Back in January of last year, in a post about Monsters on the Prowl #16, we discussed Marvel Comics’ late-’60s -to-early-’70s attempts to break into the “mystery” (i.e., Comics Code-approved horror) anthology market that seemed to be doing so well at the time for their primary rival, DC Comics. As we covered in that piece, in 1969 Marvel launched two titles, Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, that were virtual clones of such DC fare as House of Mystery and The Witching Hour. These titles started off quite well, with original stories by Marvel’s top talent (Neal Adams, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, etc.), as well as by several EC Comics pre-Code horror veterans (Johnny Craig and Wally Wood) not to mention at least one young artist poached (albeit only briefly) from DC (Bernie Wrightson). Soon, however, the new material began to be supplemented by reprints from the publisher’s late-’50s-to-early-’60s “Atlas” era; and before either title had seen as many as ten issues, Tower of Shadows had morphed into Creatures on the Loose, while Chamber of Darkness became Monsters on the Prowl. By mid-1972, one could easily be forgiven for not seeing much if any difference between those titles and the all-reprint “monster” comics that Marvel had initiated around the same time as their “mystery” books, e.g. Where Monsters Dwell.
In retrospect, then, it’s somewhat surprising, if not actually confounding, that Marvel determined to give the (mostly) new “mystery” stories anthology format another go in the summer of ’72, as signified by the inauguration of a new volume of Journey into Mystery in July, followed by the first issue of a brand new title, Chamber of Chills, in August. What set this initiative apart from the earlier effort were two factors: first, Roy Thomas was now the editor-in-chief of the whole Marvel line; second (and almost certainly related to the first), the new titles emphasized the inclusion of adaptations of prose horror and fantasy stories by authors like Robert E. Howard and Harlan Ellison. (For the record, Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness had in fact featured the odd Poe or Lovecraft adaptation from time to time; their successors, however, came out of the gate with one such story in every issue, and usually highlighted that tale [and its literary provenance] on the issue’s cover.)
August also brought yet a third new title featuring adaptations from horror and fantasy literature, Supernatural Thrillers. This offering was distinguished from its sister anthologies by dint of featuring a single full-length story per issue, as well as by emphasizing the story’s title over the comic’s in its cover design, with each adaptation getting its own special one-time-only logo (as in the case of issue #1’s take on Theodore Sturgeon’s “It!”, shown at left). With early offerings including H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the title cane across somewhat like Classics Illustrated, if that long-running series had focused only on the scary stuff.
All three titles appeared to reflect a special keenness to adapt literary properties on the part of Thomas, who’d previously championed Marvel’s pursuit of the “Conan” license from the R.E. Howard literary estate; and who also, prior to breaking into the comics industry as a professional, had served a stint as a high school English teacher. As he would note decades later in an interview for Comic Book Artist #13 (May, 2001): “I love comics, but I always considered them, even now, a lower form of literature than some others, and so, I felt even doing pulp stories and science-fiction elevates comics to some extent.”
Whatever Thomas’ driving motivations, these three new adaptation-centric comics still weren’t quite enough to satisfactorily scratch his itch. And so, February, 1973 brought the first issue of a fourth such title, Worlds Unknown (a name which took inspiration from that of a series Marvel-Atlas had published through much of the 1950s, Journey into Unknown Worlds). Unlike its predecessors, this latest anthology title would focus not on the genre of horror, but rather on science fiction — although you would be unlikely to see the actual words “science fiction” on the cover of any given issue (at least not right away), for reasons Thomas explained, in quasi-conspiratorial fashion, in an editorial that ran in that first issue:
Many uncognizant [sic] souls are frightened off by the very name “science fiction.” They associate it with nothing but old re-runs of “Space Patrol” (at most, “Star Trek”) — or, in other words, what we call in the trade “space opera.” Rockets and ray-guns and robots — three “r’s” which turn off certain segments of the comic-buying population, and thus which have notoriously failed to sell to a mass market from the 1950’s onward. Millions will watch man land on the moon on TV, but rather fewer than that want to eye-witness the war between Alpha Centauri and the licorice men from Betelgeuse.
So, no emblazed word “science fiction” on our covers, gang. At least, not for now.
Oh sure, you know it’s s-f, and we know it’s s-f (or related fantasy, at least), but let’s infiltrate a bit on the rest of the world, huh?
To be honest, I’m not sure who could have given the John Romita-drawn cover for Worlds Unknown #1 more than a cursory glance, even in early 1973, and not realized that they were looking at a science fiction comic book. Sure, maybe the publication’s title allowed for some wiggle room (after all, WU‘s almost-namesake from the 1950s had featured horror and fantasy yarns along with SF stories), and the names of the two authors whose works are adapted in this premiere issue — Frederik Pohl (whose given name is regrettably misspelled on the cover, though thankfully not within the comic’s pages) and Edmond Hamilton — would likely be recognizable only to those readers who were already science fiction fans. But the corner-box image of planetoids in deep space; the unearthly creature clambering out of a space vessel; the use of the word “Martians” in the cover copy, fer cryin’ out loud — these would all seem to be pretty surefire giveaways. Still, I dunno… maybe the very phrase “science fiction” was as commercially toxic back in 1973 as Roy Thomas seemed to think it was. In any event, you can’t really blame the Marvel editor for wanting to give this new title every possible chance to succeed in the marketplace.
But let’s set aside questions of labeling and marketing, at least for now, and move on to the comic’s actual contents, why don’t we?
Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) had a career as a science fiction writer (and editor) that spanned over seven decades, his first professional sale coming in 1937. But the story adapted in 1973 for Worlds Unknown #1 was a comparatively recent effort, having first appeared in 1967 in Harlan Ellison’s monumental anthology of “New Wave” SF stories, Dangerous Visions. Marvel’s adaptation was written by Gerry Conway, whose suitability for working on Worlds Unknown seemed obvious, considering that (as “Gerard F. Conway”) he had actually had several SF novels and short stories published himself; it was drawn by Ralph Reese, a former assistant to Wally Wood whose professional work to date had appeared mostly in the “mystery” and horror anthologies published by DC, Skywald, and Warren (he’d also done a memorable job of inking Gil Kane’s pencils in Conan the Barbarian #17).
Mr. Mandala’s motel (and thus, Pohl’s story, as well as Marvel’s adaptation) is packed with ordinary folks, and Reese’s artwork is notable for giving all of them distinct, realistic physiognomies. In a retrospective article on Worlds Unknown published in Back Issue #89 (Jul., 2016), the artist explained:
I swiped a lot from photographs in doing that job… I didn’t actually draw a lot of those characters from out of my head. I happened to find photos that fit and interpreted them to fit the situation. That probably had something to do with it, because I was using real people as opposed to the stock characters you have in your head … your standard superhero head or your standard pretty girl head.
As the night goes on, the journalists’ poker game continues, as do the TV news broadcasts…
Reese also devised a distinctive appearance for the Martians -(though here, obviously, photo reference was unavailable). While Pohl’s story did offer a few details about what his aliens looked like (“…they sluggishly crawled about on their long, weak limbs, like a stretched seal’s flippers, gasping heavily in the drag of Earth’s gravity, their great long eyes dull…”), the text left a lot of room for the artist’s imagination.
Interestingly, that artist’s imagination might not have belonged to Reese — at least, not entirely. According to the account he gave Back Issue, he was assisted in drawing the story by another young penciller, Larry Hama — and it’s possible Hama came up with the initial Martian design:
Larry did a fair amount of penciling on that. I think he actually came up with the design for the Martian. I might have done the first one and then he did the rest, I don’t recall exactly. He had just gotten out of the Army at that time and was looking to get into the comics world.
As most of you out there reading this will already be aware, Larry Hama did indeed go on to bigger and better things in the comics industry — some of which we’ll no doubt be looking at in future posts on this blog.
Before we proceed to the story’s conclusion, there’s something else worth noting in regards to page 5 — the names of the two members of the Mars expedition seen in the last panel on the left-hand side, who aren’t mentioned at all in Pohl’s original story. “Colonel Raymond M. Cummins” is very likely a reference to Ray Cummings, a pioneering science fiction writer of the first half of the 20th century (he also wrote comic books for a while in the 1940s); meanwhile, the surname of Cummins’ colleague, “Charles Christopher Aldiss“, is almost certainly derived from that of the British SF author Brian W. Aldiss… though I’m afraid I’m completely stumped on the “Charles Christopher” part. Any ideas out there?
The original prose version of “The Day After the Day the Martians Came” runs seven pages in the 35th anniversary edition of Dangerous Visions (2002), just one page longer than Marvel’s six-page comics adaptation. And with the exception of its first-page “Ellen and Harry” prelude, which is original to Conway’s script, the adaptation is by and large a faithful one. About the only other significant change comes in the excision of an incident near the end of the original story where Mr. Mandala yells at Ernest and another Black employee in front of the journalists, who give him silent disapproving looks in response. Mandala almost immediately regrets his action; in the story, his subsequent gesture of offering Ernest a Coke is understood as being at least vaguely apologetic in its intent. (“Mr. Mandala uncapped two cold Cokes and carried one back through the service door to Ernest. ‘Rough night,’ he said, and Ernest, accepting both the Coke and the intention, nodded and drank it down.”) Conway’s omission of the incident of conflict that precedes the final scene can’t help but rob that scene of some of its nuance, which is unfortunate. On the other hand, that loss does little to nothing to diminish the impact of the story’s closing lines, which Conway (and Reese) absolutely nail. My fifteen-year-old self never saw that ending coming, and it’s stayed with me for fifty years; needless to say, Pohl’s implicit message here is no less timely in 2023 than it was in 1967.
The second story in this first issue of Worlds Unknown isn’t an adaptation of an existing work, nor is it new; rather, it’s a reprint of a brief tale from the 54th issue of Astonishing (not to be confused with Astonishing Tales, or, for that matter, Tales to Astonish). Originally published in 1956, the identity of its scripter is lost to time, though the artist (who thankfully signed his work) was Angelo Torres.
After delivering her ultimatum — it’s me or the island — Stella drives away. Chris sadly watches her leave, wishing she could understand…
Chris doesn’t waste any time trying to figure out where the pirates, or their captive, could have come from. Helped in part by his deep knowledge of the island (e.g., he knows where the quicksand bogs are, and the pirates don’t), he quickly (though non-fatally; this is a post-Code story, after all) overcomes the interlopers…
Back in 1973, I’m not sure that I even noticed the signature “A. Torres” on the opening splash of this story, and so may not have realized that this was the same artist whose work I’d regularly enjoyed in Mad magazine since late 1969, where he’d been drawing the TV show parodies that appeared regularly in the back of each issue, bookending the Mort Drucker-drawn movie parodies that ran in the front. The caricature-focused style he used for those strips was, naturally, quite different from the lush romanticism of his Atlas work, drawn in the days when he ran with the “Fleagle Gang” of similarly-minded artists such as Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, and Roy Krenkel. In any event, your humble blogger probably appreciates this story more today than he did fifty years ago, when I likely viewed it as “just another reprint”… though even then, I’m sure I would have had to acknowledge that at a tidy three pages, it was hardly around along enough to wear out its welcome. Given its brevity, I might not have even griped about the fact that, whatever its merits, “Nightmare at Noon!” hardly qualified as science fiction — or even, to use Roy Thomas’ phrase from his editorial, “related fantasy”.
That wasn’t the case with the next and last story in the issue — although, somewhat oddly, Thomas seemed to think so, noting later in the same editorial that Edmond Hamilton’s “He That Hath Wings” (1938) “is not exactly s-f, but what the hey”. I’m not sure why one wouldn’t consider Hamilton’s tale to be science fiction, considering that, as we’ll soon discover, the fantasy element of the story is firmly given a scientific rationalization (never mind that by 1973, let alone 2023, that science had come to seem pretty bogus). Perhaps the editor was influenced by the fact that the story had originally appeared not in one of the SF pulp magazines of the era such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, but rather in Weird Tales — a publication more closely associated with the horror and fantasy fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and the like.
Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) is remembered today as one of the founding authors of the science fiction subgenre known as space opera; he remains known as well for his comic book writing, especially at DC Comics, where his substantial contributions include co-creating the original Batwoman and the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
According to the account given to Back Issue by Roy Thomas, the idea to adapt “He That Hath Wings” originated with Gil Kane: “Gil had mentioned a number of times that he’d really like to adapt that particular story… He liked it very much. I said, ‘Okay, we have a certain number of pages, why don’t you adapt it?’ He asked if he could write it, and I said, ‘I don’t see why not.’”
For Kane to script as well as draw a story was unusual, but hardly unheard of (my younger self had been a fan of his efforts as writer-artist on DC’s Captain Action, back in 1969). In adapting Hamilton’s story verbally as well as visually, he stayed quite close to the source material, retaining a great deal of the original author’s prose (though that shouldn’t be taken to mean that he simply transcribed the text word for word, because he didn’t).
In Hamilton’s story, Dr. Harriman goes on to explain that the baby boy, whose wings will almost certainly allow him to fly one day, is “what biologists technically call a mutant.” Interestingly, Kane’s script never uses the “M”-word, despite Marvel having gone pretty well all in on that concept in ten years earlier with the X-Men (who weren’t being published regularly in their own title in 1973, granted, but were still very much around). Did Kane, or Thomas, feel that the term “mutant” sounded too “comic-booky” for the tone Marvel was trying to strike with Worlds Unknown? Or did they simply not want to call attention to the strong similarity between the protagonist of “He That Hath Wings” and one particular X-Man, i.e., Warren Worthington III, aka the Angel? Your humble blogger has no idea, honestly.
In any event, in both Hamilton’s story and Kane’s adaptation, Dr. Harriman is determined to keep the story of the baby’s nascent wings a secret, less the child “be made a cheap sensation!” But, of course, that’s not quite how things work out…
Dr.Harriman finally allows other physicians access to the child, as well as photographers — but the information provided to the public only whets their appetite for more. Eventually, the intrusions into the routine of the infant boy, now called David, become so worrisome that the doctor, concerned for the child’s welfare, makes a drastic decision…
It’s difficult to imagine any artist better suited to depicting the grace and joy of a winged human form in flight than Gil Kane. And while Mike Esposito’s inks don’t bring much in the way of enhancement to Kane’s pencils (at least not to the eye of your humble blooger), they don’t detract from them either, which is the important thing here.
The narrative goes on to relate how David begins to wonder about what lies beyond the shoreline of the mainland, and why he’s forbidden to fly there: “He well knew that his wings would carry him a hundred times that distance.” Meanwhile, Dr. Harriman comes to realize that he won’t be able to keep his boy confined to the island and the skies above it for much longer…
Following his winged companions, David flies south for the winter. At night he rests in the branches of trees, the fruits of which provide him with sustenance. He flies over cities and other populated areas and allows himself to be seen, but never engages with other people. Come summer, he returns to the now-deserted island where he’s grown up…
Kane’s adaptation makes Ruth slightly more sympathetic than she is in Hamilton’s original story, where she shows virtually no understanding or concern regarding the “joy, beauty, ecstasy” she’s asking David to give up. Still, the end result is the same…
Ruth’s father provides the newlyweds with a cottage of their own, and sets David up with a office job in his business. Come October, Ruth gives birth to a son — a normal human male — and her husband is thrilled. “David felt an intense feeling of love and pride filling his heart.” All seems well; but then…
Like Conway and Reese before him, Kane stays extremely close to his source material as he nears the conclusion of his adaptation — the caption text in the final three panels is virtually word-for-word from Hamilton — and, also like them, he thoroughly nails the ending. As with the earlier story, it’s a finale I’ve never forgotten.
The second issue of Worlds Unknown arrived in April, 1973, bringing with it two more brand new comics versions of science fiction short stories: L. Sprague de Camp’s “A Gun for Dinosaur” (1956), as adapted by Roy Thomas (script), Val Mayerik (pencils) and Ernie Chan (inks); and Keith Laumer’s “Doorstep” (1961), featuring a script by Conway with art by Kane (pencils) and Tom Sutton (inks). While neither of these stories was as instantly memorable as “The Day After the Day the Martians Landed” or “He That Hath Wings”, they were both still highly enjoyable; what was more, there weren’t any reprints this time around, which I’m sure my younger self took for a bonus. At least as far as this reader was concerned, Worlds Unknown was off to an excellent start.
Worlds Unknown #3 didn’t represent a turn for the worse, necessarily; but it certainly signified a shift in the title’s approach, as, for the first time, the whole issue was devoted to a single story — in this case, Harry Bates’ “Farewell to the Master” (1940), as adapted by writer-editor Thomas, penciller Ross Andru, and inker Wayne Howard. What was more, the story in question was one that was likely much better known by way of its 1951 film adaptation, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Naturally, the choice of Bates’ story for adaptation didn’t automatically signify that Thomas, and Marvel, were attempting to hedge their bets by trying to appeal to fans of science fiction movies and TV shows as well as to those who enjoyed the prose variety; still, the issue’s cover blurb, which invoked the movie’s title rather than the short story’s, gave one reason to wonder, to say the least.
For any reader who might have such concerns, the next issue may have heightened them. WU #4 featured another book-length story (or, to be completely honest, an almost book-length story, as a 4-page reprint from 1957 was also included): an adaptation of Fredric Brown’s short story “Arena” (1944), scripted by Conway with art provided by John Buscema (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks). While “Arena” was unquestionably a classic SF story in its own right, it also had an association with a famous SF TV show — Star Trek, in this case, whose first season episode “Arena” was supposedly based on Brown’s story. (The actual facts of the relationship between Brown’s short story and Gene L. Coon’s teleplay seem to have been somewhat more complicated.) True, the cover blurb made no mention of the TV episode connection, but if you were a Star Trek fan in the early 1970s, there was a good chance that you already knew about it.
Worlds Unknown #5 continued the almost-book-length story approach with an adaptation of A.E. Van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer” (1939), scripted by Thomas and drawn by Dan Adkins and Jim Mooney. This one didn’t tie in to any movie or television show (at least, not in 1973; reportedly, in later years Van Vogt sued the produces of the 1979 movie Alien for infringing his copyrights on this and another story) — which is more than can be said of issue #6, whose adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon’s “Killdozer” (1944) by Conway, Dick Ayers, and Chan actually carried a “As Seen on TV!” blurb on its cover, despite the fact that the ABC-TV movie didn’t actually air until Feb. 9, 1974, two months after WU #6 had arrived on stands. That issue was also the first to subsume the name of the comic book to the name of the featured story, a la Supernatural Thrillers; the (probable) coincidence of the older comic’s having adapted a Sturgeon story for its fist outing only serves to reinforce one’s sense that Marvel had decided by then to make Worlds Unknown the science-fiction-cntric equivalent of the horror-focused ST.
Whether or not that was the case, the title took a hard left turn with issue #7, which featured the first half of Marvel’s two-part adaptation of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad — which, unlike every other work adapted to date, wasn’t a previously published piece of prose fiction, but rather a brand new live action movie — and not even a “science fiction” movie, for that matter. (Nor, to my way of thinking, could this Arabian Nights-inspired flick even be classified as “related fantasy”, per Roy Thomas’ phrase, though I suppose that’s at least arguable.) At this point, it seemed that Worlds Unknown had become no more than an umbrella title — a handy, pre-existing receptacle for any vaguely SF-or-fantasy-oriented feature Marvel wasn’t prepared to give its own brand-new book, at least not yet. That impression is given additional credence by a news item that ran in the fourth issue (cover dated Winter, 1973 of Marvel’s new in-house fan magazine, FOOM, explaining that, following the Sinbad adaptaion, “Worlds Unknown will concentrate on the Doug Moench-Rich Buckler presentation of a strip based on a hero half-man, half-machine… Cyborg.” But while that project — renamed “Deathlok” — would indeed appear, it would be in another umbrella/receptacle title — Astonishing Tales — rather than in Worlds Unknown, which quietly closed up shop with issue #8, published in April, 1974. By that point, it should be noted, both Journey into Mystery and Chamber of Chills had become all-reprint books, while Supernatural Thrillers had become the home of a continuing feature, “The Living Mummy”. Marvel’s second Bronze Age foray into horror/fantasy/SF anthology comics, as characterized by Roy Thomas’ editorial focus on literary adaptations, had, alas, ultimately proved to have no more staying power than its first.
For the record, your humble blogger bought every issue of Worlds Unknown back in the day, and I figure I enjoyed them all well enough. But I’m also pretty certain that I didn’t mourn the title’s passing when I eventually realized it had been cancelled. My interest had begun to wane, if only slightly, with the shift to single-issue stories in issue #3; and it had continued to diminish as issue after issue came out, with none of them managing to impress me nearly as much as WU #1 had. Whether it was the quality of the original stories in that inaugural release, or the skill with which they were adapted into the comics medium — or, as seems most likely, both — Worlds Unknown #1 had set a standard that was hard to match, let alone beat.
Of course, as many of you reading this already know, Roy Thomas wasn’t quite done with the idea of adapting science fiction stories into comics. In October, 1974 — a mere six months after shipping the last issue of Worlds Unknown — the House of Ideas brought forth Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1. Not only did this new publication replicate the basic concept behind Worlds Unknown, but it even had the gumption to include the scary words “science fiction” in its title… and to make then the biggest words on the cover, to boot.
Why did Marvel think things would be different, this time around? I believe that there were several reasons, but the most important one was the new title’s format. Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction was not a standard four-color comic book; rather, it was a black-and-white comics magazine, intended (at least in theory) for a more “mature” readership than Marvel’s color comics. On the occasion of its first issue’s publication, UWoSF became the eleventh title in Marvel’s burgeoning b&w line; a line which, viewed from a certain angle, might be seen as the third attempt the company had made since 1969 to try to make a commercial, as well as artistic, success of the horror/fantasy/SF anthology format… though one that looked more to Warren Publishing than to DC Comics for its model.
As will likely come as no surprise to regular readers, we plan to take an in-depth look at Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1 when its fiftieth anniversary arrives, some twenty months from now. But we’ll be discussing the dawn of Marvel’s black-and-white comics magazine line much, much sooner than that — in just two weeks, in fact. I hope to see you then.
As best I can recall, I’ve never heard of Worlds Unknown until reading this post. Part of this would be that, despite an occasional foray into the various b&w anthologies like Creepy and Eerie and Vampirella, I really didn’t care for the anthology format, preferring books whose characters continued from issue to issue, and secondly, because I was a superhero fan and if it didn’t have super-powers and a cape, I didn’t want it in my comic books. Which is weird, considering how much I loved science fiction and fantasy in every other medium I could find them in, but I was a superhero snob and there’s no denying it. This is really a shame, considering what a good book the first issue of WU was. I would have probably not have read any of the original versions of these stories in 1973; this was before the arrival of big chain bookstores and the malls to put them in, and my reading was generally definied by whatever was in stock in my local library, but these stories were not only excellent themselves, but were also excellently adapted. Plus, the artwork was beautiful, and in the case of the art of Ralph Reese in “The Day After the Martians Came,” very different from Marvel’s house style, which would have appealed to me greatly. Of course, the Gil Kane story would have been the centerpiece for me and my hero did a wonderful job in expressing David’s longing for the sky and his sense of loss for all that had been denied him. The fact that his “love” expected him to not only deny what made him unique, but to mutilate himself in order to prove his love for her is grotesque and Kane showed us that, though he didn’t dwell on it.
I hate that I missed this one back in 73 and I’m happy to have found it now, at a time when I’m better able to appreciate it. Thanks for the introduction, Alan. Great job.
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I actually got the first two issues of Unknown Worlds brand new off the racks. I have no memory of what prompted me to get those over the superhero fare I more commonly selected 50 years ago, but I clearly remember those covers and the stories. I love Ralph Reese’s art and appreciate the work he did to diversify the facial features and body-types of the characters in the story. As a ten year old, I don’t think I would have clearly appreciated the point about all the stereotype-related jokes, although I’d certainly heard many of them from my dad’s brothers and some of his Navy buddies who occasionally came over for parties or who I met when we went out on long weekend camping parties. Usually there was much drinking of beer by the adults, as well as many off-color jokes. I don’t recall my dad himself telling such jokes or using racist epithets. I’m sure he did when he was younger, but from my much later conversations with him, long after I became an adult, he mostly outgrew that early in his 27 year career in the Navy while working directly with people of different races and ethnicities. That’s when he learned that the stereotypes were just that, stereotypes that didn’t allow for the genuine individuality of people of all backgrounds.
Nightmare at Noon didn’t make much of an impression on me, although I much enjoyed the art of A. Torres. He That Hath Wings stuck much more in my memory. Coming not too long after having read Marvel Team-Up #4, also drawn by Gil Kane and that story including Warren Worthington, III, aka the Angel, but, as with Scott Summers, Jean Grey and Bobby Drake, all out of costume throughout the whole story, I couldn’t help but compare the protagonist from this story with ol’ Warren, and initially I thought maybe this was supposed to be an origin story for Warren but for some odd reason they changed the names. Yeah, I’d overlooked that explanatory caption on the bottom of the 1st page noting that this was an adaptation of a story published in 1934! Eventually I did suss that this tale had nothing to do with that other winged wonder but had its own point about people who are in some way different and the social crush to conform, even from people who claim to love us. A point I appreciate far more 50 years after having first read the story.
On these sort of mags, although as a kid I favored superheroes over these little sci-fi/suspense/fantasy tales, still I did enjoy reading them. The ones I really liked were mostly either the new ones, whether adaptations or originals; or some of those from the early to mid-50s (pre-Comics Code Authority, as I would realize years later), over the reprints of Marvels multiple weird monsters and aliens from the late ’50s and early ’60s. Too many of those seemed utterly formulaic and pointless, although many of those by Ditko had sufficient offbeat charm to stand out.
Great selection, Alan! Enjoyed reading your outlook on these tales and the genre.
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Angelo Torres based the man in the black shirt on photos of Frank Frazetta, as it was drawn in the ’50s. Frank also drew himself the same way in his unpublished “Came the Dawn” which was going to be in E.C.’s Picto-Fiction magazine line, but sales were too low for publisher Bill Gaines to continue, except with Mad.
I enjoyed the first few issues of Worlds Unknown, as well as the later Unknown Worlds magazine.
Ralph Reese did some fine drawing in that story in #1. He did a spectacular SF story for the unpublished Web of Horror #4 magazine in 1969 or 1970 at age 20 which will finally see print later this year in a reprint compilation, along with the never-published material by Wrightson, Kaluta, and others.
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Actually, there will be *two* unpublished Reese stories in the WoH anthology, but this is the two page splash he did for “Tomb Zero.” Berni Wrightson talked about it in A Look Back, saying it was stolen, along with a lot of other material. Reese drew it on duoshade paper.
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Very nice! Thanks for sharing, Chris.
There is a video teaser of the Complete WoH. An Indiegogo campaign raised the desired funds for printing this fall:
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Here’s a photo from the 1950s of Frank and Ellie Frazetta. Frank is wearing the black shirt which Angelo Torres drew him in (in the 1956 reprint, “Nightmare at Noon”):
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I was never an anthology guy or into most non-super-hero genres and went into this thinking I’d skipped it. The synopsis of the first two didn’t help since I have no memories of them. He That Hath Wings was a shock then because I have never, ever forgotten reading this. It haunts me to this day even.
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I recall reading in various places that Martin Goodman was reluctant to publish science fiction, as it had never sold well for him in the past. So the description Thomas gives in that first issue may be phrased as being the attitude of many people, but actually referencing one in particular.
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