Once upon a time, Steve Spielberg and George Lucas teamed up to create a loving tribute to the movie serials of the thirties and forties.  Who knew it would spark a decades-long multimedia property?  Woudja believe eleven-year-old future Major Spoilers EIC Stephen?  Plus: All your submarine questions answered, once and for all!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of (deep breath) Marvel Movie Spotlight Featuring Raiders Of The Lost Ark #1 awaits!


Writer: Walt Simonson
Penciler: John Buscema/Klaus Janson
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Michele Wolfman
Letterer: Rick Parker
Editor: Lance Tooks
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.25
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Marvel Movie Spotlight Featuring Raiders Of The Lost Ark:  From The Wiki —

Raiders of the Lost Ark (also known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) is a 1981 American action adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, with a screenplay written by Lawrence Kasdan, from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman.  It was produced by Frank Marshall for Lucasfilm Ltd., with Lucas and Howard Kazanjian as executive producers.  Starring Harrison Ford, it was the first installment in the Indiana Jones film franchise to be released, though it is the second in internal chronological order.  It pits Indiana Jones (Ford) against a group of Nazis who are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which Adolf Hitler believes will make his army invincible…  The film originated from Lucas’ desire to create a modern version of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s… Released on June 12, 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark became the year’s top-grossing film and remains one of the highest-grossing films ever made.  It was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, and won four for Best Art Direction, Film Editing, Sound, and Visual Effects with a fifth Academy Award: a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing.  The film’s critical and popular success led to three additional films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), with a fifth slated for 2020; the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992–1996), and 15 video games as of 2009.  In 1999, the film was included in the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as having been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film was ranked as one of the greatest action-adventure films of all time by The Telegraph.”

And with that, we take you live (sort of) to the jungle of Peru, in the year 1936…

Indy keeps Barranca from shooting the fleeing natives, but as their party moves through the jungles, they lose more and more of their retinue, until just Barranca, Satipo and Dr. Jones himself are left as they discover the lost temple of the Chachapoyans.  It is here that Barranca tips his hand and betrays Indy to get a bigger share of treasure.

That proves to be a mistake…

Now, I’m not the ‘Raiders’ superfan that Stephen is, so I can’t tell you whether this is all in the film or not, but I can tell you that, in the 1980s, Marvel Comics worked from scripts and stills to deliver their movie adaptations before the film got into theaters, which means that parts of this story didn’t actually make it to the big screen, and those that did weren’t always the same.  Either way, Jones and Satipo are alone as they make their way into the temple, wary of the poison darts of the Hovitos…

With the complete map (part of which Satipo refused to give him until they were inside), Indy’s savvy and experience allow him to avoid the various traps, unlike his colleague/competitor, Forrestal, there.  Navigating pitfalls both metaphorical and fatally literal, Indy makes his way to the center of the temple, where riches await them!

The famous “bag o’ dirt” scene is in these pages, though it’s given a panel and a half of attention, as Indy switches the bag to keep from setting off a weight-triggered trap mechanism.  Sadly, he’s not quite quick and/or accurate enough, and the entire temple begins to collapse, setting off even more traps.  Satipo betrays him, insisting that Indy give him the idol before he will return the archaeologist’s whip.  Indy barely makes it past the pit of eternal spikey deathness, but Satipo’s haste and greed lead to his own demise.

It’s an ironic echo of an earlier line, where Satipo promises not to betray him like Barranco did.  ‘Course, anybody who knows Indy (or the opening sequence of Weird Al’s ‘UHF’) knows that the danger isn’t over just yet…

The giant rolly boulder gets three whole panels here, reminding me of just how difficult it is to convey time and motion in comic form, all the while interpreting 2 hours of film into 70-odd pages of comics.  Though Indy is safe, his old rival Belloq is ready to take away the spoils of his hard work, leaving him with nothing but questions and the poison darts of the Hovitos (another scene which is compressed into a single panel, leaving out the ‘Start the plane!’ sequence entirely, cutting back to Indy at work at the university.

Doctor Jones’ suit is courtesy of the Harvey Dent Collection, for men who are of two minds about fashion!  He is also given information indicating that Hitler’s men are seeking an ancient artifact known as the Ark Of The Covenant which blah blah blah, you’re almost certainly aware of, especially if you’ve seen this movie.  Their only real lead is Indy’s fortmer teacher Dr. Abner Ravenwood, whose life’s obsession was to find the Tanis site where the Ark is reputedly located.  This leads Indy out to find his daughter, Marion, currently running the toughest saloon in Nepal.

She’s totally happy to see him…

The “I was too young” part really gives me the creeps, I’m not gonna lie, so we’ll brush past that to the fact that Dr. Ravenwood had an artifact that was secretly the headpiece of the Staff Of Ra.  Marion sends Indy on his way with a promise to help, only to reveal that she totally has the thing in her possession, and oh yeah, Nazi jerks.

Enter Arnold Toht, a total sleazebag and tribute act to Peter Lorre, who has an offer she can’t refuse: Give him the artifact and die.  Not “or”, but in fact, “And.”  Fortunately, Indiana Jones knows a lie when he hears it, returning just in time to pull Marion’s fat out of the fire…

I have to say, I love Klaus Janson’s work when he’s paired with the right penciler.  Alone, his deep blacks and command of dramatic ink-wash can seem a bit too “scratchy”, but with an expert like Buscema collaborating, the sequence takes on new life.  It doesn’t look at all like it does in the film version, mind you, but it’s pretty solid work and makes for a good fight.  Toht is badly burned in trying to snatch the disc out of the fireplace, Indy gets heroic, the money and Marion’s livelihood goes up in flames…

I love that last panel so much, you guys.  Such character packed into a single image, showing us two distinct people and even the nature of their contentious relationship in one shot.  Good stuff, lemme tell ya.  Our duo sets off for Cairo, where things get dicey (the iconic moment where Indy just shoots a scimitar-wielding attacker is entirely absent here, supporting legends that it was an improvised moment on-set, by the way) and Marion is seemingly lost in an explosion, leaving Jones bereft as he and Sallah (who suddenly just appears in this story, I might add, it’s really weird) regroup to find the Tanis site.

Thanks to Toht’s grabby hands and the resulting burns, the Nazis have half of the inscription and a makeshift Staff Of Ra, but not enough information to find the right place, allowing Indiana to get the jump on them…

Using the map and real staff, Indy is able to find the Well Of Souls location, but accidentally finds the real treasure hidden in one of Belloq’s tents…

Indy realizes that saving her will give the whole game away, so he leaves her in the Nazis care (!!), and beats it for the actual Tanis site to find the Ark.  That’s where the snakes come in…

While Belloq chats of Marion and gives her a pretty dress in another scene that’s sort of inexplicable due to the compression of story, Sallah and Jones makes their way to center of the Well where they discover their quarry…  The Ark Of The Covenant!

Not “Convent”, but “Covenant”, no matter what my spellcheck wants to tell me…

Once again, though, a jerk arrives to double-cross him and steal his treasure, this time in the form of Belloq, who steals the Ark and throws Marion into the well to die with Indy.  Surrounded by snakes, with no way out of a thirty-foot cavern, it looks pretty dire for our hero, but this is a story inspired by the serials of old, so that cliffhanger is quickly resolved…

The Nazis escape with the Ark, forcing Indy to pursue on horseback (a moment that I think was done with a motorcycle in the finished film, unless I’m remembering ‘Top Secret’ by mistake), and once again one of the series most kinetic and memorable action sequences is nearly entirely chopped in the name of moving along the story.

Escaping into the streets of Cairo, Indy gives the Nazis the slip, thanks to Sallah and his special hidden garage, then charters a pirate freighter to get him out of Egypt.  Unfortunately, his opponents have resources of their own!

The Ark (and Marion!) get taken, but Indy isn’t ready to give up yet, leaping onto the escaping U-boat to try to give pursuit.  This leads to a moment that many have complained is a “plot hole” in the finished film, as the sub carries him away…

He… actually… took… a… nap!  You have to appreciate the brass ones on this Jones feller, guys.  Not so much the rapey undertones of the dialogue surrounding Marion’s reveal, though.  I’m really uncomfortable with the treatment of Miss Ravenwood in this version of the story, and don’t recall it being in the movie.  (I may have blocked it out, though.)

Indy makes a last-ditch effort to save the day, threatening to take out the Ark with an RPG (which is not the anachronism I first thought it to be, as such devices were used in World War I), but is captured and forced to watch as Belloq performs the ritual to open the Ark…

Indy and Marion gather the strength to not look, but the assembled Nazis are transfixed by “God’s reply to evil men”, to memorable effect…

…but NOT as memorable as the version seen in the film, and the Toht face-melting sequence that scarred me as a child is entirely absent.  Indy and Marion are the only survivors, and in the aftermath, the Ark is shown to shine with a strangely sentient and kind of ominous light.  Even more disappointing though, is the final scene, which buries the whole darkly funny moment where bureaucracy causes the Ark dis disappear once more into someone’s hidden fortress…

Somehow, that sequence isn’t the same without motion and film.  Even so, this is a pretty fun adaptation, albeit one that clearly wasn’t made by anyone who had seen the final finished movie, leaving Marvel Movie Spotlight Featuring Raiders Of The Lost Ark #1 with a mixed bag 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I enjoy seeing Buscema and Janson’s take on Indy and this adventure, and Simonson does a pretty great job with the script, given the amount of compression necessary to get it all in, but I’d still say you want to see the original film BEFORE you try to enjoy this one…



It's clear it was made without seeing the movie, but it's an interesting read that clears up a nagging question about the source material, so win/win!

User Rating: 2.55 ( 1 votes)

Dear Spoilerite,

At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.


About Author

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.

1 Comment

  1. “I’m really uncomfortable with the treatment of Miss Ravenwood in this version of the story, and don’t recall it being in the movie. (I may have blocked it out, though.)”

    I don’t think it’s in the movie, but I know for sure it is in the prose novelization, which I happen to own.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.