Thursday, June 16, 2016

Retro Foreign: Lebanese Beyond the Universe Album #2

In 1979 the comic anthology Beyond the Universe was started by Lebanese publisher Bissat El-Reeh or Flying Carpet.  Beyond the Universe ran for 140 issues.  The series started off by translating science fiction themed western comics into Arabic.  Marvel superhero comics soon joined the comics being translated but it was issue #29 that is the key issue of this series.  In that issue, Grendizer, a Japanese anime series about a giant robot, made his debut in a story translate from French.  This character was one of several characters introduced to the United States under the Shogun Warriors brand.  Issues that contained Grendizer increased sales dramatically and issue #45 on starred Grendizer until the final issue published in 1983.  Grendizer was extremely popular throughout the Middle East.

The series started bi-weekly, but became weekly over time.  Early comics only included one color, but by issue #44 full-colored stories began.  Most issues are 36 pages without ads.  Each comic is collected in an album of 7 issues each, for a total of 20 albums.  Binding single comics into a collection is a common practice in foreign countries; it is not know if the comics in these collections are remainders, returns, or newly printed comics.  What is know is most of the issues that survived appear to be from these collections and single issues are extremely hard to track down.  It is not uncommon for these issues to be pulled from these collections and sold as single comics.

Remarkably, these comics were published in Lebanon in the middle of a 15 year civil war that began in 1975.  For Lebanese children who grew up during this era, the Grendizer cartoon and comics were a distraction from the atrocities that were taking place in their country.

The Marvel adaptation of Star Wars was published in Beyond the Universe #11 - 16.  Beyond the Universe Album #2 contains issues #8 - 14, or the first four chapters of the adaptation translated into Arabic.  In all 4 issues, Star Wars is the lead story.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
back cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
spine
There are at least 2 different printings of several of the Beyond the Universe Albums.  If you look at the back cover of this version, the covers shown are for the first 4 albums.  There is another version of this album shown in the blog posting Beyond the Universe.  The back cover for this presumably identical collection is different.  It is hard to say which version was published first because the back cover shown on that collection shows Grendizer, a character that did not appear until issue #29.  This is all speculation until these albums can be compared or I dig up additional information concerning these different printings.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
top
This collection contains 7 issues bound together with an outer hardcover as can be seen from the top.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
inside cover
In addition to the outside hardcover, there are pages inside both the front and back covers containing science fiction art.  both the back and front cover contain the same 2 pages.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #8 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #9 cover
Bound issues #8 and 9 contain several science fiction stories and a full-color glossy centerfold.  The centerfold is a 4 page Star Trek fumetti consisting of photos from the Star Trek TV series along with word balloons.  All 7 issues in this collection contain a full-color glossy centerfold, most of which are Star Trek fumetti.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #10 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #10 next issue page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #10 back cover
Bound issue #10 contains a next issue page on the inside back cover that shows Star Wars is in issue #11.  All 7 issues contain this next issue page.  In addition to the next issue page showing Star Wars, the back cover also shows images from the Star Wars adaptation.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #11 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #11 first page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #11 inside Star Wars pages
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #11 last Star Wars page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #11 next issue page
Bound issue #11 contains the Arabic translation of Star Wars #1.  The comic uses the color blue throughout all the pages, including the non-Star Wars stories.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #12 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #12 first page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #12 inside Star Wars pages
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #12 next issue page
Bound issue #12 contains the Arabic translation of Star Wars #2.  The comic uses the color red throughout all the pages, including the non-Star Wars stories.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #13 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #13 first page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #13 inside Star Wars pages
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #13 next issue page
Bound issue #13 contains the Arabic translation of Star Wars #3.  The comic uses the color green throughout all the pages, including the non-Star Wars stories.

Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #14 cover
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #14 first page
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #14 inside Star Wars pages
Beyond the Universe Album #2b - Flying Carpet, Lebanon (1980s)
issue #14 next issue page
Bound issue #14 contains the Arabic translation of Star Wars #4.  The comic uses the color red throughout all the pages, including the non-Star Wars stories.

As can be seen, issue #11 contains the cover from Star Wars #1.  Issue #14 contains the cover from the treasury-sized Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #1.  Despite not having Star Wars covers, issues #12 and 13 do contain small boxes with images denoting the Star Wars content.

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