Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Woman Who Left

Volume three of Dark Horse Comics' The Chronicles of Kull came out this week, continuing the trade paperback reprints of the Marvel Comics version of Robert E. Howard's Kull. This one picks up with Kull the Destroyer issue # 21, the first issue written by Don Glut, creator of Doctor Spektor and more importantly for this post, of sword and sorcery hero Dagar the Invincible. I've talked about Dagar before in previous posts. He was Gold Key comics answer to the success of Marvel's Conan the Barbarian Comic and I always found his adventures well written and a lot of fun. Dagar is also part of one of the stranger crossovers in the history of comics.
In Mark Finn's introduction to Kull volume three Finn quotes Don Glut as saying:

"Roy (Thomas) pretty much left me to my own creative devices in writing the Kull stories for Marvel. At the same time I was also writing Dagar the invincible, a sword and sorcery character I created over at Gold Key. In fact, if you 'read between the lines' (or panels) you might notice something that more or less unofficially connects the two series in a 'shared universe' sense."

The thing that connects the two series is a woman named Graylin. Graylin first appears in Gold Key's Dagar the Invincible issue #3, where Dagar rescues her from vampires. She becomes his lover and companion, traveling with him until issue #15, where, heartsick and worn out by Dagar's lust for gold and his life of death and violence, she finally decides she must leave him.
Jump over to Marvel Comics Kull the Destroyer issue #22. Kull and his minstrel Ridondo are riding through a forest at night when they come across a group of robed men who are about to offer a young woman tied to a stake as some form of sacrifice. Kull rescues the woman, but when he asks her for her name she says she cannot remember. But what she does remember is that she had a lover, a warrior like Kull, whom she left because of his life of death and violence. You can see the dialog from Dagar 15 and Kull 21 in the comic panels I've provided above. So here we have a lovely brunette woman who leaves a barbarian at one comic book company and ends up with a barbarian at another comic book company.
These days, official comic book company crossovers are common. In 1976, that wasn't the case and it was rather daring of writer Glut to make his own unofficial crossover. I am proud to note that I actually caught it way back when because I was reading Dagar and Kull and I noticed when Glut began scripting Kull. I suspected that the woman who Kull would come to call Laralei, after a figure from legend, was actually Dagar's Graylin. I wouldn't get that confirmed for many years though until I began talking to Don Glut at an online forum.
Of course this shared universe thing brings up all kinds of fanboy speculation. By combining the two series was Glut saying that Dagar's adventures were happening during the same historical period and on the same world as Kull's? Or had Graylin somehow crossed from one dimension to another? And what had caused her to lose her memory? Glut also began to refer to the Dark Gods in Kull. The Dark Gods were sort of Glut's version of Lovecraft's Elder Gods and both Dagar and Doctor Adam Spektor would come into conflict with them. Plenty of room for speculation. Oh, one more thing. Sharp eyed fans of old horror movies might catch another kind of crossover if they look carefully at the cover of Kull the Destroyer issue #23. But I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. I can't tell you everything.


Lanny said...

OK. I'll bite.

The 'Shadow Beast' on the cover of KULL #23 bears a strong resemblance to the demon from "Night of the Demon" released in 1957.

In addition there is a strong King Kong/Fay Wray vibe going there!

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Nailed if on the first time, Lanny. The demon on the cover was supposed to resemble the creature from Night of the Demon (though not really in the story). Well done!