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Lost in Four-Color Space!
Or; How John Wells Helped Me Find the Lost Space Comic Story of My Youth
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.
For my earlier Myrant posts concerning Planet of the Apes and its fascinating predecessors, spinoffs, ripoffs, and more, go to:
- “Prime-Apes!!! My Fave Planet of the Apes Knockoffs”
- “Hungary for More Apes? A Peek at a Rare Planet of the Apes Comics Adaptation from 1980″
- “Hungarian Apes in English? You Bet! More on Hungary’s Planet of the Apes Comic Adaptation from 1980″
- “Going Ape! Redux—More on Planet of the Apes Predecessors: Balaoo, DeCamp, Miller, Wellman!”
- “La Passion du Gorilloïde; Or; Is Edmond Haraucourt the True Founder of the Planet of the Apes?”
All images ©original years of publication their original proprietors; posted for archival and educational purposes only.