Hey, what's The Heap been up to lately? Well, in the one and only issue of his own mag, Skywald's stinky swamp slobberer enters new realms of nonsensicalness in a tale that only bears a passing resemblance to logic or continuity. But as we saw in his debut b/w apppearance in Psycho, that's the way we like him.
This one's written by Sgt. Rock's very own Bob Kanigher, and drawn by Tom Sutton and Jack Abel, and it's like eight stories all squashed into one, almost as if Tom just did a load of random pages and then said to Bob: I dunno, YOU make sense out of it!
It's a bit like an Atlas book really, especially with the presence of Abel who did Moorlock 2001, that company's even weirder entry in the muck monster stakes.
This is a slightly more family friendly Heapy, as Tom softens his appearance a bit for the colour market, mostly dispensing with his Gene Simmonsesque prehensile tongue, which was actually a major part of his visual.
He also doesn't dine out in garbage cans, which is another thing I liked about him, but it's still all crazy. Just a different kind of crazy.
ticked this baby off the want list by finally scoring a copy, after
years of seeing it advertised in the back of endless Warren mags. It's a
sort of fotonovel / fumetti by Bruce Jones, one of comics' consistently
great writers, with what seems to be an uncredited assist from Richard
Corben, or in fact some of his assistants.
Like a lot of Byron Preiss' output, Amberstar isn't
quite a comic book, nor quite a graphic novel, but one of those
fascinating near misses the Bronze Age was full of, and which I'm a
total sucker for.
Each 'panel' consists of a black & white photo, overlayed in colour at Corben's studio, in a similiar way to his Doomscult strip, seen in Heavy Metal ( and on this blog! ), which also starred one Bruce Jones. Amberstar isn't
wholly successful, looking in places like a colourized movie, and some
of the spacescapes cry out for Corben's specific hand in the colouring,
but these are minor quibbles really, and this is a space opera like no
The hero of Amberstar
is space rogue Neville Scott, an increasingly bewildered Han Solo-alike
who finds himself involved in a quest with no apparent meaning or
by a recurring dream of a man trudging through a snowdrift, Neville
escapes an alien invasion on the planet he's currently 'resting' on, by
stealing back his impounded spaceship ( the Amberstar of the title )
with the help of a mute lizardman he immediately names 'Ears'.
Amberstar mysteriously no longer responds to Scott's controls, and
lands he and 'Ears' on a fairytale world where, in short order, they
meet wood nymph / witch Lehan, her centaur friend Charn...
And a big f**k off Cyclops:
Escaping that problem, our mismatched heroes navigate through a couple of Star Wars style dogfights, inside Jones' meticulously designed miniatures:
Indulge in a trippy, '60's style sex scene:
And nearly fall into a sun:
Amberstar, still not obeying Scott's commands, lands them on a
deserted, smog covered world where they find an exact duplicate of
And a bunch of floating, bug-eyed tentacle thingies clearly designed ( or at least inspired ) by Corben:
just escaping in the nick of time yet again, the gang reach their final
stop. A planet full of toy dinosaurs created by intergalactic big-game
hunter Henrich who, like everybody else, is not exactly what he first
appears to be.
final revelation as to who the man in the snow is, what's actually
going on and what everybody's part in it is seems at first to be a bit
of a cop-out, and you suspect Jones thought up the planets he wanted
Scott to visit first, then tried to come up with a reason why.
But that reason actually gets cleverer the more you think about it, and you certainly won't see it coming.
Jones himself has said he wasn't happy with the way Amberstar turned
out, wishing he'd stuck to the original black & white
photography rather than colourization ( in fact, he tried a noir fumetti
after this, that sadly didn't find a publisher ), but I absolutely love
this book. Even if you don't like the visual experimentation ( and why
wouldn't you? ) Jones is such a good writer you can't help but be sucked
in by the mystery. It's a noble failure, and I can't get enough of
And remember, this wasn't assembled in five minutes on a
laptop, this took months of painstaking paste-up work by a bunch of
lunatics willing to sit there for hours with scalpel and Pritt-Stik. Amberstar is a little bit Star Trek fotonovel, a little bit La Jetee, and a whole lotta fun. If you see a copy at a con, grab one. This is a trip worth taking.
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