Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, June 4, 2016

MAN O' MARS #1 (1952)

The Man o'Mars comic book never made to a second issue.  Published under the Flying Stories, Inc. banner of Fiction House, Man o' Mars contains three stories with only the first about the titular hero, John Hunter of the Marsmen.

It's 2036 and the Martian space fleet is attacking Earth for the second time.  The first invasion, fifteen years earlier (Earth years or Martian years, who knows?  Khandor, the Martian historian, has record books, each clearly dated with an Earth year.), had been repulsed by the greater Earth weapons.  But now, the green-skinned Martian warlord Gurtil has deeloped mighty weapons that leave Earth helpless.  He uses one of those weapons to destroy a major city and issues an ultimatum to the World Council to surrender.  What Gurtil did not know was that after the foiled first invadion the yellow-skinned, peaceful science class that had been exiled earlier by Gurtil had continued their work in underground caves.  The scientists had managed to sneak a rocket to Earth to warn them that Gurtil would be back, more powerful than ever.  They ask for, and received 100 of Earth's best and brightest youths to train as a secret army, the Marsmen.  Among them is John Hunter, who becomes their leader, and Hunter's young girlfriend Renee, who had cut her hair to look like a boy and sneak in among the 99 other youths.

Throw in a green Martian seductress, a spaceship explosion throwing a bare-legged (but fishbowl-helmeted John Hunter into cold space, a weapon that could destroy the Earth, and a brave young Marsman named Jerry.  (With such a noble name as Jerry, you just know the guy is going to step up and save the day.)    There are no credits given for this story but the artwork at times rises above the plot and the Good Girl Martian vamp is pneumatically drawn.

The second story is also unsigned and the art ranges from crude to very good -- and one monster could have come directly from Virgil Finley's pen.  The story featured a guy named Space Pirate, most likely because he's a pirate in space.  So...Space Pirate decides to kidnap the richest man in the galaxy, the head of a large mining company.  Space Pirate's secret weapon is a pair of rocket-powered boots.  He uses the boots to kidnap the rich man.  Then comes the twist.  Space Pirate does not want ransom; instead, he takes the guy to a mining planet the man owns to have him experience the terrible working conditions there.  Wouldn't you know it?  The bad guy has a change of heart and alters his selfish ways.  Space Pirate should have been named Maudlinman!  Give me a break.

The final story is "Space Rangers" by Hugh Fitzhugh.  The Space Rangers are Flint Baker and Reef Ryan who must find out the meaning of some secret coded space transmissions sent out on outlaw channels.  Turns out a race of stunted, big headed neo-Martians are trying to revolt.  The neo-Martians are a subserviant race who have to undergo genetic surgery, are strictly controlled and monitored, and must present "metabolic check cards."  So, yeah, they have good reason to revolt.  Luckily for the established order, Baker and Ryan are on the case to save us from this evil.  The beautiful girl in the revealing dress (who is added for eye candy, one assumes) is the hypnotized (Why?  Not sure.) daughter of a professor.  She's not as zaftig as the Martian vixen in the first story, though.

There's also a four-page filler imagining life on Uranus and Saturn that seems to be heavily influenced by the paintings Frank Paul and James Settles used to do for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.  The same influence also shows up on some of the costumes of the future in this issue's three stories.

All in all, an interesting issue.  Somewhat weak on originality, but with some very good art in some places.

Check it out.

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