Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Space Adventures - The Further Adventures Of Paul Mann!

And it's about time I got around to finally presenting this second issue of Charlton's vintage space age series. What I didn't know was that Paul Mann's adventures with the aliens continues in this second issue. Officially this is Space Adventures Vol.1 No.2 July 1968. The cover is by both Pat Boyette and Jim Aparo as it blends two images from inside the comic. The falling figure of Paul Mann is by Boyette and the spaceship battle is by Aparo. The complete story titled I think "A Tale About Time" was written by "Sergius O'Shaugnessy" the pseudonym of Denny O'Neil. All three artists for this comic are credited on the splash page. The artists are Boyette, Aparo, and Steve Ditko. The comic was edited by Sal Gentile though that fact is only indicated in the indicia. This is during the transition from Dick Giordano to Gentile and so it's likely this issue was actually put together under Giordano's regime.

Chapter One titled "The Quest Begins" was drawn by Jim Aparo and picks up where the last comic ended with a summary of those events. Paul Mann speaks directly to the reader, breaking the fourth wall, and reflects on his first encounter with Esrom Nation from the future and their enemies the Honjnos Nation. They have traveled back in time to wage their war. Paul Mann a reporter looking into the UFO sightings was tapped by the Esromians to become their emissary. Eight months have passed since those events and once again Mann finds himself seeing a UFO while out hunting deer. In fact he sees a battle and is soon drawn into it when the Esromians and Honjnosians come to ground. We get our first look at a Honjnosian and they are predictably evil looking when contrasted to the lighter skinned big-skulled Esromians. The Honjnosians are downright BEMish looking and all orange. The Esromian tells Mann that they must find a scientist named Boris Bronsky because he develops a weapon that will defend against the Honjnosians, a force field. History says Bronsky will disappear the Esromians want to get to him first. They enlist Mann and soon are zinging to Venice where Mann meets Bronsky who is suspicious. Before Mann can actually do anything though Honjnosians appear and vaporize Bronsky. Mann escapes and finds refuge in an apartment in Venice.

Chapter Two was drawn by Steve Ditko and is titled "Race To the End of Time". We pick up with Mann in Venice who quickly hooks up with the Esromians again in their spaceship and is transported back in time following the Honjnosians to 1195 AD in England. Why is a mystery but quickly Mann and the alien are attacked by locals who turn out to be the men of the Sheriff of Nottingham and quick as wink they are saved from hanging by a band of Merry Men led by of course Robin Hood. After a chat among themselves Mann and Esromians continue their quest to follow the Honjnosians back in time, assuming the latter are trying to return to the future by looping all the way through the past. This ends up throwing the Esromian ship into a Negative Universe but they survive for the third and final chapter.

Chapter Three is titled "There Shall Be an Ending!" and it was drawn by Pat Boyette. The Esromians survive the Negative detour and keep after their enemies finally finding them and then dramtically crashing thier ship into them locking the two vehicles together. Together the two ships head back and find the 20th century. They land but the crash has destroyed their capacity to travel in time. Luckily they are on a deserted island. They search the Honjnosian ship for Bronsky's plans but instead find a living Honjnosian and a fight ensues killing the last Esromian. Paul Mann retaliates and knocks the last Honjnosian into a volcano as Bronsky's papers fly out to sea. Mann then has a final conversation with the dying Esromian who thanks him for his help in stopping the threat and then Mann carries the alien down off the volcano and buries him. Mann is then rescued a few days later by a fisherman and finds himself confined to the state hospital. It is from there that he has been telling his story to the reader. He closes by imploring the readers to keep looking for Bronsky's papers and if they find them bring them to him or to Charlton Publications in Derby, Connecticut. After that pleas Paul Mann lies down and goes to sleep. The story concludes with the cryptic words "Perhaps this is...The End". 

 The comic also includes a text story titled "A Living Death" about a convicted murderer who is seemingly revived after his execution by a mysterious scientist who then is himself killed by the brain-damaged prisoner, who is then transferred to the state mental hospital. This story of Paul Man isn't as strong as the first one. But it does have the virtue of not being encumbered with the retro-fitted vintage story that apparently sparked the whole storyline. This story does have a coherence missing from the first UFO saga. But that doesn't mean the plot works all that well. 

There's a lot of random stuff here and frankly I got the sense that there was a lot of scripting after the fact to make the elements hang together as well as they did. I do like stories that break the Fourth Wall, and this one does it with gusto. A character who is aware of themselves as part of a cast in a story adds a layer of irony to the proceedings and helps to leaven the plot holes a bit. The artwork is dandy throughout. This is Paul Mann's second and final appearance as far as I know. Since there is no more Charlton Publications, if anyone does find the Bronsky papers I guess the secret of the defense against the Honjnosians will disappear as much as Bronsky himself. It can be argued I guess that since the broader readership of comics didn't support Charlton way back when, they have potentially brought about the end of civilization as we know it. I'm just saying. 

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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  1. This is a beautiful comic. Every once in a while, Charlton's lax editorial policy would allow for comics that were experimental in form and felt like TV pilots. I remember the book length Aparo story "Race Unto Death" in Strange Suspense Stories. Another Charlton genre tale that materialized in one of the anthologies and disappeared without a trace.

    1. That's exactly why so many of us remember Charlton so fondly. For all their slapdash short-sighted business only decisions, they did from time to time make some damn fine comic books.