Or – “Before You Ask, No, I Didn’t Make This One Up…”

The worlds of fiction are many and varied, and the tale of the young freedom fighter with the odds against him is a compelling one, turning up again and again.  Whether a historical war (such as the long-running Tomahawk), an alien perspective (like Luke Skywalker), or something entirely different, there’s a lot of mileage to be had out of the story of one man against a corrupt system.  So much so, that sometimes you can cut-and-paste that story into an entirely different world and continuity, with only the slightest changes in art necessary to redefine the world.  But, as a wise man said, it is the tale, not he who tells it, and the names are often changed to protect the innocent (as well as those who might be held culpable in court of law.)  This, then is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Jonathan Dozer, raised in a world where apes evolved from men, but took up arms against the bastards who finally did it, known to his simian overlords as Apeslayer!

Apeslayer

The story of Apeslayer begins in a future era, year unknown, and our tale begins in media res, with Apeslayer having already made his way through wave after wave of mooks and cannon fodder to penetrate the stronghold of his enemies!

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Faithful Spoilerites who enjoy Bronze Age comics may find this splash page oddly familiar, though they’ve never read the issue in question.  The reason for that is somewhat complex, thanks to the popularity of the ‘Planets Of The Apes’ franchise. Marvel Comics printed a month PoTA comic, as well as an occasionally sublime black-and-white magazine version of the planet where apes evolved blah blah blah fishcakes.  But it wasn’t just American audiences who loved them some simian action, and Marvel UK began reprinting the American tales in their weekly ‘Planet Of The Apes’ comic book.  Given that the American title was a monthly, they quickly outstripped the available material for reprinting.  Their solution to the dilemma was ingenious: A couple of years earlier, Marvel had adapted H.G. Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’, featuring a young freedom fighter known as Killraven.  Thus, with a few quick edits, the adventures of red-haired Killraven…

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…were transmogrified into the adventures of raven-haired Apeslayer.  A few penciled-in ape-heads here and there, and voila!  A new hero arises!

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Keen-eyed comics fans will notice the work of Neal Adams in these pages (he was the co-creator of Killraven, but only worked on the first issue), as Apeslayer works his way through the abandoned wreckage of New York City.  Of course, if you recall the events of the original ‘Planet Of The Apes’ movie, New York had been completely razed, and the water-levels risen high enough by the time Taylor arrived to submerge the Statue of Liberty almost completely.  My only answer for you is: time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so, and the original movies are full of continuity problems.  Just roll with it, because it really does make for a cool image when he enters the remains of Grand Central Station…

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It’s actually not that terrible of a stretch to take Killraven’s world, ravaged by Martians, and equate it with Apeslayer’s world, ravaged by the tyranny of gorillas and such, as both stories contained underground fleshy-headed mutants.  Regardless of whether his foes are simian or alien, Apeslayer cuts his way through the monstrous aberrations, seeking out the General, the man who made him who he is today, the better to impale him with a chunk of wreckage.

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As the General breathes his dying breath, he thanks Apeslayer for freeing him from their terrible, terrible world, lamenting that man no longer has control of his destiny.  Though the apes seen in the first couple of movies had a vaguely feudal society, the apes of Apeslayers world were considerably more advanced, especially in the field of cybernetics.

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The General’s ruminations trigger the flashback ,as we learn about Jonathan Dozer’s up-bringing in an ape-ruled world at war, traveling from horror to horror.  Sadly, most of the worst cruelty in young Jonathan’s life came not at the hands of lower primates, but at the hands of his fellow human beings.

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Life in the apes’ gladiator pits was tough, but young Jonathan was as strong as he was clever, learning all he could, mastering combat and acrobatics before using his skills to turn the tables on his oppressors!

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Young Apeslayer learns his craft well, using his smarts to become the leader of a tribe of Freemen, then adding new members to his band by defeating other rebels.  Eventually, Apeslayer made himself enough of a nuisance that the Apes began actively seeking him out, marking him as public enemy number one…
Apeslayer9Note also the missed “Killraven” in the upper right panel, something that both cracks me up and makes me feel bad for the poor editor who had to go through these pages and edit the main character’s name seven to ten times PER PAGE!  As the General dies, Apeslayer is left adrift, not knowing what to do next, until he is attacked by mysterious women with strange powers:  The Sirens of 7th Avenue!

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Why is the girl in front wearing a polka-dotted sundress that looks like it came off of Carnaby Street circa 1969?  Well, apparently, the mod look is timeless, but also, Marvel UK was a bit more conservative than their compatriots across the pond.  Witness Killraven’s confrontation with the same sirens on a different alternate Earth…

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Those girls are SUPER naked, as befits women drawn by a young Howard “I Love Lingerie And That’s Just Fine” Chaykin.  Given that the UK editors also chose to have Apeslayer put on a decent pair of pants, I’d have to give them the edge in terms of fashion.  Interestingly enough, the outfit that Apeslayer rocks in these issues resembles the one worn by Skull The Slayer a few years later.  As for Apeslayer, he finds that his training in the camps (along with some genetic manipulations that I think were only explained in Killraven’s continuity) keeps him safe from the Sirens mental manipulations, but NOT from their pet mutants…

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‘Scuse me, their pet mutant APES!  These distinctions are important.  Reuniting with his band of Freemen, Apeslayer makes his way back to the river, where he hijacks a strangely well-kept riverboat to make his escape.  Clearly, this story takes place some time BEFORE Charlton Heston’s arrival on the Planet of the Apes, as we see a familiar coppery face during Apeslayer’s flight…

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APE TRIPOD!!!  Admittedly, here’s where things get a little harder to parse, but it’s still a rousing adventure story, especially when the ape-administrators get wind of the Apeslayer’s latest exploits…

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It’s a little bit fascinating to see the work that the UK editors put in to make the aliens into apes here, and it’s more than just pasting in a different a-word when it’s applicable, especially when we look at the original version of the splash page above…

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By clipping the bottom of the page, they cost us the sight of Chaykin’s awesome jackboots (the man draws boots better than nearly any man alive) but they also made the alien in the bubble look like a view screen with an ape viewing remotely.  It’s pretty ingenious, frankly, and an example of doing the best work you can with the materials available.  As for Apeslayer, he is shocked to find that his battle with the Sirens isn’t quite over, as he returns to his headquarters to find his freemen staring into space, as though entranced by sorcery and/or Duck Dynasty…

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Apeslayer is quickly taken down by the ape-machines, and carried off to their arena, where he is scheduled to be publicly executed for his effrontery…

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Also really entertaining to me:  The sight of a furry hybrid ape in a bikini was originally drawn as a mutant hybrid in a furry bikini!  The law of conservation of furry stated that when they added hairy legs, the bikini had to get an application of Nair.

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Also, the overlord’s word balloon doesn’t move, which makes it look a little odd, as the added ape spectators are a good three feet below the tale of their speech bubble.  Apeslayer shows off his brute strength, tearing himself free of his restraints, and using the bonds on his hands as makeshift weapons to overcome the cyborg-ape’s battle fury…

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Apparently, apes speak Martian in this world.  (Forget it, he’s rolling…)  Apeslayer is enraged by the brutality of the apes of New York, finding his lost smile and declaring a new mission parameter:  DESTROY ALL APES!  They manage to destroy the arena, and set off to find the apes’ central command, finding a battle which nearly claims his life, save for the intercession of his fellow Freeman Mala…

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Apes, like dogs, are apparently color-blind as well, mistaking Apeslayer’s dark locks for crimson ones, he said, playing along with the conceit and choosing not to mock the poor editors at Marvel UK.  Still, their lot in life wasn’t so bad, going from Neal Adams to Howard Chaykin to Herb Trimpe, as well as getting to present British readers with some all-out action against ape and ape collaborator alike!

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Apeslayer and Mala find that this latest simian stronghold isn’t just well-defended, it’s full to brimming with high-quality weaponry.  (It’s also very clearly the American Museum of Natural History, but they have no way of knowing that.)

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Stealing a nearby truck, which miraculously starts up, our Freemen flee across the bridge to their home island of Staten, but before they can get across the Verrazano Narrows bridge, they are attacked by ALIEN OVERLORDS MONKEY-TRIPODS!

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Apeslayer uses his cleverness to destroy the tripod, a pretty amazing feat for any hero, but his escape has finally come to the attention of one ape who has more than just the usual hate for “hoo-mans,” an ape with a very personal grudge against the Apeslayer himself!

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The work on this page is pretty awesome, and it’s once again fascinating from a historical/structural perspective to see how the work was deconstructed to turn it into a PoTA story, especially in the character of the Warlord…

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His ape-face even looks a bit like Trimpe’s work, though I have no idea who handled the art corrections for these reprints.  Lured in by rumors of a hidden weapons cache, Apeslayer and his Freemen break into another ape stronghold, but quickly find that the Warlord has out-witted him this time.

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Not only has the cyborg ape bested him in strategy, Apeslayer soon finds that even his new armor can’t protect him from the lethal combination of gorilla and machine…  A lesson that is learned the hardest way possible.

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The Warlord isn’t the only unusual specialist that the apes have in their corner, as we meet a turncoat human, a biologist entertainingly named Sandra “San” Simian, who seems to have a little bit of a thing for the handsome young Freeman known as Apeslayer…

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She’s also got the worst case of Crazy Eyes ever, watching with demented attention as the Warlord once again beats the living snot out of Apeslayer, just for the lullz.  She is moved, however, by the Freeman’s plight, and breaks one of her experiments out to help Apeslayer escape a fate worse than death: Genetic alteration in ape-controlled laboratories!

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The Freemen and San Simeon bust Apeslayer out, although he doesn’t have a whole lot of grace in the way he says “Thank you…”

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Escaping the underground base, Apeslayer and company emerge into the remains of what was once Yankee Stadium, now converted into yet another ape combat arena for gladiatorial entertainments.  (These apes certainly love their bread and circuses, don’t they?)

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CRAB PEOPLE!  CRAB PEOPLE!  WALK LIKE CRAB, TALK LIKE PEEEOPLE!!!  Also, they spit acid, for some reason.  If this monstrosity is what comes out of San Simian’s labs, I suddenly don’t blame Apeslayer for blowing her off earlier, because… Damn.  Apeslayer’s sudden battle brings the Warlord’s attention, but when things turn in the human’s direction, the Warlord sticks his big old gorilla face into the conflict to make sure things go the way he wants…

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Warlord quickly realizes that he has made a mistake, and even his cybernetic implants can’t keep him safe from Apeslayer’s tactical skills, as the Freeman uses his martial arts skills (ironically, learned in the Warlord’s own camps) against his foe.

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THAT… is hardcore.  As his foe slinks away, utterly crushed physically and psychologically, Apeslayer gathers his band (plus Tammy Crazyeyes) and sets off once again…

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The last panel of that page is clearly missing, but as we see from the original Killraven page…

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…there really wasn’t any other way to work around it, especially as this ended up being the final chapter of Apeslayer’s makeshift adventures in the future.  Marvel UK and Marvel US apparently geared up their production, putting into play more actual adventures in the world of the Planet of The Apes, including a rather notorious work wherein humans and apes reproduced together (which I should probably consider Retro Reviewing, now that I think of it.)  Though his life was short, and his world didn’t make an awful lot of narrative sense within the greater scheme of the PoTA franchise, his crusade against the monsters who took over his world and enslaved his people is no less noble for having been photocopied from someone else’s.  Either way, in the final analysis, it’s full of cyborg gorillas, and nobody will ever be able to convince me that isn’t one of the greatest definitions of awesome.

HH4**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero Histories” in the “Columns” section on our main page, and read an ever-increasing number of other guys and gals who are likewise awesome as heck. The adventures of Apeslayer were briefly published by Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, and it should be noted that Killraven didn’t really ever get an ending either.

Next up: Justice, Like Lightning…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. tidge
    April 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm — Reply

    There was some serious knee-guard touch-ups…but the true crime is one against star-spangled belt+suspenders combinations!

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