While I certainly enjoy books like Watchmen, Louis Riel and Persepolis, every now and then my brain craves something goofy and fun. That’s why the Four Color gods created the UFO comics genre. Sure, there have been plenty of comics involving aliens and flying saucers, but this genre takes a non-fiction, procedural approach to stories of actual sightings and encounters. These obviously pop up to capitalize on various UFO crazes, but the genre never really caught on. It’s too bad, because in the pre-internet days, these must have served as key resources for UFO-obsessed children.
Although one issue of EC’s Weird Science Fantasy had an issue featuring Flying Saucer reports, the UFO comic genre didn’t really get rolling until Flying Saucers #1 from Dell in 1967. This series only lasted 5 issues (the final being a reprint of #1), so it’s not at all tough to collect and decent copies can be found for just a couple of dollars. I completed a run for well under $20 – how often can you claim that? So, what can you expect from these books? Mostly, you are treated to short tales (from 1 to 8 pages) of ‘real’ UFO encounters. They are told in a simple, straightforward manner and in a way, this almost makes them seem more authentic. Subtle, but effective and inventive artwork by the likes of Frank Springer and Chic Stone really help the quality of the books.
Gold Key produced a much longer, running series, UFO and Flying Saucers (which later became UFO & Outer Space for nor apparent reason). This series kicked off with a Giant 25 cent issue in 1968. Right off the bat, you’ll notice a very different vibe from the Dell series. This issue features very compact ‘reports’, ranging from 1-3 pages. This rapid fire approach may be a bit off-putting at first, but you will get used to it. This first issue features some artwork by EC legend George Evans, too. This book came out very sporadically (only 13 issues in 10 years), but change to a more regular schedule with the title tweak. There must have been a real surge in UFO mania, as 12 issues of UFO & Outer Space were published in less than two years. Some of these were reprints, but some new material was in there as well. In addition, expanded stories were much more common and features like the Hoaxmaster added to the fun. Artwork by reliable Gold Key artist like Al McWilliams, Frank Bolle and Jack Sparling meshed very nicely with the stories.
If you’ve never read any of these, and are itching to try something new, I recommended tracking down a few UFO books. You’ve got to be prepared to take a different approach to your comic book experience – but if you have an open mind, you can enjoy a trip back in time for some innocent fun. These are getting tougher to find, but there are still bargains to be found. Happy hunting!