by Chris Claremont and John Bolton
Publisher: Titan Comics
The Book: From Chris Claremont, writer of The Uncanny X-Men, Excalibur, and Fantastic Four, and John Bolton, artist of Man-Bat, Shame: Conception and Books of Magic, comes a fantasy classic, fully remastered, fully restored, and collected together for the first time ever. Complete with previously-unseen art and features, this sumptuous volume gathers three tales of the beautiful, star-haired swordswoman, Marada the She-Wolf.
Ablaze in blood-soaked battle and insidious sorcery, unearthly desires, terror, and evil, this is the ultimate vision of the ultimate fighting fantasy female.
The Review: Set in the cosmopolitan days of Imperial Rome, Marada The She-Wolf originally ran in Epic Illustrated (Marvel’s answer to Heavy Metal magazine) beginning with #10 in February 1982. The strip first appeared in beautiful monochrome wash-and-line but John Bolton has fastidiously transformed the stories with new colouring, offering a beautiful new version of all three published stories. The accompanying editorial material provides intriguing insight into the origins of the strip and its creation.
Marada’s first story was initially intended to feature Robert E. Howard’s female warrior Red Sonja and appear in another Marvel Comics anthology, Bizarre Adventures. Copyright complications resulted in the story and character being totally re-purposed by Claremont and Bolton, who were reluctant to let their work languish in inventory. Claremont pitched it to Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter, the editors of Epic Illustrated and the pair agreed not only to run it but, true to Epic’s nature, writer and and artist gained full copyright on the material.
The Marada fantasy stories are set in the first century AD, a deliberate choice to give the tales a historic grounding – although the fantasy nature of the three published, mixing Celtic legend with a splash of Arabian Nights doesn’t really make this important. (Claremont intended to continue the stories with at least one story set in Ancient Rome itself and Marada and female companion Arianrhod, a fledgling mage, made their way back to Britain after a magical battle with hellish monsters of the underworld in their first adventure).
The stories open in the middle east and conjure a legendary Celtic kingdom before plunging Marada and Ari into a dnagerous journey across East Africa and the high seas on their way back “home”. Encountering pirates, demons, devious magicians and more, Claremont conjures a rich fantasy well deserving of this new collection.
While at times the storytelling is a trifle contrived and overwritten, as Claremont uses text to expand on Bolton’s art (and cover apparent omissions), the characters are intriguing and Marada the She-Wolf is as much a glorious yarn to read as it was back in its original publication.
I would say that, thirty years on, I somehow doubt any mainstream publisher might (and very definitely should) balk at the prospect of publishing a new story that opened with the rape of its lead female character. This is not a comic fantasy for minors in that respect. Taking into consideration the different mores at the time of its initial publication, I can see how that Claremont must have felt such an insidious act was important to the tale, the initially broken Marada surmounting the odds and recovering in both body and soul from the assault to once again become the effective warrior so skilfully portrayed in these adventures.
For me, it’s Bolton’s grogeous art that makes this collection truly shine, embellishing a world-spanning story that deserves re-visiting and new tales from Messrs Claremont and Bolton. Let’s hope strong sales of this collection offer such an opportunity.
• Chris Claremont’s Official web site: www.chrisclaremont.com
• John Boton’s Official web site: www.johnbolton.com
“If you haven’t encountered Marada the She-Wolf before, this is your chance to discover this lost treasure. It amazes me that it has taken this long for this wonderful, timeless collection to see the light of day again and to be presented to a new generation of readers.”
– John K. Kirk, Pop Mythology
“As anyone familiar with it would expect, John Bolton’s artwork is exquisite. The characters are more akin to painted portraits than comic book representations, and Marada possesses an unaffected sensuality that is all the more arresting for its lack of ostentation.?
– Andrew Marshall, Starburst
“Moody, passionate and powerfully evocative, this is a classic work of comics fantasy…”
– Win Wiacek
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.