I'm a bourbon drinker, and I went to college in the U.S. south, so I've had my share of mint juleps. I quite enjoy them, honestly. My dad briefly spent time working in London, opening a UK office for his then employer, and I happened to visit him there when his co-workers, all of whom were Englishmen or Scots or Irish, threw a picnic and made sure to have mint juleps in real julep cups because, to them, that was a quintessentially American thing. And that further entrenched the beverage in my heart.
I love all things sci-fi and fantasy and I'm particularly fond of imaginary vegetation, from Ents to Audrey II. It's not for nothing that of all the mythic/folkloric traditions I could have based my Kellan Oakes character on, I gave him a druid background and a dryad receptionist. Tree-people are kind of my jam.
HOW DID I NEVER KNOW BEFORE THAT MARVEL'S KILLRAVEN SERIES HAD A PLANT-HUMAN HYBRID CHARACTER NAMED MINT JULEP??? I gots me some backreading to do.
It was one of those revelations where I craved instant feedback gratification, hence turning it into a Facebook post. And sure enough, other members of the group were quick to assure me that, oh yes, the Killraven series was a hidden gem with loads of wild supporting characters and I should definitely track it down and read it, and once I did I was in for a treat, and so forth.
I really wish I could remember the exact sequence of events that got me there, but basically I was just messing around on teh interwebs and found myself on the Wikipedia page for Killraven, which is where I made the quite accidental discovery of the character above. I think it was something like going through my usual daily comics blog consumption, wherein one writer made an offhand reference to Logan's Run, which at one point was adapted as a comic book, which got me thinking about other 1970's science fiction comics which might be ripe for a reboot, which led me down the wormhole to Killraven, a series I've always been peripherally aware of (it was a bit before my time, and back in the day if comics were before your time they had likely vanished into inaccessibility by the time you tried to hunt them down) but had never read. Hence the capacity for surprise and wonder upon digging into its details.
So here's the interesting thing about Killraven: he was an original character who debuted in the Marvel-published Amazing Adventures comics, in May of 1973. But he was created as the protagonist of a kind of loose sequel to The War of the Worlds. I say loose because the premise for the comic series is that the H.G. Wells novel ended quite differently, and the Martians successfully conquered Earth. The human race is totally subjugated, Killraven himself is a former gladiator turned freedom fighter, about a hundred years after the source material was set. Between the alternate outcome of the backstory and the future setting, numerous other embellishments ensued, but it was very much intended to be Wells's aliens as the bad guys, including prominent use of the iconic imagery of giant mechanical tripods shooting death rays. Which, honestly, is pretty shrewd considering that the Martian tripods are (1) so famous that they have evocative power with near total cultural awareness saturation, regardless of whether or not a person has read the novel, and (2) totally rad looking. So it's a real best-of-breed approach, combining a recognizable IP touchstone (which just happens to be free and clear in the public domain) with something fresh and imaginative.
It's interesting to me because I spend a lot of time thinking about the creative process as both pure art and a commercial enterprise, trying to understand both sides of the equation. I'm well aware of general sentiments along the lines of there being no new ideas these days. Everything is a reboot, or a continuation of an existing megafranchise. And on the one hand, if someone were to make a KILLRAVEN movie, how would you classify it along those lines? Would it be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since its origins go back to that publisher? (Killraven did meet Spider-Man at one point, but that involved some interdimensional time travel shenanigans, because clearly Martians did not conquer the Earth Spider-Man calls home in 1897. This is not a dealbreaker, though. The MCU Doctor Strange movie also introduced at least the concept of interdimensional time travel shenanigans.) Or would it be considered part of the overall War of the Worlds franchise, however you might define the parameters of such a creative entity? You'd be hard pressed to convince me that it should be considered a reboot, since it's one of the few War of the Worlds stories that doesn't take the events of the novel and transpose them to a different setting in time and place. A spin-off, then? Well, the comics were a spin-off of the novel. The movie adaptation would probably change some things (I've said this before, it's basically mandatory that you change source material when moving into a different medium) to make it more resonant to modern audiences.
And there's the additional point I wanted to make: sometimes the blanket dismissal of all current entertainments as nothing but reboots and sequels seems to indict adaptations as well, but that's certainly not a new phenomenon by any stretch. War of the Worlds was written in the nineteenth century and turned into a radio drama in 1938. Hollywood has been putting books on film for movies' entire existence. Shoot, Shakespeare was riffing on old stories everyone knew, and Homer was formalizing oral history. Killraven, with its weird remix of elements from a Victorian invasion novel and later sci-fi dystopian ideas and comic book tropes, came out almost half a decade before Star Wars ushered in the modern Death of Originality, or however it's supposed to work. So, if someone were in fact to option Killraven as movie material, I would not find it distressing or indicative of a general dearth of imagination in current entertainment. I would consider it part of a long and glorious tradition, albeit a weird obscure outlier part, and I'd be grateful to live in a time where those kinds of things could have a $100MM budget tossed their way. I can dream.
Anyway, as you may or may not have noticed in the artwork up above, there's a reference to the year 2015 in Mint Julep's backstory. According to Wikipedia, the adventures of Killraven as depicted in the 70's comics were supposed to take place during the impossibly far-off years of 2018 to 2020. What was future to the various Marvel bullpen talents who brought Killraven into being is rapidly becoming the past. Marvel is of course also the home of the X-Men, the mutant superheroes who battled their destinies in a classic storyline entitled "Days of Future Past" which became both a recurring reference in the X-comics and also the subtitle of a film adaptation in 2014. The fact that I was able to combine a mainstream Marvel reference with today's holiday to set up a relevant discussion of a far more obscure Marvel comics vegetable transhuman character pretty much makes the title of this post one of my bar-none proudest blogging moments EVAR.