Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What do Superman, Orson Welles, and Mars have in common?

Apparently, this comic -- which I am sure I read as a kid but am now rediscovering in the process of introducing Thandie to various superheroes.

You've got to click to see the fine print, but here's part of it:

What on earth, or should we say, "what on Mars" is Orson Welles doing wearing that outlandish, ancient costume, and duelling with the fantastic huge-headed inhabitants o another planet? It all started in Italy, when the film "Black Magic," starring Orson Welles, was being filmed. Then a firecracker series of fantastic events blasted Orson Welles to Mars! Here he found himself fighting frantically to warn the world of a Martian invasion, this time a real one!

War of the Worlds has the synopsis:

The story featuring Orson Welles is called "Black Magic On Mars" and this does offer a clue that Welles or his publicists had a hand in the creation of the comic, for just as is recounted in the comic book, Welles was in Italy at the time, acting in a movie called "Black Magic". So this may well have been an early piece of creative cross-promotion, or equally plausible, the writer may just have read about Welles' project and decided to incorporate it. The story opens in Italy, with Welles atop a rooftop in the period costume of 18th century France, and just as in the climax of the film, Welles takes a fatal plunge.

Dusting himself off, Welles and his co-star Nancy Guild (she also was in the film playing Marie Antoinette), set off to attend a fancy dress party in their costumes. Driving through the Alps, they suddenly come across a rocket ship with its hatch open. As any fan of the science fiction of the period will know, this was a pretty common occurrence. Absent minded scientists were always building rocket ships in obscure locations and leaving the door open, and sure enough, curiosity gets the better of Welles, and he finds himself trapped in the rocket as it sets off for Mars.

Two hours later (that was some rocket engine), and Welles is stepping out onto the surface of Mars, where he is swiftly assailed by the Martians and brought before their leader, the Great Martler. The Martians speak English and goose step about like Nazi's, for Martler is an admirer of Hitler and has modelled his dictatorship after Nazi Germany, in which case, why don't they speak German? This linguistic peculiarity aside, Welles has arrived on the eve of a Martian invasion, and turning down Martler's offer of a job as propaganda minister on the soon to be conquered Earth, he uses his prop sword to seize control of a radio and broadcast a warning. Of course no one believes a word of it back on Earth, for as the listeners say, Welles has fooled America once before with his earlier broadcast. But Superman is not about to take any chances and speeds off to Mars, arriving just in time to prevent Welles getting disintegrated for his troubles.

The story goes into overdrive from here on, with Superman facing a fleet of one hundred thousand warships. It's a mighty challenge even for the Man Of Steel, but Orson has a plan, and a pretty insane one at that. Plucking one of the moons of Mars from its orbit, Superman fashions a slingshot from the thousands of miles of runways used to launch the fleet. Wrapping it round the moon, he sends it careering into the path of the invasion fleet, where they are helplessly snagged by its gravity and go harmlessly into orbit about it. Welles then sits a comatose Martler on his knee and performs an impromptu ventriloquism act to persuade his followers to give up on the plan of conquest. The Earth is saved, but poor Orson will never be believed.

So not the most realistic story imaginable, but enormous fun in its simplistic disregard of the laws of physics and nature.


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