Let’s kick this Marvel Super Special March off with a Glaive – Marvel Super Special #28, “Krull”
“Have you ever seen Krull?”
“Yeah, you don’t need to see Krull.”
– Family Guy, Season 7, Episode 4, “Baby Not on Board”
I have a stack of the Marvel Super Specials sitting on my desk, and I thought, what with it being an alliteratively convenient month, March would be as fine a time as any to take a look at them here on the blog. Several others (Close Encounters, Dune, Rock & Rule) have been featured here before, and it’s always been fun (for me, at least) to see how films great and small were adapted to magazine-sized sequential art, the VHS/DVD/Blu-ray of prehistory. It helps that the Super Specials are largely products of the 1980s, meaning they were right in the wheelhouse of stupendous movie magic, when so many of the great films of my youth were being churned out on a regular basis, films that we’d never forget and would revisit year in and year out down to the present day.
And, in an inverse way, that’s why I decided to start this month off with Krull. Released in 1983, when I was five years old, the widest-eyed of wide-eyed ages, it COMPLETELY flew past me. Perhaps I was spoiled Spielberg and Lucas in the days when they could seemingly do no wrong. On the face of it, Krull has everything going for it that would have drawn me in, even if it didn’t make me a devoted lifelong fan. But no. I first stumbled onto it in the early 1990s, when after mowing my grandmother’s lawn I settled onto her couch with a cool glass of lemonade to watch some TV until my folks could come and pick me up. And Krull came on right as I sat down. I remember the moment quite clearly, because it was science/fiction fantasy, quite obviously from the not too distant past judging by the effects work, and I had never heard of it. Not a peep. Where had this “World invaded, Princess kidnapped, Hero seeks to put right” flick been all my life?
And you know what? I enjoyed it quite a bit that warm afternoon, and I do to this day.
A lot of it blows hard. There are enormous, chasmish faults in the film, which I won’t belabor. Well, I’ll mention a couple. One that has always vexed me is that Krull was a planet populated by a longstanding, cultured civilization with a population measured in the dozens. No budget for extras, I suppose. And Lyssa, the captive princess, is a weak broth, and hardly worthy of mobilizing most of the planet’s 40-man populace to rescue her. I never quite got what Colwyn, our royal protagonist, saw in her. I would have fought the invasion of the invading Slayers, but rescuing her would have been deep, DEEP on my agenda.
And yeah, though it wasn’t a complete ripoff of Star Wars, it was certainly following dangerously close in its wake.
But there was so much to love. The Glaive. Rell, the kind, badass Cyclops. The evil Black Fortress, which shifted position on the globe every day and had innards modeled after the body of its overlord, the Beast. James Horner’s uplifting, self-plagiarizing score. A young Liam Neeson cutting his acting teeth. The great sound that the Slayers made when they were killed. A motley assemblage of guys going on a quest, which, for the 12-year olds that live even in the oldest of men, NEVER gets old.
Most importantly, it was a movie that tried. DARED TO BE DIFFERENT. The mixed reactions that it generates remind me of David Lynch’s Dune, another film that was off-kilter but at least gave it a whirl, though Krull lacked the established universe of Frank Herbert’s creation. (This association is helped along by the two features sharing two supporting actors: Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis.) I’m not sure if the freshness of Krull was a help or a hindrance. Either way, it turned out that neither picture was in tune with the tastes of moviegoers, but each should get deserved props for creating unique aesthetics.
The Super Special adaptation of Krull (Script: David Michelinie, Pencils: Bret Blevins, Inks: Vincent Colletta) is faithful, glossing over bits and pieces but leaving nothing too big out. The first part of the movie that really grabs you are the opening credits, as the Black Fortress flies through space and descends on the unsuspecting Krull. It’s darkly majestic. If only the comic had the accompanying Horner fanfare, with all the beats that he cribbed from his own Wrath of Khan score:
One complaint with the art is that Colwyn sometimes looks excessively shaggy, with creepy shadows obscuring his eyes and making him look more sinister than the virtuous gallant on the screen. Here he is finding the film’s superweapon, the Glaive, his Righteous Golden Switchblade Starfish of Justice:
One of the big differences between the film and the comic is the fate of Rell. In the latter, after the boys gather up the Fire Mares that will speed them to the Black Fortress before it changes locations, the noble Rell stays behind, as his destiny lies elsewhere. (If you’re unfamiliar, the Cyclopses are a race who once made a bargain with the Beast, getting knowledge of the future in exchange for one of their eyes. Except the Beast gave them knowledge of when and how they would die, and to try to escape that foreseen end brings them unspeakable pain. Which makes the Beast not only evil, but a complete douche.) He then charges in at just the right time to get the pinned down fellas into the Fortress, though he’s then crushed slowly and painfully while holding open a closing portal.
In the comic he comes along for the ride, thereby foregoing all the last-minute heroics, and his death is, how shall we say, A TAD SUDDEN:
I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. L. O. L.
The Beast himself, who, when finally shown in full in the movie had a strange and distracting anamorphic stretching effect distorting and widening his features, is here presented in his slender, au naturel glory:
Perhaps the stretching business was a late post-production decision. Here he is in the film, so you can make an informed decision on which you prefer:
Sadly, the death of the Beast is still presented in the same disappointing way as the movie. Remember the Glaive, the magic device that forms part of the logo? YEAH, THAT. It comes out to play in the finale and puts the Beast down, but not out, but then gets stuck in his chest, meaning that the two young lovers have to resort to using their feu de l’amour to cook him:
In the movie you’re left wanting a little more Glaive. Same here. I mean, Colwyn tosses it up, it spins around, blowtorches Lyssa’s cell, and hacks up the Big Bad. And then it’s stuck in the Beast’s chest and gone. Young love saving the day made me like what had been an up to that point crappy Rock & Rule, but here it made (and makes) me want to tear my nonexistent hair out. I WANT GLAIVE. I PAID TO SEE GLAIVE. IT’S IN THE DAMN LOGO.
You cannot win them all.
The extra features in the back include the rote behind-the-scenes stuff, all of which you can now read ad nauseam on the Net. There’s also a story about one of the most bewildering movie promotions of all-time, a national essay contest run through bridal stores(!) where the winners would wed like Colwyn and Lyssa in the movie. (You can read more about this and see the few associated pictures — MUST SEES — here.) I’m not sure what to make of this. If you have a woman in your life willing to marry you in a B-grade sci-fi/fantasy style, you should either lock that down immediately, or leave the house, get in the car, peel out and start a new single life someplace else, preferably under an assumed name. I’m unsure of which way to go. I leave it to your discretion, if you’re someday confronted with such a dilemma.
I thought this knick-knacks article would be of most interest to the Krull and non-Krull communities — I’ll take one lunchbox, please:
Of particular note is the pinball machine, just to the right of Colwyn’s noggin. It was never mass-produced, though a select few were manufactured as prototypes. You can find photos of the finished product here. I’ll say this: There was a pinball machine in a favorite bar of mine while I was in college. It was your typical “babes draped over cars with lots of lights” model (the machine, not the bar), but I’d drop a bunch of quarters into it every time I was in there (it helped that beers were priced so you’d get quarters back in change). So I have a weakness for pinball. And if there was a Krull machine in that bar, I’d still be in front of it. I might actually grow into it, like those people who spend years sitting on the toilet and the seat gets swallowed up by their thighs.
Really, who wouldn’t want to live a “Krull lifestyle,” at least for a little while?
Krull-Mania never took off, which is humanity’s loss, I suppose. The film was a critically panned box-office flop, which gave the associated merchandising a lingering cringeworthiness. That means that there are no loving hardcover reprints of this adaptation for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the brick and mortar outlet of your choice. If you want to track this mag down, you’ll have to do some Google searching, some eBay bidding, or pound the pavement to your local comic book emporium. It was also published as a two-issue regular sized comic (sans extras), so at least there’s that to double your odds of tracking it down. Make it your own Cyclops and Fire Mare infused quest.