Retro Review: The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (Marvel UK)

Review by Luke Williams

Written by the 1980’s two-man British comics production line, John Wagner and the much-missed Alan Grant, and drawn by regular partner Ian Gibson, The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad is a short-lived fantasy series starring the titular amphibian, an inept and bumbling apprentice to his Uncle, the Sorcerer Karbunkle. 

Genghis and Karbunkle are in service to King Ranald the ruler and Protector of Haven, a nation on the world of Shadow Earth.  All is not well in Haven, the country is invaded and over run by the hordes of Kang from neighbouring Charon, aided and abetted by Toadthrax the Black Sorceror.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (Marvel UK) - Kang
The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (Marvel UK) - Karbunckle and Ghengis

The situation is hopeless, so to preserve Ranald’s line and eventually liberate Haven, his son Prince Eric and Ranald’s wife Queen Jade are to be spirited away to sanctuary in the land of Torbeck. The escort party is made up of Quanah, the painted warrior, native of Torbeck, and Sir Hakkem of the King’s guard.

Unfortunately, sorcerers are in short supply and Karbunkle is to stay with the King at his last stand and it is left to Genghis to provide thaumaturgical reinforcement for the expedition, with his girlfriend Gretel tagging along for moral support.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (Marvel UK) - Genghis Grimtoad
Genghis Grimtoad

This first and sadly only volume of what was clearly proposed to be longer series, follows the hazardous journey Ghengis and his companions with the hordes of Kang and the dreaded Toadthrax in hot pursuit, while Ghengis, fumbles his way through his spell book casting ill considered hexes, often causing bringing greater harm to his companions than the threat they were meant to combat.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (Marvel UK) - Gretel and Jade
Gretel and Jade

Clearly inspired by Tolkien and the thousands of fantasy novels his most famous works spawned, with a Conan-esque narrative style, Ghengis is as charming as mid-period Goscinny & Uderzo Asterix, although, this being Wagner & Grant, the humour can be quite cruel. Even moments of pathos such as Genghis saying farewell to his uncle are skipped over and Kang is on the camp side of menacing. 

Ian Gibson’s art reflects the dark humour of the script, with plenty of scope for his imagination and wonderful figure-work. It’s gorgeous, vibrant and sumptuously painted, sympathetically presented on glossy paper in the European album format. Gibson’s art is equally adept at reflecting the dark humour of the script and the absurdities, heroism and menace of the characters.

Ghengis first appeared in this form as a series of two-page episodes in Marvel UK’s short-lived stab at a European style “mature” fortnightly anthology newsstand title, Strip, in 1990. 

This anthology title, edited by Dan Abnett, was an interesting and eclectic package that included reprints of Marshal Law, The Punisher, Thorgal, Don Lawrence’s Storm and original strips such as the excellent Man from C.A.N.C.E.R.

However, the Strip version wasn’t the first incarnation of Genghis. A very different looking Genghis, credited only to Alan Grant, and drawn by Angus McBride was originally published in Look Alive, a Kelvin Gosnell edited magazine that lasted for five issues. More on that can be found here.

Genghis Grimtoad on the cover of Marvel UK's STRIP Issue 17
Genghis Grimtoad on the cover of Marvel UK’s STRIP Issue 17

The collection was also published in France as Les Terres d’Ombre, in 1990, published by Zenda, and in Germany, as Chroniken von Genghis Grimtoad, published by Splitter Verlag in 1991.

One of Wagner, Grant and Gibson’s lesser known works and in this reviewers mind overlooked, brief but great fun. Fans of British comics should seek it out. It’s hard to believe it’s over 30 years old.

Copies of the Marvel collection, or the Gibson incarnation’s original home, Strip, can be found quite easily on well-known auction sites.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)


“The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad”, with art by Angus McBride – an early version of the much-loved fantasy tale

Marvel UK’s “Strip” celebrated

• Genghis in French: Les Terres d’Ombre, in 1990, published by Zenda

• Genghis in German: Chroniken von Genghis Grimtoad, published by Splitter Verlag in 1991

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1 reply

  1. How great is this? My Realworld Nickname is Toadie…haha

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