The following article was first posted in June 2009. There have been a few minor updates which needed to be included since its first posting, a little necessary reformatting and a couple of hyperlinks added, but otherwise it appears here much as it did back then. I shall be reposting one of the A-Z pieces each month until we catch up to a point where I can continue this series anew. I hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to the first of It Came from Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z columns. The intention of this column is to spotlight a few of the more obscure characters from Marvel UK's annals - the kind who are probably less likely to come up in conversation or whose overall contribution to Marvel UK has not yet been acknowledged by this Blog.
We begin, as is frankly logical, with the letter 'A', and in my alphabetical world...
'A' is for APESLAYER.
Let's go back to 1975, a year before Captain Britain became the first truly acknowledged UK originated Marvel material. This was the 70s and Planet of the Apes was huge, having turned into a global fan phenomenon which had inevitably sparked a licensing deal in the USA between Marvel and 20th Century Fox for a Planet of the Apes comic. It was a Black and White comic, which was later reprinted in colour, and ran to 29 issues between 1974 and 1977, adapting the movies and also adding new material.
At roughly the same time Planet of the Apes weekly began reprinting these stories in the UK (It should be pointed out that the preferred format for Comics in the UK has always been weekly, or fortnightly. In the 70s especially the expectation for weekly content was a given. So don't you go telling ME DC were doing something new and groundbreaking with 52! :) ). But of course reprinting material weekly, when it was being originated monthly, threw out an eventual but inevitable problem.
There wasn't enough US material being published quick enough to meet UK demand.
And so it was that in March 1975, with #23, a new story set in the the Planet of the Apes universe began, featuring a new human character called APESLAYER.
The Plot and Concept of this new story is attributed to Marvel Legend Roy Thomas, with pencils attributed to Neal Adams and in later issues to Howard Chaykin. The script attributed to Gerry Conway. All well-recognised and respected creators for Marvel, I'm sure you'd agree.
Which might be reason to wonder quite as to how or why they came to be writing such an off-shoot story for a licensed comic from Marvel UK.
Apeslayer was very much part of a world where the Apes ruled, where he had been brought up a human slave, forced to fight in arenas for the amusement of the simian rulers of Earth, only to later free himself and make it his mission to wage war on his oppressors...
Pause there a moment. Does any of this sound a little familiar?
A little like another Roy Thomas concept from the 70s, maybe?
In fact, doesn't Apeslayer himself bear a certain physical similarity to Roy Thomas' Killraven - "Warrior of the Worlds" from Amazing Adventures?
Well, there might be a reason for that.
Because he kind of... IS Killraven.
In a truly bizarre turn of events, in order to fill in the gaps while waiting for new American material, the fledgling UK arm of Marvel comics literally decided to turn Killraven into Apeslayer. To re-purpose existing Killraven material as new stories to use as part of their Planet of the Apes series.
And the changes between the two were pretty much purely cosmetic - changing the length of Apeslayer's hair, removing Killraven's headband and armlets, changing Martians for Apes.
It's still Neal Adams' art. Just... altered. To fit the new purpose.
A few name changes, to mask the swap, and that was it.
A few years ago, back when Paul Cornell's Wisdom series re-introduced comics readers to Jonathan and Maureen Raven, some posters over a comic book resources were unaware of the connection to Killraven. I posted up the following images as reference.
Compare those now to the two equivalent Apeslayer pages from Planet of the Apes.
Jonathan 'Killraven' Raven becomes Jonathan 'Apeslayer' Dozer. Maureen Raven becomes Maureen Dozer.
Truly bizarre. And the length of Apeslayer's hair does not actually match between Covers and the stories themselves. Or indeed the spelling of his name. All very strange. The same story, with the barest of changes made.
Notice that some supporting cast members do not even get their name changed, they remain the same - Anne Carver remains Anne Carver.
How the decision was made to pass off the altered strip as part of the Planet of the Apes publication is certainly a curious one. To my knowledge Killraven had not been reprinted in the UK at that time, so it's not implausible the editors thought that nobody would notice the similarities. But it certainly raised a few eyebrows among UK readers a few years back, when Marvel printed an Essential Killraven volume - to find themselves greeted by a rather curious feeling of deja vu.
I've often wondered how Thomas, Adams et all felt about their work having been re-purposed in this fashion. Whether they knew about it, or whether they've been told about it in the years since. It seems such an unethical thing to have done, but I suppose Killraven was Work for Hire comics work. If Marvel US were happy with it happening I doubt they'd have had much in the way comeback on it.
Ethics aside - What are the chances of an Apeslayer revival?
Not... very likely. :)
He'll be covered as a property under the Planet of the Apes license. As of 2014 that comics license was in the hands of BOOM! Studios. By rights, I suppose, they could use the character. They haven't. And in all honesty, I doubt that they will. BOOM! are focusing primarily on books relating to the 2011 reboot of the Apes franchise, which began with the rather brilliant Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
While it is not implausible that we might see the mighty Jonathan Dozer turn up in this rebooted continuity? I'm not going to hold my breath on that. :)
For those wanting to read more of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes title they are actually available online, in pdf format, through Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive - which you may find worth a visit.
'A' could also have stood for:
The Anti-Being: Chaos Bringing enemy of Dark Angel and Death's Head II, and one giant mass of negative energy.
Afrikaa: Mohannda-based Black Axe and Black Panther ally, powered by the Heart of Africa.
Abslom Daak - Dalek Slayer: Doctor Who character, who's purpose in life should be rather clear from his title.