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Monday, December 08, 2014

Number 1667: Strange Robot Adventures: Chris KL99 and the world of giant robots

We are beginning a theme week, Strange Robot Adventures. Our three stories this week come from the long-running Strange Adventures, edited by Julius Schwartz at DC Comics. First up, “The World of Giant Robots” from SA #2 (1950), a tale written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn by Howard Sherman.

Chris KL-99 (or KL99 as he is known here) was an attempt at using a continuing character in a comic book designed primarily as an anthology series. Chris was also known as “the Christopher Columbus of space,” and reminded me of Hamilton’s pulp creation, Captain Future. Chris KL-99 was featured in only nine stories over 15 issues. I don’t know why the series wasn’t more successful. Hamilton was a talented and popular wordsmith in the science fiction field, who besides writing science fiction stories for Schwartz’s titles also wrote Superman and Batman stories for DC editors Jack Schiff and Mort Weisinger.











13 comments:

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

While one might quibble with the assertion that Hamilton created Captain Future (credit for that is usually given to Weisinger), he certainly gave us the realized character.

(As a boy, I read the mass-market paperback reprints of the Captain Future stories. Curt Newton was a very important fictional rôle-model for me.)

Pappy said...

I won't quibble, Daniel; Weisinger was the editorial hand behind Captain Future. I also read the paperback reprints when they were published in the sixties.

Ryan Anthony said...

In his 10th adventure, Chris KL99 encountered the indigenous people of a newly "discovered" planet, enslaved them, and inadvertently caused them to slowly die from alien disease. Right?
The coloring on this story was kind of sloppy. You'd think a giant like DC Comics would have better quality printing.

Brian Barnes said...

I guess if he's called the Christopher Columbus of space, they are continuing to whitewash some of Columbus' crimes (not to ignore his successes) far into the future!

It's surprising this wasn't a better selling series (though back in that time it probably sold better than most of the books on the stands now) -- it's really a comic for sci-fi folks -- giant, well-designed robots battling it out.

Of course, sci-fi has always been a tough sell in comics sometimes, like EC famously using the money the horror comics made to publish sci-fi comics.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I plainly confess I didn't know Hamilton wrote comic books.
This story is a very good example of space opera in the "interstellar patrol" style, you can see the hand of an accomplished sci-fi writer who knows how to give the "sense of wonder".
The art is fine, also. Some panels, especially in page 2, reminded me of the early Jack Kirby.

Pappy said...

Brian, considering the longevity of Julius Schwartz's science fiction comics for DC, they must have reached an audience just the right age and just the right mentality for what they were producing.

I have never understood why science fiction comics never sold as well as other comics. I don't know why EC's s-f comics didn't sell as well as their horror comics, since they had the same artists, writers and in some cases even the same plots!

One of the secrets to DC's success in that day was owning its own distribution company and access to newsstands. If they could be seen, they could be bought.

Pappy said...

J.D., Hamilton had that Sense of Wonder, all right! In the sixties a lot of his old fiction was available in science fiction anthologies and I remember being swept up by his fast-moving plots.

Pappy said...

Ryan, both you and Brian hit on the hypocrisy of making Christopher Columbus a hero, but he exists nowadays more as a symbol than an actual flawed human being. Many heroes are like that: Jefferson could write about freedom in the Declaration of Independence yet he was a slave owner, whose mistress was a slave.

I'm not making excuses for anyone. Human beings...we're not perfect, that's for sure.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

"I have never understood why science fiction comics never sold as well as other comics. I don't know why EC's s-f comics didn't sell as well as their horror comics, since they had the same artists, writers and in some cases even the same plots!"

Maybe kids in the 50's would have preferred horror comics rather than sci fi just to prove they had the "guts" to read something supposed to be really scary. Just my guess...
Talking about books and movies, S.F. has always been a form of entertainment "for the lucky few" compared to, say, western or spy-crime-action stories, at least until George Lucas made "space western" popular . I guess that's because real, well conceived S.F. (e.g. THX 1138) requires some mental work to be fully appreciated.
Oh by the way... "Lucky that country that needs no heroes"... I still have to find one

Henry R. Kujawa said...

I find it amusing that the bodies and legs are so thick and powerful-looking, but you have this spindly LITTLE rods connecting them that look like they could snap if you blew on them.

The art lokos familiar, but I can't place it...

Cheryl Spoehr said...

I really enjoyed this one and would like to see more from really early Strange Adventures.It was always a childhood favorite,but no way I can afford the really early ones,so this is a good way to read from them.

Pappy said...

Cheryl, if you enter Strange Adventures into the search engine box in the top left corner of this blog you'll find I've posted quite a few stories from that comic. I've also posted from Schwartz's other s-f comic, Mystery In Space, which you can access the same way.

Pappy said...

Henry, art is by Howard Sherman.