Now, over sixty years after their original appearance, Bear Alley Books had gathered this action-packed series of pulp sf strips together for the first time. In a packed 200-page volume, all of Captain Future's comic strips are reprinted and, as a bonus back-up, we include three short stories by Tom Wade (a prolific writer for the infamous John Spencer quartet of sf magazines under multiple pseudonyms) featuring the Space Patrol. The Buccaneers of Space are introduced in a revealing special feature about the history of the Spaceman comic, its lead characters and the creative force behind them: Norman Light.
My fascination with the science fiction of the Fifties began in around 1978, inspired by a school project that I was planning to do about sf magazines. Key to this project was Mike Ashley’s History of the Science Fiction Magazine and trips made to the Science Fiction Foundation, then a smallish room at Northeast London Polytechnic in Dagenham where I spent two very long days cribbing notes from Walter Gillings’ ‘The Impatient Dreamers’ and reading copies of Tales of Wonder, Fantasy and the early New Worlds—the first pulp magazines I had ever seen.If you like your spaceships to soar, your galaxies to collide and your BEMs to be bestial, this is the thrill-filled collection for you.
In this shelf-packed Wonderland, I also found copies of Futuristic Science Stories, Worlds of Fantasy, Tales of Tomorrow and Wonders of the Spaceways, four tawdry, paperback-sized compilations which laughingly called themselves science fiction magazines. They had been damningly described in Ashley’s third volume as part of an unwelcome phenomena that sprang up in the early Fifties: cheaply printed, low quality SF written by authors with no background in the field...
It was during my trip to Dagenham that I first caught sight of these lurid magazines and their gaudy companions, novels by Vargo Statten, Volsted Gridban, Vektis Brack, Bengo Mistral and a dozen other guttural-sounding science fictional pseudonyms. I had heard that the Vargo Statten novels were not so bad and, being a member of the British Science Fiction Association, I was able to borrow titles from the Foundation’s library.
Despite the warning of librarian Malcolm Edwards that “They’ll rot your brain,” I rather enjoyed the lively, no-nonsense pulp action of Vargo Statten and began reading others of that ilk, only to find that most of these cheap publishers had no quality threshold at all. But I was drawn to them by their vibrant, colourful covers, and amongst the stand-out talent was Norman Light, second only to Ron Turner when it came to depicting thrilling space battles or alien invasions.
Light’s action-packed artwork became the focus of my first published article, which drew parallels between the paperback publishers and the ‘pirate’ comic strip publishers of the era. Norman Light was a key figure in the piece because he was not only an artist but also a publisher.
Thirty-three years later I’m still a fan of Light’s artistry. Not for its quality—there were better artist/writers on a technical level and Light’s figurework tended to be what Denis Gifford described as “asymmetric”—but for its enthusiasm, vivacity and the artist’s obvious passion for good old pulp-style action.
Here, then, are the complete adventures of Captain Future and the Space Patrol crewmen known as the Buccaneers of Space, one of Light’s finest creations. I hope you enjoy their outlandish adventures as much as I did when I first discovered them.
The Complete Captain Future is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 200 b/w pages with a colour cover.
Published on 8 May 2015.
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