Monday, October 29, 2012

UFO & Outer Space #23 (October 1979)

First, a bit of background on this series. It began life as UFO Flying Saucers in 1968 and ran off and on until its thirteenth issue dated January 1977. The original premise appears to have been utilizing an anthology/mystery book format to dramatize "true" UFO cases. Since the scripting on the first issue is credited to Leo Dorfman, who is also supposed to be the person who brought Ghosts to DC (the same kind of thing with "true ghost stories"), we'll assume it was his idea unless someone tells us otherwise.

Gold Key Comics/Western Publishing must have felt there was further untapped potential in the title, because it was revived with a June 1978 coverdate as UFO & Outer Space. I guess the new title was to make it sound more "scientific"...or something. I can't vouch for the entirety of the run of its previous incarnation, but there is definitively-labeled fiction in the pages of this second series.

I recently bought some issues of UFO & Outer Space, as it is a sentimental favorite of mine and I'm a sucker for vintage UFO casebooks. Our subject is UFO & Outer Space #23 (October 1979), which is from the near the end of the book's run. It leads with a cover by Art Saaf, which fascinates me right off the bat. I didn't even realize Saaf was still working in comics as late as 1979.

The first story is this 1956 case in 5 page abridged form. I'm not sure if it had made it into the popular literature, so it's possible whoever wrote the comic script (Arnold Drake, maybe?) may have been a member of NICAP. On a more concrete note, I can tell you the GCD credit for Al McWilliams here is incorrect. This first story is pretty obviously Dan Spiegle.

A three page "Reader's Report" is next, and this feature was a staple of this run of the book. I suspect most (if not all) of them are based on actual reader submissions, but I cannot verify the veracity of any of them. The art on these varies, and they all look to be by younger freelance artists trying to get a break in the industry. I haven't had any luck in identifying any yet, but several look amazingly familiar.

Oh man, here's the gratuitous text pages to qualify for the special mailing rate. I haven't made myself read this yet. Does anybody read them willingly? Moving on...

Oooh, here's the Hoaxmaster. This was another recurring feature of this comic, and it casts a critical eye on the fact that (*GASP*) sometimes UFO reports are fake. These were sometimes true stories, but this particular installment about a barber using his hat to impersonate a UFO sounds fictional to me. I do like the panel wherein the Hoaxmaster leads the barber to the police station, as if to imply the poor fool was going to jail. This story is not by Al McWilliams either (what's up with that, GCD?), but rather Winslow Mortimer.

Two Reader's Reports end the issue, but sandwiched between them is a "What If...?" story that I suspect is unrelated to the Marvel book of the same name. This is also the only story in the issue to carry credits, for writer George Kashdan and artist Al McWilliams (finally!). It's a weird tale set in 1890 involving a benevolent saucer and folks who (of course) abuse its benefits. It is written in the same vein as the "true" stories, and I'll guess the decision was made to supplement actual reports with something a bit jazzier and alien-filled. Well, there are no aliens in this one, but you get the idea.

I really enjoyed this comic, as I thought I would. The art is fun, but not really flashy. The actual reports and the fiction mesh pretty well. It might be the equivalent of paint drying for some, as nothing truly outstanding happens. But if you like buying old UFO books for spare change at the used bookstore, it will be right up your alley.

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