The Silent Invasion: The Great Fear


By Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-206-9 (TPB)

During the vast expansion of opportunity and outpouring of innovation that graced comics during the 1980s, much of the “brain-rotting trash” or “silly kid’s stuff” stigma which had plagued the medium was finally dispelled. America started catching up to the rest of the world; acknowledging sequential narrative as an actual Art-Form, and their doors opened wide open for foreigners to make a few waves too…

One of the most critically acclaimed and just plain fun features of the period came from semi-Canadian outfit Renegade Press which set up shop in the USA and began publishing at the very start of the black & white comics bubble in 1984. They quickly established a reputation for excellence, with a strong line of creator-based properties and some genuinely remarkable series such as Ms. Tree, Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire, Flaming Carrot, Normalman, and the compulsively backwards-looking Cold War/UFO/paranoia-driven The Silent Invasion.

That last was a stunningly stylish saga, bolting 1950s domestic terrors (invasion by Reds; invasion by aliens; invasion by new ideas…) onto Film Noir chic and employing 20-20 hindsight to produce a phenomenally fresh and enticing delight for the strangely similar Reagan era.

The series was eventually collected as four superbly oversized monochrome tomes (a whopping 298 x 2058 mm), re-presenting the lead story from the first dozen issues of The Silent Invasion wherein co-creators Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock concocted a delightful confection combining all the coolest genre elements of classic cult sci-fi, horror, spy, conspiracy theory, crime, romance and even comedy yarns…

Now, after far too long a wait – and with America once again enduring internecine struggle amongst the citizenry, corruption (but no collusion!!), cover-ups at every level of government and the press under attack from the people and traditions it seeks to inform and safeguard – the series has been remastered, marginally revised and re-released in a more manageable paperback size (or fully adjustable eBook format) with the express intention of catching up and finally completing the tensely compelling epic. The Great Fear (gathering the moodily monochrome lead story from issues #7-12) is the second and, unless the Deep Government intervenes, we can anticipate two more…

The re-education process resumes with a heartfelt plea in the Introduction: ‘UFOs, Conspiracies, and the Deep State (There are 187 Aliens in Congress! Who did YOU vote for?)’ by Cherkas & Hancock…

The 1950s in American were a hugely iconic and paradoxical time. Incredible scientific and cultural advancements, great wealth and desperate, intoxicating optimism inexplicably arose amidst an atmosphere of immense social, cultural, racial, sexual and political repression with an increasingly paranoid populace seeing conspiracy and subversive attacks in every shadow and corner of the rest of the world.

Such an insular melting pot couldn’t help but be fertile soil for imaginative outsiders to craft truly incisive and evocative tales dripping with convoluted mystery and taut tension, especially when wedded to the nation’s fantastic – and then-ongoing – obsessions with rogue science, flying saucers, gangsterism and espionage…

They were also obsessed with hot babes and bust sizes, but more of that elsewhere…

Remember When?: In April 1952, famed Union City private eye Dick Mallet saw a strange light in the night sky. Next morning the cops found his empty, crashed car. A month later reporter Matt Sinkage was still getting grief from Frank Costello, his Editor on the Union City Sentinel. Matt wanted to expose “The Truth behind Flying Saucers” but was quickly becoming a laughing stock. He was also starting to think his foreign-sounding neighbour Ivan Kalashnikov was a Russian spy….

Sinkage was alienating his family and worrying his fiancée Peggy Black. All he could think about was that night six months back in Albany when he saw a UFO and impetuously chased after it: a crazy night everyone but him remembers…

Getting drunk, Matt broke into Ivan’s apartment where a quick glance revealed the foreigner and others in front of a huge, weird machine. It confirmed his suspicions that they were Atomic spies!

Days later Matt collided with Mr K’s pretty friend Gloria Amber, and asked her out to lunch. Things developed when Gloria begged him to save her from what she claimed were Red operatives. They subsequently claimed to be Federal agents…

Hiding out at his brother’s Walter’s place, Matt was still seeing flying saucers everywhere and could not understand why everybody else thought they were just jets. Back in Union City, Frank was being pressured by FBI Agent Phil Housley: an old acquaintance who regularly forced him to suppress news items…

This time though, he wanted Sinkage. What no newsman knew was that Housley was also working for a shadowy agency calling itself The Council. What Housley didn’t know was that he was not their only operative…

Back in suburbia, Walter’s wife Katie – convinced Matt and his new floozy were up to no good – contacted the FBI. Fugitives Matt and Gloria were heading out in Walter’s car when Peggy showed up. She couldn’t understand why her man was with a flashy trollop even though Gloria had told Matt the Reds were after Kalashnikov’s memoirs and files. Although Matt knew Gloria was playing a double game, he agreed to go with to a remote town where a “contact” could protect them both…

Mr K called in his own heavies to hunt them, all equally unaware that the FBI had visited Katie and a net was closing around Sinkage and his mystery woman…

When the Council learn Sinkage was involved in the “Albany event” near-panic ensued. Matt meanwhile had succumbed to suspicion. Gloria kept vanishing and refused to acknowledge it: Later, helping Kalashnikov’s hoods Zanini and Koldst to abduct her and rough up Matt. When the FBI interviewed Walter and Katie about Matt, they let slip that they were the only Feds working the case, denying any other government officials were involved…

Katie spilled all she knew and the agents went into overdrive, marshalling all their resources and heading for sleepy Stubbinsville. As Housley’s team flew in, Matt pushed on, hitchhiking to a rendezvous with destiny. En route, he reunites with oddly-compliant Gloria, and they battled on together in a stolen car. With less than 100 miles to go, she fell ill but made him promise to get her there at all costs…

As the assorted pursuers converged, she directed Matt to a lonely wilderness region. The net closed around them as a fantastic and terrifying light-show ignited the dark skies. By the time Housley reached them Gloria had vanished and Sinkage was slumped in a coma. Days later, Matt was freed and all charges dropped. He was strangely content. Despite another blatant cover-up and no clue as to whom all the various parties hounding them really were, Sinkage knew what he had seen when Gloria vanished. Now he could only wait for her inevitable return…

Now it is three years later: time Sinkage has spent much of the time locked in an asylum. Recently released, he has moved to bucolic small town Rockhaven and taken up his old career as a journalist. It is September 1955…

In ‘No Secrets’ the older but no wiser outsider has tentatively established himself in the little town but his job sucks and life in the boarding house he shares with a remarkably hostile cast of characters is far from a comfortable fit. The journalism job at The Ranger pays a pittance and offers no satisfaction at all, but Sinkage earns extra cash writing fanciful fake news for spurious tabloid The Tattler.

His dissatisfied life edges over into crazy again after a proposed piece on cattle mutilations leads him to a quasi-religious space cult in his own backyard. The Sirian Utopia Foundation is the obsession and pet project of wealthy widow/local philanthropist Gladys Tanner. She devoutly believes the world is heading for imminent Armageddon and that her mentors and gurus are in contact with a benign cosmic council promising enlightenment and global paradise. And they can also reunite her with her departed husband…

The townsfolk are surprisingly defensive of her and her eccentric but harmless views…

They are a lot less tolerant of Sinkage when he decides to investigate after connecting her followers – who include a number of prominent Washington politicians – with a bunch of missing scientists and Housley suddenly turns up acting all buddy-buddy.

Unable to let go, Sinkage lapses into his old suspicions and starts snooping, prompting mounting aggression from the townsfolk, culminating in a beating after he “discovers” the extremely unconvincing fake flying saucer Tanner’s associates are building in her barn…

Convictions of a gullible old lady being conned are revised in ‘The Rockhaven Conspiracy’ after Tanner’s daughter Janet shares her own fears. For some reason, powerful Washington types are also applying pressure to the reporter’s boss and the Council’s top thug Brennan resurfaces, spouting his drivel about a commie conspiracy at the Tanner farm. He even thinks the long-gone Kalashnikov has returned…

When Sinkage attends a giant weekend conclave of the Sirian Foundation faithful – and almost the entire population of Rockville – he almost falls under the mesmerising oratory of spooky demagogue Jeffry Simpson the Third, but his resistance only leads to more prosaic means being employed to capture him and strap into the same alien mindwiping device he so vividly remembers… before being made to forget…

Apparently, it doesn’t work (or does it?) and in ‘Tarnished Dreams’ events spiral out of control as the ever-vigilant Feds suddenly swoop in just as Simpson boards a real saucer. The result is both explosive and inconclusive with Sinkage again sidelined, excluded and buried in official cover-ups…

At least now though, he sure of what’s really going on, and, even though he’s being driven out of Rockville, realises only he can oppose ‘A Real and Ever Present Danger’ of alien conquest. The first step is joining Housely Investigations back in Union City, even if it means moving back in with brother Walter and his despicable sister-in-law Katie…

By May 1958, Sinkage has become a phantom celebrity, a flying saucer freak and Ufologist frequently quoted by the media, but seldom seen, warning of invasion and stalking political rising star and Presidential hopeful Senator Harrison T. Callahan. In ‘Forces Beyond Our Control’ the hunt takes him to a crucial interview with a political aide who reveals the strange circumstances of Callahan’s meteoric rise and how a string of sudden fatal heart attacks underpins it all…

By 1959 Sinkage is an anonymous presence on television, stridently warning how aliens can seize minds and program brains, sitting dormant in the back brains of unsuspecting innocents, waiting for the order to take control. His campaign against Callahan continues unabated and soon develops into open warfare. Now the Senator decides to put an end to the harassment even as The Council re-enter the life of Phil Housley, declaring the alien problem a Soviet plot to destabilise America. Over Walter’s most strenuous objections Katie manoeuvres to get Sinkage back into the asylum and he disappears from their lives…

In August 1959, as Callahan announce his candidacy Sinkage makes his last move, determined to preserve ‘The Will of the People’ at the cost of his life if necessary…

To Be Continued…

Potently evocative, impeccably tailored and fabulously cool, The Silent Invasion remains a unique, boldly imagined and cunningly crafted adventure: one whose time has finally come. Rendered in a style then considered revolutionary and even today still spectacularly expressionistic, this classic epic is bizarre, Byzantine and compellingly bewildering, and has never been more relevant than now.

The Great Fear offers an unforgettable gateway to an eerily familiar yet comfortably exotic era of innocent joy and a million “top secrets” which no fan of fantastic thriller fiction should ignore and the best is still to come…
© 1987, 1988, 2019 Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock. All rights reserved.

The Silent Invasion: The Great Fear will be published on May 15th 2019 and is available for pre-order now. Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/