Space Cabby pulls up to pick up a fare.

SPACE CABBY

Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Otto Binder and Howard Sherman
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Science fiction fans who also know their comic books tend to think highly of Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, the two sci-fi titles edited by Julius Schwartz and …

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… published in the 1950s by DC Comics. And well they should, as there was some respectable science fiction published in those titles — series such as Atomic Knights and Darwin Jones, as well as hundreds of non-series stories.

But there were also a few items in those titles that were unutterably silly, such as Star Rovers (interstellar sports stars who solve mysteries and save planets), Star Hawkins (a Mike Hammer type, set in the future, who was often forced to pawn his robot secretary) and Interplanetary Insurance, Inc. (title tells all).

And then there was Space Cabby. When it comes to sci-fi silliness, he was in a class by himself.

As the name implies (and "Space Cabby" was the only name the character had), he was a cab driver. He wore a chauffeur's cap, sat behind the wheel of his hack, hung his elbow out the window, drove people from place to place, tried to avoid confrontations with the police, and would occasionally, when asked, "follow that car". The only thing that differentiated him from any other cabby of fact or fiction was that he operated in interplanetary space.

"I'm headed for Pluto, Cabby!" "Third Ring of Saturn — and step on it!" "What's the fare to Venus?"

Space Cabby first appeared in Mystery in Space #21 (November, 1954), in a story written by Otto Binder and drawn by Howard Sherman. Binder had been responsible for much of the whimsical ambience of the original Captain Marvel, and would later script some of the more whimsical Superman stories. Sherman was a competent artist with a track record at DC that included co-creating Dr. Fate, Tommy Tomorrow and several other characters, but wasn't especially noted for his work on any series in particular. The story was apparently not intended as the opening shot of a series, as the character immediately dropped out of sight.

But something in it seems to have struck a chord with somebody — maybe it was just that the Space Cabby concept was too darned goofy to turn loose of. He was back three issues later, and became a regular two issues after that. Most of his adventures were written by Gardner Fox (The Flash, Adam Strange), pencilled by Gil Kane (Green Lantern, The Atom) and inked by Bernard Sachs (Justice League of America, Rex the Wonder Dog).

Once his series started, Space Cabby was an every-issue regular until #47 (August, 1958). The whole time he was there, his was the only series in the comic — he was surrounded on all sides by non-series stories. Only once did he appear on the cover, and that cover (#24) didn't even mention his name, or that he was an ongoing character. When they dropped him, he wasn't replaced by anything — the comic simply added another non-series story to the mix. No explanation was ever given — or needed. Apparently, he was fun to do for a few years, but the fun wore off.

Space Cabby is occasionally reprinted, and even more occasionally referred to in another DC comic book. When he is, it's usually in a context that includes Prez, Brother Power the Geek, Ultra the Multi-Alien and other characters remembered mainly for silliness.

— DDM

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Text ©2001-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.