This discussion has been coming to a slow boil on the back burner of my mind for some time now, but it’s finally been moved to the front. For anyone who cares to dig your backissues out of the longbox to better follow along, you have until tomorrow to do so. In the meantime, here’s Marv Wolfman’s introductory editorial from issue #1 to get the discussion rolling.

 

OLD FUNNY ANIMALS by Marv Wolfman

 

It’s been four years! four years since I tried selling the basic concept of SKULL THE SLAYER to someone… anyone. And now, at long last, for better or worse (though I naturally think the better) — it’s here! And you wanna know something? I think it was worth the wait. For, in that time, my ideas matured, some concepts grew, some changed, all hopefully improved. The basics are still there — the thrust of what I wanted remains. Only some of the secondary aspects of the series have been changed — and all for the better.

 

As I said, it began four years ago when I was working as an assistant editor for Marvel’s Declining Competition. I had the idea for a then very different sort of magazine. The concept was simply: thrust an entire mid-town Manhattan office building into a prehistoric setting — into a jungle inhabited by dinosaurs, and observe how us sedentary modern-types would cope on a totally alien, yet familiar, world.

 

But the setting was to be more than simply a dinosaur comic. There would be a secondary plotline… one dealing with caveman, and, shall we give some of the secret away—? Other time periods, the Bermuda Triangle, and more! In effect, four years past, the intention was for Skull to become a cosmic dinosaur series. No joke!

 

The idea was turned down for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the concept of a series which progressed from issue to issue was frowned upon. No continued plotlines, much less stories. Secondly, the concept was not understood, perhaps because it broke away from a rigid thinking that went on there at the time. Anyway, it was no go.

 

I left my editorial job a year or so later and moved on to another company where I became script editor. But before I had time to suggest Skull as a feature, Marvel called and I answered.

 

Rascally Roy Thomas made me an editorial offer I couldn’t refuse, and so I brought myself and Skull with me. But duties kept me from suggesting the idea until March of 1974. Roy thought about Skull for a few moments and said that he, too, was a dinosaur buff, that he always wanted to do a similar type strip, and that if Stan said fine, we’d go with it. Stan did.

 

Roy and I began working out the details. He felt that apartment house idea was not feasible. It would spread the focus of our plots too thin, and, to be a commercially acceptable book, it would not have one solid star. After all, we wanted the idea of the book — if we wanted to do it month after month we’d have to sell it. We may not always like it, but sales are what keep us in the business, and past sales have always indicated that one strong star makes for a winner. Besides, by that time my thinking had somewhat changed and I was seeing major problems with the series if it had gone totally my way. So we decided on a four person group, with Skull as the star.

 

Roy asked for names, and my first thought was, oddly enough, Skull. There was a problem; we still were publishing KULL, and the one letter difference was not a good idea. For the next two months we battered names around, and, in the meantime, I worked to get ahead on TOMB OF DRACULA and CRAZY. After a while we got sick of waiting for a name and Roy said, just use the tagline “Slayer of Men!” and send out a plot to the artist. We’ll come up with a name later.

 

Then there was a mixture of good and bad news: Kull was cancelled, which meant we could use Skull. I grabbed for the chance, and when the pencils came in from the Philippines, the first thing I had lettered was the title: SKULL, THE SLAYER (after all, he wasn’t going around slaying me — just dinosaurs, and “Skull, slayer of Dinosaurs” doesn’t exactly trip easily off the tongue!).

 

When the final art came in, I finally let out me sigh. Steve Gan had done a fantastic job — and more… exactly what I had wanted. We quickly photostated it, and I took it home to color (yes, color).

 

Anyway, at long last, SKULL THE SLAYER is coming out… and, in the typical way of mixed up Marvel — so is the new KULL AND THE BARBARIANS, so we still have a Kull and a Skul, as well as a Kree and a Skrull, and Crom knows what else!

 

Ah, well, here it is — four years later, but, I hope, worth the wait.

 

See you in two months, and in the meantime, don’t accept and wooden pterodactyls.

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Did you *love* the Skull the Slayer comic?

I think it’s safe to say I did… when I was 12. It’s basic premise and characters still appeal to me. I’ve been poking around the old board for previous discussions and discovered I posted about it more often than I remembered. I think the book failed due to bad timing: the bad timing of the series original writer being promoted to EIC after only three issues and the bad timing of his replacement lasting only one issue. If Wolfman would have been able to remain, I think the series would have been successful; if Englehart would have been able to remain, I think the series would have been successful; if Mantlo would have been brought in initially as Wolfman’s successor, I think the series would have been successful. As it is, the Wolfman/Englehart/Mantlo transition was sloppy.

I'd be interested in hearing if dinosaurs were prominent in the stories, if anyone knows.

Not so much as I recall. Ka-zar is a series (a series of series) that’s been considered (by myself as well as others) as a reading project in the past, but I chose Skull at this time partially because it’s so much shorter.

So, are you going to continue with the conclusion to Skull's adventures in FF?

In Marvel Two-In-One, and the answer is yes!

My “10-something” self didn’t know that the Skull the Slayer series had been wrapped up in two issues of Marvel Two-In-One in 1978. He was collecting only his three favorite titles via subscription at the time and never saw them on a spinner rack. My “20-something” self, however, later bought a copy of FantaCo’s Chronicles Series Super Sized Annual in which the following review of Skull the Slayer caught his eye.

“Vietnam veteran Jim Scully and the passengers of a small charter plane are sucked back in time in the Bermuda Triangle. With many dinosaurs about, survival was the name of the game; something the castaways learn the hard way from Scully. This was a nice comic marred by a messy change of scripters (from Wolfman to Englehart to Mantlo).The continuity in 3, 4 and 5 was so compromised that sales plummeted. Mantlo’s writing and some consistent artwork in 5-8 make for some good reading and 1 and 2 by Wolfman and Gan are great. Cancelled in mid-flight, this strip deserved a far better conclusion than Marvel Two-In-One 35-36.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #35-36:

Synopsis: Searching for a missing cobalt bomb (a dangling plot thread picked up from Power Man #45), the Thing flies a mission into the Bermuda Triangle at the request of an old Air Force buddy. By page two he is already in the primordial past. Skull’s story picks up directly from the end of issue #8. He and his friends are still being held captive by the high priest, but Cochran has been unceremoniously killed off panel. The Thing’s strength enables them to escape, and in issue #36 they are able to repair the thing’s plane and fly it back through the vortex to the present day. The priest and his pterodactyl-mounted “air force” follow, however, but are defeated with the help of Mr. Fantastic. (The pterodactyls are then relocated to the Savage Land.)

20-something self: Three years have passed since the publication of Skull #1, and despite the fact that time travel is involved, mention is made that the four main characters have likewise been stranded in the past for three years, which just doesn’t jibe with the events of Skull #1-8 at all!

40-something self: Fittingly, Marv Wolfman was the writer to bring the series to a close and tie off the loose ends, but it really didn’t help much. FWIW, I agree completely with the assessment from the Fantaco Chronicles Annual: “Cancelled in mid-flight, this strip deserved a far better conclusion than Marvel Two-In-One 35-36.”
Check out our "Skull the Slayer" discussion from the old board. We talked about the series without actually re-reading it. We got right up to the point of reading it in June of 2006 (which gives you an idea how long I’ve had this series pulled to read), but didn’t follow through. Here’s where I leave my 10- and 20-something selves behind, because that’s when I found out about…

QUASAR #46 and CAPTAIN AMERICA #420 :

2006-self:

April 29: Waitaminute… waitaminute… whoa.. whoa… whoa! Jim Scully became the Flaming Skull!? Issue numbers, please!

May 1: Yesterday I bought Captain America #420 and Quasar #46 (#45 featured Scully only on the last page).

May 11: I pulled my Skulls out of the box last night and gave them a look for the first time in many years.

2010-self: I never buy comics with no intention of reading them; it may, however, take me a while to get to them. These have been sitting on my shelf for four years awaiting this very discussion. I finally got around to reading them a few days ago. In any case, a vastly altered Jim Scully appeared on the last page of Quasar #45 (written by Mark Gruenwald) as a member of the Shock Troop.

The Shock Troop was a group of paranormal investigators led by Dr. Druid. In addition to Jim Scully as The Blazing Skull, the other members were N’Kantu the Living Mummy and Shadow Woman (who was not Jessica Drew, but who wore the original Spider-Woman’s costume). Scully turns up solo in Captain America #420 (also written by Gruenwald) and explains: “I’m just a hard luck case who got warped into another dimension where I found this funky force field belt that gave me the power to duke it out with the dinosaurs who inhabited the place! Eventually I managed to make it back to home sweet home, but I couldn’t for the life of me get the stupid belt off! A somewhat reckless attempt to remove it left me looking like what you see now — a walking x-ray. The Doc keeps tryin’ to help, but so far it looks like I’m stuck this way.”

It’s difficult at this point to say whether or not Gruenwald had any long-range plans for Jim Scully or if he simply used an amalgam of two existing characters to create a new one.
Wasn't Scully arrested at the end of MTIO #36?
He was taken into custody but the implication was that he would be cleared of the charges against him.
HAWKEYE (2003) #1-6:

On July 19, 2004, in a discussion about Skull the Slayer (among other things), Cap posted: “Scully appeared in the recent (and recently canceled) Hawkeye series. He has devolved to an overweight thug, a bodyguard/enforcer for the rich. At least until the next retcon.”

2004-self: “I skimmed all of the Scully scenes today. (No, I didn't buy the issues, and no, I don't feel guilty about it; I feel pretty good about it, as a matter of fact.) He was in the first six, by the way. Issue #2 contained indirect, unfootnoted references to Skull the Slayer, but nothing I saw or read made me want to buy backissues of Hawkeye.

2010-self: Damn, 2004-self! That’s pretty harsh! Why don’t you try to keep an open mind? Maybe you’ll mellow with age.

Synopsis: Eventually, Jim Scully drifted into the employ of real estate maven Bailey Mathius, a Vietnam vet with a secret in his past. Events are set in motion when his mistress, a stripper named Peppermint Candey, discovers the secret and Mathius’ wife Belinda tried to have her shut up. Scully tried to warn Peppermint, but Hawkeye, who overheard, misinterpreted Scully’s intentions and he was drawn into the web of intrigue.

The only reference to the old Skull the Slayer series is the following exchange:

HAWKEYE: I thought it was you — Jim Scully — Time magazine cover, right? Viet vet, framed for murder, whole Jurassic Park-Bermuda Triangle trip, came back stronger than spit…

SCULLY: My fifteen minutes were up a while ago.

Writer Fabian Nicieza doesn’t mention Gruelwald’s “Blazing Skull” phase at all; he doesn’t contradict it, he simply ignores it. There’s a nice little EYKIW about Clint’s brother Barney, but this discussion is about Skull, not Hawkeye. This story sets up a nice camaraderie between Hawkeye and Scully, one I wouldn’t mind seeing explored further in the future.

Well, that’s it: every appearance of Jim Scully I know of. If I missed any, I’m sure someone here will point them out and I will track them down. Until next time, all my selves thank you for reading along. Buh-bye!

I think I only ever saw the conclusion when he returned to the normal world.
There was, of course, another Marvel character with his name, and he was not exactly a nice guy. Did Roy and Marv both forget the Red Skull?
I seriously dislike the idea that Englehart hated the series, only did one issue, but killed off most of the cast in that one issue. If he really disliked it he either should have turned it down or left the characters' fate in doubt, allowing the next writer to bring them back if they wanted to. I guess Bill Mantlo felt the same way.

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