No one can go on being a rebel too long without turning into an autocrat

It’s been a while so I think it is time to revisit The Futura Saga!

For those not familiar with Futura, here is a synopsis: Futura is the story of an office secretary named Marcia Reynolds who was shanghaied into space to serve as the test-subject of aliens seeking to repopulate their waning empire. Futura nee Marcia Reynolds experienced a hero’s journey in a tale that lasted nearly a decade in a late 1940s Planet Comics serial published by Fiction House publications.

Even as they necessarily catered to a primarily young male market Fiction House was known for their depiction of strong, empowered females. Futura in particular usually held her own without the story resorting to the cliche of the heroine being rescued by a man at the last moment.

You can read all the Planet Comics chapters of Futura and the 1980s revival here: The Futura Saga.

Essential Futura

For those who don’t have the patience to search backwards, forwards and all over the site for the Futura tales here is a collection of handy links to the complete essential and awesomely butt-kicking Futura Saga.

Futura vs. Futura (Some Words on the Futura Saga)

Futura – Chapter 1

Futura – Chapter 2

Futura – Chapter 3

Futura – Chapter 4

Futura – Chapter 5

Futura – Chapter 6

Futura – Chapter 7

Futura – Chapter 8

Futura – Chapter 9

Futura – Chapter 10

Futura – Chapter 11

Futura – Chapter 12

Futura – Chapter 13

Futura – Chapter 14

Futura – Chapter 15

Futura – Chapter 16

Futura – Chapter 17

Futura – Chapter 18

Futura – Chapter 19

Futura – Chapter 20

Futura – Chapter 21

Futura – Chapter 22

The Vizigraph: Planet Comics letters pages featuring Futura

1980s Planet Comics characters revival featuring Futura, Gale Allen and Mysta (Adult Themes).

Futura – Chapter 22

Planet Comics #64 (Spring 1950) marks the finale to the Futura Saga. It took far longer to get there then I originally planned but the Planet Comics issues I was seeking are pretty rare and hard to get a hold of. Fortunately there are friends and other resources that allowed me to fill in the gaps in her story. This issue is one of those online copies floating around.

For those readers not patient enough to click through her entire tale, here is some back story:

Futura’s tale began in Planet Comics issue #43 in July of 1946. Secretary Marcia Reynolds is kidnapped from Earth and enslaved for medical experiments by the Brain-Men of Pan-Cosmos. She escapes, a bit too easily in fact, and steals a ship intending to head back to Earth. Unknown to Marcia Reynolds, now called Futura by her captors, her escape is being carefully monitored to measure her suitability for inclusion into the Pan-Cosmos genome.

Forced into situations that test her mettle, Futura evades her intended fate and gains allies, makes enemies and is a central witness to the fact that messiahs can be dangerous to your health. As her story continues, Futura becomes a wild card and her presence as a destabilizing threat to the status quo could not be tolerated by those in power. Fortunately for Futura the fragmented leaders of occupied space are corrupt, lazy and not used to rebellion from their cowed populace. Futura meets every challenge, fighting back ferociously and without hesitation.

For Futura does not just defeat an opponent, no. She utterly destroys an enemy by erasing their entire culture leaving them without a power base. What remains when she is done renders them in a state where they are no threat for the foreseeable future. While this tactic is not necessarily the action of a hero it certainly is that of a leader of nations. This Geo-political approach on a galactic scale is something that having recently emerged from a devastating World War the readers of the day could easily identify with.

So without further preamble here is the final climactic chapter to the Futura Saga.

Unlike many other of the Planet Comics serials Futura has a definite end to her tale, though some foreshadowing of trouble is evident. Reading the entire story of Futura I was not disappointed. While the series was sometimes the victim of the whims of scheduling, editors and creators and the series had some detours and false starts with the storytelling it was enjoyable and fantastic fun. Most serialized pulp tales, of which Futura is certainly descended from, have some element of empire-building in them and this tale was no exception. The average man, or in this case woman, is plucked from obscurity and thrust into “a world they never made” and by the end of the adventure they are Lords or Kings or Queens. Futura is cast in that mold.

Futura is different, however in that she did not simply storm the castle and sit upon the throne thereby declaring victory and an end to tyrannical rule. She leveled the playing fields of Pan-Cosmos and known space, leaving every culture she came into contact with vulnerable to being rebuilt from scratch by someone else with the strength or character and arm to do so. In this instance, Futura herself. Futura may not have intended to and she often acted for selfish reasons related to her immediate survival but the result was she destroyed a galaxy in order to save it. In her final adventure it is evident she rules Oceania and the stage is set for her to take over known occupied space.

So what does the future hold for Futura?

Fan interest in Golden Age comic books is steady and it is exposure on the internet that is most likely the reason. Forums and blogs are probably directly responsible for some collections of old stories being collected by various publishers, namely the Fletcher Hanks and Boody Rogers strips to name a few examples. These books were collected not only for fans but for those not familiar with graphic art that until recently has been lost and forgotten by even many hard core aficionados. It would be nice to see a hardbound collection of Futura but admittedly the sometimes wandering storyline could be somewhat difficult to present. Taken as a whole the Futura story does not present a particularly cohesive universe and a reader has to suspend their ideas of ‘continuity’ and mentally edit some entries. It could be understood that many modern fans would not appreciate the abrupt shifts in the cultural backgrounds of the Futura universe.

It is difficult to measure if there is enough of a fan base to support a revival of Futura. Often it is easier and makes better business sense for someone to create an entirely new character inspired by an old character than it is to revamp one, no matter how enthusiastic one may be for the project. Any new entries to the Futura story would have to be a personal endeavor at heart, a labor of love for the character like the one that appeared in the 1980s. One that some may not understand but hopefully can appreciate because that admiration was was shared.

So will we see Futura again? Only time will tell. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Coming Attractions

Monday! Final chapter of The Futura Saga. Get caught up with Everything Futura!

Tuesday! An Archie comic that actually discourages superstition? Tuesday must be backwards-upside down day!

Wednesday! Bozo the Clown, surfing and what it all means!

Thursday! Who knows?

Friday! Sleeping in!

Saturday! Can’t plan that far ahead!

Sunday! Probably something lazy from YouTube!

Plus, whatever else I find or get involved in worth scanning or taking a picture of. There’s that device in the original unopened packaging I found in the garage, or that satanic toy from the 60s. Who knows?

In anticipation of posting the final chapter of The Futura Saga, here in order are all the previous entries of the Planet Comics serial up to the penultimate chapter.

Futura – Chapter 1

Futura – Chapter 2

Futura – Chapter 3

Futura – Chapter 4

Futura – Chapter 5

Futura – Chapter 6

Futura – Chapter 7

Futura – Chapter 8

Futura – Chapter 9

Futura – Chapter 10

Futura – Chapter 11

Futura – Chapter 12

Futura – Chapter 13

Futura – Chapter 14

Futura – Chapter 15

Futura – Chapter 16

Futura – Chapter 17

Futura – Chapter 18

Futura – Chapter 19

Futura – Chapter 20

Futura – Chapter 21

Futura – Chapter 22

Original battlefield apocalypse image from Mike Grell’s The Warlord #3 (Oct-Nov 1976).

Futura – Chapter 21

Planet Comics #63 (Winter 1949) gives us the penultimate chapter to the Futura Saga. In this issue one can see where Futura’s long, strange journey has been leading. Alliances shift rapidly as Futura once free of the Jar-Heads, turns against the very enslaved mutated people, albeit mind-controlled, she once sympathized with.

There is a lot of good imagery in this chapter that profiles Futura without the cheesecake that could be so common in her story. The last panel of page three is nearly iconic and the battle between the mutants and the Hawkmen is magnificent.

This chapter firmly establishes Futura in a setting more reminiscent of the Alex Raymond-drawn Flash Gordon strip. Yet familiarity with other popular forms of entertainment would not save the character from limbo. With only one more issue in the Planet Comics series to feature her story Futura would soon be consigned to the occasional black and white reprint of Golden Age comic books. An original story featuring a “Futura” character would not be produced until the early 1980s, a gap of thirty years between appearances.

Futura – Chapter 20

With Planet Comics #62 (September 1949) it clear that tastes in science fiction have changed. What the book depicted and what the public was given was diverging with each passing month. The 1950s are just around the corner and the lurid adventure pulps are being steadily replaced in the marketplace. Not for the first time, print is considered a dying medium. Movies and particularly television are capturing more and more of the nation’s free time.

Creativity, in spite of any opportunities the new medium promised, were compromised by the limits of budget, technology and corporate sponsorship. No longer was it enough to sell a story, a story was required to sell a product. It was salesmen, not editors or writers or artists, who were in creative positions. It was not enough for Flash Gordon to sell the book his image graced he also had to ensure a substantial market share of breakfast cereals, batteries and special edition bicycles.

While it was evident the entire Fiction House line was different in how they portrayed their heroes, particularly the female characters, it didn’t matter one whit to parent groups and politicians. One comic book was just like another and they were all targeted due to panic, fear and misinformation. Fiction House would tweak the Planet Comics format a few more times trying to keep up with market preferences but the experiment was coming to an end. The entire company didn’t survive much into the 1950s.

In this chapter of the Futura Saga the protagonist once again fights oppression with mixed results for her followers. Readers back then were not expected to care if thousands of bad guys die as the result of the hero tampering with the Atomo-Ray. If they did, the creators did not give their audience enough credit and rarely offered them the opportunity to become invested in the antagonists. As progressive as some of the Fiction House characters were they were clearly super-heroes who could do no wrong. For the most part it was a black and white universe even as it was rendered in four colors. It is Futura that existed in a perpetual state of anarchy and she took advantage of her surroundings for her benefit and sometimes the benefit of others, though rarely the end result was a positive one. For good or ill this is what made the fictional character just a bit more real than her spandex-clad peers.


More collateral damage in the next thrilling chapter!

Futura – Chapter 19

Planet Comics #61 introduces a few new villains who serve as the impetus for Futura’s battle for freedom. The series is in high gear for the next several issues, though it admittedly reworks some elements of the Brain-Men of Pan-Cosmos. Futura is still on Oceania but is pulled into a secret city ruled by tyrannical decapitated heads that are on life-support. Again, Futura surprises the heck out of the fiends that rule their petty kingdoms by fighting back, something that lord and ladies just don’t expect from a subservient and frightened class of subjugated peoples.

The Futura Saga has a mere three issues remaining until it comes to a conclusion. Many of the long-running series featured in Planet Comics come to a close within the following year and Futura was among the first. Changing consumer tastes and market expectations meant the end of many of the decades-long running serials. The Comics Code Authority and nascent Silver Age style of storytelling that was perfected at DC Comics in the early 1960s meant that anthology collections of disposable one-off stories were to become the norm.

Among the Fiction House titles it was Planet Comics that would prove the most adaptable to changing tastes and evolved with more success than the Western or Jungle-based tales but being unable or unwilling to compete with other forms of entertainment that was gaining ground the entire Fiction House line of books would soon become another casualty of the fickle retail market.