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Crusader from Mars

Entry updated 26 June 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

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US Comic (1952). Two issues. Approved Comics, Inc (see Ziff-Davis). Artists include Allen Anderson, Mike Becker, George Roussos, Henry Sharp and Marvin Stein. Four strips per issue (two involving the Crusader from Mars); plus three short items, some science-related (including "Noise! Tomorrow's Secret Weapon").

On Mars a court finds Tarka guilty of murdering his rival for Zira's affections, the planet's first crime for 50 years; Zira is also found guilty "as she was the cause of the tragedy!". Tarka says he and Zira are "truly penitent", suggesting "we expiate our crime by devoting our lives to fight evil on Earth". Conceding that "of all the planets, Earth is the most primitive and evil", the court agrees, adding that if they fail, "Earth must be destroyed and you with it." They are assigned to Lo Wincro, Space Marshall of the Space Station that orbits and monitors the Earth, who sends them on missions.

Issue #1's "Mission Through Space" has the pair visiting Herzegovina, whose Government has developed a bacteriological bomb (see Weapons) to drop on the United States. Confirming this is the case, the pair try to warn the US Government, but are ignored; so Tarka storms into the Herzegovinan Prime Minister's office demanding the plan be halted; he is hit on the head and imprisoned. Zira asks Wincro for help, and Martian Spaceships destroy the planes carrying the bombs. "Death in the Soil" has foreign agents attempting to create a famine in the United States by blighting its crops (see Agriculture; Disaster). In #2's "Night of Terror", Pennsylvanian Dutch brothers who move to a southern location ("Cottonwood") are attacked by the "Black Hoods" (dressed like the KKK, but in black); one is murdered. The remaining brother – and Zira – are about to be lynched when Tarka arrives in his flying saucer (see UFOs) to break up the mob and take the ringleader to Mars to dig canals. #2's other Crusader story is "Beachhead on Saturn's Ring": here Tarka and Zira are reassigned to investigate why space pirates from the "distant planet of Uralia" are looting space tankers. They discover the leader, whose name is Boris Zandrozov, intends to conquer our Solar System. The plan is foiled by stranding Boris on Saturn's moon Iapetus (see Outer Planets), then expelling it from its orbit and into outer space.

There are also two non-Crusader stories in each issue. "The Tower of Jacob Dis" in #1, set in 2046, has a Scientist building a tower that broadcasts a Ray that prevents nuclear fission (see Nuclear Energy), but this only leads to a non-atomic World War (see World War Three). So he directs the ray at the Sun, turning it off, announcing the Sun will only be turned on again when there is agreement to form a united democratic world Government. He gets his way. His girlfriend now suggests he blackmail the world to make them rich, but he can't bring himself to do so. #2's "Prison Planet" has an apparently corrupt space cop sent to a hostile world, where criminals are left to fend for themselves (see Crime and Punishment; Prisons). He is actually on a mission to investigate rumours that the inhabitants are up to something; indeed they are, intending to escape and blow up the Space Police HQ.

Cold War Paranoia drives most of the comic's plots; however, "Night of Terror" does target the Klu Klux Klan (see Race in SF), though making its victims the Pennsylvania Dutch means the nettle is not grasped. Crusader from Mars was a moderately enjoyable, if minor comic, with good artwork and some memorably bad science. [SP]

further reading

  • Lars of Mars (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2017) [graph: collects issues #10-#11 of Lars of Mars, issues #1-#2 of Crusader from Mars and issue #1 of Eerie Adventures: in the publisher's Pre-Code Classics series: illus/various: hb/Allen Anderson]


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