Despite having bought this comic book back in the day, this is another cover that is unfamiliar to me. And that’s because this was another of the myriad of books I got in plastic wrapped bundles of five coverless comics being sold for a bargain price at my local drug store outlet. The double-edged sword of this methodology–beyond the fact that all of the books had no covers, those having been stripped and returned for distributor credit already–was that in order to get the individual issues that you might have wanted in a particular bundle, you had to take everything it contained, wanted or not. And coverless books were difficult to offload as trade fodder, because clearly they were damaged and “worthless”, apart from being reading copies. So I had no interest in LOGAN’S RUN–I had never seen the film at all up to this point. Though my family did watch the short-lived TV show based on it at around this time.
It should hardly come as a surprise to anybody reading this blog regularly, but the 1970s were a time of turmoil for teh comic book industry. The traditional sales outlets of newsstands and Mon & Pop candy stores where comic books had traditionally been sold were evaporating. On top of which, the affidavit return system, where a particular retailer simply promised to destroy unsold copies rather than stripping off the logos and sending them back to insure credit, allowed for greater abuses of the system. Even a popular comic might not generate enough revenue for the parent company to be able to continue. On top of which, the super hero fad of the1960s had run its course–which meant that everybody was casting around to try to find a new hot fad to jump on. One of the avenues that Marvel tried was in producing comic book adaptations of upcoming and current films. This would lead to a company-saving success in STAR WARS. The LOGAN’S RUN book was a similar attempt, albeit a less successful one.
For those unfamiliar with the property, LOGAN’S RUN was a science fiction adventure film that postulated a world of the 23rd century in which humanity lived in massive domed cities, to avoid the landscape ravaged by atomic wars. It was a blissful, utopian society, but as resources were limited, at teh age of 30, every citizen had to attempt to ascend Carrousel to “renewal”–in essence, make their way up a vertical anti-gravity shaft to the top without being cut down by automated laser fire. Of course, some folks didn’t like those odds, and instead chose to go on the run in search of a mythical Sanctuary outside the dome. To deal with those runners, a police force of Sandmen were sanctioned to pursue, retrieve or eliminate them. One of the best is Logan. But as his own 30th birthday approaches, Logan encounters Jessica, a woman who claims to have been outside the dome–where the world itself is once again habitable, and who informs him that the process of renewal is fixed–nobody survives it to live on, everybody over the age of 30 is being systemically eradicated. His worldview shaken to the core, Logan himself goes on the run with Jessica, pursued by his former Sandman partner Francis, and hoping to bring back proof of both the viability of the outside world and the fact that renewal isn’t real.
The first five issues of the comic book series were an extended adaptation of the movie (or, really, the original screenplay–as often happened in these situations, aspects of the production changed in the making of the film, which were not mirrored in the comic book) And it was a good looking book. The art was produced by George Perez, just starting to develop his style, with inking/embellishing by Klaus Jason, who also was at the beginning of his career trajectory but who was already an accomplished inker. In fact, I wouldn’t have thought that Janson over Perez would be a combination that really worked–Klaus typically employed a beefy, texture filled approach to his inking, whereas Perez’s work was tight and linear. But especially on a film adaptation such as this, the combination is wonderfully effective. Perez’s storytelling and dramatics are intact, but Janson’s finish make the characters feel a bit more like real people. They weren’t photographic likenesses or anything, but they felt a bit more “real” than the average comic book person.
In Perez’s hands, the pacing of the story is much more dramatic and action-oriented, less cerebral than the film itself, which was limited by budgets. He also packs a lot of story into each page, employing multiple smaller panels without making the pages seem crowded or dauntingly dense. This was a skill that he’d use to greater effect later on AVENGERS and NEW TEEN TITANS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. I mean, that’s an 8 panel page above, one that includes an action sequence and the establishing shot of a new environment, and it still feels open and flowing. Writer Kraft scripts the piece like any other Marvel comic, with characters thinking things that weren’t in the film, and expositing dialogue even in sequences that were more vocally sparse in the movie. In essence, it’s truly an adaptation rather than attempting to mimic the film, and as such, it plays a lot better than a lot of the movie adaptations of this era do.
As this fifth issue featured the conclusion of the story of the film, it was a good place for me to come in. The first half of the issue features the brutal showdown between Logan and Francis, the latter having pursued the former and Jessica outside of the Dome. the pair has found an old man living with his cats, a man who must easily be 60 or 70 years old–the proof they need that what the people are being told isn’t true. But Francis is still dedicated to his job, and in the end, Logan has no choice but to kill him in combat, in a sequence that’s pretty brutal for the period. I assume that Marvel allowed Kraft and Perez to push the envelope here a little bit as it was a moment also featured in the film. But it was rare to see a good guy kill a bad guy in comic books in 1977 when this issue came out. Thereafter, Logan, Jessica and the Old Man make their way back to the Dome, and Logan has to fight a mental battle of wills with the the Computer system that oversees all life within the Dome, and which administers the Carrousel process.
Logan is, of course, successful, the Computer self-destructs in a fit of STAR TREK-style “Does-Not-Compute”, and the Dome is rent asunder, leaving the population to reclaim the planet. As with the STAR WARS comic book, there was a plan to continue LOGAN’S RUN after this with new stories, but only a single issue was produced before the series was cancelled due to lack of sales. Clearly, this wasn’t the pop culture-changing juggernaut that STAR WARS was. Still, it was a very fine adaptation of the movie, and worth seeking out as back issues (as the material has never been collected to the best of my knowledge, due to rights issues.) Anyway, I liked this book as a young reader, but it didn’t make me run out and try to get into a showing of LOGAN’S RUN. If anything, it simply made me a bigger fan of the work of George Perez.