Howdy Gang! Andy Larson, back again for another weekly trip into my unforgiving read pile stack of comics in hopes of delivering to my loyal readers some brand new insights into some comic books you could be reading as you unwind during these final dog days of summer.
I will say it’s been quite a weird one for me personally as I had no real vacation to speak of this summer.
No trips to the beach or road trips or adventures at amusement parks to speak of thanks in large part to COVID. In fact, I think the highlight of my summer excursions was being able to lounge in the pool of one of my wives friends for an afternoon one day a couple weeks ago. Sure I was still freaked out that I was somehow going to get the virus despite all the precautions we were taking, but I won’t lie that it was nice just to relax for a few moments with a floatie, a cold beer, and one of my numerous trade paperbacks.
Speaking of said trade paperback, I can say that the particular reading material I had picked for that beautiful summer day was in fact directly related to another activity I participated in this season in hopes of shaking off the isolation and depression of being stuck at my house for another day.
As some of you might know, the Ghosts of the Stratosphere are somewhat “podcast besties” with a crew of folks from Connecticut that do a show called Pint O’ Comics. Fans of our podcast will recognize that name in a minute given multiple appearances of their host, John G., on episodes of our show as recently as this year’s past 4th of July Special. But what I’m sure some folks don’t know is that I recorded a guest spot on their program a couple weeks ago as part of their “Pint Movie Invitational”, a series of episodes in which they spend an entire show reviewing a particular movie selected by their guest.
For my selection, I knew it had to be something within my top 10 favorite movies of all time, given I might never have another chance to do this again with them. So after cutting out the original Star Wars trilogy for all being too “done to death” and the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup for being too obscure, I decided upon the original Indiana Jones vehicle: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
With that episode airing this week out on any of your pod catching platforms, I thought I would gear my read pile article this week into capitalizing on that sweet cross promotion by discussing a comic book that goes hand in hand with that movie.
So without further ado, here comes a Read Pile Review of the first 3 issues of the licensed tie in comic book released by Marvel Comics in the early 80s about everyone’s favorite whip cracking archeologist, Indiana Jones!
10 Cent Synopsis:
The first two issues of the Further Adventures of Indiana Jones series chronicle Indiana’s search for the Ikons of Ikammanen, legendary golden statues which could be animated by magical means to attack ones enemies. The Ikons were originally being searched for by one of Dr. Jones’ former star pupils in Charlie Dunne, but he is murdered shortly after revealing to Indy that he discovered their location.
That prompts Indiana to join with Charlie’s sister, Edith, to finish the quest, one that leads them to the country of Liberia and ultimately into a shaky alliance with local crime boss, Solomon Black, who is also searching for the Ikons.
As for issue 3, let’s just say that by the end of the Ikons adventures, Indy is seen parachuting out of an airplane. This lands him in the mountainous area known as the Devil’s Cradle. There he gets mixed up in an odd little side story involving a fellow named Prospero who found a mineral spring that has kept him alive for 200 years. Prospero has been sabotaging the US Army’s attempts to investigate the area with the help of his grandson, and somehow Indy is caught in the middle of it.
I will say that it was extremely difficult to limit myself in this particular review to only the first 3 issues. After all, one of the major reasons I picked up The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones Omnibus which was released by Dark Horse about 10 years back was because I wanted to read the entire series vs. only a couple issues. I knew that if the comic was anything like the other Marvel adaptation of a LucasFilm creation in Star Wars, some of these stories were going to be hit or miss.
What I can say is that these first couple issues do bring in some heavy hitters in terms of comic book talent to the fore. Issues 1 & 2 deliver top notch John Byrne pencils with Terry Austin inks! For those of you unfamiliar with how great that is, all I gotta say is that’s the team that did some of the most famous issues of the Uncanny X-men, like Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past.
Furthermore, the writing duties for issues 2 & 3 are done by the late great Denny O’ Neil during his Marvel stint. For those of you that have read O’ Neil’s work on Batman during the Ra’s al Ghul stories, the fella definitely did know how to write epic world traveling adventures which still had a very human/down to earth vibe about them.
The Ikons of the first 2 issues is a pretty interesting MacGuffin for Indy to chase after both being mystical and yet extremely creepy once you learn of their terrible secret. Honestly, I would have liked to have seen that story take up all 3 of those first couple of issues, given I think you could have milked that idea for at least that long. Instead we are given a confusing and uninteresting side trip into the mountains for issue 3 which again proves my point that like Star Wars, this series is somewhat hit or miss.
Plus some of the supporting characters such as the underworld crime boss, Solomon Black, with whom Indy has to partner with unwillingly in order to safety search for the Ikons, could have been made into serious reoccurring threats/friends for future Indy stories if the story had been given just a little more time.
But I’ll save the rest of these thoughts for my final grade section…
As some of you may have noticed, when I review a particular collection of issues from a past series, I often like to do highlight some of the additional material that you might get with the trade version vs. single issues. The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones omnibus that Dark Horse put out several years back is no exception as they also include the original 3 issue comic book adaptation of the original movie that started it all, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I’m a fairly big fan of comic book adaptations of popular movies and TV shows in general simply because they are often some folks’ first foray into the comic book medium. This was even more important back in the 70s and 80s when home video was still in its infancy, so sometimes the only way you were going to enjoy your new favorite movie again without shelling out cash to see it again in the theater was to read the comic book. So this somewhat “cheaper” alternative actually filled a vital role back in the day and as a result became somewhat treasured among those that had a copy.
Furthermore, even before the wild success of the Star Wars comic book adaptation, these movie related comics often times got some top notch talent to work on them, such as the 2001: Space Odyssey comic that sported all Jack Kirby art or the Planet of the Apes movie adaptation with Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Mike Esposito, and Mike Ploog all chipping in. The Raiders of the Lost Ark adaption is no different as all the writing was done by industry legend, Walt Simonson, with art done by even more industry legends with the team up of John Buscema on pencils and Klaus Janson on inks.
The result is an extremely well done 3 issue run, which although sticks fairly close to the same story you see on screen, there are a couple differences. One of the biggest ones is the fact that the famous gunshot to end the so called “duel” with the swordsman in the market doesn’t occur in the comic at all, which I’m saying is somewhat of a big deal given it’s one of the most iconic moments from the entire movie.
Another lesser one that I still feel is of mention is towards the end when Indy threatens to blow up the Ark with a bazooka if they don’t give him back Marion, in the movie, he surrenders willing after the Germans call his bluff. In the comic he’s ambushed by Captain Mohler, and his nearly executed by Col. Dietrich but is saved at the last moment by Belloq of all people who claims Jones should see the Ark opened before be dies.
First off, I think the notion of Indiana surrendering is much more powerful, because it goes hand in hand with his later actions in not looking at the Ark when it’s opened. Ultimately, Jones is a man of faith and in these actions, he’s putting that faith in forces much larger than himself, which is what ultimately saves his life.
I also feel that the reason the Germans don’t kill Indiana is because they are hedging their bets throughout the movie in terms leaking information to Jones to keep him working towards the same goal of getting the Ark. That’s not to say that Jones is “working” for his enemies, but I think they are manipulating him into figuring out the same puzzles they gave to Belloq. So they are keeping him around at the end in case something happens to Belloq, they can force Indy to open the Ark instead, not because Belloq wants to rub his nose in it. Sure, that’s a gamble with someone as dangerous and resourceful as Indiana Jones, but Nazis have never been known to be really that smart.
That being said, I’m not going to delve further into my thoughts on Raiders of the Lost Ark in general in this particular article. No, no! If you want to hear what the host with the most thinks about this landmark 80s action flick, you are just going to have to tune in to the Pint O’ Comics podcast this week and give it a listen! Trust me, I’m not really gonna have to twist your arm too much folks, as Pint O’ Comics is an excellent program, and I really had a terrific time talking Raiders with John and the Manster.
I feel like in grading this particular series of issues, I’m going to give a false impression that I didn’t enjoy this series. Make no bones about it though, like the original Marvel Star Wars comic run, I really do love the Further Adventures of Indiana Jones run from Marvel as well. I have very fond memories reading these comics as a kid and compared to some of the other licensed comic adapatations of Indiana Jones stories that came out from Dark Horse in the mid 90s, these are so much better for the most part.
Sure that could be because as always I have a soft spot for the Indy/Marion pairing and after about issue 6 or 7 of this series, she starts showing up as a series regular which makes for a very enjoyable read.
But in terms of these first 3 issues, other than the terrific talent they assembled to deliver the goods as it were, there’s not really anything special to crow about. Yes, those first 2 issues have that remarkable John Byrne/Terry Austin art during a period when they were at the height of their powers, and yes, some of the Denny O’ Neil dialogue in issue 2 is pretty crisp with some classic 1930s film noir tones.
But, I can say that given Byrne writes issue 1 and O’ Neil issue 2, the tone and story line of that first Ikons adventure seems uneven at times, with some of of a hairbrained ending that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. Then you go from their into that throwaway side story about the mineral springs that doesn’t seem to be well thought out at all, and that doesn’t fill you with a lot of hope that outside Raiders, there could be other interesting Indy stories to tell.
Interesting enough, I think the longest lasting highlight that comes out of these first couple issues of the comic series is The Adventures of Indiana Jones role-playing game created by TSR, Inc. back in the early 80s. Yep, the same folks that created Dungeons & Dragons, created a table top RPG where players got to assume the roles of Indiana Jones and his companions in various adventures. The game included a 64-page rulebook, but more importantly an introductory adventure module based on directly on the Ikons of Ikammanen adventure showcased in the first two issues. Part of me really wants to track down a copy of it and play the module on an upcoming episode of GotS.
Well…I mean whenever we can record our shows in the same room again so that we could play a board game together, so that gives me at least a year to track it down.
But in closing, for those of you that might not have read the Further Adventures of Indiana Jones series and think after this review that you might skip it all together, I’m not saying that you should. I honestly do think the series gets much better after it starts reincorporating the elements from the movie that made it successful, bringing back characters like Brody, Sallah, and Marion, as well pitting our favorite fedora wearing adventurer against the likes of the Nazis.
In fact, there’s an extremely good little 2 parter in the issues to come where Indy and Marion go in search of her dad and Indy’s mentor, Abner Ravenwood. That was honestly an idea for an early pitch for Temple of Doom back before it became all Mola Ram and Willie Scott.
So yeah, the below grade is just on these particular issues. It’s not on the entire series. I think the series is well worth doing your own little archeological expedition at your local comic book shop someday soon to unearth for yourself.
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: C+