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

Marvel Entertainment has announced the Planet of the Apes franchise is returning to Marvel Comics with all-new stories starting in early 2023! The legendary science fiction franchise has spanned over five decades with media including comics, books, films, television series, video games, and toys.

Marvel Entertainment - Planet of the Apes Promotion (2022)

Marvel Comics and Planet of the Apes have a deep history that goes back over 40 years. Marvel first published Planet of the Apes stories in 1974, and in 1975, Marvel published Adventures on Planet of the Apes, full-colour reprint comic of stories from the black and white Planet of the Apes comic magazine.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Planet of the Apes back to the House of Ideas!” Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski said.

“The new saga in the pipeline is going explore the limits of what this beloved franchise has to offer through bold comics storytelling, and we look forward to setting foot on this new adventure!”

• Details on Marvel’s upcoming Planet of the Apes comic book titles, collections, reprints, and creative teams will be shared at a later date

Return of Apeslayer?

Ron Wilson’s covers for Marvel UK’s weekly Planet of the Apes comic, issues 20 and 24
Ron Wilson’s covers for Marvel UK’s weekly Planet of the Apes comic, issues 20 and 24

Of course, with the teasing of reprints, longtime Marvel UK fans are already cheekily asking if we’ll see the return of Apeslayer, who enjoyed a short run battling simian foes in the weekly British Planet of the Apes title in early 1975.

Marvel’s UK published its own, hugely popular weekly Planet of the Apes title, which ran for 123 issues, absorbing Dracula Lives from No. 88 (June 1976) to No. 123 (February 1977), then as part of The Mighty World Of Marvel (featuring Planet of the Apes)” from No. 231 (March 1977) to No. 246 (June 1977), when it finally disappeared from the masthead.

Early in 1975, the weekly frequency of the title meant that the British weekly used up Planet of the Apes stories faster than Marvel US was producing them, so, 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 featuring War of the Worlds #18-21, published in 1973.

Killraven vs Apeslayer
Marvel’s War of the Worlds #21 side by side with the cover of Marvel UK’s Planet of the Apes Weekly No. 30, featuring the final appearance of Apeslayer
Marvel’s War of the Worlds #21 side by side with the cover of Marvel UK’s Planet of the Apes Weekly No. 30, featuring the final appearance of Apeslayer

Set in the far-flung future of 2018 (no, really), Apeslayer delivered readers a world where humans had been under the dominion of apes for decades. Step forward, then, Johnathan Dozer, who grew up to be the revolutionary Apeslayer after seeing his mother and brother enslaved and destroyed by Apes.

“Using the skills he learned in the Apes’ gladiatorial arenas against them, he led a rag-tag group of freedom fighters against the simian overlords,” Will Morgan noted back in 2015.

Panels from Planet of the Apes Weekly 24, cover dated 5th April 1975; “The Birth of Apeslayer”
Panels from Planet of the Apes Weekly 24, cover dated 5th April 1975; “The Birth of Apeslayer”

This take on the Planet of the Apes has attained on near legendary proportions, not least because it may have been the idea of Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, who was the UK-based production editor for the still-US based ‘Marvel UK’ at the time of its Apes comics run. But actually, “Apeslayer” ran for just eight issues, in Planet of the Apes UK Comic 23 – 30.

Indeed, the experiment was short-lived, and some UK fans, judging by one of the letter published, that followed the story’s run, were less than impressed with the hastily-put-together story of bionic apes from Mars, albeit a comic that no other Apes fans were offered.

Unimpressed: reader Ken Harrison’s letter in Planet of the Apes No. 35, editorial ignoring his mention of Killraven in the reply!
Unimpressed: reader Ken Harrison’s letter in Planet of the Apes No. 35, editorial ignoring his mention of Killraven in the reply!

Comics archivist and Planet of the Apes expert John Roche has his own theories about the origins of “Apeslayer”, and hopes he can one day confirm them.

“I managed to get a contact for Neil Tennant, who is named in the indicia of POTA Weekly as editor,” he told downthetubes, “and had a call back from his PA saying he was about to go on tour but ‘didn’t edit that book anyway’!

“I’m convinced it was all something to do with Mike Ploog‘s ‘charcoal art’,” John theorises, “which would have been due after “Evolution’s Nightmare”, which was the story in the Marvel Comics US title, Planet of the Apes #5, with the next chapter of the Ploog-drawn strip in Planet of the Apes US #6.

“Bearing in mind that the sixth and final chapter of the first film adaptation, which was also in US #6, concluded in UK #11, it is utterly inexplicable that the chapter of “Terror on the Planet of the Apes” that was also in #6 didn’t then appear in the UK until almost a year later.

A page of Mike Ploog’s Planet of the Apes #6 art, published by Marvel Comics in the 1970s | Via ComicArtFans
A page of Mike Ploog’s Planet of the Apes #6 art, published by Marvel Comics in the 1970s | Via ComicArtFans

“I think they either lost the pages briefly, or couldn’t reproduce the charcoal art initially in the UK,” John suggests. “Hence the panic creation of Apeslayer (some panels have heads from the adaptation of ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’, which itself started in US #7, but didn’t appear in the UK until after ‘Apeslayer’).

“So, I think there was a disaster/scandal with lost/murky pages and a solution was quickly improvised.

“They then concocted the legend about the UK catching up too quickly with the US material… And now the powers are denying it and trying to throw me off the trail!” he jokes.

“Still,” he says, “I’m claiming Apeslayer as the first Marvel UK hero – he beats Captain Britain by a year!”

UPDATE: See also, “Marvel UK’s “Apeslayer” – The Culprit Revealed?”

• There’s more information on this bizarre footnote to Planet of the Apescomics here and here on the Planet of the Apes Wiki and Will Morgan wrote a terrific feature on the saga here, too

• 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

The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes

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

For more about classic Planet of the Apes in general, check out Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archives

Planet of the Apes: The Apeslayer Instalments

• Planet of the Apes Weekly 23, cover dated 29th March 1975, featuring the eight page “Prologue; Future Imperfect”, and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 24, cover dated 5th April 1975; “The Birth of Apeslayer”- 8 pages and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 25, cover dated 12th April 1975; “The Sirens of 7th Avenue” – 10 pages and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 26, cover dated 19th April 1975; “Death in the Ape Pit” – 9 pages and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 27, cover dated 26th April 1975; “The Museum of Terror” – 9 pages
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 28, cover dated 3rd May 1975; “Airport of Death” – 11 pages and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 29, cover dated 10th May 1975; “The Mutant Slayers”- 10 pages and cover
• Planet of the Apes Weekly 30, cover dated 17th May 1975; “Apeslayer Dies At Dawn”- 10 pages and cover

The montages found online of Marvel’s Amazing Adventures featuring War of the Worlds #20 side by side with the cover of Marvel UK’s Planet of the Apes Weekly No. 28, featuring Apeslayer, are the work of Robin Barnard

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. 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 “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Film, Other Worlds, US Comics

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2 replies

  1. Another thing altered for the Killraven reprints was that the beguiling ‘Sirens of 7th Avenue’ were covered up to make them less provocative to the younger PotA readers in Britain.

    I’m really pleased by the news that Marvel have acquired the PotA licence again. The movies were favourites of mine as a teenager and I enjoyed the comic too. My guess is that Marvel will reprint the PotA mags in the chunky Omnibus format, like they did with Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu and Savage Sword of Conan. That way it’ll include all the articles and interviews too.

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