The Thing on Sputnik 4
I am a comic collector – and I just picked up one more for my collection about a week ago. The image here is a scan of the actual comic that I bought on eBay. Not mint condition by any means, but solid. (By the way, it is interesting how “wear” on comics is viewed by collectors. Of course, all things being equal, I prefer a Near Mint comic over a Good comic any day. But I don’t mind having a comic that shows a little honest wear and tear. This simply shows that it was read, probably more than once, and maybe shared with a friend or two. It’s what these things were meant for. That sort of “genuine” wear on many other collectibles is considered “patina” and is prized. But, I digress …) What drew me to this particular comic, and why I am writing about it here, is the text on the upper right area of the cover – a tag-line promoting a particular story in this comic: “SCOOP! … the thing on Sputnik 4.”
Now, as any Sputnikfest aficionado knows, Sputnik 4 is the one that ended up in Manitowoc in 1962. This comic is Issue 2 of the title “Race for the Moon” and is dated September 1958 – about a year after Sputnik 1 was launched by the Russians. At the time this story was published the Russians had launched Sputniks 2 and 3 (November 1957 and May 1958, respectively) but Sputnik 4 would not launch until March 1961 – two and a half years after this story hit the drug-store spinner rack. This would explain why the satellite in the story looks nothing like Sputnik 4.
Here is a link to Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine – a blog featuring images and stories from vintage comics. If you are interested, you can read the entire story here, which is only 5 pages long. The story itself is nothing spectacular, but the artwork is pure fifties vintage sci-fi cool. The author imagines a wheel-shaped space station manned by the U.S. military and in the course of the story, Sputnik 4 ends up on the space station. In the final panel of the story the narrator notes that they will, of course, return Sputnik 4 to orbit “in the interest of good foreign relations” and continue on with their mission of “making friends in a new and vaster realm” – which is a pretty positive message considering the Cold War environment in 1958.
By the way, we did have our first planning meeting for Sputnikfest 2013 this past week. I’ll share more specific details as things come together in the coming months, but rest assured that the Sputnikfest wheels are rolling! Planet Terry