Wednesday, January 25, 2017


ROY THOMAS PRESENTS PLANET COMICS VOL. 1 (PS Artbooks, First Printing Revised, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Planet Comics #1-4 (originally published by Fiction House Comics, cover dates January- April, 1940)

Writers: Dick Briefer, Ken Jackson, Bob Jordan, Herman Bolstein, Fletcher Hanks, Don Varick, Wilson Locke, Lin Davies, Beekman Terrill, Arnot Bissel, Wm. S. Mott, Stan Ford, Fred Nelson, Ned Small and other, unidentifed writers

Artists: Lou Fine, Dick Briefer, Malcom Kildale, Ken Jackson, Alex Blum, Henry Kiefer, Alvin Charles, Will Eisner, George Tuska, Arthur Peddy, Fletcher Hanks, R. Louis Golden, Bob Powell, Alex Blum, Leonard Frank, Charles Sultan, Dan Zolnerowich, Gene Fawcette, and other, unidentified artists

I have a certain fascination with post-Depression era optimism. The future looked bright. Then, as now, technology was advancing and improving life. It's a world view that is missing from all post-Blade Runner Science Fiction. Our dystopian future has become a dystopian present, making this an even more escapist read. I keep waiting for humanity to reach it's Star Trek moment, but we seem to be going in the opposite direction.

Buck Rogers kicked off this genre a decade earlier than these comics. It was his wildly successful imitation, Flash Gordon, that is the biggest influence on the stories presented in this anthology series. Flash Gordon is one of those rare cases where the imitation was more imaginative than the originator. Alex Raymond's influence is stamped all over these comics like a boot print. Primary colors abound, in part because of the primitive four color printing press and in part because Flash Gordon made great use of reds and yellows and shied away from blends.

Like all Golden Age comics, these can be overly simplistic, silly, and unintentionally funny, but that's part of the charm for me. On a purely historical level this series is essential reading. This is the stuff that made kids like George Lucas spark their ideas. These stories also entertain in their own right, albeit in a silly way.

While most of the stories are variations of the Buck Rogers/ Flash Gordon riff, I enjoy strips like Auro, Lord Of Jupiter. It's a ripoff of Tarzan...but on Jupiter! Hilarious. What it lacks in originality it makes up for with ambition. By issue 4 it morphs into some kind of Flash Gordon ripoff with no real explanation how or why.

I am sure that someone somewhere will be triggered by this panel. 

Fletcher Hanks takes the cake for batshit crazy comic book writers and artists. Hanks' artwork is bizarre, with barrel-chested he-men with necks as long as a giraffe. His work (including this story) have been reprinted before by Fantagraphics across two softcovers and, more recently, in one big fat hardcover. His stories make no sense, turn on a dime, and often just skid off of the tracks and into a ditch. Other times, like the one reprinted in this book, they just end with no real resolution. He is, in his own way, an absolute genius.

Issue 3's Amazona, Mighty Woman seems completely out of place. It is an Earthbound strip and has nothing to do with the rest of the series in tone. It's cool but it doesn't fit in with the sci-fi theme. It's more of a superhero story than a science fiction one.

I love the Fiction House house ads in these comics. I would love to see PS Artbooks tackle more Fiction House stuff like Jungle Comics, Fight Comics, and Jumbo Comics. I am glad that PS has reprinted the entire run of Planet Comics across 14 hardcovers. On one hand they pump out too many books too fast, but on the other hand they have covered so much ground so quickly. My wallet and bookshelves curse them while my heart sings! A pox upon you, PS Artbooks!!!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Please note that this is the revised first printing of the book. PS subscribers like myself got the first printing of this book, dated September 2012 with the same ISBN, which was sourced from microfiche and looked abysmal. They recalled the book from Diamond Book Distributors and scanned newly purchased original copies for this version.
I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then. The printing seems more accurate here than in comics from the 1950s, with far less line bleed and off register printing than you see in some of these PS books.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

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