Pluto’s New Horizons’ Unexpected Result ….

Better Television!

pluto 3

                Like most nerdy types I have been glued to the internet looking at all the wonderful images of Pluto from New Horizon’s fly-by. As with the Mars probes and other past astronomical news, this makes for a time when everyone seems interested in science and astronomy again and the networks are filled with news and programs about it.

                Factoid: New Horizons was the fastest thing ever launched from earth – 36,000 miles per hour. It could go from LA to New York in five minutes. It was past the moon’s orbit in nine hours. After gaining speed by skirting Jupiter’s gravity it is now going approximately 50,000 miles per hour.

                The images and data will help us find out more about the origins of our solar system and the layout of the outer and unknown part of our cosmic neighborhood.

                Factoid: Pluto has four more moons!

                I have always been fascinated by our ninth planet (yes I said planet, dammit!) every since I was a kid first getting into astronomy. How could I not be? Every text – every one them – said only that we don’t know much about that mysterious body floating out past Neptune

                Factoid: From 1979 to 1999 Neptune was further from the sun than Pluto because of Pluto’s elliptical orbit, … 

                Of course as an HP Lovecraft fan I have another obvious reason for loving Pluto! In his story “The Whisperer in Darkness” we learn of the planet Yuggoth (“… a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system …”). As he wrote the story, but before it was published, Pluto was discovered in 1930.  He hinted that may have been the Yuggoth he was writing about. Was he, in fact, writing or channeling the thoughts of the alien mi-go?

                Factoid: He was writing of course, don’t be silly. But it is fun to imagine, isn’t it?

                One benefit from all this was unexpected: better television. Not good television, but certainly better. The so-called science channels are filled with semi-documentaries and news reports of New Horizons’ mission. I have been Tivoing and watching as many of them as I can!

                The trouble is, over the past decade or so, most channels purporting to be scientific or educational has wallowed in infotainment and scripted narcissism just like their other commercial brethren.

                I don’t know if TV producers are capable of making GOOD documentary programs anymore.

                A good example is a program about New Horizons and Pluto I saw on the Science Channel (it used to be called Discovery Science) called “Direct from Pluto: the First Encounter”.

                Throughout the show it had a reporter at mission central interviewing scientists and anyone who wanted to be on camera as if he was in the locker room after the Super Bowl (which I believe is some sort of sports event).

                And the interviews with the scientists were not that much better. Supposedly educated scientists talking in sound bites or, to paraphrase Lilith from the TV show Frazier, doling out worthless little bits of astrophysics from their scientific Pez dispensers. “If Pluto were a person, he would have an inferiority complex.” And you claim to work at Harvard…

                Add the unnecessary theatricality and it almost turned this show into a spoof. The graphic of New Horizon approaching Pluto was accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack, as if it were the opening scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie. We’re excited enough, we don’t need goading.

                Compare that to, say, the quiet majesty of the original Cosmos. I know, comparing a TV science documentary to the original Cosmos is like comparing an American Idol contestant to Mozart, but shame on them for not at least trying to aspire… 

                Cosmos had music, true – award-winning music by Vangelis. I used to play the soundtrack in my radio days when I hosted “A New Age” on a local NPR station.

                And that music affected us emotionally as well.  But with a difference – the music accompanied us, it didn’t lead us. It reflected the beauty and majesty of the visuals and the spoken word. There was no need to generate drama and tension.

                We’ll watch the show, don’t worry about it.

pluto 1

                I want to know about New Horizon’s mission; I want to know about Pluto. But I don’t want it in nibbly sound bites. I don’t want to read your cute quip (always said with a smirk) on the bull’s-eye page of Entertainment Weekly.

                Treat us like adults; we’ll start acting like adults.

                I watched PBS’ Nova special “Chasing Pluto”. I always have high hopes when something is on good old boring PBS… It didn’t disappoint. Lots of set up and history of the New Horizons and observing Pluto over the past ten years. It had background music, true, but it was not intrusive. It discussed the discovery of Pluto’s atmosphere. The interviews with scientists were only a little longer than “Direct from Pluto” but it was hardly the Short Attention Span Theater of the latter. Better; it’s no “Neptune’s Cold Fury”, but it wasn’t bad…

                But within a week this Pluto stuff will all be forgotten and we’ll be back to programs such as “Looking for Leprechauns” and “My Large Areola”. Although I must admit for having a weakness for Stitchen-esque shows about aliens who came to earth thousands of years ago.  But even then after two or three shows like that you get the point and want to move on…

                And they wonder why people are leaving cable in droves, including me. I’m seriously looking at online streaming networks such as Curiosity Stream. Anyone have it? Is it any good? It is run by the former owner of the Discovery Channel, from which belched “Direct from Pluto: the First Encounter”. I hope the word “former” is significant.

***

                One thing that has NOT resulted from all this is the resurgence in interest of the beautiful Moody Blues song “New Horizons”. But … baby steps … television first, eh?

               And just so you don’t think I’m getting too serious here…

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Original Material Copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Photographs Copyright their respective holders and used here under the Fair Use Act

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DC Comics Right in your Mailbox!!

DC COMICS RIGHT IN YOUR MAILBOX!!

Over the July 4th weekend I binge-read DC’s “Ghosts” (don’t judge). I came across the house ads asking readers to subscribe to their favorite issues.
I noticed something.
I had seen it before in my comics from the early 1970s, but since I had a stack of comics ranging over a seven year period, I decided to compare the ads.
Each comic had a number. Action Comics, for example, was #1. And it stayed at #1 through the decade. Say that in a Casey Kasem voice…
Where did the numbers come from? Apparently it was divided into genres and listed alphabetically; except for Forever People and Flash. Perhaps Forever People was just slid into the line-up replacing a comic that started with a D, E or F.
Superman’s titles were first. Those were the single-digit comics.
DC’s other stable of stars made up the tens, starting with Batman (hard as it is to believe in this day and age, Superman outsold Batman for many decades – vastly outsold Batman, in fact…).
Horror titles made up the 30s and love stories were the 40s (how the Shadow snuck into that number scheme …).
War titles were in the 60s and adventure or other the 70s.
Whither the 50s? Was it their comedy or teen line? Titles that they stopped publishing in the 70s like Jerry Lewis, Scooter, Binky and Debbi?

It interested me in my own OCD way. What were the numbers of other comics and why weren’t they listed? Were comics that only lasted two issues (like Man-Bat) given a subscription number at all? Anyone know?

I left some blanks on my numberings to keep Word’s Auto-numbering from making me do more work. I’m lazy that way…
Most of this information is from the ads taken from my “Ghosts binge”. If I took ads from a Google search, I will so note.

February 1972 (Google search):

ad 1972

Comics that were mailed as a subscription from the Silver and Bronze Age are easy to spot in the secondary markets – they were folded in half long-wise before mailing. Collectors still cringe at the idea…

Note these are gathered into sections by genre. The Superman titles are gathered into their own section.

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest

10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13. The Forever People
14. Flash
15. Green Lantern
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle
18. The New Gods
19. Teen Titans
20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

40. Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
41. Sinister House of Secret Love
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Heart Throbs
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. All Star Western

75. Tarzan
76. Korak

July 1973: The cancellation of Kirby’s Fourth World books accounted for some of the holes. There were also some title changes, but the list is essentially the same. What a selection!
Notice Shazam and Wanted were given single digits to fill in the gaps. However, this was accompanied by an ad for Prez, and Prez himself is making the offer in the ad. Prez the comic book is not available as a subscription.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8. Wanted
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle

20. Wonder Woman
21. Supergirl
22. Secret Origins

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. Demon
37. Swamp Thing

40. Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (a change in name but not number)
41. Secrets of Sinister House (ditto)
42. Weird Mystery Tales
43. The Shadow
44.
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Love Stories (a change in title lasted for six more issues)
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. Weird Western Tales (Jonah Hex changed the format and title)

75. Tarzan
76. Korak
77. Weird Worlds
78. Kamandi
79. Sword of Sorcery
80. From Beyond the Unknown
81. Strange Adventures
March 1974: Note the ad says the 100-pagers are wrapped flat. It presumes the other ones are still folded.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action

2. Adventure
3. Superman Family
4. .
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. .
37. Swamp Thing

42. Weird Mystery Tales

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

75. Tarzan

78. Kamandi

Where was Weird Western Tales?

February 1976: the subscription ad only offered 16 comics, but the numbering is unchanged. And note the old-fashioned-even-at-the-time illustrations of the Caped Crusaders; I’ll bet they are over a decade old at this point.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
3. Superman Family
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14.
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33.
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

48. Young Love

61. Our Army at War

75. Tarzan

Why just these 16 comics? There were dozens more being published – the war comics from the 1973 and 1974 lists were still being published, as were Weird Western Tales and, at this time (early in the year) the six “Adventure Line” comics.

December 1978: Just after the massive DC Explosion guaranteed DC’s place of dominance in the comic book field (who’s giggling?) Note some of the new titles – Warlord, the excellent Men of War. Interestingly, Superfriends – with its notable inclusion of Superman – was given #8, replacing Wanted. Note also the lack of Detective Comics as a choice. At the time, it was facing the chopping block of cancellation!

(from a Google search)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
5. Superboy/Legion (note the addition of the Legion)
6. Superman
8. Superfriends
10. Batman
11. Brave and Bold
14. Flash
16. Justice League
18. Green Lantern (by now GL is back but given #18 instead of its old #15)
20. Wonder Woman
22. DC Comics Presents
30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
34. The Unexpected
35. The Witching Hour
44. Secrets of Haunted House
45. Jonah Hex
61. Sgt. Rock (renamed from “Our Army At War” but with the same number)
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Unknown Soldier (renamed from “Star Spangled War Stories”, same number)
64. Weird War Tales
66. Men of War
69. Warlord
70. Weird Western Tales (this title’s first appearance in a subscription ad in many years)

The Dollar Comics were listed separately …

2. Adventure Comics
3. Superman Family
7. World’s Finest
52. Batman Family
60. GI Combat

So … where are all the titles from the DC Explosion … ? What did they know that we didn’t? Well, at least what did we not know for another month or two?

I wonder who decided which comics went into the ads. Would it have helped a flailing title to include it? Or would it be too much trouble for the sales department to keep track of subscriptions to cancelled comics?

I found a subscription ad from the 1960s on Google. This was from 1966-1968, as Superhip debuted in 1965 and both Bob Hope and Fox & Crow were cancelled in 1968. Note some of the wonderful comics available – Metal Men, Blackhawk …

ad 1960s

And notice Showcase is no where to be found on any of the ads. Not a one. Why?

I searched a few comics from the 1980s and did not find many subscription ads except for things like this (these are Google-found ads, btw). Note these ads do NOT list comics available from DC, but focus only on one or two specific comics.

superman subscription detective subscription
So maybe subscription numbers was purely a Bronze Age thing …

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Artwork and Layout from the ads are copyright their respective holders and used here under the Fair Use Act as commentary and critique.