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November, 2011

  1. Soviet Cosmocritters

    November 4, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In 1961 the Soviet Academy of Sciences held a news conference in Moscow to display an assortment of animals that the USSR had launched into space and safely returned to Earth. Space-faring dogs, mice, rats, and guinea pigs were put on display; the rabbits and various insects that flew the previous year were unable to attend.


  2. A Different Kind of Introduction

    November 2, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I don’t think I’m alone in the opinion that the Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life” (first aired 50 years ago on November 3, 1961) is the most terrifying and disturbing tale ever presented on the show. All the more impressive since it doesn’t rely on a twist ending or sudden revelations to make that impact. In fact, the premise in its entirety is laid out by host Rod Serling in the longest opening narration ever presented on the show.

     

     “Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines – because they displeased him – and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages – just by using his mind. Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It’s in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn’t like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you’re looking at now. She sings no more. And you’ll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.”

     

    Lesser storytellers would find such an introduction to be an insanely wasteful dump of valuable detail that should be slowly parceled out as the story unfolds. But instead of lessening the impact of the story itself, Serling’s introduction frees up the viewer’s attention so that it can focus not on the monster but on the fear and helplessness of its victims. The viewer isn’t asking himself what he would do if he himself had such powers but rather what he would do if put in the position of the conflicted and ultimately cowardly citizens of Peaksville.

     


  3. Marvel Monster Roll Call for Nov. 1961

    November 1, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Sserpo! Amazing Adventures #6: When a frustrated scientist disposes of an experimental growth formula by tossing it into the ocean it is consumed by a tiny lizard-like creature living on the ocean floor. The missing ingredient for the growth formula was simply water so Sserpo begins to grow. Sserpo is caught by fishermen but by the time they reach port the lizard is large enough to sink the entire island. Nearly 1000 feet tall, the monster heads toward Australia. The Australian Navy diverts the creature with rockets but Sserpo (now 2000 feet high) is headed straight for Japan. Worried that the giant monster will sink their entire country when he first set foot on Japanese soil, the Japanese use an H-Bomb to scare the monster away. As Sserpo continues to grow, scientists fear that he will grow so large that he will upset the orbit of the Earth. Just in time, the inhabitants of Jupiter send a giant skyhook to snag Sserpo and carry him into space.

    The Creature from Krogarr Tales to Astonish #25: An alien contacts an Earthman through his TV set and offers to make him famous if he will just make a few adjustments to his TV and allow his body to pass from the alien’s planet to Earth. After the man does this, the alien  seizes the man and takes him back to his home planet. The alien tells the man that he will be  proof that his revolutionary new method of travel works and puts him in a cage while he calls his superiors. Once his superiors arrive and have seen the human, he is to be killed and invasion plans will be drawn up. Suddenly, the Earthman fades away just before the superiors arrive. Angered, they kill the inventor and destroy his machine which they assume is worthless. Luckily, the man had neglected to pay his electric bill and the power to the TV set was shut off, thus saving Earth.

    Giganto Fantastic Four #1:  Giganto is one of many Deviant Mutates dwelling on Monster Isle. During the first adventure of the Fantastic Four, the Mole Man makes Giganto his servant and uses him to attack nuclear power plants all over the world. Johnny Storm, the Human Torch succeeds (at least temporarily) in sealing Giganto and the Mole Man’s other monsters in their underground lair by melting the rock around the passage to the Earth’s surface.

     

    The Thing in the Black Box Journey into Mystery #74: A victim of a shipwreck washes up on a not quite deserted isle where he stumbles over beautiful Pandora and her box. Pandora is malevolent and tricks him into opening the box for her whereupon she commands the demon that emerges to make all of mankind her slave. The man begs Pandora to be allowed to return to the mainland, and she grants his request, but he has a plan and returns with a set of mirrors which he rings around the sleeping Pandora. When she awakes she cries out in despair that they be taken away. The man had gambled that centuries-old Pandora’s beauty had to be the result of hypnosis, but no one can hypnotize a mirror. He says the mirrors will be removed if she orders the demon back into the box. She does so, and they bury the box deep in the earth, and leave Pandora on her isle with her illusion of beauty.

    Orrgo…The Unconquerable Strange Tales #90: Two billion miles from earth the imperialistic race, the Mentelleronites, discuss their plan to conqure the planet Earth. One of the Mentelleronites, Orrgo, volunteers to be the planet’s invader. Orrgo believes his race to be so superior to the humans that he can accomplish the feat single-handedly. Teleporting himself across the galaxy, Orrgo materializes in a circus and tells the people audience to bow to him. The police and military are called but no one can withstand his hypnotic power. After hypnotizing the entire world’s population, Orrgo falls asleep near the circus where he originally materialized. Jo-Jo the circus gorilla becomes infuriated that his hypnotized master has not fed him and breaks out of his cage. Jo-Jo finds the sleeping Orrgo and senses  that he is responsible for his hunger. The angry ape strikes down Orrgo and saves the world. The others on Orrgo’s world sense that their brother has been defeated and decide not to try to invade Earth again, as they must be more powerful than originally thought.

    The Creature from the Black Bog Tales of Suspense #23 A retired couple exploring the Everglades comes upon an alien who has been mired in the bog after landing to make repairs and was making his way back to the ship. In exchange for their help in securing enough vines to pull him free of the bog, he removes their memories of the incident and makes them younger. Read the whole story here.