As a six-year-old boy in 1968, I was coming into my own as a science-fiction fan. At the same time, I started hearing about allegedly real UFO mysteries. It was perfect timing for me, therefore, when that same year, Gold Key Comics --- my favorite comic book publisher when I was a youngster --- released UFO Flying Saucers. With my love for spacecrafts such as the Jupiter II from the Lost in Space TV series combined with the possibility of there being a chance that similar crafts might be visiting Earth from other planets, this comic title had me intrigued from its first issue.
What made UFO Flying Saucers --- later to be re-titled UFO & Outer Space --- even more captivating for me at the time was that its stories were based on accounts of actual UFO sightings and close encounters of the third kind (long before that term became a part of popular culture). I loved reading books, magazine articles, and whatever I could about first-person accounts of UFOS and their supposed crew members, cryptozoological beasts such as Bigfoot (Roger Patterson’s infamous footage had just recently been shown in my then-home state of Idaho and was a hot topic at my elementary school) and sea monsters, and the supernatural --- Gold Key’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not! True Demons and Monsters and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! True Ghost Stories comics simultaneously thrilled and spooked me. As a very young boy, I often found my credence tipping a tiny bit more toward my sense of wonder than skepticism. I wanted to live in a world where aliens came to visit Earth from other planets or galaxies, the Abominable Snowman roamed The Himalayas and Nessie lived in Loch Ness, and Spring-heeled Jack had terrified the populace of long-ago London. I could do without ghosts being real, though. UFO Flying Saucers was a dream come true, marrying my interest in the subject with my favorite type of reading material, as Gold Key’s Ripley’s titles had been doing with the paranormal.
One of the most fun things about UFO Flying Saucers is the wide range to the looks of beings from other planets and galaxies. Several years before what are now popularly known as “greys” --- extraterrestrial beings named for their skin color --- became the standard for alien sightings, imaginations ran wild as to who or what occupied unidentified spacecraft. First-person reports offered a plethora of descriptions of tall human-looking creatures, the classic “little green men” (the popular precursors to greys), insect-like creatures, robotic entities, and so much more.
Gold Key Comics is renowned for its beautifully painted covers, which stood out on the spinner racks next to the competition’s comics. UFO Flying Saucers is a perfect example as to why this strategy often led kids to buying a Gold Key title over a Marvel, DC, Charlton, or Dell comic book. With fantastic covers showing giant spaceships emerging from the ocean, explorers discovering the remains of ancient astronauts, and people trying to escape menacing aliens --- some covers in the latter style beg the question, why were so many smartly dressed women running around farmlands at night in high heels? --- UFO Flying Saucers offered many eye-catching reasons to spend allowance money on it rather than, say the latest issue of Where Creatures Roam, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, or Bat Lash.
Gold Key Comics didn’t often credit its artists and writers in the books, but over the sporadic 10-year, 25-issue lifespan of UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space, some of the talents on board included Leo Dorfman, Joe Certa, Luis Dominguez, Sal Trapani, and Alberto Giolitti, John Celardo, Joe Sinnott, George Roussos, Frank Bolle, Jack Sparling, and Pat Fortunato. I’m a big fan of the company’s stories, artwork, and lettering, and these names are a few reasons why. I have included some sample pages so that When It Was Cool readers can get an idea of the fun, action-filled artwork from the UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space series.
Some of the stories from the pages of UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space are legendary accounts of contact with extraterrestrials or unidentified craft, such as Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting, the Flatwoods Monster, and of course,some meetings with The Men in Black. Other stories are not as well remembered, such as the Crawfordsville (Indiana) Monster sighting of 1891 and the Warminster (U.K.) Thing of 1964. Even more obscure, unnamed sightings from around the world are covered.The stories in UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space are usually exciting and fast-paced --- and sometimes on the very brief side --- taking a dash of fanciful creative license every so often to further capture the imaginations of its young target audience.
When I revisit my old copies of UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space, I am instantly transported back to a more innocent, less cynical time when comic books only cost 15 cents (unless you needed to shell out a quarter for a super-sized special issue), local favorite Idaho Spud and other candy bars were only a dime, and the mysteries of flying saucers were a lot more fun because of the limitlessness of a child’s imagination. Gold Key’s UFO comics kept a generation of impressionable readers watching the skies when we weren’t reading our comic books.
You can read the opening story to Gold Key’s UFO Flying Saucers #1 here:
Besides contributing to When It Was Cool, Joseph Perry also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), the Gruesome Magazine horror movie website (gruesomemagazine.com), and several other print and online film critique magazines.