Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, September 17, 2022

MAN O' MARS #1 (1958)

 The excellent cover by Angelo Torres to this one-shot comic book is enough to get the juices flowing for any red-blooded American boy of the 50s who is unsure of the vagarities of sex and astrophysics.  A beautiful blonde (well-endowed, 'natch) in a fish-bowl space helmet and a form-fitting mini-mini dress is grappling with a geen-skinned alien (who is only wearing what appears to be a blue breech cloth) on the ourer rim of a small two-alien flying saucer, the glass hatch to the saucer is open and the second alien is pointing his ray gun at our hero in the foreground -- a rock-hard handsome blond man with bare arms holding a ray gun, obviously coming to rescue the beautiful girl.  In the background there is a bevy of flying saucers rising from the moon to join in destroying the dreaded Earthlings in this outer space encounter.

What's not to like?

Man o' Mars is John Hunter "of the Marsmen."  Wo is John Hunter?  Who are the Marsmen?  Time for a back story.

Mars was the home of two humanoid races, the peaceful, yellow Azurians who are the scientists, and the warlike blue warriors  bent on conquering.  As Mars runs low on water, the verdant Earth with its oceans and rivers beckon, and Gurtil, commander of the Mars War Fleet, redies an invasion of Earth.  Because the Azurians beliefe there is another, peaceful way, they are banished to the wastes of the planet where it is assumed they will die.  The Azurians find an underground grotto with enough water for them to hide and prosper.  What Gurtil did not know was that Earth now had long-range guided missiles and that defeated his planned invasion.  The War Fleet went back to Mars, licking their wounds, and preparing for another invasion in the future.  The Azurians realized that the blue Martians were biding their time until they would be strong enoung to conquer Earth.  Secretly, they sent an ambassador to Earth to explain the situation.  Since the Azurians were a peaceful sort, they knew they had no chance against their blue enemies.  They proposed that Earth send them 100 young men to be trained on Mars to defeat the enemy.  One of those young men was a boy named John Hunter.  Another of the "young men" was Renee, John Hunter's girlfriend, who had cut her hair and pretended to be a boy to remain close to her love.

As you can see, logic has no place in this tale (or any comic book story of the time).  F'instance, why are the yellow-skinned Martians called "Azurians" when "azure" means blue (as the color of the sky on a clear day).  Is this akin to calling a atll man "Shorty"?  And what's this farce about training 100 boys to defeat a planet's War Fleet?  No matter, let's get on with the story.

Armed with far more advnced weponry, Gurtil once again invades Earth, destroying a major city and threatening to obliterate New York unless Earth surrenders.  Gurtil does not realize he had been followed to Earth by John Hunter's fleet of twenty ships.  In a surprice attaack Hunter desstroys half of Gurtil's ships while losing five of his own.  Gurtil regroups on a planetoid that had been a captured armory, knowing the Hunter would not dare attack him there.  Gurtil sends a lone ship to meet with Hunter's fleet.  In a Trojan Horse scenario, the ship holds only Ylla (shades of Ray Bradbury!), a beautiful green-skinned Martian with platinum hair and a two-piece bathing suit.  Aboard Hunter's ship, she claims to be running from the cruel Gurtil.  Suckered by a pair of, um...let's say eyes, Hunter believes her until she gets to drop on him with a gun, forcing him to turn his ship to Gurtil's hideout.  In a little bit of exposition theater, we learn that Gurtil's secret weapon is an atomic hydrogun which works on water -- but only the natural water found on Earth.  (see above paragraph, re: lack of logic)

John quickly orders the ship's sheilds down and don his space hood (the fish-tank helmet, remember?)  With the magnetic power off and air escaping the ship. Ylla soons loses consciousness.  As she blacks out she accidently fires her atomic hydrogun, hitting an empty water cup that had just a bit of moisture left, and KABOOM!

The ship is destroyed but because there was no air pressure to cause concussion, Hunter, Renee, and Hunter's pal Jerry survive.  Meanwhile, Earth has agreed to surrender.  Earth's one hope now rests with John Hunter.  He orders another ship and floodsit compartment.  Sussing what Hunter has planned, Jerry knocks Hunter out and commandeers the ship.  He drives it into Gurtil's planetoid and KABOOM!

Earth is safe.  Hunter and Renee get ready to embrace.  The Marsmen can return home to Earth.  And everyone knows that a guy named Jerry has to be the hero.

This issue has two other stories.  One featuring Star Pirate on a planter with centaurs (among other things), the other featuring Space Rangers.  also, two fillers by /Murphy Anderson, both two pages long, about Life on Other Planets --  a wildly imaginative display, reminiscent of features Frank R. Paul and James B. Settles used to do for Amazing Stories and Fantasic Adventures back in the late Thirties-early Forties.

You can willingly suspend your disbelief here:

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