Shadow creator Walter Gibson wrote nearly 400 comic book scripts over his incredibly prolific career. From writing The Shadow for Street & Smith comic books to Blackstone the Magician for Marvel, and even some text stories in Batman for DC Comics, Gibson kept his hand in a bit of everything. Gibson also wrote a few science fiction comics, and the 1951 one-shot Rocket to the Moon from publisher Avon may be one of his most unusual efforts in comics. There’s a Rocket to the Moon #nn (Avon, 1951) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white to white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
As outlined in another recent post about Strange Adventures #1 from DC Comics, the start of the media propaganda that accompanied the Cold War-era Space Race can largely be traced to 1950’s Destination Moon. This film and other media adaptations (there were two different comic book versions in the same year) along with their intended influence were driven by Destination Moon creator and giant of American science fiction Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy who had ties to Naval Intelligence during World War II.
Still, Walter Gibson’s Rocket to the Moon from the next year is a curiosity among such stories for casting China as the Space Race rival rather than the Soviet Union. This may have been influenced at this time by the saga of Chinese aerospace engineer, mathematician, physicist, and cyberneticist Dr. Hsue-Shen Tsien (Qian Xuesen)– who was accused of attempting to send top-secret materials to China and of Communist associations in 1950. As what is now known as the Second Red Scare continued to ramp up, Qian Xuesen’s story made national headlines in 1950-1951. A highly accomplished scientist, he had been involved in the Manhattan Project, in the development of the Jet Propulsion Lab, and had been sent by the U.S. Air Force to Germany to inspect rocket factories and secret test sites, and question German scientists including Wernher von Braun in the aftermath of World War II. The charges against Qian were false, and Under Secretary of the Navy Dan A. Kimball would later comment, “It was the stupidest thing this country ever did. He was no more a Communist than I was, and we forced him to go.” After his departure from the U.S., Qian became the father of China’s space program.
As of this writing, there are 79 listings for Rocket to the Moon on the CGC Census, with only 11 graded higher than CGC 7.5. A fascinating artifact of its time written by Walter Gibson of Shadow fame, there’s a Rocket to the Moon #nn (Avon, 1951) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white to white pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
Rocket to the Moon #nn (Avon, 1951) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white to white pages. Classic rocket ship cover and art by Joe Orlando. Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide to Comics lists this one-shot as a “7” (“scarce”) on its Scarcity Index. Overstreet 2020 VF 8.0 value = $1,158. CGC census 6/21: 5 in 7.5, 11 higher.