Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Be Nice to Ants!

The cover for Strange Adventures #30 (March 1953) was drawn by Murphy Anderson. I wish I knew the history behind it. The issue itself has an 8-page Captain Comet story, a 6-page non-series story, and a 4-page story highlighted by the cover. So editor Julius Schwartz decided that the shortest story in the book should be used to sell it. Or perhaps Anderson drew the cover image, then Anderson and writer Gardner Fox had to come up with a story that fit it.

Whatever the exact circumstances, it is an epic cover. It's a robot riding a giant ant while chasing two frightened humans. Who wouldn't buy this comic book? In fact, when I give talks to elementary school kids about the history of comics, I show this cover to highlight the science fiction stories of the 1950s AND do an exercise in which the kids have to call out story ideas that would match the cover. That part is always great fun.

The actual story involves Bill and Ann Hanley, who are making good money running an ant circus, in which the trained insects do various tricks for the audience.

But remember that this story is only four pages long, so weird stuff (weirder than huge crowds paying money to see an ant circus) happens pretty quick. Bill and Ann are walking in the woods when they see a rocket ship land. Giant ants being ridden by robots charge out and captures them.

The robots explain what's going on. They work for the ants, who are intelligent. How they build robots without themselves having opposable thumbs is not discussed.

The ants need a couple of humans. Why? Well, if humans can have an ant circus, there's no reason why ants shouldn't get to have a human circus.

So the moral of the story is... um... be nice to ants so that they don't enslave us? Bring a bazooka while walking in the woods? Or maybe... um....

Oh, heck. The story is an excuse to have a cover featuring a robot riding a giant ant. It doesn't need a reason beyond that. It is significant justification in of itself.

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