Rereading: TUNNEL IN THE SKY By Robert A. Heinlein

First Edition cover

I loved this book as a kid, and enjoyed rereading it recently. Rod Walker is a teenager on a future Earth burdened with massive overpopulation, but a new technology that creates gateways to other worlds around our galaxy has provided an outlet: colonists leave for promising undeveloped new worlds on a regular basis. Rod enjoys watching their wagon trains head out for distant planets at the transport center on his way home from school. Rod is taking a survival course, and graduation from it means a field test. He and other students will be dropped off on a planet with only what they can carry. The goal is to survive until they are recalled, up to ten days later.

Rod wants to take the test, though his instructor is not sure he has what it takes to get through. Not everyone does. Once dropped, it’s survival of the fittest against any and every threat, including the most dangerous one of all, other humans from his and a few other classes dropped at the same time. Rod’s sister, a soldier, backs his plan, but his parents are against it. Rod sticks to his decision, and shows up for the drop with his pack of supplies but no weapons other than two knives, on the advice of his sister.

Rod spends a frightening first night in a tree haunted by horrible sounds from some unknown animal, and after escaping a ground predator. As he begins to get used to the new environment, Rod is knocked out from behind. He wakes with a headache and stripped of all his gear except one knife he had hidden. How will he survive until recall? Soon he meets and joins another test person from a different school and they decide to team up, but the recall never comes. Something has gone wrong, and they’re stuck in this hostile jungle with no idea if they’ll ever be rescued.

A great action-filled story until the last third when it becomes more about politics than survival at times, and a little heavy on lecturing, but still a fine read. Recommended.

Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1967 Part 1

All images © DC Comics. From THE FOX AND THE CROW #101, Dec 1966/Jan 1967

1967 was the final full year of employment at DC Comics for Ira Schnapp. At some point in 1968 his staff job was terminated. I don’t know when that happened, exactly how it happened, or whose decision it was, but Carmine Infantino is likely to be the person who gave Ira the news. Here’s what I wrote in my series of biographical articles about Ira from information I received from those who were there at the time like Neal Adams and Gaspar Saladino:

One of the most popular artists at the company then was Carmine Infantino, known for his excellent work on THE FLASH, among other titles. In 1966, Irwin Donenfeld made him art director, in charge of designing all the company’s covers, and Infantino was later promoted to Editorial Director. One of the changes Carmine enacted was to start putting long-time DC letterer Gaspar Saladino on logos, cover lettering and house ads, shifting that work away from Ira. Apparently Carmine felt the company’s design presence needed a fresh approach, and Gaspar’s work was excellent, as he rose to the challenge with dynamic, energetic and artful lettering and logos. Carmine kept Ira on for a while doing less important tasks, but in 1968 he was let go. As artist Neal Adams, who had befriended Ira when he started working at DC around 1967 put it, it meant Ira was being sent home to die. Gaspar Saladino has described Ira as “Mister DC,” and said it was sad that when he left, it was as though he’d never been there at all.

From these reports, I expected to see less ad work from Ira in 1966 and much less in 1967, keeping in mind that there is always a time shift between cover dates and when the work was done of three to four months. What I found in my research for these articles was that Ira’s ad output about doubled in 1966. Gaspar’s also increased, but to only about a dozen ads. In 1967, Ira’s ad output did decrease by a third, declining from about 120 ads to about 75. Gaspar’s ad output increased from about a dozen to about two dozen, and there were some ads by others in both years. This is significant, but not the dismissal of Ira’s ad skills I was expecting. There are enough Schnapp ads in 1967 to still require two parts, and we’ll look at the numbers at the end of Part 2.

Some changes in 1967: there were no new romance group ads. A few were reused, and otherwise ads for other DC books appeared. The public service ads that were the pet project of editor Jack Schiff tapered off this year with mostly repeats. Only four were new. Ira lettered two of those, including his finest one ever. Jack Schiff retired from DC in 1967 and his admirable project ended, though DC did some similar ads in 1976-77. The Go-Go-Checks push from 1966 was not continued much in house ads, only a few referenced them, and they quietly died out by the end of 1967. Ad emphasis remained on superheroes, though all genres other than romance received some new ones, like the Jerry Lewis ad above. There only the lettering by Ira is new, the art and layout are from past ads.

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Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1966 Part 3

All images © DC Comics. From HOUSE OF MYSTERY #160, July/Aug 1966

In this third and concluding article on Schnapp’s DC ads from 1966, we begin with this nice full page ad that shows how the Batman TV show that began a few months earlier and was a sensational hit with viewers was influencing the comics. When Julius Schwartz took over the Batman titles in 1964 he ushered in more realistic art and stories, but that effort was somewhat derailed by the campy humor of the TV show. DC management may have pushed him to reflect the show in his comics, or it may have simply been his decision. In either case, the art and text of this ad are a good example of trying to find a middle ground between the Schwartz Batman and Robin and the TV ones. The art is still realistic, but the large sound effect and language are like the show.

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Incoming: FABLES COMPENDIUM TWO

Image © Bill Willingham and DC Comics, cover art by Mark Buckingham.

The second of four massive trade paperbacks collecting all of the FABLES series has arrived. This one contains issues #42-82. The printing and paper quality look fine to me. The book is over two inches thick, so I hope the glued binding will hold up for readers. The cover art connects to that on the first Compendium, so I’m guessing all four will connect into one very wide image, a nice idea. If you haven’t read the series, this is a handy and relatively inexpensive way to do so. Retail price is $59.99, which seems a lot, but if you divide that by 41 issues, it’s about $1.46 per issue, less than you’re likely to pay for all those monthlies or previous collections. Not sure when it’s out in shops, but Amazon has delivery by May 11, link below.

Ira Schnapp’s DC Ads: 1966 Part 2

All images © DC Comics. From ACTION COMICS #336, April 1966

Continuing to look at Ira Schnapp’s house ads for April titles, this one promotes another 80-Page Giant full of reprints. Golden Age reprints were rare, since DC did not have good copies of the art in most cases and had to hire artists to retouch and sometimes redraw parts of them.

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