I designed these characters a couple of years ago for a possible graphic novel project. The project didn’t go much beyond the idea stage but I like these designs so here’s a new version of these two. They had names in the project but since someone else was writing that I can’t use those so they are currently (and perhaps permanently) anonymous.
Morgo the Mighty was clearly inspired by both Tarzan and At the Earth’s Core. It features a feral white man who is the master of his jungle environment and that jungle environment is located in caverns beneath the earth. There are monstrous creatures that he must battle to survive.
Contrary to online descriptions of the novel (and illustrations that accompanied it when it was serialized in The Popular Magazine) there are no dinosaurs or other prehistoric creatures in Surrilana. The beasts in the caverns are evolved (and often gigantic) rodents, bats, insects and birds. It’s a more realistic scenario than a land somehow populated by dinosaurs. I’m not saying it’s a better scenario. I love dinosaurs.
Birds are the descendants of the dinosaurs. So, perhaps, the chicken fiends of Surrilana can be considered dinosaur stand-ins.
In Chapter 15 of the pulp serial Morgo the Mighty, Morgo and Nurri Kala must face .. the Chicken Fiends! “The Chicken Fiends” is, in fact, the title of the chapter. Apparently chickens were considered to be more fearful beasts back in 1930. The creatures rule over one of the cavern environments in Surrilana, an underground realm beneath the Himalayas. I know a giant flesh eating chicken would actually be pretty terrifying but, as a city boy here in the 21st century, it’s hard for me to summon up any nervous emotions about chickens.
Morgo kills them dead.
Most of the time I have an idea of how I’m going to color an illustration. I’ll make adjustments during the actual coloring process but I’ll try to achieve the image I first saw in my mind’s eye. The coloring on this piece is much different than I originally planned. I was going to color the soldier in shiny, high tech armor – maybe a little dirty but otherwise “normal”.
The night after I finished the inks on this piece I dreamed about coloring it – coloring it as if the soldier’s armor camouflaged him, made him transparent. I woke up, wide awake, at 2:30 a.m. and started coloring with the new image in my head. The result, to me, makes him seem like a ghost haunting the site of the battle.
With the exception of the Heap itself I used most of the colors from the 2013 mock cover to color this illustration. I made the Heap a darker green.
The Heap was the first swamp monster to have its own regular series of stories. PS Publishing recently collected all those tales in three volumes under its Roy Thomas Presents series. There are a few good stories in the mix but they are rare and mostly in the last volume. I suspect that my lack of enthusiasm is more the result of when I started reading comics than the stories themselves. They were written during the so-called Golden Age of Comics when comics were expected to be read by children and comics creators were really still learning the form. During its day, The Heap was a rare comic that featured a hero monster. When I started reading comics in the 1970s, monsters were everywhere. Man-Thing and Swamp Thing had adventures much weirder (and longer and better written) than those of their four color ancestor.
Oh well, the Heap is immortal and its legend may yet surpass that of its descendants.
A couple of years ago I did a mock cover for a Heap comic. I had fun but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. So here’s another image using the same characters.