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.