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Captain Science

Entry updated 20 March 2023. Tagged: Comics.

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US Comic (1950-1951). Seven issues. Youthful Magazines. Artists include Bill Molno, Harry Harrison, Joe Orlando, Gustav Schrotter and Wally Wood. Four strips per issue (two involving Captain Science) plus a two-page text story or article ("Can Science Make Gold?").

In 1950, whilst on a geological field trip in New Mexico, physicist Gordon Dane and his young protege Rip Gary witness a flying saucer crash (see UFOs): a dying Alien informs Gordon that the evil Rak are conquering the universe. Though his species is more scientifically advanced, only humanity has the combination of strength, stamina and mind to defeat the Rak; he names Gordon Captain Science and gives him a mechanical AI brain (see Computers) – sometimes called the robot brain – containing all his species' knowledge. He has also "conditioned" the wealthy Rip's mind to help Captain Science, providing the funds to build a laboratory and Spaceship.

The Rak ("cold superbeings devoid of any emotion but cruelty") prepare to invade the Earth, aided by members of the Axis powers who escaped capture after World War Two (including, going by the moustache, Hitler). Wearing purple robes, they plot in a Himalayan fortress patrolled by Robots: Captain Science gets past them but is quickly captured once inside – only to be freed by Luana, a daughter of one of the traitors, enabling him to blow up the fortress. The Rak only take part in one other story, setting giant metal robots on New York: fortunately Captain Science discovers high pitched sounds makes the robots explode.

Otherwise our hero faces threats from other aliens, Lost Races or different times: aliens who crashed on the far side of the Moon "5,000 ectads ago" built a domed city and now wish to settle our planet ... so they are drilling a tunnel to the Moon's near side, intending to launch a rocket through it that will "kill all living things on Earth". Pathor's sun will explode in six days: their council of Scientists suggest a peaceable move to Earth, sharing their knowledge with humanity; disgusted, the military kill all but one – the survivor sending a message picked up by the brain – and plan an Invasion. During another invasion, Captain Science learns the aliens have wiped out all disease on their home planet, so he knows he just has to wait until Earth's germs kill them. Tentacled blobs with several heads controlling a "Vampire planet" set a course for Earth, preparing to dine. A hundred thousand years ago a race fled the Earth's surface to avoid a plague, to live Under the Sea beneath the Pacific, but they now want to return. The best story is "The Insidious Doctor Khartoum" (#4) where an evil oriental scientist (see Clichés; Yellow Peril) tries to take over the world by summoning the ancient tentacled god Klamenth: after teaching them the language the brain sends Captain Science and Rip to 10,000 BCE (see Time Travel) to fight the god's priests and set a trap for anyone who attempts to invoke Klamenth in the future. Klamenth seems to be inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. The same issue's "The Martian Slavers" is also a highlight, with the Captain ending up Terraforming Mars. Both tales benefit from lively artwork from Orlando and Wood.

A fairly bland hero, Captain Science relies on his scientific ingenuity, using or adapting gadgets to solve problems (though he is prepared to use his fists if the occasion demands it). For example, the fortress of Throm on Pluto houses a threat from the future: to enter Captain Science needs to adjust his "atomic balance to the structure of the walls", then walk through them – but first he must make the necessary calculations: "infinity over pi minus the two quadrants cubed ..." (see Imaginary Science). The mechanical brain can also help, from providing passwords to get past robot guards, to Teleporting the Captain halfway across the solar system.

The comic's other regular is "Brant Craig, interplanetary detective and toughest private eye in the system" (also in military intelligence), with stories in all but issue #1. The year is 2150 (#2) or 3035 (#7); Brant is based on Saturn (see Outer Planets), as the Earth is a graveyard, life extinct after an atomic war a thousand years previously (in one story it is also said to be lost). The background is interesting, but the stories seem rushed with the unimpressive Craig relying on luck and hunches: he faces circuses, Zombies, and shark-men who turn out to be historical pirates brought back to life.

Of the non-series stories, the best are "The Flowers of Death" (#5) and "World War III with the Ants" (#6). The former is an odd tale of a meteorite in Africa producing dark blue pansy-like flowers that grow into monstrous apes which drain the phosphorus from living beings. The latter has a shower of ants falling to Earth in 1952, quickly growing giant-sized (see Great and Small) and attacking humanity, forcing the few survivors underground with limited supplies. Fortunately they are scientists: two work to devise Weapons whilst the others are put in Suspended Animation. As the two workers age they are replaced until, in 2052, a spray that defeats the ants is invented. Also of interest is "When Time Stood Still" (#4), where a scientist's experimental Time Machine pulls him and his wife into what might be the past, future or another Dimension, where they are fed to carnivorous plants by Monsters: fortunately their blood is poisonous to the plants, so they escape and a convenient vortex returns them home.

The comic Fantastic would continue Captain Science's numbering, with its first issue (#8) having one story featuring Captain Science and another Brant Craig. [SP]

further reading

  • Captain Science – Volume 1 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2016) [graph: collects issues #1-#7: illus/various: hb/Joe Orlando and Wally Wood]


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