JF Ptak Science Books Post 1936 (expanded)
This post is a part of overlapping categories, including:
- Duplicate Earths (including Mondo Bizarro, Science Afflictions and the Dubious Mind—Bad Science, Part 1. NYC in Space (?!) here and Extra-Earth Humano-Alien Souls From Outer Space Repopulate Earth-Hell!!(??) here)
- Strange Things in the Sky, and New York City Attacked (including such posts as New York City: Attacked by Tentacled Flying Saucers, Giant Flying Snakes, Glaciers, and Mining Missile Space Aliens, 1929-1941)
- And before we get to Mystery in Space I wanted to make an uncommon addition to the "Duplicate Earth" category--I really don't find "Extra Earths" too often and so I feel a certain obligation in reporting them. And so, the Extra Earth of Fletcher Hanks' cover for his very uncommon superhero creation, Stardust:
I don't know if this is an actual Extra Earth that makes an appearance in a Stardust episode, or if it is just a repeated element of design--from what I have seen from Hanks, it could easily be either.
And now on the the rest:
In the eight years or so of collecting information and stories for the odd-bits section of this blog I have never encountered so many choice visual examples in one place for strange/weirdly-imagined/impossible/high-SciFi of the Earth than with the comic book, Mystery in Space. The very dedicated keepers of Coverbrowse.com website have reproduced thousands (?) of covers of pulpily-published science fiction and exotic-thinking comics books, including the home base in which all sixteen-plus years of Mystery in Space live.
I've just found another Earth-halved image, this from the comic Strange:
Written from 1951-1966, Mystery in Space very freely uses words like "astounding" and "astonishing" and "amazing" and "strange" to describe itself--on its cover (!)--and then lives up to it in so many astounding/astonishing/amazing/strange ways. Keeping simply to odd representations of the Earth, we find it halved, duplicated,cubed, miniaturized, dragged, tugged, targeted, canaled, and bullseyed; it is also the background to a WWI biplane attacking a spaceship in space, a flying skyscraper, and an alien craft lifting the United States from its geological moorings--in short, a very high and filling feast. And this, again, is just judging this book by its cover, which might actually be the best thing to do as the covers tell enough of the story to let your imagination tell the rest of the adventure. The covers tell fabulous stories of such highly unexpected ideas that they may be the only part of the book that we need to bother with, the cover doing away with the need for the printed narrative; and it may be the case that it saves the reader from the interior eye-splitting out-of-time writing.
The artwork and promise of the story are almost always (issue-after-issue) compelling, and there are a number of superb examples of simple jaw-dropping, belief- suspending, flabbergasting and mostly bad but very unexpected science fiction. But this is so potentially high-bad that the "bad" looks good, a tried-and-true badness the content of which is so surprising that its high degree of creativity and difference transcends everything else. And since we're just looking at pictures/cover art, there is no time-sink involved wading through turgid/florid/bad-bad prose for hours to only discover that the story is only getting simpler and lost and the writing even worse (worser). So Mystery in Space is a great visual luxury, a bookmark for ideas rendered in artwork that is obviously deadline-dependent, swirling in bad color and modest skill seemingly steeped in smoke and alcohol, and which delivers joyful incredulous surprises time after time.