Comics and Sci-Fi: A Marriage Made in Heaven

One day a guy who works at the local comics shop (hi Chris!) made a comment that left me completely dumbfounded. He stated that he didn’t like SF. He didn’t like to read it, or to watch it, either on TV or at the movies.

After I’d picked my jaw up from the floor, I managed to utter a few words, stammering…

“But… but… but, you’re a comics fan! How can you not like sci-fi? All those comics you read are full of sci-fi stuff – robots, spaceships, time travel. You sure you don’t like SF?”

“Sorry, nope”.

“You don’t like Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Babylon 5, or Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, or…”

“Nope. I’m not into that kinda thing”.

“But… but… that’s impossible. You can’t be a comics fan and not like sci-fi. Man, you must be an alien or something… ” (Phil wanders off, shaking his head in bewilderment and disbelief).

I’d met something/someone I thought couldn’t exist. A paradox. A comics fan who actually, really did not like SF! I’ve been a comics fan myself for over forty years, and I’d never ever met anyone who liked one and didn’t like the other, at least to some extent.

As far as I’m concerned, they are inextricably linked. The first big daily newspaper SF comic strip, Buck Rogers, was inspired by Armaggedon: 2419 AD, written by Philip Francis Nowlan, an SF novella which appeared in the classic SF pulp magazine Amazing Stories in August 1928. The Buck Rogers comic strip first appeared in 1929, followed by the rival Flash Gordon strip (started 1934) in a competing daily newspaper published by the King Syndicate. The huge popularity of these strips led to the first sci-fi movie serials of the 1930s, the three Flash Gordon serials (1936, 1938 and 1939) and Buck Rogers (1939).

These serials were the progenitors of pretty much every interplanetary sci-fi and space opera TV series and movie that followed. So it can be argued without much disagreement that SF comics were inspired by SF literature, and spawned a lineage in US sci-fi movies and television that leads right up to the massive money-spinning SF movie blockbusters of the current era.

Most mainstream comics are steeped in SF imagery. Even the good old superhero strip is full of it, with all those aliens, and spaceships and robots and time travel, etc. The origins of most of the main Marvel superheroes are right out of the 1950s sci-fi monster movies: giant ants created by nuclear tests/Peter Parker changed into Spider-Man after being bitten by radioactive spider, giant tarantula created by nuclear tests/Bruce Banner caught in gamma bomb explosion and becomes the Hulk, nuclear tests on remote island turn iguana into Godzilla/four astronauts caught in cosmic ray storm become Fantastic Four, the list goes on and on…

I’m not saying that all comics have SF elements – many of the classic comics are from other genres or “real life” (Berlin, Maus, Palestine, A History of Violence, and many others). But with most mainstream comics and superhero comics, the SF link has always been historically very strong.

And I still say that any mainstream comics fan who doesn’t like SF is a mutant abberation… 🙂