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October, 2011

  1. Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Giant Robots

    October 31, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In the last few months I’ve written a couple posts on the world of plastic models in 1961 and one thing that struck me was how important it was for companies like Revell and Aurora to have impressive artwork on the boxes that contained the less than awe-inspiring unassembled and unpainted pieces of plastic inside.  That’s when I discovered the artwork of Shigeru Komatsuzaki (1915-2001). The first pieces I discovered were for two plastic models by the Japanese company Nichimo depicting floating automobiles. I can’t tell you why, but I really like the way Komatsuzaki draws cars.

    Although Shigeru Komatsuzaki’s art apparently dominated science fiction publishing in Japan during the 1950s, there is precious little of his early work available online.  Almost all of his prewar work, including his personal collection was lost to wartime firebombing and the paper used for domestic printing for a decade after the war was done on the most perishable of paper.  A fire at Komatsuzaki’s home in 1995 destroyed much of his remaining archives.

     

    The format of his most renowned work in the Fifties was a double-page tableaux with some descriptive text portraying a variety of monster attacks, natural disasters and futuristic inventions. These works were not comic books nor were they any sort of proto-manga although the influence of his style is readily apparent in modern Japanese sequential art.

    Starting in the late Fifties Komatsuzaki worked as a production designer on several Japanese films, including The Mysterians (1957) and  Battle in Outer Space (1960) designing futuristic vessels and monsters. While Manga was undergoing a huge boom during the early Sixties, Komatsuzaki stuck to single-image paintings, mostly as the artist of hundreds of dramatic box illustrations for plastic model kits of subjects as varied as floating cars, giant robots, spaceships and the entire fleet of craft featured in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds.

         

         


  2. The Three Eyed TV Monster

    October 28, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In 1961, Chicago TV pioneer Ulises Sanabria tested the market for a three-screen television with a photo spread in LIFE magazine. I suppose the advantage it had over simply owning three individual TVs in different rooms of the house is that it kept the family together – at least, physically. A hi-fi record player is concealed behind the center speaker panel. Apparently, it was inconceivable that two or more members of a family would want to listen to different records at the same time.


  3. Trick or Treat 1961

    October 27, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Here’s a collection of Halloween costumes from October 31, 1961. Ordinarily, I’d be hesitant about posting pictures of other people’s children but these kids are all pushing sixty now.


     
     


  4. SF Magazine Cover Gallery for Oct. 1961

    October 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Although they’re not as striking as his black and white inksVirgil Finlay‘s color paintings like this one for the cover of Galaxy are always filled with background detail other artist might not bother with.  Depicting a futuristic sport called space diving from Fritz Leiber’s story “The Beat Cluster”, Finlay shows the beatnik musicians, artists and dancers that inhabit the hamster-tube enclosure in high Earth orbit, as well as those whose thrills require them to wear spacesuits in the vacuum of space.

    Chesley Bonestell‘s cover painting for the October, 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction combines the artist’s ultra-realistic style of depicting both space hardware and space landscape. Most Americans were first introduced to Bonestell’s work when LIFE magazine published a series of paintings of Saturn as seen from several of its moons in 1944.  This cover is intriguing because it is not immediately apparent whether the rocket ships are taking off from the cratered planet or landing.

    A side note on this particular issue of F&SF is that it contained the first printing of Kurt Vonnegut’s Hugo award-winning short story, “Harrison Bergeron”

    Amazing Stories‘ October cover, like the month before, is by Alex Schomburg  and is another depiction of near future technology in the vein of  Popular Mechanics. It depicts off shore missile silos that seem rather impractical and unneccessary in an era where both the United States and the USSR were rapidly developing and deploying submarines armed with nuclear missiles.

    Schomburg spent the 1940s working in comic books for companies like Marvel’s precursor Timely Comics. Stan Lee called him the Norman Rockwell of comic books. Before he left comic books for magazines in the early 1950s, Schomburg had drawn almost 600 covers for comic books featuring characters like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. The amount of detail he put into even the most ephemeral of media was matched by only a few other artists of the time (like George Evans with whom Schomburg shared cover duties on Aces High ).

    John Schoenherr‘s cover for  Analog Science Fact-Fiction once again shows off the talent  Schoenherr honed while doing freelance work for the Bronx Zoo in the early 1960s.  In addition to the cover,  Schoenherr also did the interior illustrations for the story, “Lion Loose…” by James Schmitz.


  5. The Pixie Dust of Science

    October 25, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    As all comic book readers in 1961 knew, Cosmic Rays are the pixie dust of science. There was  no telling what effects or uses could be attributed to the darn things. They granted fantastic powers like invisibility or controlled human combustion. They could transform a normal man into a super strong pile of orange rocks. They could enable certain speedsters to travel through time.

    I’m not going to burst any bubbles of fantasy on this page, but if you really want to know what cosmic rays are all about, checkout this Japanese educational comic book published in 2008: What are Cosmic Rays?


  6. Seacon 1961

    October 24, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    This post is even more belated than usual since the 19th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), also known as Seacon, was held September 2-4, 1961.  Held at the Hyatt House Hotel, Seattle was a fortunate site for a Science Fiction convention since a year later the city would host the future-themed Century 21 Exposition (better  known as the Seattle World’s Fair.) Only a few blocks from the hotel was the unfinished Space Needle, still missing its flying saucer-shaped top.

    The guest of honor at the 19th Worldcon was Robert A. Heinlein, who gave a speech titled “The Future Revisited”. The Toastmaster was Harlan Ellison and the convention chairman was Wally Weber.

    The following Hugo Awards (named after Hugo Gernsback) were presented for the best science fiction or fantasy works of 1960.

    Best Novel – A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
    Best Short Fiction – “The Longest Voyage” by Poul Anderson
    Best Dramatic Presentation – The Twilight Zone (TV series) by Rod Serling
    Best Professional Magazine – Astounding/Analog edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.
    Best Professional Artist – Ed Emshwiller
    Best Fanzine – Who Killed Science Fiction? edited by Earl Kemp

    Other notable attendees… You know what? Let’s skip the rest of the program and get straight to the good stuff. Fifty-year-old cosplay!


  7. The Bobby Darin Dream Car

    October 23, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Forget the Batmobile; I’ll take Bobby Darin’s Dream Car.

    Andy Di Dia was a clothing designer from Detroit who spent seven years and over $150,000 building a car that puts the Ford Futura concept car that evolved into the Batmobile to shame.  Di Dia’s  friend, singer Bobby Darin, bought the car from him in 1961 and drove it to the Academy Awards and in movies until donating it to the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, MO in 1970.

    The car’s metallic red exterior is from 30 coats of paint with real ground diamonds for sparkle.  The body was made from hand-fashioned soft aluminum. There are hidden headlights and tail lights that swivel as the car turns. Inside, the seats each have their own ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker. On the dash are oversized levers that control the air conditioning, heater and defroster. The car has a 125-inch wheelbase and is powered by a V8 engine.

    Put someone like Bobby Darin behind the wheel and you’ve got nothing less than a double dose of cool!

     


  8. The Other DC (Commando & Victor Comics)

    October 22, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    D. C. Thomson & Co. is a publishing company based in Dundee, Scotland, which in addition to  publishing newspapers like The Dundee Courier, The Evening Telegraph and The Sunday Post, also produces comic books like Beano, The Dandy and Commando.   In 1884, David Coupar Thomson took over his family’s publishing business and in 1905 established it as D.C. Thomson. Thomson and his company were (and, to an extent, still are) notable for their conservatism. Early in the century, D. C. Thomson & Co vigorously opposed the introduction of trade unions into their workforce, and even refused to hire Catholics.

    This conservatism was reflected in the extreme British nationalism on display in two fervently patriotic comic book titles introduced in 1961; The Victor and Commando. The Victor debuted in January 1961 and had an incredible run of 1,657 issues before its cancellation in 1992. Commando, which was first published in June 1961, is still being published with an astounding issue count rapidly approaching 4,500!  Here is a small sample of covers from those two books’  inaugural year:


  9. Closer Than We Think!

    October 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Arthur Radebaugh was an industrial designer who spent most of his career working  for the  automotive industry. Between 1958 and 1962 he moonlit as a futurist illustrator writing and drawing the syndicated Sunday comic strip Closer Than We Think! 

    Click the images for a larger view.


  10. Mobot the Magnificent Mobile Robot

    October 20, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In 1961, the Hughes Aircraft Electronic Labs introduced the world to Mobot the Magnificent Mobile Robot. Mobot had about the same mass as all of the appliances in your kitchen combined (assuming you owned two refrigerators) and was designed to automate tiresome household tasks like zipping a dress or doing your nails. The only drawback was that  an on-staff PhD in electrical engineering had to be sitting behind a nearby control board to make it work.

    I wonder if Ed Emshwiller’s illustration for the January, 1955 cover of Galaxy Science Fiction was an inspiration for this wildly impractical household appliance.

    Whenever I’m short on ideas for this blog, I can always count on the  LIFE photo archive hosted by Google.