Atlas: Iron Jaw

Story: "The Wolf-Cowled Head-Hunters of Amun-Rak" in Iron Jaw #3 (May 1975)
Creative team: Michael Fleisher and Pablo Marcos (Alan Kupperberg is on lettering)
Altas' analog for: Conan the Barbarian

Like I said last week, Iron Jaw #3 is the first Atlas comic I ever saw in the wild. It has a striking cover that suggest a completely different title from what they went with. Iron Jaw is ripped, and even more disfigured than Jonah Hex. You're hoping he uses those metal chompers to take a bite out of someone. Oh, and a unicorn (his mount) throwing a crocodile guy about. I'm not a big fantasy guy, but it looks really cool. Truthfully, Marcos' interior art doesn't disappoint either.
"Wherever he goes, death follows. For his is not a story of shining heroism, but a hideous saga of survival." Wow, okay. Our man Iron Jaw is returning home after a year-long journey to find gold and women. He longs to share adventures with a band of robbers and to pay homage to the god in the Great Machine. Only one person knows he's returning or else the sheriff's men would use his carcass for target practice.
Alright. We're immediately thrown into a world that tries to out-Conan Conan. Not a hero. Violence at every turn. Not shy about showing it. Fleisher does a good job of evoking strange cultures divorced from our own anthropological knowledge, but also familiar enough not to alienate. Iron Jaw hopes the robber did not cry out in pain, for example, because he would then have been denied wine and women in the Great Valley of the after-life. He takes him down from the tree when the sheriff's men indeed DO show up.
Nice flechette guns, but they're no match for a super-barbarian who apparently notches multiple arrows in a single combat round. Still, there are a lot of them so when the bandit leader Tar-Lok shows up and offers to help for 600 gold sovereigns, it's something to think about.
They agree on 450 and the few surviving sheriff's men are routed. Tar-Lok freely admits he sold Iron Jaw out to these same men to make his homecoming more interesting... and lucrative. They have  good laugh about it. After all, it was Tar-Lok who found him as a baby and raised him. Which doesn't seem to bring us any closer to the the cover's crocs. After a night of revels, the bandits climb a craggy cliff to pay tribute to the Great Machine, paying their way into the Great Valley with a share of their booty (as much as half!), Tar-Lok is incensed that they're all being taken in by the priest who he calls a con man. That night, the priest visits the village of headhunters (who dress like big lizards) and pays them to get rid of his problem. Because others may follow their leader into heresy. And Tar-Lok is indeed captured, his head to be shrunk as soon as possible. A believer through and through, Iron Jaw blames the "troubles" on the wrath of his god, and goes off alone to free his "father."
That's one crocodile headdress secured... So, how much for a rescue? How about 650 gold sovereigns? And this time, Tar-Lok is in no position to negotiate. As soon as he's out, the old outlaw belts out a war cry that draws all the headhunters to their location. So: Action.
We need more unicorn up in here, so I will allow for a man with metal jaws and no lips to somehow whistle for his mount.
Oh gosh. As the barbarians gallop away, Iron Jaw asks Tar-Lok why he let out that yell? "To make you earn those 650 sovereigns." They laugh about it all the way back to camp.

So the verdict? I've decided to go for two possible ratings on these Atlas reviews. Either Titanic or Shrug. There is no middle ground. This one?

And that means I liked it, for the record. Atlas had another fantasy book, Wulf the Barbarian, but the hero just isn't as distinctive. Iron Jaw has a memorable look, and this story, at least, is a lot of fun. Of course, the series as a whole isn't necessarily of a piece with this one. The first issue has Mike Sekowski art and Iron Jaw looking like he's just missing the lower jaw. The fourth issue is written by Gary Friedrich rather than Fleisher, so mileage may vary. #3, at least, was a winner.

So how long did the series last? 4 issues
How did it end? Promising a story called "The Sword and the Sorceress".


Dick McGee said…
Amusingly over the top, like an edgy 90s book that arrived before its time. Still think I prefer DC's Claw the Unconquered as Conan knock-offs go, but this guy's a close second.