Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Dinosaurs Fly Through a Hole in the Sky

When I was a boy in the early 1960s, my heart belonged to the superheroes. But my favorite title outside that genre was probably editor Julius Schwartz’s Strange Adventures, then its heyday at DC.
The menaces were outsized and outré, but the attitude was a sunlit can-do American optimism, brotherhood of man stuff. The clean lines and lyrical stylization of the art by Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Sid Greene and Murphy Anderson reinforced that unshadowed atmosphere. Even a post-nuclear war dystopia like the Atomic Knights series seemed to have its cheery aspects, such as friendly giant riding Dalmatians. And for a small child, that was reassuring.
The title really hit its stride from about 1957 through 1963. Perhaps coincidentally, its optimism seemed to end at about the same time America’s did — on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.
My favorite issue, No. 121, had arrived on the newsstand earlier, cover-dated October 1960. The stories by Gardner Fox — The Wand That Could Work Miracles, a “Space Museum” tale called The Billion-Year Old Spaceship and Invasion of the Flying Reptiles — all offered science fictional wish fulfillment.
A hole opens in time and releases invulnerable pteranodans from a hundred million years ago over Washington, DC. Yikes. But luckily, a plucky husband-and-wife team of scuba-diving scientists, Jim and Rhoda Trent, have found a plesiosaur frozen in ice (Schwartz’s titles were always resolutely feminist, their female characters smart, stylish, cool-headed and brave). Befriending the revived dinosaur, whom they nickname Ol’ Pleasure, the Trents — by offering themselves as bait on water skis — are able to use the plesiosaur to defeat the pteranondans. My favorite part was the last panel, with the Trents happily tossing fish to their plesiosaur pal at a seaquarium.
The story was probably popular, because the Trents returned to help giant undersea frog people in Strange Adventures 130. And the cover idea — flying dinosaurs coming through a hole in a sky — was recycled for Green Lantern 30, cover-dated July 1964. 

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