Monday, May 9, 2011

Red Planet on My Mind

Thinking about Mars lately:
Much in the same way the first issue (or chapter, depending on where you read it) of
Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s excellent The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II (better than Volume I, IMHO) combines the Martian aspects from various elements of literary or pulp fiction:
Edgar Rice Burroughs meets C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Michael Moorcock meets various others—
while organizing the multitude of jpegs I’ve… “borrowed” from around the blogoverse,
I noticed I had a weird Snapshot Encyclopedia Martianius….

Because I’d love to see the SandShark of The Outer Limits episode “The Invisible Enemy” (I love those creepy hand-puppets!) to be a nuisance to the three-eyed Martian Overlord from Ib Melchior’s The Angry Red Planet (“We of the Planet Mars Give You This Warning: Get out of my yard, you pesky SandSharks!”);

Or that the rat-bat-spider-whatever from that same movie (I love that creepy marionette!) to be the annoying pet of the three-eyed Martian Overlord that keeps crapping on the lawn of George Pal’s squat invaders from 1953’s The War of the Worlds
(BTW, Spielberg’s invaders were never from Mars, so they’re not included here—honestly, I think it’s cool that we never know where those invaders are from, except deepest space).

Meanwhile, the big-headed (actually, only-headed) Overlord from the 1953’s Invaders From Mars has to argue property values with his cousin,
the overlord from Tobe Hooper’s remake because the hissing-spitting rock-snakes (from Gerry Anderson’s wonderfully offbeat Thunderbirds Are Go!) have started migrating.

And the Ack-Acking skull-faced big brains of Mars Attacks! are the social problem that just won’t go away….

And the less said about those psychic psychotic grasshoppers, the better!

One thing that has always bugged me about Star Trek was how each planet’s socio-civilization was so homogenized:
like the ethnic cleansing has occurred long ago,
and there’s only the X” people left or something.
I mean, how many goddamn years was it before they even had a black Vulcan?!?

End Sidebar—

Now check this out:
Look at the photo above and to the left—
This is a George Pal Martian, and above the Martian above, is a picture of a Martian’s hand (from the end of the flick, when the Martians—sob!—lose….)

But look at the Martian’s “face:”
Well, it’s not a face—it’s just an eye!
No neck, no head, no visible mouth—just a tri-lensed eye in the middle of a chest: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Don’t know about you, but it took me years to figure that out—and when I did, it was a forehead slapping moment—
because of their placement, I had thought the top green and blue lenses were eyes, and the bottom red lens to be a “mouth.”
But when I figured out that it is only an EYE (!!!), I loved George Pal’s epic classic even more:
The aliens were truly alien.
And they wanted our planet…

We are never given too clear a picture of the Martian cities, though—
I always imagined that up-close, they would be Lovecraftian “cyclopean” monstrosities (monstro-cities?), full of weird, incomprehensible and possibly rude architecture.

But these Red Planet metropoli are always presented as cool and distant, with Bauhaus-to-the-max miles-high skyscrapers, full of impossible technology and bizarre machinery. (Decent public schools, too…)

That is, until the filthy humans showed up with their ugly germ-festering biodomes.
(“Honey, are those things even up to code?”)

Meanwhile, in the real world


  1. Old school martian flicks are some of my best guilty pleasures. The beauty of telling a tale on mars is that absolutely no rules apply. There isn't any sort of established lore you have to follow. Complete freedom to be weird.

  2. Yes, exactly! Which is why, for me, something like Ghosts of Mars is better (more fun, more what a movie should be, etc.) than say Red Planet (the awful Val Kilmer flick from 2000). [I still haven't seen De Palma's Mission to Mars--I generally love his flicks, except when I hate them.)

  3. A thematically gorgeous post Ivan! Loved this!