The Ed Wood of Comics

Here’s an essay that did not make the cut for either the print or Kindle versions of the book. It’s an aside on Fletcher Hanks, a strange and tragic character who produced outsider comic books in the early 1940s. Anything that is basically incompetent as most people define the term, yet manages to make it into public awareness always makes me happy. This article was originally posted on UFOmystic on July 1st of 2009.


Pop Culture Reject

Sunday night on Radio Misterioso, my co-host Walter Bosley and I discussed a 1940s comic book artist who was virtually forgotten until just recently. In fact, those who do know about him tend to heap derision upon his memory. Highly unfortunate in my opinion. This name of this misplaced genius is Fletcher Hanks, and to me, his work is the comic book equivalent of cinematic schlockmeister Ed Wood.

His artwork is barely competent, his stories are incredibly surreal, and his dialogue sounds like it was written by a second grader or an illiterate. It is of course amazing that someone deemed his work worthy of publication in the first place, but that is not the only reason why I love his comics so much.

He seemed to have practiced a lot on one type of male face (which looks like Buster Crabbe with an enlarged forehead) and female faces and anatomy (which all look like 1930s blonde starlets in lingerie.) He was also pretty good at depicting running and leaping lions and panthers. Every single line of dialogue (unless it’s a question) is delivered with an exclamation point.

Hanks’ comic book output is a pure distillation of pop culture at a basic level, without any rules or “talent” getting in the way, which I think is much more revealing of our tastes and desires than any “professional” efforts from the likes of Marvel or DC. Hanks lived in his own universe, and it doesn’t matter if he drew and wrote for recognition, some inner need to express himself, or just the money. Any or all of these reasons are good and valid.

For all his personal faults, or perhaps because of them, his vision of drama may have been some kind of tortured effort to exorcise his own demons. His simplistic storylines may also have been his vision of what was wrong with the world, and his own deus-ex-machina efforts to fix it.

Hanks was an alcoholic, and quite abusive to his wife and kids, which makes him a fairly tragic figure, at least as long as you weren’t in his family. This information was gleaned from Fletcher Hanks, Jr. who has a life story that is an adventure in its own right.

Fantagraphics Books published a collection of Hanks’ work (I have the third edition from 2007) with the catchy title I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! Along with his mainstay hero “Stardust the Super Wizard,” the book includes the adventures of “Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle,” Big Red Maclane, King of the North Woods” and my personal favorite, “Buzz Crandall of the Space Patrol.”

According to Hanks’ wacked-out story, Crandall “lives on the highly civilized planet of Venus, and is in charge of the Interplanetary Secret Service for both Venus and the Earth. He has become the top crime-buster of the Universe.” Crandall foils Lepus The Fiend in his plan to “wreck planets with a ray.” Lepus chuckles with evil glee as he gazes at a viewing screen showing Venus and Earth (which are two orange circles) on a collision course. Hanks added two five-pointed stars in the corner of the screen, just so you know that he’s looking at a shot of outer space.

Apropos of nothing at all, but in a weird coincidence, there was a little-known contactee in the 1950s named Lee Crandall, of whom I have a bit of old film. In the short clip, Crandall runs away from his trailer park home with a space brother (who is conveniently never shown) and leaves a note to his parents which reads: “Gone to Venus. I am OK. Lee.”

According to Paul Karasik, who edited I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!, Fletcher Hanks was found frozen to death on a New York park bench in 1970. Now that’s tragic.

A big hat tip to Kenn Thomas for hipping me to Hanks.


Funny UFO Book Review

Robert Girard (1942 – 2011) used to own and operate the amazing Arcturus Books mail order company. Arcturus used to carry my old magazine The Excluded Middle, and he was supportive in his comments.

He reviewed just about every book in his catalog, and pulled no punches. If he hated a book, he told you so, and then gave you the price if you still wanted to order it. As I was going through material for the ebook edition of It Defies Language, I came across this old UFOmystic post which reprinted one of Girard’s most famous reviews about a children’s book on “alien” contact.


Haley, Leah. Ceto’s New Friends. Greenleaf, 1994. 8 1/2 x 11 HC, 32pp.

My jaw dropped so far down when I saw this that my belly button hurt for a week (though it might have been a sinking feeling in the pit of my gut causing the pain, I admit). This is a book for ultra-young readers by abductee/author Leah Haley (Lost was the Key). It has a total of 281 words in the text. It’s apparent intention is to introduce toddlers to alien abductions early (say, age 3 or so), before they find out the hard way — later in life — via trauma, ruined lives, etc., and to make the introduction a friendly one, in which the toddlers apply their innate trust in all things and all beings to the very monsters who are going to stick long needles into their bellies, ram huge contraptions up their behinds, empty their brains, make them pregnant and then rip out the fetuses, cut them, scrape them, inflict unspeakable pain on them and tell them (if anything at all) ‘it is necessary that we do this.’

Of course, none of those things ever happen to the two tykes in the book — and that’s what strikes me as being the ultimate Big Lie that one could ever inflict upon a totally impressionable mind: the idea that the greys are our friends. Sorry folks — I think it’s a bad idea to fill tiny little heads with Santa Claus just because you want to see ‘em glow with happy anticipation around Christmastime. It’s bad to stuff Jesus, heaven and hell into all-trusting minds. And it’s certainly bad to lie to infants about alien interaction with humans.This is the most unfortunate development in UFOlogy in many years, certain to create numerous traumas of it’s own for some of it’s innocent little readers — as they find out first hand what the greys really do with humans. This book is an appalling artifact — we recommend it only for extremely open-minded adults. Keep it locked up like you keep your handguns locked up, so that the kiddies don’t blow their heads off. $18.95

Girard repudiated his review soon after publication in his catalog. Too bad. Based on the review, I purchased a copy from Arcturus, and it still sits on the top shelf of my UFO book collection.

Coast To Coast Listener Post

For my appearance on tonight’s program with George Knapp, I’ve dug out a couple of rare images for the listeners.

The first is an original drawing made by UFO researcher Paul Bennewitz of something he said crashed in the mountains near Dulce, NM in January of 1986, as recounted in my book Project Beta. Bennewitz said that it was an atomic powered aircraft that aliens had given to the U.S. Government. When he and local law enforcement officer Gabe Valdez trekked into the wilderness soon after to look for the crash site, the area had been cleaned of all debris, but Valdez found a government-issued ballpoint pen accidentally left at the scene.


This other image is from a program for the UFO Expo West, a large conference that was held in Los Angeles from June 12-13, 1993. George Knapp was on the beat!

Knapp 1993

Greg Bishop on Coast To Coast on April 17th

I will be the first half guest on Coast To Coast AM with George Knapp on April 17th. More details as they become available.

I was last on with Art Bell on February 27th, 2005. That was a weird one – former AFOSI agent Richard Doty was also a featured guest and he took over, which was fine with me, because it sold more copies of Project Beta.