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average writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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Tales of the Armorkins
Only Printing / December 1971 / 36 pages / Company and Sons
Before Larry Todd launched his signature Dr. Atomic series in 1972, he produced his first solo book courtesy of Company and Sons. Tales of the Armorkins features a couple short stories and one 28-page adventure called "Prisoners of Love" that is about the Armorkins, who are mutant lizard-type creatures as illustrated on the front cover. The Armorkins are being held prisoner on a foreign planet but they begin their escape in the first few pages of the story, which is essentially about their prison break. The "Love" in the title of the story is a reference to Brother Lee Love, the warden of the prison.

The back story of the Armorkins is revealed gradually throughout their adventure, though there's no exposition that explains it entirely. Eventually I pieced together that they were from the planet Armorkong and were being held prisoner along with many other humans and mutants in the Crab-Crap Crater Prison. How they all arrived at Crab-Crap and why they were prisoners is never revealed, but it all appears to be part of some intergalactic, interspecies war. Some of the prisoners' space ships appear to have crash landed on the planet, but the Armorkins space ship (the Armorkar) is fully intact and being held inside the prison's spaceport.

Three Armorkins are the central protagonists to the story, though they encounter multiple fellow (non-Armorkin) prisoners during their escape who work as slaves in a mining operation. The Armorkin trio's goal is to steal the keys to their Armorkar ship and fly to freedom, but there are several complications along the way, including being hunted down by prison guards (who aren't ideal for the job of guarding anything since their skulls are broken as easily as egg shells).

One of the Armorkins talks with fractured syntax that mixes the subject, verb and object of his sentences, much like Yoda from Star Wars only even more severe (I swear George Lucas must have read a lot of undergrounds before creating Star Wars…there are several ideas that seem to have come specifically from underground comics, and it's known that Lucas leveraged comic-book ideas for Star Wars).

Larry Todd crafts a solid adventure with a satisfying climax in "Prisoners of Love," and though it seems a bit muddled on first reading, it becomes fairly lucid on subsequent readings (perhaps my brain is the root cause for any perception of muddledness). It's certainly not a story you can skim through and have any chance of comprehending. Todd's illustrations, at the age of 25, are quite accomplished as he demonstrates a firm grip on anatomical details and facial expressions.

I'm not sure if "Prisoners of Love" is intended as an allegory of the Vietnam War, as the Armorkins helmets and physical appearance seem reminiscent of stereotypical renderings of Vietnamese people, and there is a reference to "Charlie" (US military slang for enemy forces in North Vietnam). Given how central the Vietnam War was in counterculture politics in 1971, I wouldn't be surprised Todd intended the story to serve as some sort of allegory, but if so I still don't know what the moral of the story is supposed to be.

It actually seems more likely that "Prisoners of Love" is not a direct allegory of the Vietnam War but a simple prison break adventure that satirizes the prison system, hyper-authoritarian wardens, and the feelings of oppression felt by members of the counterculture. The other two stories (a two-pager split on the inside front and back covers; and a four-pager at the end of the book) are essentially filler material, though they are crafted with consummate care by Todd.

Tales of the Armorkins is one of those comic books easily overlooked, but you should take advantage of its relatively cheap collectible price and pick it up. Give it a read, and then give it another read. By the second or third read, you should begin to appreciate the little gem of a story Larry Todd has produced.

The back cover art by Trina Robbins bears a mention as well (see lightbox in right column), and is reason enough to fork over the paltry sum to purchase this book. The real tragedy of Robbins' exquisite promotion of Tragedies of the Opium Traffic was that a comic book based on "the shocking death of Chicago's 'coke' king," and "young girls lured into tragic addiction" was never actually produced. At least we have Robbins' lurid illustration to help us ponder the possibilities.
Company and Sons printed approximately 20,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.

Larry Todd - 1-35
Trina Robbins - 36