Monday, 21 July 2014


Once again, it's time for Muck Monster Monday, and this week our attention turns, once again, to The Heap.
A Heap - if not THE Heap returns. Art by
Hector Varella
Yes, that's right, in 1971 comics first swamp creature returned to print. Sort of.
Skywald Publications was a company founded in 1970 by Sol Brodsky, the former production manager for Marvel Comics, and entrepreneur Israel Waldman. It's primarily remembered for it's black and white horror anthologies Nightmare (23 issues), Psycho (24 issues), and Scream (11 issues).
Amongst the writers who worked for Skywald were Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Doug Moench, Gardner Fox, Dave Sim, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. Artistic duties were handled by, amongst others, Bill Everett, Gene Day, Bruce Jones, Tom Sutton and John Byrne.
It was in the pages of the second issue of Psycho (March 1971) that writer Charles McNaughton and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito introduced a new version of the iconic bog beast.
This Heap was pilot Jim Roberts, whose cropduster plane crashed into an Army toxic waste dump. Exposed to a strange nerve gas, Roberts mutated into a shambling mound of slimy green matter. Unlike his earlier counterpart, the Roberts Heap kept his intelligence, although he was unable to communicate verbally with those he encountered during his global search for a way to free himself from his curse, whether by kill or cure.
Ross Andru soon took over the scripting duties on the strip, followed by Al Hewetson. Other artist on the strip were Pablo Marcos and Xavier G. Vilanova.
There was also a one off comic book called The Heap cover dated September 1971 which was written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Tom Sutton.
With the demise of Psycho with it's 24th issue, this new Heap faded back into obscurity.
Whether Skywald actually legally acquired the rights to use the character from Hillman Publications who had published the original Heap stories is unclear, although Roy Thomas, then an editor and writer at Marvel Comics said in an interview with Alter Ego magazine (Vol. 3 #81, 2008) that he had suggested to Sol Brodsky the idea of reviving The Heap... 

The Heap #1 Art by Tom Sutton and Jack Abel.
"I was also responsible for Skywald Publishing introducing a Heap character. I had lunch with Sol Brodsky soon after he left Marvel Comics to co-found Skywald. He was looking for heroes to do. I couldn't write for him, so he was kind of picking my brain, and I wanted to help without getting too involved, since Stan Lee wouldn't have liked that. I told Sol, 'Well, we have the Man-Thing, so you ought to get someone to revive the Heap.' He remembered the character since he was a comic-book artist in the 1940s."
It's interesting that Roy should mention the Man-Thing there, because as far as I can tell, Man-Thing had yet to make it's first appearance in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971). If Roy DID mention Man-Thing in his lunch date with Brodsky, then Sol must have really rushed to get the Heap story out before that Man-Thing debut. Either that, or the Man-Thing story had been sitting around for a bit.
And so, as the Heap goes shambling off into the sunset (again), we turn our attention to the big two swamp creatures. The afore-mentioned Man-Thing and his DC counterpart Swamp Thing.
That's next time on Muck Monster Monday.
See you then

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