My Misspent Youth — Raiders of the Lost Ark by Walt Simonson and John Buscema

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was released into theaters less than two weeks after my eleventh birthday. That should have made me an ideal member of the film’s target audience, ready to scrape together whatever nickels I had to plop myself down front row center to see this zingy adventure story, practically constructed out of goods mystically extracted from the hive mind of American boys who knew more about the world from comics and movies than any actual ventures into the woolly world.

The significant impediment I faced was a home located a significant distance from any theater and a dearth of adults who were interested in taking me to the movies. Although I was eager to meet Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. (whose given name was “Indiana,” given to him by him), I sadly knew it would take an extensive amount of cajoling before I would ever have a ticket stub in hand. So my introduction to the thrills and spills of Steven Spielberg’s masterwork happened via an entirely different format than the flickering beauty of a wide screen.

Raiders boulder

In 1981, Marvel Comics highly valued their relationship with Raiders of the Lost Ark producer and co-writer George Lucas. By all accounts, the licensed ongoing Star Wars comic book series had saved the publisher from going under in the mid-nineteen-seventies. (Imagine the drastic difference in the current cinematic landscape had the various Marvel titles gone the way of E-Man and Doomsday + 1 four decades ago.) So any new film project spotted by his fingerprints was something Marvel wanted to quickly bring into their stable.

Written by Walt Simonson and penciled by Marvel legend John Buscema (with highly distinctive inks by Klaus Janson), the adaption of Raiders got the same oversized “Special Edition” treatment of other transposed film properties. It also made its way to spinner racks as a monthly comic book. This wasn’t an entirely unique situation. Other film adaptations were similarly multi-purposed. But it felt a little different seeing Indiana Jones in his own Marvel corner box, as if there were a new hope for an ongoing periodical to help supplement the coffers, further ensuring the continued presence of merry mutants and cosmic-irradiated heroes. Spread across three issues, the series had the interesting challenge of finding the optimum cliffhangers in a story that happily indulged in placing characters in nearly inescapable threatening situations with the regularity of the old serials that inspired it.

Raiders cliffhanger

Before I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark repeatedly, I read it with similarly inexhaustible zeal. Like all my favorite comics of the era, it wasn’t preserved with delicacy and care. Instead, it was worn to near tatters. By the time I was through with it, it felt like it was printed on homemade paper.

Of course, my war of attrition eventually yielded results, and I sat in a showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark before the summer was up. As I’ve shared previously, the movie was momentous for me, for all sorts of reasons. And even though I was seeing it for the first time, it had the happy comfort of the familiar. Thanks to my visits to the newsstand, it was like I was already revisiting moviedom’s most famous archeologist.

raiders snake

Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.