Back in 2003, FRIDAY THE 13TH’s Jason Voorhees’ may have fought A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s Freddy Krueger on the big screen for the long-in-the-making FREDDY VS JASON, but believe it or not, this wasn’t the first time the hockey masked maniac had gone up against one of his contemporaries.
Way back in 1995, Topps Comics (that’s right, the baseball card company!) had produced a 3 issue limited series simply titled JASON VS LEATHERFACE, written by Nancy Collins and David Imhoff, with art by Jeff Butler and cover art by Simon Bisley. This wasn’t the first time either horror icon had appeared in the pages of a comic book. LEATHERFACE, the third film in the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series, had been adapted into a 4 issue comic series by Northstar in 1991, whereas Topps Comics had previously put out a JASON GOES TO HELL comic book as well.
We’ll delve into the chronology of which versions of the characters appear in this story as we go along. For example, Jason’s appearance for the most part matches his JASON GOES TO HELL visage, with the hockey mask forever embedded into his face, but from a storytelling standpoint, the events of this tale have to be somewhere post-FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES, but before PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD. The opening of the book finds Jason chained to a rock at the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake; still alive but dormant. Linhart Amalgamated has been dumping so many chemicals into the lake that it’s become something of a wasteland. A rich entrepreneur buys the property and is planning a proposed Crystal Lake Vista Business Towers project. First thing to do is drain the lake, and fill it in. So all the water and toxic waste is sucked up into a tank, with Jason in it, and carted off on a train.
Jason awakens, confused, on the train, comes out of his tank and stumbles into a cart with a homeless man and his dog, whom he kills immediately. (Bit weird to see Jason kill an animal!) He makes his way up front, slaughters the conductor and his crew, and the train derails and crashes. He walks away from the carnage he’s just created and begins walking in his new-found settings of Texas! As he wanders the woods, a hysterical man bumps into him running away from the Hitchhiker and Leatherface. This poor sap. Can you imagine suddenly being between Jason and Leatherface? In a frenzy, Leatherface attacks Jason who holds him off with his machete and disarms him. For some reason, after the saw hits the ground, Jason looks at the victim, chops the top part of his head off, and picks up the saw to hand it back to Leatherface.
While we don’t necessarily get Jason’s “voice over” or “thoughts,” the narration tells us about Jason’s conflicted “feelings,” something he hasn’t had in years. For whatever reason, he doesn’t feel the hate that he normally harbors around this man wearing a skin mask. Instead, he feels a sort of kinship. This is made more evident when Jason follows the Sawyer family back to their home where he meets the rest of this wacky bunch. After getting yelled at by the cook, Leatherface retires to his room and weeps softly in his bed without his mask. Jason catches a glimpse of him and sees himself as a little boy. He definitely inexplicably feels sorry for, and protective of this like-minded monster.
The demented group invite him to the dinner table and when they ask his name, he dips his finger in a bowl of blood and scrawls across the wall the word “JASON.” And that’s just issue 1!
Regarding the CHAINSAW family, it’s fairly nondescript in terms of which version we’re seeing. Technically, this is the original family from the first 1974 movie, yet they act and look a bit more like their counterparts from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2. There’s also a Mother corpse in the mix that looks like the Mom we see during the finale of CHAINSAW 2, but really – the continuity with the movies doesn’t really matter. I always liked when a sequel began somewhat vague about what had come before. So, for the sake of getting Leatherface and Jason together, I’ll buy this timeline!
Issue 2 is where everything starts to come to a head. The hitchhiker tells Leatherface they need to go hunting again for “groceries” and that he might as well bring Jason along. An arguing couple pull up to the gas station that the Sawyer’s run, the Hitchhiker makes sure to sabotage their car and sure enough, a few yards up, it breaks down and that’s when the gang make their attack. Unfortunately for the wife of the couple, she goes running straight into Jason who immediately dispatches her. The Hitchhiker is upset that he killed her so fast and ruined their “fun.” Back at the house later, the Hitchhiker snaps at Leatherface and starts beating on his brother (as brothers will do), and it triggers a flashback to Jason’s childhood where he recalls his father Elias beating him. Jason puts a stop to it, and Leatherface stops him from doing to the Hitchhiker what he really wants to do.
At the top of issue 3, the Hitchhiker comes in the scold and beat Leatherface again for reading his comics. When Jason intervenes yet again, the Hitchhiker stabs Jason, and this is kind of where everything goes to shit. Acting on instinct, Jason is ready to put down the Hitchhiker once and for all (who, you have to admit, is pretty annoying and probably deserves it) when Drayton steps in.
So now the whole family is taking a literal stab at Jason. Out of loyalty to his family, Leatherface runs and grabs his saw and picks a fight with Jason. Conflicted, the two duke it out for a bit, but when it becomes obvious that Jason is winning, the Hitchhiker sneaks up behind Jason and bashes the top of his head in with a mallet.
Supposedly dead, they dump his body in the nearby lake. Leatherface makes sure to dump him with his machete and say goodbye to his only friend. When he awakens (and regenerates, as Jason tends to do) he decides he’s had enough of people and wants to go back to somewhere familiar. He begins making the long trek back to Camp Crystal Lake. Jason is going home.
Sadly, there was never a follow up to this story or subsequent Jason or Leatherface stories from Topp Comics. It would’ve been interesting to see Jason arrive back at Camp Crystal Lake only to be confused by the site of a new apartment complex! Or maybe he’d stumble back there during construction, and would weave in and out of the woods to take out construction workers or something. Hell, an adventure with the Sawyer family before TEXAS CHAINSAW 2 would’ve been intriguing to read! So many possibilities.
What’s fun about this comic is it fulfills that age-old debate that kids tends to have – pitting their heroes (or in this case villains) against each other and discussing who would win? The Hulk or The Thing? Superman or Mighty Mouse? Jason or Leatherface? And while the concept of mashing up movie monsters in film can be fun, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN probably being the most successful version of this, what works for the comics might not always work for the films. Reading over my above description of this comic’s plot beats, it might come across as kind of silly. But you know what? It’s still awesome! And I’m glad it exists in some format.
Point being, while a cinematic version of JASON VS LEATHERFACE will probably never happen, nor should it, I’m happy we got to see this “what if” scenario play out in the comic book world! Worth seeking out if you can find it.