Monday, September 28, 2015

Number 1793: Spacy Stories Week: Joe Kubert’s Star Pirate

To end September and welcome October, we have another theme week, to wit, Spacy Stories Week, where each story will take place in that fictional space of the imagination. First up is Star Pirate, a Planet Comics strip that featured some great artists, including young Joe Kubert, whose familiar style is evident here.

Ever notice something about this style of science fiction? It is a pirate story, transplanted from Earth’s seas into outer space. One of the tricks used to make it sound more spacy is to insert the word space: space billiards, space coppers, space racketeer. Here's my friendly advice to would-be science fiction writers: do not emulate that outdated and cornball technique.

From Planet Comics #32 (1944):


J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

October's here, and we are closer to 2016... that is to say, a great anniversary is approaching, eh, Mr. Pappy?
Kubert's art is crude but promising here. Some nice Lily Reneè in the same issue.
Exactly why GCD states the script is by "?" "as George Vincent" ? Is there no George Vincent? At first I thought it was a Kubert's pseudonym, then I noticed all the names of the scriptwriters in "Planet Comics" are labeled as aliases...
"The Robin hood of space"... Who remembers the "Rocket Robin Hood" cartoon? That was in the vein of "transplanting from Earth into outer space".

Unknown said...

I'm showing my ignorance of the GA artists' styles, but I would have said this was Simon & Kirby before Kubert as the illustrator. He had a long way to go in developing his signature look. Still, he was a teenager when he did this, right? Pretty impressive compositions for one so young.

Don't you just love how, even in a space story, the hero has an ethnic sidekick, in this case a Martian? ("In space, no one can hear you be a bigot.") And Space Billiards could have at least used floating balls or something.

I love the name of Varz's ship and can just imagine the day he stole it. He was running with a pirate crew at the time, and they broke into a hangar full of ships. "Take any you want," he said to the others, "but Vengeance is mine."

This could be the treatment for a space movie (see how I got a "space" adjective in there again?): Varz is approached to help out Blandow, but he turns down the job. Then Blandow is killed, and the daughter preys on Varz's greed and selfishness, so he accepts. As the movie progresses, Varz starts to waver in his self-centeredness, even risking his life to protect the daughter. Gura starts to feel guilty about being a pirate and, at the climax, he sacrifices himself because he believes in being "good." This causes Varz to become "good" himself to honor his dead ethnic sidekick.

Whatta ya think?

Pappy said...

Ryan, "Vengeance is mine." Good one!

There was a lot of swiping of styles in early comics (what am I saying? It's as true today as it was then). Most comics in those early days were done in comic book art shops. I am also of the belief that in many cases, because of deadlines and such, other artists helped get a story out by pitching in, so who knows whether something is 100% that of an artist? We assume it is, but it might not.

Another thing about putting "space" in front of everything to make it didn't translate to other things. The cars might look a bit more futuristic, people might be wearing "futuristic" clothing, but a billiards table still looked like it did in 1945. It depended on the artist, perhaps, but I think it also gave the reader more of a connection to have some things look like what they were familiar with in their everyday lives.

Speaking of the future...Mrs Pappy recently bought a 2015 car for her business, trading in her 2002 Mazda. We found ourselves looking through the owner's manual of her new car to find out how to turn on the FM radio. (We were laughing pretty hard about it, too.) We can't keep up with the future.

Pappy said...

J D, what anniversary would that be?

Using pen-names for writers was common practice, because then anyone could write a script, and it would not seem that there was a break in continuity between writers. It is an age-old tradition. Kind of stupid, in my mind, but that was the way they did it.

To add to the confusion some — Siegel and Shuster, Bob Kane, among others — signed their real names, even if they had a roomful of assistants who did the actual work.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Obviously, the tenth anniversary of something we enjoy "since 2006"...

I don't see Gura as an "ethnic" sidekick, I see him as a sort of "cosmic Goofy" (maybe because of his ears).
Can we say an alien is an "ethnic" sidekick to an Earthling? We're talking about different SPECIES, not different branches of the human race.
Is Goofy (a dog, more or less) an "ethnic" sidekick to Mickey (undoubtedly a mouse)? I'm not sure whether the concept of "ethnicity" can be stretched to include extraterrestrial races or not.

@Ryan, nice plot for a space opera flick. Perfect for Corman or Luigi Cozzi ( a sci-fi writer and director, the very guy who directed the cheesy but funny hit "Star Crash" in 1978).
Even the names of the heroes fit the 70's style! :)

Daniel [] said...


With respect to Ryan's comment on style: Strong resemblences occur across various stages of the work of Simon-and-Kirby, Kubert, Meskin, and Ditko. I'd like to see someone knowledgeable explore and explain those resemblances. BTW, in this case, the work reminded me of that of Jack Davis.

J.D. was referring to the centenial of my last date.

Darci said...

I would be interesting to discover someone used William Wallace Cook's Plotto technique to come up with these stories that could fit in western, pirate, space opera, or detective magazines. Has anyone identified one of these stories appearing in both Planet Comics and Jumbo Comics, for example?

Daniel [] said...

At times, Goofy appears to have an ethnicity.