Thursday, 11 April 2013

Review Month - Some British Apes.

Planet of the Apes (Weekly) - issue 30.

Published by Marvel Comics in the UK

Cover dated - May 17, 1975.

I am old enough to remember the buzz around The Planet of the Apes. It was pre Star Wars and sci-fi was still pretty strange and often scary and this is possibly what attracted me to this genre. I remember the movies, the short lived TV series, the very weird cartoon, the toys, the records, the novels and most of all the comics.

As you all know by now UK comics were served up in weekly bites, a comic was magazine size and normally at this time in black and white. They would feature three of four episodic stories that were parts of a larger American monthly counterpart.  Sometimes UK artists would draw a new intro page to help the reader figure out where the story was going. I loved these books and read and re read them over and over.

And sometimes the comic was like this.

One of the stranger stories of the Marvel and Apes franchises was this short lived series in the Planet of the Apes Weekly. 

I think its is fair to say that the UK is a nation of both dog lovers and Ape lovers.  The weekly Planet of the Apes series was a pretty good seller. But a problem arose when the material that the UK books were reprinting ran out and we over here needed more ape stories.

An interesting solution was reached. Oh it would be silly to commission new Apes stories from scratch when we can simply redraw a completely unconnected Marvel comic series. It wasn't even that subtle.

The book that was plundered was Killraven (or to be more precise Amazing Adventures - featuring War of the Worlds - the examples below are from issue 21). A book that was later to be reprinted again without the changes in the Marvel UK Star Wars weekly / monthly comic. (Marvel in the UK was still just called 'Marvel', they didn't add the 'UK' bit until the early 1980s).

Lets be clear here. Artists took the original Killraven pages and redrew heads so that they were apes (and not Martian slaves / freedom fighters as they were in the original book). This was a technique that had also been used in some 1970s Doctor Who strips in TV Comic where the heads of older Doctors were plastered over with Tom Baker's face to make them more up to date. Back Issue 63 has an article written by Rob Kirby which suggests that this was an idea of the short lived Marvel UK editor (he was actually only an editor for a couple of weeks) Mark Hanerfield to get the Apes book out of a jam.

Confused yet? Here are a couple of examples.

The stories also make a few other changes to script and some very small character design changes (the Killraven character in the Apes book now has black hair for example and is called Apeslayer - a name I actually think is pretty hard ass sounding.). They actually all get name changes eg, Old Skull became Socrates (I am sure that made it less confusing = English sarcasm.)

It all becomes a bit of a strange mess. The Herb Trimpe art is always great and I am a huge fan of the man's body of work but it has the stamp of pre digital tampering all over it and the quality is severely challenged.

Nevertheless it is an interesting curio that I thought I would share with you.

Bit weird though.

Many thanks to Orbital Comics for this great back issue.



  1. It was a strange solution to the problem of catching up with the US editions, but later they started to reprint early Planet of the Apes strips that had only just seen print maybe one and a half to two years previously in the same weekly comic. Still always a great read.

  2. Thanks for the read Mark. As always greatly appreciated.