In lieu of a somewhat more substantive post that I’m still tinkering with, here’s a 1964 comic book story whose Cold War origins have always confused me. Not that it’s confusing that a science fiction story would be about the Cold War; what else was it going to be about? The question is, who’s who in this particular Cold War conflict.
- The story is called “A Quiet Weekend In the Country” (by the subject of my longest-ever MGK post, Bob Bolling), and it can be read by clicking here.
(I decided to stop trying to YouTube stories; breaking this story up into its separate panels would ruin some of the effects — like the the “circle” bit at the top of page 9, the comics equivalent of the way a movie cuts from an exterior to an interior and back again.)
Now, okay, the Cold War markers are fairly clear, as you would expect in a science fiction story from the year that Mad Men will soon get to. You’ve got Planet Zentrox, the thriving tourist-friendly place, vs. Planet Glob, the ugly, drab conformist hellhole where everybody looks alike. The President of Zentrox even has a teenage daughter; she’s called Zeena instead of “Lynda Bird” or “Lucy Baines,” but we still get the point. Just in case we’re wondering what this is about, we get this rather late in the story:
But the weird thing about this Cold War story is that the bad guys are religious bad guys, who are defeated when our hero exploits their doctrine and makes them think that God is displeased with them. So in allegorical terms, the story seems to present the Globs as God-fearing Communists whose religious belief renders their military might useless.
The message of the story, apparently, is this: The side that believes in tourism, sports cars and construction work will win out over the side that’s held back by religion. Provided, of course, that Little Archie gets abducted by aliens and shows up to help, but he gets abducted by aliens all the time, and occasionally finds aliens in his refrigerator, so it was inevitable that he’d be involved in any interplanetary conflict.
Now, my guess would be that this plot might come from an earlier science fiction story or film, the way Bolling’s “Plesiosaur” is inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.” If I knew what the inspiration was, the point of the Zentrox-vs.-Glob conflict might be a bit clearer. (One of the reasons I did this post was that I figured someone might know what this is based on.) But as it is, the way the story reads for me, it’s like the Godless capitalists beat the religious planet.
As to how Little Archie Andrews managed to get the entire planet made over in so short a time… he can do pretty much anything. Even at this age, he’s already begun to have an inexplicable magnetism for women:
Wait in line,
Lynda Bird Zeena. Wait in line.
Finally, for a lighter side of Bolling and outer space, I wanted to throw in a (somewhat late) reciprocal link to Doug Gray and the classic 1959 story “The Shrimp From Outer Space.”
Gray’s blog, The Greatest Ape, collects stories by non-superhero comics masters like Barks, Bolling, Kelly, John Stanley (Little Lulu) and Al Wiseman (Dennis the Menace). You can spend a lot of time reading the great material there, but it’s time well spent.