Monday, April 04, 2016

Number 1875: Heaping it on

In 2013 I showed an origin of the character, the Heap, by Tom Sutton and Robert Kanigher, from Skywald’s one-shot issue of The Heap (1971). You can see it by clicking the link below this story. The origin I am showing today is the one told a few months earlier, in issue #2 of Skywald’s black-and-white publication, Psycho.

If you hang around this blog long enough you will catch up on all of these crazy stories. Read this origin, then follow up with the second origin, and then picture Pappy in 1971 with a puzzled expression on his face.

More Heap origins! This one from the one-shot color comic, The Heap, from Skywald, the other is the original Heap from Air Fighters Comics #3 (1942); Just click on the thumbnails.


Daniel [] said...

I suspect that your younger self looked more mildly disgruntled than actually puzzled.

There was, of course, a lot of inconsistency within the comic books that stayed within universes whose stories were all approved by the CCA. In this case, a character was transitioning from an unapproved universe to an approved universe, and significant revisions were going to be required; I think that the editors decided that they might as well revise as if the earlier story had never seen publication.

As for me, I'm just glad that neither version yelled “Split!” and separated into components.

In the case of this version, the story is still more slapped-together than I think usual for comic books. The involvement of grave-robbers in the murder scheme is never explained. Bill Ryan, who is apparently an insurance agent, imagines that Monty Elliot will not be able to hire another pilot and that Ryan will then be able to buy the company (hiring whom for a pilot?) and thereby, somehow, come to run the country. Elliot's suspicions manifest themselves in the manner of a deus ex machina in the antepenultimate panel.

Man-Thing of course first appeared in a magazine for May of '71 and Swamp Thing in one for July of '71; there was discomfort over the similarities between those two characters and the close timing of their appearances, while some noted that the Man-Thing seemed especially reminiscent of the Hillman Heap. But I see that the Skywald Heap appeared in a magazine dated for March of that year. It seems either that Skywald's reïmagining of the Hillman Heap was what really touched-off the pile-up, or that there was just something “in the air”. In any case, it seems to me that part of the explanation of Marvel having kept its peace over the matter were that the earlier appearance of the Skywald Heap had made legal action less tenable.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I think puzzled is more apt, because in those days I wasn't used to how origin stories could vary from year-to-year and writer-to-writer, not to mention in a few months. Nowadays I am blasé about variations of origins. Writers stick to the core ("Batman's parents were killed and it made him vow a war on crime," "Superman was born on Krypton and sent to Earth as a baby") and then embellish the details all over the place. We are in agreement it had something to do with the Comics Code wanting changes from the non-Code version.

I am not sure what made swamp creatures popular in the early seventies. At some point the Comics Code began allowing vampires and werewolves back in comics, but the swamp creatures may have been a way of showing a monster that was outside the traditional...except with three different swamp monsters on the stands it kind of shoots down that theory.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Both versions have lovely art.

Tom Sutton is evocative as usual and page 6-7 are great.
I have a feeling he's more at ease drawing monsters rather than humans. He can show the" humanity" and a deep range of emotions in the Heap, but surprisingly, sometimes his regular human characters are not so deeply expressive. I wish I could judge properly the extent of Abel's contribution.

Frankly I think the problem with the color story is Kanigher's writing. Not that it's bad, but the story seems a little "overstuffed"...
First, the girl, then the flashback to the accident, then the odd guy with the scythe...
Then he meets Victor von Frankensteen!
The fact that the guy is (or believes to be) a descendant of Frankenstein is quite silly and, to me, almost ruins the mood of the story. But I guess back then the name was still quite suggestive.

Did Sybil need a mad genius to perform a corneal grafting in 1971?

Pappy said...

Good points, J D.

I like Tom Sutton's art best when he slowed down and took a little more time. In his rushed art (sometimes for Charlton, where he spent some time in the '70s) his faces can look contorted or asymmetrical. Still, he put a lot of energy into his drawings, and his strengths overcame his weaknesses.

I feel the same way about the work of Andru and Esposito. They must have produced thousands of pages together, but to me some of them look rushed. At some point they parted company. Why? I have never read or heard why they split up. Andru did have a nice run on Spider-Man.

Brian Barnes said...

I love Skywald's comics, a direct branch from the Warren's B&W magazines at the time, they really tried a "throw things at the wall approach." Warren absolutely hated them as Heletson, who edited, left Warren for Skywald.

Interesting swamp monster notes, they are all tied together: Man-Thing was created before Swamp Thing, but Swamp Thing was published first (because a comic got cancelled), there was talk of possibly a suit because the two writers, Conway and Len, were rooming together at the time! They both chalked it up to an accident.

Thomas, the other guy associated with Man-Thing, liked the old Heap comic and he talked Skywald into bringing him back as the new Heap, which was also a swamp like creature.

[>] Brian

Pappy said...

Brian, and it was Roy Thomas who adapted the great-granddaddy of all those swamp critter stories, "It!" by Theodore Sturgeon, in Supernatural Thrillers #1, drawn by Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia.

The "Thing" is...I liked Swamp Thing better because of Bernie Wrightson.

Darci said...

Why would Roy Thomas get Sol Brodsky to bring back the Heap? Was Theodore Sturgeon's price so high he had to especially justify buying it almost 2 years later?

Chuck McNaughton's script hangs together a lot better than Kanigher's, despite the plot holes Daniel pointed out. I see in the GCD that the promised meeting with the Horror Master did come about in Psycho #3. Then, in #4, Andru takes over the scripting. The cover of #6 promises Jim turns human, but he was back to the Heap in #7.

Pappy said...

Darci, as the final panel of the Heap story in Psycho #6 says, "Jim Roberts...human for a few blissful moments in time...only to be wrenched back into that nightmarish prison of flesh called the Heap!!"

Poor guy.

Anyway, I have Psycho #2, missing #'s 3-5, have #6 and #7. Who knows? No promises, but maybe we'll see more Heap.

It is kind of an interesting question about Sturgeon. I wonder what Marvel paid the writers whose stories they adapted? Sturgeon is gone, but Roy Thomas is still alive. I wonder if he remembers.

Pappy said...

Here's an update: reader Darci asked Roy Thomas, and his recollection is they paid all authors, including Sturgeon, $150 for an adaptation. Thanks to Darci for going the extra mile.