"Hunter 2" was an interesting follow-up series to "Hunter," and it continued events on the Hunter Timeline, an important locale within the greater Warrenverse. It featured a totally different character taking up the role of Hunter, in this case a young fully human warrior named Karas, who now faced a new, artificially bred race of mutants who preyed upon humanity, this time on the behest of evil wizards.
While the first "Hunter" series was entirely a tale in the dystopian future sci-fi mold with no true magickal elements, and borrowing much from the lone warrior theme evident in various westerns and samurai films (including "Pale Rider"), this new series deftly combined science and mysticism, adding magick to the Hunter Timeline and presenting a landscape that somewhat resembled what we saw on Middle Earth in the LORD OF THE RINGS series (this inspiration was even more prominent in the stand-alone Hunter story that later appeared in EERIE #101). This story also featured one of the Exterminator cyborgs in a major role, these cyborgs having a prominent role on the Hunter Timeline in addition to the more 'mainstream' Warrenverse, as well as several other time tracks branching off from various points in the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], from which the Warrenverse is a component of.
Paul Neary returned to draw the series, and this time Budd Lewis scripted both the series and the stand-alone Hunter 2 story from EERIE #101. He molded the series much more in the vein of a fantasy set in the Dungeons and Dragons mythology with a degree of advanced science thrown into the mix rather than something akin to a spaghetti western. Karas Hunter's saga in no way mirrored Demian Hunter's story, and "Hunter 2" managed to become one of the most fondly remembered series that was published by Warren. Karas Hunter was somewhat similar to the various barbarian characters published by Marvel and DC during this time, but he appeared in EERIE during an era in which Warren stuck to mostly horror-oriented characters and stories, rather than those culled from fantasy (though Warren had dabbled in the sword and sorcery genre with their popular "Dax the Warrior" series). It's a shame that this series was never collected in one of the EERIE annuals as was the first "Hunter" series, and though it wasn't without its imperfections and plot deficiencies, it was a terrific offering from Budd Lewis, one of the top writers at Warren from the 1970s into the early '80s.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
Twenty years after Demian Hunter's demise in an alternate future [The Hunter Timeline; see Time Frame below], after the last of the mutants (Ophal) was destroyed, the Earth has since come under a degree of control by the White Council, a group of scientists and wizards. Recently, however, rumors of a group of short humanoid creatures with a savagely brutal disposition and wielding daggers and other weapons (referred to as 'goblins' by those who have seen them), who attack and slaughter helpless human beings, have been reported. These rumors were relayed to one of the members of the White Council, a man called Mandragora.
When a messenger from the White Council named Browne Loe traveled to Mandragora's home, his companion was attacked and seriously wounded en route by one of the goblins. Loe himself barely managed to escape, though he received wounds in the process.
In the meantime, Mandragora was telling his adopted son Karas the story of the Phoenix, the legendary bird-like creature who was consumed in flames by its own over-consumption of knowledge after learning everything there was possible to learn in the world, only to rise up from the ashes as a small white worm, to eventually grow into another bird, more beautiful than the first, but now bereft of all wisdom and knowledge, which it had to re-learn from scratch (the real-life myth of the Phoenix became a metaphor for what the Earth had gone through following the Demon Wars in which human had battled mutant for dominion of the planet, and the tale of the Phoenix was a central inspirational theme and personal symbol for Karas Hunter; see below).
After concluding Karas's educational lesson for the day, Mandragora sent his son on horseback to check for the travelers who were expected, since they were overdue. Upon doing so, Karas discovered the injured Browne Loe, and took him back to their home to have his wounds tended to. It was there that Karas learned from his father about an allegedly new race of mutants who were attacking human beings. Karas was incredulous, since he was aware that the last of the demons had been slain two decades previous.
Mandragora then explained a complex situation to his son. Months earlier, in the course of his alchemical studies, Mandragora-with studies backed up from other members of the White Council-learned that the Earth was fated to die at a certain point in the near-future. The plan to avert this monumental disaster was for the council to get together and cast the largest and most powerful spell of psychic energy ever initiated, for the purpose of causing the Earth to cease its rotation for exactly one minute just before the Earth was fated to die [wouldn't this have dire repercussions on the Earth's gravity? I am presuming that the council planned for this contingency]. This would result in the planet being suspended in time for 60 seconds, while the 'time shell' in which it existed, and in which the astrological probability held sway, would continue to move ahead of the planet itself, thus sparing the Earth the fated astrological moment in which it was fated to die.
It was then that Karas revealed how he came to be adopted by Mandragora. About twenty years earlier, when he was but a little boy, he lived in a peaceful village (see Comments below) when the entire community was attacked and butchered by a group of mutants, in which all of the women (including Karas's mother) were captured and raped. Karas was the sole survivor of this massacre, and he was taken and raised by Mandragora, where he received not only a good education but was now skilled in the art of the warrior (it wasn't shown how Karas learned his formidable warrior skills, but presumably the White Council utilized ex-members of the now dissolved U.S. military to train him in hand-to-hand combat and the use of various primitive weapons, including swords, axes, daggers, and even nunchukas). When Mandragora mentioned that he wasn't certain how this new crop of mutants came to be or how they fit into the impending doom of the planet, Karas resolved to avenge the deaths of his town, including those of his biological parents, by capturing a goblin for questioning.
Upon riding out into the evening, Karas came across a party of four mutants cooking and feasting upon the remains of a human being (probably from Browne Loe's messenger troop). The angered young warrior initiated a surprise attack on the goblin contingent, slaying three of them and capturing the fourth.
It was following this battle with the mutants that Karas remembered a man who was directly responsible for his survival back in his village all those years ago…the super-soldier named Demian Hunter.
After questioning the mutant and compelling him to talk, Mandragora learned that these 'goblins' were members of the Ouphe, warlike mutants bred as warrior servants of an evil sorcerer scientist named Yaust. Dwelling in "an impregnable stronghold of his own devise in the Eastmost mountains," Yaust had come upon a way to both survive the impending doom of the planet and to rule what was left over afterwards. Using his mutant hordes, he had captured numerous humans as slave labor. He had come up with a way to use his magicks to insure the survival of his own kingdom only, and after the rest of the planet died he would use his goblin hordes to take over the planet on his behalf and his human slaves to continue to breed more slave labor for himself. Since Yaust wanted the Earth to die and was planning to use his goblins to prevent the White Council to use their magick in the aforementioned elaborate plan to spare the Earth of its pre-ordained destruction, someone would have to stop Yaust and his plans. Karas said that he would be that man.
Hearing this, Mandragora presented his son with Demian Hunter's helmet, which he found long ago marking Hunter's grave and which he re-painted with the symbol of the Phoenix. He then said, "The one they called Demian Hunter was born of tragedy…and sadly made his mission a quest of hate.
"Thus I charge you, Karas…Hunter! Be upon your mission to save the Earth…in the name of love. For all mankind." [Note: For the full skinny on Demian Hunter, see my index to EERIE's "Hunter" series elsewhere on this site.]
After Mandragora reminded his son that present humanity represented the white worm of the resuscitated Phoenix, ready to rise again and seek all of their lost knowledge anew, Karas Hunter set out to find and neutralize the evil Yaust to insure that humanity had that future of renewed knowledge and prosperity.
Comments: This first tale of Karas Hunter was well crafted by top Warren scripter Budd Lewis, and he did much to make Karas considerably more than a mere clone of Demian Hunter. He also made the dystopic landscape one of greater hope than what we saw in the "Hunter" series, with just as much violence but with an important metaphorical theme that promised the readers that humanity would rise to prominence once more. The new race of mutants didn't seem as terrifying as the original, but they were still quite dangerous. Karas Hunter's mission was similar enough to Demian Hunter's to be a worthy sequel to the original series, but simultaneously different enough to stand on its own.
Paul Neary returned as the artist for this sequel series to "Hunter," and he adapted his style to the somewhat different tone of this series quite well.
The Ouphe, the 'goblins' who were bred by Yaust, differed from the 'demons' of the "Hunter" series in appearance. Though they did possess skin a different color than that of humans (a sort of dark olive green) it didn't appear to be reptilian in nature as was that of the original mutants. They also had tails (some of the mutants of Demian Hunter's era had tails, but they seemed reptilian, whereas the mutants of Karas Hunter's time appeared to be entirely mammalian).
In this story, Karas Hunter mentions that he was born in the peaceful human village of Pharmark Phal, which appeared in the Hunter story in EERIE #55, also written by Budd Lewis. In that story, author Lewis gave us the fate of that village described by Karas in this tale. However, in the (later published) Exterminator story in 1994 #19, we actually see the rescue of Karas by Demian Hunter (along with the cyborg Exterminator Corben Steele), and it was a different incident than the one which brought Demian Hunter to Pharmark Phal. Hence, it can be inferred that while it is true that Demian Hunter was responsible for saving the very young Karas and putting him into the able hands of Mandragora to raise, the village in which this occurred was not Pharmark Phal. Or, perhaps Pharmark Phal was not actually the name of the village that Demian Hunter journeyed to in EERIE #55, and saying that it was represented an error in translation by author Lewis.
In the two decades since the "Hunter" series, it appears that the White Council and others had brought back magick as a prominent force on the Earth, something that was visibly absent in Demian Hunter's time. These wizards seemed to practice magick as a form of science, and combined it with traditional forms of science whenever possible, including the use of alchemy, which combined chemistry-and sometimes biochemistry-with magick.
WNU Connections: During many future time tracks of the WNU, including the Star Trek/Legion future and the Non-Trek Timeline (where the "Alien" film franchise and other movies, such as the two Riddick films, occur), it seemed that magick was all but eliminated from the planet in favor of advanced science. At this point in the Hunter Timeline, it appears that magick was brought back in a major way, even though the use of remnants of both simple and advanced science continued. This is why the tone of the "Hunter 2" series differed in some ways from the previous "Hunter" series, where magick wasn't seen.
Since Karas Hunter was clearly a denizen of the same timeline in which Demian Hunter existed (even wearing his helmet), a fact that was explained in this story, Karas is a member of the WNU, specifically on the alternate future time track known as the Hunter Timeline. He briefly crossed over with Vampirella, the Rook, and other Warrenverse characters (including Demian Hunter) in the Vampirella and the Time Force story from EERIE #130.
Time Frame: The title of this series set the time period as 2394 A.D., thus placing it in the late 24th century. As I explained in detail in my indexes to "Hunter," "Vampirella and the Time Force," and "Exterminator One," this is very unlikely given events that occurred in the "Schreck" series, which seem to have occurred several decades before the "Hunter" series, during the early 21st century. An elderly Derek Schreck crossed over with Demian Hunter, meaning that his series couldn't have occurred a century after the "Schreck" series. Demian Hunter's time period was set in the first decade of the 23rd century in EERIE #130, which would place it almost two centuries before the "Hunter 2" series, not a mere two decades as explained in this story. The Warren writers never seemed entirely certain of when they expected the various series in the Hunter Timeline to take place, and probably weren't overly concerned, either. Since it's my job as a creative mythographer to sort this out, it's my personal conjecture, based upon all of the available evidence, that this series took place in the year 2128 on the Hunter Timeline, 20 years after the final story in the "Hunter" series.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
While heading towards the Eastern mountains to Yaust's castle, Karas Hunter blundered into a trap set by three goblins. The young Hunter battled them, but they soon overwhelmed him, and after receiving a painful head injury, Hunter fled the area, attempting to hide. The mutants quickly found him again, however, and as he fought them anew (and slew one of them) his life was saved when the other two were taken out by bullets from behind.
Hunter's savior turned out to be the last of the Exterminator cyborgs [see Comments below]. When the Exterminator demanded an explanation for Hunter's presence there, the young warrior attacked him but was easily bested by the cyborg's bionic strength. The cyborg then explained that he followed Hunter from a distance away, curious as to what his purpose was, and he saved him when he came under assault from the goblins. As the last of the Exterminator Force on this timeline, the cyborg has now dedicated his artificial life to destroying this newest race of mutants (as was revealed in the Exterminator story in 1994 #19, the Exterminators on the Hunter Timeline were created exclusively for the purpose of battling the original mutants during the Demon Wars…the description of the Exterminator cyborgs being created to eliminate imperfect humans as seen in the "Exterminator One" series, and as told to Karas Hunter in this story, was incorrect, as the Exterminator Force of the Hunter Timeline was created for a different purpose than the Exterminator Force on the 'mainstream' Warrenverse and WNU). Hunter then explained his own purpose to his new cyborg ally, including the Time-Shell Theory that Mandragora was now in the process of uniting the rest of the White Council to perform in the hopes of saving the Earth from its pre-destined doom.
Seeing that Hunter was skilled yet inexperienced, the Exterminator cyborg decided to travel with him to Yaust's fortress to halt his machinations. As they were wading through a stream, the Exterminator was suddenly hit by an exploding shell from a high-powered gun, fired by a small group of goblins atop a nearby hill. As the cyborg lay in the water crippled from the shell, Hunter ran about dodging further blasts, trying to locate the mutants. When he finally did, he attacked the goblins and slew three of them, and as one was about to skewer him from behind, the Exterminator saved him again with a final shot before he sank beneath the water, seemingly dead.
Hunter was greatly disparaged by his performance against the goblins, believing that the Exterminator was the last true hero on Earth, and that he himself was nothing in comparison. Hunter then fell into a state of depression, convinced that Earth's last hope had died with the Exterminator.
Comments: As noted in the synopsis above, the Exterminator cyborgs seem to exist on many different time tracks in the WNU, and they have appeared in many Warrenverse stories. It would seem that different Exterminator Forces were created at different points in time on the various timelines, and for different purposes. See the "Exterminator One" index elsewhere on this site for much info on the Exterminator cyborgs (some of which were actually robots). When Budd Lewis wrote this story, the specific origin for the Exterminator Force on the Hunter Timeline that appeared years later in 1994 #19 had not yet been conceived, so it was presumed here that the Exterminators were created for the same reason on this timeline as they were on the 'mainstream' Warrenverse and WNU (the former being an important sub-section of the latter).
The identity of this Exterminator cyborg-the last on the Hunter Timeline-was not revealed.
Author Budd Lewis did a good job in this story of distinguishing Karas Hunter from Demian Hunter…unlike the latter, who was self-assured and experienced, the former was a rookie in the hero game, and it showed in this tale. The struggle for Karas Hunter to become a hero along the lines of Demian Hunter was a highlight of this series, and it kept the two characters from being too much alike.
It should perhaps be noted that the goblins from the "Hunter 2" series had no connection whatsoever to the Warren hero known as the Goblin (who was introduced in EERIE #71, and later received his own mag), despite the fact that the title of this story was printed in a similar font to the title logo of the heroic Goblin.
This issue of EERIE featured a beautiful cover rendition of Karas Hunter battling a group of goblins in full color, courtesy of the legendary Warren artist Ken Kelly. This was the first of three covers that Hunter 2 would receive.
Time Frame: This story occurs about a day to a few days after the previous story ended.
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
After Hunter learned that the Exterminator was not destroyed in the stream but merely toppled, the former tried in vain to turn over his three thousand pound ally so as to enable him to escape from being ensconced in the mud. Just when the cyborg told his friend that it would take a dozen men to turn him over, Hunter noticed that suddenly [as if on cue] a dozen men were suddenly standing behind him. However, these men didn't seem friendly…finding the dead goblins, along with their gun and a mysterious bunker, behind them, they mistook Hunter for a goblin and the Exterminator for some type of goblin device [didn't they notice that Hunter didn't have dark olive green skin? Not very observant, are they?]. However, just before the injured Exterminator suffered a power loss, he mentioned one code word to the men… "moontaint" (this went all the way back to the days of Derek Schreck's youth, when the mutants were created as a result of atomic explosions on the moon, thus causing them to become psychosomatic "werewolves" whenever the moon was full…see the upcoming index to "Schreck" elsewhere on this site). The leader of the men, an old warrior named Echo, recognized this word, and he then realized that the Exterminator was actually a killer of goblins (on the other hand, he punched Hunter out when the latter got sarcastic with him).
Barely able to speak due to his low energy, the Exterminator requested that he be brought into the bunker, and Echo and his eleven men complied. In the meantime, Echo's wife-the only woman among the party-discovered that Hunter was not a mutant, but a human slayer of goblins, soon after they tied him up with the intent to question him. After being brought into the bunker, Exterminator verified that it was a "rejuve" center for Exterminators that had been long abandoned by any government personnel but was still functional, and the cyborg used it to recharge himself to full power. It was then that he realized that this place has since been used as a lair for goblins, and just when he was about to activate a bomb-canister to self destruct the bunker, a large group of mutants suddenly attacked him. Hunter, Echo, and the other men barely managed to escape from the bunker before it blew up, killing all of the goblins within.
Though they initially believed that the Exterminator was also killed, he soon revealed himself to have survived the explosion [they sure knew how to build those robotic shells to last!].
After making camp for the evening, Echo explained that he and his men were from a village many miles distant that had been pillaged by goblins for slave labor, and all of the women save for Echo's wife had been taken. They were part of a hunting party sent to find out where the mutants were coming from, and Echo revealed that as a young man, he had battled the original mutants during the Demon Wars [he must have been old indeed, as that was well over 40 years past]. It was around this time that Hunter and Echo's wife realized that they were attracted to each other.
When morning came about, Echo's brother Dumas fled the camp and turned out to be a traitor…he led a contingent of at least a hundred goblins to attack the camp. Shocked at the revelation that his brother was a traitor, the angry Echo grabbed the Exterminator's rifle and personally killed his traitorous sibling (Echo's wife surmised that he may have turned traitor for "wealth…power…or maybe even fear").
Exterminator offered to sacrifice himself guarding the entrance into a narrow path in front of the mountains where the rest of the party would flee in order to escape the goblins, as there were too many for them to defeat in combat. However, Echo insisted that Hunter and the Exterminator take his wife and head for Yaust's castle themselves, and leave the 11 men behind to hold the goblins off. The three hastily complied, and Echo and his ten compatriots bravely died in combat as they allowed for Hunter, Exterminator, and Echo's wife to escape.
As the three sadly mourned the loss, Hunter repeated Echo's appropriate words earlier when he believed that Exterminator had sacrificed himself: "Bravery. Tis never lost in death. Blood may sleep a time, but never dies."
Comments: This was a good entry into the series, as author Lewis really succeeded in making the readers care about Echo and his men despite the fact that we just met them. The sudden discovery of the Exterminator rejuve facility was a trite overly convenient, however.
This story never picked up on Karas Hunter's emotionally distraught state derived from his concern that he wasn't up to the task of being a hero, as seen at the end of the previous story. Evidently, he didn't have time to feel sorry for himself at any point in this tale, as when the story began he was busy trying to rescue the Exterminator from being entrapped in the muddy creek.
Time Frame: This story began about an hour after the previous tale.
"Time In Expansion"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
Hunter, the Exterminator, and Echo's wife (she still hasn't been given a name) come across a field where numerous farmers are crucified and gutted on trees, obviously the handiwork of goblins. They then seek asylum at the door of a nearby castle, the presumed home of the deceased farmers. No one answers the door, but Exterminator's keen audio receptors pick up human voices within. They smash the door open, and upon entering they come across a group of meek human peasant farmers who are lamenting the fact that the previous day they demanded that their warrior-king, whom they labeled a warlord, leave them so they could elect a new king. This left them at the mercy of a group of goblins, now that they no longer had their king and his band of warriors (who departed with him) to protect them.
The three newcomers were welcomed and offered food and other amenities.
Suddenly, they were attacked by a large battalion of mutants who broke into the chamber. Hunter and Exterminator fought them valiantly, but the peasants weren't trained fighters, they were without a leader, and they were taken by surprise; thus, they offered little resistance to the goblins and they were being slaughtered left and right.
Hunter realized that there were too many goblins for himself and his cyborg ally to fight off, and he acquiesced to the fact that they would not survive this day.
Just as suddenly [and conveniently] the peasant's deposed king and his band of warriors reappeared and within a short period of time they routed and slew the mutant horde. Unfortunately, Hunter's female companion was slain in the melee.
The king, now welcomed back to his protective post by the peasant farmers, thanked Exterminator and Hunter, but the latter simply carried away the body of his fallen female ally with a great deal of dejection.
Comments: This was the second story in a row in which Karas Hunter used nunchukas in battle rather than a sword, though he also used a machine gun at one point.
Echo's wife was killed before author Budd Lewis even had a chance to name her, and before we really got the chance to get to know her.
This story's dialogue was largely composed of philosophical metaphors between Hunter and the peasants.
This tale appeared to have been fairly hastily written, as it didn't serve much purpose other than to give readers another cool action sequence where Hunter and Exterminator battled a band of mutants. On that score, the story delivered quite well. This yarn never picked up on Karas Hunter's previous doubts of his own capabilities as a hero, and the series never again seemed to focus on his "green" status as a hero and warrior, which was a major element of the second story.
Classic Dialogue: At one memorable point in the battle sequence, one of the goblins called Hunter a "vomit-sucking pig."
Time Frame: This story could not have taken place too long after the previous tale, and it most likely occurred mere days later.
"The Valley of Armegeddon [sic]"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Paul Neary
Hunter and the Exterminator finally reached Yaust's castle, though they had to cross a valley in a mountainous region in order to reach it.
Before they could do so, however, they noticed a large contingent of heretofore unseen goblins gathering on horseback in the bottom of the valley. These mutants looked larger and fiercer than the goblins they had previously seen. Just then, a large mutated winged dragon-like creature began flying above this horde of 'supergoblins.' It was ridden by a more conventional goblin, and was quickly shot down by two archers among the 'supergoblins.'
When the dragon-rider was shot out of the sky, the creature nearly landed on Hunter and his cyborg ally. It was then that the two main protagonists of this story realized that this new batch of larger goblins were referred to as "trolls," and that the trolls were waging war on the goblins, the origin of the former as yet unknown. The goblin and the troll armies quickly began to battle each other, and Hunter and the Exterminator found themselves caught in the middle. When the cyborg inquired as to which side they should take, Hunter simply exclaimed, "Just slaughter anything that doesn't look like me!"
Realizing that they were being overwhelmed by the forces on both sides, the Exterminator used his last rounds of ammo to trigger an avalanche that buried a large number of goblins and trolls, and separated the bulk of them from each other.
Taking advantage of this major distraction, the two allies climbed over the results of the landslide and approached the castle of Yaust.
Just then, another dragon-rider appeared and dropped a fiery bomb on the trolls. Hunter was too close, and was seriously injured by the explosion. The Exterminator shot the dragon-rider out of the sky, but the damage was already done.
Suddenly, Yaust himself appeared outside the castle, and bid the cyborg and his injured friend inside, saying that he would do everything he could to save Hunter despite the fact that he came there to kill him.
Comments: This story added the trolls as an additional factor, and was somewhat evocative of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Despite the fact that Hunter 2's world was in an alternate future, his landscape resembled something out of Middle Earth, and never more so than in this story. Tolkien may have been a strong influence on author Budd Lewis for this series.
The word "Armageddon" was repeatedly misspelled in this story. Don't ask me why.
Hunter still continued to use his nunchukas as a weapon in this story. Presumably, this choice of weapon was to cash in on the kung fu craze then infiltrating the comics' scene. The Warrenverse never had an official martial arts hero, unlike Marvel, who had Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, and DC, who had Richard Dragon and the Karate Kid during the 1970s. In fact, Karas Hunter may be the closest thing that the Warrenverse had to a martial arts hero. However, Warren did dabble with the martial arts genre in the fairly popular EERIE series "Samurai."
The ending of this story was unexpected, and it was an interesting cliffhanger into the final entry of the series. Budd Lewis kept the writing strong and Paul Neary continued to a do a good job in the art chores, his style a good choice for this particular action-adventure series.
EERIE #72 featured the second of three Hunter 2 covers, and the first of two in a row. Sanjulian rendered this particular cover, and he depicted the trolls as looking particularly scary.
Time Frame: This story occurred anytime between a week and a month after the previous tale.
"Death of the Phoenix"
Story: Budd Lewis [uncredited]
Art: Paul Neary [uncredited]
The severely injured Karas Hunter and the Exterminator cyborg were being tended in the wizard/scientist Yaust's castle by a small servant race of imp-like creatures that he created for this purpose (they were much smaller than the goblins, they only spoke in gibberish, and they had small horns on their heads). As Exterminator was undergoing repairs, he asked Yaust if they were his prisoners, considering that they came to his domain to kill him. It was then that Yaust explained that anyone who wanted to escape from the imminent doom of the Earth was welcome in his domain, which included his castle. At this point, he explained the truth of the situation.
In actuality, he needed no slaves and had taken no human beings as captives. When the White Council of Wizards and Scientists discovered the imminent doom of the Earth, they began work on a magickal spell that would protect their tiny domain from the coming destruction. Paranoid that many people would descend upon their domain if they heard rumors about the Earth's coming destruction, the council used their scientific skills to breed a race of mutants to protect them. These mutants proved uncontrollably savage, however, and began both killing wantonly and taking slaves for the council, who ceased opposing their actions when they realized that this would help them repopulate the Earth.
Using a spell of his own to protect his domain, Yaust was fearful of the new race of mutants, so he began creating his own breed (the 'trolls') to protect his own domain. But they, too, turned violent and began warring against the goblins without reason.
When Mandragora realized that his adopted son was too pure of heart to go along with the White Council's plan, the former sent Karas on a fool's mission, confidant that he would be killed in the process. The Time-Shell Theory that he explained to him was totally false…there was no means to save the entire Earth by stopping its rotation for one minute; that was beyond the council's means. They could only save small, localized areas of the planet.
The Exterminator explained the entire story to the astounded Hunter after the latter was fully healed by Yaust's ministrations.
When Hunter demanded proof, Yaust showed him view screen images of the White Council's goblins attacking Yaust's own domain, to prevent him from casting the spell that would enable him and a large group of free humans from surviving the Earth's doom. Hunter and the Exterminator could clearly see that these people weren't slaves, but were fighting-albeit in vain-to survive. Yaust explained, "The White Council didn't want to share the world with free people. They only wanted humans as their own slaves." He then reminded his two guests that with the goblins of the White Council upon them, they would soon be killed.
The Exterminator told Hunter to take a winged mount and seek out Mandragora to enact revenge while the cyborg did his best to hold the goblin horde off. Eager to deliver payback to the man whom he had loved as a father and whom he thought loved him as a son, Hunter did as asked. It was then that Yaust told the cyborg that he could destroy all of the mutants attacking his domain with the push of a button, though this would destroy a continent [probably an exaggeration, as there was no way possible that Hunter could have used the winged dragon-like animal to flee an entire continent in time; though this wasn't explicitly shown, Yaust probably had a tremendous explosive device of some sort that was left over from the Demon Wars, a convenient plot contrivance to insure that the mutants of the White Council wouldn't survive this story]. Exterminator told him to make the sacrifice, and the explosion was indeed carried out, slaying all of the mutants (apparently, this was all of them). Seeing the explosive sacrifice of his friend, Hunter became even more determined to seek retribution with Mandragora.
Hours later, when Hunter returned home, he confronted his stepfather. Surprised to see Karas alive, Mandragora confessed everything. He then told him that the spell to save their domain from the destruction of the Earth was now being cast, and the entire place was surrounded by a mystical barrier…Hunter had the choice of either serving them as a slave or ruling the world along with the White Council. Suddenly, it became clear that the in-progress spell was too powerful for the castle walls to endure…the powerful mystical energies began bringing the edifice down upon them. Deciding that he did not want to survive in a world ruled by the White Council, Hunter attempted to flee. However, he was unable to breach the mystical barrier generated by the council of wizards.
At this point, the enraged young man decided that if the rest of the world wasn't going to survive, then neither would the wizards. Hunter then turned his rifle on Mandragora and shot him to death. Finally breaking out of their trance, the rest of the wizards turned their spells on Hunter, determined to slay him in revenge for killing their leader. But before they could tear him to shreds with their psychokinetic forces, the mystical energies caused the castle to entirely collapse, killing the rest of the White Council. With the mystical barrier now abolished, and Hunter freed from the spells of the now deceased wizards, the young man fled the collapsing castle to take his place among the doomed humanity beyond the White Council domain.
Outside of the castle, Hunter completed his symbolic quest of the Phoenix and laid on the ground, calmly awaiting the end.
However, he soon realized that no end to the planet came. As the text explained, "Of course! How simple. How foolish they had all been. The world may never come to an end! Only people and their ignorance…only pride, arrogance, lust and greed…only civilizations die, chapters end, but the book itself is never finished."
Finally, Karas Hunter understood that what the White Council had actually predicted was not an end to the world, but an end to the current society that then dominated the world.
After erecting a small grave for the Exterminator, Karas decided that unlike civilization itself, the symbols of the old society should never rise again, and he used a huge rock to crush his war helmet, determined to lay it in the past forever, vowing never to fight as "Hunter" again.
With all the goblins and the evil wizard-scientists destroyed, humanity now finally had the chance to build a new, better civilization upon the world, and Karas began wandering in search of other people with whom to start a new life.
Comments: The "Hunter 2" series came to an end with this story, concluding with a theme of hope and with a poignant reminder that corrupt civilizations are destined to end in time, with the promise of humanity rising up like a Phoenix from the ashes to start a new society each time the old world order ends. This series was not without its symbolism that was relevant to the time period in which it was produced, the 1970s, and this story was obviously penned by author Budd Lewis to deliver an inspirational message to those readers who had tired of the corruption of the society in which they lived, reminding them that only civilizations end, but the world itself will not. When this story was written, Watergate and the Vietnam War were still recent events in history, for instance, and this series had obviously been written to respond to American concerns at the time. This message is just as relevant to society today, with a United States seeking to make itself an empire and suffering from rampant corruption. While the original "Hunter" series largely played to the cynicism of the '70s, "Hunter 2" played more to the hope of renewal and a confidence of humanity's ability to rise from the ashes of a negative society to create a better and more just world order, and author Lewis provided us with a good symbol for this with Karas Hunter, along with playing up the legendary theme of the Phoenix throughout this series.
Karas Hunter may not have become a hero as popular as Captain America, another iconic figure of symbolism, but he actually served the same purpose for his world as Cap did for the Marvel Universe, and unlike Steve Rogers's star-spangled alter ego, Karas Hunter actually saw his world through the fall of one civilization and the rise of another.
Unlike many other Warrenverse characters, Karas Hunter didn't meet his demise at the resolution of his series. He simply ended his career as the second 'Hunter.' As a result of this, Hunter 2 returned in a story featured in EERIE #101, which will be indexed below.
EERIE #73 featured the third Hunter 2 cover, the second consecutive EERIE cover featuring this hero, and this really cool contribution from artist Ken Kelly depicted both Karas Hunter an the Exterminator cyborg in action.
Time Frame: This story, the final in the series, began a few hours after the cliffhanger in the previous issue of EERIE.
"Three Flames of the Phoenix"
Story: Budd Lewis
Art: Moreno Casares
Ten years after the events of the "Hunter 2" series, Karas had established a kingdom with its chief edifice named Castle Demian, after the first Hunter. He had taken a wife, Lady Ragan, and was in the process of celebrating Yuletide ceremonies by lighting a Yule Log of peace, and awaiting the arrival of his wife and her father, Baron Qazar.
The proceedings where interrupted when a mysterious wizard appeared, bearing Lady Ragan's three-bladed staff and explaining that she had been kidnapped off her steed by a winged creature. Lighting the Yule Log with a bolt of energy from the blades of the staff, the wizard explained that Lord Karas would have to complete a quest before the flame burned out, a quest to rescue Lady Ragan. The wizard further explained that the number three would symbolize the number of individuals needed to successfully carry out this quest…the three being Karas himself, the wizard, and the Exterminator cyborg, who suddenly appeared and revealed that he survived the explosion of Yaust's palace by falling through a trap door into an underground labyrinth that he has been exploring for the past decade [sorry, but I'm not making this up]. The Exterminator then presented Karas with something he found there…a helmet resembling the re-painted headgear of Demian Hunter that Karas had worn in his past odyssey ten years earlier. Donning the helmet, Karas now became the third incarnation of Hunter, in the name of love, justice, and responsibility, which he called the 'Three Flames of the Phoenix.'
The Yule Log was the first of three flames that Hunter would have to overcome in his quest. As the wizard continued to explain, two other wizards from the White Council remained, both of who had conspired against him, and one of who had begun breeding a new race of mutants to set against the human race, and it was this second fiend who had captured Ragan.
The three then proceeded to the castle erected over the labyrinth where the wizard and the cyborg had met, and where Lady Ragan was now held captive.
The wizard fell off a cliff to his apparent demise after being attacked by the same winged creature that carried Lady Ragan off, and one of the blades symbolically broke off of Karas's trident. It was around this time that Hunter learned the trident was electronically charged, and would project powerful electrical bolts of energy apparently of its own accord [the script couldn't seem to determine if the trident was scientific or mystical in nature; it may have been a combination of the two].
While the two remaining allies journeyed beneath a mountain that was directly under the labyrinth, they were besieged by a contingent of mutants (this time referred to as 'gargoyles'). Hunter and the Exterminator battled the gargoyles, only to have the cyborg trapped beneath a huge fallen rock by the end of the melee. Hunter had to leave his friend there and proceed on the rest of the mission alone. As expected, during this battle, another blade broke off the trident, leaving just one blade to symbolize the fact that only a single entity was now on this quest.
Picking the lock into a nearby chamber, Hunter noticed the second flame that he had to overcome…Ragan was tied up and suspended over a huge brazier of fire in which the flames were controlled scientifically from a device that lay in the middle of the room. Freeing Ragan, Hunter entered another chamber through one of the pipes leading from the brazier, thus overcoming the third symbolic flame on his mission. It was there that he confronted the wizard who was responsible for all of this…his own foster father, Mandragora, whom he believed that he had shot to death ten years earlier [alas, it was never explained how Mandragora survived the seemingly fatal shooting]. Here it was learned that the first wizard was the one who had helped Hunter, and he betrayed Mandragora to do so.
The two began battling, with Hunter proving no match for Mandragora's spells. However, suddenly the only other surviving wizard of the White Council appeared…Brown Loe, who was revealed to be the first wizard in disguise. His apparent death by falling off the cliff actually released his soul and stored it within the trident that Hunter carried (he was somehow able to create a new physical body for himself once they were in Mandragora's personal chamber), and this explained how the trident was able to fire of its own accord as if it were a conscious entity. Mandragora and Brown Loe then began battling, and both ultimately fell to their deaths in a lava pit situated at the floor, thus freeing Hunter from entrapment in Mandragora's spell.
Upon returning and freeing the Exterminator, the cyborg explained to him that only another wizard could defeat Mandragora, and he and Brown Loe executed a plan by which Hunter would unknowingly (in case his mind was read by Mandragora's magicks) carry Loe into Mandragora's lair. With Mandragora dead [finally this time??], his gargoyles would no longer trouble humankind.
Karas and Ragan then departed, honoring the sacrifice that Brown Loe had made, and leaving the Exterminator behind in his home, the underground labyrinth.
Comments: This self-contained story was a follow-up to the "Hunter 2" series that wasn't incredibly necessary. Though it was interesting to see what became of Karas and the Earth itself of the Hunter Timeline a decade after the "Hunter 2" series had ended, and it was nice to see Budd Lewis scripting again, the story suffered without the pencils of Paul Neary, who drew both the "Hunter" and "Hunter 2" series. This story appeared during Warren's twilight years, and it reflected the time period quite well in terms of its quality of execution.
The story, just like the "Hunter 2" series, was full of symbolism, but not as well rendered as the more straightforward symbols of the series.
It may have been shortly after this series that Hunter 2 briefly appeared via time travel as one of the 'Time Force' in EERIE #130, indexed elsewhere on this site.
This tale, even more so than the "Hunter 2" series, featured a nod to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, which was then very much in the public eye thanks to the ill-fated animated film by Ralph Bakshi. Interestingly, in EERIE #101, this story's conclusion was followed by a full-page ad featuring small statues of the Lord of the Rings characters for sale, and they seem to have been sculpted in images from the Bakshi film. In fact, during this year Warren produced a special mag dealing with the animated "Lord of the Rings" film, and the latter mag was promoted on the back of EERIE #101. Just as the Star Wars craze had taken hold of fantasy fandom of the time, so had Lord of the Rings, though the latter film didn't turn out to be a success, so its popularity was very short-lived in comparison to the Star Wars saga (this was two decades before director Peter Jackson finally gave the Lord of the Rings saga its due with a highly successful, live action film trilogy).
Time Frame: This story takes place ten years after the last story in the "Hunter 2" series, thus making it occur around the year 2128 on the Hunter Timeline.