Friday, October 30, 2009

I Loves Me Some: Worlds Unknown

I'm not exactly a sci-fi geek, and I'm far too young to have been influenced by the pulps so perhaps I am not the target audience for this Marvel series. That being said, I still enjoy the balance of it and appreciate what they were trying to accomplish. It's almost a Classics Illustrated for sci-fi nuts. Obviously, both Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway have a lot of love for the great science fiction writers of the 20th century and seem thrilled to be able to adapt many of their favourite tales for the Four Color world. I find myself particularly interested in the accompanying text articles, where the authors discuss issues such as their relationship to the source material or how they went about securing the rights. Many of these issues also feature 3 to 5 page back-ups from the Atlas era; a real added bonus.

I particularly enjoyed Roy Thomas' take on Farewell to the Master, the story that became The Day the Earth Stood Still. Thomas explains that he wanted to stick close to the original story to the point of assigning Ross Andru the pencilling chores as he'd never seen the movie. Another interesting issue is Conway's take on Arena by Frederic Brown. It is much more sophisticated than most of what was coming out from DC and Marvel at time. Some of the weaker entries, such as The Black Destroyer in issue #5, still have their moments. Even the Golden Voyage of Sinbad adaptation that runs through the final two issues is a fun read. Sadly, there are no Atlas back-ups in those issues. Since licensing headaches will prevent these books from ever being reprinted, I suggest you try to find some cheap copies and give them a try. They aren't perfect, but they are certainly offbeat and serve as a link to the heyday of sci-fi pulps.

4 comments:

pete doree said...

Worlds Unknown was a great short-lived series, which led on to Roy's equally great Unknown Worlds Of Science Fiction series, and Arena is a lost classic, which you can read on my blog! ( end of plug ) Liked Black Destroyer too!

benday-dot/craig said...

The second issue, A Gun For Dinosaur, was also a highlight of this series. And a strange coincidence I just read Arena (at random) not 3 weeks ago. Yes indeed... a well crafted story! Craig

Dan said...

As it happens, #s 1 & & 2 (I already own 3 & 4) are tentatively included in my next Lone Star order. (I owned the entire all-too-short run back in the day, of course.)

I've mentioned before that #5 was, along with Weird Wonder Tales #1, my entry point back into comics in the fall of '73 after about 3 years of paying very desultory attention ... Those two happened to be in the spinner racks when I went looking for something to sate my hunger as a brand-new sf fan who was also really jazzed by the then-unfolding great UFO wave of that season.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

the gil kane cover of "black destroyer" was a notch above his usual good work. It was genuinely a scary cover and really jumped off the racks back in 1974! This series was very good for its day, and a real nice effort to get some solid adaptions available in comic book form. Glad that you brought these up.

I even recall trying to read and understand the science behind the conclusion of "Black Destroyer" and then read Roy's explanation where even he admits, well, the science can be argued with...