I guess by now you’ve figured out that this month’s Howler is all about the Earth.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Earth is a very nice planet and certainly worthy of an entire issue of our worthy publication, but I feel that the other seven or eight planets in our solar system don’t deserve to be overlooked.

Like many of you out there I was brought up believing that there were nine planets in varying orbits around the Sun. It was only recently that Pluto was demoted by the scientific community to the status of “dwarf planet”, and they went on to say that there are probably even more planets out there past Pluto. Up until that point its only real point of interest was being the only planet named after a Disney character, and there have been no movies I know of featuring the now fallen planet.

Not like Mars, now there’s a planet! It was not long after the then extremely unpopular notion that the planets orbited the Sun and not the Earth that people came up with telescopes that could reach out to other heavenly bodies, and in 1659 Mars was one of the first to catch the eye of early astronomers. It was immediately assumed to be inhabited by beings who were either “Benign Intelligent Aliens” bent on spreading peace and love throughout the galaxy, or the much more popular ray gun wielding green monsters intent on conquest and the consequent ravishing of beautiful Earth women.

Mars has been visited recently by Matt Damon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins and a host of other Hollywood types and has always been considered to be “Boffo Box Office” by those calling the shots in Tinsel Town.

I was a big Sci Fi fan growing up and one of my favorite movies was 1964’s “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” featuring lots of flying saucers and Martians, who confusingly all looked like Apaches from some John Wayne Western.

H.G. Wells was one of the first to introduce Martians visiting us in “War of the Worlds” back in 1898, featuring very unpleasant types that were bent on wiping out everybody with not even a thought given to ravishing anyone, and Orson Welles famously caused a national panic back in 1939 when his radio show about the “War of the Worlds” was believed to be an actual news broadcast.

Inevitably the movie industry started churning out different versions with ever improving special effects. By the time Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise got their hands on it back in 2005 they managed to scare even yours truly.

E.T. was a heck of a lot nicer.

Even Tarzan’s Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of Mars books featuring one John Carter, who falls asleep in a cave in New Mexico while trapped by Comanche Indians and wakes up on Mars.

I tried getting through one of the books but couldn’t, which also happened when I saw the disastrous movie made of it a few years back.

Mars also has the distinction of being the only planet named after a candy bar.

Once you get past Mars you run into the Gas Giants, the most famous of which is probably Saturn with its ever popular rings. Sci Fi great Arthur C. Clarke sent the “2001” movie bunch there looking for life on its various moons. They didn’t find them until his third book “2032”.
There’s Neptune, which is pretty big too, but pretty much ignored, and Uranus, which has been the punch line for any number of crude planetary jokes over the centuries. You could say it’s been the “butt” of many a bad pun.

You don’t hear much about Mercury; it’s large enough to not have been “re-categorized”, but is basically a large cinder way too close to the Sun.

And then there’s Venus, probably the sexiest planet of them all. As a general rule it’s been treated well by Hollywood over the years, usually inhabited by scantily clad types not at all opposed to the idea of a little ravishing.

But if you’re like me you’re probably here on Earth for the duration so you might as well just lay back and try to enjoy it.

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