Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spacemen (1961-63 Atomic Age Space/Sci-Fi Fan Magazine)

Good afternoon!

Ugh, it's so bright and beautiful outside I hardly wanted to come back inside after lunch! The temperature in this library workroom is glacial for some reason-- probably good for storing furs or preserving wooly mammoths in ice, but not so much for poor little library workers with S-U-M-M-E-R on the brain (cue Antonio Carlos Jobim soundtrack here). Ah, well. I'll be free soon enough! In the meantime, why not journey into midcentury space with me?

AAAAH, right?! I left you yesterday with a digital pile of Hollywood magazines from the thirties' and forties''s Internet Archive spoils include seven issues of the sci-fi fan magazine Spacemen. I even went through and selected some choice cuts from the crazy illustrations and articles dedans. Interested? Of course you are! I can palpably sense your atomic age excitement from across the computer screen! Take a look:

Spacemen was a short-lived Warren Publication in line with Famous Monsters of Filmland, sharing an editor and a general sense of ghoulish zany with that magazine. Forest J. Ackerman, arguably one of the earliest and most prolific sci-fi/horror collectors and proponent of the genre, oversaw the production of eight issues of this magazine...which was long enough for him to receive a fan letter and story submission from a fourteen year-old STEPHEN KING (check out his precious pre-teen typewritten letter here). And no wonder! In those lazy, hazy pre-Google, pre-Youtube days, if you were a sci-fi fan, the entire run of Eerie covers or the last scene of King Kong weren't only a mouse click away. If you were interested in Flash Gordon or giant gila monsters in prehistoric settings, you were going to have to do a little leg work-- or at least subscribe to one of the many monster and movie and monster-movie magazines at your local newsstand or Piggly Wiggly.

I am a big fan of, oh, EVERY PAGE OF THESE OLD ISSUES. Think about being a space-mad twelve year-old and wrestling with the Sophie's Choice like decision of keeping your latest issue in mint condition for your collection, or cutting out one of these photos to look at on your bedroom wall before you go to sleep at night.

Doesn't this one remind you of Mr. Goodbody? PS does anyone remember Slim Goodbody?

 It's a Gila monster's world, we're just livin' in it.

Most of the content in these issues has to do with a few key topics: sci-fi or space travel movies, past and present; speculation on the possibility of real-life space travel and or the probability of meeting intelligent life out there; and MOON LOOT. The number of space tie-in toys and memorabilia is surprising, considering it was only 1962. What I like to think about in this golden age of interest in our solar system was how NOTHING HAD BEEN PROVEN OR DISPROVED ABOUT SPACE. The first human space flight, by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Garagin, was launched in 1961, and it would be another seven years before Armstrong and Aldrin made good on slain President Kennedy's promise to put a man on the moon. Who was to say what was out there? Captain Kirk really could meet space babes and weird rubber-prosthetic races of men on distant or not so distant this point, it was all a matter of finding out HOW to get up there. Not how to get over our disappointment that there were just moon rocks on the moon instead of, say, little green men. Think of what an age of imagination it was.

 I somehow don't think this is a "real" photo....

File this under #hellyesraybradbury. As a precocious little bookworm, I spent about an entire summer between sixth and seventh grade working through the complete Ray Bradbury body of work as owned by the Nashville Public Library, supplementing any gaps with musty paperbacks from Book Attic in Rivergate. I could still give you credible plot summaries of almost anything he's written-- the stories stick with you BUT GOOD. While I like Richard Matheson and Cornell Woolrich and Charles Beaumont and lots of other "speculative fiction" writers, Bradbury was the man. Here he poses, contemporaneously, with some of his creations.

I like to think of this next panel as a laugh-track sitcom of a giant lizard/turtle hybrid who just can't get it right. "Varan! Did you forget to pick up your kids from school....AGAIN? You're unbelievable! Varan, did you go out on a date with that moon monster and then never call her? UNBELIEVABLE." I crack my own self up.

The aforementioned "moon loot" is really one of the neatest parts of the magazine-- I can feel a vestigal twitch of childhood excitement looking at the ads, even though grown-up me knows FULL WELL sea monkeys and mail-order treasures in general are never, never, never what they're hyped up to be on the ads.

With the exception of maybe this space map-- I actually saw this on the wall of an estate sale once! It was in battered conditioned (obviously, if I had one of these things I'd be tracing space patterns on it every chance I got) and THIRTY DOLLARS, unframed, for some reason. Siiiiigh. Maybe I'll find one for cheap on the internet some day (Ebay shakes it weary head at me with more $30 examples...wth?).

Ok, ok, and THIS WEATHER BALLOON. Oh my God, I could seriously get one of these and have my own Rover of The Prisoner fame. And die happy.

Creed Taylor was a bandleader known for importing the sounds of several Brazilian artists in the sixties (SUCH AS the aforementioned Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto...what a weird coincidence!), but he also brought into the world these intriguingly titled albums of "weird music and chilling sound effects" known as Shock and (I can't get over this) Panic: The Son of Shock. Shock is on Spotify, and ISN'T THE WORLD A RICHER PLACE FOR IT. The first track, "Heartbeat", features a man breathing heavily (in a less sexy, more spooky way) over a soft jazz soundtrack that eventually culminates in screaming. I could listen to junk like this ALL. DAY. Spike Jones in Hi-Fi: Spooktacular in Screaming Sound is also available on Spotify AND features song titles like "Monster Movie Ball" and "Teenage Brain Surgeon"! I love this modern age we live in sometimes....that is going to save me a lot of digging in record bins for this oddity.

GIVE ME THIS, I WANT THIS. I would wake up and see that thing in the dark and have my hair turn white, but the heart wants what the heart wants. And in this case, it apparently wants to have a heart attack.

How not-like-the-picture do you think this thing would be in real life on a scale of 1 to 10? I would say about a 30.

 How did you know EXACTLY what image I would project on the wall?

 Just...some weird plants?

ALSO very cool though I know I don't have nearly a scientific enough brain to do Frankenstein, even in plastic form, justice...

I would answer the first line of the ad, "Is it a bird? A plane?'s a flying vampire!" with "Try again, Buddy, I'm pretty sure that's a box kite you've kind of put batwings on but-not-really."

Pick on somebody your own size, human! I'm siding with the lizard here:

And last but not least, who's been reading my dream journal? My kingdom for one of these shirts. Can you get over how they just superimposed the logo on a photo of these unsuspecting, blank t-shirted kids?

Ok, ok, I've gone on and on at the mouth about these's time for you to get a load of them yourselves! There's a living ton more where this came from. Check it out here:

What do you think? Are you a sci-fi fan of the classical mold? Which of these crazy retrofuturist images are your favorite? Do you have any space age interests or collections of your own? What's something that really appealed to your little imagination as kid? Let's talk!

That's all for today but I'll see you back here tomorrow with even more. Have a great Wednesday! Til then.

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