Perry Rhodan Comics

Given my love of comics and my recent dive into the world of Germany’s Perry Rhodan space opera series, my birthday present from my wife this year was a complete digital set the Perry Rhodan comics published in 2015 by Cross-Cult Comics. The comic series is written by Kai Hirdt with art by Marco Castiello. The only catch is that these comics are only available in German. However, it provided a fun opportunity for me to dust off my German language skills and explore some Perry Rhodan as originally written. Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series only ran for six issues and there are two three-issue story arcs. So far, I’ve read the first three-issue arc, titled “The Cartographers of Infinity.”

The comic is set in the year 3540, which places it well after the early Perry Rhodan adventures I’ve been reading in Perry Rhodan Neo, and before the ones in Perry Rhodan Lemuria. In the comics, Perry is leading a deep space expedition aboard the Starship Sol. The Sol is a massive starship 6.5 kilometers long, holding 10,000 crewmembers. Among the crew are some characters, who I believe are well known to regular Perry Rhodan readers. These include: Gucky, a “mouse beaver” who is a telepath and can teleport people and objects from point to point; Tolot, a massive warrior with four arms; Belayn Parcer, a space jet pilot; and Irmina Kotschistowa, a human mutant who can heal through touch.

In this story, the Sol is lost in space and the crew is trying to find their way home. Fortunately, they find a space observatory crewed by an insect-like race called the Skra’Bji. Unfortunately, it’s under attack by a group of aliens called the Umal Pact. The crew of the Sol drive off the attackers, but they can’t read the data and the only surviving Skra’Bji named Tr’Frel is seriously wounded. So, they take her to her homeworld to find a blood donor. Once there, they discover her world has been occupied. Meanwhile, Gucky has entered Tr’Frel’s thoughts and learned her history and supports her cause.

The story is solid space opera adventure with lots of action. My only script complaint was that we have a few pages where it seems like someone is shouting NICHTS! (NO!) every two or three panels. The artwork feels very much like what one would expect to find in an American comic. The only character I knew before reading this was Perry Rhodan himself and he looked like the square-jawed American astronaut I would have expected from the books. I enjoyed the characters. The focus is largely on Perry and Gucky, but Belayn and Tolot both get great moments to shine. I can see a lot of story potential for Irmina and she had some great lines, but because she heals through touch, she’s dressed in a skimpy outfit and the artist does indulge in “male gaze” more than once.

If, like me, you know some German and enjoy space opera comics, Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series is a worthwhile introduction to the Perry Rhodan universe. Digital copies are available at Amazon.com for $4.99 each and a hardcover collection of the first three-issue story arc is also available. I had fun exercising my language skills. I spent a lot of the first issue using Google Translate to refresh my vocabulary but by about the middle of issue 2 I was mostly just using Google as a check on my comprehension.

As always, you can find my space opera stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com. Just look for The Solar Sea or the books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series.

Perry Rhodan Lemuria

Two weeks ago, I shared my discovery of Perry Rhodan Neo. This is the German space opera series which the publisher J-Novel Club started translating into English and publishing in the United States this year. In effect, it’s a reboot of the original Perry Rhodan series, which contains over 3100 stories written between 1961 and the present day. I was curious whether any other Perry Rhodan stories had been translated into English after the Ace Books editions ceased publication circa 1978. I discovered a series of novels called Perry Rhodan Lemuria. This is a six-novel series that was published separately from the main Perry Rhodan serials, but fits within the original continuity. The first novel in the series was translated into English in 2005. The other five novels finally saw translation and publication as ebooks starting in 2015.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I first learned about Perry Rhodan because he inspired Bubonicon’s mascot Perry Rodent. I also have an interest in science fiction and fantasy published in other countries and languages. What’s more, I took several German language classes in high school and college. I’ve translated a few of the original Grimm Fairy Tales for my own interest, so it’s fun to look at modern science fiction from Germany.

Perry Rhodan Lemuria is set almost 3000 years after Perry Rhodan made first contact with aliens on the moon. He’s still alive thanks to a device called a cell activator, which gives him virtual immortality. In fact, one of the things I enjoy about these later Perry Rhodan books is how Rhodan takes immortality in stride. He doesn’t complain about living too long. Instead he enjoys the fact that he has time to see large swaths of human history and explore vast reaches of the universe. The Lemuria series opens with Perry aboard the prospecting vessel Palenque. He’s there to make peaceful inroads with a group of people called the Akonians. Meanwhile, the Palenque has sent out several of its exploration vessels and one is destroyed when a shuttle traveling near the speed of light collides with it. It turns out, the shuttle was stolen by a Lemurian named Venron, who has been aboard a generation ship. When Venron comes aboard the Palenque, it spurs Rhodan to seek out the ancient craft to learn more about it. Soon after they reach the craft, they discover the Akonians have also intercepted it.

In the Perry Rhodan storyline, it turns out the Lemurians are the progenitors of all the humanoid species around the galaxy. Not only that, but the Lemurians come from Earth itself. The idea is that a great space faring civilization rose to prominence on Earth, but it ultimately collapsed and vanished before humans again reached their potential and went out to the stars. Admittedly, having human-like aliens in your space opera helps to make them more relatable. Star Trek once suggested that many of the human-like species in the galaxy might share a common ancestor. That said, it does push my willing suspension of disbelief a little to suggest that such a common ancestor would come from Earth itself, but that’s never really a major plot point, at least in the first two volumes of Perry Rhodan Lemuria. Doing a little research, it seems the Lemurians have been part of the Perry Rhodan mythos since around 1966 and I would guess that changing their backstory wouldn’t be a simple matter. It will be interesting to see how and if Perry Rhodan Neo deals with the Lemurians.

Circumstances in the first novel send Perry and the crew of the Palenque after a second Lemurian ark in the second novel. That second ark ends up crash-landing on a planet. There, the idea of human-like aliens is turned on its head when the Lemurians and the crew of the Palenque encounter a group of energy beings who don’t seem happy about the human-like aliens on their planet.

Overall, the first two novels in this series have nicely woven plots, some interesting ideas, and characters I care about. The first novel seemed well translated, but the second one could have used some careful copyediting. I found several places where words were missing or sentences seemed a little too close to German word order for easy reading. The storyline has caught me well enough that I want to read more in this series and I was grateful to see an example of Perry Rhodan’s later adventures after he left the Earth and started exploring other worlds. I recommend it, especially if you’d like to get a taste of a very long running science fiction series published outside the United States.

Perry Rhodan Neo

The line might be a marketing cliché but in this case, it might literally be true that Perry Rhodan is the most famous space hero you’ve never heard of. Perry Rhodan is the protagonist in a long-running series of space adventure stories published in Germany. The series started in 1961 and continues to this day. There are over 3100 Perry Rhodan novellas. I can’t think of anything quite like that in the United States. The closest equivalents I can think of are some long-running comic book series or Harlequin romances. Neither one quite hits the mark since comic books aren’t the same length as novellas and Harlequin romances aren’t a single, continuous narrative.

Rhodan is not unheard of in the United States. Forrest J. Ackerman acquired the rights to translate the stories into English and publish them in the United States. Ace Books published the series from 1969 until 1977. I first discovered Perry Rhodan by attending the Bubonicon science fiction in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Given that the convention is named for the Bubonic Plague, the mascot was named Perry Rodent as a nod to Rhodan, whose adventures were in print in the U.S. when the convention first started.

Perry Rhodan is a NASA astronaut who goes to the moon and discovers two aliens aboard a space vessel. Realizing this is an opportunity to start a new era, he brings them to Earth and hatches a plan for world peace. He’s aided by a group of human mutants who have manifested special talents. As the series progresses, Rhodan leads humanity outward to explore space. With the help of alien science, he’s able to extend his life and becomes virtually immortal. In effect, the series has elements of Star Trek, Doctor Who, and X-Men all rolled into one — and it predates all of those!

This brings us to Perry Rhodan Neo. Launched on Perry Rhodan’s 50th anniversary, this new series goes back to the beginning and re-imagines the series. The original starts in 1971. The new series pushes the events forward to 2030. It ramps up the action, feels a little grittier and a little sexier. In a long-running series like Perry Rhodan, plot points tend to evolve organically as different writers introduce them over time and as different editors shape the direction of the series. Neo starts folding in some of the longer running plot points early on to make a more unified story. While the original series hasn’t been seen in translation since 1977, I was excited to discover that Neo is being translated and has started appearing in the United States this year, the 60th anniversary of Perry Rhodan.

Perry Rhodan Neo is being published in the United States by J-Novel Club, a publisher best known for translating and publishing Japanese light novels. In fact, the covers for the translated editions are taken from the Japanese editions, which is why they have a distinctly manga-like appearance. The covers above are for the first two novellas, Stardust and Utopia Terrania. On the left we see Perry Rhodan and on the right we see the Arkonide captain, Thora da Zoltral. Each ebook contains two novellas.

Back in 2012, the Bubonicon chair asked me to write a Perry Rodent story for the program guide. Although it wasn’t required, I thought it would be fun to capture the flavor of the Rhodan novels, so I read the first few. They were fun, pulp adventure, but they felt dated and it wasn’t all that difficult to step away from the series and move onto other things. Even though Neo tells much the same story, I found it much harder to put down. The storytelling was fun. The action whipped along. I haven’t read these in the original German, but the translations seem well executed. I see that the first eight-novella arc of Perry Rhodan Neo is complete in English and that J-Novel Club will be continuing into the second story arc. I’m looking forward to reading more of these stories and learning more about a character I’d heard of, but don’t know well enough.

If you’d like to read my Perry Rodent story, I published that here on the Web Journal at: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/perry-and-the-apocalypse/

You can find Perry Rhodan Neo at your favorite ebook retailer or buy them directly at J-Novel Club: https://j-novel.club/series/perry-rhodan-neo