1984: Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds (1982) #1-7, Three Dimensional Alien Worlds (1984) #1, Alien Worlds (1984) #8-9, Alien Worlds (1988) #1 by Bruce Jones et al.

The Pacific to Eclipse migration continues with Alien Worlds, edited by Bruce Jones and April Campbell, and mostly all written by Bruce Jones.

So this science fiction anthology started at Pacific Comics in 1982, but was picked up by Eclipse Comics in 1984 when Pacific Comics went bankrupt.

I wasn’t sure how to approach re-reading these comics: Just start with the Eclipse issues, or go back to #1 at Pacific comics? I’ll just play it by ear, but for this one I went all the way back, because I remember these books being rather fun.

Jones explains the advantage of doing an anthology instead of a continuing series: You’re free to do whatever you want (like killing off the lead character) without worrying too much about repercussions.

And he does, but he’s more fond of bumping off the protagonist’s wife, as in this Al Williamson-illustrated story.

These are EC-inflected stories, so they’re somewhat overwritten, they usually have a twist ending, and they have beautiful artwork.


And hyperviolence, of course. (Nestor Redondo.)

(Art by Tim Conrad.) But, by Emacs, how Jones loves exposition and captions. Sometimes it successfully sets the tone (and mood is paramount in many of these stories), but sometimes it’s just… There.

The artists are a mixture of old hands, 70s super-stars and up-and-coming artists. We have the latter here, with Dave Stevens. In the introduction, Jones said that this piece was Moebius-inspired, and I didn’t see it at all.

Until I came to this panel. That’s indeed a very Moebius guy, down to the clothes, even.

Ken Steacy is probably the one who contributes the most pages to this anthology, and he uses different approaches to the artwork on each piece.

Bruce Jones is an artist, too, but only draws one of the stories, unfortunately.

The letters pages mention EC Comics. Not particularly surprising.

The stories are a bit hit and miss, but reading this little stack of comics, I was taken by how varied the tone and approach was between the stories. Sure, some of the O Henry stories can get a bit groan-worthy, but sometimes he comes up with original, elegiac stories that you don’t quite see coming.

He sometimes is a bit, er, inspired by Ray Bradbury, like in this Ken Steacy-drawn piece which lifts its premise from There Will Come Soft Rains. But they do it in a lovely, effective way. *sniff*

And then there’s the funny ones.

Some of these stories make me wonder whether they’ve been repurposed from somewhere else, like this beautifully drawn (by Jeff Jones) very brief (and rather nasty) story.

Which brings me to another theme here: Violence (often sexual) towards women.

It’s not as rapey as, say, Heavy Metal can be. But:

So amusing. (Art by Al Williamson.)

A letter writer asks “er, what?” about the Williamson piece, and Jones explains that it was originally intended for an early 50s comic? He says that the artwork wasn’t reworked: Only the script. The credits say “Script: Bruce Jones”. So… He slapped new text into the speech balloons? Without that dialogue, it wouldn’t be as rapey, so…

Some choices are rather bizarre, as the every-other-sideways printing of this Roy Krenkel-drawn story. And I wonder again whether it’s an old piece that Jones has “re-scripted”. And: Oy vey.

Finally the most bizarre rapey story here (drawn by John Brunner and Mike Mignola): We first spend an inordinate amount of pages demonstrating how kick-ass this woman is, and the climax is where she almost emasculates her opponent.

Only to then be transformed into a tentacle beast to be raped by another tentacle beast.

*scratches head*

Your guess is as good as mine.

But back to more fun stuff. In the later issues lets some other writers join the fun, like William F. Nolan writing for Richard Corben in this beautifully drawn and horrifying little tale.

Then there’s the 3D issue. Yes, that blood sputters almost into your face.

But the 3D process here isn’t very advanced. It bears all the hallmarks of being “retrofit 3D”: The artists have drawn their pages in the normal fashion, but have drawn the requisite amount of things that can be made to poke out. But they aren’t drawn on separate layers, so while you get the 3D effect, you don’t get the parallax effect.

But it’s still fun.

Finally we’ve reached the subject of this blog: Eclipse Comics. The first Eclipse issue is #8, and we get some new artists, like Paul Rivoche, who does an appropriately paranoid private dick thing.

Jones tailors his tales very well to the artists who are drawing the stories. Al Williamson gets space ships, Rivoche gets trenchcoats, and…

… and Rand Holmes get transsexuals. (Although Jan Strnad wrote this one.)

But Jones writes very few of the stories in the last two issues. I think there’s one in either issue? So you get a drop in cohesion, while some of the stories are still pretty good. And I love that colouring job by Tom Luth.

And then Eclipse cancelled Alien Worlds and started a new anthology called Alien Encounters which also features Bruce Jones as a writer. Confused? Jones owns the trademark to “Alien Worlds”, and perhaps that wasn’t OK with Eclipse? I’m just guessing.

But three years later, Eclipse announced a new Alien Worlds series, this time in “prestige” squareback format. And Jones writes all the stories again. It’s not a very compelling collection, but it’s varied as usual. Ralph Reese gets something funny.

That’s the punchline.

And Bob Fingerman gets frogs that talk a lot.

No further issues were announced.

Bruce Jones has had an extensive career after these comics, which have never been collected. Which is understandable, but there’s some really good stories in here, and tons of beautiful artwork.

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