Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Sabertooth cats and alien insects

My Silver Age reread is now into January, 1966, which brings me to Daredevil’s encounter with Ka-Zar in Daredevil #12. I’ll have more to say about it when I complete the entire arc, but for the moment I want to highlight this scene:Normally I don’t have much use for Ka-Zar, but that panel of him hugging Zabu (credit goes to Jack Kirby on layouts, John Romita on pencils) and gushing over what a good kitty he is gets to me. And it put me in mind of an old post from my own blog, about a more unusual man-pet bonding in “I Stole the Space Beast” from My Greatest Adventure #37.

MGA was an anthology book that started out with relatively realistic first-person adventures (“I Jumped From Eight Miles Up” “I Rode With a Bandit Chief”). Like countless other DC books of the 1950s, the focus soon shifted to SF and monster stories. In this issue, for example, we have:

“I Hunted the Legendary Creatures”: Mysterious letters steer the host of a TV reality show to encounters with modern-day monsters. When one of them threatens a small town, the community evacuates. The TV host realizes the whole thing is a scam so that the letter-writer can loot a nearby silver deposit while the town is empty.

“They Made Me the Spectrum Man” Future humans draw a modern-day artist into their time to help them rescue a hostage (the artist is the exact double for the kidnappers’ imprisoned leader). When the artist returns to the present, he discovers he now gives off different colors of the spectrum. Before the powers fade, he finds a way to use them for good.

And then there’s the story behind Dick Dillin’s cover, (scripter unknown, story art by John William Ely). Protagonist Jim is a writer, holing up at a mountain cabin in hopes peace and quiet will help him get an idea for his next story. That goes on the back burner when he discovers an alien creature in the woods nearby. The flying, insect-like extraterrestrial has laser eyes and a sonic roar that can level hills and potentially cities. Jim grabs his rifle and sets out to put a bullet into the creature before it can do any damage.

When he finds the alien, though, it’s caught in a bear trap and in obvious agony.

Kicking himself for being a chump, Jim frees the space critter, takes it home and cares for it. In a short while, “Fido” has become his pet, then the aliens who brought the space beast to Earth return. As Jim learns, they’ve been training it to destroy on command so they can use it to rob their home planet blind. Jim goes on the run with Fido but, as you can see from the cover, the aliens catch up with him. The writer’s trapped, but then Fido registers that the spacemen want to hurt his new daddy.

Grrr. Nobody. Hurts. Daddy! Fido goes into butt-kicking mode and saves his new master, sending the aliens fleeing Earth into the arms of their world’s law enforcement. Jim’s new pet gets to stay with him, and Jim has a humdinger story idea about a man who adopts an alien space pet …

MGA was not a good series. Stories in Jack Schiff’s various anthology comics did little more than fill space, though admittedly they didn’t get any better after Murray Boltinoff took over with #71 (he did however, introduce a series called the Doom Patrol that soon took over the book. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?). This story, though, works for me. The art is poor and the story often silly (couldn’t Fido just melt the trap with its laser vision?) but I can’t help being invested in a story about a cute little space beast finding its forever home. Besides, I’m sure Trixie and Plushie would save me from aliens if they were in the same situation and had super-powers.

I don’t acknowledge the term “guilty pleasure” as I don’t feel guilty about the stuff I enjoy. But I freely admit some stuff I love does not really fit on the A-list. How about you?


One comment

  1. Le Messor

    I’m still getting over a trapped, injured creature being docile enough to let the writer approach.

    I also don’t use the term ‘guilty pleasure’ – I think, if it’s guilty enough, I shouldn’t be doing it; and if it’s pleasurable and has no moral implications, why be guilty about it?
    Maybe Alpha Flight volume 3, though. A bad series that drags down my favourite comic, but I enjoy it.

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