Sometimes I read really bad comics. (Not that difficult really given that 90% of them, like everything else, are crap.) So I'll witter on about crappy comics for a bit.
One of my current fascinations is for the short lived publishers, Atlas / Seaboard, which, in 1975, set out a full-frontal assault on the Marvel / DC duopoly, an assault that lasted several heady months before folding. A short history of the company can be found here.
There are several things I like about Atlas Comics:
- They're cheap and not particularly sought after by collectors.
- There are only 65 of them.
- They are - for the most part - bloody awful.
I'm slowly collecting the lot with my pocket money. Putting together runs is very easy; titles like Planet of the Vampires! only lasted three issues and, over its three issues, manages to sum up the whole operation for me with the covers alone.
"A World Gone MAD!
Six Astronauts Return to
Earth and Find it Ruled by
The cover of issue One (lovingly rendered by Pat Broderick and Neal Adams) shows our heroic hero, and heroic heroine, heroically shooting someone who is feebly throwing small rocks at them off-panel. They're doing this while standing in a manner that suggests they are trying surreptitiously pull twisted underpants out of their arse-cracks without putting down their weapons.
Our heroes ladies and gentlemen!
(Incidentally the 'six astronauts' promised on the front cover turn out to number five and one of them gets killed on page three having appeared in only two panels and delivered one line of dialogue.)
So, returning to a post-apocalyptic world (two years after they lost contact with Earth) our all American heroes find a society divided between disciplined, jumpsuit-wearing, well-armed, scientifically-enlightened dome dwellers on one hand, and the hairy, brutal street tribe savages so popular in Italian SF movies of the time. As you may have guessed all is not as it seems and the disciplined, jumpsuit-wearing, well-armed, scientifically-enlightened dome dwellers are really VAMPIRES! who harvest the rough, tough street boys to scientifically drain them of their blood and scientifically make a serum they need to survive the mutated plague that threatens them .. dah dah dahhhhh!
I could hardly wait to see what happened next...
By issue two's cover the disciplined jumpsuit-wearing, well-armed, scientifically-enlightened dome dwellers are suddenly wearing cloaks and have claws, and widow's peaks, and fangs! and all the rest of the Dracula shtick - and what the hell IS that handy nipple-access zip doing on that woman's uniform? (and why isn't it unzipped?)
At this point I should mention that the four astronauts who made it past page four of issue one are two married couples. One couple is white, that's them on the covers of issues one and two, the other couple are black.
Here they are. That's them on the cover of issue three (a logo change after only two issues?)
This is what they look like on the inside.
(Knowing how people scream when they are
dying is part of basic astronaut training.)
dying is part of basic astronaut training.)
I don't know much about the schedule that the artists and writers were working to, or how long a lead time they had, but you would have thought that by issue three, someone in editorial would have noticed that they'd got these guys' skin colours wrong. And it's not as if you weren't 'allowed' to put black characters on the front of comics. Marvel had a black character on the cover of Captain America back in 1969.
Not that it really matters because one of them is dead half way through this issue and the other writes himself out of the plot a few panels later.
So. Of the promised six astronauts on the cover of issue one we are down to two. And one of them dies before the end of this book. Maybe that's why there was never an issue 4. The last remaining character snuffed it before they could get round to writing it.
EDIT: Maybe not! I just found a double page splash in the back of the comic (which I managed to miss on multiple readings). The splash looks like someone traced a couple of Jack Kirby panels and it shows our male heroes back together- in more of the endless supply of spacesuits they carry around with them (our white hero gets one Kirked to shreds in every issue.)
In the Black Depths
Beneath the Fortress Dome --
a New and Terrifying Menace!
REVENGE of the VAMPIRES!
I would guess that the new menace was - oooh I dunno? More vampires? Hairy ones with stupendously long left legs?
(I hope that's his leg...)