Back to this here Blog and back again to one of my favourite reading pastimes - going back to the font that is my all-time annual ever.
You may recall that, back in 1971, i'd numbered all the characters in the two page frontispiece in order of my fondness of them.
We're at Number 4 now and its odd, given my fondness for 50's SF both now and back then, that the fella didn't rate higher, as its a plotline that could've come from back then easily. And i could see Ray Harryhausen doing the stop motion work for him, in much the same way that he did for the Ymir.
Anyway, opening page finds the Big Bad Guy ruling over his undersea kingdom, bullying his subjects and an articulate, eyeballed jellyfish race called "Celebes" used as slaves:
By the end of page one he gets a warning from his son that he's treating everyone too harshly, and by the middle of page two the mutiny is in full force, despite the threat of Norstad feeding them "to the clams" and off he's bunged into an abyss (note an early appearance of a stunted "AIEEEE!" here):
Down, down he goes and, upon landing, he finds he's lost all his strength from "the sickness of the depths". What sickness? Its sure not the immense pressure down there as he seems to move around okay. This panel here of him being frightened by a squid is the first example in this particular strip of one's i used to study over and over and be fascinated by:
Meanwhile, up on the surface, fearless underwater explorer Mike Carter is searching that very abyss we now know is called "The Valley Of No Return" in his bathysphere (which they make a point of calling The Bubble. For no reason whatsoever).
Having a close encounter with Norstad, Mike accidently turns the radio up too high, the clot, which makes him pass out. At that point, the radio waves also give Norstad his strength back:
And that becomes the jist of the story - all the while Mike is awake, Norstad is weak. When he's asleep or stunned, Norstad is at his full strength. No explanation is given for just how this happens, just the stock answer of "somehow".
Anyway, two more indelible images soon come along - Norstad punching a shark to death, and his return to his kingdom only to find the jellyfish have taken over. LOVE that shocked look of the jellyfish as his table is turned over:
Soon he's off to "kill the human whose brain-power i have, so i don't loose it again!" and comes ashore in a very "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" way, wreaking havoc until he finds The Bubble. But, wouldn't you know it?, Mike wakes up just as he's about to crush the craft, resulting in my last favourite image as he peers in through the window:
The story is then over and done with very quickly - he jumps off the ship and is immediately depth-charged.
The say he's dead but we don't see it happen and no body is shown. Whether that's just how it was, or if there were plans to bring him back should this first story prove to be succesful, i don't know.
Reading the story again,its great, great fun aand they sure don't write them like this any more.
Surprisingly, this early on in the decade, we have more than one:
The afore-mentioned "AIEEE!" from Norstad.
And the shorter "AIEE!" as he flees the squid.