During the 1960’s just about every spy, western, action, adventure, comedy or sci-fi tv series had an equivalent comic book series. These books usually mimicked their show well; some did it very well. None are better – with possibly one exception.
“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” originated as a movie released in 1961. The film features the research submarine Seaview which first appears surfacing in the Arctic Ocean its bow pointing nearly straight up. You’d expect the movie to end here with the entire crew and everything unsecured smashed against the bulkheads – you’d be wrong. The plot goes on to tell a straightforward adventure about how the Seaview saves the Earth after the Van Allen Radiation Belt catches fire.
In 1964 the TV series debuted, created by the films’ Producer/Director Irwin Allen, famous for “Lost in Space” and later for several big-budget disaster movies. In this case, the disaster was the entire series.
Week after week one tuned in hoping for a good underwater adventure only to face soggy disappointment. The Seaview and her crew, led by Admiral Harriman Nelson (played by Richard Basehart, a very good actor in search of a steady paycheck) went up against an endless and dreary series of spies, aliens, madmen, rubber-suited creatures and monsters made up mainly of plastic streamers. In one episode a diving bell is swallowed by an unusually large whale. A team must journey into the tranquilized behemoth (I think they knocked him out by showing old episodes) to rescue the bell’s occupants. The bulk of the story has the rescuers stumbling through the whales’ innards, which consist mainly of multicolored inflated plastic garbage bags, while hidden hoses spray them with water. Despite the episode’s title being “Jonah and the Whale”Jonah was nowhere in sight.
Then came ‘The Script’. Somewhere in this programs run (amazingly it lasted 4 years)
the first story where the minds of all the crew with one exception are taken over by a sinister force was broadcast. The untaken over crewman then manages to free his fellows and they defeat the enemy. Afterward, this plot showed up about every other week (or maybe it just seemed that way) with a different crewman getting their chance to play hero.
What comic adaptation couldn’t be better? Published by Gold Key it ran for 16 issues (however 15 and 16 were reprints). Most of the issues are drawn by Alberto Giolitti, an Italian American comic artist who worked for Dell and Gold Key. His style is wonderfully detailed with some good character likenesses and underwater scenes.
Issue 2 (the Comics Database is uncertain if Alberto did the pencils but George Tuska is the inker) concerns a successful attempt to drill through the Earth’s crust that ends up releasing a deadly spore that reverts the local sea life to their prehistoric ancestors. Accidentally brought aboard the Seaview by a diver, the Green Fungus, as it’s dubbed, escapes from quarantine and begins spreading through the ship while Nelson races to find an antidote.This section of the story has the feel of a 1950s low-budget sc-fi movie. The plot also drags in a French Liner whose Captain says “Sacre Bleu” and “Ze compass has gone amuck”. What’s not to like?
I have most of the early issues but am still looking for the one where an alien takes over the entire crew except for the cook, who discovers his recipe for creamed chipped beef on toast has powers he never imagined.