this has all happened before).

Anonymous said...

Prowler, if Steve doesn't mind I can answer your first question - no, there was never a "still only 8p" - comics just increased their price quietly with no fuss as far as I remember. By the way, didn't U.S. comics say "still only 25 cents" just before putting them up to 30 cents. As for Gullivar Jones - I remember him in POTA too but the only thing I can recall is that one of the characters had a second head growing out of his neck.

Kid said...

May I humbly point out that I didn't have to do anything to gain my super powers - I was simply born with them. (At least, I assume that's the reason why people call me a mutant.)

Steve W. said...

Prowler, like Colin, I'm pretty much certain that Marvel UK never made any big deal about what price they were charging. They just went ahead and put the price up.

As for the Time Police, I have yet to hear from them. I like to feel they know to stay away from a man with a reputation like mine.

Colin, There's a strange phenomenon on the Grand Comics Database, of issues of comics that seem to have been for sale for two different prices.

Here's an example. It's Fantastic Four #183. Which is shown as having been on sale for both 30c and 35c at the same time. Does anyone know if the comic was sold in the US for two different prices at the same time, or are the covers showing the difference between US and Canadian cent prices?

Anonymous said...

Let me preface my comment by informing one and all that most, if not all, of my information comes from the in-to-net, the www, the vast out there. There is a site dedicate to the 35 cent variants. From their vast experience, there was a testing by Marvel of both Direct Sales distribution and a price increase. For a short period of time, all of Marvel comics were published with a 35 cent cover price and sent to 5, or possibly 6, distribution sites. This run was in the neighborhood of 1% of the overall print run. There are marks on the top of the comic that will identify where that comic went. If you were lucky enough in 1977 to 1979 to buy your comic from a local comic book shop, then you would also have been lucky enough to pay 35 cents whereas poor schlubs at the convenience stores or newsstands were stuck paying 30 cents. (Why is there no cent symbol on the keyboard?)

The other variant during this time period were the diamond cover boxes. Instead of the square, you had a diamond surrounding the price. This was either a reprint or part of a multi-bag set. You could buy 3 comics in a bag. The top and bottom one faced out and the one in the middle was pot luck.

The Prowler (googling like a googler since way back in the day).

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Prowler. Your detective work is much appreciated. :)

John Pitt said...

Never seen GJ in colo(u)r before - we couldn't get COTL or Monsters OnThe Prowl on our town.

Dougie said...

I have a vague memory of reading the original Gullivar Jones novel circa 1978/79. I think the Thomas/Kane story owes far more to Burroughs.

Doc Thompson said...

The fact that Carter's had a string of books and a movie made about him, and Jones hasn't, only goes to show there's no justice in the world.
What?Sorry,ERB might be perfect,by he was way better a writer Edwin Lester.Arnold.The thing flopped,unfortunately.I like Gullivar Jones,don't me wrong,but the story does end on a bad note.Suddenly,Jones gets back his previously unmentioned girlfreind.Least,the comic tried to make for allot of dum mistakes.If Burroughs did read this book-the novel,not the comic ofcourse and said he could write,success of John Carter proves right and fanboy writers whats his name wrong

Anonymous said...

Some publishers staggered price increases regionally, and some issues did sell for slightly different prices in the US at the same time. I know it happened with Gold Key/Western in 1968. For example, Daffy Duck #53 and Donald Duck #119 were on sale at fifteen cents in New York City, and for twelve cents in upstate New York. Those comics were sold in supermarkets and newsstands, since there were no comic book specialty shops at the time.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, Anon. :)

Dean Robert Willetts said...

I'm just staggered to see them in colour. My fourteen year old self would have sold his relatives into slavery to possess the originals! All I had to go on were the black and white reprints, but the magic of Mr. Kane' s art still shone through, this despite the crude mutilation of the pages every time a half naked woman appeared.

Daniel said...

American readers of the day could count on an imminent price increase whenever comics starting bragging about how cheap they *still* were. That meant some competitor had *already* raised prices, thus proving that we poor readers would indeed pay 12 cents for a ten-cent comic.

Steve W. said...

Inflation is a terrible thing. When I first started reading comics, they were 5 pence. By the time I stopped, they'd gone up to 65 pence. At the time, it seemed like madness to charge so much for a comic.