Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Void Indigo

Void Indigo
by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik
Marvel Graphic Novel No. 11, 1984

During the 1970s, Steve Gerber was (along with Steve Englehart and Don McGregor) one of the most high-profile (some would say pretentious) writers at Marvel comics. After a dispute over revenue from Gerber’s creation ‘Howard the Duck’, Gerber left Marvel in 1978, with some degree of acrimony.

Marvel launched its series of Graphic Novels in 1982, with the premise that these novels would be open to publishing independently-produced, creator-owned publications, printed in an oversize format on quality paper with color separations that were considerably superior to those of the comic books of the time. Gerber set aside his past grievances with Marvel, and submitted a concept for a fantasy-themed story that had no similarities to any of his previous characters for the company. 

The result was Marvel Graphic Novel No. 11, ‘Void Indigo’, by Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, released in 1984.

‘Void’ starts in an ancient, sword-and-sorcery landscape, where four evil wizards find their kingdoms endangered by the onslaught of a savage barbarian tribe. In desperation, the wizards arrange for mass human sacrifices to restore their youth and power; however, this fails, and a fateful decision is made to kidnap and sacrifice Ath Agaar,the leader of the barbarians, and his consort.

I won’t disclose any spoilers, save to say that the wizards’ machinations disrupt the order of the cosmos. Across vast gulfs of time and space, their battle with a vengeful Ath Agaar will resume….in modern America.

‘Void’ features what were, at the time, rather graphic scenes of torture, mutilation, and violence – stuff that was unremarkable for its inclusion in ‘adult comics’ like Heavy Metal, but rather extreme for a graphic novel from a major comic book publisher. Nonetheless, the end of ‘Void’ was left open so that Gerber could continue the story in comic book format.

Epic Comics did indeed release two of a planned six issues of ‘Void Indigo’ in 1984 and 1985, but these first two issues were criticized by distributors and comic book critics, who decried the comic books’ violence. The remaining four issues never saw print.

‘Void Indigo’, the graphic novel, suffers to some extent from its open-ended conclusion. As well, some of its content might be considered misogynistic and overly violent.

My opinion ? It’s an interesting experiment in the graphic novel / comic medium, but as a creative work, it was stillborn in the sense that much of the content that already had appeared in Heavy Metal magazine was of superior quality and just as transgressive (if not more so…..I’m thinking of Arthur Suydam’s strip ‘Lulea’….), but much more stylish in its ‘transgressiveness’.

‘Void’ demonstrated that Marvel, when all was said and done, simply wasn’t willing to promote the edgier side of graphic art in the way that the European comic establishment did.


Edo Bosnar said...

I consider myself a big fan of Gerber's work, but "Void Indigo" left me cold. The core concept is interesting, but the story itself falls flat - and the characters are all pretty uninteresting and/or unsympathetic.

Russ said...

I've read that this actually grew out of a proposal for a new Hawkman series.