Dell Giant #43: "Mighty Mouse in Outer Space"

Published Jan. 1, 1961
Artist: Unknown
Writer: Unknown

I remembered buying this book when it first came out, but other than a couple of panels I couldn't remember anything about the contents. So I decided to revisit it.

Dell Giant, like Dell Four Color, was an umbrella title; it let Dell flood the newsstands with what looked like separate books. This title was unusual, first, in that it featured Mighty Mouse; the big studios like Disney and Warners were more likely to be represented. This book is also missing many of the other features of Dell Giants: no puzzles or games. (It's very unusual to come across a pristine Dell Giant.)

But what's most unusual is, the whole 80 pages are devoted to one story. In some ways this is an early graphic novel. (Although no one's likely to be clamoring for a reprint, on this or any other grounds.)

First chapter: "The Flying Saucer Strikes!" "Suddenly, in the night sky above Mouseville, a strange object hovers…" I like that the first word is "Suddenly". We start out by building momentum, which will dissipate over the next eight pages.

The flying saucer abducts Mighty Mouse's then-current girlfriend, Mitzi Mouse, and the two kids she's babysitting. For good measure they grab her next-door neighbor as well. No reason is given for his abduction, and in fact nothing comes of it. But consider: the saucer has chosen an immature male, an immature female, an adult male and an adult female. Sure looks like someone's getting breeding stock.

Mighty Mouse hears their cries for help, because he always does. Unfortunately he gets zapped by a ray from the saucer and is out for the count. (Like many "un-serious" superheroes, and more than a few serious ones, MM's power levels fluctuated with he needs of the story.)

Seconds later he comes to, and is convincing himself he was seeing things, when a camera bug rushes up with photographic proof. Mighty takes the photo (without saying, "Thank you!" Some role model) and rushes off to his scientist friend, Professor Theorem. The prof has a full beard and a beret — he looks like a beatnik, in other words. (But no jive talk or bongos.) Maybe the idea was to suggest he's an unconventional thinker. If so, it failed; the prof's defining quirk is his absent-mindedness, which is very conventional for funnybook scientists.

Once the prof has found the saucer on his radar, he deduces that they can't follow without a rocketship. Fortunately he's got a one-mouse labor force in front of him. The rest of the chapter is taken up with building a rocket, finding fuel, hiring a crew consisting of hotshot pilot Zoom and handymouse Tinker, and then it's time for the big launch. Unfortunately the rocket starts to tip over, so Mighty Mouse has to get out and push.

I figured out why I didn't retain any of the story from the first time I read it — it's too formulaic. (Terrytoons — formulaic? Oh, say not so!) Mighty and company land on a planet. They meet (and run afoul of) the local population, and extricate themselves using brains and/or superpowers. Then they discover a clue left behind by the saucer, and they're off to the next planet.

Some things are too obvious to complain about. So every alien race speaks English? They could be telepathic, y'know.

Every alien race turns out to be hostile. Well, after all, this is Mighty Mouse, not Casper the Friendly Ghost.

They just happen to be following the saucer's course exactly, finding clues as small as Mitzi's hankie on Jupiter. If this were a Silver DC book, they'd say something like the Professor was picking up the saucer's ion trail.

Talking of DC books, this is very much in the vein of early Jack Schiff stories, where each planet in our system was host to a different race (and never the same race from story to story). It's not just a DC trope, of course, it goes back to at least pulp fiction. You may recall the JSA story from All Star 13, "Shanghaied into Space," where each JSA-er had to bring back a scientific discovery from our planetary neighbors. Later Roy Thomas "improved" the story by saying they were in a parallel universe, where the planets of our system were indeed inhabited.

Mighty Mouse and company run into:

Putty people on the moon, who take on your superficial characteristics when they touch you:

Plant people on Venus, whose humanoid servants are at the mental level of livestock;

Batwinged cats from the underground cities of Mars;

Humungous balloon men on Jupiter (no one thinks to call them, "gas giants," but I suppose that's over the kids' heads);

Crystalline stone faces on Saturn. (They trap Professor, Tinker and Zoom like flies in amber. This was one of the scenes I remembered.)

I skipped over their stop in the asteroid belt to make repairs. They land on a planetoid with a 50-mile diameter, which actually has an atmosphere.

And dinosaurs.

Mighty actually has to expend some effort, fighting a stegosaurus, a diplodocus and the inevitable T-Rex. The art has been just serviceable up to this point, but the artist has put extra effort into these thunderlizards. I'm sure the reasoning was, kids who like space will also like dinosaurs, because it's all science.

It's hard to remember the big push America put behind science in the early sixties, all in an attempt to beat the Russkies to the moon. (Especially when a lot of effort is being put forward by today's corporations to badmouth science that affects their bottom line.) The present story is in no way educational — about the only thing they get right is the names of the planets — and makes no claims as such; it's just making use of what we would call the zeitgeist. Outer space is in the air, so to speak, so let's make a kiddy book that takes advantage of it.

Mighty busts his hostages — uh, crew members — out of the stone heads and they circle Saturn, trying to pick up the saucer's trail. Then Professor Theorem gets the brainwave they're on the only moon in the system with an atmosphere, Saturn's sixth moon, Titan. (LSH fans will recall Saturn Girl's homeworld was retconned to Titan when it became just too clear that Saturn couldn't sustain life.)

And the saucer is on Titan! The inhabitants are giant pussycats. (Nobody uses the word, "Titanic." Another opportunity lost.) All this time they've been testing their captives, trying to determine if invading Earth will be worth their while. No mention of how long the testing's been going on, but then, there's been no mention of specific time units passing in this whole story. It would be just too apparent how impossible this whole mess is.

It takes longer than it should, but Mighty Mouse breaks everyone free and breaks some Titan-tabby faces and hardware. The cats call off the invasion, thinking that all mice on Earth are like MM. (The word "outlier" isn't in this story's vocabulary, either.)

And then it's back to the green, green hills of mother Earth. But before we sign off, Mitzti gets her own two-panel gag:

"Wait, Mighty Mouse! If you're rocketing to the moon, you forgot some vital equipment!"

"What is it, Mitzi?"

"A knife — in case the moon is made of real cheese!" (You just know Bakshi would say something about cutting the — oh, never mind.)

Actually the title of this gag sums up the whole book: "Destination: Cheese."