Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, November 4, 2023


Australian Phillip Wearne (1925-1970) "created" The Legion of Space when he was seventeen; the comic book saw publication in 1943.  He then created a second comic, The Space Legionnaires, shortly before the underage Wearne entered the Australian Air Force.  He failed at flying school and was transferred to a clerical position.  Wearne then sued comic book publisher Henry Edward Hofman for the rights to The Space Legionnaires; rather than endure a long legal case, Hoffman released the rights to Wearne.  Wearne left the Air Force in 1945 and, by 1946, sold The Legion of Space to Invincible Comics, which published the tale in four issues.  (Copies of these issues are rare, although the remaining three issues may some day be reprinted on Comic Book Plus or another online source.)

What's that, I hear you say?  The title -- The Legion of Space -- sounds awfully familiar?  Well...yeah.  It seems that Wearne plagerized the story from Jack Williamson's classic science fiction book, which was little-known in 1946.  (The Space Legionnaires was also lifted from Williamson's work.)  Williamson's story had been serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1934 but did not achieve book publication untill 1947, one year after Invincible published the comic book.  By then it became obvious that Wearne did not have any original writing talent and he quickly faded from the comic book scene, and moved on to a rather strange life:

"...He was accused of theft, he set up businesses and consorted with criminals, he contested a divorce that saw the presiding magistrate seek advice from the Federal Attorney General and launched a one-man crusade against Scientology, resulting in the religion being banned in Victoria.  He was intelligent, egotistical and subversive, the former kept him one step ahead of people, and the latter two traits saw him classed as a crackpot by ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation].  He crossed paths with spies, the mental health industry and publishing...and along the way he rarely looked back."

Anyway, back to The Legion of Space.   The year is 2050, and advances in atomic energy had made space travel possible.  Man had reached Mars (inhabited by a race of red-skinned beings) and the asteroids (rich in precious minerals); Venus, however, remained a planet of mystery and none ever returned from there.  Space piracy became a major problem and Earth created the Legion of Space to combat the pirates.  Two Legion ships have been stolen by brother Martian arch-criminals Kli Morg and Kli Dreen.  Legionnaire Ron Jason is sent to capture them (actually, Jason has permission to kill Kli Dreen if necessary, but he must capture Kli Morg).  Meanwhile, another Legionnaire, Jon Kleon (who, in this comic book, strangely resembles actor Edward G. Robinson) has gone missing.  Soon, Jason, Kleon, and young Legionnair cadet Bob Star join forces against the pirte menace and find themselves pitted against the Venetian cat-men led by Baal, Overlord of Venus!  Super-science, space fights, and derring-do occur, with death lurking at every corner...

Williamson';s novel takes place in a far distant future from that of this comic book.  The main thret in Williamson's book is the Medusae -- an evil race of giant jellyfish-like creatures from Barnard's star -- but much of the background and concepts laid out by Williamson were plagerized by Wearne.  It may well be that the Medusae show up in the remaining three issues of the comic book -- time will tell.  None the less, while reading the comic book a part of me expected (and wanted) the Flastaffian Gile Habibula to make an appearance; alas, not in this issue!

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