Sunday, 3 May 2015

When aliens wore fedora hats

I really love comic books. Back in my childhood I couldn’t get enough of those square-bound comics with their extraordinary cover art and wonderful stories, everything from sci-fi to mystery, crime, the supernatural and the, well, just plain weird.  And I was struck by the how the action and setting were mixed up with the fashions, language and cars of earlier times. Nearly all my meagre pocket money went on getting those stories – and they were worth every penny.  

Actually for years I thought those comics had come straight off the presses in America. I didn’t realise that they’d been out of print for years. In fact, an English guy called Alan Class had bought the rights and given them a new lease of life, importing them to the Britain for eager kids like me. I really didn’t go for Captain Marvel and the other superhero type stuff. No, it was Alan’s comics that I got a real kick out of.  Maybe it was the format. Maybe it was the material and sheer diversity. And that interplay of retro, sci-fi and speculative. I mean, even now the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise when I see some of that extraordinary cover art.   

Now, of course, Astounding Stories and all the rest are pretty much unloved by collectors, and the shelves of my old newsagent around the corner are stacked with Frozen and Bob the Builder. Nope, I guess nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.  Looking back, though, one thing I’ve never quite figured out was did those comics originally influence TV series like The Twilight Zone or was it the other round?  Or did they just sort of head out there on their own separate weird and wonderful trajectories? 

When I got into writing I was determined to figure out a way of celebrating Alan’s comics. Share the love. Hey, maybe even generate some new interest in them.

In part two I’ll talk about how I’ve tried to do that… 

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