The Weird History of Friday the 13th Comics
Friday the 13th boasts some of the strangest movie tie-in comics ever made. We hit the bloody highs and lows. Mostly lows.
Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees has been part of pop-culture for decades. It shouldn’t be surprising that he’s had his share of comic book adventures, what with him essentially being a supervillain in a story with no superheroes. Granted, he’s a one-dimensional supervillain with an incredibly vague origin story, but he’s been memorable enough to land him a dozen movie appearances. Many have told his tale in comic form and since the early ’90s, he’s been represented by three different publishers.
The surprising thing to me is that the earliest Jason comic is only in the early 90s. For comparison, the RoboCop comics all stretched across the franchise’s entire existence. They were around for all four movies as well as the stretch where he was just about nostalgia. Jason Voorhees didn’t get the same treatment. For the most part, they missed the boat.
Topps Comics first picked up the license and Jason’s comic book debut came in July of 1993. Two comics came out this month with Jason in them, so it’s hard to say what was his very first appearance. One of the two comics was Satan’s Six #4 by Tony Isabella and John Cleary. We’re already bonkers out the gate here. Satan’s Six was part of the Secret City Saga, where Topps created a big story using a bunch of leftover Jack Kirby ideas that he never did anything with in the form of several miniseries that intertwined (think Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers). It didn’t last long enough to finish and with Satan’s Six, it’s no wonder.
The comic is a comedy about the demonic Odious Kamodious, who has his own team of agents out to create chaos in his name, only they always screw up. In the very beginning of this issue, Kamodious gets in an argument with one of his demons Frightful and threatens to replace him. He summons Jason Voorhees, who proceeds to talk like Rorschach and try to kill anything nearby.
Anyone else find randomly and casually tossing Jason into a superhero universe’s continuity really weird?
Frightful and teammate Bluedragon go after Jason, but he responds by throwing them a couple times and saying, “HRMM,” a lot. Despite only appearing for a couple of pages, Jason says that six times. Kamodious summons him back where he found him and starts making a blatant reference about Jason going to Hell. The angelic Pristine interrupts and calls out how this was a pointless cameo to justify advertising Jason on the cover, which came at the cost of continuing their very story. And at that point, readers stopped caring.
As Kamodious referenced, Jason was at the time starring in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, otherwise known as Friday the 13th Part IX. Based on the screenplay, the comic is written by Andy Mangels and drawn by Cynthia Martin.
That’s how far down the pipeline we are. By this point, the movie franchise was in dire straits. By the time any comic company thinks of doing anything with Friday the 13th, we’re already at the ninth movie, which was the last Jason movie for eight years. The really bizarre one.
If you haven’t seen it or don’t remember, Jason Goes to Hell is the movie where the FBI finally decides to do something about Jason and blows him to kingdom come in the first few minutes, onlit turns out that he can’t be killed unless stabbed in the heart by another Voorhees (though the comic keeps spelling it “Vorhees”). So Jason’s heart hypnotizes the coroner into eating it and he goes around vomiting the heart into people’s throats to change hosts until he can find and kill the rest of his bloodline.
It’s an example of knowing that you have to do something new and fresh, yet still driving way off the road. Also, if you’re all about drawings of bare asses, this is the comic for you!
But really, all anyone remembers Jason Goes to Hell for is that cameo at the end when Freddy Krueger pulls down Jason’s mask and cackles. That was the original “Nick Fury asks Tony Stark to join the Avengers” moment. It just, you know, took ten years, is all.
Topps didn’t want to wait to give us a big slasher icon crossover and while they didn’t get the rights to Freddy, they got the next best thing. Okay, they didn’t get Michael Meyers, but the next best thing after that. No, they didn’t get Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, but—Listen, they got Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, okay? More specifically, we got Jason vs. Leatherface, a three-part series by Nancy Collins, David Imhoff, and Jeff Butler.
Despite being released in 1995, the chronology is very choosy, ignoring the history of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre stuff to make sure Leatherface and his brothers Cook and Hitchhiker are both alive. As for Jason, this takes place after Part VI, where he’s chained to the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake. Some corporate types have the lake drained of all the toxic grossness and Jason goes with it. He kind of wanders around, kills a bunch of people on train, and eventually comes across Sawyerville, where Leatherface and Hitchhiker are stalking some poor soul. Jason ends up getting in a scrap with them, where he disarms Leatherface (not literally for once), kills their victim, and then – in a surprising act – hands Leatherface his chainsaw.
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There’s this feeling of acceptance between the two parties, leading to Jason being practically adopted into their family. This leads to a really awesome moment where Cook asks him his name. Since these guys need to start calling him Jason and he doesn’t actually speak, Collins goes about it in a clever way.
Through this partnership, we see the differences. While Jason is a ruthless murderer, he isn’t so much a sadist, at least not as much as the Sawyer family. He’ll kill the victims, but Hitchhiker will get on his case for doing it too quickly and not torturing anyone. Mainly, Jason gets along with them due to the way he sees his younger self in Leatherface. For once, he feels sympathy and it drives him to hate Hitchhiker for constantly being such a dick. From there, it becomes Jason vs. the three brothers, where Leatherface will protect his family, even if he does show appreciation for Jason standing up for him.
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There wouldn’t be any more Jason comics for a decade until Avatar Press picked up the license in 2005. I had a lot of bad stuff to say about Avatar in the RoboCop article, but here, the ugly, mean-spirited, blood-and-chunks-covered style is a perfect home for Friday the 13th. If anything, it’s a fitting response to how most of the Friday the 13th movies were edited to oblivion by the MPAA to hide all the gore. Now we can see Jason punch a guy in the head so hard that it comes out his ass!
Avatar mostly released a bunch of one-shots, starting with Friday the 13th Special by Brian Pulido and Mike Wolfer. The Avatar Friday the 13th comics have some actual strong ideas mixed in there, but they also rely on doing the same thing over and over again…much like the movies, but in a different way. While every single comic of theirs has at least one softcore sex scene, there’s also a constant theme of the 1% screwing things up for everyone. Like in Friday the 13th Special, it’s about the children of the man who previously owned Camp Crystal Lake. The daughter, a shrewd businesswoman, insists on not letting that land go to waste despite the piles and piles of dead bodies showing why that’s a bad idea.
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To be fair, she goes about it the right way. If Jason’s hanging around the woods, just hire a ton of military guys to take him out. That basically took care of Jason in the very beginning of the ninth movie, didn’t it? Too bad being in a comic book has caused him to go through a major power creep, and he’s now able to power through having a huge chunk of him blown off by a grenade launcher, as it just heals up in seconds. Jason’s way too overpowered and that continues on for the next year of comics.
Pulido and Wolfer would get back together to do a three-parter called Bloodbath and it’s easily the best thing to come out of the Avatar run. It has some serious dialogue issues, but the basic idea could have been the basis for a Friday the 13th movie and I would be totally okay with it. It actually comes across as a prototype for Cabin in the Woods.
It has to do with Camp Crystal Lake being opened yet again, this time with ten teen counselors brought in early to get acquainted a day or so before the campers are said to show up. Their boss is Kevin Carny, a kindly southern guy who appears to be really laid back about everything. He wants everyone to be responsible during the daytime, but at night, they’re welcome to enjoy the hot tub, an excess of beer, and each other’s naked company. The counselors all hit it off and immediately pair up with no problem. In fact, they pair up a little too easily, like they were handpicked. Discovered through some really unnatural dialogue, they all come to realize that all ten of them are orphans and have no families. Strange. It’s almost like if something were to happen to them all, nobody would really care enough to look into it.
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Naturally, there’s more to Carny than meets the eye. Much like in Jason X, the military and corporations are very into the idea of bringing Jason in for the sake of studying his healing factor and weaponizing him. The camp is nothing more than bait. It helps that the protagonists, Violet and Rich, are actually fairly likeable and relatable compared to every other human character in Avatar’s comics. You end up getting a story of the would-be victims vs. the military vs. the unstoppable killer. It actually has a really good ending too, which will be ruined months later.
Around this time, Avatar released the Jason X Special by Pulido and Sebastian Fiumara. Yes, a Jason X comic. The movie is already a few years old at this point and I don’t think anyone cared about it enough to clamor for more Jason X in any form, but here we are. As it turns out, when Uber Jason was blasted to a lake on Earth Two at the end of the movie, he was really back on the original Earth. A woman named Kristen, one of the few remaining humans on the planet, tricked the ship into turning back to Earth for the sake of getting her hands on Uber Jason.
Kristen’s boyfriend Neil is dying and she needs some Voorhees DNA to potentially cure him. Even though she is able to capture Uber Jason with some nanites, you can imagine that this is a bad idea. It becomes a big, confusing mess, where Pamela Voorhees goes from being a voice in Jason’s head to being a machine ghost able to control all the nanites, leading to lots of human-like androids being slaughtered. Uber Jason is shot into space, where he stumbles across a party-based space ship.
That leads us right into the two-parter Jason vs. Jason X by Mike Wolfer. Really? Is that even a contest? That’s like having the regular version of the Hulk fight a super-pissed off Hulk. The story of this one is more contrived than even the beginning of Jason Takes Manhattan. So there’s a piece of Jason’s skull and hockey mask from the Jason X movie that wasn’t part of the regeneration process that created Uber Jason. When that ship was blown up, the chunk of skull floated around in space until – TOTAL COINCIDENCE – it now drifts into the very party ship where Uber Jason is currently slaughtering everyone. The ship’s cloning machine builds a new body out of dead victims and Jason is reborn! Fully clothed too, which I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining about. I can live my entire life without seeing his hockey stick.
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It takes the whole first issue for the two Jasons to meet up and the entire second issue is them fighting while anyone who crosses paths with the brawl gets chopped up. The fight brings them to Earth Two, where, big surprise, Uber Jason wins. He tears Jason’s brain out, shoves it into his own brain, and reminisces about his mother. He’s also chilling out in the woods near a lake, so even though the Jason X Special changed up the movie’s ending, this comic puts it back the way the writers found it. You know, just in case they were to ever make another Jason X movie.
The last book from Avatar is Friday the 13th: Fearbook by Mike Wolfer and Sebastian Fiumara. It’s a direct follow-up to Bloodbath and is especially pointless. It’s basically about killing off anyone who survived Bloodbath without any real drama. Sure, it makes sense to have the government people behind the events of that story taken out, but there’s no actual plot. Jason just effortlessly kills everyone for two dozen pages.
Also, the art is really bad in the sequential sense. It seems to go from point A to C from panel to panel with no sensical movement. For instance, in Bloodbath, they were able to stop Jason by freezing him. The only reason he was able to escape was Violet’s doing. Makes 100% perfect sense that they’d just try that again, right?
And now Jason is able to shrug it off completely to the point that there’s no sign of him being frozen one panel later. What’s up with that?
The ending suffers from the same problem. Violet is backed up to a window and Jason is coming. She decides to take her chances and makes a leap of faith, hoping the trees will break her fall. She jumps and the perspective makes it look like she’s at least ten feet away from the window. Suddenly, Jason has her by the neck and drags her back in.
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Anyway, Jason would then move on to the next publisher, Wildstorm, in 2007. Wildstorm mainly gave us a bunch of two-parters, but started it with a six-issue miniseries simply called Friday the 13th by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Adam Archer, and Peter Guzman.
For the most part, it’s a basic, by-the-numbers Friday the 13th story in comic form, just handled competently. They’re reopening Camp Crystal Lake again. A handful of teens are brought in to clean up the cabins. Sex and drugs and beer are had. Jason shows up and starts killing people. Same old shit.
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At least the cast of victims isn’t so bad. They aren’t great, but they at least have more personality and dimension than the characters in the Avatar Press comics, easy as that is to do. The drawback is that for the sake of conflict, they’re almost all over-the-top in terms of being assholes. Like there’s a nerdy hippy guy who looks to be potentially psychotic and everyone shits on him for zero reason. For one of the characters it makes sense, since it’s established that she’s had to put up with his company for years and she’s a terrible person, but everyone else snaps at him like he’s Donnie from Big Lebowski.
The comic plays up the supernatural aspects of Friday the 13th more than just Jason surviving taking a machete to the neck. Not only do they establish that the lake is haunted by the ghosts of a hundred murdered children, but the final issue even explains that the area is literally cursed due to some settlers murdering a Native American shaman.
Otherwise, it’s nothing special.
Marc Andreyko and Shawn Moll give us Pamela’s Tale, a two-parter where Pamela Voorhees explains her life story to a camp counselor while giving her a ride to Camp Crystal Lake. Naturally, she also murders her, but still keeps telling the story, mainly about raising Jason and how she’s been out to kill anyone she feels is responsible for his death.
We also see Jason’s father depicted as a drunken wife-beater and massive dude (he had to inherit it from somewhere) who is killed because Pamela’s afraid that if she tells him she’s pregnant, he’ll beat her so badly that she’ll have a miscarriage. Oh, and she’s also whispering conversations with “Jason” much like she does at the end of the first movie.
Jason’s birth defects are explained both between his father’s treatment of his mother and the fact that Pamela is constantly in places filled with cigarette smoke. It hits comedic levels once we see the doctor smoking a cigarette while delivering the baby. That’s dark as hell but I had to laugh.
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Jason Aaron and Adam Archer team up for How I Spent My Summer Vacation, another two-parter. I’m not sure if this is the best Friday the 13th comic, but it’s definitely the most fun. It’s about a little boy named Davie Falkner who is at summer camp. At Camp Crystal Lake. They opened the goddamn thing AGAIN! CRIPES! Anyway, Davie has a bone disorder that gives him a malformed head and will likely kill him in five years. While he has normal intelligence, he looks an awful lot like Jason’s young self, albeit with hair. He’s constantly teased for his looks, but that’s a picnic compared to having Jason Voorhees show up to kill everyone.
After lots of campers, councilors, and cops are killed, Jason picks up Davie and drags him away, kicking and screaming. The only other survivor is the sheriff, who was so hopped up on meth that he accidentally shot up two councilors, and then hacked them up with a machete to cover his tracks and blame it on Jason. Finding out that Davie’s still alive makes him want to make sure he can kill the last witness.
Meanwhile, we get what is essentially a Batman and Robin origin story with Jason and Davie. It’s awesome and I wish it was longer. Jason never speaks or makes any gestures, but he keeps Davie safe out of feeling like a kindred spirit. Jason would go kill people having a picnic, wrap their food in a blanket, return to Davie, and throw it to him. Davie goes from being dragged around against his will to following his new hero.
Davie idolizes Jason for being like him, only able to not take shit from anyone who would bully him. That Jason is an even bigger bully than anyone else is lost on Davie, but it’s nice to see Jason make a connection for once in his after-life. Plus with the comedic psycho sheriff, Jason gets to actually play the role of anti-hero here. Granted, he still kills so many undeserving people, but the book is still sort of cute.
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Yet another two-parter comes in the form of Bad Land, which is by Ron Marz and Mike Huddleston. It’s about two different stories from different times that run parallel. One is a present-day story about a trio of hikers who come across a cabin in the middle of a huge storm and become victims of Jason. The other takes place a couple centuries earlier, where three fur trappers enter a teepee to escape a similar storm and come across a Native American woman and her baby. Horrible things happen to the woman and her child, shortly before her husband arrives. They blow his face off with a rifle shot and he runs off, only to plot his revenge.
Yep. We have the Proto-Jason. It isn’t outright said whether he’s just super pissed enough to fight through the wound or if he’s a full-on murder zombie, but considering he lacks the wound when we see his rampage, it looks like the latter.
Huh. Wonder whatever happened to that guy.
The last normal type of Jason comic released by Wildstorm is The Abuser & the Abused by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andy B. Andy B’s art makes this easily the best-looking Friday the 13th comic by a landslide. Lot of great expressions and action in there.
The issue is kind of an alternate take on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. It deals with a girl who is constantly abused. Her boyfriend beats her, her classmates make fun of her, her father and stepmother bully her, and no authority figure will help her in any way. She takes it upon herself to strike back against anyone who’s wronged her and part of her plan involves luring her boyfriend to Camp Crystal Lake (which is not open for once. Thank God). Then when Jason appears to do what Jason does best, the girl gets mad because this is her kill and the two murderers throw down. Totally worth checking out for the fantastic fight scene.
Now we get to the grand finale in the form of two six-issue miniseries. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash started in early 2008, based on a script treatment for a sequel to the Freddy vs. Jason movie that brings the Evil Dead hero into the mix that would never come to be. The Jeff Katz screenplay is adapted by James Kuhoric with art by Jason Craig. It’s generally okay. It’s nothing especially great or especially awful. It comes up with a satisfying enough story that brings together the three horror icons, has them play off each other, and gives us a big enough body count.
Freddy is able to convince Jason to do his bidding by banging his mother. At least, that’s what Jason sees in his nightmare, where Freddy acts like his new step-father and has “Pamela” tell Jason to listen to his authority. Freddy wants him to fetch the Necronomicon and wouldn’t you know it, Ash Williams is working at a nearby hardware store for the holidays.
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What’s great about it is that we actually have a real protagonist to cheer for, who we know has enough plot armor to stay alive. The Freddy vs. Jason movie didn’t have anyone nearly as likeable as Ash. The main drawback is that Jason is the third wheel, mostly overshadowed by the other two co-stars. This becomes a bigger problem in the sequel, which I’ll get to in just a bit.
Sorry, I was wrong. The main drawback is that despite Jason Craig’s art starting incredibly strong, it becomes rushed to hell by the time he hits the final issue. That’s too bad, since the final battle between the two is excellent outside of that. Freddy is pumped up with power from the Necronomicon and Jason is maskless and replaced his dismembered hand with a machete. Ash is bemused, noting the lack of originality.
By the end, Freddy and Jason are both defeated for the time being, but the Necronomicon opens to a page that’s very reminiscent of the movie poster for Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, only this time, Ash is leading the siege.
That leads us to Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: Nightmare Warriors by the same creative team, though with Cruddie Torian doing a bit of fill-in work. Sadly, Jason Craig’s art takes a huge dive, even worse than before. Really, the whole comic is a gigantic mess, making it a perfect Friday the 13th comic bookend to whatever the hell was going on with that Satan’s Six issue.
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It’s a real shame too, because I absolutely love the setup. It’s such a brilliant concept for a climactic finale to Freddy and Jason’s respective series. See, Ash is invited to join a support group of sorts made up of those who have survived encounters with Freddy and/or Jason. So you have a group made up of Maggie Burroughs (Freddy’s Dead), Dr. Neil Gordon (Nightmare on Elm Street 3), Steven Freeman (Jason Goes to Hell), Stephanie Kimble (Steven’s baby daughter from that movie all grown up), Alice Johnson (Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 5), Jacob Johnson (Alice’s son, also grown up), Tina Shepard (Friday the 13th Part VII), and Rennie Wickham (Friday the 13th Part VIII). Then waiting in the shadows is maverick survivor and quasi-hero of the Friday the 13th franchise, Tommy Jarvis, who wants to take out Jason on his own terms.
Also awesome is Jason’s redesign. For the first half, at least.
After all the bullshit he’s been through fighting Freddy and Ash in the last book, Jason is barely holding together. He’s got so much battle damage that even if he’s freakishly strong, he looks like’s seconds away from falling apart. Between his jaw being completely fleshless and the bottom part of his hockey mask before destroyed, he’s got this badass skull goalie thing going on.
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Then Freddy ruins it by making Jason his general and using the Necronomicon to amp up Jason’s appearance, cleaning him up and fixing his disfigurements. He also gives him long, black hair, making him look like a generic 90s vigilante. This also allows him to speak for once when he has his final battle with Tommy Jarvis.
Certainly better than, “HRMM!” at least.
As I said, the book goes completely full-on nuts, especially when it comes to Maggie Burroughs. She is actually Freddy’s daughter and killed him in the sixth Elm Street movie (the last canon one before Freddy vs. Jason). Here, she’s secretly evil and is working for her father. I guess they can get away with it because she’s the hero of the most hated Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s never explained why she’s suddenly evil. Then not only does she start dressing like a sexy X-Men supervillain, but she starts making out with her father. And he puts his hand down her pants while grabbing her boob with the other. What. The. Fuck?
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Anyway, she’s crushed by a tank a couple of issues later while fighting Jason in the Oval Office. Strange, strange comic. The book has a lot of big ideas, but it’s completely incomprehensible.
What I find interesting is the ending. Freddy’s attempt to cause Hell on Earth via the Necronomicon goes sour and they give him the most final death possible. He’s stripped of his powers, leaving a naked human form, begging for his life. Ash shoots him with his boomstick, killing him. Then some really ill-explained and badly-set-up time-travel happens where the warrant for his arrest from decades ago is now correctly signed, meaning he’ll never become the dream demon and so many deaths are negated. Not only is Freddy done, but he never really started in the first place!
Jason, on the other hand, is stabbed through the chest by Stephanie (which is supposed to be the one thing that can totally kill him for good) and Tommy chops his head off, but his body is missing anyway because one day he’s going to go to space and God forbid we mess around with continuity!
Gotta protect the sanctity of Jason X, man.
That was the last we’ve seen of Jason Voorhees in comic form and there’s no sign of him coming back any time soon. Despite being such a cinematic icon, there’s only so much you can do with the character. He’s a walking plot device who isn’t allowed to be anything more, nor should he ever be. He’s just an excuse for shock value and mainstream comics have already gotten to that level of mean-spirited violence, making him nothing but obsolete.
Poor guy. Finally DC Comics is about constantly tearing people’s arms off and Jason doesn’t get to play.
Gavin Jasper thinks it’s fitting that Jason is a goalie, considering he’s constantly out to stop people from scoring. Follow him on Twitter!