The Heap, comics’ original shambling swamp creature, debuted in Air Fighters Comics vol.1 #3 (December, 1942) as a one-shot opponent for Sky Wolf, Hillman Periodicals’ answer to Blackhawk.
The creature’s origin was simple, but evocative. A German air ace is shot down in World War I and crashes into a desolate swamp. Due to the pilot’s incredible will to live, his soul survives but his body somehow merges with the surrounding swamp land.
After several years of this process, the pilot is reborn as “a fantastic Heap that is neither animal nor man.”
The creature was blown up at the end of the adventure, but proved popular enough for several return engagements that solidified The Heap’s anti-hero status. (It helped that it’s victims were usually German or Japanese soldiers …)
After World War II ended and Air Fighters Comics morphed into Airboy Comics, named after the magazine’s most popular character, The Heap stuck around in its own back-up feature recast as an elemental force of justice acting under the guidance of Mother Nature herself.
(Sound a bit familiar, Alan Moore fans?)
As horror comics gained popularity, The Heap even snagged the cover spot away from Airboy himself a few times. The faltering comic-book market finally overcame the creature’s will to live, however, as Hillman closed up shop after Airboy’s May, 1953 issue. Still, it’s difficult to keep a good monster down as updated versions of The Heap reappeared from time to time under the banner of such publishers as Skywald, Image and Eclipse.
To paraphrase a golden oldie, though, those particular muck monsters weren’t nothin’ like the real thing. From Airboy Comics vol. 2, #7, Hillman Periodicals (August, 1949), here’s the one, true Heap vs. the bizarre menace of “The Iron Chancellor.”
The art is by Mike Sekowsky.