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Mystery In Space 19
"The Mad Planet"


Story By: Sid Gerson Art By: Virgil Finlay

Astronomers agree that there may be life on other worlds among the 100 billion plus stars in the galaxy! The odds may be extraordinary slim in finding a world which is so much like Earth that another New York City is in existence there! It would be remarkable to expect an exact double of that bustling metropolis -- but what is different is what is revealed in the amazing secret of... The Mad Planet. On the splash page, a flame gun proves to be useless against an electronic bubble, which holds a spaceship from its owners, who seek to escape this insane world, but as Harry continues to fire, Doris sees a monstrous bird of prey closing on for the kill! The year is 1989 -- and tourist travel to the stars is a reality -- The ship's instruments find a habitable planet, one which is not on any star maps, and the two space travelers hope to find something new! Once through the atmosphere... the travelers peer through one of the viewports and see... a city!

The two see New York City, but the one they know of is some 30 trillion miles away -- and yet there it is! Doris tells Harry to land the ship in Central Park, and see if there's some explanation! Harry and Doris take in the view outside of their ship, with Harry finding it odd that no one is paying any attention to them... as well as how quiet it is! Doris sees that the automobiles are from 35 years ago -- antique cars from 1954! The pedestrians pay no heed to the inquisitive Harry and Doris, who feel as if they were the ghosts... The couple head down Fifth Avenue, and they encounter another mystery! Harry sees Cartier's located next door to a shooting gallery! Doris sees that where Sak's Fifth Avenue should be -- there's a cottage in its place! Clearly, this is not the New York City which they know! Harry, determined to find out what's going on, knocks on the door of the cottage! A voice bids them to come in... and when they enter, both Harry and Doris come face-to-face with an old man! He peers at them from his chair, and the book in his lap is forgotten. Both young and old are equally startled at the sight of the other!

From out of nowhere, a wall suddenly appears -- keeping the Earth travelers from the cottage dweller... Doris pleads with Harry to return to the ship -- before she goes insane! Both head back to "Central Park," but see that their spaceship is now surrounded by a transparent bubble! While Doris recalls something about the man's face, Harry tries out his flame gun on the transparency! The flame gun is ineffective -- but from the air, comes a monstrous gigantic bird, whose talons grip the couple fast...! Harry and Doris see that the creature has brought them back to the cottage, where the old man is keen on providing some answers! Mr. and Mrs. Harry Vale meet... Thong -- King Thong! Ruler of this planet! Doris remembers hearing about his escape from Sing-Sing Prison -- some thirty years ago! Thong compliments Doris on her memory! Victor Thong, once a criminal from Earth -- and now the ruler of an entire planet! He sees that the young couple are curious as to how he came to be here!

When he made his escape from Sing-Sing Prison, the hunt began! It seemed that his only way to elude his pursuers was to leave Earth... which is what he did... for at the Nevada Desert, Victor Thong found a flying saucer, which had crashed there! Seeing the body of the alien, Thong figures that Earth's bacteria was too much for the pilots of the flying saucer! With the saucer intact, Victor Thong seeks his escape from Earth! Even for a convict, the ship's controls were simple, and although he didn't know from where the aliens came from, but it didn't matter. He took off, and -- after traveling across outer space, he landed on this planet. At once, he made himself the ruler of the people, teaching them English, and ordering them to build... Thong ordered them to re-create New York so that he'd never be homesick! The eldery Thong finishes his story... and Doris wonders why she and her husband have been marooned with him! They want to leave for Earth! The old man wants company, and he can't allow them to alert Earth's authorities where he is... Thong orders his robot to take them away! The Vales are caught in arms of steel, carried by "Bruno," and deposited in a cell until King Thong has need of them!

Hours pass -- and then, Harry notices that the lock in the cell door is a simple one -- and he asks Doris for a hairpin! After using the hairpin, the Vales are free! Doris wants to head for the ship, but Harry is curious about Thong and this Mad Planet! Harry peers through a door and sees the elderly Thong cackling at the possibilities of having some sport with the Vales, while Doris begs her spouse to flee! Harry rushes into the room, just as Thong orders Bruno to grab them! Harry gets his hands on Thong, intent on --forcing -- him to -- free -- their -- ship! With Harry's hands choking him, the elderly Thong commands -- a hammer to appear! Out of thin air, a hammer appears, swings upwards, and crashes down, to strike -- Thong! (Holy Sammy Sosa, Batman!) Doris sees the giant robot -- Bruno -- fade from sight!

Harry and Doris watch as the cottage -- the giant -- the hammer -- the city -- has disappeared! Only a giant crystal remains! Harry leans on the crystal in order to examine it more closely -- and Doris sees their ship appear before them! Harry is amazed because he was just thinking about it, and on the ground, Victor Thong seeks to explain... ordering Harry to get off the crystal! He does so, and the second ship disappears from view! The elderly criminal has rigged a disintegration bomb within the crystal -- which would go off if anyone other than him used it! Everything is gone... and he can die in peace! Harry cradles Thong and asks where everything came from -- and disappear to? Why did he want them to be as prisoners? "King" Thong knows that he is dying -- and nothing matters now -- The crystal made his thoughts -- images -- real! He kept them on the planet because he was lonely... The people -- the city -- he had recreated it all as he had remembered it... He wanted to match his will against theirs -- and was tired of talking to himself -- The "King" is dead -- and the spaceship soon takes off from the Mad Planet... Doris realizes that for 30 years, Victor Thong had lived with the thought-images which the crystal made real for him! Harry is relieved that his diary also tells them how he got there from Earth -- and now they are going home -- to the true Earth!

I had read about artist Virgil Finlay in the Comic Book Marketplace, and had never expected to read this story of "The Mad Planet!"

His art reminds me of a cross between that of Russ Heath and Basil Wolverton... realism mixed in with unreality.

In looking at the panels, I can accept that the details of the story are as well-presented as they can possibly be. The bird-creature is a ferocious threat, the spaceship shoots flames in airless space, and travelers do not suffocate from having their heads in those bubble-helmets.

1989 -- was when San Francisco had a massive earthquake and the World Series had the Battle of The Bay, with The A's and The Giants at Candlestick Park.

Harry and Doris should have known that they weren't in the real Central Park... they weren't mugged and their spaceship wasn't ticketed for illegal parking.

The Vales are an optimistic future represented by a young couple in spotless spacesuits, neat haircuts, and healthy curiousity.

Victor "King" Thong is the past represented by a fugitive whose sole company is his incomplete memories of a city he can never again visit.

The flying saucer is exactly what it appears to be... an escape hatch for Thong!

The 1953 film, "War of The Worlds" had the Martians meeting their end by something which the human race had developed a natural immunity for... the common germ.

"Bruno" The Robot is a robot from the pulps. His modern descendant would be the humorous and sarcastic "Bender" from "Futurama."

Nice to see that hairpins are still being used by women, and not enshrined in the Smithsonian.

Thong's will ran things on the Mad Planet until he lost the will to live. He had illusion and the Vales have reality. May they find their way as pleasant.

This Review Is Dedicated To Jack Selegue

Steve Chung
"The Mad Review"