Gen. Kripps addresses M.A.R.S. Patrol. Artist: Wallace Wood.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Gold Key Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creator: Wallace Wood (artist)
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Aside from its many licensed titles, such as Uncle Scrooge, Woody Woodpecker and Looney Tunes, Gold Key Comics

continued below

… produced some very memorable ones of its own, including Mighty Samson, Doctor Solar and O.G. Whiz. But M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War was not one of them — despite its favorable reception at the time, relatively few people remember it today.

The first issue of Total War (as the comic was originally titled) was dated July, 1965, and attracted some fan attention because it was drawn by Wallace Wood (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, EC Comics). The basic premise was that an unidentified invader suddenly attacked every country on Earth, from all directions at once. It didn't operate under any known flag, but used a distinctive crab-shaped insignia. Nor were the individual soldiers identifiable by any nationality. Without any apparent origin, they became known as "baldies" or "skinheads", because of their total lack of hair.

Naturally, all the military forces in the world were suddenly on the same side. But the series focused on one small team, the Marine Attack Rescue Service (M.A.R.S.), under the command of American General Kripps. The four protagonists of the series (American, and racially mixed to draw attention to the universality of the threat) were Lt. Cy Adams (field commander), Sgt. Joe Striker (paratrooper), Sgt. Ken Hiro (sea warfare specialist) and Sgt. Russ Stacey (weapons designer).

It was strongly implied, even at the beginning, that the invaders were space aliens; and this was confirmed as the series wore on. Their place of origin was never established — in fact, it was seldom possible to track them even to their Earth bases, as they seemed to materialize out of nowhere through teleportation.

With the third issue, the title was changed to M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War, with the last two words reduced to almost a footnote in the logo. That was also the last one Wood illustrated. Later issues were drawn by Jack Sparling (Secret Six; Naza, Stone Age Warrior), Dan Spiegle (Space Family Robinson, Crossfire and more), and other artists. The final issue was #10 (August, 1969).

After that, it was pretty much forgotten. Decades later, when Valiant Comics licensed Magnus, Turok and other Gold Key properties, M.A.R.S. Patrol was not included.

In its day, it was well enough received to have won a 1966 Alley Award (named after one of comics' early adventure heroes) in the category "Best Normal (i.e., non-superhero) Group Title". But nowadays, very few people even remember the Alley Awards.


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