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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clash of the Titans

With the 3D remake in cinemas it is an appropriate time to take a look back at the British comic strips associated with the original Clash Of The Titans film.

Clash of the Titans
by Jeremy Briggs

Released in 1981, Clash Of The Titans was stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen’s last and most expensive movie which told the tale of the Greek myth of Perseus slaying the Gorgon and saving the princess Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. As with many of the Harryhausen films, other mythologies are mixed in and in Clash’s case Cetus was replaced with the better known Kraken from Norse mythology.

Harryhausen movies have been well served by comics over the years mainly in the USA where Dell, Gold Key and Marvel have all released comic versions of his films. In Britain the first comic strip based on a Harryhausen film was Robert MacGillivray’s adaptation of Mighty Joe Young in Sun comic beginning in 1949, but it was during the 1970s that his films were best served with Kevin O’Neill drawing the Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad in Legend Horror Classics, John Bolton drawing One Million Years B.C. in House of Hammer and Ian Gibson drawing Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger in the movie special magazine edited by Dez Skinn. However the British comic strips of Clash Of The Titans have a rather more intriguing story.

The best known British Clash comic is the unusual Look-In Film Special which, if the number of second hand copies still around almost 30 years later is anything to go by, must have been pretty popular at the time. Unlike anything else released under the Look-In title, this is actually a British publication of the American Golden Press adaptation written by Mary Carey with art by Dan Spiegel. While Spiegel does a reasonable job of catching the likenesses of the characters and monsters, with the notable exception of the Kraken, the British edition doesn’t serve the film that well with its poor cover and garish colours. One can only imagine what it might have been like if a regular Look-In artist such as Mike Noble had been commissioned to illustrate it.

However there was a original British comic strip of Clash Of The Titans with black and white art by Modesty Blaise artist Patrick Wright. It appeared in 2000AD and ran for six weeks, yet you will find it in no 2000AD reference book or online database. Why? Because it also appeared in Warlord and other comics of the time. The British Clash Of The Titans was a comic strip advert for the film which also promoted Smith’s Snacks.

Smith’s Snacks, or Smith’s Crisps as they are better remembered, were running a £10,000 holiday competition along as a tie-in with Clash Of The Titans on their packets. Smiths were the manufacturers of Monster Munch so perhaps an advertising tie-in with a movie full of monsters isn’t quite such a stretch of the imagination as it first appears.

The half page adverts told the story of the film in abbreviated form over six weeks. In IPC’s 2000AD it ran from Prog 214 dated 30 May 1981 to Prog 219 dated 4 July 1981 while it also appeared in DC Thomson titles. The issues of Warlord that it was in were 349 to 354, which have the same cover dates as 2000AD, although Warlord managed to reprint the first advert instead of the second advert in issue 350 and then got back on track with the third one in issue 351. Since Clash was one of the big family movies of that summer it can be seen from the issue dates that the adverts were being used as a prolonged trailer for the child readers of the comics as they end as the school summer holidays would have been starting. While it does seem like an odd idea now, the deservedly forgotten Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith wild animal movie Roar also received the same treatment around the same time.

With no speech balloons, the story is told through text boxes with the film split down into six story segments. These cover the Perseus receiving his gifts from the god Zeus that will help him in his quest, his capture of the winged horse Pegasus, his battle with the three-headed dog Dioskilos, his battle with Medusa, his battle with the giant scorpions, and finally his battle with the deformed Calibos. The strip left the story at this point before the climactic battle with the Kraken encouraging the readers to “Now see the action-packed full colour film Clash Of The Titans.”

Patrick Wright’s artwork is clean, clear and accurate as befits the advertiser’s need to represent the characters and monsters as they would be seen in the film. By that time, with a mixture of comics work behind him that included strips in 2000AD and Battle, Pat Wright had illustrated Modesty Blaise in the London Evening Standard from 25 November 1979 through to 14 October 1980, taking over the "Eve and Adam" story from the departing John M Burns and then illustrating the full length of the ten month long "Brethren Of Blaise". Since the Clash strip had a similar action/adventure theme to Modesty and needed the same conciseness of art that a daily adventure strip demanded, perhaps it was his Modesty Blaise work that helped Wright get the commission. After his work on the adverts he would go one to illustrate various strips in IPC’s new Eagle and DC Thomson’s The Crunch.

But that wasn’t the end of the story for the Clash advertising strip. In the early 1980s the main monthly magazine that would feature fantasy films was Marvel UK’s Starburst and issue 34 had a two page advert of the Clash of The Titans comic strip also advertising the Smith’s Snacks tie-in. Yet while it was published at the same time to advertise the same film with a comic strip by the same artist, this was no reprint or reformatting of the six half page weekly strips. Instead Pat Wright redrew the entire story to fit the full page portrait format of Starburst. It is to his credit that while it would have been easy to copy his own panels from the weekly version on the whole he does not, with only the two climactic panels of Perseus holding the Gorgon’s head and later killing Calibos with his sword appearing to be similar.

They may not be the full length comic strip that the fans would have liked to appear but the two advertising strips for Clash Of The Titans remain unusual additions to the Harryhausen comics collection.

This article includes all six weekly versions of the Clash Of The Titans advertising strip. The two page version of the strip appears below to allow readers to compare the two versions.

(* Clash Of The Titans © MGM.)

4 comments:

Dr7 said...

The two page version seems to be missing

Dr7 said...

Sorry.

Found it.

i3lh4m said...

Good comic..Thanks for sharing

Jeremy Briggs said...

For reference, the Starburst version of the Clash strip is here - http://bearalley.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/clashs-of-titans-supplemental.html