Marvel UK’s “Apeslayer” – The Culprit Revealed?

Following up on our item about “Apeslayer”, a bizarre and short-lived creation for Planet of the Apes Weekly back in 1975, author Rob Kirby has kindly provided some background information on the character’s creation – and who was responsible.

Rob has been researching the history of Marvel UK for as long as I have known him – and that’s as far back as when the company was still in existence, and I was working there – and his meticulously researched book on the company, From Cents to Pence, is finally approaching publication.

Told in 54 chapters, his much-anticipated book will chart the origins of Marvel in Britain from the first licensed reprints in 1955, and looks at all the publishers who joined in during that decade. Following the story through the early heyday of the Power Comics in the 1960s, Rob reveals how the fall of TV21 in 1970 almost heralded a new dawn for Marvel in Britain; an unsuccessful venture that was then rescued by Stan Lee and turned into The Mighty World of Marvel, birthing what became Marvel UK. The book then charts its rise, incredible success, and eventual fall in the 1990s, concluding with their unexpected rescue and resurrection through present day publisher Panini.

“I always loved what they did with ‘Apeslayer’, says Rob, “perhaps the most desperate move ever made to cover a lack of material for one of the weekly comics in the early years.”

As we reminded Marvel fans yesterday, early in 1975, the weekly frequency of the the British Planet of the Apes weekly used up POTA stories faster than Marvel US was producing them.

In an effort to make up for a lack of new material, “Apeslayer” saw a recast Killraven battling apes – the ape heads stuck over all his the Martian opponents from the original War of the Worlds spin-off series, featured in Amazing Adventures #18-21, published in 1973.

Amazing Adventures, adulterated, Apeslayer arise!
An unpublished Planet of the Apes Weekly cover by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito, originally intended for issue 23 or 24, but never used. No, we don’t know why the duck is getting shot, either. Via Heritage Auctions, with thanks to David Roach
An unpublished Planet of the Apes Weekly cover by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito, originally intended for issue 23 or 24, but never used. No, we don’t know why the duck is getting shot, either. Via Heritage Auctions

This bizarre hybrid character is, effectively, Marvel UK’s first hero character, even if short lived, predating the arrival of Captain Britain on the British newsstand by a year.

It’s long been suggested Neil Tennant, of Pet Shop Boys fame, was responsible for his creation, as he worked for Marvel UK. However, as we also reported yesterday, comic archivist John Roche has previously been told by Neil’s own PR representative that this is incorrect.

Rob’s diligent research has, he believes, uncovered the true instigator of the “Apeslayer” project.

“While it’s a great notion that Neil Tennant might have come up with the idea of Apeslayer, there’s one problem with this,”Rob tells downthetubes. “He wasn’t editor until the autumn of 1975, following his graduation from university – the early months of the Planet of the Apes title fell under the auspices of London editor Maureen ‘Matt’ Softley.

“If anyone is the ‘culprit’ behind the Apeslayer debacle, we need to look across the Atlantic,” he continues.

“My researches into the 1970’s US Bullpen indicating the most likely candidate was the late Mark Hanerfeld, who was helping Marvel out with their archive at the time – as he later did for DC – and, reportedly, helping out with other work too.

Impressionable young British minds were shielded from the dangers of the flesh in the Apeslayer saga featured in Planet of the Apes Weekly, with some anonymised reworking of original art by Howard Chaykin for Amazing Adventures

“By then, writer Doug Moench had been tasked with pumping out adaptations of all the remaining POTA film scripts, as he’s explained to me in detail for my book, while also generating new scripts for the various original continuing series playing out in the US title too, just as he’d previously had to do with Master of Kung Fu, to keep Marvel UK’s The Avengers title fed with new Shang-Chi material.

“Meanwhile, Tomb of Dracula was kept on a monthly schedule, even though it had ducked below the threshold that should have caused it to become bi-monthly, in order to keep the popular UK title active.

The cover of US Marvel title Tomb of Dracula #12, published in September 1973, drawn by Frank Brunner with inks by Tom Palmer; and left Marvel UK’s Dracula Lives weekly (Issue 29), cover artists unknown

“This symbiosis between the two UK Bullpens in New York and London, is one of many new areas of the Marvel story explored in From Cents to Pence,” he teases.

“Surprisingly, Marvel repeated this mistake of using material too soon after US publication several times over, or using it up too quickly by printing full-length episodes every week, but I’d like to think that this experience at least informed the advance production schedule that kept Star Wars Weekly fed with material well in advance of US publication.”

Our thanks once again to Rob for his insights on the early days of Marvel UK. Rob has been hugely supportive of our much smaller efforts to document the company’s projects, providing plenty of information, for example, to add to our “Marvel UK: “Genesis ’92” – Looking Back and What Might Have Been” resource.

Check out and follow A Distant Beacon, Rob’s web journal, for all the latest news about his book, From Cents to Pence

Rob Kirby outlined the content of From Cents to Pence for downthetubes readers here last year

Read our news story about Marvel’s new Planet of the Apes projects, and more about “Apeslayer”

• Want to know more about Planet of the Apes comics? Check out The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes (Sequart Planet of the Apes Books), published in 2015 | ISBN 9781940589114

Edited by Rich Handley and Joseph F. Berenato; foreword by Corinna Bechko, and Gabriel Hardman; afterword by Dafna Pleban; essays by Samuel Agro, Jim Beard, Joseph F. Berenato, Joe Bongiorno, Joseph Dilworth Jr., Dan Greenfield, Ed Gross, Rich Handley, Zaki Hasan, John Roche, Lou Tambone, and Dayton Ward; cover by Patricio Carbajal

Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes examines the entire history of POTAcomic books, from Gold Key to BOOM! and everything in between. This anthology will feature insightful, analytical essays about the franchise’s four-color continuation, from popular comic historians, novelists, bloggers and subject-matter experts. If you’re eager to learn more about Apes lore, then you’ll need to get your stinkin’ paws on this volume

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6 replies

  1. Hello.
    I think it’s “Mark Hanerfeld”, not “Hanerfield”.

  2. “the origins of Marvel in Britain from the first licensed reprints in 195” – that is earlier than I expected. Though given Commodus’ interests in superheroes and Septimius Severus’ interest in Britain I suppose it makes sense. 🙂

    Seriously though, I love detailed history like this, can’t can’t wait for Cents to Pence.

  3. A fascinating read, John. Thanks to you and Rob for sharing.


  1. Planet of the Apes returns to Marvel, but will we get Apeslayer, too? –

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