Exploring Marvel Comics’ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones
“Look at this. It’s worthless—ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless.” – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Comic-book collectors, like archaeologists, tend to be inordinately preoccupied with the past. A very special form of patience and dedication is required to spend countless hours sifting through a sea of polybagged detritus and sepia-toned nostalgia in hopeful anticipation of rescuing some precious panelological artifact from its musty longbox tomb. Yet as any obtainer of rare of antiquities can surely attest, unearthing time’s discarded fragments from the soil of neglect can become a lifelong obsession. And no character in popular fiction more colorfully exemplifies this quixotic hunt for prized relics and lost treasures than that of archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones.
Myriad creative influences coalesced in the conception of Indiana Jones, first introduced in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, including the Saturday matinee movie serials that so greatly inspired filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, as well as pulp magazine proto-superheroes like Doc Savage, H. Rider Haggard’s safari hunter Allan Quatermain, Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond, and even real-life adventurers such as Hiram Bingham and T. E. Lawrence. Of course, comic books— that close descendant of the pulps—also played an integral role in the creation of Indiana Jones, most directly in the form of legendary comics artist Jim Steranko, who illustrated the concept designs upon which the character’s distinctive appearance was based.
Befitting these ties to the medium, Indiana Jones promptly made his four-color debut in Marvel Comics’ Raiders of the Lost Ark #1 (Sept. 1981). Written by Walter Simonson and penciled by the inestimable John Buscema, the three-issue limited series offered a faithful and entertaining graphic adaptation of the blockbuster film. Yet Simonson, an award-winning artist, was hardly an obvious choice for scripter considering his relative lack of solo-writing experience at the time, with just four issues of Marvel’s Battlestar Galactica under his belt.
As Simonson recounted in his interview with Roger Ash in TwoMorrows’ Modern Masters vol. 8: “Archie [Goodwin] was supposed to write the adaptation. He was buried in work, as he often was. He stopped me in the hall one day and asked if I’d be interested in writing this adaptation of a new movie about to come out called Raiders of the Lost Ark, because he’d read the issues of Battlestar Galactica [written by Simonson] and he’d really liked them … Raiders was writing over John Buscema. John is one of the two or three best storytellers and draftsmen comics have ever had… When I got the artwork back, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. It really was. I had the script, I had John Buscema’s layouts; it was hard to go wrong. It was really a delight.”
“SOMETHING’S GONE WRONG AGAIN!”
In sharp contrast to Simonson’s delightful experience on the Raiders adaptation, creator John Byrne had a far more vexing time as writer and artist on The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #1 (Jan. 1983), the first issue of Marvel’s follow-up ongoing series. Although Byrne had previously established himself as a fan favorite at Marvel with popular runs on Uncanny X-Men and Avengers, his work on The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones has become something of a footnote in comics history due to his speedy exit from the title after just two issues. When contacted by BACK ISSUE for comment on his brief stint, Byrne’s reply was fittingly curt, saying only, “I’d just as soon forget I ever worked on this! And on THAT you can quote me!”
To read a detailed explanation from Byrne himself, he does divulge the specific reasons for his departure on his website www.byrnerobotics.com. However, as other sources have also described (such as Brian Cronin’s long-running online column Comic Book Legends Revealed), the main conflict stemmed from Byrne’s problematic dealings with Lucasfilm’s licensing liaison, which seemed to have difficulty grasping the lead time required to publish a monthly comic book, as evidenced by a reported habit of demanding major changes after the artwork had already been finished and approved.
Nonetheless, it remains a tantalizing point of conjecture to theorize on just how differently the book might have fared had it continued under the direction of Byrne given his splendid success revitalizing Fantastic Four and Superman during these same years. In the wake of Byrne’s resignation, contentious dealings with Lucasfilm would set the stage for a routine of instability and creative turnover on the book, eventually leading to its quiet demise at the House of Ideas with The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #34 (Mar. 1986). Indeed, this final issue is rather apropos of the series itself given its title, “Something’s Gone Wrong Again!”
In retrospect, Further Adventures can be characterized as a trouble-plagued expedition from the start, which ultimately failed to match the success of Marvel’s other high-profile licensed properties like Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and G.I. Joe. Offering some insight into the reasons for this is Eliot R. Brown, who worked on the book for much of its history. After initially serving as an assistant to series editor Louise “Weezie” Simonson (nee Jones), Brown was promoted to series editor himself with Further Adventures #14 (Feb. 1984). Yet by Brown’s own admission, it was a role he was ill prepared to assume, causing him to be fired off the book after just eight issues.
Although longtime Marvel staffer Brown, a.k.a. “Mr. Technical,” is primarily known for his technical drawings on encyclopedic guides such as the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe and Iron Man’s Iron Manual, he actually got his start at Marvel as a typesetter on regular features like “Bullpen Bulletins,” a monthly column written by Marvel’s then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. [Editor’s note: Learn more about Eliot by reading BACK ISSUE #32.] In fact, the premiere issue of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones included a “Bullpen Bulletins” wherein Shooter specifically singled out Brown for praise within the Marvel offices, opining, “Eliot is our resident technical expert.
If something’s broken, he can fix it—if you’ve got a problem, he can solve it. He draws—and he’s especially good at technical drawing, like blueprints, diagrams, cutaways, mechanical drawings—he inks, he colors, he designs, he does boardwork, and other stuff, too, that I can’t think of. Best of all, he’s a real trouper who’s stayed here at the office all night many times helping desperate artists and editors make deadlines.” Adding a further layer of irony to the proceedings is the fact that it was this very tendency—namely Brown’s willingness to do whatever it takes to make a deadline—that finally led to his dismissal from the book.
In talking with BACK ISSUE about his experiences on Further Adventures, Brown recalls, “I had become Weezie’s assistant sometime in 1983, so I not only read [the early issues], I pored over them! In #1, I took home some pages to do backgrounds on—if you look carefully you can see a balding fellow with round glasses in the crowd wearing a shirt that looks suspiciously like Indy’s. [This balding fellow would be Eliot “Massachusetts” Brown, who makes a return appearance in Further Adventures #13 (Jan. 1984) via a one-page humor strip called Raiders of the Late Book.]
With respect to Lucasfilm’s involvement, Brown adds, “The storylines did have concerns that had been handed down from on high. But I was lucky enough to have never had them given directly to me—everything I knew I got from Weezie, tossed over her shoulder as we were dashing from book to book. [But] it was hard working with Lucasfilm, getting scripts to them with time enough for changes, and they didn’t want anything of theirs changed or even suggested at—situations but especially if it involved their characters.
David Michelinie, I believe, was the writer during those middle books, and was a great believer in using the movie characters. Michelinie coped very well within the system—he seemed to have any number of alternate plots lined up and could fire them off like a machine, which was the sort of thing needed to keep up with re-writes and approvals. “[So] I never had to worry with a guy like Michelinie doing the writing,” Brown continues. “He was a bloodied vet of the process and had proved flexible with plenty of alternate ideas rattling around. Dave did a masterful job of working within these awful confines—his Indy books are quite good.”
As Michelinie settled into place as the regular writer on the series, the art reins were passed in quick succession from Byrne to Gene Day, Richard Howell, Ron Frenz, Howard Chaykin, and finally Kerry Gammill, who almost became the regular penciler. Notwithstanding some truly stellar contributions on his part, Gammill left the book after only a handful of issues due to his inability to meet deadlines. “The exact timing is fuzzy,” Brown reminisces, “but I do know we all loved Kerry Gammill’s work. [Unfortunately] he was so durned late that it just hurt to keep using him. The comic schedule was implacable and, once unbalanced, continued to rack up lateness. Eventually, Weezie felt she had to drop the title … she’d had enough. The kaleidoscope of pencilers and inkers was getting us all crazy. The deadlines were killing the artists. [Inker] Sam de la Rosa sent in a page that was only three-quarters inked! There were about two panels still in pencils. The use of FedEx meant that you could literally be stuffing wet artwork in a box and sealing it as you ran to the pick-up box minutes before the guy pulled up to collect it!”
Meanwhile, Indy himself managed to stay busy with his further adventuring, which included an action-packed excursion to Liberia in search of the golden Ikons of Ikammanen, a stopover at Stonehenge to unlock the mysteries of an antediluvian artifact, a madcap reunion with Marion Ravenwood in Manhattan for the opening of her new nightclub, and a clash with Nazis in the African Congo hunting for a mythical lost tribe of Atlantis. This was then followed by a clever callback to the original film in Further Adventures #9–10 (Sept.–Oct. 1983), where Indy ventures to Marrakesh to retrieve the idol stolen from him by rival Belloq at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy’s movie cohort Sallah also joins him for this escapade, as does another new penciler in the form of Dan Reed. Before long, Luke McDonnell would also be enlisted into the crowded art ranks to assist the tardy Gammill.
“Everything that came before my #14 was all Weezie’s fault!” Brown proclaims in mock protest. “Gammill gave us some trouble, forcing us to use several inkers. When it did come my turn [as editor], I had a few setbacks—Luke McDonnell took a penciling assignment and handed it back untouched three weeks later, putting me in a hell of a position. Me and my schedule may never have recovered from that event.”
ANKLING THE PROJECT
Amidst this revolving door of pencilers, writer Michelinie proved to be a stabilizing force, remaining with Further Adventures for almost two years. Coming on the heels of his popular run on Star Wars, Michelinie began his Indy tenure with Further Adventures #4 (Apr. 1983) and later penned the adaptations of both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Sept.–Nov. 1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Aug. 1989). “In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly how I came to get that assignment,” Michelinie says now. “Initially, Further Adventures was edited by Louise [Simonson], who had been my editor on the Star Wars comic. So she may have thought of me through that connection.
“Of course, I’d seen Raiders, several times in fact,” Michelinie says. “And the one element that stood out when coming up with new stories evolving from what was established in the movie was the characters. Indiana Jones himself was terrific, an irresistible combination of heroism and human foibles, a guy who would take on savage tribesmen or Nazi storm troopers—and win—but would cringe at the idea of sharing his cockpit seat with a snake; a guy as comfortable in an Ivy League classroom as he was in a South American jungle. And with such a solid supporting cast as Marion Ravenwood, Marcus Brody, Sallah, and so many others, the possibilities for character-driven stories was enormous.”
Due perhaps to his previous experience on the Star Wars comic, Michelinie had little trouble navigating the licensing concerns involved with Indy, maintaining, “I don’t recall any specific restrictions dictated by Lucasfilm. They pretty much approved what we submitted. Of course, that might have been different if I’d come up with a story about sacred stones being stolen in India and children being kidnapped by a Kali cult!” As for the constantly changing art teams, he observes, “I really don’t know why there was such a variety of artists. Fortunately, the quality of whomever we got for any given issue was generally high. I think having the look of the book change every issue or two could have had an effect on the readership, but more on the collector than the actual reader. I guess this is natural coming from a writer, but my feeling is that consistency in tone and characterization has a bigger impact on whether a reader comes back issue after issue than what the art actually looks like.”
Interestingly, even one of Michelinie’s most memorable collaborations on the series—with guest-artist Howard Chaykin on Further Adventures #6 (June 1983)—was itself the result of a change in guest artists. “I was actually told initially that Alex Toth would be drawing that issue,” Michelinie reveals. “I don’t know why that didn’t pan out, but I was delighted when Howard actually got the assignment. I’d met him at a party way early in my career, when he was already a popular artist and I had just had a couple of House of Mystery stories published. He was gracious and personable, a gentleman, and, of course, I had a great deal of respect for his talent. That’s still one of my favorite issues of the book.”
This same issue also includes a plotting credit for Archie Goodwin, as do several subsequent issues. Michelinie explains that this stemmed from an unrealized Indy project: “Archie had written up a number of short plot concepts for what I believe was to be an Indiana Jones newspaper strip that never happened. When I was given the assignment to write the regular Indy series, Archie graciously offered me these concepts to use if I wanted to. And, being no fool (since Archie Goodwin was one of the best writers comics has been fortunate enough to have), I took him up on that for issues #6, 9 through 10, and 13.”
Alas, #13, wherein Dr. Jones stumbles upon a criminal conspiracy during an archaeology fieldtrip, begat another new artist, Ricardo Villamonte. A young David Mazzucchelli then replaced Villamonte for #14 (Feb. 1984), which sees Indy and Marion contending with a demonically possessed museum archivist. “I believe that the Mazzucchelli pencil job was his first assignment at Marvel,” editor Brown points out. “It was a fill-in, so he had a pre-approved script and could take his time to do it. It had sat in the drawer for a while. This means that it was most likely not his first published work … Mazzucchelli had moved upward and onward by then.”
With Further Adventures #15 (Mar. 1984), the series reached a major turning point in its short history, as Marvel mainstay and famed Incredible Hulk artist Herb Trimpe became the new regular penciler, handpicked by Brown himself. The move soon caused creative friction with Michelinie, though, prompting the writer to do as so many others before him and exit the series. Yet Michelinie continued to be credited for several months thereafter as the series’ plotter. “Jim Owsley’s scripts over my plots were the result of my leaving the book,” Michelinie clarifies. “Those stories were from plots that I didn’t get to script before I (as they say in Daily Variety) ‘ankled the project.’”
THE CARDINAL SIN OF COMICS
Prior to his unhappy exodus, Michelinie did manage to produce some strong stories with Trimpe, including a sea adventure guest-starring Captain Katanga from Raiders, followed by an epic quest spanning the Greek Isles to the Himalayas as Indy tries to uncover whether his mentor, Abner Ravenwood, might still be alive. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end, not only for Michelinie but also in some ways for Eliot Brown, and possibly the series as a whole.
In light of this, Brown displays a truly admirable level of self-deprecating good humor with regard to his unsuccessful turn as editor. “During one editorial meeting,” he describes, “I recall Weezie wanted to give up the book. Shooter looked around and no one else wanted a pain-in-the-neck licensed title, either. For some reason, I shot up my hand and volunteered. I guess I was mindful of Marvel as a so-so licensor—something like Star Trek contributing the negative aspects—and felt that this franchise was rolling along nicely. I couldn’t mess it up with the team in place…
“So there I was, committing the cardinal sin of comics: volunteering,” Brown says. “And editing, no less. But I have to speak of comic-book editing, especially back then. Editing could be as easy as herding the pages around like a ringmaster—occasionally applying a light whip here and there. It was supposed to be! I had spent some time in the [Tom] DeFalco office and saw the pages come trotting in all by themselves, putting a rubber band around themselves and jumping in the drawers! I really hadn’t dealt with the problem children like Indy—as an assistant, I was not really a part of the thought processes Weezie used. I mostly looked at piles of finished pages as a proofreader. Weezie would call upon guys whom she knew had time on their hands, to jump on in the nick of time. That’s how Luke McDonnell penciled with Gammill. With a guy like Michelinie, you didn’t have to help him in any way—he got everything right the first time. In my innocence, I saw the writing as the most difficult part. In thinking back I see now that getting the book done in record time each issue—all because of Lucasfilm’s lateness—was the real difficult part.”
Complicating matters further was the fact that Brown initially hoped to take the series in an entirely new creative direction: “As a new editor I thought I had one prerogative, which was to ‘sweep clean.’ I wanted a fresh start, a new look, and to try to build a team. I wanted to use Herb Trimpe as a writer/penciler/inker. [Herb] personified the very action-oriented character that was Jones. Herb Trimpe was a raw-boned vet who flew his own Stearman biplane! He was an aficionado of the beginnings of the Great Air Age in this country—not just a man after my own tastes, but a chum. I heard some of his crazier ideas and thought they lined up nicely with the whole franchise. When I told this to Michelinie, he took it with a certain good grace and went straight to his buddy Jim Shooter to ask him to intercede between us. I acquiesced, of course, but things were definitely a little cooler between David and myself.”
For his part, Michelinie cites several specific instances provoking his decision to leave the book, arguing that Brown “revered Herb as one of the original Marvel artists. And he basically went way, way out of his way to keep Herb happy. And this came at the expense of my part of the creative process. This started in issue #15, where I had a scene where a female pirate had hijacked Captain Katanga’s ship and was trying to force him to help her. I called for the pirate to slit the throat of one of Katanga’s men. Weeks after the plot was approved, I got a call from the editor saying that Herb refused to draw that scene, because ‘a woman wouldn’t do that.’ And the editor said he agreed, even though he hadn’t had any problem with that scene when he approved the plot. So I had to rewrite the scene to have the female pirate order one of her men to do the killing.”
Michelinie continues, “In the next issue, #16, there was a visual error toward the end of the story [where] two ships were drawn in the wrong positions or some such, making what happened to them later either impossible or illogical. I called the editor, made my point, and he agreed. When the book came out the last two pages looked markedly different from the rest of the book, almost amateurish. When I questioned the editor about it, he admitted that he himself had redrawn the pages—he hadn’t wanted to upset Herb by asking him to do the redraws.
“But the last straw came with issue #17 (May 1984),” Michelinie reveals. “The plot was pretty dense, and I didn’t know if it would fit comfortably into 22 pages. So I indicated that one scene could be cut if there wasn’t room for it. It was a character scene, and would have added depth, but wasn’t essential for telling the story. When I received the first half of the pencils to script, I noticed that that scene had been omitted, so I assumed the artist had felt there was too much story to draw. But when I got the second half of the pencils, I realized there were only 21 pages. When I called the editor I was told that Herb said there wasn’t enough story so he’d drawn a poster page to fill out the 22-page story length. Obviously, the only reason there wasn’t enough story to fill 22 pages was because Herb had eliminated part of that story. Then, a few weeks later when I was scripting issue #18, the second half of that two-parter, I saw the poster Herb had drawn. Was it an action shot, full of danger and thrills, oozing the Indiana Jones adventure vibe? No, it was a shot of two tiny figures of Indy and Marion staring up at biplanes at an air show. As many people know, Herb’s passion at the time was flying biplanes, so he’d cut the character scene so he could draw something he liked to draw.
“The most important thing for anyone working on a comic-book story—writer, artist, editor, colorist, etc.—is the STORY,” contends Michelinie. “And when that story is compromised for self-serving reasons, and that compromise is allowed by the person ostensibly in control, that’s when I walk out the door. Which I did. (Ironically, when issue #17 came out, the poster was absent. Instead there were two pages of letters instead of one. I don’t know why, but I suspect somewhere along the line someone else agreed that the poster wasn’t really Indiana Jones material.)”
Upon hearing Michelinie’s account, Trimpe replies affably, “I’m laughing my ass off. I would never dispute what Dave said, I just never realized I gave anybody that much trouble! It sounds like I’m committing the kind of unprofessional behavior that I normally hate. Damn, I’m almost proud of myself. Only thing I can add is, David has a much better memory than I do, and I’m very sorry he felt compelled to quit. I can’t plead the 5th, but I really don’t remember any of it.” Yet Trimpe does go on to note, “Eliot was a big booster of mine, and I of him. Other than that, it’s hard to believe that an editor was afraid to ask me to make changes, as I was very easy to work with. Too easy according to some.”
Likewise, Brown asserts, “As for Herb changing some of Dave’s plotting, I have no doubt that Herb felt he could improve on something that Dave wrote and did. [But] I also don’t believe that Dave ever spoke to me about that subject or any other—save for mild niceties at encounters in the office. Which was too bad, as I rather enjoyed Michelinie as a raconteur and comics pro… In any event, I was frustrated that I could not exercise my editorial will and just rode it out.”
As it turned out, the ride would be a short one for Brown, whose inexperience as editor finally caught up to him under the perpetual crush of monthly deadlines. “My departure was a demonstration of how removed from office procedure and protocols I was,” he acknowledges. “I had worked with the Marvel Universe gang and learned some bad habits. Getting the book done was the biggie. I realized, like a buffoon, that I had no cover for #20. No matter! I went home, traced an image of Indiana running from the Hovitos from Raiders and returned to the office to lay out the art. Jack Morelli, longtime letterer and close friend, was working late and had a wet pen in hand—he started inking. [So] I thought nothing of attaching a voucher for myself (Jack wished to lay low) and handed in the page. Years later I was informed that that detail was what got me slid out of editorial. I cannot recall doing so, but I must have signed my own voucher—which was the capital offense. I also thought my artwork sucked and that was the real reason at the time.
“An explanation of my relative innocence in this is that many editors did one-offs or entire side-jobs,” Brown asserts. “I was hardly trying to increase my income, as my pencil/ink rate was low in those days. I was trying to get the cover done by the deadline, which was the next morning. There were no emails to help late books—the fastest artist needed some time, and factoring in FedEx would have made it late. I’m trying not to sound too defensive when I say that no one stopped to explain the mechanics of an editor getting paid for their own work to me … there was a bit of ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ here, where the editors would not discuss or engage in such things with Bullpenners.
“Oh, I would see vouchers flying by like confetti at a parade—but not where they were going,” Brown adds. “I later learned the method was to go and ask another editor to assign it to you and have them sign your vouchers; there was a pro-forma approval done by Shooter. I know my experience from the office end was frustrating and ultimately humiliating. I came away knowing no more about editing than when I went in. Whichever way I screwed up the hardest, Shooter, to his credit, was willing to overlook it and give me another try for the New Universe endeavor only about two years later.”
With the more experienced Ralph Macchio stepping into Brown’s vacant position as editor, Indy continued on his adventures under the stewardship of new scripter Linda Grant, who quickly dropped Marion from the supporting cast, while introducing a bevy of colorful female characters for Indy to contend with, including rival archaeologist Jessie Hale, sharpshooter Elizabeth Cody (granddaughter of cowboy Buffalo Bill Cody), big-game hunter Congo Kate Crawford, and professional thief Amanda Knight. At the same time, legendary artist Steve Ditko established himself as the new series penciler following a number of previous guest-stints. “The use of Steve Ditko deserves a mention,” Brown notes. “I must’ve been walking around in a daze after finding out some aspect of my screwing up, and Tom DeFalco [suggested] that Steve could not only use the work but do a bang-up job. Now Steve, it must be said, is a legend for a reason. He took the script and whipped it up as natural as handwriting. The next problem was to have it inked very, very quickly. This is when the old-guard network steps up. Mostly Steve inks his own pencils—but a number of inkers were delighted to help. The names that come to mind are Klaus Janson and Terry Austin. A few others stepped in. The job got done in record time. In retrospect, I wonder now if I had merely continued with Steve as penciler, would I have had the same problems? Seeing how several top inkers jumped through a hoop to work on one or two pages—what would they do for a whole book? Ah, well… I really was younger and stupider than I am now.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
Although Further Adventures succumbed to cancellation after a turbulent three-year run, Michelinie and Brown continued their association with Indy thanks to the comic-book adaptations of the sequel films. “A short number of months after I was booted off Indy,” Brown shares, “I was invited to return to Tom DeFalco’s office to  some movie adaptations. Temple of Doom was one of them—so I was back in the Paramount trenches again! Of fun to note, Tom, David Michelinie, and I got to visit Lucasfilm in order to look through thousands of set stills so as to select images for our artist to do the adaptation. I remember getting word back that Paramount didn’t like the likenesses of Harrison Ford! Butch Guice and I squatted over lap-boards together, him to correct faces … and I did hats! Tom pasted down stats of good likenesses.”
Some five years later, Michelinie reunited with Indy one more time for the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adaptation, which became Marvel’s final Indiana Jones project. “I believe I asked for the assignment as soon as I heard there was a third movie being made,” Michelinie remembers. “I love Indiana Jones, and despite some rough times in the past, the idea of writing another Indy story—even someone else’s Indy story—had tremendous appeal.”
In the years that followed, Dark Horse Comics would acquire the rights to Indiana Jones, along with Star Wars and numerous other licensed properties such as Aliens, Predator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Conan. The sustained success of Dark Horse has keenly demonstrated the lucrative potential of licensed books, which were generally held in lesser esteem during Indy’s days at Marvel. “Licensed properties were indeed a low priority at that time,” Michelinie agrees. “Writers and artists saw much more prestige in working on higher-profile, fan-favorite books. And there was rarely a long line of creative people waiting to get on Thundercats or ROM.”
Brown too recognizes the distinct nature of licensed titles, asserting, “You have to put up with a lot of crap to deal with the licensors—who mostly haven’t got the slightest idea what goes into a comic book. To be sure, licenses were a valuable commodity to the licensor and to Marvel. [But] I think, at base, we didn’t know how to communicate clearly with ‘them’—the licensors. Most adaptations came with a built-in time crunch—the comic would be out at the same time as the movie. The monthly version could not innovate and had a deadly schedule … like a destabilizing nudge to a small boat, if you tried to move the wrong way you continue to destabilize it.”
Perhaps it is for this very reason that Dark Horse has largely confined its Indy projects to a string of self-contained miniseries [see article following]. However, even these limited series fell dormant for more than a decade starting in the late 1990s, as Indiana Jones began fading from the public consciousness, eclipsed by modern-day imitators like Tomb Raider and National Treasure—until 2008, when Dark Horse launched a slew of new Indy titles to coincide with the feature film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
And so the adventures continue for Indy, just as they do for comics collectors. Older, perhaps, in both years and mileage, but still digging up the past, rescuing history one hidden treasure at a time. And who knows? In a thousand years, even this copy of BACK ISSUE might be priceless. To quote from Raiders: “We are merely passing through history. This… this is history.”
MARk DiFRUSCIO is a freelance writer in San Diego. He would like to thank John Byrne, David Michelinie, Eliot R. Brown, and Herb Trimpe for contributing to this article.
BEYOND CAPES: Indiana Jones: Riding a Dark Horse
How the publisher that takes licensed comics seriously revitalized movies’ favorite archaeologist
“How fortunate our failure to kill you, Dr. Jones. You survive to be of service to us once again.”
– Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Having origins based in pulp magazines and action serials, it was inevitable that the adventures of Indiana Jones would find their way onto the comic-book page, starting with the Marvel adaptation of the first movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sept.–Nov. 1981), and—perhaps fittingly— ending with its adaptation of the (then) last movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Oct.–Nov. 1989).
In between, Marvel published The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, an ongoing monthly series that ran for 34 issues (Jan. 1983–Mar. 1986). For publishers like Marvel Comics in the 1980s, comics based on movies were a low priority, but in the 1990s, licensed properties found a new home in the stable of Dark Horse Comics.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
“The major companies had their own characters they owned, so they put their best talent [on those books],” Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson explains. “They weren’t counting on the strength of a particular film property’s box-office performance to account for their sales. We didn’t look at it that way. We wanted to get the best talent that we possibly could get.”
Dark Horse Comics started out in 1986, publishing comics like Boris the Bear and the anthology series Dark Horse Presents. “We received a lot of critical success on our early work, but we seemed to have reached a ceiling as far as how many books we could sell,” Richardson recalls. “We realized that the bestselling books were about longstanding characters that readers were already familiar with, and it occurred to us that maybe taking on movie characters might help with that.” The first Dark Horse licensed comic was a Godzilla, King of the Monsters one-shot (Aug. 1987), which turned out to be successful enough that DHC began looking for more movie properties to license, following with Aliens, Predator, and Terminator.
This continued string of successes gave Dark Hose the confidence to pursue a deal with Lucasfilm. Marvel still held the Star Wars license at that time, but Dark Horse shared with Lucasfilm its own vision and approach about Star Wars, which was very different from Marvel’s. “At the time, Marvel wasn’t putting out many Star Wars comics,” Richardson says, “and I thought we could do a better job. We talked with [Lucasfilm representative] Lucy Wilson and we proposed exactly what we wanted to do, which turned out to be Dark Empire.” This first six-issue Star Wars miniseries (Dec. 1991–Oct. 1992) proved to be another big hit for Dark Horse, so the obvious next step was to go for Indiana Jones. “Raiders has always been one of my very favorite films,” says Richardson.
As with most of its licensed comics, Dark Horse chose to publish Indiana Jones as a series of four-issue story arcs rather than as an ongoing monthly, because it was more difficult to produce monthly comics with a property like Indiana Jones. “Almost every story has a similar type of plot,” Richardson explains. “It’s always Indy finding out about some sort of [artifact] or lost city, fighting against the Nazis, finding something that usually has unexpected consequences, overcoming whatever the situation is that he’s faced with, and then it’s back to teaching [laughs]. So it becomes harder to come up with new ideas on a monthly basis. It’s not like Star Wars, where you have untold numbers of characters in a vast universe. You don’t have to use Luke Skywalker in every Star Wars story, but Indiana Jones is different because it’s about Indiana Jones, and he has a specific pattern that he follows within both the movies and the comics. It’s difficult to keep from becoming formulaic month after month and wearing the character out. But we’re constantly trying to come up with fun, new ideas, and each time we do, we go talk to Lucasfilm and release another comics series.” This may explain why Dark Horse has avoided the conflicts that Marvel seemed to have with Lucasfilm. By not having a monthly deadline to deal with, the creators are able to take their time and come up with a story that meets with the approval of Lucasfilm before releasing each series’ first issue.
FINDING THE LOST EMPIRE
The first Dark Horse Indy series was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis #1–4, (published bimonthly, Mar.–Sept. 1991), written by William Messner-Loebs, Dan Barry, and Mike Richardson; penciled by Barry; and inked by Barry and Karl Kesel. Originally titled “Indiana Jones and the Keys to Atlantis,” the story was based on a videogame released by Lucasfilm Games, written by game designers Hal Barnwood and Noah Falstein. Similar to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, the game allowed players to make decisions at certain points of the story that would decide which direction Indy would take. “We were trying to put [something] together that was consistent with the game,” Richardson explains. “So we had to build a story around [those] elements.”
In an article by Jeffrey Lang in Amazing Heroes #189 (Mar. 1991), Messner-Loebs said, “Parts of the videogame were still under development when I started working on the plot outline.” The late Dan Barry (1923–1997) also said in AH #189, “I tried to insert little bits of Indy Jones humor into the framework of the story, especially in the fight scenes … Also, I felt it was important to get the period details right … The story takes Indy all around the world, so I had to do research on places as diverse as Iceland, Mexico, and Leningrad.”
In 1939, Nazi Colonel Klaus Kerner starts stealing artifacts from a ten-year-old expedition in Iceland, which was Indy’s first dig. Sophia Hapgood was also part of the expedition, so Indy believes she is Kerner’s next target. Indy has lost respect for Sophie since she turned her back on science and became a psychic medium, but Sophie has visions of Atlantis she truly believes are real, especially when she wears an ancient necklace she found on the expedition that connects her with the spirit of high priest Nur-Ab-Sal. Despite their differences, the two agree to work together and head to Iceland. The Nazis are after orichalcum, an all-powerful energy source from Atlantis. At the lost city, Nur-Ab-Sal takes complete possession of Sophie and tells how the gods (apparently extraterrestrials, although never directly stated) founded Atlantis and taught the people how to mine orichalcum for energy. After the gods departed, an undersea volcano caused Atlantis to sink. Realizing that only the gods could save them, Nur-Ab-Sal constructed a machine to re-create them by transforming the people themselves into gods. But the so-called “God Machine” only succeeded in turning the people into horrible mutations, wiping out the Atlantean race. Col. Kerner tries to use the God Machine on himself, only to mutate like the Atlanteans did. The machine explodes, and Indy and Sophie escape just before Atlantis is destroyed. Although one version of the videogame ends with her dying, Sophie proved to be popular enough that she returned in the Thunder in the Orient comics series and the videogame sequel, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (1999).
Dark Horse published The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as an ongoing series (Feb. 1992–Feb. 1993) based on the TV show. Written by Dan Barry, the series ran for 12 issues and adapted the first 12 episodes of the show, with artwork provided by Barry (#1–3, 9–12), Gray Morrow (#4–6), and Gordon Purcell (#7, 8). From 1992 to 1996, Dark Horse also released seven more Indiana Jones comic-book adventures. “Back in those days, [senior editor] Randy Stradley and I would sit down and work out stories that were basically sequels to the films,” Richardson explains. “We’d bring the writers into town and we’d come up with an outline that we liked, and then fit it into the continuity. It wasn’t a situation where any writer just comes in and writes whatever comes into his head, which was always the tradition with comics based on films. They had no real connection to the movies and didn’t advance the stories in any way. We continued the franchise, basically, in comic form.” When it came to working with the various artists, care was taken not to make Indy look too much like the actor who portrayed him. “I think when we try to draw Indy,” Richardson notes, “we don’t try to draw him as Harrison Ford. We try to draw him so he’s basically recognizable as Indy. It’s consistent with Harrison’s look but without using his likeness.”
The next Indiana Jones adventure was serialized in four parts in the Dark Horse Comics anthology series #3–6 (Oct. 1992–Dec. 1993). Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Sea Devil, written and penciled by Gary Gianni, was later collected as a one-shot in September 1994. “The editors seemed to think [it] might receive more attention serialized,” Gianni says. Sea Devil is unique among the Dark Horse Indiana Jones comics—not just because it wasn’t released as a miniseries, but also because the story didn’t follow the same pattern used by both the movies and the comics. Set in 1936, Indy sets sail on the South Pacific in search of a lost temple that was flooded centuries ago but is still believed to exist underwater off the shore of a volcanic island. Eager to find the temple before the volcano can erupt and bury it again, Indy goes diving and discovers giant stone statues, similar to those on Easter Island, inlaid with pearls. Unfortunately, he also discovers a giant octopus—the so-called “Sea Devil”—that guards the temple. Indy makes it to the surface just in time to see the octopus attack the ship and kill most of the crew, but he is rescued by a passing plane piloted by Amelia Earhart, who is on her way to California after leaving from Hawaii to set a record for the first solo flight from to the US mainland. “[Earhart’s] exploit just managed to dovetail into the end of the plot nicely,” Gianni says. “It was a requirement of Lucasfilm to fit Jones into some sort of historical context. Of course, this device was a jumping off place for all sorts of flights of fancy.”
The next miniseries, Indiana Jones: Thunder in the Orient, was the longest, at six issues (Sept.–Dec. 1993, Mar.–April
1994). A sequel to Fate of Atlantis, it was also written and drawn by Dan Barry (except for #6, which was drawn by Dan Spiegle) and featured the return of Sophie Hapgood. In the story, Indy befriends an orphan boy named Khamal and receives a request from Sophie to come to Nepal, where she has discovered scrolls that refer to a “covenant” written by Buddha 500 years before any known Buddhist writings. Buddhism has become divided into many different sects over the years, but the original words of Buddha could reunite them into an unstoppable force. Their quest is made more urgent by a rival Japanese expedition led by General Kyojo, who wants the covenant to rule over Asia. Searching for further clues at a lost city in the Himalayas, our heroes are attacked by barbarians, but Indy scares them off with his gunfire, which the barbarians refer to as “thunder” (hence the series title). In the city, Khamal is mistaken for a god, and when Indy sees a female slave being beaten, Khamal uses his “divine influence” to have her released. To their surprise, the slave girl turns out to be a warlord called the Serpent Lady, who accompanies the group on their quest. While the Serpent Lady’s army battles the Japanese, Indy locates the covenant scrolls in a hidden temple and has to fight Kyojo for them. However, the long-buried scrolls disintegrate upon being exposed to air, and a sudden earthquake splits the ground open. The temple is destroyed, and Indy escapes while Kyojo is killed. Indy realizes the covenant is better gone than in the hands of the Japanese.
The series returned to four issues with Indiana Jones and the Arms of Gold (Feb.–May 1994), written by Lee Marrs and penciled by Leo Durañona. In 1937, Indy meets visiting associate professor Francisca Uribe Del Arco, who receives a package from her missing brother, Felipe, that contains a gold finger. Indy recalls that the mummies of dead Incan rulers were encased in gold armor, and Francisca notes that the golden forearms on the mummy of Pachacuti were said to have the power to reshape stones, which is supposedly how the pyramids were built. They go to Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the Incan Empire (so don’t laugh), where they discover that the Incans’ new ruler is Felipe, who has become obsessed with finding the golden arms and wants Francisca to rule at his side. Indy finds Pachacuti’s burial chamber and removes the mummy’s arms of gold, only to have them taken away by the Incans. Felipe puts them on and tries to use their stone-shifting powers, which results in an earthquake that destroys the chamber. Felipe saves Francisca from a falling statue, only to be crushed himself, and Indy and Francisca barely manage to escape.
Indiana Jones and the Golden Fleece was a two-issue series (June–July 1994), written by Pat McGreal and Dave Rawson, and penciled by Ken Hooper. In 1941, Indy is on an expedition in Greece when the Nazis take over. Indy unearths an ancient blade and has to flee to the nearest town on bicycle, where a pregnant Greek woman named Omphale hides him from the Nazis in exchange for his help in escaping from the country. Along the way, the Cult of Hecate attacks them and takes the blade, which was used to kill a Golden Ram and create the legendary Golden Fleece. Indy and Omphale follow them to the Valley of Hecate, where Omphale suddenly goes into labor, and Indy has to deliver her baby while fighting off the cultists. When Indy offers the child’s purity and innocence to Hecate, the goddess destroys the cultists while the Fleece transforms back to a Golden Ram and ascends into the sky.
Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix (Dec. 1994–Mar. 1995) reunited the team of writer Lee Marrs and artist by Leo Durañona from Arms of Gold. Like Fate of Atlantis, the story was based on a videogame from LucasArts designed by Joe Pinney, Hal Barwood, Bill Stoneham, and Aric Wilmunder. Unlike Fate of Atlantis, the Iron Phoenix game was never released because of distribution problems with Germany due to the depiction of neo-Nazis as the villains. In 1947, Indy is in Berlin to evaluate artifacts at a monastery, and finds an ancient scroll that leads to the Philosopher’s Stone, which can turn metal into gold and bring the dead back to life. The stone has been divided into three parts and Indy must track them all down, only to run afoul of Major Nadia Kirov, a Soviet security agent in charge of evaluating and rescuing artifacts from former fascist territories. Indy tries to warn her of the stone’s power, but Nadia and the stone fall into the hands of the cadaverous looking Dr. Jager, who uses the stone to bring a group of rotting Nazi corpses back to life. Indy disrupts the ceremony and rescues Nadia, causing the pieces of the stone to reunite and destroy Jager along with the undead Nazis.
Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny (Apr.–July 1995) was also planned as a videogame but wound up being reworked into another four-issue series by writer Elaine Lee and artist Dan Spiegle. In 1945, Indy is in Ireland when he receives a letter from his father, who writes that Nazi Colonel Dieterhoffmann is after the Spear of Destiny. Indy and associate Brendan O’Neal meet Henry in Glastonbury, England, where the Spear’s shaft was put into the ground and blossomed into a thorn tree. The Nazis already have the Spear’s tip and are coming for the tree. After several misadventures, the group returns to Ireland, where O’Neal carves a new shaft and attaches a thorn from the tree. When the Nazis find them hiding in a cave, the Spear tip takes on a life of its own and attaches itself to the staff. The reunited Spear flies around, knocking down the cave walls. The Spear’s power proves to be too much for Col. Dieterhoffmann, as blood pours from both him and the Spear, and Indy and friends escape before the cave is destroyed. Months later, Indy is having a drink at O’Neal’s pub and says that the Spear was eventually found by the American government. Suddenly, the TV announces that the US dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, and Indy recalls his father’s words: “It is said that he who claims the Spear and solves its mystery, holds the fate of the world in his hands … for good or for evil!”
PIRATES OF THE SARGASSO
Indiana Jones and the Sargasso Pirates (Dec. 1995– Mar. 1996), written and drawn by Karl Kesel (with Paul Guinan and Eduardo Barreto co-penciling the first and fourth issues respectively), was the last Dark Horse Indiana Jones comic for over a decade. “I have been a fan of Indiana Jones since the first time I saw Raiders,” Kesel says, “partly because I could see a direct connection between Indy and the comic strips from the same time period, but also because I’m a fan of stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, fighting overwhelming odds, and winning.”
Ironically, Kesel’s first published artwork was inking an Indiana Jones sample page penciled by Kerry Gammill in the “New Talent Department” section of Marvel Age #9 (Dec. 1983). “My first [Dark Horse Indy] job was inking Dan Barry … but somehow, that quickly morphed into me writing and drawing my own Indy story.” However, the project was delayed for a long time. “About then, [DC editor] Mike Carlin offered me a job writing Adventures of Superman,” Kesel explains, “to start right after they killed the character! It completely derailed my work on Indy. It was a few years later that [editor] Diana Schutz offered to bring in Ed Barretto to do the art so the book could finally be finished and printed! While I never should have allowed the project to slip that far for that long, in the end, I could not have been happier with the result. After all, the first two covers [were] painted by this new guy that no one had heard of … named Alex Ross.”
In 1939, Indy hires Captain Bill Lawton to take him to an iceberg in the North Atlantic in search of a frozen Viking ship. Lawton has a score to settle with Indy, whom he blames for the loss of his leg. The two become stranded and are rescued by a passing ocean liner, where Indy meets his “brother,” New Jersey Jones—a con artist using Indy’s reputation to sell fake artifacts— and his mysterious female companion, “Cairo.” During a fight between Indy and Lawton, the four wind up going overboard in a lifeboat and are drawn into the Sargasso Sea—a graveyard of lost ships trapped in thick seaweed, which prevents anyone from leaving. The foursome is found by a band of pirates led by the beautiful-but-deadly Sea Witch. Lawton tries to become leader of the pirates by shooting the Sea Witch and blaming Indy. The pirates are about to torture Indy for his “crime” when a fire starts. Meanwhile, Cairo discovers the wounded Sea Witch and nurses her back to health. The fire spreads, burning the seaweed, which causes a U-boat to rise to the surface. The Sea Witch shoots Lawton, and our heroes take the U-boat to America, where Indy tells their story to a Navy admiral, who remarks that it “sounds like something out of a … comic strip!”
Kesel wrote the story (which he calls “one of my favorite assignments of all time”) as a tribute to classic adventure strips like Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates and E. C. Segar’s Popeye. “Sea Witch was an amalgam of [Caniff’s] Dragon Lady and Segar’s Sea Hag,” Kesel notes. “Cairo was my version of Caniff’s Burma. In fact, the sequence where she escapes the authorities at the end was a panel-to-panel ‘homage’ to Burma’s first exit from the Terry strip. Bill Lawton was based on Bull Dawson from Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy with a little of Pegleg Pete from Gottfriedson’s Mickey Mouse strip thrown in. New Jersey was based on Popeye’s Wimpy, [whose] catch phrase was ‘Jones is my name. I’m one of the Jones boys.’ It all fit too perfectly! Even the way the art was drawn was a nod to the classic adventure strips, specifically Roy Crane’s. The strip’s panels have rounded corners, are drawn on duo-shade paper, and occasionally use a thin first panel to recap the action in a newspaper headline style. The [series] was structured and paced as if it was a collection of daily comic strips. Every two tiers of a page is equal to one daily; each double-page spread is three dailies.” As for working with Lucasfilm, Kesel describes the experience as “absolutely wonderful. Lucasfilm had a well-written list of rules all Indy stories had to follow. For instance: All historical facts had to be absolutely correct. At [one point], Indy is rescued at sea by the ocean liner Normandie. Not only did that ocean liner really exist, but I set the story at a time when the ship was actually crossing the Atlantic and could have really rescued Indy! It’s kind of fun to re-read the mini with [all] this in mind. I think it holds up pretty well!”
Decreasing sales led to the cancellation of the next miniseries, Indiana Jones and the Lost Horizon (see page 76). Dark Horse collected the previous comics in two omnibus books, but it would not release another new Indiana Jones comic for 12 years.
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES…
In 2008, Indy was back on the big screen in Lucasfilm’s new movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He was also back on the comic-book pages in the Dark Horse adaptation of the movie by writer John Jackson Miller and artist Luke Ross. Indy also returned in an all-new series titled Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods (June 2008–Mar. 2009), written by Rob Williams and penciled by Steve Scott (with Bart Sears penciling #4). In 1936, Indy is competing with Nazi Col. Von Hassell to find three pieces of an ancient key that leads to “the beginning and the end.” Von Hassell is aided by mercenary/ archaeologist Janice Le Roi, who isn’t a Nazi but is willing to work for them if the price is right. However, once Von Hassell has no further use for her, he quickly turns on Janice, leaving she and Indy for dead. After another narrow escape, they follow Von Hassel to Siberia, where they discover an underground tomb beneath the ice. Von Hassell assembles the key to unlock a huge doorway, which contains a swirling vortex. Von Hassell believes that aliens landed there and left behind a gateway to a new universe of knowledge. Indy destroys the doorway with dynamite, and he and Janice escape as the tomb collapses. This story (which Williams calls “Indy meets Lovecraft”) is the first time science-fiction elements were acknowledged in the Indiana Jones comics (probably because it had just been done in Crystal Skull).
At the same time, Dark Horse released Indiana Jones Adventures, a new series aimed at younger readers. The stories were lighter in tone and the artwork was similar to the popular “animated style.” Only two issues have been released, with #1 (July 2008) written by Philip Gelatt and #2 (Sept. 2009) written by Mark Evanier. Evan Beevers was the artist on both issues. Issue #1 is set in 1930 with Indy in Sweden, seeking ancient Norse scrolls with Dr. Theresa Lawrence from the British Museum. His old enemy, Belloq, wants the scrolls to sell to the Nazis because they have the power to turn ordinary men into monstrous Berserkers. In #2, titled “Curse of the Invincible Ruby,” Indy searches for a magic ruby that supposedly makes its owner invincible and is again opposed by Belloq and his new employer, Ali Bey-Faisel, who is the direct descendant of the ruler that originally possessed the ruby.
THE LAST CRUSADE?
Although Dark Horse doesn’t currently have any new projects scheduled, Indy’s adventures will continue … perhaps when a fifth movie is finally released? “We’re always talking about what the next [Indiana Jones project] will be,” Mike Richardson says. “We’re always trying to come up with a clever new idea.”
DANIEl DeANGELO is a freelance writer/artist in Florida. He would like to thank Michael Eury, TheRaider.com, Mike Richardson, Diana Schutz, Zach Klassen, Gary Gianni, Karl Kesel, and Rob Williams for their assistance with this article.
GREATEST STORIES NEVER TOLD: Indiana Jones Unplugged
Dr. Jones’ dealings with Wilford Brimley and other unseen epics
According to Jeffrey Lang’s article in Amazing Heroes #189, the next Indiana Jones series following Fate of Atlantis was supposed to be written and drawn by Adam Hughes. Promo art was made for a series to be called “Indiana Jones and the Jungle Queen,” while a plot synopsis for a series called “Indiana Jones and the Dance of Death” is posted on TheRaider.net–Indiana Jones Timeline website, which reads: “Indy has a dance with death on an island in the Indian Ocean. During an observation of native worshippers, many of them become ill with an outbreak of the plague. The source of the plague is the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, who is releasing his evils upon the world. Indy fights some zombies and barely escapes an earthquake which hits the area, killing the Horseman.” Whether this was the same series or two different series proposed by Hughes has yet to be ascertained. Adam Hughes could not be reached for comment.
Another proposed series that was never published was Indiana Jones and the Lost Horizon, to be written by Pete Ford and illustrated by Hugh Fleming. In an interview with Paul Shipper on TheRaider.net–Interviews website (Dec. 2002), Fleming explained, “Unfortunately, the series was canned before we could begin because sales on the Indy comics were not that good at the time. The story was set in 1926 and featured Indy and Abner Ravenwood traveling to Tibet, where they eventually recover the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from a Chinese warlord’s treasure trove.” Fleming’s design for Abner was based on the likeness of Cocoon actor Wilford Brimley (inset). “It also would have been fun to play with the idea of Indy as sidekick and protégé to another character,” Fleming continued. “We even intended to write an ‘explanation’ of sorts [as to] why Indy’s attitude [toward] the supernatural is inconsistent between Raiders and Temple of Doom. We were gonna have it that Abner taught Indy to keep a ‘skeptical’ point of view when in professional company. You know, ‘Keep this stuff under your hat; people will think you’re crazy; etc.’ We also had a young Belloq in the opening teaser. It was set on a skyscraper in NYC and the treasure/MacGuffin was a bogus Shroud of Turin.” When asked if the story would ever see print, Fleming replied, “I don’t think I could face the prospect of drawing 96 pages of comics these days.”
Karl Kesel once had an idea for a story that was rejected by Lucasfilm: “I pitched another mini that would open with Indy and a beautiful gal at some ancient temple. Indy is trying to find a way in, while the gal translates the carvings. She says, ‘It seems to be talking about something that happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,’ just as Indy triggers open a hidden door revealing … the Millennium Falcon! Mothballed for God-knows-how-long, but operational. C-3PO and R2-D2 would have been on it, and I imagined some fun dialogue where C-3PO notices an uncanny resemblance between Indy and the previous pilot of the ship. Of course, the Nazis would be out to get the technology, and hi-jinx and high-adventure would follow. But Lucasfilm would have none of it … and maybe rightly so. It’s a very ‘fan’ idea, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been fun!”
Finally, Tomb of the Gods was originally intended to be more than just another four-issue miniseries. Writer Rob Williams explains, “I was working on Star Wars [at the time] and … if I remember correctly, I was accidentally cc’ed in on an email by editorial that mentioned Dark Horse would be doing Indy comics again. I cheekily asked if I could pitch. My editor at the time was Jeremy Barlow. To my surprise, he offered me what was going to be, originally, an Indiana Jones ongoing series. It was going to [be] one miniseries after another, with maybe a month break in between … but, effectively, an ongoing. Dustin Weaver was going to be the artist. I forget exactly what happened, but Dustin eventually couldn't do the series. Steve Scott took over. Then, I started writing and Jeremy left Dark Horse to go freelance. A new editor came onboard and I finished writing the series, but Dark Horse—for reasons [that] were never actually told to me—didn't want to continue publishing Indy comics. I suspect sales weren’t what they were hoping for, and the reaction to Crystal Skull in general was quite underwhelming. It was a real shame. It seemed like such a great opportunity. I know we talked about creating a real nemesis for Indy in Von Hassell, the Nazi archaeologist, and the Ahnenerbe, the ancestral heritage branch of the S.S. dedicated to Aryan archaeology. Janice Le Roi was going to be an ongoing character [as] a real sassy foil to Jones. I was enormously excited about it, but it all kind of drifted away.”