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Incredible Science Fiction [comic]

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (1955-1956). EC Comics. 4 issues (numbered #30-#33). Artists include Jack Davis, Bernie Krigstein, Joe Orlando and Wallace Wood. Script authors include Al Feldstein and Jack Oleck. 4 comic strips and a short text story per issue.

Issue #30 opens with "Clean Start": the Solar Federation, worried by our bloodthirsty nature, has sent two Scientists to alter humanity's timeline (see Time Travel) to avoid the violent path we had taken, only to discover we have always been bloodthirsty. They decide to start from scratch, wiping everyone out (see Holocaust) save for a man and a woman to guide along the peaceful route: so they set the timer to a genocidal device, then Shapeshift into people to find their Adam and Eve. It proves difficult, but at the last moment one identifies a suitable man, knocks him out and returns to the Spaceship whilst the rest of humanity dies ... only to find the man is their colleague (who'd been struggling to find a suitable woman). Another tale has the West and East (see Cold War) each believing the other has put up a Force Field preventing spaceships from leaving Earth, until they discover that Aliens are responsible; as a scientist points out, we also cage "dangerous savage animals" (see Zoo).

In #31's "You Rocket" scientist Allan Crane dies in a car crash: his colleagues load his undamaged brain into a machine (see Brain in a Box; Cyborg), training him to control the Rocket he is to be installed in. They also block his fear, making him arrogant and imbued with a sense of superiority ... which comes crashing down after the rocket is launched into the vast emptiness of space, overwhelming him; he loses his sanity and cries for his mother. "­Fullfillment" has a spaceship breaking down and temporarily landing on an isolated planet: the henpecked husband inside gazes out across the landscape in his spacesuit before departing ... unaware that an awed local was watching, who now founds Ancient Egypt's religion (see Gods and Demons), with the spacesuit's oddly designed headgear becoming Ra (despite looking nothing like their traditional depiction). #32 includes the beautifully illustrated "Food for Thought", where 50,000 years after seeding a planet humans (see Terraforming) return to judge whether it is suitable for colonization. Though there's a rich ecology they deem it an unsuitable habitat for intelligent life and wipe it clean to start again – but (as one crew member suspected) there was Intelligence there, a type of tree. #33 includes "One Way Hero", where space travel psychologically damages some individuals (see Psychology), leaving them unable even to return to Earth, and so forced to rebuild their lives on the Mars colony.

A story intended for #33, "An Eye for an Eye", has Earth transformed by the mutations that followed a nuclear War (see Nuclear Energy, Post-Holocaust). A man seeks other humans, fails and dies – but comforts himself he dies a man not a freak like the Mutants ... we then see the third eye between his shoulders. The recently created Comics Code Authority rejected the story, so it was replaced with a reprint from the pre-Code Weird Fantasy #18 (1953). The story, "Judgement Day" (script by Al Feldstein and art by Joe Orlando) has the spacesuited Tarlton visiting Cybrinia, a planet of Robots, to decide whether it should join Earth's Galactic Republic. The inhabitants are either orange or blue, but otherwise identical, save that once built they go under either an orange or blue Educator, which downloads "all knowledge available to our society" (see Education in SF). However, when Tarlton is given a tour he notices his orange robot guide has a patronizing attitude to the blue robots ("have to keep them in their place, you know"), who must sit at the back of buses, with their part of town having less resources. Tarlton observes "the Educator is the parents and the relatives and the environment and the school all rolled into one" (see Race in SF). He decides the planet is unfit to join the Republic: the final panel has Tarlton removing his helmet, revealing that he is black. The Code's administrator, Judge Charles Murphy, ordered that this final panel be changed so it did not show a black man: William Gaines, EC's owner, threatened to notify the press of this, causing Murphy to back down, so the strip was run. However, Gaines could see which way the wind was blowing and now focused on magazines, with Incredible Science Fiction #33 being the last EC comic published.

Incredible Science Fiction's strength was its artwork, which was often excellent. The stories themselves are usually good or better, and none worse than competent – though clearly constrained by the Comics Code (though this was voluntary, many distributors refused to take magazines without its stamp, so it was financially unwise not to have it). Twist endings were favoured: #31's "Has Been" follows a soldier in a space war until his retirement day ... at 15. They could sometimes be laboured: aside from the aliens in "Clean Start" rashly setting the timer to destroy humanity before they had identified their new Adam and Eve, there's also "Big Moment" (in #33) where, after a meteor shower, humans eventually believe all other life (including vegetation) on Earth has grown enormous ... rather than (as the ending reveals) it is they who have shrunk (see Great and Small; Miniaturization).

Given the apparent eccentric numbering of many comics of this era, reflecting a desire to save on postage costs, the history of Incredible Science Fiction's is illustrative. In 1947 EC Comics published Moon Girl and the Prince #1, becoming Moon Girl for #2-#8 (1947-1949) (#7-#8 were titled Moon Girl Fights Crime). Moon Girl was a Superhero in the Wonder Woman mould, but not as popular – so a sudden shift into the True Love genre occurred, with the comic cunningly retitled A Moon, a Girl... Romance #9-#12 (1949-1950), with Moon Girl only appearing in #9. The numbering was then taken up by Weird Fantasy #13-#17 (1950-1951). When the post office noticed this was clearly a different type of comic, not simply a renaming, a recalibration followed: these were treated as #1-#5, with subsequent issues being Weird Fantasy #6-#22 (1951-1953) (so the comic had two sets numbered #13-#17). At the same time, Weird Science #12-#15 (1950) was published – continuing the numbering of Saddle Romances – only to have a similar readjustment, leading to Weird Science #5-#22 (1951-1953) (so it had two sets of #12-#15). In 1953 these magazines merged, to become Weird Science-Fantasy #23-#29 (1954-1955). It then became Incredible Science Fiction #30-#33 (1955-1956). [SP]


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