The Chameleon Man, by William P. McGivern

Getting closer to the end of my run of invisibility posts! Here’s one that’s a little different…

So when is something unable to be seen but not invisible? Well, the answer is handily demonstrated by William P. McGivern’s “The Chameleon Man,” which appeared in the January 1942 issue of Amazing Stories!

Let’s come back to this picture in a few moments. But here we’ve got a story about a different way of not being seen, and it’s worth talking about it!

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Land of the Shadow Dragons, by Eando Binder

Just a reminder again that I’ll (hopefully) have a book out on the history and physics of invisibility next year, so keep an eye out!

Here we have a first in our discussion of invisibility in fiction — a sequel! “Land of the Shadow Dragons,” by Eando Binder, appeared in the May 1941 issue of Fantastic Adventures, and it is a direct sequel to Binder’s “The Invisible Robinhood.” It even merited a cover image:

It was weirdly thrilling to see the return of The Invisible Robinhood in print, even in this era of endless superhero movies and their sequels. This example, because it was much less common in that era, seems somehow more magical and precious to me. I’ll do some spoilers again, so read the story here first if you’re worried about that.

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The Invisible Bomber, by Lieutenant John Pease

Still more invisibility in fiction to come! It seems like an almost endless subject.

I didn’t have particularly high expectations for this next story. “The Invisible Bomber,” by Lieutenant John Pease, appeared in the June 1938 issue of Amazing Stories. My initial thought: “An invisible airplane? That’s been done, and doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting concept.”

However, this story, which is relatively short in comparison to others I’ve read (7 pages instead of an average of 14), has a few clever twists and surprises to it, as well as a novel description of invisibility! I will talk spoilers in this post, so read the story here first if you want.

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The Man Who Could Vanish, by A. Hyatt Verrill

Yet another invisibility story! It is simply amazing how many of these are out there. And I haven’t even really looked past the year 1960.

If you look at the cover of the January 1927 issue of Amazing Stories, you could be forgiven for thinking that it contains a reprint of H.G. Wells’ classic The Invisible Man — I mean, Wells’ name is right on the cover!

That cover image, however, depicts a scene from a different story, “The Man Who Could Vanish,” by A. Hyatt Verrill, which is our next invisibility story to discuss!

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The Invisible World, by Ed Earl Repp

Have we found the ultimate invisibility story? Read on…

In hindsight, I should have realized that I would find a story that takes invisibility to the extreme! Once we’ve had invisible people, invisible monsters, and invisible cities, it was inevitable that we would get to an entire invisible planet!

“The Invisible Planet,” by Ed Earl Repp, first appeared in the October 1940 issue of Amazing Stories, which was the very first science fiction magazine. Ed Earl Repp was a regular contributor to the pulp magazines, though after World War II he focused his energy on writing screenplays for Westerns. One can understand the passion for Westerns, because “The Invisible Planet” is very much an action-packed adventure with lots of gunplay and a cartoonish villain!

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Salvage in Space, by Jack Williamson

Yep, I’ve still got more invisibility stories to discuss! In fact, I found 4 more through searching old magazines today. Reminder that I’ll have a book on the history of invisibility physics coming out next year!

Although invisibility is a science fiction trope, we haven’t seen that many invisibility stories yet that really embrace the traditional “outer space” setting of sci-fi. We’ve seen Slan, although invisibility plays a minor role in the story, and “The Attack From Space,” which mostly takes place on Earth, though the alien invaders are from Mercury.

Let’s look at something much more Golden Age sci-fi with “Salvage in Space,” by Jack Williamson! It first appeared in the March 1933 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. It features a meteor miner coming face to face with an invisible alien that has annihilated the crew of a now derelict spaceship.

Before discussing the story, can I just mention how much I adore the illustration of the monster that comes with it?

It looks very reminiscent of a Japanese oni, a sort of demon or ogre, and I suspect the artist was inspired by such a source!

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The Radiant Shell, by Paul Ernst

Another invisibility story! The number and variety of stories continues to amaze me.

You know what we haven’t really seen yet? A good invisible spy story! “Raiders Invisible” came close, but its invisible spies were the bad guys; we need a story about a heroic invisible spy!

So let’s take a look at “The Radiant Shell,” by Paul Ernst, which appeared in the January 1932 issue of Astounding Stories.

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The Attack From Space, by Captain S.P. Meek

Yet another blog post about invisibility in fiction! Just as a reminder, this is to celebrate the completion of my book draft on the history of invisibility physics, coming next year (I hope).

Let me recap and build upon a list I started a few posts ago: so far, we’ve had invisible people, invisible monsters, invisible buildings, invisible cars, invisible dogs, invisible spacecraft, invisible robots, and invisible superheroes. But we haven’t yet seen invisible aliens, so let’s rectify that!

Today’s story is from another addict of invisibility, Captain S.P. Meek, who also wrote “The Cave of Horror,” which appeared in the January 1930 issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. Fast forward to September of 1930, and we find that Meek has another story, “The Attack From Space!”

As noted in the image, this story is a sequel to Meek’s “Beyond the Heaviside Layer,” which appeared in the July 1930 issue of the same magazine. So, before we get to this story, we have to say a few words about what “the Heaviside layer” is…

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Beyond the Spectrum, by Arthur Leo Zagat

Yet another post of invisibility fiction, driven by all the stories I found while researching my invisibility book!

Here we have a curious case: an invisibility story written by a lawyer-turned-author, Arthur Leo Zagat (1896-1949)! Zagat wrote for many pulp magazines, and published one novel, Seven Out of Time, that was released the year of his death. But let’s look at his invisibility story, “Beyond the Spectrum,” which appeared in the August 1934 issue of Astounding Stories.

This particular story doesn’t do much of anything that hasn’t been done by other tales, but does introduce a race of invisible monsters that seem very Lovecraftian!

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The Invisible Robinhood, by Eando Binder

Okay, this story seemed at first to be a pretty silly and stupid invisibility tale, but it leads down a fascinating historical rabbit hole. So follow along…

The setting: the city, late at night. A young couple in love are walking to the subway after leaving a party, when a voice from the shadows says, “Stick ’em up!” A robber, at gunpoint, demands their valuables.

After a hopeless glance up and down the street, the young man gave up his wallet, watch and gold stick­pin. The girl was forced to give her pocketbook, ear­rings and silver bracelets. She fumbled nervously. Impatiently, the gunman clutched at the locket around her neck.

“Oh, not that!” gasped the girl. ”I’ve had it all my life-please-“

“Shut up!” growled the bandit. “I take what I want. I’ll 1have that locket, too-“

Does this scene sound familiar? You might be thinking that a young Bruce Wayne should also be present, and that this is the origin story of Batman! But it is not; let’s continue:

“Shut up!” growled the bandit. “I take what I want. I’ll 1have that locket, too-”

”I dont think you will!” said another voice. The gunman whirled, tensely, ready to shoot. He saw nothing to shoot at. But something like a steel hand grasped his wrist and twisted it sharply. He dropped his gun with a cry of agony.

“Rat! Preying on people like a vulture-” said the ghostly voice again, from empty air.

Something like an iron fist cracked against the ban­dit’s jaw, snapping his head back. The gunman tried to run away, but an unseen fist struck him in Which­ever direction he tried. Again and again blows landed till the robber dropped unconscious, with blood streaming from his battered face.

The scene you are reading is from “The Invisible Robinhood,” written by Eando Binder, which appeared in the May 1939 issue of Fantastic Adventures, indeed the very first issue of that magazine!

As we will see, “The Invisible Robinhood” is really one of the earliest superhero adventures out there — and in fact appeared at almost the same time as Batman! Some spoilers given in the post.

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