SPACE MANMedium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: unknown writer and Jack Sparling (artist)
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In the early 1960s, Dell Comics experienced an explosion of creativity, in which Around the Block with Dunc & Loo; Linda Lark, Student Nurse; Millie the Lovable Monster; Brain Boy and many more new titles all debuted within a two-year period — undoubtedly prompted by Dell's impending loss of most of its publishable material to Western Printing's new imprint, Gold Key. At roughly the
same time, the world experienced an explosion of interest in near-future astronaut adventures, which had already manifest itself in newspaper comics such as Sky Masters and Drift Marlo — undoubtedly prompted by America's and the Soviet Union's recent headline-making successes in that area. The two explosions intersected in Dell's comic book Space Man, which began with a cover date of March, 1962.
Space Man #1 wasn't titled and numbered as such. It was Four Color Comics #1253, near the end of the series in which Dell had introduced characters as prominent as Yogi Bear and as obscure as The Little Scouts to comic book readers. With #2, dated July of the same year, it had its own place on the publishing schedule. Dell was apparently shooting for quarterly publication, but issues generally came out less often than that.
Both issues, as well as all subsequent ones, were drawn by Jack Sparling (Hap Hopper; Naza, Stone Age Warrior). The original writer is unknown, but some later issues are credited to Joe Gill (Nukla, Peacemaker) and he may have co-created the series as well.
The space man of the title (no relation, by the way) was "rocket ace" Ian Stannard. He was accompanied by 14-year-old Space Academy student Johnny Mack, as he blasted off from Cape Canaveral aboard his space ship, Flyin' Jenny II (no relation), which was perched on top of a booster rocket like a Mercury capsule. Their mission was to "combat the strange anti-force" that had kept anyone from getting to the Moon for the past ten years. Exactly why, other than reader identification, anyone would send a 14-year-old on such an important and possibly hazardous mission is unclear, but comic books had been full of juvenile heroes since Batman started endangering Robin.
Also introduced in the first issue were Mary Lansing, Ian's sweetheart; and Grace Mack, Johnny's mom. Mary was a famous pilot in her own right, and Grace was the widow of Hugh Mack, an early hero of America's astronaut corps.
The mission was a success; and what's more, it turned out America's space program was much farther along than most people on Earth suspected. By the time the story was over, Ian and Johnny were all set for a life of adventure in the distant depths of space.
But the comic book wasn't all that successful. It lasted only eight issues, the last dated May, 1964. It was back eight years later, but only in the form of reprinting the first two issues (as #s 9 and 10). But by that time, it seemed quaint at best. After #10, it wasn't seen again.