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Space Man

Entry updated 21 August 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (1962-1963). Dell Comics. Seven issues (but see below). Artists include Jack Sparling. Scriptwriters include Ken Fitch. 36 pages: issues featured a long Space Man story, with a few one-page, usually factual, pieces; from #3 there was also a 4 page series called the Space Hogs (though not so named in #3), about a space courier company.

For ten years the mysterious "anti-force" (see Force Field) has foiled all attempts to reach the Moon, but now Scientists believe they can break that barrier, so launch a spacecraft carrying "rocket ace" Ian Stannard and 14 year old Johnny Mack. They successfully land on the Moon, whereupon they are escorted by a group of humanoids to Colonel Hooper, an astronaut who had disappeared some years previously. He explains that a representative of the Galactic Guard – who control the anti-force – had contacted him: they need an army of highly trained Earthmen to assist fellow members Jupiter and Mars in stopping Garrak-Axos of the "Alpha Centauri galaxy" [sic] taking over our Solar System. So, with the consent of the US President, they have set up a Space Academy on the Moon, with Ian and Johnny allowed through the barrier to become the first students. Hooper gives a lecture on how the humanoids are "Cyborgs", American males surgically altered so they are able to spend their lives in space.

Shortly after, Ian's girlfriend and trainee astronaut Mary Lansing is taken hostage by the Great Revolutionary Free People's Republic (see Cold War), who have allied themselves with Garrak-Axos; they are being gulled, but Ian saves the day, if not the Republic. Later, Ian, Johnny, Mary and a team of cyborgs travel in a flying saucer-shaped Spaceship (see UFOs) to a planet of giant Telepaths, travelling more than 19 times Faster Than Light: "our [spaceship]'s polarized power is attracted to the cosmic rays of Alpha Centauri. The mass of Alpha Centauri determines the speed" (see Imaginary Science). On arrival they discover the telepaths are Titans, the former inhabitants of Atlantis: 50,000 years ago they were fooled into leaving Earth by Garrak-Axos, but some managed to escape and go into hiding. They explain there's only a thousand of Garrak-Axos's one-eyed, toad-like species, but they're Immortal, unable to reproduce but kept alive by ancient Technology called rectifier rays (see Rejuvenation), and enforcing their will through an army of Robots. Victory is achieved when a rebel Titan gets a job at Garrak-Axos's palace, with Ian, Mary and Johnny masquerading as his children: they discover the location of the rejuvenation machines and destroy them.

#5 has a one-off story: Ian, Mary and Johnny are imprisoned after arriving on Pluto (see Outer Planets) to complain about a radioactive field that laid waste to Saturn. Other captives explain that seven (Earth) years ago 500 senior government scientists were retired: wanting immortality, they encased their brains and nerves in robot bodies and, using the threat of the radioactive field, forced everyone else to do the same – though unbeknownst to them a few children were hidden away. Ian fakes appendicitis to escape the prison and overthrows the evil old scientist cyborgs.

In #6 and #7 the villain is General Royheb, who wants to take over the universe by using his power of Hypnosis from a distance. Ian and his team – now in body-hugging uniforms – take an experimental spacecraft to Dimension X, discovering several planets reflecting different stages of Earth's history. Against the advice of a Titan accompanying them, they decide to find one that shows Earth's future, to learn from its mistakes. Before they can do so, the Titan is revealed to be the General, using hypnotism to disguise himself: he is after the new spacecraft but fortunately Ian is strong-willed enough to overcome his hypnosis. Later Hooper reveals that what they witnessed in Dimension X was a "three-dimensional mirage of history", adding, "You were attracted to things you understood, but with practice ... who knows?". #7 focuses on Mary, who is seconded to help prepare for the training of women astronauts on the Moon, but kidnapped by General Royheb's men who are plotting to free him: but she takes charge of the other prisoners and leads an escape. Mary's boss disapproved of women pilots because his wife and children had died in a plane crash; he learns his lesson, but this makes Ian and Mary consider the high risks entailed by their jobs. They had been considering marriage but now decide to put it off whilst there are still dangers facing the Earth.

The comic's science is mixed: on the one hand Alpha Centauri is declared a galaxy; on the other, this seems to be the first use of the term "cyborg" in sf, used as its coiners Manfred E Clynes and Nathan S Kline intended, for "Altering man's bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments" (September 1960 Astronautics p26). Space Man has good stories and solid if unspectacular artwork; there are attempts at characterization, though usually at a soap opera level. In 1972 issues numbered #9 and #10 were published, but these were reprints of #1 and #2. This comic should not be confused with the UK comic Spaceman. [SP]

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