Comic books and UFOs?

rsz_kennetharnoldmaury_islandGemr user Michael Lauck tells us about his early memories of both in this week’s “Get to Know a Gemr”.

Usually when you hear “UFOs” and “comic books” in the same sentence, there is some type of insult being thrown. Maybe it is the local news anchor leading off a sighting report with “it may sound like the stuff of comic books” or skeptics saying that comic books provide the basis for imagined encounters. I personally do not cringe when I hear these things said though, because I read some of my first true UFO stories in comic books.

 I hadn’t really thought about it for years but I recently saw a television feature on the Shag Harbour incident. As the show (I am not sure what it even was or which channel aired it) covered the famous Canadian UFO crash, it was mentioned that the story was even featured in a comic book. They briefly flashed a page on the screen and I realized it looked familiar. “I had that,” I told my wife, who did not even bother to look up from her iPad and just gave me that same nod I get when I am explaining such esoteric topics as why Shaw Brothers kung fu movies are all amazing or how I feel the only real Batman is Kevin Conroy.

 693979When I was in first or second grade I ended up with a collection of UFO stories in comic book form that my school library was removing from their inventory. I am not entirely sure how I ended up with it; I think my mom volunteered at the library and the staff knew I was already a dedicated comic book fan. All I know is that I read it cover to cover several times until it gave me nightmares. I could not say exactly what it was that scared me so badly but I do remember that I eventually threw the book away after waking up terrified in the middle of the night.

 Being much older, larger and markedly less afraid of the dark these days, I decided to set out and find the comic books. The search led me to Gold Key Comics, which folded about three decades ago. During their heyday, though, they were a fairly major player in the comic world. They had several well regarded original titles, such as Magnus, Robot Fighter and Doctor Solar, but their real strength was in producing comic book based on licensed properties. They produced lines based on Looney Toons, Disney characters and Popeye. They also printed the Twilight Zone, Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Dark Shadows comic books. Gold Key was even responsible for the first Star Trek comics and produced the title from the initial television series run until the release of Star Trek The Motion Picture (when Marvel snapped up the license). They also printed UFO Flying Saucers.

Cover UFO Flying Saucers (also called UFO and Outer Space and collected as UFO Encounters and UFO Mysteries) was different from most other comic books. It would run several stories in each issue, each ranging from a single page up to about six pages in length. Most told the stories of an incident or sighting although sometimes summary of different types of aliens sited or the various styles of crafts that had been spotted. Sometimes stories were grouped together by region or because they occurred at about the same time. A character called the Hoaxmaster sometimes appeared to discuss known hoaxes as well.

 After discovering UFO Flying Saucers on the Internet, I was sure that this was the comic that had scared me so badly as a child. I briefly cruised eBay looking for copies, but gave up after seeing that many sellers were asking $20 or more for the UFO Encounters reprint title. Just a day or two later I was visiting my local Half Price Books and was rather shocked to find a copy of UFO Mysteries in their comics. It promised 96 pages packed with “True stories” of encounters, evidence and more. Best of all, they only wanted $2! Of course I bought it, read it that night and have yet to wake up to any nightmares. Since then I have found that The UFO Store offers the original run of UFO Flying Saucers as downloadable ebooks and on a single data disc.

 The few pages the comic book dedicates to The Maury Island Incident or the Father Gill Sighting can really not be fairly compared to more scholarly reports on these famous cases. They were an introduction to serious UFO study for many children, including myself, though. Today, these same comic books provide a welcome bit of nostalgia and a rather unique take on classic UFO stories.