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‘Science Fiction’ Category

  1. Space Angel

    February 6, 2012 by The Belated Nerd

    Space Angel, which debuted in syndication on February 6, 1962, was one of those bizarro productions that married the best and the worst of early Sixties television animation.  The “best” is the wonderful panel art drawn by the legendary Alex Toth. The “worst” is the stagnant animation and the use of the Clutch Cargo style Synchro-Vox method of animating the characters’ lips. Another cost-cutting move was to lift the music from Roger Corman’s War of the Satellites for the theme music. Each story was serialized over five 5-minute episodes which were intended to be shown one a day through the week, climaxing on Friday.

    The show featured the three-person crew of the spaceship Starduster: Captain Scott McCloud (“The Space Angel”), Electronics and Communications expert Crystal Mace, and Scottish born Engineer Taurus. You’re forgiven if you are compelled to think of these characters as precursors to Kirk, Uhura, and Scotty. The Starduster was part of an Interplanetary Space Force made up of squadrons detailed to the various planets of the solar system. The ISF’s primary foes were the “Athenians” whose dress and customs more closely resembled ancient Romans than Greeks. Another recurring threat was the Evil Queen of Space and her toadies The General and The Major. Although the Evil Queen sported an ancient Egyptian motif, she and her minions spoke with decidedly Eastern European accents.

    Although Space Angel and his crew could usually thwart an enemy on their own, sometimes they would have to call on the rest of the ISF whose ships were identifiable by the astronomical symbols of the planets they were responsible for.

    In 1963, Alex Toth drew a Space Angel comic strip that was published in Jack & Jill magazine.

     



  2. 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.

      

      


  3. 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.

         

         


  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. 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!


  6. 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.


  7. Marvel Monsters Roll Call for Oct. 1961

    October 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Monsteroso – Amazing Adventures #5: The alien child Monsteroso accidentally presses the escape pod button of his parent’s spaceship and is carried down to Earth where the pod crashes in the African jungle.  Monsteroso’s unconscious body is discovered by an American circus owner who sells the supposedly dead creature to a New York museum.  The alien child awakes and  explores the city until the military attacks him. The frightened monster tries to flee by climbing to the top of  the UN building. The army shoots him with a tranquilizer dart and he falls into the river. His parents suddenly arrive and rescue their child warning the earthlings that, “It is fortunate he is unharmed. Fortunate…FOR YOU.” and leave Earth.

    The Spider – Journey into Mystery #73:  A physicist working at an atomic research lab in New Mexico goes into work one day unknowingly with a spider in his pants cuff. The creature becomes bombarded by the atomic rays and grows to a huge size, gaining the power to think and speak, and then attacks the humans. The physicist tricks the spider into snagging a missile test with its web and when it climbs towards it, the missile detonates and kills The Spider.

    Fin Fang Foom – Strange Tales #89: In his debut, Fin Fang Foom was merely an ancient hibernating dragon  who is deliberately awakened from his slumber in a cave by an anti-communist Taiwanese man,  Chen Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from the Red Chinese. Chen uses a special herb to awaken the dragon, and taunts Foom with the threat of another herb that will put him back to sleep. Chen goads Foom into chasing him, and leads him straight into the Communist invasion force, which Foom destroys. With the Red threat eliminated, Chen leads Fin Fang Foom back into his cave, where the sleep herb returns Foom to his hibernative state. But that wasn’t the last the Marvel Universe would hear from Fin Fang Foom.

    The Abominable Snowman – Tales to Astonish #24: A TV producer receives a request to produce a film of the Abominable Snowman so he and his crew set off for the Himalayas. Unconvinced that such a creature exists, the producer dresses up in a costume, but one of his assistants sees him and follows behind. Suddenly, the fur-clad producer is seized by a much larger furry creature who claims that he had been searching for him. The creature (revealed to be a lizardman in disguise) takes the producer to a drill machine and the assistant sneaks in too. They travel deep underground to a city of lizardmen who have been looking for a lost explorer who wears a shaggy costume for protection from the cold. He must still be alive as they live for a thousand years. They are hostile to the producer and attempt to place him into a cage. He makes a break for it and runs into the cave of a thousand winds. While he is helplessly buffeted by winds from different directions, the assistant sneaks up behind the lizardmen guarding the cave’s mouth and lobs explosives at them which throw them into the cave’s strong winds as well. The assistant extends a rope to the producer and they escape toward the black pool which holds a ”octo-monster”. They escape from its clutches and come across the drill machine while fleeing the lizardmen. They take the machine back to the surface and destroy it with the remaining explosives.

    Bruttu – Tales of Suspense #22: A milksop scientist working on an experimental machine is thinking of a comic book monster when an accidental discharge of energy transforms him into the creature’s likeness. He goes on an unintended rampage through town because he can no longer speak and communicate his non-hostile intentions, the military authorities attack and drive him into the woods. While approaching a small house he gets the idea that he can write with an object, but the owner drives him away with a rifle. He loves his research assistant and, coming to the realization that the army will eventually destroy him, resolves to see her one last time. He approaches her home and uses a rake to write in the ground he means no harm, but since the scientist disappeared when the monster appeared, the woman jumps to the conclusion that he “has killed the man I loved.” Since he realizes now what a fool he has been for wanting to be big and strong since the woman he loved loved him just the way he was, he returns to the atomic machine and bathes in its rays once more thinking of the man he had been. He changes back and embraces his true love.



  8. Dr. Woodward, the Penny-a-Word Sexpert

    October 12, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Robert Silverberg is best known for writing science fiction and is a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner. His first published novel, a children’s science fiction book called Revolt on Alpha C  was published  in 1955, and he won his first Hugo for “best new writer”.  Over the next several years Silverberg estimates he wrote a million words a year, mostly for magazines and Ace Doubles. When the market for science fiction became glutted in the early Sixties, Silverberg adopted several pseudonyms and began writing in other fields.

    Perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the most unethical) of these alter-egos was the supposed psychiatrist and sex expert Dr. L.T. Woodward.  Published by Monarch, Lancer, and Belmont in cheap paperback editions, the basic modus operandi of Woodward’s dozen or more books was to write titillating soft-porn stories and compile them as actual psychiatric case studies (sexposés). 

     Sex Fiend (1961) explores the world of sex crimes. Many of these crimes end in murder like in the chapters entitled “Teenage Thrill Killers” and “The Peeping Tom Murders.”  Doctors taking advantage of their patients are also detailed. And don’t forget the ladies! The dangers presented by nymphomaniacs and violent lesbians are also addressed.

     

    Sex and Hypnosis (1961) touts the power of hypnosis to “cure” everything from frigidity to homosexuality. From the back cover blurb:

    “A frigid and frustrated woman who is now able to respond fully to her husband’s embrace…
    A once practicing homosexual who is now happily married and the father of a family…
    A desperate, impotent man, now amazingly restored to his full sexual power…
    A young wife who had her baby painlessly , but fully conscious and with no anesthetic…
    These are some of the people whose intimate stories are told in this book…People whose emotional frustrations and physical sufferings were relieved by the amazing new science of medical hypnosis — which brought them normal sexual satisfaction when every other treatment failed!”

     

    Sex in our Schools (1962) is a voyueristic tour of underaged sex disguised as a wake-up call to parents. From the back cover:

    “EVERYTHING FOR KICKS
    There is a sickness in our society today. Parents neglect their children, or else order them about so sternly that they rebel. Sexual and social mores are changing. “Everything for kicks” is the motto of our younger generation as they ignore self-discipline and flout recognized authority.
    Sexual liberty is a natural outgrowth of such rebellion. Girls who have had several lovers before they are Sweet Sixteen, boys who could give many older people lessons in love — these are the children we see so frequently today.
    There is no simple solution. BUT unless we want to be overwhelmed by a rising tide of illegitimate children and emotional cripples, we will have to start finding some answers, says Dr. Woodward in this penetrating study of what makes our young people tick.”

     

    Sex and the Armed Forces (1963) may well be the worst of the lot, beginning with the  fallacious cover blurb, “A Doctor’s [Silverberg's only degree was a BA in English from Columbia] confidential report on the sexual behaviour of men and women in military life.”

    One chapter details the rape of a young service woman described as “a tease who wanted to remain a virgin until marriage.” Due to her flirtatious behaviour the rapist was given a suspended sentence and the victim was discharged as unfit for duty. It’s a sad story that should come with a lesson about the appalling state of military justice. Instead the chapter is concluded with a summation by a noted “psychiatrist”:

    “…I’d say the best that could have happened to this girl is what Daniels (the rapist) did to her. Maybe he smashed up the complex of neuroses centering about her virginity, and left her free to live a normal life.”

     

    “Dr.” Woodward would go on to write about virgin wives, divorced women, masochism, sadism, lesbians, nymphomaniacs and suburban swingers:


  9. Thriller Picture Library: Jet-Ace Logan

    October 7, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Thriller Picture Library was a 64 page digest-sized comic book with black & white interior art.  Each page usually consisted of two panels; one on top of the other. Published four times a month in Britain by Fleetway it ran serialized stories featuring a variety of war, spy, and detective heroes. In 1961 the featured characters were Dogfight DixonJohn Steel, Battler Britton, Spy 13with one-off appearances by Dick Daring of the Mounties and our old friend Jet-Ace Logan.

    Jet-Ace Logan was a space pilot with the RAF, 100 years in the future. He and his wingman, Plumduff  were entrusted to thwart the plans of nefarious aliens, smugglers, and other space-baddies. Where Dick Daring‘s sole Thriller appearance in 1961 was the character’s swan song issue, Jet-Ace Logan‘s was the first of  a dozen appearances that would see out the end of  Thriller Picture Library in 1963.  Jet-Ace Logan was usually found in Fleetway’s Comet and Tiger magazines between 1956 and 1968. It’s doubtful that the stories that ended up in Thriller were excess inventory from Tiger where it was running in serial during 1961. The large Tiger magazine featured a dozen or more panels to the page compared to the digest-sized Thriller‘s 2-4 panels per page. Issue 383 was published in 1961 and issue 391 was Thriller‘s first issue of 1962.


  10. 1961 Cover Gallery: Ace SF Doubles

    October 1, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Ace Books published more than 200 Science Fiction Ace Doubles between 1952 and 1973 in tête-bêche format (a book with two front covers rotated 180° relative to the other – the ends of each novel meeting in the middle of the book).

    Here is a cover gallery of Ace SF Doubles published in 1961: