In our fifth volume of Misty Short Stories we turn to the theme of aliens.
Would you believe that throughout her two-year run, Misty did not have one single serial that featured aliens? This meant serials on space invasions, dystopia, alien worlds, body snatchers from outer space, alien visitors trying to blend into Earth society, and alien companions, which we were so accustomed to seeing in other girls’ titles, were completely absent from Misty.
So how did the aliens fare in Misty’s complete stories? As shown below, they did appear more often there. But what roles did they play in the complete stories as opposed to how they were portrayed in serials?
1: Reversed Roles
A popular theme in the Misty short stories was to have aliens put the protagonists in reversed roles, in allegories to how they treat animals on Earth. In the stories below we see people being fished, eaten, experimented on and played with by aliens. On occasion it was to wreak the Misty-style punishment on an unsavoury person, but more often this was not the case. The alien was often anthropomorphised, which in some cases was to inject humour into the story.
Artist: Ramon Escolano
Fleur wakes up feeling like she has been asleep for ages. She is bewildered when her father says she is to remain permanently confined to the house and not go beyond the front gate. As she explores the house and surroundings she discovers everything is a fake, including her father, who is just a machine. Terror overwhelms her and she runs off, forgetting not to go beyond the gate. Outside the gate a giant rat kills her. It was an experiment conducted by giant aliens, and they express annoyance at yet another failure. Because humans are so small in comparison to them, they won’t accept that the reason for the constantly failing experiments is that humans are capable of thinking and feeling the way they do.
Food for Thought
Artist: Ramon Escolano
Jill and Betty are at end of their holiday and looking forward to a BBQ. But then they get netted by aliens and taken across the galaxy to be eaten. The aliens decide to eat them raw, dipped in garlic sauce. As the aliens prepare to tuck in, one thinks it is immoral to eat other creatures; they may not be as intelligent, but they do have feelings and can feel pain and terror. They also have environmentalists who want a ban on such fishing and hunting of these endangered species. Back on Earth, people wonder what happened to Betty and Jill as they prepare to tuck into the BBQ.
Artist: John Richardson
Reprint: Best of Misty Monthly #5
Tina “Titch” is teased and left out of things because she is small. To cheer herself up she goes kite flying, and finds others are flying kites too. She starts seeing them being pulled up one by one into the clouds, but nobody notices except her. Then she gets pulled up too. On an alien spaceship, an alien boy shows his mother the missing people. He was fishing them for his father’s tea. But Tina was so small he threw her back. Tina wakes up on Earth, little realising how her small size just saved her life.
2: Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes was huge at the time of Misty’s publication. As these stories show, it made its impact on Misty too. In fact it could be called a direct steal, as the aliens appearing in these stories are straight out of Planet of the Apes.
Artist: Jorge Badia Romero
Sally Bishop and four strangers disappear from home and find themselves in a creepy house, the “madhouse”, with no idea as to how they got there. As they try to escape the madhouse they disappear one by one through all the horrors and traps in the madhouse. Sally is the only one to make it outside. It is then revealed that “Madhouse” is a board game and the players are giant apes. The giant ape who won three rounds in a row with Sally as his playing piece says: “These humans make such wonderful little playing pieces.”
The Pet Shop
Artist: Martin Puigagut
Obnoxious Vivien and Steve Martin get a mouse from a pet shop. The shop staff have misgivings when the children say they are going to use it for an experiment (they have already mistreated another animal in the shop). They allow the sale on condition the children take good care of the mouse, and bring it back if anything goes wrong. Of course Vivien and Steve don’t take good care of the mouse in their (maze) experiment, and it dies from exhaustion. As instructed, they return the mouse to the pet shop, and they demand a refund. The shop staff and owners remove their human disguises, revealing themselves as giant talking apes. They have a very special policy for customers like Vivien and Steve who mistreat the animals they buy from their shop: lock them up. For what purpose exactly is not clear, so no allegory can be drawn there.
3: Close Encounters
As these stories show, Misty tended to go for crash landings when it came to UFOs landing on Earth.
Artist: Ramon Escolano
Feeling she’s a burden and money drain on her low-income aunt and uncle, Susan runs away. She throws a coin into a wishing well and wishes her aunt and uncle would have enough money for them all to live in contentment. Aliens appear and tell her they have been on Earth ever since their ship crashed 600 years ago. They live in the well because it is similar to their home environment, but they find coins and stones being dropped on their heads all the time and hear these stupid wishes, which they can’t grant as “we no magicians”. But at least it breaks the monotony of living in the well. Susan wakes up by the well, and the police pick her up. Susan thinks it was all a dream, but back home she finds a huge box of ancient coins on her bed, which enables her family to become rich. Susan buys a chess set for the aliens to help relieve the monotony, which they enjoy very much.
A wishing well that can grant something, but it’s not the well – it’s what resides inside it. The aliens are very funny in the way they speak English and what residing in a well means when everyone thinks it is a wishing well. At the end of the story, we are glad to see Susan express her gratitude by giving something in return for the wish.
Artist: Ramon Escolano
A family on a spaceship have a recurring dream of landing on a monstrous planet, a giant mountain, a giant quake and being thrown into air by something outside their drive units. They get marooned on a planet, and then the nightmare begins to happen for real. But the quake throws them into the air and enables them to escape the planet. The reveal is that they are tiny aliens, the mountain was a sleeping man, and the man, upon waking up, throws the spaceship into the air, thinking it’s a kid’s toy: “…not all spaceships are gigantic!” They fly happily through the stars again.
Someone definitely had “Land of the Giants” on the brain with this one. It’s a twist though, having the Earth people as the giants and the aliens as the little people, a complete reversal of the show. And unlike the show, the little people do escape.
4: Space Seeds
Here we have two stories about seeds that arrive from alien worlds and start sprouting in Earth soil. Naturally, they soon prove that on Earth, they are very dangerous weeds.
Artist: Isidre Mones
Libby Regan has to stay with her boring botanist Uncle Marcus during the holidays. She is repulsed and frightened at the hideous Venus fly-trap type of plant he is growing, which seems to be growing at abnormal speed, and at times seems to be reaching out to her and her cat with its tendrils. He says it was grown from a seed that was millions of years old, but from the looks of it, that seed definitely did not come from Earth (and the title says Alien Seed after all). He won’t listen to Libby’s protests about the plant or heed warning signs it could be dangerous. To him, it’s a valuable scientific discovery. But Libby is right – the planet is carnivorous, and is capable of growing big enough to consume humans. It flowers, and the scent from the flower renders Uncle unconscious. Seeing the plant attempting to eat him, Libby saves him and destroys the plant. But he doesn’t believe her explanation and thinks she just took advantage to destroy his precious plant. He sends her home. Libby is relieved she at least managed to destroy the plant. But unknown to her, in the days ahead, its seeds start growing…
There are plenty of stories about mad scientists who get destroyed by their own experiments because they did not listen to warnings about dangers. Uncle Marcus nearly fell victim to it. He escaped this time but he still did not listen, so the odds of him getting a second chance are not good. And this time, his rescuer will not be around to save him. It would have been interesting to see how this story went if it had been expanded into a serial.
Jorum is Coming
Artist: Jose Ariza
Heather finds a space egg that fell from outer space. She plants it in a wood while in a trance. She becomes increasingly detached to it and is sure that “Jorum is coming”. When her parents ask her about Jorum, she lashes out at them. Her behaviour changes for the worse and they grow increasingly worried. The egg grows to an enormous size, and Jorum, the creature incubating inside it, tells Heather to kill her parents because they must not interfere with his birth and conquest, so she gets an axe. The parents unknowingly break the spell when they say they love Heather, and she smashes the egg instead. Afterwards Heather can’t remember what happened and does not know what she means when she says: “Jorum is not coming now – not ever.”
This was the only time Misty touched on the subject of alien invasion, or an alien exerting an evil force over a girl. It’s a bit frustrating that Jorum gets destroyed before we see just what he is once he’s hatched and what he can do. Frankly, this story is crying out to be a serial. It would have been really exciting for Misty to fully develop Jorum, his powers, his plans for conquest, and the fight against him, and a serial would have done that. Just destroying Jorum by the end of a complete story feels a waste of potential.
5: Stuff of Nightmares
Just Another Day
Artist: Jose Ariza
Julia and Liz arrive at school and see it vanish. The rest of the street follows, and then the rest of the world. Last to go are Liz and Julia. Then it is revealed an alien dreamed the whole thing. He says it’s a pity Earth never really existed: “…so beautiful and the people were interesting too – not very bright, but full of vitality.”
A Scream in the Night!
Artist: Ken Houghton
Jan Peters wakes at 3am to see a shadowy man outside her third floor window. He enters, revealing himself as a hideous alien who has come to collect specimens. He traps her in a specimen box and takes her to his spaceship, with her screaming all the way. But it turns out the alien was the one who was having the nightmare. He tells his comrade he dreamed they had already reached Earth and were collecting specimens, but the hideous screams this one kept making were torture to his ears.
Here we have horrible things happening to people on Earth, which turns out to be a dream. Having it all a dream can come off as a bit of a copout. It’s a matter of opinion and how it’s handled. The twist is, it’s not the protagonist’s dream but that of an alien.
In the short stories, aliens were used most often as allegories to make a statement about humans and human behaviour/misbehaviour, particularly in regard to the treatment of animals/environment. They were not used the way they were in girls’ serials (alien invasions, alien worlds etc) though a few stories touched on some of those subjects. Aside from a few exceptions, Misty did not draw on popular culture or movies for her short stories featuring aliens, and what she did draw upon was very limited. Heck, Misty did not even have Martians!