Friday, October 09, 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Jack Kirby's Monsters! Night Nine: Planet X has pink air / All the trees are red / No one ever dies there / No one has a head

When I pointed out the other day the sheer infinity-approaching numbers of Atlas Era comic stories whose titles were in the third first person, I wasn't kidding. Check out the stellar lineup on this cover. Those are three really great personal points to put on your resumé! You have to have been kept pretty busy to do all those things, 'specially in 1959. Also: hey, big furry pink pot-belly teddy bear!

Cover of Strange Worlds #3 (April 1959), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Meet Cynthia Adams, journalist in an age when miniskirts really were a vital cornerstone of serious journalism. You can tell she's a career newspaperwoman because she doesn't have time of her own for kids. Oh, heaven help the working gal.

Splash panel from "I Was Face to Face with the Creature From Planet X!" in Strange Worlds #3 (April 1959), script (?) and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Christopher Rule, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

In what must be the futuristic equivalent of "Lane! Get down to the Civic Center and cover the flower show! And take Olsen with you! And don't call me Chief!", Cynthia has taken on the hard-hitting, fact-finding, cheese-and-9onion-flavored touch news assignment of reporting on a monster in a cage. Please note that at no time does she take photographs, holograms or selfies with the monster. She's just gonna write a story about it. Pulitzer Prize material, indeed! Ralph Pulitzer, that is.

"Origin unknown," the sign on the big-ass plexiglass case proclaims. "Discovered and captured on Planet X." Well, I'm pretty sure that's your origin right there. So hypnotic, so compelling is looking at a big furry monster at the end of this book in a cage in a museum that Cynthia completely loses track of time, loud announcements that the zooseum is closing, and the security guard trying to push her out the door. She's stuck in overnight! Yes, Ben Stiller is Cynthia Adams in Night at the Museum 26: This Guy's Hairier Than Robin Williams!

He'll only come out at nights / The fat and fuzzy type / Nothing is new / I've seen him here before / Watching and waiting / Ooh, he's sittin' with you / But his eyes are on the door Yep, it's a big breakout for our fuzzy oversized friend fiend, who apparently was waiting for just such an occasion to shatter his shatterproof dome and explore the museum on his own. He'll be heading to the gift shop to pick up some souvenir pencils, right after he attacks the soon-to-be-late Cynthia Adams! Even more exciting than this story originally promised: posthumous Pulitzer!

Yes, in a Lee/Kirby story where a man was the protagonist, he would have figgered out a way to hold off the Creature from Planet X, using science! Cynthia: is lucky because the big galoot faints one panel after he starts to attack her. Well, hey, that's progressive, isn't it? T'was beauty made the beast swoon! And, as it turns out, there was absolutely no danger at all. Now there's a muckraking story for Cynthia to write up for the Daily Universe! Headline: "I Was Face to Face with the Creature from Planet X and Nothing Happened Because He's a Big Swooney-Pants and I Was in No Danger Whatsoever! I wonder if that's really the story she told her nephews. "Aw, Aunt Cindy, that story sucks!"

We never get to glimpse the Creature's hometown of X-Ville, Planet X in the story, but we do actually know that not only he came from it, but a handful of other Marvel/Atlas monsters as well. Why, even the polysyllabic prototype-ur-version of the most popular member of the Guardians of the Galaxy (sit down, Rocket) hailed from Planet X! And he was king of Planet X! I didn't vote for him.

Panel from "I Challenged...Groot! The Monster from Planet X!" in Tales to Astonish #13 (November 1960), plot by Stan Lee (?), script by Larry Lieber (?), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Ray Holloway

What the Lonely Planet Guide to Planet X will also tell you: it's the homeworld of Goom! He is the Thing from Planet X, as opposed to being the Creature or the Monarch. Good to know they have a well-balanced social strata.

Splash page from "Goom! The Thing from Planet X!" in Tales of Suspense #15 (March 1961), plot by Stan Lee (?), script by Larry Lieber (?), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Of course, where ever Goom hangs his hat, so too does his son, Googam! Mrs. Goom absolutely refused to let Goom call him "Goom, Jr.", but Goom privately refers to him as "G.J." anyway. Goom gave Googam those little red underpants for his twelfth birthday! And he's been wearin' 'em ever since.

Splash page from "Beware of Googam, Son of Goom!!" in Tales of Suspense #17 (May 1961), plot by Stan Lee (?), script by Larry Lieber (?), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

There is also intelligent talking killer plant life on Planet X, challenging Goom for the title of "Thing." This is clearly another fine example of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development, considering its obvious physical resemblance to a Venus Fly Trap, a Triffid, and Spy vs. Spy.

Splash panel from "The Thing from Planet X" Tales of Suspense #3 (May 1959), pencils and inks by Steve Ditko, colors by Stan Goldberg (?), letters by Artie Simek

What? Another type of alien life form from Planet X? Yep! Basketball-headed Kurrgo, one of the earliest foes of the Fantastic Four that Reed didn't turn into a cow also is from Planet X! He's very critical of the primitive Earth, and yet he's the one with a black-and-white television. His lazy susan hors-d'oeuvre-platter-serving technology, however, is lightyears beyond ours.

Splash panel from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #7 (October 1962), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Kurrgo also shows up in the only Fantastic Four screen adaptation that matters, the 1967 Hanna-Barbera cartoon version! Paul Frees as the Thing for the win, baby!

Fantastic Four: "Prisoners of Planet X" (October 14, 1967)

Even Magneto Xorn Magneto that guy from the Grant Morrison run of X-Men has a certain je ne sais quoi with Planet X! Magneto was fond of naming his homes after letters. Asteroid M, Planet X, Studio Apartment with Shared Bathroom Q...he's lived in 'em all.

Double-page spread from New X-Men (2001 series) #147 (November 2003), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Phil Jimenez, inks by Andy Lanning, colors by Chris Chuckry, letters by Rus Wooton

So if the X-Men have been to Planet X, that means, via the Laws of Crossover Earth, that the Star Trek crew with the worst logo have been there as well. Even the giant green floating head of either Professor X or Captain Picard fully recommends you spend your vacation on Planet X rather than Risa! Risa: nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.

Does Planet X accept house calls? Well, certainly they're no stranger to having Doctors pop in.

Page from "Famine on Planet X" in Doctor Who Annual 1979 (September 1978), writer and artist unknown

And perhaps inspiring them all, the original space cadet, Tom Swift, is familiar with the alien world known as Planet X, which is not as cool as the Mushroom Planet, but then again, what planet is?

But I think that the only Planet X that really matters, and the only portrayal that has given it justice, is in the serious, 1953 hard-science, real-world pre-NASA documentary film which depicted Planet X in all its raw, true glory. Even if it is a bit challenging to get to.

from Merrie Melodies: "Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century" (1953), story by Michael Maltese, directed by Chuck Jones

In practical terms, though, navigating to Planet X couldn't be easier. You can find it just past Planets U, V, and W.

It's pretty clearly marked; you can't miss it. Just look for where Iron Man's girlfriend lives. Or, as the old saying goes: X marks the Potts.

It goes without saying that I'm disappointed there wasn't a Planet X series during Secret Wars, which would have merged all the various Planets X into one monster-filled, Atlas-flavored smashstravaganza. The Creature! Groot! Goom! Googam! Kurrgo! Plant Guy! The Movie Star! And the rest! All hitting each other in the face in outer space! (Hey, I think I just came up with the above-the-title tag line.)

Planet X! (echo: x-x-x-x-x-x-x)

1 comment:

Blam said...

Great post in a great series, Bully! Your dedication to research is truly astounding. I have to point out, however, that you mean "first person" and not "third person".