Friday, October 31, 2014

Cranky Comic Books: Casper Space Ship #1

Hi kids! I didn't have a chance to blog last week, so this time around you get a special, longer edition. The better to cover this monstrosity:

Casper Space Ship #1, August 1972

(this copy is in really bad, water-logged condition, I've done my best to clean up the scans, but there may still be some wonkiness.)

In 1972, at the tail-end of the moon program, NASA decided to name the Apollo 16 Command Service Module "Casper." Harvey comics, of course, released an unofficial comic book to tie in with whatever public interest would be aroused by the event. As far as I can tell, there wasn't any, even with the release of a pop single by the, um, Comix.

If you really must listen to such a thing...

The book starts off with a short story "explaining" how NASA came to want Casper as a mission mascot.

Yes, some of his monster friends have stolen an amusement park ride and are buzzing the countryside. Needless to say, this puts the military at DEFCON 1. But it's all right because Casper flies over and tells the sweat bead bedecked generals that it's all right.

And so NASA decides to put a picture of Casper on the Apollo mission, just in case any near-by space aliens get frightened. Yeah, Harvey comics never make any sense. Check out this panel from the following Spooky one-pager:

That's the punch line kids, SPOOKY IS WEARING TWO HATS! Due to their pursuit of bland, family-friendly entertainment, Harvey publications may have been inadvertent pioneers in the realm of avante-garde non-sequitur comics.

Anyway, back to another short story. It seems that The Ghostly Trio and Spooky are jealous and decide to ride on the spacecraft to the moon. Casper out-flies them and ends up going by himself.

Be warned, that will not be the last time in this comic that Casper giggles. Oh, it's text story time!

All comic books, if they wanted to be delivered by mail via the periodical rate, needed to have two pages of text to qualify. In this issue, Casper and Wendy are stuck indoors on a rainy day, so he makes up some nonsense about Hercules and Gnomes.  In an earlier one-page strip, Wendy is portrayed as a ditz who has to be informed by Casper that the Earth rotates around the Sun. This is not a healthy relationship.

When we get back to the main story, it's revealed that the LEM has come to life because "STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN WHEN THERE'S A FULL  MOON!" And there follows a nightmarish sequence where he chases Casper around the barren moonscape.

The story is set aside for a bit to present some two-page stories. Again, they don't really have a punchline, unless the punchline in Harvey comics is meant to be the characters themselves. You know, Little Dot likes dots, Little Lotta likes to eat and Nightmare the ghost horse has no self-esteem. Funny!

Meanwhile, Casper discovers that there is less gravity on the moon. and giggles. again. He also discovers that the moon rover is also alive, but is much less scary. This might have to do with the fact that NASA seems to have based their design for moon transportation on the Fisher-Price telephone.

Anyway, Casper just makes friends with everybody, because that's the solution to all our problems involving psychotic technology.

There follows a few really bad stories about Spooky and Wendy that aren't worth going into here. The very last short, though, stands out due to some unusual layout and coloring desgins by the anonymous Harvey artists.

Tee Hee! Wendy's aunts have sprinkled her with a magic dust that causes her to fly to the moon. They are tired of her "mooning" over Casper. And I can't blame them.

Yeah, comics for girls, everyone! Oh, all right, for teens, also.

Groovy baby! Happy Halloween!

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