The Medusa Chain and Ax

By Ernie Colón (DC Comics) (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-93028-900-3(TPB Medusa Chain) 978-0-87135-490-7(TPB Ax)

Born in Puerto Rico on July 13th 1931, Ernie Colón Sierra was a tremendously undervalued and unsung maestro of the American comics industry whose work has been seen by generations of readers. Whether as artist, writer, colourist or editor his contributions have affected the youngest of comics consumers (Monster in My Pocket, Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost for Harvey Comics and his similar work on Marvel’s Star Comics imprint) to the most sophisticated connoisseur with strips such as sci fi classic Star Hawks.

His catalogue of “straight” comic-book work includes Battlestar Galactica, Damage Control and Doom 2099 for Marvel, Vampirella, Grim Ghost for Atlas/Seaboard, the fabulous Arak, Son of Thunder, I… Vampire, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, an Airboy revival for Eclipse, Magnus: Robot Fighter for Valiant and so very many others. He was a master of many trades and served as an innovative editor as well.

Amongst his vast output, there were also his sophisticated experimental works such as indie thriller Manimal, and the brace of seminal genre graphic novels I’m urging you to track down today.

In 2006 with long-time Harvey Comics/Star Comics collaborator Sid Jacobson, he created a graphic novel based on government Commission findings entitled The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. In August 2008, they released a 160-page follow-up: After 9/11: America’s War on Terror, Che: a Graphic Biography and Vlad the Impaler. In 2010 they released Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography and created in 2014 with Gary Mishkin The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination.

Even while diligently hard at work on newspaper strip SpyCat – which appeared in Weekly World News from 2005 until his death – he sought other challenges, such as historical works A Spy for General Washington – an account of Revolutionary War secret agent Robert Townsend – and The Great American Documents: Volume 1, both collaborations with his author wife Ruth Ashby.

He put his pen down forever on August 8th 2019…

The Medusa Chain
During the first wave of experimental creativity that gripped the 1980s comics business Colón crafted this (even lettering and colouring it himself) science fiction thriller through DC’s pioneering, oversized Graphic Novels line.

Intriguing, complex and multi-layered, it’s the gritty tale of Chon Adams, a star-ship officer convicted of a dreadful crime, and subsequently sentenced to a lifetime of penal servitude on a deep-space space cargo ship. It’s also about how he finds a kind of fulfilment in a situation most would describe as a living hell…

Powerfully flavoured by Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger!) by way of noir prison/chain-gang movies like George W. Hill’s The Big House, this is a fascinating tale-within-a-tale as Chon’s “crime” is gradually revealed whilst he endures and survives against unbelievable odds in the depths of infinity gaining unlikely allies and a grain of self-respect…

Graphic, uncompromising and thoroughly compelling, this classy tale careens from cynical depths of human depravity to heights of glorious high fantasy with ease: a true lost gem of that bold comics boom, and a cracking read for any older SF fan.
And the one good thing – for you – about Colon’s inexplicable – but relative – obscurity is that copies of this gem – and well his later Marvel graphic novel Ax (see below) are still readily available through internet retailers at ridiculously low prices. Definitely one you really, really want…

Ax – (A Marvel Graphic Novel)
Four years later, Colón was still riding that creative wave. As fantasy gradually replaced science fiction as the public’s preferred genre, he repeated his one-man-band show with a captivating thriller released through Marvel’s oversized Graphic Novels line – and this time he got to own the fruits of his labours.

Intriguing, complex and multi-layered, it is the parable of Ax: a young peasant boy who seems to his Feudal overlord to have all the trappings of a new messiah. However, all is not as it seems. Many eyes are watching the boy and not all of them are from the same level of reality…

Blending social commentary, Apocalyptic dystopian futurism and traditional sword-and-sorcery with fierce intensity and stunning visuals, and devised in the manner of Moebius’ Airtight Garage, this is yet another lost gem that couldn’t find an audience on its release, but at least it’s readily available through many online retailers and deserves another shot.
The Medusa Chain © 1984 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. Ax © 1988 Ernie Colón. All rights reserved.