Guest Post: GW Thomas on John Hanson of The Space Patrol Service

Dark Worlds Magazine‘s GW Thomas is back with the next in his series of articles looking at the great space pulp characters. If you’re not familiar with Dark Worlds you should check it out. It’s full of great, fascinating, and educational stuff like this. Thanks again, GW! –Michael

Buck Rogers may have been the first recognizable hero in Science Fiction, so much so that his name became synonymous with the genre, but his fictional adventures were quite earthbound. Only once in the comic strips did he take off for the stars, quite often with little or no scientific basis. (For example, the classic Frank Frazetta cover from Famous Funnies #212 shows Buck and his beautiful damsel as well as some troll-like aliens, all flying about space without oxygen. Buster Crabbe did similar things in his serial appearances too.)

The next series hero after Buck is not a household name but anyone reading his adventures will immediately associate them with Science Fiction TV shows like Star Trek. The space patrol recollections of Captain John Hanson read today like the adventures of Captain Kirk. Appearing over thirty years earlier, the ten stories about Hanson and his crew of dependable spacemen, helped to establish the nautical feel of space opera. The stories contain the military ranks, submarine-style stations and the all-too-familiar military man who is not understood by civilians motifs.

The series creator was Sewell Peaslee Wright (1897-1970) a journalist, advertising writer, radio operator and Pulp writer who penned westerns, horror, mystery as well as Science Fiction. Wright published the entire series in Clayton’s Astounding Stories under editor Harry Bates, who would in turn create the next great hero (but more about that later). Bates’ attitude as editor was quite different from Hugo Gernsback’s, who believed Science Fiction and inventions could save the world. Bates offered his tales as entertainment and nothing more. Because of this, the John Hanson stories are not mired in lengthy description of gadgets but have a speed of pace similar to other Pulps.

Wright begins with an ancient device in adventure writing, the old man recounting his memoirs, in this case to young punk spacers who don’t know how hard it used to be out there. “It must be remembered that I am an old, old man, writing of things that happened before most of the present population of the Universe was born— that I am writing of men who, for the larger part, have long since embarked upon the Greatest Adventure.”

His recollections of his old ships, first the Tamon and later the Ertak, feature a familiar crew as well known as McCoy, Spock and Scotty. These are the impetuous and scrappy First Officer Correy who “loved a fight more than any man I ever knew”, the staid and trustworthy Kincaide “a cool-headed, quick-witted fighting man, and as fine an officer as ever wore the blue-and-silver uniform of the Service” and the third officer Hendricks “while young and rather too impulsive, was a good rough-and-ready scientist, as well as a courageous and dependable officer.” The great screw-shaped door on its gimbals and the television disc which allows the men to see out of their ship are familiar devices while the menore was a clever invention of the author’s.

Unlike the aliens on Star Trek, Space 1999 or Doctor Who who all speak English, Wright, back in 1930, addresses the inability of Earthmen to speak alien languages. The Menore allows them to do this using telepathy. This kind of logical working out of such problems is one of the reasons Wright was a good SF writer and not just a run-of-the-mill hack.

Some of the Star Trek parallels, which are unavoidable for a ST fan reading today, include: getting stranded on an asteroid and having to fix the ship, killer trees, a world with a hidden dark culture working against the other, time travel, a scene in which an officer tells the captain he is too valuable to go on an away mission, nostalgia for Earth, a piece of Earth technology being confused for a god, laser weapons, and giant space amoebas.

The ten stories were:

The Forgotten Planet” (Astounding, July 1930)
The Terrible Tentacles of L-472” (Astounding, September 1930)
The Dark Side of Antri” (Astounding, January 1931)
The Ghost World” (Astounding, April 1931)
The Man from 2071” (Astounding, June 1931)
The God in the Box” (Astounding, September 1931)
The Terror from the Depths” (Astounding, November 1931)
Vampires of Space” (Astounding, March 1932)
Priestess of the Flame” (Astounding, June 1932)
The Death-Traps of FX-31” (Astounding, March 1933)

John Hanson and his tales are not well-remembered after eighty years. The Golden Age of Science Fiction would eclipse much of what came before it but Hanson did go before the Space Opera heroes to come from Hawk Carse to Captain Future and beyond into television with Captain Video, Tom Corbett to Star Trek, and beyond. Sewell Peaslee Wright went ahead of many of them, and his work still stands as enjoyable entertainment.


Western Wednesday

In honor of this summer’s Mondo Sasquatch anthology and my Western Bigfoot Steampunk story therein, the middle day of the week will henceforth be known as Western Wednesday on this blog and will celebrate all things Western, Bigfoot, and Steampunk.

By Alex Schomburg. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

By Craig Wilson.

[Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool]

[From the Files of the Canadian Cave of Cool]

[Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool]

100 Things I Love About The Movies

Inspired by Cinema Fanatic and Jason.

1. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams
2. Harrison Ford’s caving to Gary Oldman in order to save his daughter’s life in Air Force One
3. Grumpy the dwarf
4. Nick and Nora
5. Disney’s version of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus
6. Mr. Whitmore and Helga in Atlantis: The Lost Empire
7. The five notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
8. Both performances of Peter Pan in Finding Neverland
9. Ernest as the snake farmer in Ernest Saves Christmas
10. Bowing to the Hobbits in Return of the King

11. Alastair Sim’s standing on his head in Scrooge
12. Michael Wincott’s voice
13. Tracey Walter and Grace Jones’ giving Olivia d’Abo a sex ed lesson in Conan the Destroyer
14. Helvetica Black’s theme song in Shorts
15. Bill Murray’s almost having a perfect Groundhog Day, but screwing it up because Andie Macdowell thinks he’s been stalking her
16. Watching the Harry Potter cast grow up
17. Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback
18. Alfred Hitchcock’s surprises
19. Errol Flynn’s swagger
20. Kate Beckinsale’s look in Underworld

21. Jean Rogers as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon
22. Mysterious strangers in boarding houses
23. Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent
24. “In space no one can hear you scream.”
25. Kirk’s refusing to lose in Wrath of Khan
26. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
27. Syndrome’s island base in The Incredibles
28. River Tam’s becoming badass in Serenity
29. Hulk vs. tanks in the desert in Ang Lee’s Hulk
30. Friends becoming lovers as in Some Kind of Wonderful and When Harry Met Sally…

31. The creature from the Black Lagoon
32. Elizabeth Swan in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3
33. The Dread Pirate Wesley
34. Robert Newton as Long John Silver
35. Joe Jr. in While You Were Sleeping
36. Any Vera Ellen dance number in White Christmas
37. The cantina scene in Star Wars
38. Orson Welles’ laugh
39. Cary Grant’s suits
40. John Hughes’ soundtracks

41. Every song in Disney’s The Jungle Book
42. “No smoking in the Skull Cave.”
43. Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell
44. Maureen O’Sullivan’s outfit in Tarzan and His Mate
45. Buster Keaton’s lack of facial expression
46. Clint Eastwood’s squint
47. Bela Lugosi’s accent
48. The flying cars in Blade Runner
49. The Star Destroyer fly-over at the beginning of Star Wars
50. “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along.”

51. Batman’s trying to get rid of a bomb in the 1966 Batman
52. Yvonne’s crying during “La Marseillaise” in Casablanca (hell, the whole scene)
53. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.”
54. John Rambo outnumbered in the woods or jungle
55. “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves, Moriarty?”
56. Keira Knightley in King Arthur
57. Angelina Jolie’s lips
58. Jody Foster’s voice
59. Jody Foster’s legs in Inside Man
60. Gerard Butler as Alex Rover in Nim’s Island

61. Peter Lorre’s eyes
62. Claude Rains’ voice
63. George Sanders’ voice
64. Ingrid Bergman’s face
65. Sean Connery’s first line in Dr. No
66. Harrison Ford as the bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round
67. The theme song to Diamonds Are Forever
68. Roger Moore’s pushing a car – with the villain still inside – over a cliff with his foot in For Your Eyes Only
69. Eddie Murphy’s improv in his early films
70. Nicole Kidman’s hair in Far and Away

71. The Bride of Frankenstein’s hair and dress
72. Lou Costello when he’s scared
73. German Expressionism
74. Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot
75. Everything about Curse of the Demon
76. Captain Jack Sparrow
77. Ray Parks in Phantom Menace and Sleepy Hollow
78. The Monster’s fur vest in Son of Frankenstein
79. Brandon Lee on the fire escape in The Crow
80. Keifer Sutherland in The Lost Boys

81. Sidney Poitier’s “I owe you nothing” speech to his dad in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
82. Harrison Ford’s hat in American Graffiti
83. The last five minutes of Rocky
84. The leg lamp in A Christmas Story
85. Helena Bonham Carter in period dramas
86. John Bender in The Breakfast Club
87. Steff in Pretty in Pink
88. The baby name suggestions during the credits of She’s Having a Baby
89. Kenneth Branagh and Shakespeare
90. Keira Knightley’s making my heart stop in Love Actually

91. King Kong’s fighting three T-Rexes in Peter Jackson’s version
92. The music in Gojira
93. “I am not a gun.”
94. “I thought you said your dog did not bite.” “That is not my dog.”
95. Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby
96. Ian McKellen’s “butter” sermon in Cold Comfort Farm
97. Don Cheadle as Mouse in Devil in a Blue Dress
98. John Travolta’s watching A Touch of Evil in Get Shorty
99. Ashley Judd’s sweat in A Time to Kill
100. Keyser Söze

I am apparently a Master of Many Styles

According to I Write Like, when reviewing Annie

I write like
Dan Brown
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

This concerned me until I learned then when composing updates on my writing and reviewing Camouflage

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

And when reviewing Atlantis: The Lost Empire

I write like
Douglas Adams
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

And when reviewing The Legend of Boggy Creek

I write like
George Orwell
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

So obviously this is an extremely sophisticated and accurate tool.

Annie (Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis)

This weekend we went to see Annie at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Even though it’s based on an adventure-filled comic strip, I wouldn’t typically talk about Annie here. There are bad guys, but it would be stretching to call it an adventure story. Hopefully it’s saying something that I want to tell you about it anyway.

This was my first time seeing a live performance, but as it’s performed in the couple of movie versions I’ve seen, Annie is more or less just a schmaltzy rags-to-riches tale with some extremely memorable musical numbers. CTC is known for quality productions, so I should have guessed as much, but I knew we were in for a different take on it as soon as I opened their program.

Right away, you notice that they’re grounding their version in a specific, historical time and place. The two movie versions are set in the ’30s of course, but that’s just flavor. “Times were tough, yadda yadda, let’s get to the songs.” Maybe that’s not fair and I need to see those again, but CTC’s program immediately got me thinking about the Great Depression, Hoovervilles, and what it would be like to have to hand my son over to a government-funded orphanage because I couldn’t afford to take care of him. And of course about the similarities between that time and ours today.

The play reinforces those thoughts as soon as the curtain goes up (figuratively speaking; CTC doesn’t use a literal curtain). The first person on stage is homeless and begging for change from passers-by. A wealthy couple on their way to or from the theater (ouch) goes around him, a young sailor and his date laugh and cavort through him, and a policeman eventually shoos him off. As he leaves the stage however, a woman – dressed not much better than the beggar himself – gives him a coin and a sympathetic smile.

This kind of thing goes on throughout the performance. When Warbucks (Lee Mark Nelson) takes Annie (Megan Fischer) out on the town during the “NYC” number, he buys her a hotdog. Annie immediately turns around and gives it to a hungry person in the crowded street scene. The poor are among us. And while the play reminds us that this especially was true during the Depression, it also reminds us that it’s still true today. That awareness puts an entirely different atmosphere over a group of parentless children singing “It’s a Hard Knocks Life.”

Panu Yang as “Molly,” Megan Fischer as “Annie,” and  Jade Moné Stumon as “July.” Photo from the Star Tribune.

Not that the production is devoid of any joy or hope. On the contrary, that’s it’s theme. “It’s a Hard Knocks Life” is still a fun, thrilling number with the girls’ banging mops and brushes on the floor in time to the music; I just believed what they were singing in a way I never had before. I wanted to adopt Molly, the littlest girl in the joint (adorably played by Panu Yang) myself. She shouldn’t be in a place like that. But it’s only by selling the despair these people were in that Annie’s optimism means anything.

I’d also never noticed the change in lyrics between the first time “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” is sung and its reprise at the end of the show. I’ve always remembered its last line as, “You’re only a day away,” but the first time Annie sings it, it’s “always a day away.” I imagine it’s written that way in the book, but I’d never noticed it before. I did this time though because I was so keyed into the hopelessness of her situation. She’s trying to be optimistic, hoping for a better tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. It’s always a day away. That’s freaking sad. It’s not until the end of the story that she changes it to the much more expectant “you’re only a day away.”

Palpable despair also changes the nature of her relationship to Warbucks. At the beginning of the play, she’s the only girl in the orphanage with any reason to hope that her parents might one day come back for her (which also, by the way, grounds her optimism in something real instead of allowing her just to be that way naturally). That hope in reuniting with her parents is what drives her, so that when it’s dashed towards the end, she’s lost everything. It’s at that point that she realizes how important Warbucks is to her. Not because he’s wealthy, but simply because he loves her. The wealth is just fantasy to make the story more thrilling. You could replace Warbucks with a homeless man and the heart of the story would still work. It would be melodramatic and not nearly as cool, but it would have the same point: that love conquers despair. When Annie and Warbucks sing, “If tomorrow I’m an apple-seller too, I don’t need anything but you,” I believe them.

Like I said earlier, I haven’t seen the movie versions of Annie in a while. Maybe this is all there in them too. Maybe my noticing it now has a lot to do with where I am in life and where the world is economically. But it’s also to do with some very specific choices CTC made with this production that allowed me to connect with these characters in a way I never had before. Enough so that I’m anxious to get the original comic strips and spend some more time with them. I don’t expect that that will replicate the experience I had at the theater, but by God I want it to.

Megan Fischer as Annie. Photo found at abcnewspapers.

Kill All Monsters and Other Updates

It probably isn’t smart of me, but I try not to post about it every Friday when new Kill All Monsters! pages go up. For one thing, I know that a lot of folks read it in chunks instead of every Friday, but I also figure that this way it makes a bigger impact when I do say you should go over and catch up. And folks, you should go over and catch up. If the image above isn’t enough to do it, I’ll add that page 71 features my favorite panel yet for reasons you’ll find very obvious when you see it.

Mondo Sasquatch

In other news, the Mondo Sasquatch anthology will be delayed from next month to later this summer in order to make sure that it’s not rushed and that the finished product will look as cool as everyone wants it to.

Robot 6

Something else I haven’t regularly been mentioning here is my Robot 6 posting. Part of that is because I figure that those of you who are interested in that are probably reading Robot 6 anyway. But also, I’ve been doing more daily posts over there lately and it would be annoying for me to say something here every time I did something over there.

Still, I would like to direct your attention to a couple of reviews I wrote for some really excellent books: Incredible Change-Bots 2 (although I actually review both volumes in the article) and Pepper Penwell and the Land Creature of Monster Lake. I feel like Change-Bots needs less promotion, because a lot of people already know about it, but Pepper Penwell is just as good and it would be a shame if people overlooked it. Especially people who like junior detective mysteries and laughter.

Jessica Hickman’s new book

Cownt Tales artist Jessica Hickman has illustrated a children’s book that’s coming out this Halloween. Written by Tom Waltz, Little Jackie Lantern tells the story of a young boy who’s too frightened to enjoy everyone’s favorite spooky holiday. I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t imagine a project more suited for Jess’ interest in things cute and scary.


The SpringCon guest list has been posted (for a while now, actually) and I’m on it. Looking forward to seeing all of you who live in the Twin Cities. Jason and I are working on a second printing of the Kill All Monsters, Chapter One ashcan, so hopefully that’ll be ready in time.

A review I didn’t write, but am nevertheless responsible for

I meant to say something at the beginning of the month, but my contribution to the White Elephant Blogathon was Cutthroat Island. For which I owe an apology to Non-Union Mexican Equivalent. I’m sorry you had to watch it, but glad you were able to nail so firmly why that movie didn’t work.