Monday, February 15, 2016

Logan’s Run Marvel Comics #6 and #7 Review and *SPOILERS* - Just For the Hell Of It Mondays

When You’re a Cub, You’re a Cub All the Way

Written By: John Warner
Art By: Tom Sutton & Terry Austin, Don Warfield (#6), Tom Sutton & Klaus Janson, Phil Rache (#7)
Letters By: Joe Rosen (#6), Denise Wohl (#7)
Cover Price: 30 cents
Cover Dates: June, July 1977

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Okay, I’ll admit that Logan’s Run February has been kind of weird so far. For one thing, Logan’s Run is not really the sort of intellectual property that’s deserving of a month-long multimedia examination. Furthermore, this is being featured on a website primarily dedicated to comic books, not novels and films. Well here at the halfway mark of Logan’s Run February, I’ve got something to put you back in your four-color comfort zone as I review the Marvel Comics adaptation of Logan’s Run, the movie! Actually, I’m going to specifically review the two issues beyond the film adaptation that Marvel published before cancelling the series, but I’ll be writing about the entire run as well. Why am I wasting your time talking about the things I’m going to write? Read on, you’ll find I have written them!

Explain It!:

Marvel Comics’ Logan’s Run ran for seven issues, cover dated January to July 1977. The first five issues are a fairly straightforward retelling of the events from the movie, with some minor changes. All are drawn by the great George Perez and most written by David Kraft; only the first issue of Logan’s Run is written by Gerry Conway, who is probably best-known for a sustained run on Amazing Spider-Man. He writes a whole letter to the reader in the back of the issue that details his love for the original novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Despite that love, Conway is gone after the first issue, never to return. In some respects, the comic book adaptation surpasses the film, since it can employ thought balloons and therefore clarify characters’ motivations (instead of relying on some fairly wooden acting.) In every other respect, these rudely-printed ink smudges on newsstand grade pulp paper are a pale imitation of what is, in the theatrical release, a pretty sleek and detailed display of movie sets and special effects. I wonder what these Logan’s Run comics would look like today, utilizing the offset printers and paper stock currently standard in the comics industry.

"Amuse yourselves with successive games of Lady Bug and Donkey Kong, Jr.!"

Issues six and seven of Logan’s Run are meant to continue the story beyond the ending of the film, despite there having been two sequels to the novel at the time: Logan’s World and Logan’s Search. Though the movie ends on a hopeful note, with freed residents of the domed city crowding around Crazy Cat Dude and pawing at his old, lined face in awe, scribe John Warner resumes the story by casting the entire scene in chaos, pitting citizen against Sandman in recursive suspicion as these unrestrained people cope with their new freedom. It’s understandable that the people, having discovered they’d been lied to for generations, might freak out a little bit. But it’s strange that the Sandmen are the targets of their ire. Based on the film version of Francis-7’s fanatic devotion to this society’s structure, the Sandmen were just as much in the dark as anyone. And besides, it’s not like they subjugated people for no reason—if you weren’t Running, they left you alone. Sure, they may have enjoyed more lavish living spaces than the average inhabitant of Shopping Mall City, but the hallucinogenic drugs were free to all, making spatial needs less of a priority.

"I can't give up the power trip of being a Sandman!"

Anyway, the Sandmen are relieved of their guns somehow and herded into the Arcade—that’s where Carrousel goes down, as well as Ms. Pac-Man tournaments—where they are locked away until people figure out what to do with them. There, several of them turn on Logan, who is the cause of their predicament to be fair about it. Modar-9 is ready to fight but Logan takes him out, and that’s when Priest-7 shows up and quells the fighting. I like how their names have gone totally off the rails—Logan, Jessica and Francis are actual names you might find people with today. But Modar is something straight out of a crappy science fiction comic...which, come to think of it, is actually very fitting. After Priest’s speech, Logan reminisces over all the swell fun he’s had these past few days, and the events of the movie as adapted to the previous five issues are recapped for the benefit of the reader. Had this series gone on long enough to warrant a trade collection, it might have been well appreciated, but really—who the hell would jump on this series at issue six, especially not having seen the movie? “Logan’s Run, eh? Well I like the name Logan, and I’m pretty good at running! I’ll give it a shot!”

The Secret Origin of Aquaman

That evening there is a thunderstorm, and for the first time rain falls on the shopping mall interior of the domed city. I guess they had no drainage system, because it turns into a massive flood instantly that threatens everyone’s safety. Being that the Sandmen are the only ones to have received any kind of training in anything whatsoever, they are released to do their duty and—this part is absolutely hilarious—Logan steps out, fires a gun at some rubble, and immediately makes the flood ten times worse. Like, really dude? You couldn’t maybe hang back a little on this and let someone else take point? Priest is doing just that, ordering Sandmen about and doing a good job of it, while Logan is swept away by the coursing tide and has to save his own life and the lives of several others by shooting a hole in the wall. When the water has receded, Priest gives a speech to concerned citizens promising to restore order, and to work with them in rebuilding society—and Logan has the fucking nerve to speak out against him! Learn when to shut up, dude! Priest just saved a bunch of people that you endangered with your bullshit! The crowd menaces Logan, which does cause him to back down finally. Talk about a ballsy jerk!

"It's Scantron grading machines, all the way down."

The water has taken them all down by Cathedral, an abandoned part of the city that has an old cathedral in it. I didn’t get into it before, but in both the novel and the movie, this area is run by the Cubs, wild kids under the age of sixteen who somehow got loose from their breeding facilities or whatever and formed a crazy gang of boys and girls that dress like rejects from the video for Michael Jackson’s Beat It. I didn’t get into this whole thing—even though Logan first learns about Sanctuary at Cathedral in the novel—because it’s just such a silly scene, particularly the film version which has Logan taunting one of the Cubs about their Menudo-like policy of kicking people out when they turn sixteen. Even though their scenes in the novel and the book are pretty short and amount to very little, a lot of people really seized on this idea of little feral kids menacing spaced-out adults. Maybe because of the rising gang problem in American cities, or the general mistrust and distaste adults have for children, the Cubs are consistently portrayed as vicious, naïve assholes; monsters who kill at the slightest provocation. In reality, any band of children surviving outside of the computer-controlled ecosystem once provided under the dome would probably be more diplomatic, or at least more reserved than these hellions. All this to say that while everyone is regrouping at Cathedral, they are spied by the Cubs’ leader, Billy.

The kids will have their say.

Back at Sandman HQ, Logan detects some electricity still pulsing somewhere in the city, and endeavors to find it. Somehow Jessica, the Old Man, and Logan simultaneously realize that Carrousel is the best place to track the source of this electricity, and this bullshit is smeared a little further when Logan figures that the same force which draws people up towards the giant Life Gem so they can dissolve in a shower of sparks should also work in the other direction, and send him gently into the bowels of the city to track down the source of this energy. Uh, why? From the movie, I got the impression that the thing which levitated people to the ceiling was linked to the rotation of the platform upon which the awesomely-dressed candidates stood, and was probably related somehow to centrifugal force. Whatever it was, it still had to be turned “on” somewhere; people didn’t start floating to their doom immediately upon entering the arena. Logan is able to travel into the computer brain of the domed city, however, on this current of nonsense, and observes that most of the interior electronics under the walkable surface are intact—indeed, things seem functional down there, except one burned out section, where Logan sees something that makes him recoil in horror! Meanwhile, Billy and the Cubs have made it to the populated section of whatever this place is called, and they are prepared to strike!

"I heard there are so many McDonald's in the city, they even deliver!"

There’s a backup story starring Thanos and the Destroyer that is pretty good, and once drove up the price of this singular issue of Logan’s Run, until the story was reprinted in a trade collection very recently. Since it has nothing to do with Logan’s Run, I won’t go into it except to say it’s worth reading.

Issue number seven begins with Logan still cruising through the interior of the computerized city, and despite looking like he’d discovered something horrifying last issue, merely notes that it looks like sabotage has been employed down in this section of the gigantic electronic brain. He pieces together that there must be another area, somewhere beyond the dome, which he assumes must be great because it’s not this loser town. Just then, lasers fire rapidly at Logan, who soars around them like fucking Superman or something. If you can just maneuver wherever you like while under the influence of this force, why did everyone at Carrousel float languidly to their fiery deaths? They could have swum against the current and probably cruised right the hell out of there. Logan deftly avoids all of the laser blasts and cruises back topside. There, the Sandman Priest is giving people good advice for future survival when…sigh…okay, so another thing I didn’t mention about the Cubs is that they take Muscle: a drug that makes kids super fast but is fatal to adults. So the Cubs attack by tossing Muscle—it bursts into an inhalable cloud when it hits the ground—at the adults and then follow that up with a drug-enhanced physical assault. I suppose it’s a pretty clever plan of attack, being that the thing which destroys the enemy only bolsters the Cubs, but I dunno…it just seems so hackneyed and silly to me. “Oh no! Don’t breathe any of the Muscle! Only kids can handle this high!” Like, what does it do? Make modern pop music palatable?

Logan's Run has been brought to you by Oil of Olay.

Seeing the Sandmen get their asses handed to them, even the citizens of the city start pitching in to fight off the Cubs, but to no avail: the Cubs are more trained in combat than the soft, catered populace of what was once a controlled environment. Billy and a girl in a bikini named Angel, who seems to be his second in command, take a Sandman down to the food dispensary and demand he produce some victuals, but the Sandman cannot because the computers are down! If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. This enrages Billy because he was really looking forward to Salisbury Steak, so he and the Cubs start fighting the adults again. Jessica and the Old Fella walk onto the scene, and Billy and Angel catch sight of the Old Guy’s weathered, hairy look—this distraction is just enough to turn the fight in the Sandmen’s favor, and they begin blasting the Cubs into a full retreat. On the way back to Cathedral, Billy grabs Jessica as a hostage. Modar and Priest are really flipping out now: they fire wildly in an attempt to eradicate every Cub, and one of Modar’s gun blasts wounds Angel. Billy, with his hostage in tow, presses on without her but Angel is picked up by other Cubs who, you know, don’t have hostages. I mean, this scene is supposed to show that Billy is heartless and would leave someone behind, but he just led a full frontal assault against polite society and brought them to their knees! This is war, people, and the guy with the hostage can’t also be the one to stop and help someone tie their shoes. Frankly, even though I don’t know more about Angel other than her being blond and wearing a bikini, I think she would agree with me.

"Also stop wiping my screen with Windex. It stings."

Logan ambles onto the scene and says the equivalent of “’Sup, bros?” Priest fills him in on the fact that the Cubs just fucked shit up and took Jessica, and no he can’t join them in her rescue attempt because he’s no longer a Sandman. Logan doesn’t believe him at first, but he passes a note to Theresa who hears from Margie who talked to Gary who said people totally think he’s a loser, and even went as far as to arrange their right index and thumb fingers into the shape of an “L” and position it on their foreheads to demonstrate the same. This bums Logan out, and at that moment Priest goes into Sandman HQ so he can devise a plan to save Jessica. A nearby monitor begins to glow and somehow promises him the power to control the city—but only if he kills Logan! It also seems to hypnotize him, which is a pretty interesting feature on a computer monitor. This must be one of those new “smart” appliances I’ve been reading about.

The Sandman collection. This Spring from Lord & Taylor.

Logan goes to the Sandman locker room, and there retrieves an exact replica of the Sandman uniform he wore previously. He also takes his Death Sleep Gun, and this is an interesting bit: in the novel, the Sandmen use an absolutely ludicrous, Monty Python style gun that holds six individual bullets, each with an individual function. I think I did mention it in my review when I said Logan shot a gun with bullets from a Tex Avery cartoon, or something like that. One bullet releases a gas, another one electrocutes, and the most dangerous one is the Seeker, because it’s a heat-seeking bullet that can be calibrated to kill even the most sneaky Runner. Why all of the bullets aren’t Seekers, I have no idea, but this gun was eliminated from the film version, for obvious reasons. Well, it’s restored for the comic book! Logan explains that it was phased out for regular use about a year into his tenure as a Sandman, but he happened to hang onto his. He leaves for Cathedral, spied by Modar who has become a real sniveling weasel of a punk by this point.

Just what this comic book was missing: a one-on-one fight between a grown man and a fifteen year-old.

Modar goes back to Sandman HQ and tells Priest what he’s seen, and Priest announces a full-on raid of the Cubs at Cathedral, figuring he can literally kill two birds with one stone—if those birds are the Cubs and Logan, and the stone is an assault by trained officers with lethal weapons. At Cathedral, Logan challenges Billy, who wants to fight despite Angel’s pleas for diplomacy. Billy knocks the crap out of Logan at first, but eventually Logan gains the upper hand, and cold cocks Billy to the ground, right near Logan’s Sleep Gun. Billy grabs the gun and is about to fire on Logan, but then Angel throws a rock or something and knocks it out of Billy’s hand! I wish she had let him fire the gun, he might have shot the cotton candy bullet or whatever. It would have been like that scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when Detective Eddie fires his cartoon gun and the bullets are old Western archetypes. Just then, Sandmen raid Cathedral and everyone scatters, but, notes Priest, Logan has dropped his Sleep Gun!

"You can kidnap and murder, but never lie!"

This cliffhanger was never resolved, because there never were any more issues of Logan’s Run by Marvel Comics. It’s actually a funny story: Marvel misunderstood the deal they’d worked out with MGM, and weren’t actually allowed to continue a series beyond the film adaptation. These two issues made it out presumably before lawyers stepped in, and we can only assume that writer John Warner had a lot more in mind for the series. Unfortunately, it seems like it would have involved those stupid Cubs a lot. The artwork by Tom Sutton and friends is fairly faithful Marvel house style for the time, combining unequal parts of Jack Kirby and John Romita with a little looseness that is all Sutton’s own. It would be unfair to critique these two issues too harshly; one is mainly setup and recap, while the other merely begins to add new concepts to what might have been a very developed future world. Just as this series was cancelled, a brand-new movie called Star Wars debuted in theaters, one for which Marvel would be able to write stories outside of film adapations, and which probably numbed the sting of having lost the Logan’s Run account.

Bits and Pieces:

Issue number six is mainly recap and setup, and issue number seven only begins what might have been an epic Logan’s Run tale for the ages. This series was cut short, unfortunately, by a misunderstanding of the license that allowed Marvel to make the film adaptation. It’s not awful comics, but these issues are a little hokey (even by the standards of their inspirational source) and don’t add anything incredible to the world of Logan’s Run as defined by the film. The comic book does reintroduce some concepts from the novel back into continuity, which is an interesting thought cut short, since the series ended before we could see any results. The DVD is cheaper than this run normally goes for on eBay, so stick with the film version.

Next Week: Logan’s Run, the television series!

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