Monday, April 19, 2010

Swords in Space!: Iron-Wolf

In 1973, in the seventh issue of DC Comic's Weird Worlds, readers were told that the title would no longer feature Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations. Instead, the next issue would debut a new creation from Howard (then Howie) Chaykin--Iron-Wolf. Chaykin said his intentions with Iron-Wolf were to "combine elements of those magnificent swashbuckling films--Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, Robin Hood--in a cosmic setting." The result was a space opera adventure like a mix of Dune and Flash Gordon--three years before Star Wars.

The saga begins in the 61st Century with Lord Iron-Wolf defying Empress Erika Klein-Hernandez of the Empire Galaktika. He's angry because she's selling the secret of human space travel--an anti-gravity wood grown on his homeworld of Illium--to barbaric aliens. Iron-Wolf turns rebel--and pirate. Along the way he crosses swords and exchanges blaster fire with the ogrish aliens, and his traitorous brother. At that's only in his first appearance!

The following issues feature disguise as Shakespearean actors, clashes with the Empress' vampiric Blood Legion (all of whom we see, interestingly, are black), and disillusionment as the democratic rebels Iron-Wolf joins prove to be involved in the trafficking of a dangerous drug. And...that was it. Unfortunately, Weird Worlds was on life-support when Iron-Wolf strode into its pages. It expired with issue 10, just three issues later.

Luckily, wooden spaceships and vampire legions proved too cool to stay in comics limbo forever. In 1992, writers Chaykin and John Francis Moore, with the artistic dream-team of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell returned to the character with Ironwolf: Fires of Revolution.

The graphic novel reworks some of the conceptual elements. The so-called Empire Galaktika is now a small, "backwater" entity. The characters' fashions move from hippie-meets-disco to sampling a bit of both the Victorian and Restoration eras. The technology is a little bit less space opera and a little bit more steampunk. The story's different, too--a little less adventurous, and taking a darker, more cynical tone as it's fit into Chaykin's retconning of DC's science fiction characters in the Twilight limited series. Still, it gives Iron-Wolf's saga an ending, and has really gorgeous art.


Chris said...

This appears to rock hard, calling out with siren voice to my love of swords-and-spaceships stuff (like The Rebel of Valkyr, Fading Suns, Nikolai Dante, etc).

Thanks for the pointer.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for the post, this looks awesome.

Unknown said...

Wow, I definitely need to add Ironwolf: Fires of Revolution to my Amazon wishlist. Too bad it doesn't appear to be readily available.

Trey said...

@Chris: Given your list of likes, I think it will be--at least for the ideas if not the execution.

@ancientvaults: It's pretty good early Chaykin stuff. I hear it worked with a similar sort of setting with Cody Starbuck but that material is harder to fine than this is.

@Risus: If you've got a local comic book store you might try there. They may have it in stock.

Trey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trey said...

@Chris--If you haven't read Simon Green's Deathstalker series it might be up you alley. It's swords and space a la Dune--if the Duneverse were a "everything and the kitchen-sink" rpg setting.

Brutorz Bill said...

Oh yeah!
I remember Iron-Wolf!!
Rock On!