Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

Suspense: "Plan X" 2/2/53

Jack Benny's appearances on Suspense were always delightful. In this one, he's a Martian chosen to deal with a supposed invasion from Earth.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

All History Would Have Been Altered!

Why didn't I know about this? How have I survived in life without knowing about this? It's inexcusable that I didn't know about this!

In 1959, seven years before he became Captain Kirk, William Shatner played Archie Goodwin, the wise-cracking assistant to the brilliant and corpulent Nero Wolfe.

Nero Wolfe was filmed as a pilot for a possible weekly series. In fact, according to IMDB, one or two additional episodes were filmed as well, though none of them ever aired. As far as I know, only a single episode survives--which has recently been released on DVD.

That one episode is not based on any of the original Rex Stout stories, involving the murder of a rocket scientist at the exact moment a rocket is being launched. Everyone thinks it was a heart attack brought on by the stress of the moment. But Wolfe, after hearing Archie read the first few lines of a newspaper account, realizes that it was actually murder. A few moments later, when Archie points out that their bank account is shrinking, he decides to publicly announce that the death was a murder, then charge the various suspects for finding the real killer and saving them trouble from the police.

Shatner and Kurt Kaszner are both excellent as Archie and Wolfe. The script is superb, cleverly borrowing elements from a number of Rex Stout's stories and novels. For instance, Wolfe researches the personal finances of each of the people involved, then charges each an amount based on what they can afford. He did the same thing in the novel The League of Frightened Men.

The dialogue catches the personalities of both protagonists perfectly as well. Even little touches--such as Archie drinking milk--are there. The writer, veteran scribe Sidney Carroll, obviously knew and respected the source material. The Wolfe adaptation that aired on A&E in the early 2000s is justly considered faithful and excellent, but this series could really have given that one a run for its money in quality.

The only thing I miss was that neither Fritz nor Inspector Cramer put in appearances in this particular story.

It's too bad it didn't catch on. Or is it too bad? What if it had been a hit? What if it ran long enough to keep Shatner from becoming Captain Kirk? What if the absence of one of the key actors kept the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate from hitting just the right note? What if Star Trek last only a half-season, then disappeared into obscurity?

Consider how influential Star Trek has been, both in pop culture and in inspiring technological advancement. Gee whiz, the history of the entire world might have been altered--and possibly not for the better!

Kurt Kaszner went on to appear in Land of the Giants in 1968, so another TV science fiction show would have suffered. Perhaps not as significant as Star Trek, but maybe that would have been the same as stepping on a butterfly while hunting dinosaurs. (Note: If you don't understand that reference, I'm not speaking to you anymore.)

But that one surviving episode of Nero Wolfe really was superb. It would have been nice if there had been more. But then, perhaps it would have been worth the downfall of civilization to if there had been more.

I guess we'll never know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Mongo's Lost Continent

Not to take anything away from Flash Gordon as a hero--because he's a kick-butt hero--but the man simply could not settle on a single comic book company to recount his adventures.

King Comics, an offshoot of the syndicate that distributed the comic strip, started its own comic book line in 1966, offering (among others) a Flash Gordon comic book. This was actually quite excellent, featuring the work of artists such as Al Williamson and Reed Crandall and giving us some pretty strong stories.

This lasted 11 issues. Then Charlton comics took over the character, keeping the same numbering in a series that ran through issue #19. Gold Key picked it up--once again keeping the same numbering--and kept it going through issue #37.

The best of these runs probably is the King Comics, simply because of the quality of the art and writing. Flash Gordon #4 (March 1967), for instance, was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson.

There's a 13-page story titled "Lost Continent of Mongo," in which Flash, Dr. Zarkov and Dale decide to explore... well, Mongo's Lost Continent. Once there, they enter a thick fog and clip a wing of their ship on a building in a ruined city.

They are forced to crash land, at which point Dale is kidnapped by someone. Why Flash is surprised by this is beyond me. That woman is always getting kidnapped.

Zarkov is captured by soldiers soon after. Ming the Merciless turns out to be behind all this. When Zarkov is brought before him, he conveniently explains his latest evil scheme.

This is, of course, necessary in order to fit the story into 13 pages, but to be fair, egotistical rants are an established part of Ming's character, which helps tone down (if not completely eliminate) a sense of contrivance.

His plan, by the way, is to use a thought machine to generate a massive army of illusory soldiers, who seem so real that their weapons can really kill. As Flash puts it later in the story, those hit by the weapons of the make-believe soldiers are literally frightened to death.

I wonder if Goodwin or Williamson was deliberately lifting this idea from Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel Thuvia, Maid of Mars?

Flash is captured by a local tribe of barbarians who ride gigantic birds. By out-wrestling their chief, he becomes the leader and immediately leads them on an attack against Ming. This doesn't end well for his new allies--they are massacred by a barrage of make-believe arrows.

Flash seems to fall before the arrows as well, but he has realized the weapons were illusions and was thus unhurt by them. Faking his death allows him to get close enough to Ming to attack the villain. Zarkov, in the meantime, has wrested a raygun away from a guard and blasted the thought machine.

The story ends with Flash defeating Ming in a sword fight and Ming apparently committing suicide by throwing himself into a radiation pit. I have a feeling that its pretty foolish of the good guys to assume Ming is dead. He's been "dead" before, hasn't he?

Williamson may have been the best artist this side of Alex Raymond to work on Flash Gordon and the story looks fantastic. Goodwin's script is also good, though the need to fit it into 13 pages does show in a few overly rushed moments.

There's a five page "Secret Agent X-9" story (also by Goodwin and Williamson), then we jump back to Mongo for the 10-page "The Sentries of Dark Mountain." In this one, the heroes are marching across the Lost Continent, hoping to get home. They are attacked by a pterodactyl-like monster, which injures Dale (who at least doesn't get kidnapped this time). Flash zaps the monster, which turns out to be a robot.

Zarkov needs medical supplies to treat Dale's injury. On the theory that anyone who can build a complex robot probably has advanced medicine, Flash backtracks the monster. What follows is a succinct and well-scripted tale (no overly rushed moments this time) in which Flash meets two apparent humans who are guarding the entrance to their civilization. Only after various shenanigans that leave both the guardians dead does Flash realize they were androids, guarding the path to a long-dead people.

Williamson's art continues to look stunning. I once made a case that Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars is the perfect World of Adventure, because its premise allows for such a wide variety of threats and dangers. But the same argument can be made for Mongo. The many different alien races with various levels of technology, combined with the existance of so much super-science, pretty much means any writer playing in that sandbox can make a wide variety of stories fit comfortably into the premise. Like Barsoom, Mongo is designed to be a perfect World of Adventure.

Next week, we'll join Marvel Comics' Falcon as he plays detective to solve a murder.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cover Cavalcade

Leigh Brackett's version of the Solar System is infinitely preferable to boring "real life."

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

X Minus One: "Project Mastodon" 6/5/56

Three men travel back in time 50,000 years. Their plan: Found a new nation then come back to the present and seek diplomatic recognition. The first problem they face is getting someone to believe them. The second problem may render the first problem moot, since it involves their time machine getting wrecked by an angry mastodon, stranding them in the past.

This episode is based on a short story by Clifford Simak that was later expanded into an excellent novel titled Mastodonia.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Twilight Zone Goes West--Part 5

Lee Marvin starred in two episodes of The Twilight Zone--both of them excellent and both highlighting just how excellent an actor he was. 

His first foray into TZ was "The Grave," which aired in the show's third season on October 27, 1961. Marvin plays Connie Miller, a man who was hired to hunt down an outlaw named Pinto Sykes, who had been terrorizing the town in which both Connie and Pinto were born.

Connie's been gone for four months, supposedly on Pinto's trail, when the outlaw returns to the town. The townspeople ambush and kill him on their own. When Connie returns, he discovers that Pinto is now buried in the local graveyard.

The bulk of the episode takes place late in the night at the local saloon, as Connie talks to some of the local citizens. It's beautifully written (the script is by Montgomery Pittman, who also directed), with each person in the bar given a definable personality and the conversation highlighting questions about how much effort Connie was putting into finding Pinto and--eventually--whether he would have the courage to visit Pinto's grave at midnight.

Marvin is backed up by wonderful characters actors here--Strother Martin, Lee Van Cleef and James Best. (Martin and Van Cleef, by the way, would play along side Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, released about six months after this episode aired.) Elen Willard, who popped up quite often in various TV shows in the 1960s, gives a very effective performance as Pinto's sister.

The entire episode drips with exactly the right atmosphere to make the story work. Connie eventually decides to visit Pinto's grave at midnight, despite the fact that everyone else literally bets against him. Despite his growing terror, he does arrive at the grave. Then comes the ending, which probably (but not definitely) involves a supernatural occurance.

"The Grave" is an example of an intelligent and effective script being brought to life by superb actors. It is one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, edging out "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" as my favorite among the Western-themed episodes we're examing here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Mercenary at the Circus

Dominic Fortune was a kind of do-over as a character. Artist/Writer Howard Chaykin had created a character called the Scorpion for Atlas Comics in 1975, but that publisher folded and the Scorpion was only around for three issues.

So Chaykin revamped the character as Dominic Fortune--swashbuckling mercenary-- and brought him to Marvel Comics that same year. He never really made a big splash, but the 1930s setting for his stories made an impression on my old-school sensibilities.

Like the Scorpion, though, Dominic might defeat villians on a regular basis, but he's constantly being beaten down by cancelled comic books. Len Wein plotted a Dominic Fortune story set in 1938, with Chaykin doing the layouts, only to see the book in which the story would appear (Marvel Super-Action) cancelled. But you can't keep a swashbuckling mercenary down. David Micheline finished the script and--with Terry Austin doing the finished art--this story eventually appeared in Marvel Premiere #56 (October 1980).

It's a story I like because of its setting and using a pre-Howing Commando Dum Dum Dugan in a supporting role. This is one of those cases where my enjoyment of the story is largely a personal thing, though. Perhaps has a result of the story being passed from one creative team to another partway through the process of creating it, the art work sometimes lacks a kinetic sensibility and the story comes across as a bit contrived in places. This is especially true at the climax, when Dominic jumps from one airplane to another in order to fight the bad guy--despite the fact that the bad guy's plane was obviously about to crash anyways. It was as if Dominic was thinking "Well, we need a big action finish to the story, so I guess I gotta do this!" It makes no story sense, though to be fair, it's the sort of think Dominic probably would do just for the heck of it.

So if you find a copy of this (I recently re-acquired it as a digital comic), be warned that you might find it flawed. But if you really enjoy 1938 as a good year for adventure stories, then--like me--you may find yourself forgiving of its flaws and able to enjoy it on its own merits.

As the story opens, Dum Dum is beating up a bunch of thugs on a gambling ship. Dominic has been living on the ship for the past few months and had been a little slow to pay his rent, so Sabbath Raven, the ship's owner, forgives his debt if he'll break up the fight.

It turns out that the thugs had jumped Dum Dum because he's refusing to sell his circus to their boss, a sleezy crook named Spencer Keene. Dum Dum, though, just lost the circus to Sabbath, who initially has no problem with selling out to Keene.

But Keene proves to be a sexist jerk, so Sabbath quickly changes her mind. She doesn't want to own a circus, though, so Dum Dum starts looking for ways to scrouge up enough money to buy it back from her.

It turns out, though, that Keene didn't want the whole circus. Buying it was just the most convenient way to get access to a sideshow mentalist, who actually does have telekinetic powers. Keene needs him to use his powers to open a safe that is otherwise rigged to explode if anyone touches the lock.

A circus employee is bribed to release a lion and cause a distraction while the mentalist is snatched. But Keene's hired thugs aren't terribly good at their jobs. They grab the mentalist's lovely assistant by mistake.

Except that the lovely assistant is the one with actual powers.

All of these plot twists have the making a fine pulp-era story. But it all continues to unfold in a rushed fashion that seems contrived. Once again, I'm going to blame this on the fact that a second creative team had to step in to finish things up. Everyone involved is extremely talented and responsible for countless exciting comic book stories, so I would bet that outside factors (the switch or perhaps a rushed deadline) account for the story's weaknesses.

Anyway, the good guys track down the bad guys, which leads to Dominic making his completely unnecessary mid-air jump. Keene is captured, Dum Dum racks up enough money to buy the circus and everyone not going to prison is happy.

I've been whining about the story's shortcomings, bu the setting and the characters still sell it for me. I recognize the flaws, but by golly I still had fun reading it.

Next week, we'll visit the planet Mongo.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

American Portraits: "There Stands Jackson" 7/31/51

The Civil War on Old-Time Radio (Part 4 of 17)

Confederate general Thomas Jackson earns his nickname "Stonewall" at the 1st Battle of Bull Run and was accidentally killed by his own troops at Chancellorsville.

Click HERE to listen or download.

This is the fourth of 17 episodes from various series that will take us through the Civil War and its immediate post-war legacy. I'll be posting another Civil War episode every three or four weeks.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fight, Scrub, Fight!

Read/Watch 'em In Order #94

I haven't read a lot of the sports pulps. Perhaps its because I'm primarily a baseball fan and am largely uninterested in other sports. But if you take a unusually uninteresting sport and go Old School with it, then there's no reason I can't get interested.

So I'm going to be reading through the stories in the February 1949 issue of  New Sports Magazine, which--in addition to a baseball yarn--includes stories about football, boxing, track, basketball, and... golf? Gee whiz, if a pulp magazine can make golf interesting, it will be a reaffirmation that the pulps were the greatest source of entertaining fiction in the history of mankind.

The first story we come to is "Fight, Scrub, Fight," by John D. Macdonald. MacDonald, who would eventually hit the big time with his hard-boiled Travis McGee novels, came up out of the pulps and had that admireable talent of being able to churn out a good story in a variety of genres.

Here he tells us about Tony Sterga, a college football coash with a very methodical and effective coashing style. An important game is coming up and tradition seems to demand that he field his two weakest players (Mercer and White) because the fathers of those players had won big games years earlier.

But Tony won't do it. He doesn't have a deep bench, so he realizes he might have to play them. But barring injuries to his better players, Mercer and White will be warming the bench throughout the game.

When Mercer's father asks to meet with him, Tony expects direct pressure to play the son. But the dad knows his son isn't an athelete and should be concentrating on his studies. The older man asks Tony not to play his son.

But though Tony would rather not play Mercer, he won't make any promises. He'll do what he needs to do to win the game.

The game itself takes up the bulk of the story and MacDonald's skills as a storyteller really shine here. The prose is sharp, clear and engaging, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you follow along. Naturally, a couple of injuries forces Tony to put Mercer and White in the game.

This is predictable, as is the ending. But MacDonald manages to add a few fun twists to the outcome nonetheless.

Tony, by the way, as a wife who loves him but does wish he'd be a little less rigid. Her introduction into the story is a great example of how effective a writer was MacDonald:

Loren, her eyes still misted with sleep, smiled at him, lifted her lips to be kissed. She was Irish and her dark hair was black as a raven's wing, her blue eyes warm and tender and gently mocking.

Two brief sentences and we have all the information we need to understand her. We know that Tony has hit the Wife Jackpot and that Loren will be a counter-balance to Tony's rigidity. That is great writing.

This issue of New Sports Magazine can be found HERE.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Giant Alien Robot Caretakers of a Dinosaur Zoo!!

Why isn't this a real thing? Giant Robots are a perfect idea for running a dinosaur zoo! Yes, it seems to have gone awry in Brave and the Bold #39 (December 1961/January 1962), but no system is perfect. I've wanted to go to Jurassic Park for years, but the heck with that now. I want to go to a dinosaur zoo run by giant robots. I want to go NOW!

This story was written by Bob Kanigher and drawn by Ross Andru. Put Kanigher and Andru together on a story involving dinosaurs and it is an inviolable Law of the Universe that it will be entertaining.

"Prisoners of the Dinosaur Zoo" features the original Suicide Squad--Rick Flagg and three other agents recruited by the government to accomplish incredibly dangerous missions. I don't think the squad began using criminals until its modern incarnation began in the 1980s.

Though the Suicide Squad normally gets assisgned to missions, this time  they fall into an adventure accidentally. When their plane is struck by lightning, they are forced to land in a remote area. Here they find the body of giant robot lying next to the skeleton of a dinosaur.

The exploration of a nearby cavern and the discovery of an underground lake add to the mystery when the squad is swallowed by a giant dinosaur.

Inside the dinosaur, though, they don't find an intestinal track. Instead, they find a jungle infested with dinosaurs. A series of encounters with a succession of monsters follow, with the squad using their secret weapons--such as a gun that fires a variety of ammunition--to say alive.

Finally, they run across a giant porthole and realize the dinosaur that swallowed them is actually a huge dinosaur-shaped ship. When they see a T-Rex manhandling a giant robot, Doc (the smart one on the team) immediately deduces that they are on an alien ship that landed millions of years ago with the intention of collecting dinosaurs for a zoo. But the ship failed to blast off again and eventually the dinosaurs got the upper hand on the robots.  It actually seems to be a bit of  a stretch that Doc can get all this from seeing one dinosaur destroying one robot, but he does turn out to be right. So there you go.

The ending of the story is a bit awkward. After the squad escapes from the ship, it finally blasts off with no explanation for how it suddenly became active again after eons floating in an underground lake.
But that's beside the point. The point is with that ship gone, there isn't a single place on Earth where you can visit a dinosaur zoo run by giant alien robots. NOT A SINGLE ONE. This is inexcusable and someone really needs to do something about it.

I'm waiting!

Next week, a swashbuckling mercenary teams up with a circus strongman.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

Gunsmoke: "Solomon River" 4/17/60

While escorting a prisoner into Dodge City, Dillon and Chester meet a half-starved, half-crazy woman... who's desperately trying to dig a grave in rock-hard soil.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Scar

Here's a 1948 Film Noir that couldn't decide on a name--it was produced by Eagle-Lion Films, which was a British company that made films intended to be released in the U.S. The working title during production was The Man Who Murdered Himself, the British title (and the novel its based on) was Hollow Triumph and the U.S. title was The Scar.

Well, whatever the title, it's a good Noir film. It was produced by its stat, Paul Henreid, because Henreid wanted to play a bad guy.

And the guy he plays is definitely bad. John Muller is a med-school drop out who had been studying to be a psychiatrist. But somewhere along the way he went bad. Released from prison after serving time for one crime, he immediately starts planning another. And this will be the big one. He and three other guys will rob a casino run by a notorious gangster. This is dangerous--if they pull it off but the gangster learns who they are, they're as good as dead.

But Muller has a plan that will get them in and out with 200 grand in cash without anyone seeing them. Nothing ever goes as planned in a Noir film, though. Soon, Muller's buddies are all dead and he's on the run with a price on his head.

This is where his luck seems to change. He learns about a psychiatrist who looks just like him. Except for a scar on the doctor's face, the two could be twins.

So now Muller has a new plan. He'll have to cut a scar in his own cheek, but then its just a matter of learning as much as he can about the doctor, killing the doctor and taking his place. He knows enough about psycho-analysis to get by. Nothing can possibly go wrong. He even snaps a photo of the doctor to act as a guide when he cuts his own cheek.

He really should have made sure the negative wasn't reversed before the print was made. That way, he wouldn't have scarred the wrong cheek on his own face.

Muller doesn't notice this mistake until he's getting ready to dump the doctor's body. By then, there's nothing he can do but try to brazen it out and depend on how unobservant most people are.  But even if he gets away with that, there are other things about the doctor's life that might come back to haunt Muller.

The Scar (or whatever you want to call it) is a good Film Noir. Henreid does a fine job in bringing the clever, sometimes charming and always sociopathic John Muller to life. Joan Bennett, as the doctor's secretary who falls for Muller before the identity switch is made, also gives a strong performance.  The plot is a tad bit unlikely, of course, and there are moments when the story seems contrived. But overall its not a bad way to spend an hour-and-a-half of your time.

The film is in the public domain, so here it is from YouTube. If you have Amazon Prime, a pretty good print is available there.

Look for an absurdly young Jack Webb in a small role as a hitman.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Looking for Immortality--The Count Nefaria Trilogy, Part 3

cover art by George Perez

Avengers #166 (December 1977) brings this entertaining three-parter to a very satisfying end.  Jim Shooter's script remains strong and John Byrne gives us a truly epic fight scene.

To recap: Count Nefaria has used super-science to give him Superman-level superpowers. But now he's in a dizzy about being mortal and one day dying, despite being perhaps the most powerful person on the planet. He's curb-stomped the Avengers, demanding to have Thor brought to him. We discover that he's working on the erroneous assumption that Thor's hammer will make him immortal.

Thor shows up on the last page of the previous issue and starts whaling away on Nefaria. The Count, still new to having powers, comes near to panicking at first, but soon discovers he can go toe-to-toe with the God of Thunder.

In the meantime, Yellowjacket (who seemed to have run from the battle in the last issue) is busy trying to revive Vision (injured in a previous story arc). He succeeds and the android immediately joins in the fun. Unfortunately, Nefaria is "too charged with super-energy" for Vision's usual trick of jamming an incorporeal hand into an enemy's chest to work. Gee whiz, Viz, anyone versed in the basics of Comic Book Science could have told you that!

Most of the other Avengers revive and rejoin the tussele. With so much raw power being thrown at him, Nefaria is staggered. But he's still not going down.

The whole battle truly is epic. Byrne's art sometimes seems to jump off the page as characters drop buildings on one another and throw ultra-powerful haymakers.

But the tone of the battle changes abruptly. Nefaria thought he had killed the scientists who gave him his powers (never work for a super-villain--they have terrible benefit packages), but one of them lives long enough to show up and tell Nefaria that these powers are aging him rapidly and he'll be dead in two days.

This sends Nefaria into full blown panic mode. He finally goes down, though, when Vision simply turns his body diamond-hard and FALLS on the villain from a tremendous height.

The last few panels seem slighty deus ex machina as it turns out the scientist lived just long enough to tell Hank Pym how to take away Nefaria's powers before the villain wakes up. But there's also a neat twist. The scientist was lying about Nefaria being doomed. In fact, his new powers would have made him immortal. It's the perfect way to end the story.

Characterizations for the individual Avengers continue to be spot-on and Shooter's script adds nice character touches to the villains as well. I like, for instance, that Nefaria is close to panic at the beginning of his fight with Thor. It makes sense--he's only had super-powers for a few hours at the most and now a literal god is slugging him with a super-powered hammer. Anyone would need a few minutes to get used to that.

Next week--giant robot caretakers of a dinosaur zoo. Why this isn't a real thing is beyond me.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Cover Cavalcade

The novelization of the original King Kong was actually released before the film, so its technically Kong's first appearance.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

Archie Andrews: "Big Ball Game" 5/20/51

Mr. Andrews just wants to spend a quiet afternoon listening to the Dodgers game on the radio. That doesn't sound like a difficult task, so what can possibly go wrong?

Aside from being a very funny episode, I appreciate that the snippets of the game we hear on the radio use the names of real-life Cardinals and Dodgers players from 1951.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How The Solar System Dies

Jack Williamson's story "Born of the Sun" (Astounding Stories, March 1934) takes a bizarre premise and plays it completely straight, giving us a gripping story about the death of our Solar System.

That's not a spoiler, by the way. Once an inventor and industrialist named Foster Ross learns that the planets and large moons in our System are actually eggs about to hatch, there's no effort to stop this. In fact, there is no possible way to stop it. The only thing he can do is race to perfect a new motor he's been tinkering with, then use to to build a space ark and save a remnant of the human race.

But this plan isn't a guarentee. Aside from the fact that he might not get the new motor to work right in the limited time left before the Earth splits open and releases a Cthulhuian monster, there's also an anicent cult that believes humanity should die completely along with the Earth. So when earthquakes and flood begin to destroy civilization, Foster's factory is under siege by cultists (armed with ray guns that turn a person's blood into poison) and a panicking populace.

The action in this one really gets intense, with Foster and his engineers desperately trying to get the ship ready to launch while the mob is storming aboard after blowing open an airlock.

"Born of the Sun" is a wonderful combination of Space Opera and Horror. Williamson was a prolific writer who was nearly always good and quite often great. When he was really on his game as a writer, he could turn out some really intense prose.  Here's the scene in which the protagonists watch the Moon break apart and hatch a monster:

They saw the familiar seas and ring craters of the lunar topography dissolve in a network of cracks, black and shining green. They saw the face of the Moon, for the first time in human memory, misty with clouds of its own.

They saw a thing come out of the riven planet--an unthinkable head appeared--

It broke through, in the region of the great crater Tycho. It was monstrously weird. colossal, triangular, a beak came first, green and shining. Behind it were two ovoid, enormous patches, like eyes, glowing with lambent purple. Between and above them was en enigmatic organ, arched, crested; it was an unearthly spray of crimson flame.

Incredible wings--reaching out--stretching--

They pushed through the shattered, crumbling shell, which already had lost all likeness to the Moon of old. Wings, alone, could human beings term them. Yet, Foster thought, they were more than anything else like the eldritch, gorgeous streamers of the Sun's corona, which is seen only at the moment of total eclipse, spreading from the black disk like two wings of supernal light. They were sheets of green flame. They shimmered with slow waves of light, that faded indistinctly at the edges, like the uncanny fans of the aurora. They were finely veined with bright silver. 

A body, both horrible and beautiful--

So that's how the Moon--and soon after, the Earth--dies. It's going to be pretty scary, but at least it will look awesome.

You can find this issue of Astounding Stories online HERE.
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