N.M.P.L. | AUSTIN
SETS FOR SALE
ABDULLA / ARDATH
LAMBERT & BUTLER
|S||pace was always a pretty popular theme for trade cards and this only increased towards the late 1960's for obvious reasons.|
However lets wind the hands of time backwards to 1955. This is a period of time when the sci-fi movie seemed to reach some sort of peak. Martians were landing every Saturday afternoon in a thousand cinemas as popcorn munching kids looked on agog at blokes with waste paper bins on their heads. Not only that but sci-fi was the new rock and roll of literature (actually rock and roll was pretty much the new rock and roll, Rock around the Clock released in 1955.) with Asimov churning the future out along with Bradbury and Heinlein
Sci-fi was the thing and the future was close enough to touch with the new confidence the US felt having emerged from the Second World War as the dominate World power. Soon the Cold War was going to get very chilly indeed and things were going to go pear shaped but for now we were all going ot be living like the Jetsons by the 1970's.
In 1957 Sputnik was going to be launched and suddenly the aliens were closer than we thought but in 1955 your Dad looked like Malboro man and your Mum was skipping around your kitchen clapping her hands with glee at all those new white goods Malboro man was supplying. And don't tell me it was not so, I've seen the ad's.
Martian chin is no problem for British fist
You are the other hand were stuffing sweets down your throat, rationing just a distant drone from your parents.
In short the time was right for Kane products to be packing a 50 card series called, Space Adventure into packets of candy.
But what is this? The present is flawed, there is a crack in the wall of virtuality and there are some unpleasant truths oozing from it.
The idea was great. A short story was split into 50 parts with 50 illustrations which told the tale of a Martian attack, good idea.
Good idea that is if you had supreme self-control, were the luckiest child on earth, or came into a bit of good fortune, otherwise it was not such a good idea.
Picture the scene. You rush into the local palace of childish pleasure and see the box advertising a new exciting space story in 50 segments. You really have to have some of that. Money changes hands and you are given some candy and a little piece of the future. Man those 1950's colour schemes ar definitive.
Trouble is it is not card 1. The worst it could be is card 50 and you have read the final page, or confusingly it is card 27 and you have not a clue what the future is about (join the club).
Still the future of 1955 is decidedly our past now and we can circumvent the problems of those early candy collectors and the set can be revealed in the manner it was always inteded, from 1 to 50.
Fat chance if you think I am going to reveal the entire story line to you, but like the movie trailers glimpses will be given to you. You will not know but you will have the sneaky suspicion you'll have seen the best bits, including the climax of the film but just have to go and see just in case the film is better than the trailer.
Fire balls fill the London skies, frightened crowds run from sheets of flame. People in shiny plastic suits stroke their chins at the HQ of the Scientific Research Society and look at lights flickering on a screen. The fire balls have a pattern. London's population is evacuated as fire fighters struggle with the great fire.
Twisted metal is recovered from the fires the likes of which never seen before in the world.
Egg heads do lots of work and determine the fire balls come from Mars.
Captain Jim Holly is the man for the job, jutting jaw just the right sort of shape for squeezing into a bell jar.
Jim and his space patrol companions, "Chick" Godfrey and "Nobby" Clarke.
A fire ball is spotted by 'Nobby' and atom guns blast the beast into fragments which continue towards earth.
Fragments of fireball are examined to find complex guidance systems.
Time for Jim to take the fight to Mars. The new strato battle cruiser is needed for the job.
Jim revs up the mighty fire belching motors and off the ramp they fly into the void.
Gets a bit complex here so imagine that bit of the trailer where apparantly random images flicker at high speed across the scene, its exciting but you don't know why.
Dazed and confused Jim, "Chick" and "Nobby" step out onto the Martian landscape. A Martian Orb hovers above them, Jim and "Nobby" activate the one working gun on their crippled ship and blast that Martian monster from the sky.
The Maritian vegetation was the weirdiest stuff seen before Star Trek.
Martians were watching, and more importantly aiming paralysing guns.
Captured they are hauled in front of the Empoeror of all Mars, Kraken. He takes them to see a huge arsenal of rockets, 'With these I will conquer all Earth' He says not unreasonably.
Even more boastfully he then shows the Earth men where his guidance systems are. Now the Emperor reveals his true colours, laughing in a mad manner.
The Maritans were smart but over confident. The dungeon they threw the earthmen in had a rather large window in it with no glass or bars. Standing on one anothers shoulders ensured the earth men were free.
A running battle begins, weaponless but for fists 'Chick' and 'Nobby' start dispensing with alien scum.
Jim unleashes a fireball towards a fleet of missles.
Krakens eyes bulge as he sees the ensuing explosions on his televisor screen.
Cut to the martian city being blown into the stratosphere with a tremendous card shaking roar.
End of trailer.
Those were the days, Martian civilisation blown to pieces. Such confidence, now a belching rock from Mars is treated like royalty, what would we have been like if Kraken had been waiting to met us. Would we have forgiven him is rather well guided rockets?
Probably especially as he only seems to be blasting London. I wonder if 1955 was the last time you could even allow a child to consider London was the key to the ruling of the entire world. It might have been a bit long in the tooth as an idea even then (The Day the Earth stood still  has the spaceship landing in Washington)
It would be a few more years before the idea of life on Mars was considered completely fanciful. Most of us now accept there is no 'human' type life on Mars. Ray Bradbury had written the Martian Chronicles in 1950 remember (even though the 1980 mini series brought it up to date suggesting if the Viking landings had just been somewhere else. Bradbury is reported not to have liked the adaptation and he was not the only one lets face it. Moralising nonsense, blast those aliens chaps. Where is Captain Kirk when you need him.)
Now if you are beginning to think I could prattle on forever about the influence of Mars on science fiction, sadly you are dead right so back to the cards.
The space ships are very much stuck in the mould of jet aircraft, complete with wings and canopy, very Dan Dare - Pilot of the future (1950-1969). The idea of revving up an engine was rather old hat then really but perhaps that's what you do in the future. Launched from a ramp, rather than vertically it owes more to the V1 rocket than the V2.
The Martian orbs have a rather death star type concept though, a nod to the future. The aliens have that mix of advanced technology and rather simple minded outlook which never seems to change. The bad guys just have to prattle on long enough about how they are going to take over the world so the good guys can stop them doing just that. Surely a world that had escaped World War Two ten years earlier was well aware how a madman went about taking over the world. Talk peace and invade fast, not talk war and sit about.
Other alien failings seem to be the ability to invent paralysing ray guns but have to drag their captives back to base like tribesman carrying their kill trussed up on a stick.
Mind you human technology has developed in strange ways too. Those revving engines didn't mess about getting to Mars. The oxygen cylinders seem to hold a good deal more oxygen than they would appear too which is fortunate because they seem to have to use them whilst in the space ship. A lot of funds must have been devoted to the space program though because fire-fighting seems to be a rather primitive proposition in the London of the future, pressure pushing the water jet an arcing twenty foot or so.
It remains gratifying to discover Martian chin is no problem for British fist, this is how it should be, biff it to them 'Nobby'. Some things will never change.