Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Classics - Space Family Robinson: Lost In Space #19

A quick confession: I'm a huge fan of NetFlix, the mail service that provides a DVD rental service.

One of my most recent selections was the first season of the CBS-TV show Lost in Space. I haven't seen those first episodes in quite a few years (make that a couple of decades), so it was fun to watch them again - they hold up pretty well, although it's even more obvious now that the show was aimed at a young audience - and considering I'm about the same age as Billy (Will Robinson) Mumy, that means they were aiming it at me.

Since at that time I was reading just about every comic I could find, I had also read the Gold Key comic book Space Family Robinson: Lost in Space. I was probably a bit confused by the fact that both carried the same title and the family had the same name, and both were, well, Lost in Space - but that's where the similarities ended.

In the comic, the Robinson family is made up of four members - father Craig, mother June, and teenage twins Tim and Tam. They're traveling in a huge Space Station and trying to find their way back to Earth.

In the TV show, the family is made up of the parents, two sisters and a brother, and the ship also features a pilot, a robot and a stowaway, Dr. Smith.

On TV and in the comics, they visit different worlds and encounter lots of different aliens.

So which came first - the TV show or the comic? According to Wikipedia, the comic was first by a couple of years, but when Irwin Allen created the TV show, he supposedly knew nothing about the comic book, which was then titled Space Family Robinson.

There's no way to know for sure, but it seems plausible - basing a science fiction story on the classic Swiss Family Robinson (and replacing "Swiss" with "Space") seems like a pretty obvious thought, so it's possible they both had similar ideas.

To their credit, Gold Key and CBS didn't take the matter to court - instead, they decided to work together. Gold Key would continue the comic, adding the subtitle "Lost in Space," and the TV series would continue to ignore the comic.

I always liked the comic, though I was never an avid reader of it - I picked this issue at random from the few copies I own (it's cover dated December 1966) - but every one I've read was thoroughly professional, clever and clearly written, and very well drawn (by Dan Spiegle, I believe).

For me, they're a fun bit of nostalgia from a time when space travel seemed to be just around the corner.

This comic came out 43 years ago, when the space program was still working toward landing on the moon - and Monday marked the 40th anniversary of that milestone. Sad to realize we're still far away from establishing moon colonies or landing on Mars.

Both versions of Lost in Space teased the potential of space travel, and while I may not live to see it, I trust we'll get there eventually. After all, the TV show was set in the far-flung future - of 1997. I guess we'll have to be more patient.

Grade: B-

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