Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Atlas/Seaboard Week, Day 3: Get your stinking teeth off me, you darn dirty vampire

Remember last year when the Aries VII Mars probe returned to Earth? Sure, we all do! On second thought, let's remember 1968 when Charlton Heston vacationed on the Planet of the Apes, a planet of apes! Suddenly, apes were all the rage! The world had gone bananas for those marvelous monkeys and those charming chimpanzees! With each sequel gorill-owing in popularity, it's no surprise that Marvel Comics began publishing Planet of the Apes black-and-white mags and a color comic starting in 1974! So it was a natural for Larry "The Man's Brother" Lieber to publish this obvious competition:

Cover of Planet of Vampires #1 (February 1975), cover art by Pat Broderick, inks by Neal Adams

Wow, that actually sounds like a pretty cool idea: a planet of vampires! You'd buy that book, wouldn't you? (Well, that would be your first mistake.) But you can't say Atlas didn't mean well, as far as books concerning vampire planets are concerned. The three-issue run is filled with competent art by Pat Broderick (#1-2) and Russ Heath (#3)—like so many of the Atlas books, there's a lot of strong talent on this comic, including Larry Hama scripting ish #1. Aboard the Aries VII as she returns to Earth, we meet cranky Captain Chris Galland, leader of the five-person crew...

Panels from Planet of Vampires #1, script by Larry Hama, pencils by Pat Broderick, inks by Frank McLaughlin

...wait, make that four-person crew...

...and they're suspicious that life on Earth in the year 2010 may have taken a turn for the worse. Hey, those new Obama policies just take time to work!

Trapped between two warring races, the Yangs and the Kohms the bureaucrats and the savages, our team's keeping their eyes open for bizarre anomalies and suspicious behavior...

Could it be...that they have landed on...a planet of vampires??? Eh, not really:

Y'see, it's only a planet of metaphorical vampires. (Which is a little like a planet of symbolic Frankensteins.) There's no capes, bats, or fangs in Planet of Vampires...just a ruling class capturing and draining the blood of the mutated savages to battle a plague that has destroyed Earth's civilization. Kind of like the Reagan years, huh? (See? Fair and balanced smartass comments!) Which makes the cover of issue #2 the most "this scene does not appear in this comic"-est comic book cover of all time!:

Cover of Planet of Vampires #2 (April 1975), cover art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano

That means Cap'n Chris and his star-trekkin' crew now has a new mission: to kick vampire butt!

from Planet of Vampires #1

To be fair, Planet of Vampires is more than just a battle against inhuman monsters book. It is also a nuanced and reflection metaphor for racism, humanism, and the civil rights movement in the troubled 1970s...

...for two panels, after which is reverts into a them-vs.-us deathfest-o-rama.

It's a concept that appears to be difficult to remember by the time we get to ish #2, which is why Crewperson Elissa Exposition restates the plot so far:

Panels from Planet of Vampires #2 (April 1975), script by John Albano, pencils by Pat Broderick, inks by Frank McLaughlin, letters by Alan Kupperberg

And, just in case you've forgotten the plot after a few pages, we pull out several miles to give ourselves some room to have more exposition:

Well, by this point, surely you're going to remember all that by the time we reach issue #3.

Panels from Planet of Vampires #3 (July 1975), script by John Albano, pencils and inks by Russ Heath, letters by Alan Kupperberg

Our hardy four-person crew...

...I mean three-person crew...


(tapping my hoof impatiently)

Ah, there we go. Total cast annihilation: achieved. So, next issue? What have you got for us?
Two-page "next issue" spread in Planet of Vampires #3, art by Larry Lieber and Al Milgrom
(Click picture to Planet of Wolfmen-size)

Cool! I can't wait for issue #4...which never came out as the series ended with #3. It's a solid sign of how abruptly the Atlas/Seaboard line shut down. Ambitious, somewhat competent, well-meaning, but by the end of '75, dust in the wind. (Then again, aren't we all?)

But at least we got three issues of subtle, nuanced political and social commentary, right?

From Planet of Vampires #2

So long, you wacky, way-out Planet of Vampires! Get outta here, you nut!

Atlas house ad, below. See, that's your problem right there...introducing twenty-one different #1 comics within one month? That's insane! No one today would do anything so suicidal!!!

House ad from The Phoenix #1 (January 1975)

Luckily, if those comics didn't move, Atlas could sell off stuff from their parents' basement:

Atlas Fantasy Mart ad fromThe Cougar #2 (July 1975)

Tomorrow night: Cody Starbuck Dominic Fortune Reuben Flagg Cass Pollack ehhhhh, just be here and we'll figure it out together.


Jon Jermey said...

"Buy the home movies, or we web the Human Fly!"

Steve Kopian said...

I was hoping it was based on the mario bava movie....

chiasaur11 said...

This made me think of the Atomic Robo vampire dimension.

Also not featuring Dracula, but much less disappointing.

Reg said...

The whole back-story of the Domies and Savages is lifted wholesale from the 1966 Doctor Who story "The Savages".

J.R. Jenks said...

That's so silly. That 20th century astronaut isn't going to have the built-up immunity the vampires are looking for.

It's this sort of thing that makes Atlas/Seaboard Comics look like it might not make it as a company.

Junk Monkey said...

it's also worth mentioning that the two black characters change ethnicity for the cover of number three becoming instead a white blond haired man and a bubble-permed white girl.