“Hang on. This is about to get weird.”
Close your eyes and imagine yourself falling down a dark and chilly hole in the earth. Strange lights flash off the walls and alien scents fill your nostrils. You open your mouth to scream, but all that emerges is a faint whisper. You’ve tumbled into the waiting maw of the world; a place where night is day, and day is a monster borne from the demons spawn of television past and present.
OH GOD WHY?
Are you in the Twilight Zone? Hah! You wish you were so lucky? Did you stumble into a Tale from the Crypt? No dice. And it’s far too late to hope for the Outer Limits. No, you’ve slipped head-first into the mind-shattering horror that is…
“You’re right, befangled monstrosity. Bell-bottoms were a poor choice for space pants.”
Started in the 1950s, a decade historians admit was mostly about attaching rockets to damn-near everything and shooting it into space.
“So when I get back, all the bananas I can eat?”
The Silver Age of Comics was in its infancy, and fans of fantasy and science-fiction needed an outlet. During this period, every hero worth his or her salt was neck-deep in some manner of space adventure, but that left writers in a bit of a bind. You can’t have Batman trying to flirt with a robot, and the Flash is not known for getting eaten alive by some Bug-Eyed Monster (BEM).
So, with the dynamic duo of Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, the Entertainment Comics serial “Weird Science” was born.
Dinosaurs in space! And a full sixty years before the Doctor managed the same idea.
Weird Science was a bi-monthly anthology of stories from two minds, but eventually brought in writers from all over to contribute. WS wasn’t bound by character archetypes or restrictive story-structure. Each one-off could explore fascinating new worlds, horrific monsters, and wrap up with a nice moral before the draft board picked you up for boot camp.
What’s more, these comics imagined space travel and the wonders beyond in ways that are eerily in-line with modern science. Well, maybe modern science-fiction. Take for instance “The Monster from the Fourth Dimension.” (cue ominous organ music).
“I’m telling you, we’re going to SCIENCE the $#!^ out of it until it goes away.”
Whilst wandering through his farm, a man witnesses a mysterious floating blob eat a cow (those of us familiar with rural life call this “abnormal”). He finds his brother, a renowned scientist, and enlists him to confront the beast.
I do wonder which child was the pariah in that family.
The two brothers watch the creature devour some creatures and decide, through some manner of sciencing, that it is in fact a larger beast existing in the FOURTH DIMENSION. Just as a single-celled organism cannot interpret a three-dimensional object, so humans can’t hope to comprehend a creature one plan above our own.
I’d like to explain the magical math behind this concept, but my brain is only one-ninety-third Michio Kaku’s.
“You see, you bend a paper in half. Then cut it down the middle. Then SCIENCE!”
Aside from introducing all manner of terrible monsters into the imaginations of impressionable young youths, Weird Science also paved the way for some of sci-fi’s classic inventions.
Christine-like possessed cars
A Last-Man-on-Earth finding the Last-Woman-on-Earth
They even mixed space-ships and the Arabian Desert, long before Fifth Element.
Weird Science acted as a pioneer in fantastical story-telling. Feldstein and Gaines infused their stories with morals and parables. They also ensured that every-other piece ended with a Shyamalan twist. It’s no surprise, as Bill Gaines was also the creator of another EC series, Tales from the Crypt.
“I’m no scientist, but I do have a degree in Scream Theory! HEEHEEHEEHEE!”
The art of Feldstein stands the test of time, entrancing and revolting even compared to modern-day horror masters like Templesmith, Ketner and Moore. The writing is light and fun, only trending toward serious when absolutely necessary. And, with such a rich pool to draw from, Weird Science inspired some present-day writers to pen their own intergalactic terrors.
The Twilight Zone episode “The Lonely,” involving a lone space miner and his female android, seems drawn from the pages of “Beyond Repair.”
“I’m sorry, dear. Not tonight. I’ve got a wicked case of MY BODY EXPLODED.”
Doctor Who’s Vashta Nerada could have been derived from the living atmosphere of Venus in “Gray Cloud of Death.”
There’s no joking around here. Count your shadows.
From Asimov to Bradbury, from Gaines to Serling, from Whedon to Moffat, science-fiction and fantasy writers have drawn inspiration from their predecessors. Weird Science allowed some of the best authors and artists to get down and dark with their most sinister visions.
Next time you’re enjoying a bit of Matt Smith and his hilarious antics, or enjoying a marathon of Angel or Firefly, thank the forefathers of fiction and the Silver Age legends who laid the groundwork for everything that goes bump in the night…IN SPACE.