Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Space Crazy Comics: Ten Billion B. C.

And now you know what's coming after my Space Western Comics reviews.

As I searched around for something to fill the void in my life (snort, snicker) that would be left by not having any more Space Western Comics to review (though that situation may be changing in the near future), I found that there were really rather a lot of old comics which, for me at least, had a certain amount of that intangible total insanity in a can in them.

And even better-some of the stories I found were drawn by Steve Ditko. According to this Ditko blog, this story has never been reprinted.

A very brief aside-I didn't realize what a versatile artist Ditko really is until I read these stories. I've picked up a few Spider-Man reprints from his run on the title, and I didn't appreciate them as much as I might have. (I liked them, certainly.) But as I read through the stories in this (Outer Space) and other Ditko-drawn comics, I realized, "hey, this Ditko guy, he can draw in lots of styles compared to his contemporaries." I mean, you look at something Jack Kirby drew and you instantly recognize it. That wasn't true of Ditko's work in these comics.

End aside. The first story I'll talk about is about the beginning, figuratively and literally speaking.

Of absolutely no relation to the various "B.C." films.

Notice something? It is explained that this planet, called Primus (hmm...), "might be reckoned" as being 500 light years in diameter. As we'll discover, the inhabitants are awfully humanlike, and the surface conditions are remarkably Earthlike in general. This is truly remarkable weirdness.

I did some calculations to try to determine just how massive a planet that's 500 light years across would have to be in order to have a surface gravity of 1 g. Using Michael Wong's planetary parameters calculator, entering 9.461E15*500=4.731E18 and leaving gravity at one, we come to a mass of 8.221E53kg.

For comparison, this is about 82 times the size of the known universe, according to my physics textbook. Ironically, its effective average density would still have to be so minimal that the calculator gives it a density of zero (ironically, if my mental math is correct, about an order of magnitude or three above the average density of the interstellar medium, though I can't find how this density would compare with a nebula). (A further note-if one revises the surface gravity upwards to even a relatively mild two gs, the planet's event horizon would be outside of its surface, and it would be indistinguishable from a black hole.)

Considering where this story is going, this is sort of appropriate, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

As mentioned, the inhabitants of the planet Primus are essentially human, except for one feature:

Big heads. Of course, if I lived on a planet bigger than the universe, I'd probably have a big head, too.

(Of course, since they use artificial light, they shouldn't have eyes, but we can let that slide, considering what kind of planet they're on.)

Do their massive heads serve a purpose? Yes. They house massive cosmically powered brains.

And they put on old-fashioned hair dryers-excuse me, cosmic power hats-in order to provide energy for their technology.

Which brings us to our first weird moral lesson-it's better to be lucky than good.

The Primals are presented as being a perfect society, a "utopia." Now, colore me prejudiced, but any time I hear "utopia," I think of the fact that the "u-" in utopia can mean one of two things-either "true" or "nothing." ("Eu-" would mean true, while "ou-" means nothing.) The person who coined the phrase was creating a double meaning, probably quite deliberately. Look it up. (Also, look at TVTropes' article on the subject. They capture many of my feelings nicely there.) Anyway, this pie-in-the-sky happyland is presented as being the greatest civilization imaginable, all because they have huge, super-powered brains. Nice.

We know they're good, because they don't use child labor. Yaaay!

Not everything is peaceful and calm on great Primus, however.

There is a rebel. His name is Unicr-er, Accra.

We know they're good, because they eliminated all diseases of the flesh! Yaaaay!

So who is Accra really? This swirly-haired redhead, that's who.

To be quite frank... I like Accra. I can identify with finding a "utopia" a boring, dull place.

Tip: When you offer a rebel a "rest," and he jumps at it, it's not necessarily a good thing.

You'd "like a rest," eh? After complaining about monotony? I suppose a nice green countryside would do you some good...

Too bad they don't have those on Primus.

So he's probably up to no good, out there in the middle of nowhere. What...

...um, where is his other hand?

Aaargh. Darnit, Accra, what are you doing?

He's doing it his way, whatever he's doing.

So what else is happening?

They're watching him. In fact, they have effectively bugged his brain.

Which comes to point number two on Primus's society-in this wonderful utopia, it's perfectly acceptable to read each a person's thoughts when he or she says he or she is unhappy.

Accra's plan is progressing, though, whatever it is. And he's happy about it now.

The eggheads are not so happy. They want to "fix" him.

Which brings us to point three-they consider anyone who disagrees with them mentally ill, and treat dissent as a sickness.

They say something about it being contagious.


Anyway, now we come to Accra's plan: He's going to use his mighty brain to control every other Primal on the planet.

I guess maybe he's not such a nice guy, but at least he's doing something against the status quo, yeah?

Here's the full final page, which shows us what kind of results Accra gets, in nonstandard and glorious Ditko style:


Apparently, having an "evil" thought makes Primus explode. Weird. (Incidentally, it would take 2.301E98 joules of energy to do that based on the results of the Planetary Parameter Calculator, which is rather a lot [more, in fact, than the energy that would be produced by transforming the entire planet to energy!]. Which may hint at just how much cosmic power the Primals have in their brains, or may be a simple insane fact that comes from the sheer ridiculousness of the story's premise.)

Notice what that last panel is doing, there?

It's comparing Accra to Hitler. (Ironically, Accra is a sort of Apocalypse Hitler, in a somewhat more literal sense...)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but... Isn't trying to end a horrible, horrible regime like that of Primus a good thing? Granted, it turned out badly, but nobody told him Primus would explode if he had an evil thought.

I love this story for all the wrong reasons.

-Signing off.

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