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A Martian Walks Among Us (Monsterbus p.353)

This is an excellent take on the shape changing aliens trope: full of tension and big ideas (what would YOU do?) But I think Lee has weakened it, as he often does, by narrowing the scope and changing the ending.

Narrowing the scope. 

Lee's influence is often seen at the start and end of these stories. The start has Lee's classic lines "Why? Why?" Something like that is often seen at the start. It's familiar from the Fantastic Four as well, when we compare the text to the art. The art will show many reasons for tension, but the text will choose just one and emphasise that. Because it was Lee's job to adapt these stories for children. Crucially, Lee's text is redundant, and does not add to the story. He just takes the most obvious thing we can already see from the art and repeats it. "Why? Why?"

That is what I mean by narrowing the scope. The art on the first page shows a man surrounded by menacing creatures. So we would naturally ask, who are they? Why are they doing that? Who is he? Why is he doing that?  Where is he going? How did he come to be in that situation? Lee either answers or ignores all but one question, and chooses the least important question: why does he not panic? This is the least interesting question because anybody surrounded by enemies knows that not panicking is the only way to survive: you must act confident. But to Lee, the question of panicking is the only one he thinks about.

By stating that the man is human, Lee ruins the story. As we shall see. This reminds me so much of my analysis of Fantastic Four issue 1. Lee's simply describes what he sees, in the most superficial way possible,often undermining the story in the process.

Changing the ending. 

I think the ending has been changed. Here is my evidence:

  1. The ending does not emerge from the story. There is nothing in the story that even hints at this: indeed, Lee's opening text explicitly said this man was human. Even if he had not, it isn't hinted at in the art at all. Kirby's stories don't have deus ex machina endings like that: Kirby's endings are always integral to the story, so the reader gains pleasure and insight from an ending that was foreshadowed.
  2. The ending contradicts the tone of the story. The tone was extreme danger, the ending says everything is safe and always has been.
  3. The art is unrealistic. Kirby's art always makes sense. But this mask, and the shape of the body that would never fit the human clothes? That could not work in real life. Unless the character was himself a shape shifter, but then why wear a mask?.
  4. The art is not like Kirby's other art. Around this time Kirby drew at least three thin limbed aliens: they are all similar, and none of them are like this. (The "fourth dimension is a many splattered thing", a similar monster story alien, and the aliens with computers in their heads from Challengers) I have never seen anything like that by Kirby.
Now imagine removing those last three panels. What would Kirby have there instead? Just look at the title page (recall that the big title, being drawn onto the pencil stage, was by Kirby, but the small text was edited by Lee). Most likely the hero is himself a Martian (hence Lee calling him a human ruins the story). He could not shape shift into something strong because he did not have a ship to enable recovery: remember that recovery each day was necessary for a major shape shift. Like the Venusian, this Martian had been here for some time. 

This is in keeping with the previous two stories, where the assumed villain turns out to be a hero (the lazy man, and the priest). It makes a much better story: lone Martian fights with us against the other Martians. And the splash page then makes sense. But Lee simplified it for children: we can't have a bad guy being a good guy, that's confusing! So make it a Venusian instead.