Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lost In Space Monsters

Today's Monster Memories are of:
"Lost In Space"
(Click on images to view full size.)
Scanned from a comic book in my collection.

When I was six years old, the coolest, most awesomest thing on TV was "Lost In Space." I was watching it during it's first run, in black and white, and in my little mind there was nothing like it. I was living in Macon, Georgia, my home town, in the same place I described in my post on the Monster Magnet. After viewing the very first network showing of the early episode with the giant Cyclops monster, I remember recreating the memorable scene at play the next day.
I took some crayons and drew on a cardboard shoebox (belonging to my stepdad) some windows and a door to resemble the Chariot. Putting it in a ditch, I set up some toy soldiers around it and on top to represent the Robinsons. I then took some large clods of red Georgia clay, and moving in exaggerated slow-motion, I clomped around, picking up the large clods, and dropping them down on and around the helpless Space Family Robinsons and their vehicle. I must have looked pretty silly to any neighbors that might have been watching. I finally flattened the shoebox and people with a clod, breaking it apart in a small cloud of red dust. When it cleared, they were all dead. It's fortunate for the Robinsons and all the kids watching the show, that the episode didn't play out that way!
In one of the comics in a stack that a neighbor gave me, there was the ad (scanned in above) for the Aurora model kit re-creating that very scene. How I longed to have it! When I came across that ad again recently, it brought back a flood of nostalgia. For a moment I was that kid again, reading the comic while sitting outside under the shade of a mimosa tree. The sweet watermelon-like scent of the blossoms still linger in my memory, and when I smell them today it takes me back to that place and time.

Now, of all the characters on the show, the Robot was my favorite. Of course, I related to Will, but the fantasy idea of having the Robot for a pal was extremely attractive. I imagined having him and taking him to school with me, and having him zap the bullies on the playground that dared mess with me.

One of the most unusual aspects of my childhood days is the amount of time I spent in cardboard boxes. You've heard of "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble," well, I was "The Kid In The Cardboard Box."

Whenever I came across one large enough to get in, I would have fun with it for weeks until it wore out. One of my favorite things to do with them was to make a spaceship. I would draw with crayons and markers on the inside, creating all sorts of screens, buttons, switches and computer panels. I would get in, blast off after a countdown, travel through space, then land on an alien planet. Getting out and exploring, the yard became a strange world of unknown dangers. The dog (we had a chihuahua at the time) was an alien creature that I befriended and shared my "space rations" (snack crackers) with. Sometimes I even took him back to Earth with me in the ship and kept him as a pet.

My parents would look out in the yard and see the box rocking back and forth and wonder if they needed to take me to the doctor to be examined for a mental condition. It was just good fun using my imagination! But the oddest use was turning myself into a robot. If the box was tall, like one for a water heater or something, but not big enough to crawl into comfortably, I would make it into a robot suit!

Detail of a comic book back cover ad for the Aurora model kit. View the entire ad here.
Cutting out a square hole in the front to see out of, arm holes in the side, and an open bottom for my feet to stick out of, I would festoon the inside with more colorful buttons, round gauges and rectangular readouts. Donning the box, I would trundle around the yard, mostly pretending to be the Robot from Lost In Space, waving my arms around and doing my best imitation of "Danger, danger! Warning, warning!" Other times it would be a mechanical suit, used by an astronaut to explore dangerous environments where a large robotic body would be helpful. What amusement I must have brought to the neighbors as I walked around in these boxes, and what shame I must have brought to my parents! But, they let me alone... better out in the yard doing whatever than inside bugging them. And cardboard boxes were cheap... make that free.

Here is a photo of an assembled and painted Robot from the Aurora kits. Any kid lucky enough to get one, is now a lucky adult if it survived and he still has it!
Lots more cool images of models!

Fun link: http://www.iann.net/vaults/lostinspace/

I watched the show whenever I could catch it for the next 6 years or so. My mother would fuss about the "stupid bells" that she had to listen to every day after school when it was on during afternoon reruns. She was referring to the piece of music that was always used during the climatic scene, with the clanging bells, you know the ones. Below is a drawing I did after I was older, about 13, of the Robot using the Aurora ad as reference. Meaning, I just copied it by looking at it and adding my own touches. Buy that time I was growing up into Star Trek and was beginning to consider Lost In Space to be childish. Notice the justification commentary down near the title; "The only good thing about it!" Sure, it was a kid's show... but it's fun to watch now and relive the innocent days when it all seemed so serious.
About the same time as I was playing the Cyclops and the Robot, there were Lost In Space bubble gum cards out. During several trips to the local corner store on the way home from my first grade school (I had to walk about a mile), I picked up some packs, which I stored in my box of personal stuff. Some actually survived over the years, and I now have them as proud relics of my younger years in my card binder. I've scanned in the dozen or so I have to share with you below!
The various and many monsters on Lost In Space both entertained me and scared me over the next few years. I could watch it and enjoy it, unlike "The Outer Limits," which at the time gave me nightmares, and was just too adult and intense. Lost In Space was the perfect show for the six and seven year old that I was, and the inner kid still living in me now gets a kick out of putting it on every so often... until I have had my fill of Dr. Smith for awhile. One can only take so much of him.

I'll close with a couple more Lost In Space memories. One, when I was about 11, I bought (well, my Mom did, when we were school clothes shopping) a pullover shirt that looked almost exactly like Will's. It was green and blue, with leather on the upper section. I thought I was hot stuff. I wish I had a picture of myself in that! I wore it out.

Second, I finally met Will Robinson, played by Billy Mumy, at a convention in Miami FL around 1993. I took my young daughter, who had seen him on the show when I watched it, and she was thrilled to meet him as well. We had an up-close and personal encounter with him; we were riding an elevator up to a higher floor of the hotel to see if we could look out over the Miami skyline. When who should step onto the elevator but Billy himself! It was so freaky, standing with a hero of my childhood. He really hadn't changed much other than just getting to be grown! We talked some as we rode up, and he seemed pleased that I was a fan and had watched as a kid. When my daughter mentioned why we were going up to the highest floor, he invited us into his suite to see the view!

So we got to visit in his hotel room for a little while, and see the beautiful view from his floor-to-ceiling windows. It was unreal. I didn't overstay, and we shook hands and parted after taking a picture of my daughter in front of the window. He really was a nice guy, and just like the Will I imagined I could hang around with as a kid. I'll always treasure the memory, and feel a little closer to Will Robinson when I watch it now. Later, down in the dealer's room, we got his autograph and a picture together with him, the one above. By that time we were old buddies.
My daughter posing in front of the panoramic view visible from Billy Mumy's hotel window.
Dear Santa: Please bring me one of the B9 Robots (see attached picture below ) for Christmas. I have been a very good boy and would like to have one for a friend.


Get your own Robot here for "only" $24,500! If I get rich soon, one of these will reside in my collection room.

Fresh off the assembly line, ready to activate and serve humanity, with a solid gold heart.


Dave Tackett said...

That's great that you got to meet Bill Mumy. His eclectic careers are the definition of coolness (actor, musician, comic book writer).

Anonymous said...

Remember the creature from GHOST IN SPACE smith thought it was the ghost of his uncle thadeous or the creatures from the series only two part episode THE KEEPER with MICHEAL REINIE

Anonymous said...

Remember the pisode where those little bitty robots switch the personalities with smith and the robot? That was freaky especialy when smith is using a laser pistol

Eon the terrible said...

Most of the creatures from LOST IN SPACE was played by DAWSON PALMER and there was a episode with this giant bird played by JANOS PRASHAKA

Unknown said...

Fantastic post! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Lovely written thAnk you. I was about same age. I am trying to remember a big plant like monster. Any help?

Frederick said...

Thanks for commenting! There were a number of plant-monsters of the show, but here is an episode devoted to them, perhaps this was the one you remember? http://lostinspace.wikia.com/wiki/Attack_of_the_Monster_Plants

Charlie B. said...

Rich, well-written memories. I like your "box adventures!"