Monday, January 22, 2018

Flying Saucers #3

Sci-Fi January 2018
Flying Saucers #3

Startling, but completely made up!

Writer - Unknown
Artists – Frank Springer, Sal Trapani, Dick Giordano, and Chic Stone
October 1967
I was a huge fan of X-Files when it came out. Most of it, anyway. I loved the parts that harkened back to its inspiration, Kolchak the Night Stalker. But those parts were all monster-creature of the week and not the episodes that focused on Chris Carter’s blurry and confusing alien-conspiracy mythology.

The reason is that I don’t find alien visitation a credible concept outside of science fiction stories. Building a significant portion of the series around events that, to me, are as unlikely as unicorn sightings took the show to a place that strained my ability to believe. Get that: I am more inclined to believe in a fluke-like toilet monster that lives in the sewer than alien visitors.

Note that I didn’t say I don’t believe in intelligent life on other planets. I’m among the 52-56% of the population that believes there is life out there somewhere on a distant world that is intelligent. But I’m not part of third of the population that believes in visitors from far off planets coming here, now or in the past, nor the 18% that believes in alien abduction.

The first part of that is easy to justify. The famous Drake Equation (not the rapper) sets-up that there are lots of habitable planets in just our galaxy alone that contain enough of the essential bits and pieces to produce intelligent life. So sure, lots of possibilities of intelligent life pretty much from every corner of space. However, there is a piece of that formula that I believe twists things in the opposite direction. Stephen Hawking talks about it far better than I could, but I’ll take a stab at it since I always find myself intuitively drawn to it as a refutation that humanity will ever see intelligent alien life…ever.
The part I’m going to focus on is this: human history, where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. I’m a firm believer in evolution, which means that our ancestors are vital links in us getting here. Remove a few proto-monkey-like mammals from the chain of development and perhaps you end up with no human beings. And natural selection and catastrophe have done just that with entire species in the past. Look at the dinosaurs. They aren’t around specifically because of a huge event that reversed the flow of evolution, wiping out multitudes of species in one big poof. Most say we got hit by a climate changing event (most likely an impact with an asteroid) that upset the food chain and down they all went. Whatever the cause, history shows that evolution can get side tracked in ways that wipe out nearly EVERYTHING.

And these setbacks aren’t short term. The end of the Cretaceous period was 66 MILLION years ago. Scientist and astronomers will call that a drop in the bucket, cosmic time-wise.

But hear me out: Our entire civilization has lasted but a few thousand years. If we start with the roots of recorded history back in Mesopotamia in 3100 BC, we barely clock in for about 5,000 years. And at the rate of growth and destruction of natural resources, we don’t appear to be thinking about lasting as a civilization for more that double that. Our time on this planet may burn out in less than 10,000 years in total and quite possibly less.
Think about those two numbers for a moment (and I’m sorry for being so depressing). 10,000 years vs 66,000,000 years. Had calamity not struck, perhaps the Cretaceous period would have produced an intelligent species all its own. One that might have lasted more or less the 10,000 years I’m throwing out there as the lifespan of the human civilization. 10,000 years is a tiny window of opportunity for us to make contact with an intelligent alien species. And it is easy to imagine the situation on their end being likewise short in terms of length, a civilization spanning 10,000 years before extinction. Add to that the fact that they could have started their civilization anywhere along that 66 Million years between now and the last extinction level event and you reach this “window” we need to hit to find alien life. You’ll quickly realize that the timing it would take for both species to make that “love connection” is universally slim.

But humans love to dream and our ability to imagine visitors from afar only rivals our paranoia at why they would come here. Hence books like Dell’s Flying Saucers comic, which posits tales of “stories that could be true!” But definitely aren’t.

The four tales in this are uncredited on both art and story, so I went with an online resource to drum up those names. The book I found had a cover hanging on by one thin staple that in the scanning process decided to give way. Fragile things, these old books. All the more reason to review them, however.

We start with “PROOF…doesn’t prove a thing!”, an illogical statement that we can ignore because the splash page shows three or more SR-71 Blackbirds shooting missiles at a flying saucer. Which is also illogical as Blackbirds aren’t armed (well, they were going to be, but the project got scrapped). But it is a cool graphic.

But let’s get down to the human element of this story, which in my mind should come from the pilots of those imaginary stealth rockets disguised as airplanes. It doesn’t however. We begin with ordinary house-husband Ernie. 

Ernie seems to have a real obsession with stargazing lately, so much so that he buys an expensive pair of binoculars. The reason, of course, is that Ernie thought he saw a UFO. 

Meanwhile, the military has a new directive to the local radar post/air base that houses super-spy planes. That directive includes the authorization to scramble millions of dollars worth of planes for what could be wild goose chases.

We know where this is going to go. Two flying saucers appear. Ernie catches sight of them. The military scramble jets to intercept them.

The Blackbird pilots try to dogfight the UFO due to the saucer’s flight looking like it tried to bash into one of them. So they shoot at it. With bullets. Planes that fly so fast that they routinely outrun missiles are equipped with guns. I need someone with an advanced degree in the physical sciences to tell me if that is even remotely workable. 

Anyway, this miracle of magical bullets knocks a piece off the saucer that lands near Ernie’s son. Like a bolt, the father is off to investigate. But he’s not the only one.

And sadly, the army gets all “men in black” on the trio and spirits off with the mystery metal.

When their carefully crafted cover story rankles Ernie over breakfast the next day, he takes Randy back out to the field. Randy promptly finds another piece of mystery metal, proving his Dad’s assertions that they saw a flying saucer. So the logical thing to do with it is…

…take it to the same armed government types the confiscated the first piece so they can remove this piece from your possession as well. Not the sharpest tack in the drawer, this Ernie character.

However when he reaches base, the C.O. shows him something plainly visible on the inside of the bent piece of metal. I suppose they just never turned it over? 

Anyway, that is writing in English meaning all he has is broken piece of shell casing. While the meeting is going on, an alien hand takes the real shard of space craft off into the bushes.

This was a silly waste of several pages in my opinion. I’m not feeling very sure about my minimum level of enjoyment will be met by this book. On to tale number two!

Next up we have some bloke poking through the forest with a flashlight and a machete when he comes upon a flying saucer that is either humming a tune or sleeping. The story is called The Fear of Death.

It starts in a much simpler time. A time when a school teacher could take two of the lads from his class off into the forest alone for some “fishing” without arousing the suspicions of every adult in the state. Mr. McCutcheon is about to encounter something that will be a “one that got away” story to end all stories.

On the way back home, the boys and Mr. McCutcheon see something fall from the sky. Far be it from our chaperone from just notifying the authorities, he takes off on his own to rescue the downed passengers, I suppose.

What the shop teacher comes across while wandering through a tinderbox that has already caught fire, is a craft unlike any he has seen. A sight that is so startling that it causes him to literally blow his lid.

He attacks it with his steely knife, but he just can’t kill the metal beast. Which then gasses him, after which some shadowy aliens drag him on board for some inappropriate probing I assume. Only in the 1970’s would they make Mr. McCutcheon a stand up guy and not some kind of closet child molester who somehow gets the tables turned on him by a group of probe-happy aliens.

Sadly, this isn’t that type of story. What does happen is the aliens heal him from being burned by their crafts electro-magnetic field. Note that the leader sports a stylish space cape and the same kind of paper hat you have to wear if you work at a 50’s burger establishment. 

After some quick doctoring up and some memory alteration, the aliens leave him while lamenting the horrible violent nature of the human species. 
He makes his way back to his empty car just as the sheriff and town doctor are returning after having been notified by the abandoned kids. They note his sunburn immediately. 

Making their way back to where he had come from, they find strange clues around the landing site that they can’t make heads or tails of. When suddenly a light appears in the sky!

But it turns out to be the lights of train warning beacon, to which Mr. McCutcheon passes out upon seeing. The only matter left solving was what happened to his flashlight, which isn’t really spooky as it is silly. 

Not going so good in the first half, we see if things get better in the third quarter. The title of this is “A Nightmare in Broad Daylight” but I’m not buying it anymore. These stories have great titles but don’t amount to much. I’m starting to believe it would be better if the book were just all splash pages alluding to things happening. I know my mind is already conjuring up a better tale than the next few pages will bring. *sigh*

We start with the same beginning as Friday the 13th, with a couple of with it college kids heading to Echo Lake when they are accosted by a bum who warns them of doom and gloom.

Of course they ignore those warnings because the audience wants a story and they end up eating sandwiches at the lake, WHEN SUDDENLY…

The craft lands in the lake, causing our pair to stop eating and start snooping. Dieter decides he wants a picture of “that thing” which he could have several dozen of at the vantage point they currently have on it, but appears he isn’t satisfied with. Girlfriend Maggie doesn’t want to go, as Dieter seems almost determined to get an old-school selfie with the craft’s crew.

This disagreement causes the couple to go their separate ways. Dieter heads for the lake, while Maggie makes for the car. Maggie however finds that she’s in the 1970’s and cars only start for men in that bygone era.

She rushes back to Dieter and perhaps alerts the aliens to their presence. Hastily the ship takes off…

…and a second appears which proceeds to chase after them shooting light beams. Maggie faints and while Dieter tries to drag her dead weight out of the way…but too late! He’s stuck by a beam and turned into a very calm, studious college student. 

I have a homework hating thirteen-year-old. You think the aliens might share that technology with us?

And the pair don’t even remember being near the lake afterwards…so, score one aliens?

Alright this is the forth quarter and the book needs a big play here. Let’s see what we’ve got.

“The Race Nobody Won” already has a better setting, as it looks like the beginning of “Who Goes There.” I don’t hold out much hope for a shape changing alien thing to come out of this book, so let’s see what we DO get from artist Chic Stone.

We start with two different groups tracking a craft that crashes in the Mondraine Glacier region. The art looks better in this and I find myself hoping for this one to turn out well. Not to mention the story has a conflict which isn’t just “aliens don’t want to be seen.” 

We actually have two competitors racing to see who will lay claim to being the first to the alien ship’s crash site. I’m even willing to overlook the name “Leif Erikson”. 

Don’t let me down story!

So it appears the Leif Erikson team makes it there first.

…but can only snap one picture before having to fly back due to the weather.

That might be their only chance too, as the government sends men to move in as soon as the weather clears.

Leif tries to reach it one more time as the army loads up a recon team of its own. Note that the army won’t publicize the find.

The Army finds out, but they are way behind our man Leif, who comes upon the crash site to find…

… giant trench that his snow cat falls into. Meanwhile both the army and some visitors close in on the downed craft. 

And the winners in this race are the aliens, who take apart the flying saucer and fly away, leaving no human victors.

While this was better, it didn’t do it for me. In all this one ended with me feeling much like these guys. That I’d run a long distance only to be left standing out in the cold.

1 comment:

  1. There's always a crackpot theory to counteract your science (in the introduction)!


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