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Planet Comics #10: The Red Comet

Posted on: December 20, 2010

Hello, Readers! Jonny here.

In my many readings and explorings of the Information Super Highway (that’s the Internet to you “Web2.0” Kiddies) I discovered a Golden Age gem from January 1941 called “The Red Comet” that was published in Fiction House’s Planet Comics.

Planet Comics started in January of 1940 as a monthly magazine collecting, as did most comics of the time, several stories by many authors and artists. Though detectives and superheroes were all the rage in ‘41, Planet Comics catered to a slightly different niche with space odysseys. Known for stories with strong female characters and Good Girl Art, it seems Planet Comics was destined to become the sort of thing collectors drool over and popular culture forgets.

Anyone who follows my infrequent posts knows I have a soft spot for the Golden Age, but for all my love I cannot deny this stuff is crude. Imagine my surprise when I found “The Red Comet” by Arthur King (which may or may not be a pseudonym for Cy Thatcher, Rudy Pallais, and Alex Blum). All of the basic pitfalls of the Golden Age are here and yet there was something more. A lot more.

Within the pages of Planet Comics #10 I found a story that was probably intended to be heroic fantasy, yet ended up written and drawn as one of the most gorgeously Philip K. Dick-style  dystopian stories I’ve read in a comic. I can only assume this wonderful transformation was due to the author’s own classist world-view and the three color limit placed on an artist with a remarkable eye for action. If you can, I strongly recommend finding your own copy of Planet Comics #10. If not, I will recap below.

Enjoy.

Our story begins as the Red Comet himself bears witness to a landmark in science: the reanimation of a corpse. As a panel of probably-important-people and the Red Comet watch, the body of Tony Scaro is reanimated and “birthed” from the cold womb of a machine. The naked Tony awakes in a strange room. Confused, he asks for clothing.

Now, if I were the Red Comet or a scientist in Future Earth, this would be the part where I rush up to Tony Scaro and say something like, “Welcome to the future! It’s totally awesome here and you’re invited to join us in our perfect society! Enjoy this complementary Future Robe!” Instead this is where the comic starts to get effed up. Rather than addressing Tony directly and welcoming him to his new life in the future, the Red Comet towers above him in demigod-like form and announces Tony is a “low type” from the 20th century.

Ouch.

The scientists – still refraining from actually talking to Tony who has been dead for possibly hundreds of years and has no idea what the hell is happening – decide he will be permitted to “wander where he pleases” but will remain under close observation. For God only knows how long, Tony wanders Future Earth alone, all but naked, and under constant surveillance by unseen forces. Not surprisingly, this wears on Tony and he begins to long for his previous life and friends.

Coinciding with a break in surveillance, Tony commandeers a space ship and heads to Jupiter because, well, why the hell not? Apparently a good space-pilot, Tony lands on Jupiter and is brought before its dictator: a man most ominously named Kil. We can only assume that Tony is the first Earth person in ages to land on Jupiter, because Kil decides to inform Tony of his plans to go to war with Saturn. He then requests that Tony kill statesmen on Earth because that will get Earth to ally with Jupiter against Saturn for some reason. Tony jumps at the idea, and at this point I can’t say I blame him.

Back on Earth (and I’m guessing a few weeks later), the population starts to freak out as many prominent statesmen are murdered. Finally, the Red Comet shows up to announce that he’s discovered more info on Tony Scaro’s past and it turns out Tony was a notorious murderer in his day.

Go figure.

So far in the story I was totally on Team Tony in his rampage against the elitist Future Earth society that would so callously bring a man back to life and then send him naked into the wild after deeming him of inferior social status. Upon learning Tony’s brutal past I started to find him less sympathetic. Then I remembered: THEY DIDN’T KNOW HIS MURDEROUS PAST WHEN THEY FIRST CAST HIM OUT.

Damn, the future is full of dicks.

Receiving a tip from one of Kil’s inside men (wait, if he had insiders in the Earth government already why did he inform the random, naked mystery man from space of his plot? Anyway…) Tony steals another ship and makes for Jupiter with the Red Comet in hot pursuit. This time Kil is less enthusiastic and starts shooting at Tony, fearing that he’ll lead Earth’s forces to Saturn.

Crash landing on one of Saturn’s moons, a fierce battle ensues between Tony and the Red Comet.

Here is where my sympathy for Tony and my hatred for the Red Comet was nearly at full pitch. After winning the battle, Red Comet heads for Jupiter to find out why they were so quick to shoot at Tony. Please remember that Red Comet knows absolutely nothing of Kil’s plan. That becomes especially important when – without talking to anyone on the planet first – he grows to a giant size and single-handedly destroys Jupiter’s fleet that is sent to meet the invading Earth super-being.

Seriously, this guy is a twat.

Back on earth, Red Comet and the scientists decide that Tony Scaro’s violent 20th century ways are incompatible with the awesome Future ways and decide to put him in stasis forever. For this feat of heroism and benevolence the population of Earth praises the Red Comet.

THE END.

As I said, I’m pretty sure all this horror and dystopia was unintentional. I think we were supposed to be cheering for Red Comet as he fought the murderous Tony Scaro and destroyed the fleets of wicked Kil. But as I read Planet Comics #10 all I felt was horror at the elitist disregard for humanity displayed by the supposedly advanced people of Future Earth. This was probably greatly assisted by the fact that we know and see so little of Red Comet. He only enters the story when somebody’s ass needs kicking which makes him come off as some sort of Gestapo henchmen for Fascists yet to come. This coupled with truly astounding artwork made for a supremely (if inadvertently) enjoyable read. I know I’ve made light of this comic, but again I must emphasize that I was totally enraptured as I read it and I must insist that anyone who enjoys Golden Age stories find a copy of Planet Comics.

Until next time, happy readings!

-Jonny

Did anyone else feel like this was secret Russian propaganda?

 

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1 Response to "Planet Comics #10: The Red Comet"

[…] gotten tired of reading comics that depict a world equally f***ed up. Nobody is dying when I read Planet Comics, Len Wein could write Phantom Stranger stories that were mysterious without being disturbing, I […]

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