Monday, 23 June 2014


Air Fighters Comics #3 - 1st Appearance of the Heap
Less than two short years after Unknown published Theodore Sturgeon's seminal story "It!", the first of many similar creatures made in appearance in the comics pages. Hillman Comics were first in on the act when the Skywolf story "Wanted By The Nazis"  in Air Fighters Comics #3 (December 1942), written by Harry Stein and drawn by Mort Leav, introduced Baron Von Emmelmann, a German fighter pilot who is shot down at the end of the First World War over a Polish swamp.
Somehow clinging to life, his body decayed and merged with the plant life in the swamp, until during the early years of the Second World War, a strange creature rose from the mire. A creature that would become known as "The Heap". In appearance it resembled nothing more than a huge, shambling, green, haystack with a root for a snout.
After his initial encounter with the fighter ace Skywolf, the Heap turned against it's former countrymen, fighting with the Allies against the Nazi regime.
It later started wandering the globe, sometimes encountering other sinister creatures, sometimes wandering into town, helping people in need, like a moss encrusted version of Shane.
Splash page to the Heap story in Airboy Vol. 10, #3
After Air Fighters Comics #3, the Heap continued to appear sporadically in the Skywolf series as a guest star, before being given it's own back up strip starting in Airboy Comics (as Air Fighters Comics was retitled in 1945) vol. 3 #9 (1945) and continuing until the final issue, vol. 10, #4 (May 1953).

In the earliest issues, The Heap was accompanied by a young boy, Ricky Wood whose model biplane stirred deep buried memories within The Heap of his/it's former life.
Later on in this run, the Heap's origin was slightly tweaked, with the revelation that the Roman Goddess Ceres was responsible for The Heap's origin.
Oh, wait a minute, another story says it was Mother Nature that was responsible.
And another variation of the origin says it was the souls of innocent babies, murdered by an ancient warlord that brought the monster to life!
Er, make your minds up Hillman!
Although the strip ended in 1953, the character wasn't forgotten and was a major influence on Marvel Comics' Man-Thing and DC Comics Swamp Thing. In fact, The Heap even made a brief blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo appearance during the "Parliament Of Trees" issue of "Swamp Thing" by Alan Moore and Stan Woch.
The Heap returns in the 1980s
Then, in 1986, Eclipse Comics picked up the rights to some of the Hillman properties and launched a new Airboy comic, which occasionally featured The Heap as a supporting character. The muck monster also appeared in another Eclipse title, the team book "The New Wave". After Eclipse Comics went bankrupt in the 1990s, the company's assets were acquired by Todd McFarlane's Image Comics. McFarlane introduced a new Heap in the pages of his popular comic "Spawn", but that's a story for another time...
In the meantime the original Heap stories have found a new audience in a three volume hardcover series entitled "Roy Thomas Presents The Heap" from the British publisher PS Artbooks. For more information, see their website

Links for the individual volumes can be found at...

Vol. 1
Vol. 2
Vol. 3
That's it for now for this Heap, but rest assured we'll be looking at other Heaps soon.
Next time on Muck Monster Monday, a look at DC's first Swamp Monster. No, not Swamp Thing. In fact, you may not even think of him as a muck monster, even though his origin is virtually identical. Who is it? I'll leave it to you to work it out. But he WAS born on a (Muck Monster) Monday...

See you soon,

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