First, I loved the “Space: 1999” TV show when it was first on the air back in 1976 or 1977. It aired on ITV in Edmonton in the afternoons on Tuesday and Thursday, while “Star Trek” filled the same slot the rest of the week — making it perfect after-school viewing for a space fan in those pre-“Star Wars” days. The show seemed much cooler than it really was — especially now that I’ve revisited it on DVD — but the visual effects were terrific for the times, the Eagle was one of the coolest space ship designs ever, and this show had a great opening title sequence and theme.
Second, I bought this Charlton Comic off the stands when it came out and loved it for having all the action that the show promised but never really delived. The story is simple — an alien warrior whose ship is the size of an apple and more powerful than a small star slams into an Eagle on patrol and splits it in half. Commander Koenig, in the middle of the ship when this happens, is sucked out into space. There’s this great sequence where Koenig’s holding his breath as he twists and turns in zero gravity to try to reach his helmet. Byrne, who wrote and drew this tale, presents a great double page spread of 10 vertical panels of Koenig reaching for the helmet, counting down to the moment when Koenig’s lungs will burst. He grabs the helmet, of course, and manages to turn the back half of the Eagle into a flaring pinwheel that alerts his fellow Alphans to their location and they’re soon rescued. Simple, but cool.
Byrne’s art is the reason this whole thing works. All the elements that would in short order make him the most popular artist in the industry are here — in the inventive design of the alien, the detailed technology of the alien ship and the clean, sharp look of the Alphans’ ship and base.
It was about eight or nine years after this that I had returned to comics as a teenager and learned that Byrne was living just down the road in Calgary when he did this issue — a fact that surely would have impressed me to no end at the time I first read it.
The TV series remains a guilty pleasure for me — I own every episode from both seasons on DVD — but this comic remains my favorite Space: 1999 story and one of my favorite Byrne comics.