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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: UFO Comics

While I certainly enjoy books like Watchmen, Louis Riel and Persepolis, every now and then my brain craves something goofy and fun. That’s why the Four Color gods created the UFO comics genre. Sure, there have been plenty of comics involving aliens and flying saucers, but this genre takes a non-fiction, procedural approach to stories of actual sightings and encounters. These obviously pop up to capitalize on various UFO crazes, but the genre never really caught on. It’s too bad, because in the pre-internet days, these must have served as key resources for UFO-obsessed children.

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Although one issue of EC’s Weird Science Fantasy had an issue featuring Flying Saucer reports, the UFO comic genre didn’t really get rolling until Flying Saucers #1 from Dell in 1967. This series only lasted 5 issues (the final being a reprint of #1), so it’s not at all tough to collect and decent copies can be found for just a couple of dollars. I completed a run for well under $20 – how often can you claim that? So, what can you expect from these books? Mostly, you are treated to short tales (from 1 to 8 pages) of ‘real’ UFO encounters. They are told in a simple, straightforward manner and in a way, this almost makes them seem more authentic. Subtle, but effective and inventive artwork by the likes of Frank Springer and Chic Stone really help the quality of the books.

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Gold Key produced a much longer, running series, UFO and Flying Saucers (which later became UFO & Outer Space for nor apparent reason). This series kicked off with a Giant 25 cent issue in 1968. Right off the bat, you’ll notice a very different vibe from the Dell series. This issue features very compact ‘reports’, ranging from 1-3 pages. This rapid fire approach may be a bit off-putting at first, but you will get used to it. This first issue features some artwork by EC legend George Evans, too. This book came out very sporadically (only 13 issues in 10 years), but change to a more regular schedule with the title tweak. There must have been a real surge in UFO mania, as 12 issues of UFO & Outer Space were published in less than two years. Some of these were reprints, but some new material was in there as well. In addition, expanded stories were much more common and features like the Hoaxmaster added to the fun. Artwork by reliable Gold Key artist like Al McWilliams, Frank Bolle and Jack Sparling meshed very nicely with the stories.

If you’ve never read any of these, and are itching to try something new, I recommended tracking down a few UFO books. You’ve got to be prepared to take a different approach to your comic book experience – but if you have an open mind, you can enjoy a trip back in time for some innocent fun. These are getting tougher to find, but there are still bargains to be found. Happy hunting!

20 Comments

>>There must have been a real surge in UFO mania, as 12 issues of UFO & Outer Space were published in less than two years.

After the ’50s, the two big “flaps” of UFO sightings in the U.S. occurred in ’67 & ’73 (during which latter year, the GCD indicates, precisely *no* issues of the Gold Key series appeared, for some bizarre reason). From glancing at the GCD, the 12-issue sequence you’re referring to would’ve been from ’78-’80. What might’ve been going on then, I’m not sure … but maybe I’m overlooking something obvious.

That’s just after “Close Encounters of the Third kind” came out, yo.

Bingo!

Thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t see the flick the first time around (too immersed in college, I guess, though I did catch a 1980 “Special Edition” screening) & just wasn’t making the connection. No doubt that’s also behind Warren’s coming out with its reprint one-shot “UFO & Alien Comix” & Marvel devoting “Marvel Preview 13″ to “The UFO Connection.”

… both in 1978, that is.

Before the 1978-79 CE3K-inspired wave of UFO comics, there was an earlier one in the mid -70s inspired by Erich von Daniken’s books. The first issue of Marvel’s B&W Marvel Premiere featuring “Man-Gods from Beyond the Stars” was an example. http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=28163&zoom=4
The typeface of the title was the same as the typeface used in the paperback editions of von Daniken’s books that were bestsellers around that time.

And when I say “inspired by . . . ” I mean “cashing in on . . .”

Gold key also in 1978,put out a softcover reprint collection,that had most if not all of the 1968 first issue in. It cost 1.95. Still have my copy. Now how about a feature on how artists such as sparling & Stone did work for the God aweful immatation warren horrer black and white line that limped through 1966 to 1974? They had terrible stories,with excessive gore.Weird was one.

Thanks for the comments everyone – collective memory is always the best.

Dan – as for Gold Key’s ‘UFO and Flying Saucers’, as far as I can tell – one issue was published in each of 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and four issue were published in 1977. It was renamed in 1978. UFO & Outer Space was published four times in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

This is unconfirmed info, as I don’t have many of the early 70s issues, and the GCD has next to no info on the series.

Did either of the Warren book or the Marvel Preview issue feature ‘real stories’ or were they original stories?

David – I’m trying to forget what little I know of the Eerie Publications magazines. Although, a feature on their craziest covers might be fun.

It’s really amazing how much work people like Sparling and Stone did during the late 60s and early 70s.

My memory of Marvel Preview #1 is that the lead feature, involving an advanced race of space aliens coming to Earth and helping apes become humans, was presented as a “this could be true” story, but I could be wrong. It had some nice art by Alex Nino, a Philippine (?) artist whose work in Marvel’s b&w line I always liked. I think there were also two or three text pieces about von Daniken and his theories, and probably one other comics story that I don’t remember at all.

If anyone has or gets new UFO photos, please upload them to ufofotos.com. It only takes a few seconds.

The UFO Flying Saucers Giant Comic (second row, 1st cover) spoke to me off the rack of my local drugstore when it was frist released and I just HAD to buy it. It’s cover is still one of my all-time favorites, primarily for the “little men” staring out the UFO windows. What’s most memorable is the outright desperation of the human victims. No place to hide with a giant saucer shooting lasers at them. If they should happen to miss, there’s another 4 coming to get you.

I love how no matter how desperate the situation – comic book men of the 40s, 50s and 60s are always ultra concerned about keeping their hats atop their head.

For the record – the one with the cowboy was the first I bought off the racks (in a 3-pack, IIRC)

>>Dan – as for Gold Key’s ‘UFO and Flying Saucers’, as far as I can tell – one issue was published in each of 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and four issue were published in 1977. It was renamed in 1978. UFO & Outer Space was published four times in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

This is unconfirmed info, as I don’t have many of the early 70s issues, and the GCD has next to no info on the series.

I have the complete run, though of course not here at work, but here’s the breakdown as given by Lone Star Comics (which I often use to supplement gaps on the GCD, not to mention when the latter is down) –

1 — 10/68
2 — 11/70
3 — 11/72
4 — 11/74
5 — 2/75
6 — 5/75
7 — 8/75
8 — 11/75
9 — 1/76
10 — 5/76
11 — 8/76
12 — 11/76
13 — 1/77
(name change)
14 — 6/78
15 — 7/78
16 — 8/78
17 — 9/78
18 — 11/78
19 — 11/79
20 — 4/79
21 — 6/79
22 — 8/79
23 — 10/79
24 — 12/79
25 — 2/80

That’s a pretty checkered publishing history. Has any other comic gone on to last 25 issues (or even 13, if one is of a mind to regard “UFO Flying Saucers”& UFO & “Outer Space” as separate entities) after coming out only every TWO years over the course of its first 4 issues. (For that matter, just how many every-2-year comics have there been, period?)

Thanks for the info Dan – I can’t recall where I got my dates, but it was online database that could you some more data. Your dates show 78 and 79 to be the bulk of the publishing.

I’ve been having some luck tracking down the later issues, but I don’t have from 1972-1976.

I had a copy of #1, but I gave it to our good friend Michi for his birthday a while back.

I’ve had no problems finding the Dell issues, but a much tougher time with the early GKs.

Jack Webb’s Project UFO TV series ran for a couple of seasons in 1978-79. Maybe Gold Key stepped things up to capitalize on the interest raised by the show.

>>I’ve had no problems finding the Dell issues, but a much tougher time with the early GKs.

Interesting. In completing the run, I think I had the most problem with the final few issues … though I think #10 is the one that eluded me the longest, for whatever reason.

I can only imagine that, in the second cover shown, the Soviet space capsule is stopped at the saucer-alien equivalent of a bikini car wash. :)

Is it just me, or is the Bikini Car Wash cover kinda Kirbyish? (Other than the aliens, oddly…)

Dan Bailey asked:

Has any other comic gone on to last 25 issues … after coming out only every TWO years over the course of its first 4 issues. (For that matter, just how many every-2-year comics have there been, period?)

ASBAR?

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