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Ceredo-based writer contributes story to anthology called 'Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated'

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

In 1962 Topps released a trading card series called "Mars Attacks" which serialized a story of grotesque aliens invading the Earth and destroying everything in their path.

The cards lurid imagery of violence, scantily clad women and dark humor soon caused them to be subject to controversy. This ultimately lead to Topps canceling the line early. Despite this, the cards captured a cult following among the youth of a generation. Through the years the Martians would return in comics, toys and a 1996 sci-fi comedy directed by Tim Burton.

Last year on the 50th anniversary I.D.W. publishing announced a new line of "Mars Attacks" comics. One of the people who considers "Mars Attacks" part of his childhood is Beau Smith, a Ceredo-based writer who has recently contributed a story to an anthology called "Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated."

"I was in the second or third grade when these trading cards came out," Smith said. "As a second or third grader this was it. It had everything: blood, gore, violence and totally evil aliens battling tanks and army men. It was all someone in the third grade, particularly a little boy could want. I was absolutely nuts about these cards. I do remember some of the parents in grade school confiscating them, which only made us want them more. The artist Earl Norem painted a lot of the cards. He's pretty elderly now but they actually were able to get him to paint the cover of the new comic. I did a lot of work with IDW on books like 'Wyonna Earp' and they knew I always wanted to do a 'Mars Attacks' story. Editor Denton Tipton called me up and told me they wanted to do a parody of 'Classics Illustrated with Mars Attacks.'"

This isn't the first attempt with "Mars Attacks" comics.

"'Mars Attacks' has always been rooted in a late 1950s/early 1960s style of dark humor," Smith said. "When Topps first tried to do 'Mars Attacks' comics in the 1990s they tried playing the material straight. They were so serious they were actually kind of boring. Image Comics also had a series called 'Mars Attacks Image' where the Martians fought their superheroes, and that kind of came and went. So when IDW acquired the property last year they wanted to return the concept to it's humorous, kind of anything goes roots. They ran an earlier series where the Martians fought 'Popeye,' 'Transformers' and 'Ghostbusters.'"

The new "Classics Obliterated" anthology features the Martians running amuck through parodies of classic literature. Smith's story is the second in the anthology and is a spoof on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In it the Martians come to Great Britain looking to steal a serum they think will help them conquer the world, but run into the doctor's monstrous alter-ego. A great battle ensues and many of London's landmarks are destroyed. The story is illustrated by Kelly Jones who is primarily known for illustrating "Batman" comics for DC.

"Topps wanted a few changes from my original pitch," Smith said. "They wanted the story set in modern times, and they wanted the names changed to 'Jackal and Snyde' to give it more of a Mad Magazine parody feel. Other than that I got total freedom. What I wanted to do was to give us a bit of the Martian's personalities and let us understand why they are so evil. So far in the IDW series, they had only spoken in gibberish, so in this story they use a translator, so we understand what they are saying. I had a lot of fun with that. I also tried to destroy every famous monument in London in this ending in a showdown at Big Ben. There are not one but two twist endings one for the Martians and one for the humans."

Smith's story is accompanied by a "Moby Dick" homage written by Phil Hester and illustrated by John McRea and a "Robinson Crusoe" spoof written by Neil Kleid and drawn by Carlos Valenzuela.

"Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated" is published in a prestige format and sells for $7.99. The book was released in comic shops everywhere June 5.