Wednesday, January 27, 2010

E-Dispatches Exclusive #3: The Groovy Agent Raps About The Heap #1

What's happening, comix fans? Yeah, it's none other than the Groovy Agent providing a gargantuan guest-post for my main man Jonathan "A" Gilbert's E-Dispatches from the Great White North! Jazzy Jon has asked Ol' Groove to rap with ya about one of his all-time favorite weird heroes, Skywald Publication's The Heap. Now, since Ol' Groove's mind works in such mysterious ways that even he doesn't understand himself, I thought it would be cool to make this post a cross-over between E-DftGWN and my own far-out (if I do have to say so) blog Diversions of the Groovy Kind. What inspired such a brain-blasting plan? Well, the fact that Skywald actually introduced their version of The Heap in their black and white (pre-) horror-mood mag Psycho #2 helped. Jon wanted me to focus on The Heap's color comicbook debut, The Heap #1 (July 1971), so I thought I'd do the Psycho debut as today's Black and White Wednesday post. So you can double your Heap pleasure by clicking here after you finish blowing your mind with this particular post. Comprende? Whew! Enough explanation, let's get on to diggin' The Heap #1!

The Heap was originally created back during the Golden Age for Hillman's Airboy Comics. The character really seemed to grab a lot of fans, so the original Heap developed a cult following that kept him--er--it a veritable legend for those fans hip enough to dig into their comicbook history. What fanned the flame for slimy superheroes? Inquiring minds would like to know! All I know is that in late 1970, the fledgling Skywald Publications created their own version of The Heap, while almost simultaneously Marvel unleashed Man-Thing and DC allowed Swamp Thing to shamble into the spinner-racks. Whatever the reason, Skywald updated The Heap's origin and brought him--er--it kicking and screaming into the scintillating 70s. Somebody at Skywald thought fandom would dig a Heap color comic, so they gathered together the high-quality creative team of Bob Kanigher, Tom Sutton, and Jack Abel and turned 'em loose. Kanigher, Sutton, and Abel, in turn, tweaked The Heap's origin from Psycho #2 a bit, plus they gave him--er--it a makeover, no doubt so he'd pass the Comics Code--and have a better shot of passing for something heroic and sympathetic, 'cause, man, the b&w version (by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito) was uglyyyyyy...

Enough talk. Here is The Heap #1 and "Shadows of Satan!"

As you can see, Kanigher's story for The Heap #1 is an engaging mish-mash of lots of horror cliches: the good-man-turned-monster, a blind girl, the mad scientist (a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, no less!), the ghostly/demonic villain; it's all there, but it's written in such a way that pathos verily drips from the pages, sucking you in and making you really feel our horrible hero's pain and anguish. Personally it hits the same kind of buttons for Ol' Groove that DC's Swamp Thing hit--and that's a good thing. The bad thing is that the color Heap comic only lasted for this one ish, so we never get to see what Kanigher, Sutton, and Abel had planned for the future. All I know is that the last page really, really grabbed me, and I'd have definitely scarfed up future issues of Skywald's Heap!