Mike Flint at the controls. Artist: Lee Elias.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: New York Sunday News
First Appeared: 1952
Creators: Jack Williamson (writer) and Lee Elias (artist)
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It used to be that when people wanted to enjoy visual storytelling in their homes, comic strips were their only option. Back then, The New York Sunday News, available …

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… from coast to coast in tabloid format, with its comics pages wrapped around the outside for better visibility, was a big seller throughout America. Published by the same chain as The Chicago Tribune, it carried all the Trib's most popular offerings — Dick Tracy, Terry & the Pirates, Mary Perkins, etc., as well as many of its lesser lights such as The Teenie Weenies and Dondi. (In fact, the Trib's syndicate was called The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate during a large portion of its early existence.)

Then came television, and circulation of the Sunday News fell off sharply. The company's response was to launch new comics, available only in that one paper. For the science fiction entry in this new line, they hired Hugo Award-winning novelist Jack Williamson to write the scripts, and Lee Elias, former assistant to Milton Caniff on Terry, as artist. Beyond Mars debuted on February 17, 1952.

The setting was the Asteroid Belt, between Mars and Jupiter, in the year 2191, with artificial gravity enabling people to live normal lives on the surface of rocks not much larger than an Earth mountain. Power was provided by what Williamson had dubbed "seetee" in several of his stories — "C.T." standing for "contraterrene" matter, which physicists usually call "antimatter", a substance that provides a tremendous burst of energy when it comes into contact with ordinary matter. The hero, Mike Flint, and his sidekick, a vacuum-breathing, rock-eating alien named Tham, were based on Brooklyn Rock, where Mike lived with his Ma, but their adventures ranged throughout the Solar System.

Beyond Mars was syndicated in Europe and Australia, but in the U.S., remained an exclusive with the Sunday News. But the lost circulation didn't come back, and by the middle of the decade it was decided that the new strips weren't worth the cost of their production. The News went back to relying on syndicated offerings, tho it remained on sale nationally for a few more decades. Afterward, Elias worked on several features for DC Comics, including such sci-fi series as Adam Strange, Tommy Tomorrow and Ultra the Multi-Alien. Williamson returned to prose science fiction, and never worked in comics again.

In 1987, Blackthorne Comics, which reprinted quite a few newspaper comics (e.g., Mary Worth, Kerry Drake) brought out a pair of graphic novels reprinting three years of Beyond Mars in black and white (from the beginning until Mach 13, 1955). These were followed in 1989 by a series of normal-size comic books, continuing the series from there.

If the comic book series had continued long enough, it would have completed the run. But it ended after five issues, and Beyond Mars hasn't been seen since. But it's still remembered as one of the high water marks of science fiction adventure in newspaper comics.


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Text ©2003-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Lee Elias.