Comic books & Movies 23 Jun 2009 06:44 am

King-sized adaptation

 kingkongwhitman

A couple years ago, I splurged and spent ten bucks to buy a copy of “Giant Classic King Kong” on eBay. It is a comic-book adaptation of the classic adventure film. Apparently, Gold Key released it first  in 1968, as some copies have  the GK logo in the upper left-hand corner. My copy looks like the one shown above, with the Whitman logo in place of Gold Key. I believe Gold Key was an imprint of Western, so it wasn’t (and isn’t) surprising to find the two logos interchanged on comics covers of the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. Apparently, the Gold Key version is standard comic size, while this Whitman edition is a larger treasury size, released to coincide with the 1976 remake of “Kong.”

Anyway, back in the days before DVDs were released within six months of a movie’s theatrical release, options for fans to relive a favorite sci-fi or fantasy film — short of seeing it again — were limited: You could read the novelization, collect the trading cards, or buy the comic adaptation.

As a kid, I never had a copy of “Giant Classic King Kong,” although I sure wish I did. It’s a fun read, albeit one that appears to have been written and drawn without access to the original film itself. The dialogue reads like the uncredited writer cribbed bits and pieces from the 1930s Kong novelization, and the artist (Alberto Giolitti is credited with interior art, while George Wilson did the –superlative, in my opinion — cover) doesn’t appear to have used any stills to help him with characters or settings. I’m not knocking Giolitti; sometimes, rights were bought that did not allow for actors’ likenesses to be used, hence movie-adaption artists have taken a lot of unfair lumps over the years.

Kong himself looks a little silly, and Giolitti gives him a lower back … protrusion that looks painful. It doesn’t help that the colorist slaps a bluish-purple hue all over the big ape, making him more silly than frightening.

Nevertheless, this adaptation is fun, the sort of thing I would have spent hours poring over as a kid, tracing the ape and dinosaur panels and staring at the back cover, which has the same image as the front, but without the distracting logo. Good stuff!

3 Responses to “King-sized adaptation”

  1. on 02 Jul 2010 at 1.American Cheese said …

    Just a note on the Giant Classic King Kong comic book. It seems Gold Key did publish the book in 1968, but the one you have is a 1976 reprint. I recall my mother buying it for me when I was 8 years old.

    The 1968 version has the Gold Key logo, a cover price of 25 cents, and says “The Greatest Adventure Story of All Time!”

    On the reprint, note the Whitman logo, the $1.00 price tag, and the revised subtitle: “The ORIGINAL VERSION of the greatest adventure story of all time,” because this was reprinted to capitalize on the release of the 1976 King Kong movie, and the distinction had to be made that this was the 1933 version with the Empire State Building and dinosaurs.

    Gold Key was a subsidiary of Western Publishing, whose other subsidiaries included Whitman Comics and Dell Comics, so the art was available for reprinting a mere 8 years after the original run.

    But what is also noteworthy is that this is an “Authorized Edition,” meaning Merian C. Cooper had a hand in the publication (he died in 1973).

    Cooper didn’t know when King Kong was made that he did not own the character outright, and court battles had Cooper owning the rights to the novelization written by Delos W. Lovelace. This is why Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures both had Kong Projects in production in the 70s. Paramount had the rights from the film owners, and Universal had the rights to the book.

    The comic is based on the book, not the movie, which is why scenes such as Kong battling the triceratops, Ann and Jack escaping Kong via the river (a scene that was filmed by excised from the film just like the infamous “Spider Pit Sequence”), and the cook being named “Lumpy” instead of Charlie as in the film version. Peter Jackson’s recent remake from Universal has Lumpy the cook and other characters from the book that aren’t in the original film.

    Also noteworthy is that the book, comic, and Jackson’s film don’t have Kong destroying the elevated train, whereas the ‘76 Paramount version does. This is because the train scene was done in post-production on the original film. One can note that Kong is missing the cuff on his wrist when he wrecks the train, but has it when he is atop the Empire State Building.

    The novel is still available on Amazon, and it’s interesting to read it and note that the comic and Jackson’s film bear strong similarities to the 1933 film, but also that the differences are actually present in the novel.

    I wondered about this stuff for years.

  2. on 02 Jul 2010 at 2.Chris said …

    Thanks, Cheese! I have several versions of the novel, including a battered paperback with a Frazetta cover and a hardback that was released in conjunction with the ‘76 film. It is a good read, and actually made the list of “100 Greatest Thrillers” in a newly released book of the same name, edited by David Morrell.

  3. on 03 Dec 2010 at 3.American Cheese said …

    I’ll have to check that out. I actually got to know David Morrell personally. For those who don’t know, he’s the author of the novel FIRST BLOOD. He is the creator of Rambo.

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