“Judgment Day” from Weird Fantasy#18 (Nov.-Dec. 1953)
by Al Feldstein, and Joe Orlando
It opens with an astronaut arriving on a planet and greeted by the robot inhabitants. He greets the native robots in return and introduces himself as Tarlton “from ‘Earth Colonization’” (1) and is met with much fanfare. He is here to inspect the robot planet and the robot ambassador tells Tarlton “We are ready! We have labored long and hard to perfect our society” (1). Tarlton meets this reply by asking them to lead on. At this point, the narrative boxes describing events appear to and throughout to overlap and repeat what is shown in the pictures and via the dialogue. Tarlton begins his inspection tour guided by the robot ambassador.
On the tour, which starts off going well, Tarlton asks for it to stop so he can look more closely at an assembly factory where robots are made. The factory he sees constructs “orange” robots and Tarlton asks the pointed question: “What about the blue robots…” (2). The robot ambassador tells him they are made elsewhere, implying separation among the robots, and that he will show Tarlton later. Tarlton and the ambassador later take a bus to “blue town…on the South side of the city” (4). The bus itself is segregated. Blue town appears more run down than the other part of the city, kind of like a slum, and yet the factory is identical in its building of robots as the other. Only the outer shell is different, that and the way these robots have less freedom due to programing.
This all appears to set up a form of discrimination between orange robots and blue robots as Tarlton has noted and questions. Tarlton ultimately tells the ambassador that their planet, Cybrinia, will not be joining the Galactic Republic he represents. The robot protests and asks, “is there any hope” (7). Tarlton tells them that there is still hope, but that they must do more to get rid of segregation by coming together in unity as people had done on Earth before. In the end there was a twist, as back aboard his ship Tarlton removes his helmet to reveal he is a black man himself.
Looking at the purpose of this comic book, it appears that the writers and artists were aiming to tell an allegorical story, aimed at kids, about a scientific fictional nature. This story points out the clear commonality between beings on a planet by exposing one of the Orange robots, escorting to Tarlton, to what is alike between them and the Blue robots who are perceived and treated differently. At one point, Tarlton points out to the Orange robot that “Notice, my friend. They use the same alloy in their parts as you do…notice the internal units, my friend. The same designs…No difference! Exactly like yours!” (5). This revelation cuts to the heart of what the authors want the audience to see in this story. They want us to see how outside appearances do not compare to being the same on the inside.
As for that message, one allegorically centered heavily around ideas of what make us alike and a desire to look past our differences, it is a direct reference to America’s own issues of recognizable to 1950s audience: segregation. The story basically is preaching a kind of anti-segregation message during what could be viewed as the early days of the Civil Rights movement and it offers hope. The Orange robot asks as much of Tarlton at the end of the story and he tells him there is hope. He states that “For a while, on Earth, it looked like there was no hope! But when mankind on Earth learned to live together, real progress first began. The universe was suddenly ours” (7). Tarlton’s message is one of progress for the planet of Cybrinia (of the robots) by relating that Earth also was once like them. It is a clear message of hope centered around overcoming issues of racial discrimination and segregation.
Finally, the audience who this comic book is trying to reach is considered to be those of boys and young men. Comic book audiences at this time typically were younger boys and men up to around military age and some young girls. However, young girls typically were less interested in science fiction stories, like this one. This provides for speculation that the target or men, and possibly young boys based on the overlapping narrative boxes and pictures/dialogue on the page. At the beginning, the narrative box tells the audience “…he’d come alone. He stepped to the port amid the cheers of the robot population” and the picture shows our astronaut stepping and the robot population greeting him in shows or cheers “Welcome! Welcome, Earthman, to Cybrinia…to the planet of Mechanical Life!” (1). This overlapping narrative formatting and the theme of science fiction specifically provides evidence that this story was very likely targeted at young boys between ages of 8–14 perhaps with some variation.