Friday, October 26, 2018

Number 2251: Not-so-alarming Alarming Tales

I bought a copy of Alarming Tales #1 from a drugstore comic book rack in 1957. I tried to keep it away from my mother, who was a born censor. Printed material she didn’t approve of would be tossed into the incinerator.

I loved the comic, which came from the Simon and Kirby studio. The stories, six decades later, still carry a punch. I especially liked “The Fourth Dimension is a Very Splattered Thing.” Grand Comics Database gives Kirby credit for both pencils and inks and the script. Jack got a chance to draw some surrealism and have a boy-meets-girl romance, all in five pages!

Mom did find it, and disposed of it. [Sound effect of my gnashing teeth.]

Alarming Tales is not a horror comic. To Mom it was. (The title, Alarming Tales, and the dark cover probably pushed her inner Dr Wertham button.) Publisher Harvey Comics decided not to confuse their usual young readers and not chase away older readers; they put a different colophon in the upper left corner of the cover, calling it a Thrill Adventure. It gave me a thrill...especially when Mom reminded me of her parental disapproval with her comic book burnings.


Daniel [] said...

The word “dimension” original referred to a measure of a sort, and then to the thing measured. Space as originally understood was a matter of three dimensions, which might typically be height, width, and depth. Other things could be measured in ways that were at least somewhat similar, and these measured or things measured could also be called “dimensions”. Time particularly began to be called “the fourth dimension” because our understanding of its relationship to space changed, in-so-far as the measures of time and space changed in an inter-related way depending upon which inertial reference-frame were used. Somewhere in all that, someone who didn't understand what was being said and written tried to infer the meaning of “dimension”, and got it very very wrong, and began using “dimension” to refer to regions displaced from ours along dimensions-proper that were not the ordinary dimensions of space and time. I don't know when or where that reference first happened. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary still doesn't acknowledge this use, though it has been unfortunately popular for many decades; Merriam-Webster does acknowledge the use, but doesn't date it.

Normally, we assume that our experience of the physical laws of the universe is sufficiently representative that nothing much would be learned by observing those their operation in some place far removed in space or in time, except to the extent that the removal might get us to some place of extremely high energy. So, in the original sense of “dimension”, to get someplace otherwise really different involves displacement along a previously unrecognized dimension. (There is a temptation to call this “a fifth dimension”, but important scientific theories already involve more dimensions for the familiar space-time continuum than five.)

I notice that Kirby began to cheat with the fourth page; specifically, the protagonist begins to look as he did before passing through the screen, even though the Martian Babe looks like, well, a thing or things with holes. (Let us not discuss this!) I have no idea how the protagonist might recognize that he'd returned to the portal through which he had leapt, as opposed to a different portal, though having the Martian Babe clinging to him as he passed back through it was a cute image. I certainly advise against proposing to a woman whom one hardly knows, simply because she is beautiful, and the case against proposal becomes still stronger if she is a thief, and extraterrestrial, or both.

As Max wasn't present when Eddie returned, we may infer that he went for help. Of course, we know what the authorities would do if they knew that a Martian (Babe or not) were on-hand. But Max is a punk, as grabbing at Eddie when he were preparing to leap through the portal could have got him killed as the portal closed. So, pretty obviously, Eddie should throw Max under the bus. The Martian Babe can go into hiding as Max is certified as a lunatic.

Kirk said...

I love that twist ending.

Of course, within ten years time, Kirby's Fantastic Four visits to fourth, fifth, and sixth dimensions would be as common as a teenage girl's visit to the mall.

Darci said...

How did your mon feel about Alexander Calder?

Brian Barnes said...

I find the ending about as silly as it gets, but those visuals were incredible! A great piece of work that had to be a blast to draw for Kirby.

Pappy said...

Daniel, since this is science fiction, with an emphasis on fiction, it probably didn't matter to anyone what mistakes Kirby might have made in his and what countless other writers called "dimensions."

Maybe influenced by Kirby, who as I recall used that dimension crossing stuff quite a bit (see Kirk's note above, and thanks, Kirk!)as a young teenager I wrote a story where the hero, who could travel through dimensions, got lost in another dimension and just kept dimension hopping until he got home.

Pappy said...

Darci, you joke, but my Mom had absolutely no interest in art of any kind; not in paintings, old masters or new. I never heard her express interest in any kind of art at all. I am surprised I ended up looking at a lot of art in my lifetime; lots of time stomping through museums, which would have bored Mom to death.

I remember my mother used to repeat what her mother often told her, "Artists are bums!" Artists might seem that way, perhaps, to people who made their living through manual labor in rural early twentieth century America.

Pappy said...

Brian, I'm sure Kirby got a kick out of it. He might have been like a lot of artists, both cartoonists and more traditional artists who thought modern art was a joke, but even with his send-up he is interested in how it anchors his story, not to mention give it visual interest.

JBM said...

Wow Kirby doing Ditkoesque work. Never saw this before. Thank you Pappy.

Grant said...

The man marrying the thief after catching her sounds like the Hitchcock film MARNIE.