Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bradbury 31, Day 1: Kaleidoscope

Each year I like to celebrate the month of October with posts which are somewhat Halloween-themed. This year I've chosen to celebrate the career of Ray Bradbury, my favourite author to dabble in weird fiction - although he dabbled in virtually every other genre you care to name. Each day I'll bring up one of his short stories and examine the many times that story has been adapted.

"Kaleidoscope" originated as a short story in 1949. It tells of a rocket being lost in space and its former occupants spilled out, each carried in a different direction. Using the radios in their spacesuits, the men speak to each other as they prepare to meet their deaths.

"Kaleidoscope" was a popular adaptation on radio, appearing on a 1951 episode of Dimension X (listen at by clicking here), a very good 1955 Suspense episode where the actors recorded their lines while confined in separate booths to better capture the isolation of their characters (listen at by clicking here), and a 1984 broadcast of Bradbury 13 (listen at youtube by clicking here).

The first comic book adaptation of "Kaleidoscope" is a rather notorious comic book story called "Home to Stay" which Al Feldstein wrote and Wally Wood drew for EC Comics' Weird Fantasy #13 (1952). Although it's not really an adaptation of the story, the climax of the tale is an utter rip-off of Bradbury's tale. Subsequently, Bradbury contacted EC and, as Mark Evanier describes here:

He noted that the adaptation was well-done and that the two stories had been rather cleverly intertwined, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak. Suing might cost a lot, he knew, and there probably wasn't much money to be collected…so he tried another approach. He wrote Gaines a letter that said, in essence, "You seem to have neglected to pay me for the adaptation of my work." Gaines sent a modest check, a brief correspondence ensued and EC wound up adapting many of Ray's stories on an official basis.

"Home to Stay" is now officially acknowledged as a Bradbury tale, appearing alongside other Bradbury comic book adaptations as collected by Topps Comics in the 1990s. Speaking of which, in 1994 Topps issued a brand-new adaptation in the title Ray Bradbury Comics: Martian Chronicles, even though the tale has nothing to do with his Martian stories. "Kaleidoscope" was adapted by Howard Simpson, using big panels and splashes, evidently to emphasize the vastness of space in which the astronauts had been lost. In a new introduction Bradbury dedicated the tale to the Challenger astronauts.

More Bradbury tomorrow!

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