Monday, August 29, 2011
MANDRAKE'S RETURN TO X
Mandrake the Magician had a few science-fiction adventures in the pre-war era, but, if I am not mistaken, none in the 1940s until 'The Amazing Ray' daily strip adventure, which involves a ray that shrinks people to miniscule size, from 1949 (probably inspired by the movie Dr. Cyclops from 1940). When science-fiction adventures became prolific in the 1950s, Mandrake's first-ever foray into the genre, 'The Chamber into the X Dimension' from 1936-37 (see below post), would serve as a model for more than one Mandrake adventure. 'The Doorway to Z', a Sunday continuity from 1952, is a watered-down remake, with another scientist inventing a doorway to an unknown world where human beings have been enslaved for hard labor by living balloon-like entities. While the gist of the plot is similar, the comical-looking rulers of Z are nowhere as menacing as the metal men and the crystal men of X. 'The Place Called X', a Sunday continuity from 1957, is very loosely related despite the designation X. Here, inhabitants of an American town and investigating Mandrake are sucked into a distant planet where peaceful (and fat and short) inhabitatants are threatened by fire people. However, Mandrake and Lothar would actually revisit the X of metal men and crystal men decades later in a direct sequel to 'The Chamber into the X Dimension' appropriately titled as 'Return to X'. Serialized as a Sunday continuity in 1974, 'Return to X' starts with Fran, who had chosen to remain in X at the end of 'The Chamber into the X Dimension', sending a distress message to Mandrake who then pays a visit to her father who had invented the chamber to travel to X. Mandrake, together with Lothar, use the chamber once again to be transferred to X where they re-encounter practically all the figures from their first visit, the metal men, the tree-men, the fire-bird and the crystal men, except the lake-monster. Actually, one panel in particular involves an exact rendition of a pose of a metal man...
from that of a panel from 1936!:
It turns out that Fran and her mate have been captured by the crystal men and Mandrake leads their rescue. She opts to stay in X once again.
'Return to X' was serialized in Turkey in 1977 in the no.'s 145-146 of the Mandrake weekly published by Tay Yayınları. Later, this story provided the basis of two cover illustrations, no. 222 (dated Sept. 29, 1978) and no. 242 (dated Feb. 16th, 1979)
The illustration on no. 222 is signed by Aslan Şükür, the most prolific cover artist for Tay, and while I can not spot any signature on no. 242, I think it is also by the same illustrator. Note that one of the metal men in no. 222 has actually been redrawn from a panel in 'Return to X':