Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Number 2035: Lance Lewis battles Mr Potato Head

Lance Lewis, Space Detective, was born of the Buck Rogers tradition. In this untitled adventure he and his girlfriend, Marna, zip off to Mercury (just like a trip to the corner grocery is the impression given by the old school of science fiction) to track down a force dragging both Venus and Earth into the sun.

That is when Lance and Marna meet the Mercurians, who look a lot like Mr Potato Head. You remember Mr Potato Head, don’t you? (He was invented in 1952, but now is much improved from my childhood. My parents bought me the parts, and then Mom handed me a real potato to play off. Oh, what joy...a 'tater rotting in your hand after a couple of days of play time. Digression over.)

Artist Bob Oksner, who eventually went to work for DC Comics, could draw funny. Adventures of Bob Hope and Adventures of Jerry Lewis — no relation to Lance — stand out for me. It looks like he had fun with the Sun King of the story, making him as silly as possible. It is the mustache that does it for me.

The story is from Startling Comics #47 (1947), and the bondage cover is by Alex Schomburg.


Daniel [] said...

I had a Mr Potato Head of the original variety (setting aside minor variation), and liked and would like him more than the later things with the plastic faux-tato. I remind you that the original variety had a separate body; he wasn't Mr Potato-with-Face-and-Limbs; he was Mr Potato Head, just as G_d intended! The set came with a piece of polystyrene foam, which I used more often than an actual potato.

The social problem for Mr Potato Head was that the toy consisted of a bunch of parts with sharp points, which points were intended to be plunged into a spud, but could instead be plunged into a sibling or into a companion animal, or by more awkward children into themselves. So that toy was withdrawn, and then (years later) the brand was used for a very different toy.

The conclusion of the Lance Lewis story doesn't make a great deal of sense. With no one re-aiming the cannon, the Mercurians ought to have been able simply to stay out of the path of fire, run to the controls, and stop the thing. If the cannon had sufficient capacity to destroy the city and if Lewis had somehow set it to spin rapidly or to fire in random direction with something like a uniform distribution, then he and Marna should not have survived the trip back to their ship. And, barring something on the order of genocide, one would expect the Mercurians to rebuild. (If Lewis and Marna could hoof it to safety, then presumably so would many of the Mercurians.) Indeed, I'm pretty sure that I somewhere read a later Lance Lewis story in which the Mercurians again appeared.

More than one story has hypothesized the Earth being drawn relatively rapidly towards the Sun. Those that end with the process somehow halted rarely concern themselves with how the Earth would be returned to its familiar orbit, nor with the consequences of its being left in a closer orbit. (I ain't up to my baby tonight / 'cause it's too darn hot!)

Really, dropping the planets into the Sun wouldn't offer it much fuel. The Sun already has about 99.8% of the mass of the whole solar system, so the other stuff would increase the mass of the Sun by less than a quarter of a percent. (Saturn famously has about 1/12 of the volume of the Sun, but it isn't nearly so dense.)

Brian Barnes said...

.... and it ends! That was abrupt!

On mercury, it goes from 800F to -280F, it's amazing how bikini tops work in all those different temperatures!

The science in this thing is ludicrous to the extreme, and that entertains me!

Pappy said...

Daniel, I remember the sharp pointed accoutrements of Mr Potato Head. I don't remember if I plunged any of them into my little brother, but if I did that spoiled little sh*t deserved it!

Brian Barnes says: "The science in this thing is ludicrous to the extreme, and that entertains me!"

Back in the days of early magazine science fiction the idea was to (ostensibly) use what was known to be scientific fact as the basis for the story. Of course some of the "facts" went pretty far astray of fact, but sometimes they had to wander away from facts to make a good story. Comic book science fiction like Lance Lewis were just fantasies, not science fiction. They could use magic and it wouldn't make much difference in the story. So, yeah, that entertains me, too, Brian.