The Most Wonderful Thing In The Comics And Outer Space Last Week


So in 1961 Flash Gordon was all about the exciting stuff we’d be getting up to in space in the far-distant year of 1971. And, really, every story is this glorious experience of soaking in late-50s Man Will Conquer Space Soon vision. Lots of people in giant spaceships and space station pausing between space collisions just long enough to do jobs that you’d think could be done on Earth with a lot less hassle, like, growing vegetables. And then came this, the start of a new storyline, the last panel on Wednesday:

Meanwhile On Earth: 'Hello, Louie's Delicatessen! Yeah, what'll it be today Mr Owl? Ahuh ... OK, got it! Of course, you get it right away! I bring it up in my own personal rocket!'
Panel from Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon from the 7th of October, 1961. Rerun the 24th of August, 2016. 38 cents a pound seems like a good price for hot dogs, although what do I know about the cost of Space Living in Space 1971? I would unless Louie’s got a lot of deliveries to the same space station he’s losing money on the delivery, though. Maybe it’s a gimmick he uses for the publicity. But in that case he needs a catchier name for it than “My Own Personal Rocket”. We’re talking about Space Weinermobile technology here. Granted Louie maybe was born before World War II and grew up a square but if he’s hit on the idea of Space Deliveries for publicity he can get a catchy but dumb name from somewhere. Of course, here I am not suggesting anything.

It’s easy for a story strip to start strong and peter out into boringness. And the story is still in its first week yet. But it’s starting really great, with Louie not just delivering his Space Pork Roll and stuff by rocket, but by recklessly driven rocket. Saturday they even had a Space Fender Bender, with cans of soda and a chain of sausage links spilling out into orbit. It’s been a long while since I was this happy with this much nonsense.

'Rocket on collision course! Full braking jets!!' (They collide, spilling meat and soda into space. Louie pokes his head out to Space Yell.) 'You BUM! Watch your driving! Look what you done to my merchandise!'
Panel from Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon from the 11th of October, 1961. Rerun from the 27th of August, 2016. I appreciate that in the heat of the moment Louie may feel the need to act rather than just scream, but stepping outside of your rocket to Space Yell at someone is no more effective than just staying in your cabin where it’s comfortable and Space Yelling at them over the Space Radio. So how long do you suppose those Space Doughnuts remained in Space Orbit?

In Actual October 1971, the United States launched the ITOS-B weather satellite, which didn’t work. Also some spy satellites which did.

In other comic strips news, my mathematics blog did the usual Sunday sort of thing yesterday, which was Sunday as I make these things out. If it wasn’t Sunday we can just re-check everyone’s work and start again.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

6 thoughts on “The Most Wonderful Thing In The Comics And Outer Space Last Week”

  1. I’ve never quite understood the 1950’s and 1960’s pop-fascination with ‘retro-rockets’, as in those braking jets. Apart from forward-pointing RCS units for small manoeuvres, real spacecraft never had them, and for sound reasons. And yet I still remember even the ‘Thunderbirds’ episode where the plot pivoted on getting those big retros working…

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    1. Why, they weren’t retro yet, back in the 50s and 60s they were just contemporary rockets!

      … Well, I’m not sure why rockets of that era had such big braking jets. At a guess, because they do look cool. Possibly out of some idea that it would just be too hard to keep turning rockets around to point the main engines to a needed direction. In fact, now that I’ve written that, I find it easy to believe people might think the challenge of aligning the whole spaceship to be harder than just throwing an extra set of engines on. The numbers surely wouldn’t work out, but it’s not like Future Rocket Designs of the 50s and 60s were based on numbers.

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      1. The ‘spin the whole ship’ trick was explicit in a lot of Heinlein’s stuff – his ships seemed to have but one motor and were pointed using gyroscopes. I’ve tried it in ‘Kerbal Space Program’ and it sort of works. Mostly. Something struck me – there should be ‘retro-retro rockets’, ie: retro-styled rocket engines that point forwards…

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        1. I think that in the real world gyroscope control is used but mostly as a way to stabilize a satellite when it’s really essential there not even be little flucutations. I remember reading of Skylab how the (I think they were) Control Moment Gyroscopes were always soaking up attitude perturbations during the most delicate observations and letting them “burn” off afterwards when the station’s exact orientation wasn’t so important. Doing attitude control without losing anything irreplaceable is great, but the nutations oooh the nutations. I get dizzy just thinking hard about the vectors. (Admittedly some of that is I haven’t done this enough to be really expert on it.)

          You’re right, though, we should have some retro-retro rockets. I have to talk to my artist friend who’s been doing this sort of retro style art since back in the 90s when the world and we were young.

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    1. And it turns out you are quite correct! Today’s comic makes clear that Louie was delivering seven dozen Space Bagels, as well as six pounds Space Lox, some Space Pastrami, some Corned Space Beef, and some Potato Space Salad.

      I don’t know where this story is going, but I am so delighted that it’s started from here.

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