Monday, April 18, 2011

Speed Carter: Spaceman 03

In the early 1950's comic books were, once again, under attack for contributing to the delinquency of children. Horror and crime books were specifically being targeted. One result of the negative national focus on comic books was the cancellation of many titles.

Atlas', later to become Marvel Comics, Speed Carter: Spaceman only ran for 6 issues, covers dated from September 1953 to July 1954. This time period was at the height of the concern about the effect of comics on youth. Did stories like this mash-up of space and horror have anything to do with its short run?

I wonder if this story was an attempt to produce a horror story in a fantasy sci-fi setting of the future to avoid being targeted as a horror book. Fantastic space monsters and aliens may have been a way to keep the "weird and horrific," that was still popular, without the worry. It could be interesting to look at how other comics publishers at this time were trying to keep creepy monsters in their books and if the percentage of sci-fi books increased at this time. Stan Lee, editor, writer, art director at Atlas, has said that they did comics of whatever the trends at the time were. My guess is that Atlas was just trying to combine two successful genres of early comics, horror and sci-fi, to increase sale.

EC comic's publisher Bill Gaines mentioned in interviews that his line of science fiction books were never as financially successful or popular as his horror books. EC was notorious for its horror books and by the mid 1950's Gaines had ceased publication of comic books to focus on his one remaining title, Mad Magazine, which was now transformed into a magazine format to avoid the censorship from the newly organized Comics Code Authority. Stan Lee at Atlas continued to survive the 50's by publishing westerns, war, and sci-fi monster comics.

Joe Maneely did very good art in these books. Maneely's solidly drawn figures and distinctive inking seemed well suited to this series. He seems to have been having a good time with this one. Dig that hairstyle on Speed!!

Several stories are signed by Maneely, with story by Hank Chapman. This 6-pager doesn't have Chapman listed as the writer, but it has a funky, fun, fifties space opera feel similar to other stories in the series with Chapman credited for the story. Enjoy!

Thanks to the original scanner for sharing.

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