Sep 26, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 214: Alien Worlds #1, December 1982

Second post from the road, and I did manage to find an issue of Alien Worlds that I didn't have (and one that I didn't know existed, which is pretty great!). This issue is pretty exactly in keeping with everything I've said about the previous (though actually subsequent) ones. Jones has an amazing handle on how to craft a satisfying story in a very few pages, and his choices of collaborators is consistently brilliant. A theme that I begin to see emerging in these comics is the relationship of the human to the non-human, but, as with all great science fiction, using the non-human as a reflection of ourselves. There's a lot of looking at the ways in which humans and robots might interact, especially once the robots become virtually indistinguishable from us. Of particular note is Jones' concern with how we will treat robots in the guise of children, something that prefigures the film A.I.

We also see a hearkening back to the golden age of science fiction paperbacks with the depictions of the female form, both on the covers and in the interior pages. Pacific Comics was certainly geared toward a more mature audience than its mainstream competitors, and it took advantage of (I'm assuming) a Comics Code free existence to fill this book with heaving bosoms and pert bottoms. While this is certainly a problematic depiction of women, who aside from this play only small supporting roles in the stories thus far, there's also a nostalgic quality to the art, looking back to a time when such objectifying was accepted (not, I'll point out, that that made it right), and also to a time when science fiction did look to the future, was speculative, rather than the space opera fantasy epics that science fiction had become by the time of this comic's publication.

What I'm trying to figure out is if the depictions of women in these comics is in any way meant to be ironic, an acknowledgment of the oppressed role given to most women in early science fiction novels. Jones and his artistic collaborators are smart guys, and they're working for a publisher that's just one step or so removed from the undergrounds that had proven so subversive a decade or so before. Perhaps I'm being too optimistic, but the hyper-sexualization of the female form is so prevalent in these comics that I feel like it's more parody, or gently satirized homage, than out and out sexism. It's hard to say, to I'll just look at it from my optimistic standpoint, and invite you to do so as well.

I was unable on my first go through the con to fill in all the holes in my Alien Worlds run, but I'll try again tomorrow. Failing that, there's more sitting at home in the collection, so we'll continue on with them.

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