Wind-up Motorcycle Evel Knievel (missing motorcycle, winder) Acquired: Antique “mall”
Wind-up Motorcycle Evel Knievel (missing motorcycle, winder) Acquired: Antique “mall”
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I haven’t read The Voyage of the Space Beagle yet.
I actually haven’t read anything by author A.E. van Vogt yet, even though I’ve got a few of his books sitting patiently in my pile of pulp sci-fi. This has more to do with my bad habit of grabbing more books than I can read at a time (where next thing I know I’m looking at a stack of unread novels and having a panic attack because SO MUCH TO READ) than any foot-dragging because, by most accounts. van Vogt is considered a master of the Golden Age of science fiction.
How influential was he? Maybe one of the most well-known anecdotes has to do with The Voyage of the Space Beagle, which includes the story “Black Destroyer” and has been credited as one of the inspirations for a little movie called Alien. And while the iconic creature designs of H.R. Giger can’t be matched for personifying sheer, ferociously perfect terror, the astronaut-eating monster on this cover is nothing I’d want to mess with either.
Unfortunately, the cover illustrator isn’t credited anywhere in this 1963 edition, a common crime at the time. But a little digging reveals that the artist was most likely Richard M. Powers, a renowned sci-fi illustrator who did other work for the same publisher, including at least a couple more for van Vogt titles. If you’re ready to spiral down a rabbit hole of fantastic, 60s-era pulp art, do an image search for Powers and prepare to fall in love with your new favorite cover artist.
As a writer, van Vogt had his detractors. Many criticized his willingness to be ambiguous where both plot mechanics and story endings were concerned, but he also apparently inspired well-regarded sci-fi heavyweights like Phillip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison (a personal favorite of mine). A final verdict will have to wait until I’ve actually read the evidence for myself.
But will I ever get around to reading The Beast? Or The War Against the Rull? Masters of Time? Empire of the Atom or Future Glitter?
Back off, man — I told you, I’m gonna get to ’em. Eventually. The Voyage of the Space Beagle, though, will definitely be the first.
Hey, August Derleth liked it!
The Voyage of the Space Beagle Cover illustration: Richard M. Powers (unconfirmed) 1963 edition (MacFadden Books)
One of the most difficult cases, where I had to use all my valor and all my knowledge to defeat crime.
“Hook-hand” Aquaman Acquired: Promotional figure included with bag of potato chips (Mexico)
Honestly — I didn’t mean for that header to sound so … ugh … but there’s no turning back now.
Anyway: This seems like as good a time as any to confess that — along with a lot of other come-and-go interests that appeal to my collector’s gene — I’ve considered taking up stamp collecting as a hobby. Because, apparently, I don’t think I’m nearly nerdy enough.
What’s always grabbed me about stamps is pretty obvious; the art. The more generic stamps don’t do anything for me — snapshots of kittens is what the Internet’s for — but a lot of the portraits have a kind of timeless, etching-like quality to them, and other images are like 1-inch x 1-inch works of stunning pop art. Of course, other stamps just slot neatly into the comic book/sci-fi geekery that’s my crack of choice, so how can I resist something like this Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan stamp?
Issued last month, the stamp features the Lord of the Apes in action under the watchful gaze of his creator, and I really like the old-school movie poster feel of the artwork. I also get a kick out of it being a “forever” stamp so I can read it as, “Edgar Rice Burroughs Forever!!” (Exclamation points mine. Mine!!!) Granted, I’m more of a John Carter guy, but I’ll take what I can get.
And now that I think about it, the U.S. Postal Service has issued a bunch of superhero and comic strip stamps in the past. The shouldn’t be that hard to find, right? And I’m sure I could find some room on the bookshelves for some albums and, and …
… aw, crap.
When we last left our hero, Kalimán had just spooked the living bejeesus out of our favorite man-monster Makón by apparently returning from the dead and hurling him into a pyramid wall. Since all this would be a little hard for anyone to take in — and not just speech-impaired Neanderthals — Kalimán is immediately peppered with questions from his tomb-raiding pals.
Being a man of mystery who believes in the grand traditions of his time-honored trade, Kalimán of course tells them to get bent. Then he takes of his shirt.
Finally explaining that he used the “actus mortis” to feign death and avoid injury, Kalimán does a little flexing and then takes Professor Farrel, Farrel’s daughter Jane, Zarur and young Solín deeper into the pryramid in search of the evil Eric Von Kraufen and Nila, the Egyptian princess he’s taken hostage.
Meanwhile, Makón has managed to channel his panic into a full-on sprint that takes him to Von Kraufen. Knowing Kalimán is on his trail, Von Kraufen tells Nila — who is privy to the secrets of the tomb — to stop screwing around and tell him where Ramses’ legendary treasure is before he starts torturing her the way he did her love, Zarur. Finally relenting, Nila presses some ancient buttons, flips some hidden switches and reveals …
… the biggest damn emerald you ever saw outside of a Zale’s Arbor Day sale.
But it might be too late because Kalimán is right behind them. Makón makes the first move, and it’s on!
At the same time, Zarur sees Von Kraufen — the man who kidnapped the love of his life, tortured him at the end of a whip, and attacked his friends — and promptly loses his shit.
Hey, you know how the Comics Code Authority censored comics in the United States for decades, supposedly shielding impressionable kids from the evils of boobies and awesome violence? Well, there was no CCA in Mexico and nothing stopping Zarur from dispensing a righteous beating and a little desert justice.
Mmmm — that’s some good justice. On the other side of the tomb, Kalimán has also decided to use the squeeze-’til-he-stops-breathing strategy. Though he does it a little … differently.
Hey, he’s a man of peace, remember? And if that means subduing the beast-like Makón with an enthusiastic bear-hug, so be it.
But Makón recovers!
Man, I’m just glad there aren’t traps laying around that tomb, like deep pits or giant spikes or …
Oh. Uh, well. Let’s mo … let’s move on.
With the bad guys … taken care of … and the mystery solved, Kalimán takes a moment to pray for his enemy’s smooth passage to the next world. Then the gang assesses their situation: Professor Farrel will lead a team of fellow archaeologists through the tomb’s once-secret chambers, Nila and Zarur are reunited, and Jane will just sorta hang out. But as Nila tries to explain to Solín the philosophy of living a tranquil life (which will no doubt be of comfort to him when he goes back to being a street urchin) she lets slip that his family tree has deeper roots than anyone thought.
How does she know this? It’s apparently not for us to know, but Professor Farrel picks up on it and figures something out — Solín is the descendent and rightful heir to the Ramses dynasty! And then a mummy shows up.
Y’know, getting smacked in the face is bad enough, but getting smacked in the face with what’s probably a small statue of yourself is just insulting. Luckily for anyone worried about ancient curses, the standard mummy doesn’t usually shoot out sparks and loose wires when it takes critical damage. This mummy was a robot, the last evil invention of the mad genius Eric Von Kraufen!
The danger finally past, Kalimán says his good-byes and boards a ship to continue his travels and to bring peace and balance to the world. But what has long been a solitary mission becomes something else when he turns to see Solín, who tells Kalimán that he has renounced his title and his riches in order to join him on his quest, beginning what will be a legendary partnership and ending … “Los Profanadores de Tumbas!”
Great galaxy! I almost forgot!
Yup, I was at it again, this time writing the cover story for Back Issue magazine — the COVER STORY! As you can probably guess, I’m pretty excited about it, especially considering the not-inconsiderable amount of work that went into it. Back Issue #59 came out this week, and if you’d like to read all about Space Ghost’s comic book history you should give it a look. It’s a tale of comic-style inspiration, the capricious nature of publishing, an unexpected change in direction and, of course, unrestrained lust in war-time. (One of these things is untrue.)
Seriously, though, I had a great time writing it and I think you’d enjoy reading it. And as if Space Ghost (not to mention a fantastic cover by Steve Rude) weren’t enough, the whole issue is dedicated to “toon comics,” featuring articles on everything from Marvel’s Hanna-Barbera titles to Jonny Quest to Star Blazers — fun stuff. Check it out!