Monday, 25 February 2013

Comics in Real Life!

A comic is just fiction, right? All of those silly situations we read each week in The Phoenix don’t REALLY happen. Well, we discovered that comics may actually be more true to life than you think! We’ve selected three wonderful strips from the enthralling pages of The Phoenix and compared them to the world YOU live in. 

So can you remember how Monkey arrived in THE WOODS? Well, some rather unsuccessful scientists tried to launch him into space but only managed to send him over the hill! (Look back to Issue One if you want to know more). At Phoenix HQ we were wondering whether humans have ever actually managed to send monkeys or other animals into space. What do you think?

Well, we discovered that many monkeynauts were FURIOUSLY FIRED into space before any humans were. Scientists in the Soviet Union (modern Russia) and the USA were trying to beat each other in the SPACE RACE and prove that living creatures could survive in outer space. In 1948 the USA launched monkeynaut ‘Albert II’ who zoomed an enormous 83 miles high (134KM), making him the first monkey in space. Well done Albert! Following this success, numerous other countries have tried their hand at sending monkeys into space, some more successfully than others! In 1969, hero monkey ‘Juan’, reached 60KM in the Argentinian “Christmas Operation” (not outer space – sorry Juan!) before PLUMMETING to earth again. He was recovered successfully by scientists but was probably pretty confused.

picture courtesy of

In the 1960s and 1970s Russia also launched more than 50 dogs into space. In fact, Laika (meaning "Barker" in Russian) was the DARING DOGGY who became the first animal to orbit the Earth. She was picked up from the cold streets of Moscow because scientists believed that she would already be extra TOUGH. She flew in the spacecraft Sputnik 2 and in America soon gained the nickname “MUTTNIK”.

Picture courtesy of

Speaking of which, Nick Adabdzis (the brilliant artist behind Cora's Breakfast), is probably best known for his sensational book 'Laika', the winner of the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens and Eisner Award nominee for Best Reality-Based work.

More recently, tiny pond animals called tardigrades or “water-bears” became the very first animals to survive exposure to space in 2007. They survived 10 DAYS in space with no protection! What makes tardigrades TOUGH AS NAILS in any extreme is their ability to stop their own metabolism – meaning they can put their whole body on pause for up to ten years. Pretty handy!

Other missions have seen frogs, mice and even RABBITS (Yes, Bunny, believe it or not!) whizzing through the atmosphere. Two spiders, Arabella and Anita were also sent to test if they would spin webs in space (The answer? Yes, but the weightlessness made them WOBBLY). But what do you suppose were the very first animals in space? FRUIT FLIES! The US sent them to test the effects of radiation way back in 1947 – when our understanding of space was PATCHY at best – but they survived. Still, we don’t think the occupants of Gary’s Garden will be volunteering for space missions any time soon!  

Bunny vs Monkey is created by Jamie Smart

We all know that the town of Blimpville is highly unfortunate. It may not feature in The Phoenix at the moment, but we're reliably informed by Blimpville creator Patrice Aggs that a day doesn’t go by without at least three children getting stuck up trees, something large falling on someone’s head, washing-up liquid being ingested and an assortment of CATASTROPHIC explosions. Such places can’t exist in real life…or can they?!

Well, the closest we can get is little Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, which has been crowned the MOST CLUMSY town in England, with over 3300 falls per year! This voodoo village is also famous for being the home of pork pies and SMELLY Stilton cheese. Despite its pungent prominence in the food world, Melton Mowbray is still the country’s unluckiest place to live!
Other CHAOTIC locations of bad luck include icy Anchorage in Alaska and Charleston in West Virginia – we suggest that you take a first aid kit if you ever visit.

Blimpville was created by Patrice Aggs.

Not all adventurers are perfect. The Phoenix readers will CERTAINLY agree, having gawped at the puzzling pursuits of Von Doogan. Despite his best efforts, things just don’t always go to plan for daring Doog. But this is nothing new. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries almost every explorer who embarked on a mission thought they knew where they were going. But the truth is, the majority of them got lost on those STORMY seas of old. At least they ended up discovering places NO-ONE had ever see before. That would be pretty AWESOME. 

You might have heard of two chaps called Lewis and Clark – their TREMEMDOUS TREK across the USA has gone down in history as a prime example of awesome adventuring. But the truth is, Lewis and Clark FAILED their mission! They were looking for something called the Northwest Passage, supposedly a direct trading route over water from America to Asia. The year was 1804, when the United States were still beginning and much of America remained unexplored and unmapped. The two HARDBOILED HEROES and their party of 33 people travelled THOUSANDS OF MILES along the Missouri River, taking notes about the wildlife and territories they encountered. 

They were guided by a 15-year-old girl named Sacagawea, who was MONSTROUSLY BRAVE and acted as an interpreter with the Native American Shoshone tribe, as well as giving directions and saving their boat when it capsized. Lewis kept a diary of their expedition, recording the EPIC BATTLES and HORRIFIC TRIALS – at one point they were so hungry, they had to eat CANDLES to survive! Their two-year journey was INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT in discovering all we know about the geography of the United States – but they never did find the Northwest Passage, despite being some of the most famous explorers ever. Maybe Doogan would have better luck if he abandoned his mission!

Another ne’er-do-well explorer was the unfortunate Ernest Henry Shackleton. He made 3 trips to the Antarctic in his life – and two out of three ended DISASTROUSLY! His first trip was with Captain Scott on the ship THE DISCOVERY – a bold journey towards the South Pole that ended in tragedy for almost everyone – except Shackleton, who got sent home ill! Considering the FROZEN FATE of poor old Scott, Shackleton seems to have been suprisingly lucky. His second mission went AWESOMELY and he made loads of important discoveries as well as being KNIGHTED when he got home! He probably should have quit while he was ahead – Shackleton’s last voyage, THE ENDURANCE, crashed into ice before it got anywhere near the South Pole. His hapless crew had to cross thousands of kilometres of ocean in a tiny boat to find rescue. Shackleton’s dad wanted him to be a doctor – a less dangerous day job might have been a wise idea, but his BRILLIANT BRAVERY has been remembered ever since.

Von Doogan is created by Lorenzo Etherington.

You may remember the brilliant Lost Boy by Kate Brown, nominated for the Young People's Comic Award in the British Comic Awards 2012, well here's it's real life counterpart.

Jim was hopelessly lost in a MYSTERIOUS new world – yet he wasn't the first to be stranded alone on a deserted island. Nowadays we can hardly imagine having to fend for ourselves and survive in the WILD, but some real-life castaways have found themselves in that very situation. 

Alexander Selkirk was a SEAFARING SCOTSMAN who became the inspiration for fantastic adventure books like Robinson Crusoe when he survived alone on the group of pacific islands called Juan Fernández. When the ship he was travelling with made a stop for supplies he advised his captain not to get back on the ship with too much weight. The captain returned the favour by ABANDONING him! Selkirk lived alone on the islands for a FLABBERGASTING FOUR YEARS – and they were fraught with danger. He made huts on the beach while waiting for rescue, eating shellfish and hoping to be seen by a passing ship – but an angry gang of SEA LIONS soon appeared and wanted their territory back, driving him further into the UNKNOWN DARKNESS of the forest, where RAVENOUS RATS attacked at night. 
Much like Jim, he managed to befriend some of the creatures of the forest – wild goats provided him with milk and meat, and a group of feral cats loyally protected him from the rats while he slept. When he was finally rescued he got a HERO’S WELCOME and continued his career as a sailor (we wouldn’t have thought he’d fancy EVER being near the ocean again!). 

At the other extreme, a team of rather bad explorers in 1921 who set off for Wrangel Island in northern Siberia turned out to be UTTERLY UNPREPARED for the icy conditions that awaited them. After a very short time they completely ran out of rations, which led to three men leaving to look for more food, leaving just two people remaining – an ill man who was suffering from SCURVY, and an Inuit woman named Ada Blackjack.

Ada had taken a job on the ship as a cook and seamstress to raise money for her ill son, but got more than she bargained for when she was left alone with the dying man for two years! Those DOUBLECROSSING DESERTERS never returned and Ada was forced to learn survival quickly, becoming an expert trapper and gunwoman – she even fended off POLAR BEARS. The dying man was no help; his illness prevented him from even moving but he was still picky and ungrateful for the food Ada gave him, and towards the end of his life he even started deliberately insulting her! When he was gone Ada kept a journal to cope with the terrible loneliness. Luckily, the story has a happy ending - eventually a ship found her and returned her to her son, whose treatment she was finally able to pay for – we’re sure you’ll agree she EARNED IT!

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