It’s Vintage Sci-Fi Month again! For those of you not familiar with this not-a-challenge, it runs every January and is about reading vintage science fiction (or fantasy). “Vintage” is defined as being before 1979 or your birth year, whichever is easier.
I’ll be taking the chance to talk about one of my favorite vintage comic book heroines, Mysta of the Moon.
Mysta first appeared in 1945 in the pages of Planet Comics. I think Planet Comics is a super interesting piece of media and probably would have loved it if I’d been a kid in the 40s and 50s. Each issue contained new episodes of several serialized science fiction stories. There was The Lost World, a post-apocalyptic tale set on an Earth that’s been conquered by aliens, Gale Allen, who basically led an interstellar girl gang to beat up bad guys across space, several Flash Gordon-esque heroes, and that’s just scratching the surface.
I might talk about some of the others later, but I’ll start with Mysta because she’s my favorite and I have a soft spot for moon-based heroines.
What’s Mysta’s origin story?
Mysta made her first appearance in Mars, another of Planet Comics’ serials that followed the god of war as he traveled across space to cause trouble. In this particular story, he’s stirred up violent mobs and gotten them to burn down all universities and places of learning on Earth. But one scientist has a plan to stop him.
You’ll note it doesn’t say Dr. Kort “adopted” two infants or “rescued” them. It says “stolen.” So what the heck, dude? Bringing peace and knowledge to the universe is a great goal and all, but it doesn’t justify kidnapping babies.
Anyway, Dr. Kort hooks up Mysta and her “brother” to a machine that basically downloads all the knowledge and culture of the world directly into their brains. Once that’s finished, he gives them each a robot helper and plans to send them off to “combat the warlust and hatred of man.”
But Mars shows up to kill the doctor. Mysta stops him, but her brother gets all jealous when the doctor praises her. Mars thinks “Hey, I can use this whiny manbaby” and manipulates the brother into murdering the doctor and burning down the moon lab.
He and Mysta fight. She wins and leaves in a rocket to spread knowledge and peace across the universe.
Does Mysta have superpowers?
Sort of. She had centuries of knowledge and culture downloaded into her brain, so I’d say that counts as having a super-intellect. And apparently if you absorb enough knowledge, you get psychic abilities, because she can make a “spirit image,” which is sort of an astral projection she can use to leave her body to communicate long distances or distract enemies when she’s physically imprisoned.
She also occasionally uses it to possess people, monsters, or in one case a corpse.
She’s got some high-tech tools, like a “hypnodisk” and a gun she can set to paralyze or destroy. Later on in the series, she gets an invisibility cloak—and no, not a magic one; one made by science (like the actual invisibility cloaks in development today). But her biggest asset is her robot, which she can control telepathically.
Who’s her supporting cast?
For a long time, she didn’t have any. It was just her and her robot stopping wannabe tyrants and doing science on the moon. Later on, Bron is introduced.
Except he’s not the real Bron. OG Bron won a science competition where the prize was studying under Mysta. He’s promptly abducted by a crime boss who feeds him to a shark (RIP real Bron, we hardly knew ye.) and replaced by a nameless minion in a plot again Mysta.
New Bron doesn’t want any part of the plot, but his boss threatens him with torture and death if he doesn’t go along with it, so he infiltrates Mysta’s moon base as a spy. As he gets to know her and is rescued by her several times, he grows even more conflicted.
In a comic that’s mostly good guys doing good things and bad guys doing bad things, the basically decent guy stuck in a bad situation is a refreshing bit of nuance.
Eventually he joins Mysta’s side for real and confesses everything. She forgives him instantly, and he continues to go by “Bron” for the rest of the series…which is kind of weird, because that wasn’t actually his name.
Bron remains as Mysta’s assistant for the rest of the series. Their relationship seems purely platonic at first, but she develops a crush on him in later issues. I assume it’s because shortly after his introduction, he grows a handsome mustache and develops the habit of hanging around the moon lab shirtless.
Toward the end of the series, Mysta moves to Earth and we meet Dick Garro—who, as his name implies, is a dick. The new head of Earth’s Safety Council, he’s outraged when his subordinates keep suggesting he go to Mysta for advice, calling her a “moon witch” and a “phony adventuress” and saying he doesn’t need the help of a woman.
This forces Mysta to go undercover as a technician in the Safety Council. It’s played off as her secretly helping him, but let’s be real here: Garro’s incompetent, and Mysta has to work around him to save the day.
So we’ve got a brilliant woman casually dismissed by a man in power. She has to work twice as hard to make up for his foolishness and do it all in secret so she gets none of the credit. This… is a bit too much depressing realism for a fun space adventure comic.
Does Mysta’s story hold up?
Serialized storytelling has come so far since Mysta of the Moon that it doesn’t seem fair to compare it to the comics and TV shows of today. While you can’t expect complex arcs or character development, it’s a fun if straightforward sci-fi adventure story.
And it’s a surprisingly progressive depiction of a female protagonist. Sure, Mysta wears skimpy outfits and often gets tied up or knocked out, but she rescues herself more often than not and always saves the day in the end. Bron remains her sidekick and never overshadows her, and he defers to her knowledge and experience. She’s shown to be incredibly respected by world leaders and other scientists, who go to her for counsel—except for Garro, but we’ve already established he’s a dick.
Sadly, that’s the only area in which it’s progressive. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how, like most major media at the time, the comic excludes the vast majority of people from representation. The future it depicts is very white, and the only choices for heroic characters are “slender woman” or “muscular man.” The few characters with different body types are villains.
If you don’t fit into hot pants in the future, they must throw you out of the airlock or something.
Mysta of the Moon is hardly alone in this, especially during the mid 20th century, and honestly, plenty of media has the same trouble even to this day.
So why is Mysta worth remembering?
She lives on the moon and does science! You can’t deny that she’s cool. But I’d argue what makes Mysta special is her mission. She’s not a superhero or a space ranger out to arrest petty criminals. Some of her adventures are the generic “stop alien invasion” type, but her purpose isn’t to punch bad guys but to “bring peace and culture” to the universe.
She was born in a time when universities were being burned and learning shunned. Mysta battles that by championing education and culture. Many of her enemies are trying to stop her from giving “knowledge discs” to professors or attacking her scientific lectures. She’s described as a “fount of knowledge” and acts as advisor to world leaders during times of crisis. There’s even an issue where she’s called to help stop voter intimidation—the villain is threatening to blast down people at the polls who vote for the “scientist candidates.”
Mysta uses science and culture to stand against ignorance and hatred, and that’s every bit as relevant today as it was seventy years ago.
Resources, references, and further reading
- The Digital Comic Museum has a great collection of Planet Comics that you can read online.
- Or you can read Michael May’s recaps and thoughts on each issue of Mysta of the Moon on his blog.
- The Public Domain Superheroes Wiki at Fandom.com has a short entry on Mysta with all the basics.
- If you start with Wikipedia’s entry on Planet Comics, you can fall down a few different rabbit holes.
What’s your favorite piece of vintage sci-fi? Favorite obscure heroine? Let me know in the comments!