The War of the Worlds (Now Age, Pendulum Press, 1974)
The Now Age Series (from Pendulum Press) was created specifically for the use of schools, as evidenced by the introduction addressed to "teachers".
The story runs to 61 black and white pages and was apparently an attempt to make The War of the Worlds more accessible to children, but perhaps
because times had moved on since the halcyon days of Classics Illustrated, this seems a depressingly populist version. Changing Wells classic
opening line of "no one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by
intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own" to "no one believed in the late 1800's that this world was being watched by
creatures smarter than man" does not exactly speak volumes for perceived intellect of the readership and nor does it exactly shower the writer
in glory. I ask you, "smarter than man?" If you feel a slight stirring beneath your feet, it's only the Earth shifting on its axis as H.G Wells
spins in his grave.
But, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it's a tad disingenuous to knock what was I am sure a series of books made with the
highest of educational purposes and great care on the part of its staff. As a general observation however, I do find it interesting that both of
the "educational" comic book versions of The War of the Worlds have found some of Mr Wells more caustic and bitter commentaries on religion
an "educational" step too far. Like the original Classics Illustrated version, this book skirts past the scene beneath the ruined house,
where Wells has his hero bludgeon a priest to death and effectively leave him at the mercy of the Martians. It took Marvel Comics to beat that taboo.
The Now Age series was the brainchild of Vincent Fago. Born in Yonkers New York in 1914, he began his career at the now famous Fleischer
studios where he worked on such iconic cartoons as Popeye and Superman. Joining Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in 1942 (though at the time it was
still known as Timely Comics) he filled the role of Editor In Chief for 4 years before striking out on his own as an independent. In 1948 he
took over from Harrison Cady for a ten-year stint at the New York Herald Tribune, drawing their Peter Rabbit strip. The Now Age Classic
series came about in the 1970's and Fago oversaw over 100 books.
The Artist for The War of the Worlds was Alex Nino, a Philippine artist born in 1940. He was a prolific artist in his home country,
working on over 300 titles until the early 1970's, when like a number of his contemporaries, American comic book publishers discovered him.
He did some superb horror comics for DC and was then hired by Fago to work on 22 of the Now Age volumes. His work is extremely detailed and
expressive and I think it fair to say that of all the adaptations attempted, his is the one with the most artistic pedigree. This is not
necessarily a virtue for a comic book, as the general pop art look of a good comic book is part of the attraction of the medium, but Nino
captures the terror and confusion of the people with aplomb. His characters are beautifully drawn and expressive, if a little odd looking
for the English Victorian setting, seeming to have stepped out of a western story (you expect someone to say "gringo" at any moment) and
I'm really not sure about the authenticity of his military uniforms. Where he does largely fall down (but not always) is with his crucial portrayal of the Martian
Tripods. They just don't always exude the necessary level of menace and have a fairly infeasible appearance, at least as infeasible as it possible
for a 3-legged 100-foot machine to be.
I can find little of note on the writer, other than that Naunerle Farr seems to have been a regular on these books. As already stated
at the beginning of this article, I take some exception to his choice of language and the script takes liberties with the story, but of
course this is a slightly unfair judgement, since any writer of a project such as this is severely restricted by space and audience. I
do however feel that something meant to engender an interest in the original source material should strive to be as close a fit as possible.
Not then the best of the adaptations on offer, but as a rare and largely unreported version it is worthy of note, especially for the quality
of the art.
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