Lost in Four-Color Space!

Or; How John Wells Helped Me Find the Lost Space Comic Story of My Youth

I’m going to posit the following post as yet another in my archeological Planet of the Apes precursor posts.

In fact, it’s the first visual story I thought of back in 1968 when I first experience the movie Planet of the Apes (at Burlington’s Strong Theater, with my father, who had taken me to see it). I remember once we were home digging frantically through my comicbooks in search of the comic this story was in, but alas, I could not find it—it was long gone, traded away, sold in a garage sale, or tossed out or lost.

I’ll leave it to you fellow PotA scholars and devotees to determine whether I’m completely off-base here, but I’d argue it is a contender as yet another predecessor to Planet of the Apes—all the moreso for appearing in The Twilight Zone comicbook, which featured Rod Serling‘s photo on the cover, and Rod Serling, of course, co-scripted Planet of the Apes, the movie.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me back up a bit…

Having completed the (horribly unsuccessful) weekend test marketing via Myrant only, and having reassessed my prior “I’m leaving Facebook” resolution (where a similar “free Swamp Thing sketch” market test yielded more orders than Myrant‘s “free sketch” offer in conjunction with minimum orders from the SpiderBaby Store), I must add that Facebook also reacquainted me this past weekend with a comicbook story from my youth I often think of, search for, and have even dreamed about numerous times.

So, Facebook: I’m sticking around. Myrant: I’ll keep blogging, but you’ve failed as a marketing tool.

That duly noted, my thanks to John Wells, who responded within an hour or two of my early-Sunday-morning Facebook appeal about this half-remembered comicbook story with the following information and scans. THANK YOU, JOHN WELLS. You are a saint, and I salute you!

I asked, “OK, fellow Dell/Gold Key devotees: I have vivid childhood memories of a story in a very, very early TWILIGHT ZONE comic of an astronaut and his fellow astronauts transforming into apelike simian throwbacks once they’ve been on the moon or planet too long. My memory of the art, in hindsight, sure “looks” like George Evans to me, in my mind’s eye… but I’ve never, ever been able to find that comic or story again. Anyone?”

John Wells came through, at precisely 8:48 AM on Sunday.


I remembered the story looking like it might have been one of George Evans comics gigs for Dell during this era—maybe even Evans and his pal Frank Frazetta, given my almost 50-year-old memories of the artwork, sight unseen since—but it’s actually the work of Alberto Giolitti (November 14, 1923 – April 15, 1993), the Italian-born comic book artist whose work I revered as a Turok Son of Stone reader. And it’s a Gold Key, not a Dell, comicbook. Hence, I’ve been digging in the wrong back-issues bins for decades now!

I daresay this story is also an echo, of a kind, from the seminal Kurt Neumann sf movie Rocketship X-M (1950; see photos above, and right), which I wrote about on Monday (see below). A Mars expedition, simian “throwbacks,” Martian mutations, a message carried back to Earth, and some of the striking imagery—it all resonates, transmuted, in that fascinating way pop culture often does.

Without further ado, here’s the Twilight Zone story—from The Twilight Zone #2 (Gold Key, Feb. 1963; not the Dell Four Color Comics #1288, which is Dell‘s Twilight Zone #2 to collectors)—which I’m forever thankful to John for recovering and sending my way.

I was eight years old when I read this story, and never laid eyes on it again. What a blast from the past; what a flashback!











I’m unsure of who scripted this story (perhaps prolific Western/Dell/Gold Key writer Paul Newman?), but I sure recognize the artist’s handiwork. Giolitti was born in Rome, where his family held (and still hold) one of the most famous of all cafés, Giolitti, where he reportedly worked for time—if ever I make it to Rome, I’ll be making my pilgrimage there, to pay my respects. Giolitti cut his teeth on fumettis in his home country, with his artwork appearing in Il Vittorioso before WW2 to work for Editorial Lainez and Columba of Buenos Aires after he moved to South America following the war. After subsequently moving to the US, Giolitti started a decades-long body of brilliant comics work for Western Publishing and Dell, and I’ve held on to a few stray issues of Dell staples like Indian Chief, Tonto, Cisco Kid, and Gunsmoke—but it’s Giolitti‘s Turok, Son of Stone I loved and love above all.

Giolitti apparently drew most of the Turok run back in his native country (he did work for and gain American citizenship, but returned to Italy in the early 1960s). His association with Western trumped that with Dell—along with peers like Russ Manning, Dan Spiegel, Carl Barks, and Jesse Marsh, Giolitti‘s distinctive work continued under the new Gold Key Comics moniker. I’ve held on to a lot of primo Giolitti gems from the 1960s, including a couple of the bound editions of his Star Trek run and that grand, glorious oversized King Kong adaptation.

I started to lose interest in Giolitti‘s work when it became increasingly apparent that his studio was handling much of the duties (having founded the Rome-based Studio Giolitti before the end of the 1960s), and though I stuck with Turok into the 1970s, I’d become a half-hearted reader (once Jack Sparling took over, I was gone-o, baby, even as it got tougher to find Gold Key Comics anywhere). I’ve read that Giolitti later finished a dream project of his, Cinque Anni Dopo (Five Years Later, 1986), but I’ve never laid eyes on a copy. He also returned to the western fumettis he loved, specifically Tex Willer, before his death. It would be nice to see those one day, but I suspect it’s Turok I’ll forever love above all to my own dying day.

And this Twilight Zone story.
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For my earlier Myrant posts concerning Planet of the Apes and its fascinating predecessors, spinoffs, ripoffs, and more, go to:

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All images ©original years of publication their original proprietors; posted for archival and educational purposes only.


Discussion (9) ¬

  1. John Platt

    What a bizarre TZ story — I can see why it stuck in your mind all of these years! And yes, there sure are parallels. I wonder how involved Serling was with the comic book?

  2. Mark Masztal

    Not a fan of Jack Sparling SRB? I fondly remember the Turok’s and one of my favorites from Dell was Spaceman: http://www.comicvine.com/space-man/49-2070/.
    I own a few choice pages, sometimes not as expensive as you think. Granted there were some clunkers, but Dell is one of my first memories of comics.

  3. srbissette

    Mark: Who said I wasn’t a fan of Jack Sparling’s work? I just said that was my springboard for leaving TUROK. I love and collected Sparling’s comics, with particular favorites being his OUTER LIMITS run (had nothing whatsoever to do with the TV show, but some great Sparling issues and monsters), and especially a very odd Dell issue of ADVENTURES INTO PARADISE, a TV show title that built to a delirious cosmic page that Alan Moore and I both remembered vividly (and I sent Alan a copy of the comic, back in the 1980s).

    I was at that point a collector reaches with certain titles of looking for an excuse to quit buying, and the gradual decline of the Giolitti Studio art made it easy to go “OK, that’s it” when even that tentative link with what TUROK once was departed. That doesn’t, ipso facto, mean I don’t like Sparling’s work. Sorry if it came across that way.

  4. Al B. Wesolowsky

    Was anyone else expecting that the speech balloon in the center tier of page 6 would read “What did you do with my buddies, you [damn dirty] apes?!”

    As the commenter above said, a bizarre story, and quite spooky in the same way as were the best episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” The first episode I saw of that show was “One for the Angels,” with Ed Wynn, and I was hooked.

  5. Henry R. Kujawa

    Arnold Drake told me a story about Jack Sparling. He said he was the only comics artist who ever kept a timeclock on his drawing board. When it hit 5 PM, whatever stage he was working on a page, he was done! Not being too thrilled with his work, I found this story hilarious.

  6. Martin O'Hearn

    Paul S. Newman didn’t write that much for the early TWILIGHT ZONE comic book. This story is by the one who did: Leo Dorfman. The adjective in the caption “And in the next startling moment…” and the good number of captions using “as” point to him; the same things distinguish his work in SUPERMAN at the same time. Dorfman was the sole writer on the first few years of the Gold Key RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, and when he lost that assignment he just carried all his true-ghost notes to DC as the only writer on GHOSTS in its early issues.

    As wholesome as Gold Key was, in some ways their books were just as strange-looking to a young DC reader as the Ditko stuff in Marvel’s AMAZING ADULT FANTASY–this issue stayed locked in my memories, too, although it was the cover story about the underground New Amsterdam that reverberated.

  7. James Robert Smith

    I don’t care for the story. That’s the kind of thing that I always figure was written by the artist and then a writer inserted dialogue without really knowing what the story was about. I can see an American writer trying to muddle through with some vague notes handed to him by an editor or publisher. “Here. See if you can get this to make sense.”

    One reason I never collected the weird comics from Dell and Gold Key is that the stories rarely seemed to make any sense at all, or were poor in logic. This one fits that bill, despite having some nifty panels of good art.

    Re: Sparling. I always liked his artwork when I was a kid. When they gave him the opportunity, he could draw some really hot, curvaceous women.

  8. Henry R. Kujawa

    I think I actually have more Gold Key BORIS KARLOFF comics than I have “weird” stuff from Marvel & DC combined. Then again, I eventually got a ton of Warrens, especially EERIE and VAMPIRELLA. Loads of cool stuff there. (Still missing most of the first Archie Goodwin run of CREEPY, unfortunately.)

    The 1st time I saw Giolitti’s art, I was too young to have any idea who it might be. Decades later, when I dug out the comics again, I shook my head, wondering. It reminded me of Paul Gulacy’s stuff (particularly if you’ve ever seen the issue of MOKF inked by Sal Trapani– yikes!). But on reading the issue of COMIC BOOK ARTIST about Gold Key, I discovered it was really Giolitti. Since then, I discovered I had some more of his work in an issue of GUNSMOKE. He did some cool stuff!

    Also completely unexpected, I found a BK story illustrated by Frank Thorne. It involved “The Flying Dutchman”, and was very creepy in mood and feel.

    It strikes me that the stories in BORIS KARLOFF could easily have fit on television– like NIGHT GALLERY. Fitting, I guess, as the comic started life as a spin-off of THRILLER.

  9. Henry R. Kujawa

    I can srt of see the George Evans thing there. Last year I posted a pile of George Evans art at my blog, as part of the entire run of SPACE CONQUERORS! I had very little Evans art in my collection before I found that, but I was able to recognize his style very distinctly on the basis of an issue of SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP he did in the 70′s.

    http://professorhswaybackmachine.blogspot.com/2012/04/space-conquerors-1952.html

    Near as I can make out, Evans’ run went from Aug’53-Mar’58. Other artists included Al Stenzel, Lou Fine, Alden McWilliams, and, my favorite, Gray Morrow! I’ve read it suggested that there may be some others in there, but it’s hard to tell. Lou Fine’s work apparently shows NONE of his usual style, as he totally submimnated it to the ad agency “house style”. But you CAN’T miss Evans, McWilliams & Morrow’s stuff!

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