When the Twerms Came: The PLAYBOY Comic Strip is found!

Skip Williamson's Facebook profile photo

Wow, isn’t the Facebook a great place to connect people, ideas and creativity? I never thought much about it, but maybe I ought to spend more time there…

Yesterday, I published a semi-serious essay called WikiLeaks, Swiss Banks and Alien invasions, which was about an obscure short story by Arthur C Clarke describing an unlikely alien invasion of the Earth. For once, the invaders used brain and cunning rather than fire power, and against this onslaught, our planet’s rulers had no defence…

I mentioned how PLAYBOY Magazine had used that story as the basis for a psychedelic comic strip illustrated by the American underground cartoonist Skip Williamson. At the time of writing, I had not been able to locate the comic strip that was published in their issue of May 1972. I wondered: “…it’s either behind a pay-wall, or lies somewhere with little or no indexing by search engines.”

Turns out to be the latter. In less than 24 hours, there was a response from Skip Williamson himself saying the artwork is on his Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/skip.williamson.

Many thanks to Skip Williamson for posting the link…and while at it, for all his brilliantly cheeky and subversive creations over the years! I hope he doesn’t mind my reproducing the comic strip (all of 2 pages) below:

When the Twerms Came - Comic Strip - Page 1 of 2

When the Twerms Came - Comic Strip page 2 of 2

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When the Twerms Came: Arthur C Clarke’s easy guide for aliens to invade Earth?

Why waste all that energy when there are smarter ways? Image courtesy movie 'Independence Day'

It’s time to come clean: I have a fascination with alien invasions of our planet.

As a kid, I was an avid listener of radio (my only electronic medium, as I grew up in a land without television, and in a time before the Internet) — and expected the regular transmissions to be interrupted any moment to break the news of an alien invasion underway. The spoilsports shattered my childhood dreams everyday.

Now slightly older, I keep looking for the perfect moments for that history-shattering event. A widely reproduced op ed essay I wrote in July 2010 opened with these words:

“If you’re an alien planning to invade the Earth, choose July 11. Chances are that our planet will offer little or no resistance. Today, most members of the Earth’s dominant species – the nearly 7 billion humans – will be preoccupied with 22 able-bodied men chasing a little hollow sphere. It’s only a game, really, but what a game: the whole world holds its breath as the ‘titans of kick’ clash in the FIFA World Cup Final…”

The careless aliens didn’t heed my advice, but I live in hope. I keep looking for the strategic moments and smart ways to take over the planet — with as little violence as possible. After all, I’m a peace-loving person (even if I’m unhappy with the planet’s current management).

I’m not alone in this noble quest. Science fiction writers have been at it for decades, and future Earth invaders are well advised to first study these useful instructions masquerading as popular literature. In an op ed essay published today, I highlight one such story by Sir Arthur C Clarke.

Click on this ONLY if you're a prude...

I wrote WikiLeaks, Swiss Banks and Alien invasions with my tongue in my cheek about half the time (go figure!). I’ve been following the WikiLeaks cablegate saga for several weeks, and was intrigued to read that other critically sensitive secrets — that have nothing to do with garrulous American diplomats — were also reaching this online platform for assorted whistle-blowers.

One such story, appearing in the London Observer on 16 January 2011, reported how the Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks. That reminded me of an obscure short story that Arthur C Clarke had written more than 40 years ago, which is not as widely known as it should be. This short essay is an attempt to revive interest in it.

I describe how PLAYBOY Magazine used the story as a basis for a psychedelic comic strip illustrated by the American underground cartoonist Skip Williamson. That appeared in their issue for May 1972 — and I’m still trying to locate that story. All in the interests of pop culture, of course.

Read WikiLeaks, Swiss Banks and Alien invasions on Groundviews.org

FIFA World Cup 2010: Media Conquering Planet Football!

Most Earthlings have just spent a month on this!

“If you’re an alien planning to invade the Earth, choose July 11. Chances are that our planet will offer little or no resistance.

“Today, most members of the Earth’s dominant species – the nearly 7 billion humans – will be preoccupied with 22 able-bodied men chasing a little hollow sphere. It’s only a game, really, but what a game: the whole world holds its breath as the ‘titans of kick’ clash in the FIFA World Cup Final.

“Played across 10 venues in South Africa, this was much more than a sporting tournament. It’s the ultimate celebration of the world’s most popular sport, held once every four years. More popular than the Olympics, it demonstrates the sheer power of sports and media to bring together – momentarily, at least – the usually fragmented and squabbling humanity.”

This is the opening of my latest op ed essay, which appears in several print and online outlets this weekend. It’s timed for the finals of the FIFA World Cup 2010 – the most widely followed sporting event in the world, which will be played in Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa today, 11 July 2010. The Netherlands will meet Spain in this culmination of international football that has been distracting a good part of humanity for a month.

This sporting event is tipped to be the most-watched television event in history. Hundreds of broadcasters are transmitting the World Cup to a cumulative TV audience that FIFA estimates to reach more than 26 billion people. Some TV channels offer high definition (HD) or 3-D quality images to enhance the mass viewing experience.

The essay was written a few days ago, after the FIFA World Cup 2010 had reached the semi-finals stage. To be honest, I’m not an ardent football fan. But as an observer of popular culture, I’ve gladly allowed myself to be caught up in the current football frenzy. I just love to watch people who watch the game…

It’s a light piece written to suit the current global mood, but I acknowledge that the World Cup is really more than just a ball game. The basic thrust of my essay is to comment on the powerful mix of fooball and live coverage: “For the past month, the winning formula for unifying the Global Family seemed to be: international football + live broadcasts + live coverage via the web and mobile phones.”

The Times of India, 11 July 2010: Planet Football: Sports unites a fragmented humanity

The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka, 11 July 2010: Conquering Planet Football

Groundviews.org: Beam Me Up to Planet Football

United Colours of Football, courtesy FIFA

The essay builds on themes that I’ve already explored on this blog – for example, how President Nelson Mandela used the 1995 World Cup Rugby championship to unite his racially divided nation, as told in the movie Invictus.

I also touch on FIFA being a wielder of formidable soft power in the world today, arguably more influential than the United Nations.

Here’s my parting thought, on which I invite reader comment: “On second thoughts, those invading aliens don’t need to worry too much about the Earth’s political leaders or their armies. Without firing a single shot, the globalised media have quietly taken over our Global Village — and now it’s too late to resist! We can argue on its merits and demerits, but the facts are indisputable.”