From the Earth to the Moon

21 09 2011
Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon

Cover from From the Earth to the Moon, Classics Illustrated edition, by Jules Verne

I spotted this piece of awesomeness in a local antique store while looking for ways to blow my paycheck. Classics Illustrated was a 169-volume series presenting the work of “the World’s Greatest Authors” in comic book form. The first issue came out in 1941 under the banner of “Classic Comics,” with a name change in 1947 to “Classics Illustrated.” Here we have issue No. 105, featuring Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (De la Terre à la Lune) in 1865. Actually, it combines together the story line of From the Earth to the Moon and its sequel, Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune), published in 1870.

The Classics Illustrated version was first published in 1953, but according to the inside cover, this is a 1965 reprint (apparently the company stopped printing original editions in 1962). I’m glad it’s a reprint—can you imagine the cognitive dissonance inherent in illustrating a nineteenth-century conception of lunar travel from a post-Project Mercury standpoint? In fact, right around the time this comic hit the newstands, Project Gemini was seeing its first crew launch (Gemini 3, on March 23, 1965). You’d have to pity anyone who had to take Jules Verne’s conception of a lunar vehicle seriously enough to draw it in 1965:

Rocket Proposal

A Really Bad Idea.

I’m pretty sure gasoliers are not suitable for space travel.

Verne may have been quite forward-thinking in some areas, but what really stands out in this comic is its rendering of post-Civil War society in the United States. I mean, it’s the local gun club that sends the rocket to the moon, not a national aeronautics commission. Had to do something with all the left over munitions, I suppose. I do wonder if the original French version characterized Ardan (the daring fellow who designed the rocket shown above) as “an idiot,” or if that’s an American embellishment.

Another thing:  I’d forgotten how creepy Victorian literature could be. Case in point—what do you do when your much beloved dog dies from an asteroid impact? You dump him out the airlock, hopefully without losing all  your “precious oxygen”:

Dead Dog

Dead Dog

Just be glad I didn’t include the frame showing the dog’s corpse floating past the portal.

Jules Verne could also be funny, although it doesn’t particularly come across in this version, unless you think the entire concept of the Baltimore Gun Club sending humans to the moon, with no hope of return, is funny. At least they thought to pack shrubs for planting on the moon’s surface in the cargo hold. But it must be a funny comic, because my partner laughed (more than once) at this page:

The Amusing Effects

The Amusing Results

You can read From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon in English online at Project Gutenberg.