Sunday, September 18, 2016

Commentary & Old School Lost World Campaign Impact With Marvel Comics Skull The Slayer

An adventurer out of time caught up in weird prehistoric hi jinks in the Bermuda Triangle? Sounds like the latest film from Hollywood? Nope this is a flash from the past from 1975 by some Marvel legends.

I'm trying to remember that exact moment when I remember seeing the first issue of Skull the Slayer from Marvel? I believe it was in Maxwell's drug store in 1975, but I can tell you who was with me. It was my dad Tom Fabiaschi & perhaps I don't mention my dad enough on this blog. My dad is responsible for a lot of the other half of my interest in my hobby. It was his box of Edgar Rice Burroughs books that I inherited, his keen interest in science fiction, the friendship with his best friend whom was in the RAF who brought me to this hobby(obsession), & his twenty five cents that bought this comic book. To understand the impact that Skull The Slayer had on me as a kid is to understand part of the catharsis that is this blog. You see I grew up with a ton of James Skullies in Torrington, Ct. Guys who came back from a war that never left them.Vietnam was a war that left its cuts, scars, and horrors on everyone who was involved. The plane that skull goes down in was actually a military transport to his own execution after killing his own brother in the series. This is really heavy stuff for a Marvel comic but back in the 70's Marvel wasn't pulling any punches.

The Wiki entry on this hero doesn't really get into the gonzo prehistoric aesthetic of Skull; "Skull the Slayer is a trained soldier turned superhero who wears a Scorpion power belt that enhances his strength and durability. The belt also has preservative effects on his body's metabolism. On one occasion, Scully was able to funnel energy into explosive force.[volume & issue needed] The full capabilities of the belt are unknown." Now I get all nostalgic about the series because when I was a kid, this comic was one of the things that my dad used to read to me to send me off to sleep. The thing I loved about Skull The Slayer was the fact that he was an 'every man'. For me he might have any of the dozen or so guys I grew up with who came back from a war they didn't want to remember or understand. But what really sent it over the edge for the eight issues of its existence was that it had a bit of everything that made the Seventies so great to grow up in. The Bermuda Triangle, aliens, cave men, lost worlds, dinosaurs, alien tech, over the top super heroes, & more. Skull had everything a kid needed to move through that ever weird and dark era we grew up in. Created by Marv Wolfman (Writer) & Steve Gan (Artist). The book only lasted about eight glorious issues but its like a  game of Dungeon Crawl Classics or something that would be birthed from the mind of  one of the OSR writers or addicts.

My history with the character begins & ends with the eight issues of his own series in 1975 and for the longest time I had & treasured those issues;"
Skull the Slayer is a trained soldier turned superhero who wears a Scorpion power belt that enhances his strength and durability. The belt also has preservative effects on his body's metabolism. On one occasion, Scully was able to funnel energy into explosive force.[volume & issue needed] The full capabilities of the belt are unknown.
Jim Scully was an adventurer whose plane went through a time warp in the Bermuda Triangle, marooning him and three companions in an alternate Earth where dinosaurs, primitives, and aliens co-existed. Scully and his three companions were eventually rescued and returned to their own world by the Thing of the Fantastic Four.[1]" 
All of this relates back to the fact that given the time of publication and its direct impact on all things gaming in the 70's that we'd see some influence in the big lost world D&D adventure Isle of Dread from Skull the Slayer. All of the major weirdness from the series can easily be filtered into taking the Isle of Dread into a Skull style direction.
 From the weird prehistoric fauna to the various cavemen, inhuman tribes, to the strange Lovecraftian menace of the kopru fit all of the weirdness that we've seen in the Skull the Slayer series. Many of the clever & dangerous pulp elements of Skull the Slayer can easily be transported over to the Isle of Dread this includes the 'Tower of Time', the various tribes from Skull, perhaps even the aliens, & the various dinosaurs.

There are at least three elements from Skull's series I would add to the Isle of Dread module without blinking my DM's eye. The time warp effects of the setting of Skull's Island to the Isle of Dread, two the alien elements of Skull the Slayer, & three the black wizard from Skull's series.


  Another tactic that I've recently seen used in a more contemporary OSR resource was to have Skull's island be a part of the same chain as Venger Satanis's Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence which could be back hooked into his latest Kicksarter adventure 
Slaves of Tsathoggua which has a dark science fantasy bent. Would it be a perfect fit? I don't know the kickstarterter for these adventures is on going & I actively encourage its support. But back to Skull The Slayer.

 Skull the Slayer has appeared in a few of my games as an NPC adventurer that players have helped & had to deal with. He's savy, obscure, dangerous, and just weird enough to be very memorable for an old school  campaign. He's a seventh level adventurer by the time the limited series ends and he's already had some experience with super heroes, other adventurers, and alien wizards by the time the comic series ended.  Now if you want to check out the first issue plus some of the other great pulp elements from the other issues, The Diversions of The Groovy Kind blog has a great retrospective of it up.

For those of us budget conscious folks, Marvel has released the complete series of Skull the Slayer into a collected trade & its easily available from Amazon.
So until next time keep those dice rolling.

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