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KILLRAVEN: Joseph Michael Linsner

The popular writer-artist on bringing back Marvel's Martian Manhunter.

By Trent D. McNeeley     December 20, 2000

Writer-artist Joseph Michael Linsner has created a legion of fans with his independent comic books featuring the Dawn character. Sirius Entertainment, the small publisher for which Linsner usually works, recently capitalized on that popularity by re-offering a wide variety of his stories and illustrations, which have been out of print or difficult to find. Linsner aficionados looking for something new, though, should look no further than Linsner's latest project: the return of the 1970s' Martian fighter, Killraven. Written and painted by Linsner, Killraven is a 32-page one-shot from Marvel Comics' Marvel Knights imprint. And it's a good thing it's coming out today, because Linsner says the Martian invasion is mere weeks away.

'Killraven originally ran as a series in a Marvel comic called Amazing Adventures in the mid-seventies,' says Linsner. 'It is a direct sequel to War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The Martians come back to Earth in 2001 and enslave the planet in one night. Killraven is the leader of the underground resistance [in the year 2020].'

Origin Story

Killraven, or Jonathan Raven as he was first called in Amazing Adventures #18, grew up on that conquered Earth as a contender in the Martians' brutal gladiatorial pits. Forced to entertain the alien overlords by fighting his fellow Terrans, including some of his friends, Killraven hardened his heart and plotted a course toward rebellion. His primary advantage: psionic powers, the result of experiments performed on him as a youth. His psionic ability to enter and control the mind of any Martian isn't enough to defeat the invaders, though. He also needs his razor-sharp sword, martial arts skills and guerilla warfare tactics if he and his band of Freemen are to succeed in overthrowing their oppressors.

'I loved these comics as a kid,' says Linsner. 'For many years, I've dreamt of someday doing a story with one of my favorite characters.'

But Amazing Adventures disappeared long ago, taking Killraven with it. Aside from occasional cameos and brief appearances, such as the recent Avengers Forever mini-series, there didn't seem to be a place to bring Killraven backuntil Marvel Knights. And while Marvel Knights hasn't been around 'for many years,' Linsner knew that's where he could publish his Killraven tale the moment he saw their work on such titles as Black Panther.

'I went through Marvel Knights because they were the coolest looking things to come out of Marvel in years,' recalls Linsner. 'As soon as I saw Mark Texiera's Black Panther, which had snappy computer coloring on top of black-and-white tone work, I told myself that I had to do a comic book like that. I loved the look of it.'

According to Linsner, his story is perfect for a one-shot due to its intimate focus. 'My story is a confrontation between our hero, Killraven, and a little hippie chick that he busts out of a hibernation tube,' explains Linsner. '[Killraven] has spent his whole life committed to war and revengehis 'origin' is a lot like Batman's, except Martian's killed his mommaand she believes in peace and spiritual harmony. Basically it's a warrior versus a pacifist.'

You'll have to pay the price of admission to see who wins the confrontation, but Linsner let loose with a clue or two. 'Alice, the little hippie chick from the past, does her best to clue Killraven into his own sleeping spiritual nature,' says the creator. 'She tries to open his third eye and make him aware of the fact that there is more to life than war and revenge.'

A New Take

While paying close attention to previously established continuity, Linsner admits his story doesn't really have much to do with it. As such, he doesn't know what the role of these characters might be following the one-shot, although he has left the door open for follow-up projects. 'I have no idea [what the future holds],' he says. 'My book is almost 'A Day in the Life of Killraven.' [But] while doing this, I did get plenty of ideas for other stories. However, if I never work with Killraven again, that would be okay, because I at least got to go to town on him this one time. I've scratched my Killraven itch.'

Linsner is pleased with the results, despite the differences found in working on an independent book versus working for a large company, such as Marvel's proverbial 'House of Ideas.' 'More teamwork was involved, which is how all mainstream comics work,' explains Linsner. 'That's how they're able to keep up the quantity. Usually the quality suffers, but not this time. I was a little worried at first, but this book turned out great. I'm thrilled with it.'

That excitement comes in part because of the willingness of the Marvel Knights team to allow Linsner to tell the story his way, keeping themes familiar to his fans and putting them to work on previously created characters.

'One of the major themes in my work is the never ending quest for balance,' says Linsner. 'This story is all about vision. At one point we actually see Killraven's third eye and the title of the story is Killraven: 2020. Hopefully, by the story's end, our hero is able to see the other side of things and better realize his place in life with a higher degree of inner balance.'

Provided the Martians don't wipe us all out come the new year, don't expect Linsner to slow down in 2001. He has been working hard in late 2000 to give his fanswhich he hopes will be a few readers stronger thanks to Killraveneven more of his signature look and feel with his next project, Dark Ivory. 'It's been crazy,' says Linsner. 'I just finished a preview book, [which] is coming out in January. The actual three-issue series [starts] some time later next year.'

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