By Nevil Shute, adapted by Ralph Lane
I first read Nevil Shute's best-selling 1957 cautionary novel of nuclear holocaust when I was in my early teens. It scared the bejabbers out of me. Sometime later I saw the 1959 movie with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire on late-night TV, and whatever bejabbers that may have been left in me fled to join their departed comrades. The story had a powerful impact on my young mind. However, as the years rolled by and the Cold War wound down the fear of imminent nuclear destruction faded from my mind and On the Beach became little more than a distant memory.
Recently, memories of the book and film have been stirred by growing tensions in the mid and far east, along with the consequent moronic ravings of our nation's leader over how big the nuclear "button" is on his desk. Add in the ignored threats of global climate change, the president's bungled response to the current pandemic and the public unrest stirred by his more belligerent followers in reaction to local health restrictions intended to limit the spread of COVID-19, and suddenly musings on the potential end of all life on earth seem somehow warranted.
In searching the Internet for reviews of Shute's 1957 novel and the 1959 film I found that a closed-end comic strip adaptation of the novel had run in a number of the nation's newspapers beginning on November 4, 1957. The story has been condensed down so that it could be told in five weeks worth of daily installments, excluding Sundays, and was drawn by cartoonist Ralph Lane. Since reprints of the comic are apparently rather rare, I've posted copies of them found on newspapers.com. Following the story are some examples of beautifully drawn original art from the strip that I've been able to acquire for my collection.
The mother's note reads: "My dear son, It's quite absurd that I should spoil the last days of your life by hanging on to mine, since it is such a burden to me now. Don't bother about my funeral. Just close the door and leave me in my own room with my own things all around me. I shall be quite all right. Do whatever you think best for my little pekinese. I am so very, very sorry for him but I can do nothing. My dearest love, Mother"
Original art for the November 5, 1957 strip. Note the glue stains where Zip-A-Tone plastic film has been added for texture and shading and from the paste-on text blocks that have been added. Also note that a decision was apparently made to alter the heads of Cmdr. Towers and Lt. Cmdr. Holmes by adding paste-ons with the heads redrawn.
Original art for the November 25, 1957 strip. More glue stains from adding Zip-A-Tone and text blocks.
Original art for the November 26, 1957 strip.
Original art for the November 27, 1957 strip. The location for this day's strip is at a naval base on the fictional island of Santa Maria, described as being near Bremerton in Washington state. In reality, a naval base known as Naval Support Base Bangor was constructed on the Kitsap Peninsula in Puget Sound near Bremerton in 1942. I wonder if the location of the base was shifted to a fictional island in the novel for security reasons? In the movie, the naval base visited by the submarine was re-located to San Diego, skipping Washington state altogether. Oddly enough, Bangor later became the home port for the first squadron of Trident Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines in 1977.
Original art for the December 6, 1957 strip. This penultimate strip appeals to me because it somewhat breaks the fourth wall in an apparant reference to the strip itself. Since this adaptation of the novel was being published in the newspapers, the strip could literally be said to be doing something with newspapers to educate the public of the dangers of nuclear war and thereby averting the potential catastrophe described in the book.