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Space Adventures [comic]

Entry updated 1 July 2024. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

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US Comic (1952-1964, 1967). Charlton Comics. 59 issues (numbered #1-#21, #23-#60; #22 was not issued). Artists include Jon D'Agostino, Steve Ditko, Dick Giordano, Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio and Bill Molno. Most of the scripts were by Joe Gill. Usually 4-6 sf comic strips per issue and a two page text short-story (plus occasional one-page non-fiction strips). #60 was published in 1967, three years after #59, and titled Space Adventures presents U.F.O..

Issues #1-#6 focus on the twenty-sixth century's protectors of the Solar System, the Space Officers (though in #1 they are the Space Rangers), with 2-4 stories in each issue. Led by commodore Rex Clive, the team includes Speed Lansing and Stella Dawn. In one tale the Villain sets up solar mirrors above the Earth (now called Minerva) to burn its capital City, but our heroes ignite an atomic stockpile buried on the Moon to alter its orbit, creating an eclipse, so giving them time to destroy the mirrors. The atomic explosion also restarts volcanic activity on the Moon and release gases that "form air and water to restore it as a living world". Another adventure has them caught by Jupiter's gravity and forced to land on the red spot, "a continent floating on a sea of gas"; they only escape when the four largest moons align "to produce a quadruple eclipse", their combined Gravity counteracting Jupiter's enough to allow the Spaceship to lift off.

During #7-#12 the magazine concentrates on standalone stories and the quality improves. Examples include a couple of unsuccessful prospectors crash-landing on a planet. One is killed but the other discovers a deserted city: he drinks the thick liquid that pours from the pipes as it is the only food available ... over the next few days he transforms into a contented reptile, a storyline strongly reminiscent of A E van Vogt's The Enchanted Village (July 1950 Other Worlds as "Enchanted Village"; 1979 chap). A 1953 story, "Transformation", tells of the first expedition to Mars by a group of scientists led by Dr Lars Kranston (plus Betty, his girlfriend), who hope to get away from the threat of the atomic bomb (see Nuclear Energy) – however, the ship crashes and Dr Kranston thinks he is the only survivor. After several months reflecting on the follies of man he decides to change his sex (see Transgender SF); shortly after the successful treatment Betty – now recovered from temporary Amnesia – turns up. In another tale, colonists land on a planet inhabited by cute rabbit-sized creatures they name winkies and large fierce reptiles: when the latter kill the leader's son he orders their eradication – following which the winkie population, with no predators, explodes (see Ecology) – the resulting food shortage means they eat the colonists.

Issues #13-14 are retitled Space Adventures present the Blue Beetle. Both feature a 10 page story reprinted from Blue Beetle (60 issues, 1940-1950): this Superhero would go on to appear in AC Comics and DC Comics. These issues each had a non-genre crime story, leaving room for only one or two sf tales. #15-#18 saw another name change, to Space Adventures present Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (after the television show: see Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), each issue now dominated by two stories featuring Rocky, plus one or two other sf tales. Issues #19 and #21 are a return to unrelated sf stories (though Rex Clive reappears in #19): one tale has an apparent Earth Invasion turn out to be a prank by Alien juvenile delinquents, who are taken away by apologetic adults. #20 reprints the comic strip adaption (script by Otto Binder) of the film Destination Moon (1950), originally published in 1950 as a film tie-in, here titled "First Trip to the Moon".

#21 was published in August 1956, then #23 in May 1958 (a reprint of #20 with a different cover); from #24 it was again an anthology. Stories include the Moon being an artificial satellite created by Venusians (see Venus) to monitor Earth after they eradicated a prehistoric Imperialist civilization there (in an unrelated story the Venusians steal the Moon as they lack one of their own, but they return it when they learn there is intelligent life on Earth). In "The Monstrous Egg" the Moon is found to contain the embryo of a giant dragon – the protective mother dragon is killed and Earth wonders when the Moon will hatch. Another solar system is infested by living planets (see Living Worlds), with tentacles and mouths – they are killed because it is felt they might pose a threat: this is conveniently justified after the event when it turns out there are inhabited planets in the system, forced to hide behind Invisibility shields – and who are grateful.

Issue #33 introduced Captain Atom, created by Gill and Ditko (though Mastroserio did the artwork for two stories): an atomic missile is prematurely sent into space with genius Captain Adam still aboard, and its detonation cannot be halted: Adam is disintegrated, but "integrates" back on the military base. Now with Superpowers (including travelling at 20,000 mph, Invisibility, Teleportation and the ability to explode like a 100 megaton nuclear bomb), he is named Captain Atom by the President. 18 Captain Atom stories appeared in issues #33-#40 and #42 (1960-1961): he then returned in Strange Suspense Stories (#75-#77, 1965) – which was quickly renamed Captain Atom (#78-#89, 1965-1967) – and later elsewhere, eventually becoming part of the DC Comics universe. The Captain has various adventures – including (in 1960) rescuing the first man in space, the cosmonaut Igor: "The American's accomplishment was far greater than my own". Aside from other Cold War conflicts, the Captain also sees off alien invasions. By and large the stories are unexceptional, albeit with some nice artwork: the most interesting element being the female "Venutians" that appear in two stories, but whose intentions are still unclear by the end of Captain Atom's time in this comic.

Most Pulp tropes turn up during the Space Adventures run, such as Time Travel, Miniaturization, Colonization of Other Worlds and aliens abducting humans in the past (in this case, Crusaders). Robot rebellions are not uncommon, though stories focused on individual AI Androids often treat them sympathetically. There are many alien invasions and uncritical stories of an imperialistic Earth, but also plots condemning humanity's warlike nature and Paranoia: in one, "The Ultimate Weapon" (#54) evil aliens are seen off by love (linked to Religion). By and large Space Adventures was fairly unremarkable, particularly in the 1960s: #7-#12 was probably its heyday, though there was some notable Steve Ditko artwork in later issues, such as "The First Satellite" (#25) and "The Enchanted Planet" (#31). Art Cappello and John Belfi also provided some interesting illustrations in its early days.

#60 was a one-off graphic novel about a journalist investigating a UFO that turns out to be a Time Machine: its occupants are trying to stop a War that began in 3998, whose roots reach back to 1967. Space Adventures should not be confused with the 1970-1971 SF Magazine of the same name – see Space Adventures (Classics). [SP]

further reading

  • Space Adventures, Volume 1 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2019) [graph: collects issues #1-#5: in the publisher's Pre-Code Classics series: illus/various: hb/Stan Campbell]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 2 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2019) [graph: collects issues #6-#9: in the publisher's Pre-Code Classics series: illus/various: hb/Dick Giordano]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 3 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2020) [graph: collects issues #11-#15: in the publisher's Pre-Code Classics series: illus/various: hb/Steve Ditko]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 4 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2020) [graph: collects issues #16-#20: in the publisher's Silver Age Classics series: illus/various: hb/Dick Giordano, Vince Alascia]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 5 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2020) [graph: collects issues #21, #23-#26: publisher's Silver Age Classics series: illus/various: hb/Charles Nicholas, Vince Alascia]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 6 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2020) [graph: collects issues #27-#31: publisher's Silver Age Classics series: illus/various: hb/Dick Giordano]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 7 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2023) [graph: collects issues #32-#36: publisher's Silver Age Classics series: illus/various: hb/Steve Ditko]
  • Space Adventures, Volume 8 (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2024) [graph: collects issues #37-#41: publisher's Silver Age Classics series: illus/various: hb/Steve Ditko, Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio]

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