War of the Worlds Invasion logo Waging the War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds comics, part 2

A new straightforward adaptation of The War of the Worlds arrived in 1974, one of many books in a series made for schools by Pendulum Press. Their Now Age book version was a rather fast and loose retelling of the story, but boasted impressive art by the renowned artist Alex Nino. A particularly dull and perfunctory retelling of the Welles broadcast featured in the February 1975 issue of Gold Key's UFO Flying Saucers comic, but Marvel hit one out of the ballpark with their 1976 Classic Comics adaptation of the original novel, a more faithful (and uninhibited) version than that attempted previously by either Classics Illustrated or Pendulum Press.

At about this time, western comic book publishers were clearly losing interest in The War of the Worlds. Warren publishing splashed a Martian Tripod on the front cover of Creepy magazine #87 (1977) but the only other comic book of note in this period was published in communist Poland, with an intriguing adaptation appearing in the pages of ALFA Magazine (1978). This impressive colour production is certainly striking in design, but it would be interesting to learn if East-West politics intruded on the narrative.

Almost ten years would pass before the War of the Worlds would be revisited again by an American comic book publisher, but the wait was well worth it, when Roy Thomas (co-creator of Killraven) brilliantly resurrected an obscure 1930's crime fighter in an affectionate and highly effective story set on the night of the Orson Welles broadcast. Issue 5 of Secret Origins from DC Comics (August 1986) retells the origin of The Crimson Avenger, but weaves the broadcast into the very fabric of the story with great deal of panache and confidence, cleverly utilizing original dialogue from the radio script.

The Crimson Avenger was clearly one of those lovely vanity projects that occasionally slip between the cracks at big publishers, but if DC and Marvel were still cool on The War of the Worlds, the same could not be said of the burgeoning small press scene of the late 1980's. Caliber Comics started the ball rolling in 1986 with The Searchers, a mash up of literary giants including H.G Wells, Charles Fort, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle. These famous names become embroiled in an adventure that brings their fictional creations to life, including a Martian Tripod. A second series of The Searchers, subtitled Apostle of Mercy opens with a superbly realised Tripod attack on London.

Eternity Comics then produced two series, one of which rather shamelessly rode the coat tails of the War of the Worlds TV series that was in production at time, (reference was made to it on the covers) even though there was no apparent connection. This 1988 Eternity War of the Worlds series stands as perhaps the oddest and most off-the-wall version of the story yet created, with a setting on a Scottish island and the invaders coming from underground in a co-incidental precursor to the Spielberg War of the Worlds movie.

Eternity returned briefly to The War of the Worlds in 1990 with the intriguing Sherlock Holmes in the case of the missing Martian, a very well realised sequel to the War of the Worlds set in 1908 that catapults Holmes and Watson into a race against time to discover the meaning of a bizarre theft from the British museum. Also in 1990, a clever reference to The War of the Worlds was worked into issue 7 of The Shadow Strikes (DC Comics.) This intriguing tale brings the Shadow (whom Orson Welles had played on radio) into bruising contact with a theatre impresario named Grover Mills (a neat reference here to the hamlet of Grover's Mill where the 1938 broadcast set the beachhead for the invasion) and ends on a highly entertaining note as Mills begins to hatch a plan for a new radio play featuring Martians! Not to be left out, Marvel also made a brief foray back into the imagination of H G Wells in 1990, with the single issue special Adventures in Reading. This comic saw Spiderman himself battle Martian Tripods, as the webslinger is blasted into a number of literary worlds, including into the midst of the Martian invasion.

< Part 1 Part 3 >

Reviews

1996
The Haven and the Hellweed

The Haven and the Hellweed. A gritty vision of a modern day Earth under the heel of the Martians. A more realistic counterpoint to the Killraven series.

1996
The Searchers

The Searchers. Literary characters including H.G. Wells, come together on a strange quest.

1998
War of the Worlds: The Memphis Front

War of the Worlds: The Memphis Front. A prequel to The Haven And The Hellwood that focuses on the battle for Memphis.

1998
Superman: War of the Worlds

Superman: War of the Worlds. Superman is newly arrived in Metropolis when the Martians invade.

2002
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A bold reworking of the story and a masterclass in the power of Comic Book writing from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.

2003
Scarlet Traces

Scarlet Traces. A fasinating sequel to the War of the Worlds that wonders what might have come of all that discarded Martian technology.

2005
War of the Worlds from Dark Horse Comics

The War of the Worlds. The Dark Horse Comics version of the War of the Worlds is one of the most faithful adapatations of the original novel.

2005
Little Book Of Horror: War of the Worlds

Little Book Of Horror. A different take on the War of the Worlds, with lavish illustrations.

2005
Graphic Classics: H.G. Wells

Graphic Classics: H.G. Wells. A nicely illustrated collection of stories including a graphic retelling of the 1938 radio broadcast.

2005
Best Sellers Illustrated: The War of the Worlds

Best Sellers Illustrated. The Martians invade in the early years of the 21st century in this post 9-11 re-imagining of The War of the Worlds.

2006
Scarlet Traces

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Sequel to Scarlet Traces in which Earth launches an invasion of Mars.

2006
War of the Worlds: Second Wave

War of the Worlds: Second Wave. A new take on what might happen during a second more sucessful invasion.

2007
La Guerre des Mondes.

La Guerre des Mondes. An excellent French adaptation of The War of the Worlds.

2009
Science Fiction Classics 19

Science Fiction Classics. The War of the Worlds is adaptated along with several other classics of the genre.

2009
The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds. An abridged adaptation of the novel for junior readers.

2010
Guardians of the Galaxy 18

Guardians of the Galaxy 18. The Guardians of the Galaxy are propelled into a parallel world under attack by Martians.

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