Several years back, I wrote a post discussing how I can react negatively to a story element even when the filmmaker presents it as a positive thing. My Greatest Adventure #37 (cover by Dick Dillin, all rights to current holder) is a good example of the reverse—that I can like a story all out of proportion to its quality if it touches me the right way.
MGA was an anthology book that started out as relatively realistic first-person adventure tales (“I Jumped From Eight Miles Up” “I Rode With a Bandit Chief”) that like countless other DC books of the 1950s soon shifted into more SF and monster stories. In this issue, for example, we have:
I Hunted the Legendary Creatures Mysterious letters steer the host of a TV reality show to encounters with modern-day monsters. When one of them threatens a small town, the community evacuates. The TV host realizes the whole thing is a scam so that the letter-writer can loot a nearby silver deposit while the town is empty.
They Made Me the Spectrum Man Men from the future draw a modern-day artist into their time to help them rescue a hostage (artist is the exact double for the kidnappers’ captured leader). When the artist is forced to return to the present, he discovers he now gives off different colors of the spectrum. Before the powers fade, he finds a way to use them for good.
And then there’s I Stole the Space Beast, with art by John William Ely, writer unknown (records for a lot of older books are often sketchy). The writer protagonist has holed up at a mountain cabin to focus on his next story when he discovers an alien creature, the one under his arm on the cover. The flying insect-like creature has powers (laser eyes, sonic roar) that can devastate mountains—or potentially, cities—so the writer grabs his rifle and hunts it down. Only when he finds the creature, it’s caught in a bear trap and in obvious pain … so kicking himself for being a chump, the writer frees the alien, takes it home and cares of it. And in a short while, “Fido” has become his pet. Then the aliens who brought it to Earth show up—they’ve been training it to obey so they can use it to loot their home planet—and the writer and Fido go on the run. When the aliens catch up, Fido goes into kick-butt mode and saves his new master, sending the aliens running into the arms of their homeworld authority. Fido is now the writer’s pet, for keeps—and the writer is able to adapt events into a new story.
MGA was never a good book until it became the venue for the original Doom Patrol, but this story is an exception. I enjoyed this the first time I read it more than it deserved; now I enjoy it a lot more. I’m a dog owner now, so the whole story of finding a helpless animal, taking it in, bonding … from my perspective it’s impossible not to like it. And I don’t have the slightest doubt Trixie and Plushie would save me from aliens if they could.
And it’s in this manner that we find ourselves enjoying things we know perfectly well are less than A-list.