Friday, September 20, 2013

Apocalypse Unbound

"Kitchen sink" role-playing settings like Rifts and Synnibar are well known for their anything goes approach. While comic books have never got as freewheeling as those settings (well, their respect universes taken as whole are, probably), they managed to create some high concept post-apocalypse settings based on some really interesting mashups. What they lack an "anything goes" they make up for in greater coherence.

The world of Killraven first appeared in Amazing Adventures vol. 2 #18 (May 1973). It posited an apocalyptic future of mutants and sword-wielding heroes in thigh-high boots that resulted from a second Martian invasion after War of the Worlds.

1975s Hercules Unbound #1 reaches even further back for his literary antecedents to Greek mythology. Shortly after world devastating nuclear war, the demigod Hercules breaks free from where Ares had imprisoned him and resumes his fight against the evil god of war. Mutant humanoid animals are among the challenges he faces, and these explicitly establish the world of Hercules Unbound as the same animal-dominated future as Jack Kirby's Kamandi. Later, it was also linked to the world of the Atomic Knights--which turned out to be a dream, so we'll ignore that.

Planet of Vampires (also in 1975) borrowed from Planet of the Apes in having astronauts return to a future earth gone mad, but instead of being overrun by animals like in Kamandi, it was dominated vampires like in Omega Man. Of course, forgo the astronauts and goth it up a bit, and you've got Vampire Hunter D.

Check out any (or all) of these for some fresh post-apocalyptic gaming inspiration.

15 comments:

Francis Lee said...

Nice ideas Trey!

John Till said...

Lovvved that sexy redhead Killraven who (along with Deathlok) got me through high school. Mourned that series when it ended.

Trey said...

@fran - Thanks!

@John - Deathlok is another good one, for sure.

Metal Earth said...

I see we have a spammer in common.
I have seen some of the Hercules unbound stuff, but it was long ago. How long did planet of the Vampires run?
Tangentially, I had a line from Deathlok about people thinking with their glands trapped in my head for years. It turned out to be in a Zeck/Gruenwald issue of Captain America, which I reread recently.

Trey said...

Indeed. Gone now.

It lasted 4 issues, I believe, That was the length of virtually all of the Atlas titles.

Tim Shorts said...

I always thought the Negative Zone would be a cool place to have a campaign.

Trey said...

That is a good idea!

John Till said...

Killraven's 'verse could be a really versatile venue for gaming. You could do a Gamma Worldy-flavored sandbox/hexcrawl kind of adventure featuring escaped gladiators, food stock, etc.; a more political campaign looking at the politics of resistance and (twisted) collaboration with an occupier; and even throw in a little planetary romance and go to Mars.

It would be kind of sick to discover that the Martian invasions of the last two centuries are only the most recent. Perhaps under the red sands of Mars there are ancient descendants of Earth's human population - unfortunates who were dragged off to Mars in ancient times as food stock, gladiators, human chess pieces, etc. Maybe there's a whole twisted Barsoom waiting...

Chris said...

Interesting. I really need to read more comics. I dabble here and there, but it seems like there's so much out there I'm missing out on.

Martin R. Thomas said...

These are great! I love Silver Age comics and definitely am interesting in checking some of these out.

For some current post-apocalyptic comics, have you heard about East of West or Lazarus? I feel like East of West in particular would be one that you'd like. It's about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a post-apocalyptic Earth where the U.S. is divided into a bunch of different countries including an Indian Nation, and Chinese-controlled West Coast, and there's a real Western vibe to the story as Death dresses like a cowyboy but rides a kind of mechanical insect-looking thing. Plus it's just a really well-written story.

Also something I feel might be of interest to you is Jack Katz's The First Kingdom. I just received a copy of the first collection trade from Titan Comics for review purposes. I'd not heard of it before, but it's from the 1970s and it was an underground science-fantasy comic about tribes in a post-nuclear earth that fight for survival against gods and monsters. Very interesting.

Justin S. Davis said...

I always had a devil of a time tracking down Atlas books. I'd find one or two, and then just give up.

Good inspirations, my man.

Canageek said...

Man, I would love to read comics like this, but I am not nearly rich enough. I've almost collected all the Transmetropliton volumes (The final one was out of stock last time I checked), and they cost a pretty penny each, and only take me like, a half-hour each to read. Modesty Blaise costs $20 a volume, there are a ton of volumes (with more coming out as it ran for 40 years), and again, only takes 45 minutes to get through a volume.

By comparison a new novel lasts $12 and I can get at least 2 hours out of it, often 3. A used one can be gotten for $6 or less, and I have to worry about damage a lot less.

I have no idea how hard it must be to track down old comics like this which are scattered across different comic lines, in original form, as I'm told Omnibuses are the cheaper way to read comics.

Justin S. Davis said...

Canageek:

As long as you don't care about condition, you should be able to find almost every comic above dirt cheap.

Ebay is the great equalizer that's slaughtered back issue pricing; only slabbed and pristine "key" books really should (and I use that word loosely) set you back.

Canageek said...

Justin: Shipping to Canada drives the cost back up.

Searching for the first comic on the list gets me the first result of
C $4.61 +C $11.48 shipping. It gets more expensive from there.

garrisonjames said...

Killraven is awesome, as was his supporting cast. Mint Julep especially. Those were some wonderful post-apocalyptic comics. Personally, I prefer Killraven to Thundarr, in terms of setting-inspiration fodder. But, hey, why not just lump them in together? Could be fun...