Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Giant, Aquatic Robinson Crusoe.

Cover Painting by George Wilson

There are some odd things at the bottom of the sea, aren't there? Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea #4 (May 1966) rather vividly reminds us of this.

Admiral Nelson and the Seaview are called to investigate when ships passing through the Sargasso Sea report geysers, whirlpools and 600-foot strands of super-tough seaweed. That's odd in of itself. But the giant footprint they find on the sea bottom is even odder.

What follows is a gleefully told tale in which Comic Book science is allowed to run wild. But the story, tentatively credited to Dick Wood and/or Marshall McClintock, never runs out of control. "Robinson Crusoe of the Depths" represents something I've written about many times in the past--a story which creates its own logic, separate from real-life logic, and follows the ensuing trail without ever getting lost.

And it's all supported by Alberto Giolitti's vivid and engrossing art. In fact, as I not just look at his art, but also write about it and make a video about it, I become more and more admiring of his skill. I believe I am ready to officially announce that that my Best Ever Comic Book Artist list has expanded from a three-way tie to a four-way tie. It is now Barks-Heath-Kirby-Giolitti (in no particular order of preference).

Back to the story: A superstitious crewman on the Seaview gets more and more panicky--and who can blame him? The next thing the Seaview finds is a pod of whales penned up behind a giant seaweed cage. Someone is apparently herding them the way we herd cattle.

When the whales "stampede" and endanger the Seaview, Admiral Nelson metaphorically tells
Greenpeace to stick it and opens fire with torpedoes.

A little later, when he's out exploring in a deep sea diving suit, he discovers a huge undersea farm. Then he discovers the farmer. Or rather, the farmer discovers him.

Fortunately, the giant speaks fluent "porpoise," which Nelson can run through a translation program. The two are able to talk and Nelson gets the big guy's back story. (Though one wonders why porpoises apparently have words to describe land animals such as mammoths.)

The undersea Crusoe was a prehistoric man. Mutated by a falling meteor, he gradually grows into a giant and also becomes immortal (or at least very long-lived. ) Many comic book fans will, of course, immediately think of DC's Vandal Savage. whose origin (minus the becoming-a-giant part) is identical. It's kind of fun to wonder if in some cross-over universe, perhaps it was the same meteor.

In a story that gleefully invents its own "science" as it goes along, its interesting that a real-life concept is taken into account. As the guy grows bigger, the square-cube law goes into affect and he has trouble supporting his own weight. He takes to the water to lighten the load. At first, he holds his breath for long periods. Eventually, he grows gills.

Unlike Vandal Savage, this guy is actually kind-of nice; though he has somehow become arch-enemies with giant squid. When the squids attack, he uses pre-prepared traps to fight them off. The Seaview lends a hand as well. Based on this story, its amazing that Nelson hasn't depopulated the oceans. His first reaction to large sea life seems to be "Fire torpedoes!"

The superstitious crewman almost wrecks the sub at this point, but the giant helps save it. In fact, though he briefly considers destroying the Seaview to keep his existence and his home a secret, he ends the story by sacrificing his life to save his new friends.

 I really love this story. It involves a giant, water-breathing caveman who speaks fluent porpoise teaming up with a high-tech submarine to fight giant squid. It is, in fact, impossible NOT to love this story.

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