Commander Koenig and the Lost Planet Airmen

You could get a hernia trying to suspend your disbelief high enough for this premise.

I’ll be honest with you. When I started to think about what  I could do with this space, writing about Space:1999 was not on the list. But that’s what I’m going to do, thanks to a recent graphic novel called Space:1999 Aftershock and Awe.

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As someone who tried twice—count ‘em, twice—to bring back Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, I understand and respect the fact that this was a labor of love n the part of the creative staff. On the other hand, I do have some problems with the finished product.

Space: 1999, for those who came in late, was a syndicated TV series that ran for two seasons in the mid-1970s. It starred Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse and it was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who were better known for their all-puppet productions, like Thunderbirds.

Landau, Bain and Morse were part of a group of humans who are trapped on the moon when a nuclear waste dump explodes, sending the moon out of orbit and rocketing into deep space.

Yeah, I know. You could get a hernia trying to suspend your disbelief high enough for that premise. And that wasn’t the only problem with the show.  The producers decided they wanted to try to recreate the mystery and grandeur of 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a result, a lot of the stories in the first season really didn’t make sense. (One reviewer at the time coined the acronym M.U.F. –Mysterious Unknown Force—because it appeared so regularly on the series.)

Fred Freiberger was named producer for the second season of Space:1999, and, from what I remember, he did his best to live up to the standards he had set for himself as showrunner for the third season of the original Star Trek. (Two words: Spock’s brain.)

Still I do have a soft spot for the first season of the show. The special effects were good, and, occasionally the show featured British actors that I either liked (Christopher Lee, Leo McKern) or would like (Brian Blessed.)

My feelings about the graphic novel are about as mixed as my feelings about the original show.

Space 1999:Aftershock and Awe actually consists of two stories, and, despite the billing on the cover, “Awe” is the first story. It’s a revised version of the story where the moon breaks up with the Earth. Some of the changes that writer  Andrew E.C. Gaska makes are good ones. He introduces several characters who will show up in later episodes of the TV series, including Tony Verdeschi, who is added to the cast as a regular in the second season.  Gaska even suggests a possible origin for the Mysterious Unknown Force. However, “Awe” also includes long segments from John Koenig’s and Victor Bergman’s journals (the characters Landau and Morse played), which don’t do anything except make the pages look cluttered.

The art for “Awe” is described as a repurposed version of a comic story that Gray Morrow drew for Power Records, a company that published record/comic combos  a sort of audiobook.  The art is competent enough, but, to me, to doesn’t look much like Morrow’s work. His pencils may have been inked by someone else, or Morrow may have provided only rough pencil breakdowns originally. In any case, the art is a bit of a letdown, especially compared to the stories Morrow did for Charlton Comics, who held the license for Space:1999 during its original run. (The illustration on the front page is one of his covers.)

“Aftershock” is a fannish story in the best sense of the word; it focuses on things that probably would never have been addressed on the original TV show. In this story, Gaska talks about Earth was affected by the moon’s departure and what was actually going on at one of the lunar waste dumps. He also points out some of the ways that recent history on this Earth varies with the history on our Earth.

The art in “Aftershock” is mostly new, painted art by Daniel Hueso and Miki (although I think a few of the pages come from the original Charlton Comics run.)In general, the artists capture of epic feel of a good disaster movie, but there are also some text-heavy pages.

One clever touch with the art is that both stories recreate the original show’s title sequence in comic book form, with the credits for that story.  All that’s missing is the theme music.

The folks behind Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe are also remastering other comics from the show’s original run. For more information, go to www.blamventures.com.

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