Part one of three
by John Bolton (art) and Doug Moench (story)
Bizarre Adventures (Marvel / Curtis) No. 26, May 1981
As he states in his Introduction (below) titled 'Of Bolton and Barbarians', in the early 80s Marvel editor Ralph Macchio was paging through an issue of The Comics Journal magazine when he saw artwork by the British artist John Bolton, and was stunned by the quality of what he saw.
Macchio subsequently hired Bolton to illustrate a 54-page King Kull story, which appeared in May 1981 in the Curtis black-and-white magazine Bizarre Adventures.
A compelling argument could be made that, while Bizarre Adventures featured some outstanding art from outstanding artists throughout its lifetime (i.e., 1975 - 1983), Bolton's work for this King Kull story was the best to appear in the pages of the magazine.
Doug Moench's script, while essentially a re-working of the very first two Kull stories Robert E. Howard published, 'The Shadow Kingdom' (1929) and 'The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune' (1929), does a competent job of giving Bolton some worthwhile material to work with.
Bolton, who was of course well-known to U. K. readers through his work for the comics The House of Hammer and Warrior, went on to illustrate other Marvel stories during the 1980s, most notably the series Marada the She-Wolf for Epic Illustrated magazine, and The Black Dragon series for Epic Comics.
Bolton's work is particularly impressive when you consider that Bizarre Adventures was a lower-tier magazine in terms of print quality. According to former contributor Steve Bissette:
Bizarre Adventures did not sell particularly well. It was definitely a lower echelon Marvel publication. Depending on what part of the country you live in, the print jobs were atrocious. As an artist, I was really exploring what I could do with black & white half-tones. I was really pushing the envelope with that story as well as with ‘The Blood Bequest’, for what the printing methods of the time could reproduce. I saw after the fact, when I was at conventions signing issues, that with some of the issues that were distributed out there—well, the printing was just awful. The grays would coagulate into patches of black. Marvel’s printing of Bizarre Adventures was just not at the level of what I was enjoying over at Scholastic. So, I abandoned that approach to my art, which is too bad. I was doing some solid work, but it wasn’t appropriate for the venues available to me.
Maybe Titan Books / Titan Comics (U. K.) will publish a remastered version of this story in a well-made hardbound book, much as they did with Bolton's Marada and Black Dragon work.....we will have to see.