Chris Claremont’s and John Bolton’s Marada the She-Wolf was originally published in 1984 in Epic Illustrated, Marvel’s magazine anthology of creator-owned work. Inspired by the French Metal Hurlant and its English counterpart, Heavy Metal, Epic Illustrated was a unique piece of publishing for the time as no other major comic publisher took such a chance on works that the artists retained the copyright. After a long-awaited 29 years, Titan Comics has compiled a wonderful hardcover collection of the three stories of “The Shattered Sword,” “Royal Hunt” and “Wizard’s Masque” that were featured in this magazine.
About bloody time.
Epic Illustrated closed up shop in 1986 – a true loss for the comic world, especially given that the magazine was the launching pad for many an aspiring artist. Bill Sienkiewicz and Rick Veitch were among the new talents that were featured among the offerings. But its legacy included true treasured works like John Byrne’s The Last Galactus Story, or Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis: Odyssey. Marada the She-Wolf is one of these precious works that has waited almost thirty years to be given its own rightful venue.
I’ve been a Chris Claremont fan ever since I discovered his run on Marvel Comics’ Uncanny X-Men back in 1979 when I was a stripling comic-lover. He’d been writing the book for about four years by that time, but his work was new to me. I found more of his stories: Iron Fist, Captain Britain, Excalibur and one of his greatest works, the mini-series Magik. Marada the She-Wolf was different from these other comic stories. First, it was an anthology serial, and second, it was a story that included far more mature content and a sophisticated female heroine who was truly ahead of her time.
Bolton’s art was also a new draw for me. Photo-realism was fairly novel at the time, and the images he created were meticulous and detailed, evoking the sense that these true pictures weren’t drawn but captured by some sort of mystical black and white camera. However, the coloured artwork was likewise staggeringly good – fully coloured, as opposed to the mere four-coloured, lesser comic variety. These pictures were permanently etched in my mind as the standard to which I compared other art in my years of reading comics afterwards. After 29 years, the artwork is still vibrant and life-like.
Drawn after clay figures that Bolton crafted to serve as models, positioning and repositioning them, he was able to capture the dynamism of the figures in staged motion that made for amazing combat sequences and captured the essence of Claremont’s characters. The fight between Marada and a demon between the dimensions is martially furious and determined as she fights to save the young Arianrhod. The expression of desperation on her face as she struggles to defend her young daughter-in-spirit is completely realistic and conveys the essence of Marada’s character.
Another image is of the girl-child, Arianrhod, who awakens and emerges out of her bed chamber to see what is transpiring in her home. Bolton has the girl stand in the doorway in her nightgown rubbing her eyes, and her feet are arranged pigeon-toed in complete child-like innocence. It is a subtle aspect but intensely powerful in conveying her character. In one isolated frame, you immediately know that this is someone’s child and that she is important to the story.
Running parallel to the rich quality of Bolton’s images was the sense of retroactivity they also seemed to possess. Bolton’s work is realistic to a fine degree, but it simultaneously holds a similarity to the work of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant from the 1930s. Flesh tones are muted and features are extremely sharp. It is an amazing combination of modern and classic technique that combines to create a dazzling and glorious effect.
If you haven’t encountered Marada the She-Wolf before, then this is your chance to discover this lost treasure. It amazes me that it has taken this long for this wonderful collection to see the light of day again and to be presented to a new generation of readers who can appreciate its timelessness. It’s time that Marada the She-Wolf, who was so ahead of her time, found her way on to the shelves of fantasy comic lovers of the 21st century.
About bloody time.