Friday, December 03, 2010

Pass the Comics: To Venus from the Moon

First Men in the Moon



Gold Key Comics! has the comics adaptation of the '60s Ray Harryhausen version of the HG Wells classic.

Mysta of the Moon and the Damp Light



Speaking of the Moon, we need to catch up with Sleestak's presentation of Mysta's adventures. In Part 12, Mysta's still trying to suppress the pursuit of knowledge that can be used for evil purposes. Up to now, I've been giving Mysta the benefit of the doubt concerning her ruthlessness in protecting forbidden areas of exploration, but this story makes me wonder. Rather than stop someone's splitting the atom - something that leads to a consequence I'm very familiar with as a child of the Cold War - this time Mysta's preventing a scientists' exploration of something called Damp Light.

Using a fictional science in the story instead of an actual one has a weird effect. My curiosity gets the better of me and I suddenly want to know more about what Damp Light does. In other words, I'm on the rogue scientist's side on this one. Or would be if he weren't so obviously evil. That he's also a murderer who's raised an equally vile daughter makes the story more exciting, but it's also sort of a moral cop out. It lets Mysta stay the good guy when in other circumstances, she might not be.

No one ever explains why Damp Light is forbidden. It has a nasty effect on a particular kind of insect egg, but my first thought was that that's more the eggs' fault than the light's. Sleestak has a much cooler explanation that also makes more sense of Mysta's objections to Damp Light. He suspects that it mutates insects into giant monsters and postulates that "someone somewhere has a use for giant rampaging bugs...probably the military-industrial complex or a group poised to take over human space."

Sleestak also makes a couple of other fascinating observations in relation to Mysta's sidekick Bron. One I'll leave for my commentary of Part 13, but the other is that - even though Mysta learned he's not the real Bron in Part 11 - "she still refers to her assistant as Bron and not by his true name." Sleestak offers that she maintains the deception in order to protect her positive image in the public eye. I'm not so sure, because she also calls him Bron in private. There's something else going on here, though I'm still trying to figure out what it is. More on this in a minute.

We also learn in this story that Mysta can use her Thought Image form to take control of another person.I don't recall her doing that before, which makes me wonder if it's a recently developed use of her ability or something she's always been able to do, but we just haven't seen yet.

After the break: More Mysta and Adventures on Venus!


Mysta and the Swamp-Men of Venus



In Part 13, we learn that Mysta's not just the gatekeeper of humanity's existing knowledge. She's also conducting her own research, which has something to do with a rare element called platine. The adventure involves Mysta's fighting a vicious space pirate in a battle to acquire the valuable material from the cool-looking, Venusian swamp-men who hold the only supply.

It's a tense story in which Bron nearly dies. In fact, Mysta thinks he is dead and reveals something about her feelings for him. In her relief at his recovery, she calls him "Bron, dear," which raises a couple of questions. Obviously she likes him more than she's let on. When she learned that he was in fact a spy sent to betray her, her response was kind, but cold: "You are forgiven. We are friends now." I wondered then at her quick willingness to forgive him and even more at the strange way she expressed it. Could it be that she was struggling with her emotions because she was torn between her anger at his betrayal and her romantic attraction to him? She had to forgive him, but didn't want to betray too much in doing so.

The romantic angle seems to come flooding out in this story and that makes me wonder even more about her calling him Bron. Could it be that she fell in love with him as Bron and so wants to maintain the illusion even to herself? I don't completely like that explanation because it suggests disturbing things about her mental stability, but I feel like there's some connection between Mysta's feelings for her partner and her continuing to call him by his alias.

I mentioned above that Sleestak made another cool observation about Bron, this time concerning Mysta's robot: "It is interesting to note that the body form of the robot has become less humanoid the more Bron has involved himself in Mysta's affairs." I don't have an in-story explanation for that, but it is indeed interesting. Bron is steadily replacing the robot as the man in Mysta's life, though I hope not completely. Not until Bron can survive explosions and follow Mysta's telepathic commands.

Mysta and the Election



Unfortunately, we don't learn anything new about Mysta and Bron's relationship in Part 14. She leaves him on the Moon as she goes to Earth to investigate allegations of vote-tampering in an important election. The specific offices being voted on aren't specified, but it's mentioned a couple of times that it's the world's leaders who are being chosen. More than just political intrigue, the story's also got giant, mist monsters and yet another use of Mysta's Thought Image power as she actually takes control of a body and uses it like a puppet.

The names of the two political parties in the story are interesting: the Scientists and the Humanists. It's easy to see what the Scientist Party stands for and why Mysta is allied with them, but what are the Humanists about? Are they human-supremacists or simply heirs to the philosophy of secular humanism? I've got my guess, but I'd have to give away the story to reveal it.

About Bron, I wonder if she left him behind because she's uncomfortable now that she's let her true feelings slip. There doesn't seem to be any tension between them though. Looking forward to seeing if/how that plays out in future stories.

Winged Death on Venus



Mysta's not the only one having adventures on the Planet of Love. No swamp-men in this one; just ant-people and bird-men in an outer space safari. And fantastic Wally Wood art. [The Comic Book Catacombs]
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