Roy Thomas Presents The Heap Volume Two

Collecting Heap stories from Airboy #52-82 (Jun 48-Dec 50)

Writers, artists: Various

PS ArtBooks, $49.99, color, 242 pages

As I've observed elsewhere, the Golden Age of Reprints is revealing the origins of modern characters and storytelling by peeling back the layers of their prototypes.

Such is the case with this Heap volume. Many stories here are reminiscent of Steve Gerber Man-Thing stories, where the focus is on ordinary humans with a problem, which is solved (or justice is served) by the intervention of the titular character, sometimes not until the end of the story. Not only did some of these stories remind me strongly of Man-Thing, but several reminded of anthology TV series like The Twilight Zone, or man-on-the-run-helps-the-locals series like The Fugitive or Incredible Hulk. So this volume seemed really familiar -- while having preceded all those examples.

Which means that these are often pretty good stories, despite being more than 60 years old. That's abetted by pretty decent art, usually by Carmine Infantino, Ernest Schroeder and Leonard Starr.

Other elements that bear mention include:

  • The Heap, while still mindless, becomes an unabashed good guy here by becoming an agent of Mother Nature (depicted as a woman in a hooded robe).
  • Early Heap stories showed the character moving around by stowing aboard boats, or being captured and sent to a zoo, or otherwise shown getting from the site of Story A to the site of Story B. These stories no longer concern themselves with that; The Heap is wherever the story needs him to be.
  • The implausible use of Baron von Immelman connections continues unabated, despite that character having died (to become The Heap) more than 30 years previous. For a guy who died young in World War I, he sure has a healthy, worldwide legacy as late as the Korean War!
  • Characters in story continue to mistake The Heap for a tree, although he's consistently depicted as looking like a haystack. This causes unintentional humor via the juxtaposition of dialogue and art.
  • Roy Thomas continues to provide insight and history worth the price of admission.

In short, I'm still enjoying these stories, and am looking forward to Volume Three!

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I don't remember if I mentioned it to you or not, but my retailer, who originally ordered PS Artbooks from an overseas distributor, has since switched to Diamond. In the cutover, I missed several volumes. I have The Heap v3, but v2 is one of the ones I missed. The website has all UK release dates which don't jibe with US releases. Also, I've seen some solicitations in Previews which aren't listed on the website at all! Very frustrating. I'm backpedaling and hope to be caught up soon. Here's a list of new series from PS Artbooks (compiled from both Previews and online) of upcoming releases in the near future.

Black Magic
Captain Video
Alarming Tales
Operation Peril
Planet Comics
The Thing!
Weird Mysteries
Harvey Double (“Race for the Moon” & “Man in Black”)

I don't have any of those, nor does Westfield Comics (from which I've been ordering PS ArtBooks) list them as available. Does that mean Westfield is using the UK distributor and not Diamond?

The arrival of these books has always been almost random. I've ordered, for example, Forbidden Worlds through volume six, but have only received volumes one and two. Whereas I've also ordered Adventures into the Unknown through volume six, but have received volumes 1-5. I've ordered all of Chamber of Chills, Witches Tales, Tomb of Terror and Black Cat, and received all of the first three, but only the first issue of Black Cat. And so forth.

My LCS doesn't order them, which is OK, because I prefer to order something from Westfield monthly to keep my account viable (and to get their catalog). I buy almost everything from Amazon now, since I'm trade-waiting everything but a handful of Marvel titles.

None of the series I listed above are available yet (at least not in the states).

Actually, I've already ordered Harvey Double. Westfield -- or more likely, PS ArtBooks -- has some sort of "advance" ordering that is different from regular ordering, which is how I managed to get Witches Tales Vol. 3 twice. I guess I've ordered Harvey Double as "advance."

I'm eager to get the others, of course. But as I indicated, I've got a large back order already on PS books. Get on the stick, PS or Westfield or Diamond, or whoever is responsible for the bottleneck! I'd like to see these books before I hit retirement age!

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