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A Companion


Edited By Jack Fennell

What is Sci-Fi?

Science fiction is a non-realist genre that foregrounds a sense of material plausibility, insisting that despite seeming outlandish, it is consonant with history and the laws of nature. By turns subtle and bombastic, sci-fi revels in discovery and revelation, whether through human ingenuity or world-altering paradigm shifts. The same impulse informs both the idealism of Star Trek and the existential terror of Frankenstein.

Each chapter of this book examines a specific trope or theme through a different critical lens – including eco-criticism, feminism and historicism – while also providing a historical overview of the genre, from its disputed origins to the pulp era, the New Wave, and the exponential growth of Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurisms. Revered masters such as Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Iain M. Banks are considered alongside newer talents, including Rebecca Roanhorse and N. K. Jemisin. Other chapters provide overviews of different media, from television (Doctor Who, Westworld) to comics/manga (2000AD, Métal Hurlant), video games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) and theatre (Alistair McDowall’s X).

Sci-Fi: A Companion not only provides an accessible introduction to sci-fi for general readers and researchers alike, but also illuminates new approaches to a familiar genre.

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Science Fiction Comics (Dan Byrne-Smith)


← 174 | 175 →

Dan Byrne-Smith

Science Fiction Comics

Contemporary comics offer some of the most vibrant, dynamic, adventurous, subversive and inventive examples of SF as a visual form today. This field is global, demonstrating variations in formats, cultural traditions and histories. This short overview of SF comics will focus on some of the dominant histories of the field, discussing the United States, Japan, France and the UK.


The best case for the first clearly recognizable SF comic is offered by the daily newspaper strip Buck Rogers in the 25th Century AD.1 The story focused on the adventures of a former pilot accidentally preserved for centuries, to awaken in a future war. First published across the USA in January 1929, the strip was adapted from a story by Philip Nowlan, with illustrations by Frank R. Paul, published in the September 1928 edition of Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories magazine. Changing the protagonist’s name from Anthony to Buck, Nowlan wrote the script, while artist Dick Chalkins drew it, basing his designs on Paul’s work. The strip emphasized adventure and advanced technology, was read by an audience of millions (Benton 1992: 10) and was adapted as a radio ← 175 | 176 → show in 1932. Among the numerous imitations, serious competition entered the field in 1934 with the debut of Flash Gordon, written and drawn by Alex Raymond.2 The popular Flash Gordon newspaper strips inspired a movie serial (1936) which prompted a similar treatment for Buck...

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