Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Panel Discussion: Spaaaaaace Comics!


Redartz:  I've long had a fascination with Outer Space , originating with watching the Apollo astronauts and their adventures as a child. I tuned in to "Lost in Space".  I read books about the stars and planets. I even got a small telescope one Christmas, and eagerly focused it on the moon. Therefore, it's only natural that space-based comic books would be appealing. Chances are that many of you found such comics attractive as well (after all, how can you resist the Vastness of Space and All It's Mysteries?). 

When it comes to the subject of the cosmos, comics have approached it in several ways; directly and indirectly. There have been fact based, scientific comics (for instance, Dell's "Man in Space"). Then there are comics that deal with the stars via the star drives of Science Fiction (say, "Mystery in Space"). And of course there are the books whose protagonists are themselves spacefarers ("Captain Marvel", and so many others). All these types of comics are on the table for our discussion this week; and if you're so inclined feel free to bring up your favorite comic stories that may only deal with space under specific circumstances (for example, any who love to read about the Fantastic Four traveling to that infamous Fifth Quadrant of the Andromeda Galaxy to deal with the Skrulls). 

You may ask, "Okay, Red; what ones did you like?" Glad you asked. Although the straightforward, scientific space comics are rather uncommon, I definitely liked the second and third categories. Especially the Science fiction variety; my fondness for anthologies is common knowledge here at BitBA. Two titles in particular always got my dollars: "Mystery in Space", and "Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction". One DC, one Marvel; after all, fair is fair. 













"Mystery in Space" in our Bronze age, was a DC revival title in 1980 that featured a handful of short stories in each issue. With sharp covers by Joe Kubert and interior art by the likes of Marshall Rogers, Steve Ditko, Jim Aparo, Trevor Von Eeden, Mike Golden and many others, MiS was full of fine visuals. The stories ranged from 'meh' to 'Holy Cow'; but they never failed to entertain.




 "Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction" was also an anthology, but it was a black and white magazine format publication from Marvel; debuting in 1974.  Like "Mystery in Space" above, "Unknown Worlds" ended up as a rather short-lived title. Nevertheless, during it's limited run it gave us a load of good stories and top notch art. I had just begun my comics collecting career at that time, and was amazed at the quality of the magazine from issue number 1. The first issue artists included Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta, Al Williamson, Frank Brunner and Gene Colan. Pretty impressive debut. And also like "Mystery", in Unknown Worlds the stories themselves varied a bit. but if memory serves the overall entertainment level was pretty high. 


As for the other space-oriented books: obviously there were many that I loved: Jim Starlin's "Warlock" series, and in particular the Avengers Annual 7 / Marvel Two in One Annual 2 masterpiece. In the pursuit of brevity we'll leave it at that for now; let's get ready to hear from you. The Universe is large, and so is the subject. Proceed to launch  with all your thoughts about comics and space; and if the fates allow, I'll meet you someday in orbit (I still haven't given up hope yet)...


Humanbelly said...

Everyone's really busy today, aren't they? (Man, I KNOW I am-!!)
This is a solid topic, Red--- I'm hopin' to dive into it myself by tomorrow sometime-!

Quick items that come immediately to mind on my end:

1) The first Guardians of the Galaxy solo series in Marvel Comics Presents- which I enjoyed in spite of a lot of the silliness of the era.

2) The Inhumans solo series (w/ a lot of young George Perez pencils!) at roughly the same time.

3) Oh man, QUASAR's solo series in the late 80's/90's-- which was an absolute GIFT from the late Mark Gruenwald. . . even though it was saddled with frighteningly sub-par artists for much of its run. It's the only time I can remember a title's announced cancellation being postponed because of core-fan backlash--- I think it held on for about another year after that?

4) An EXTREMELY odd issue of the FF (I think sometime before the Byrne run) that dealt with an alien who had come to earth because she had contacted the Voyager space probe, IIRC? There was a strong "educational" aspect to the whole thing, with Reed explaining the Voyager mission and so on (w/ diagrams, I believe--). It was clearly supposed to instill a sense of wonder about other life "out there". PLEASE tell me how this makes even a molecule of sense in Marvel Universe of that (or any other) time? Didn't we have Skrulls by, literally, issue #2 of the FF???

Okay, really gotta go-!


Anthony said...

Can we show a little love for Inner Space? I know that the Micronauts have been discussed here on more than one occasion! Bill Mantlo did such a wonderful job of creating worlds, communities and our adventuring heroes. Michael Golden's art was astonishing, creating atmospheres both familiar and alien.

Edo Bosnar said...

Love space, er, I mean, spaaaaaaaaaaaaace comics. Loved the spacefaring heroes like Capt. Marvel, and Silver Surfer, and Rom, and esp. Warlock, and I loved the SF anthology books as well. Speaking of which, DC's short-lived Time Warp was another good SF anthology series - all with stunning covers by Kaluta.

Otherwise, I know most folks tend to think the horror, war and humor comics are the best of EC's output, but once I got around to reading the reprints I always liked their science fiction/outer space stories a bit better than the others. Especially when they were drawn by Williamson or Wood.

Colin Jones said...

I'm amazed that nobody has mentioned Star Wars! Didn't the Star Wars comics save Marvel from financial ruin in the late '70s? Or maybe that's been exaggerated?

In October 1979 Marvel UK launched 'Doctor Who Weekly' but I only bought the first few issues then lost interest. One of the Doctor Who stories was later reprinted in colour in the US in Marvel Premiere. Doctor Who Weekly soon became a monthly which is still around today (but no longer owned by Marvel).

In the UK an "annual" is a hardback book traditionally given as a Christmas present and in the '70s I had several space-themed annuals about Doctor Who, Space 1999 (the Gerry Anderson TV series) and Star Trek (which featured reprints of the American Gold Key comics).

Anonymous said...

Fave comics in spaaaaace -

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Jack Kirby
I'm thinking more of the very under-rated series than the film adaptation, although that was good too.
Who draws better spaaaaace scenes than Kirby? No-one, thats who.

2. The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson
Especially the third "book" (the first isn't even set in space)
Also from 2000AD, I loved the first few Nemesis The Warlock series by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill/Bryan Talbot.

3. Lone Sloane by Philippe Druillet

4. Valerian by Pierre Christin and Jean Mezieres

5. Twilight by Howard Chaykin and Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez

Special shout for anything drawn by the mighty Alex Nino. You can't really narrow him down to any one publication or series, and generalizing saves me the embarrassment of raving about anything from Warren's 1984/94 mag (;.
I particularly like the Space Voyagers back-ups Nino drew in Rima - its amazing what he could do in just a few pages in the back of some old mid-70s DC comic...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie did not read any space comics but for those mentioned by Edo above: EC Weird Fantasy, Weird Science, and Weird Science-Fantasy.

Wallace Wood steals the show in those issues!

Quick story: two weeks ago I'm at a Cubs day game on a Saturday. Afterwards, we went walking south on Clark Street. Jings - a comic book story and it was open for another 30 minutes. They had a ton of EC reprints on sale at face value from the 1990s $1.50 to $2.00. Charlie picked up 7 for $15.00. Been savoring them a bit at a time!

Graham said...

I remember being so excited when Adam Strange got the back-up spot in Green Lantern. I know he was a Silver Age creation, but he was one of the first heroes I encountered when I started reading comics, a reprint featuring the JLA in Strange Adventures. That was always a fun series. I particularly enjoyed the GL issues when he was traveling through space, too.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Ohhh.... this is for Red as a baseball fan.

Pittsburgh v. Cubs.

2 outs

Bottom of the 9th

Bases loaded

Cubs are losing 6-4

(No... the might Casey was not at the plate, LOL!)

2 consecutive very flukey hits, lol, and Cubs win 7-6!

Anonymous said...

Elephant in the Room: Flash (AA-aaaah!) Gordon. Breath-taking art, ridiculously dumb stories. Not much ‘space’ action (though Dan Barry leaned into that aspect when he took over the strip) — once Flash, Dale and Zarkov get to Mongo, it’s more like John Carter of Mars with more clothes (for the dudes, anyway). It was HUGELY influential in all media — film, tv, comics, pulps — for decades. Wouldn’t be no Star Wars without Flash.

The original Buck Rogers strip is supposedly better written than Flash, but the art is so crude and un-appealing, I’ve never bothered to try it. I do like the reboot by Jim Lawrence and Gray Morrow.

Speaking of Morrow, I kinda like the SPACE: 1999 mag he did for Charlton. The color comic has some nice early John Byrne art.

Speaking of Byrne, how about that one Star Lord comic he did with Claremont and Austin? Doug Moench and Tom Sutton did some nifty color adventures with the character in SPOTLIGHT and PREMIERE.

Sean: right there with ya on Kirby’s 2001 and Nino’s Space Voyagers. Love ‘em both! Nino did a handful of other Space Opera type shorts for the various DC ‘Mystery’ comics too.

Yep, Woody’s EC stuff raised the bar for SF comics. He did a bunch of SF stories a few years earlier for Avon and other publishers — SPACE DETECTIVE, CAPTAIN SCIENCE, STRANGE WORLDS, etc. — they’re fun, but his WEIRD SCIENCE / WEIRD FANTASY are him at the apex of his career.

More later…


Redartz said...

HB- ah yes, those Guardians stories in Marvel Presents were great. Steve Gerber at his wackiest. Still wonder how they got the Topographical Man issue past the Code; some pretty obvious space hanky panky. And good point about the FF- they met so many aliens it should have been routine...

Anthony- good call on the Microverse! A fine series indeed, especially the first 20 or so issues.

Edo- nice mention of "Time Warp". Didn't that sort of carry on after the cancellation of Mystery in Space?

Colin- yes, it was only a matter of time before someone brought up Star Wars. Well done, Sir! Oh, and regarding that "Space 1999" Annual you mentioned- did that reprint the Charlton comic series?

Sean- Glad to hear the love for Alex Nino. I was just admiring some of his work over the weekend in "House of Mystery ". Everything he did was stylish and attractive.

Graham- Indeed, Hal Jordan spent a lot of time among the stars. The Green Lantern Corps gave us many fun spacefaring stories. Brings to mind the Legion; they had some great cosmic capers too.

Charlie- nice pickup on those EC's! And as for baseball- glad your Cubbies pulled it off. I'm currently watching in pain as my Reds do their best to fade out of postseason potential. Sometimes I wish I was a Yankees fan...

Anonymous said...

I had absolutely no idea what Charlie was going on about there.


Humanbelly said...

Quick tangential question that fits under the umbrella of this topic: Doesn't it seem like there an AWFUL LOT of "He-Who-Conquered-A-Million-Millon-Worlds" types in the Marvel Universe? Granted, Space is big, yeah-- but it does have a theoretical limit somewhere. . . er, doesn't it? And it's not like it's *densely* populated anywhere that we're able to observe. It's like, just about every planet would have to have fallen under the boot-heel of Kang, or the Krees/Skrulls/Shi'ar, or the Galaxy Master, or etc. And that's not counting the untold millions (?) that Galactus must have eaten since was included in the package at the dawn of this universe.

Wait, wait-- and that last one is calulable--! It's. . . . good lord. . . 164 BILLION planets since the dawn of time. . . give or take a couple-!!! (Boy-- THERE'S a guy looking for new and exciting tasty-treats to enrich his tired-out palate. . . ) And he's just functions as a cull--- a force of nature.

There are a lot of these impossibly hyperbolic conquerors, aren't there? Give me some more, here. . .


Colin Jones said...

Red, I don't think the 'Space: 1999' annuals had anything to do with Charlton comics.

By the way, I was listening to the radio this morning and there was an interesting discussion about the evolution of crocodiles in the Triassic.

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