Monday, February 18, 2013

Forgotten Comics: Ironwolf


     In the 1970s, artist Howard Chaykin drew and plotted three issues' worth of Ironwolf for DC Comics' Weird Worlds magazine. Ironwolf was a nobleman turned pirate/freedom fighter in a future galactic empire. Although they possessed space ships and ray guns, they also carried swords -- not light sabers (this was a few years before Star Wars, the comics adaptation of which Chaykin also illustrated) but ornate swords. Science fictionally, it made little sense, but it was interesting aesthetically. The silliest and most attractive aesthetically appealing element was that Ironwolf's ship, the Limerick Rake, was made of anti-gravity wood that only grew upon his home planet of Illium. It was never explained why a wooden spaceship was desirable, if it was stronger or faster or more energy efficient, but it looked cool.
     There are also vampires of a sort, the Blood Legion, plus giant, brutish aliens (see the cover illustration above) and a Sargasso Sea of Space.
     In retrospect, I detect some steampunk elements -- the ship, the weaponry, some of the decor, the courtly atmosphere, even vampires -- though there is no steam technology per se.

     Twenty years later, Chakin revisited the concept in collaboration with co-writer John Francis Moore and artists Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and P. Craig Russell for the graphic novel Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution, which explained the mix of old and new in much the same way M. Night Shyamalan explained The Village: the society was artificial, created to precise specifications for the ancestors of the current inhabitants, who no longer know that the three worlds in their Empire Galactika is deliberately segregated from the real Galactic Empire. The Limerick Rake is also destroyed, along with all the anti-gravity wood trees (in a replay of a scene from the original series).
     Much of the graphic novel's plot involves Ironwolf's discovery of the wider universe and that far-advanced weapons from that wider universe have been smuggled into Empire Galactika to put down the revolution.
     Alas, both the original stories and the graphic novel are out of print (though some are available secondhand through Perhaps they will all be collected into an omnibus volume with background material someday.


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