Tuesday, November 24, 2015
NULLMYTHS: "THE FLYING SAUCER INVASION" (WEIRD SCIENCE #13, 1950)
In contrast to my previous post, there's no complications about this story-- whose art and story are both credited to Al Feldstein-- having been derived from an earlier model. However, "The Flying Saucer Invasion"-- published in what was technically the *second* issue of WEIRD SCIENCE, not the thirteenth-- might have been vastly improved had it swiped from another author.
The cover-- showing a military fellow dismissing the rumors of flying saucers as "poppycock" while overhead a real saucer zooms in for the kill-- gives away the whole game. Gaines and Feldstein are reputed to have had a strong interest in the "flying saucer craze" that took America by storm in 1947. Yet "Invasion" reads like nothing more than a recitation of a few basic UFOlogy cliches-- for example, that the saucers only show up in rural settings, never urban--and that the government's sole response was to try to cover up the whole business. Most of the story's eight pages are devoted to rather static head-shots of people's stereotypical reactions. Page six is easily the high point of the story. Here the reader gets to witness a comic-book character dissing the disreputable aspects of the comic book medium, when a psychologist deems the saucer-sightings "a pathological illusion aggravated by continuous publicity given it by press, radio, and comic books."
The big twist ending-- that the saucers are real-- comes as no surprise at all, and the story doesn't even hint at the more captivating myths of UFOlogy. Feldstein's real focus is the government cover-up, which rates as a sociological myth, but of a very low mythicity. Perhaps this sequence's only interesting myth-motif is that after the saucer-debunking Secretary of Defense gets finished undermining the testimonies of the rural citizens--one of whom speaks with a comic Southern accent-- he also plows over the testimony of an Air Force lieutenant. The fact that the lieutenant is depicted with a stock "leading man" handsomeness suggests that he incarnates an American heroic archetype, and that the Secretary, by dismissing him, has metaphorically undermined American fighting-capacity, anticipating a similar motif later found in the RAMBO films. However, that one motif doesn't make up for a generally lackluster narrative.