Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The unforgettable tales of Worlds Unknown.

Watching the Eurovision Song Contest at the weekend reminded us all that "abroad" is a whole other world. How we thrilled to Romanian falsetto vampires, Greeks demanding free booze, a man singing a love song to his shoes, and, erm, Bonnie Tyler.

But there are other worlds; worlds even stranger than those that lie within the boundaries of the European Broadcasting Union.

And so it was that, in the 1970s, Marvel Comics gave us Worlds Unknown.

Anyone who read Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes mag will remember Worlds Unknown with fondness - or at least the tales it contained...

Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #1

The cover story might be about the coming of the Martians but we all know the true stand-out of this issue is Gil Kane's He That Hath Wings, in which a youth discovers that being born with feathers might not be the blessing one might expect it to be.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #2, A Gun For A Dinosaur

It's A Gun For Dinosaur.

It's so long since I read his that I can't remember the ending. I'm sort of assuming it's one of those going-back-in-time-and-killing-your-grandfather-type twists.

That reminds me. I must go back in time and kill my grandfather before he fulfills his pledge to travel forward in time and kill me.

That'll teach him.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #3, Farewell to the Master

It's Farewell to the Master.

Roy Thomas and Ross Andru's adaptation might be more faithful to the original but I still prefer The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #4, Fredric Brown's Arena

Ah, all those memories of William Shatner ripping his shirt off and building a cannon from a big stick of bamboo come flooding back as we get Marvel's adaptation of Fredric Brown's Arena.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #5, Black Destroyer, AE Van Vogt

I always loved this one, as an alien big cat climbs aboard a spaceship and, one by one, polishes off the crew until it has an unhappy ending.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #6, Killdozer

I can't help feeling that having the homicidal bulldozer ranting like Dr Doom on the cover probably doesn't add a lot of dignity to proceedings.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #7, Golden Voyage of Sinbad

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was one of my favourite childhood films. It had Sinbad! It had a six-armed sword fight! It had Tom Baker! Verily, the late Ray Harryhausen didst know how to keep a child happy.

Sadly, I don't remember being so taken with George Tuska and Vince Colletta's adaptation.
Marvel Comics, Worlds Unknown #8, Golden Voyage of Sinbad

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad comes to an end, as we get that sword fight.

And Worlds Unknown also comes to an end.

Its run may have been short but it was certainly sweet - and where would Planet of the Apes readers have been without the tales the UK mag so happily reprinted from it?


Andrez Bergen said...

Love those Sinbads—grew up with them.

Anonymous said...

"A Gun for Dinosaur" looked like it might be based on Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder," so I thought the ending might be a version of the grandfather paradox: if you go back in time and accidentally step on an insect, it will change history and ruin the present time. But it turns out it was based on a story by L. Sprague deCamp, with two morals. One was apparently that you can't be in two places at once, so if you travel in time and meet yourself, you disintegrate or something. The other was a rule for hunting and/or combat: use a big enough gun.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, Anon.

cerebus660 said...

The only issue I own is no. 5 with the Van Vogt "big cat" story but I remember a lot of the others from reprints in Planet Of The Apes. I remember being depressed by the ending of He That Hath Wings and finding Killdozer quite disturbing at the time. I was very young!

I nearly bought the second Sinbad issue back in the day but bought an issue of X-Men ( with some ropey reprint ) instead...

Comicsfan said...

Those covers are so fun and eye-catching--but how curious that the most eye-catching part of them, the masthead that practically blares out what you can expect to find within, retreats to a small, plain type style toward the end of the book's run.

By the way, "A Gun for Dinosaur"--what exactly did that mean, I wonder? Was "Dinosaur" the name or nickname of someone? Or the name of, well, a dinosaur? (Dinosaur the dinosaur?)

Steve W. said...

Well, Killdozer had already been broadcast as a TV movie and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad was already making waves as a theatrical cinema release, so Marvel clearly thought the titles of those would be more attractive to buyers than the comics' actual title would.

Boston Bill said...

Loved 'Golden Voyage of Sinbad' when I saw it as a kid. But I won't look for the comic book adaptation. They were always a big disappointment, no matter what the movie, no matter what the artist.

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