Friday, October 02, 2015

Number 1795: Spacy Stories Week: Wallace Wood “Deadlock!”

This is the third and final posting for our theme week, Spacy Stories.

EC publisher Bill Gaines had a word for them: “springboards.” Springboards were ideas he got when going through books and magazines. The less generous in use of language would call them swipes, since he was stealing someone else’s ideas. (He and editor/writer Al Feldstein got caught at it, too, by Ray Bradbury.)

“Deadlock!” (here in the form of scans from the original art, thanks to Heritage Auctions) surprises me, not by being a swipe of Murray Leinster’s 1945 story, “First Contact,” but by the notation in the EC reference book, Tales of Terror!, “Wood plotted; probably scripted.”

Published in Weird Fantasy #17 (1951).


Daniel [] said...

Interesting to see Wood at this stage of his artistic development. Some of it looks like his quintessential work; some of it (such as the middle-ground figure in 2:3) is very crude.

The conceptualization of human ship and crew seems very naval.

I'm a bit curious about the two cases where emphasized words where free-hand lettering was used in dialogue (1:3 and 6:1). My guess is that this was just because it was quicker than bringing back the dude with the Leroy set to make something bold italics that hadn't been emphasized.

From the perspective of an economist, I doubt that any civilization can manage to transport any of its members to another solar system unless said civilization is, well, civilized. Setting aside the very doubtful case of a “hive mind”, there is a link, by way of the problem of economic calculation, between sustaining an advanced economy and having respect for individual persons. Extraterrestrials who make it to Terra won't want to oppress us, and so long as so many Terrans are would-be oppressors, we won't get to any of their planets.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Cool story, great art, Wood needs black and white to shine at his best.
Murray Leinster's novelette was one ot the first sci fi tales I read as a kid. But if I recall the crews manage to survive with a sort of "ship's swapping" (no sex involved, they just traded their ships).
Woody's version was much more pessimistic (realistic?).

Regarding Darci's comment on the last post: He's right. That space pirate thing could have been a western or swashbuckler story. It's the very same argument used against Star Wars in the seventies, remember? "This is NOT sci-fi. Rollerball IS sci-fi, Star Wars is a space western". And they were right, in a way. Only the setting and the props make a sci-fi story out of that concept.
It's just that we keep on telling the same tale, archetipal, since we sat round the fire in a cave. Let's call it Space Opera, and case closed.

Pappy said...

Daniel, ignoring economic realities of space travel is the "fiction" in science fiction. In real life it is something that is considered constantly. I know I'm not telling you anything, there.

In the past couple of years I watched some early '50s episodes of kids' television space shows that had sets with expansive ship's bridges. Even Star Trek got into that look. I assume it was done because the shows were focused mainly on the cast, who had to be in one place, but also because of military tradition, taking our experiences with seagoing vessels and transplanting them into space.

Wood worked with other artists, so it could be that others did some of the cruder drawings, although it seems surprising that Wood didn't correct them. What I like about looking at the original pages is the dense black inking, which creates mood.

Pappy said...

J D, Although it has been many years since I last read it, Leinster's story is one of my favorites, and as far as I know, was one of the first to consider an actual encounter with a wholly alien race and what it would mean. There were aliens in science fiction, but they were usually the type that trigger-happy earthmen would shoot first before any type of diplomatic work could be accomplished.

I like space opera, but I also admire a writer who can create an alien race that has different motivations than those of us humans. Can every other race in the vastness of space be as violent as the human race of planet Earth? Because if I was from another planet I sure wouldn't want anything to do with us.

Ryan Anthony said...

Lovely Wood art. I wonder if viewing the B&W is preferable or if color would have added anything.

Even if I hadn't seen the cover of the magazine, I'd have known pretty quickly that this was a space version of a submarine stand off. Because of that, the story would have benefited from being longer so that tension could have been built.

On page one, they use the "'space' as an adjective for everything" gambit again, except it's an astro radar instead.

Maybe I'm dense, but I'm afraid I don't get the ending. There's no irony or moral or anything like that, just "boom" and it's over. Kind of hollow and disappointing--or was that the point?

Pappy said...

Ryan, if it's any help, it is an EC story, where the snap ending was expected.

I like your comparison to a submarine stand-off story. Military comparisons can be made for Wood's art in that period. His flying saucers, for instance, looked like they were made of sheet metal riveted together, like jet planes.

Speaking as someone who is often bothered by comic book coloring, I think some stories need color (all we have to do is look at those UK reprints of Captain Marvel — "the Big Red Cheese" — to see that), but in a time when television and most movies were still in black and white, and magazines printing color were more the exception than the rule, comic books could boast they were all color. Even if, in my opinion, it wasn't always needed.