Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gold Key Comics: Captain Johner and the Aliens

Appearing as a back-up series in the first issue of Gold Key's Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 in February of 1963, "Captain Johner and the Aliens," was another  of Russ Manning's creations  that quickly became a fan favorite and classic of science fiction comics. It appears the artist adapted the premise of "The Aliens" from the historic short story "First Contact" by Murray Leinster, AKA William Jenkins, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in May of 1945. Manning's sleek and futuristic spaceships likewise recall those beautiful covers of the many science fiction pulps of the era. As this striking end page shown below demonstrates, Johner's has first contact with an alien race and develops a trade agreement with planet Earth. After his success on Tarzan of the Apes,  the artist created his "Magnus" and "The Aliens" feature as Gold Key unleashed what was arguably their most exciting heroic comic book with this publication, featuring Manning's breath-taking art. Manning's crisp, clean inking style worked perfectly with his intelligent scripts  as his line art was heightened by the publisher's "borderless" panel approach. This Silver Age spectacular appeared as a four page second feature in twenty eight issues of the original Robot Fighter series before being reprinted under both the Gold Key and Whitman brands in its own 1967 edition, also being done once again by Valiant Comics years later.

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