Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reading Room: Flying Saucers x Four #4 "Impossible Spaceship"

The final version of the story doesn't even include the words "flying saucer" in the title...
...and the ship design itself is closer to Star Trek or 1960s Italian sci-fi like Planet of the Vampires (one of my all-time faves)...
Published in the back of Marvel's Strange Tales #101 (1962), this MadMan-era, never-reprinted, Don Heck-illustrated, Stan Lee-scripted tale was the final version of a Stan Lee plot involving sentient alien spacecraft first used in 1953 (HERE), then re-used in 1958 (HERE), and 1960 (HERE).
NOTE: Atlas had given way to Marvel several months earlier with Amazing Fantasy #15 (first Spider-Man) and Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.
(When Spider-Man received his own title a year later, the FF were cover-featured guest-stars!)
BTW, the cover feature for this issue was the introduction of the Human Torch's short-lived solo strip!
Weird Trivia: All four of the issues these stories originally appeared in had a number "1" in the issue numbering (21, 1, 11, 101)!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reading Room: Flying Saucers x Four #3 "I Know the Secret of the Flying Saucer!"

Yesterday, Jack Kirby demonstrated why he was THE KING...
...now Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko shows us his unique approach to the same plot!
Presented in the back of Atlas' (later Marvel's) Tales of Suspense #11 (1960), this Stan Lee/Steve Ditko collaboration takes the twice-told tale (as we showed you HERE and HERE) and adds Ditko's more personal/less cosmic storytelling approach, playing up emotions of wonder and fear, taking the story closer to its' horror comic origins...but without the devouring of humans.
It's not better or worse, just different.
Tomorrow, the final version of the tale, from another Silver Age stalwart!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reading Room: Flying Saucers x Four #2 "I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!"

Yesterday, we looked at the first of four stories involving sentient flying saucers...
Art by Jack Kirby and either Christopher Rule or George Klein
...all written by Stan Lee.
Today, we'll look at the second one, with art by the most famous collaborator of all...Jack Kirby!
At this point, Lee was editing the entire Atlas (soon to be Marvel) comics line as well as scripting most of it!
But, this story shows indications of being done using the "Marvel Method" of having the writer and artist discuss the story, the artist then co-plotting and drawing it, then the scripter writing dialogue and captions to fit.
With distinctive art by Jack Kirby and Christopher Rule, the cover-featured tale from the first issue of Atlas' short-lived 1958-59 anthology Strange Worlds, feels more like something from Kirby's previous anthology series, Race for the Moon, rather than Lee's previous horror-oriented take on the concept of "alien IS flying saucer"!
The "epic space adventure" feel was something a lot of Kirby's previous work had, while most of Atlas' sci-fi stories (edited or written by Lee) favored a more "personal"approach with a minimum of spectacle, and certainly no half-page or full-page shots of alien cities or space battles!
Stan Lee has acknowledged that he was using the "Marvel Method" in 1961 when the first appearances of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were created, so it's obvious the time-saving technique, that gave more control to the artist, was already in use.
So I'm going with:
Plot by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Layout/Pencils by Kirby
Script by Lee 
Inks by Christopher Rule
Trivia: This was Kirby's first sci-fi story on his return to Atlas/Marvel!
Tomorrow, see how Atlas/Marvel's most idiosyncratic artist handled the same plotline two years later!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reading Room: Flying Saucers x Four #1 "Secret of the Flying Saucer"

In the old days (pre-Silver Age), comic books recycled plots every few years...
Art by Bill Everett
...since the target audience changed every few years!
Let's see how one specific concept was re-used over a decade by one publisher.
Exhibit #1 is this tale...
Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Fred Kida, this never-reprinted, pre-Comics Code tale from Atlas' Men's Adventures #21 (1953) is definitely more "horror" than "sci-fi".
That's to be expected since this was the era of horror comics' greatest popularity, before the Congressional witchhunts and claims of comics causing juvenile delinquency.
Stan Lee would reuse the concept of a sentient spaceship meeting hapless humans several more times...as we shall see tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reading Room JET POWERS "Dust Doom"

The first part of an apocalyptic tale completes our look at #3 of Jet Powers...
...in a story apparently inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger tale, "Poison Belt"
You'd think it was "the end"...but it isn't!
The planet is in bad shape.
The population is decimated.
Damaged/destroyed infrastructure must be rebuilt.
And then...something terrible happens...as we'll see in the sequel, next week!
It's unusual that a series would have two, unrelated cliffhangers in one issue, but that's what writer Gardner Fox and artist Bob Powell did in Magazine Enterprises' Jet Powers #3 (1951)!
Considering the previous issues had inter-related stories in the same issue, I wonder if this was a case of the first parts of a pair of two-part stories being completed, but the second parts weren't ready when the deadline crept up on them.
(In those days, comics had to come out on schedule since they were dependent on their status as periodicals to qualify for lower postage/shipping rates.)
At any rate, you'll see the two different conclusions Monday and Tuesday of next week...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Reading Room JET POWERS "InterPlanetary War"

Like any respectable sci-fi hero, Jet Powers visited Mars...
...and ran right into the middle of an interplanetary war...but one that didn't involve Earth, for a change!
But, the Queen doesn't realize that danger threatening not only Mars, but Earth as well, lurks within her own court...as we'll see in the sequel story next Monday!
There's one more tale to go from Magazine Entertainment's Jet Powers #3 (1951), also written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Bob Powell.
You'll see that one tomorrow!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reading Room JET POWERS "Devil Machine"

Let's return to the high-tech adventures of Jet Powers...
...beginning with the cover story about a mad scientist who ends up redefining "multi-tasking"...
Is it just me, or does Mikla look a lot like Marlon Stone from Jet Powers #2's "House of Horror", who also experimented with animals and then perished in flames?
Written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Bob Powell, this tale from Magazine Entertainment's Jet Powers #3 (1951) was unique in being a stand-alone story.
The other two Jet tales were two-parters that began in this issue, then concluded in the following one...as you'll see tomorrow!
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