Revisiting a Classic

It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a 1958 science fiction film with a screenplay written by one of my favorite authors, Jerome Bixby. I’ve heard that the film inspired Dan O’Bannon when he wrote the screenplay for Alien. The overall premise is much the same. Aboard a spaceship, the crew is locked in a life-or-death struggle with a formidable alien creature. Bixby himself is probably best known as the creator of Star Trek’s mirror universe and also the author of the short story “It’s a Good Life” which was the basis of a Twilight Zone episode of the same title starring Bill Mumy. I met Jerome Bixby briefly while standing in line to watch Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan in 1982.

I recently came across a 2010 comic book adaptation of It! The Terror from Beyond Space published by IDW comics, who currently publish Star Trek and Doctor Who comics in the United States. The comic is written by Dara Naraghi with art by Mark Dos Santos. I liked the idea of retelling the story of a classic film as a comic book so I picked up the short run series, then rewatched the original film.

The comic series essentially follows the plot of the film. A spaceship goes to Mars to rescue a crashed exploratory mission. When they arrive, they find only one survivor, the captain of the original mission. All the evidence suggests that the first mission’s captain killed his crew so that he’d have sufficient resources to survive until the rescue party arrived. All the while, the captain maintains his innocence, saying a monster killed the crew. The captain is taken prisoner, but as the rescue ship prepares to leave, they dump some waste overboard, leaving the door open. This provides a path for the Martian to get aboard.

I suspect largely for budget reasons, the movie rushes through the early part of the story on Mars. We hear some narration over a lovely panorama showing us the wreckage of the exploratory ship and the rescue ship getting ready to leave. Then we cut to a press conference where an official on Earth tells a room full of reporters what happened. Soon after that, in the movie, the monster begins making trouble.

The comic spends most of the first issue on this early part of the story. This allows us a little more time to get to know the crew and wonder about the captain of the first mission. We also get to know more about the relationships of the rescue ship’s crew. In the movie, it’s hinted that the captain and the chief scientist had a romance. In the comic, that’s a bigger element of the plot. One of the things I love about the movie is that it actually had women in the crew, unlike Forbidden Planet, where the C-57D had a distinctly all-male crew. It was refreshing to see some black characters among the crew in the updated version as well.

I was initially disappointed to see that the first issue of the comic only really acknowledged the movie with a fine-print copyright notice on the inside front cover. However, in the second issue, we learn that a member of the rescue party takes orders from a shadowy group called the Bixby Wing, which was a fun nod to Jerome Bixby.

Overall, the comic maintains the feel of the 1950s film while updating some elements. The monster feels like one that would have been envisioned in that era, if they’d had more effects money. They maintained the overall look of the tall, cigar-shaped rocket ship, including the iconic thick hatches between decks. I’m sorry to say that the three-issue comic series is out of print and hard to find. The comics were part of IDW’s “Midnite Movie” series, which they don’t seem to have released digitally. Still, I do recommend the comics if you can find copies and the movie always makes a fun way to spend an evening.


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2 comments on “Revisiting a Classic

  1. I don’t know why I’ve never seen *It! The Terror from Beyond Space*, but as far as I know I haven’t (maybe I saw it when I was very young). I’ll have to plan to see it.

    In addition to “Mirror, Mirror,” Bixby wrote or co-wrote other episodes for the original Star Trek series, all of which I like. And “It’s a Good Life” is one of the most haunting stories I’ve ever read or seen.

    A friend of my was neighbors with Bixby, but I unfortunately never had the privilege of meeting him.

    • “It! The Terror from Beyond Space” feels very much like the kind of 1950s B-grade SciFi I grew up watching on weekend afternoons, but the writing elevates it from Mystery Science Theater: 3000 material to something more like the better novels of the period. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to watch.

      It’s not impossible I may have met your friend at some point. I grew up in the town where Bixby lived most of his life and the reason I met him was that Bixby’s son was part of the group of SF fans I tended to hang out with in my high school years.

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