The 1970s were worried about a lot of things: smog, the fragile afro integrity of the average white man, that this cocaine high might not last forever no matter how true it sounds when you scream it — but mostly it was aliens. Back in the ‘70s, aliens weren’t a fun concept to explore in fiction: They were very real magical sky rapists who would probe you at the slightest provocation. It was like living under Zeus’s rule. So parents needed a way to warn their spawn about the extraterrestrial menace, and nothing teaches you to deal with a threat like doing art about it, which is why every single one of Steven Seagal’s movies are about male impotence, except for On Deadly Ground, which is about the crippling fear that eskimos might discover your male impotence.
That’s why we have UFO SPACE STRANGERS: A COLORING BOOK — a manual that teaches children to both fear the unknown and stay within the lines. If it also featured a dangerous gay character, this one book would be absolutely everything the 1950s wished they could tell the 1970s, but never knew how to say.
I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be a Mustang 2. I’m absolutely certain that couple is going to find out whether or not they secretly enjoy probing, because there is zero chance they’re outrunning an alien menace in a Mustang 2. You can’t even outrun the regret of buying a Mustang 2 in a Mustang 2.
“True accounts of horror from people who have lost touch with reality” is a bold theme for a coloring book. I’ll never forget my favorite children’s activity collection: Ted Kaczynski’s What The Government Does To Your Testicles. The ending of every maze just emptied out right into the start, and all of the word jumbles contained coded messages to something called The Shockers. The last page was just the word “narc” over and over again in decreasingly legible scrawl. This is the keystone to my whole personality — this one bit of information just snaps everything into place. It was in my wedding vows. I’m trusting you not to abuse it even as I realize how hilarious that sounds.
UFO STRANGERS will never have that kind of social impact. But it certainly doesn’t skirt around the concept of lasting psychological damage. Its first story is about a boy wandering alone on a dark rainy night when he meets a faceless stranger in a raincoat, and nobody considers whether or not he’s blocking trauma. They just gasp “aliens!” then ring up the coloring book industry to tell them they got a hot scoop.
Seriously, somebody listen to the words little Raymond isn’t saying.
I’m not skipping over Janine’s thrilling backstory. She makes no prior appearance in this story, then leaps into frame screaming “IT’S ME… JANINE!” and absolutely demolishes this creature that she has never seen before, and wasn’t given a single moment to prepare for. No sooner does she accept the reality of the thing than she is whipping rocks at it. Janine’s boogeyman lives in a shelter for battered monsters. Janine believed in climate change on the same day she firebombed a gas station. Santa Claus came to Janine’s house one time. One time.
I don’t care how freeballin’ the 1970s were, “color in the trenchcoat monster’s bwang” is a highly illegal request to make of a child.
Again: I did not cut the gritty prologue introducing these crack detectives. This is their first appearance. We jump straight from Janine vs. Predator to Officer Dickcap screaming for Officer Cockhat to shut the fuck up about policework for a second and examine this majestic ponderosa.
For some reason our coloring book has a host, which is a confusing revelation at any point, but UFO STRANGERS springs it on us halfway through, and then never again. Are you trying to train children to accept the sudden, mysterious presence of carnival workers? Because that’s a good way to have one fewer children and one more pressing unanswered question.
Every adult woman in this coloring book has the same blank 1000-yard stare:
It’s like they’re witnessing the sudden, inexplicable materialization of an unkind god, and his radiance has only just faded enough for them to see that he’s not wearing pants.
Not destroy us like that, Angela, get your mind out of the gutter.
“I’m just fucking garbage at everything I try, Jim. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t know why I do anything at all. I don’t know why I don’t just throw myself in a dumpster and wait to die, Jim.”
Here, children, color the backs of yokels staring at nothing — your imagination is a curse and it must be forcibly atrophied. Hope you have plenty of Rustbelt Brown, and Laid-off Millworker Denim Blue!
Life was fucking crazy before cameras were widespread, you just had no clue how to prove anything to anybody. “These sketches prove it! I saw the mighty sasquatch! I wrestled it into submission! I made beautiful love to it! Examine the sketches — they cannot lie! G-get your hands off me! The sketches! THE SKETC-”
This artist was given an assignment to draw 50 pages of ‘something about aliens’ — anything at all about aliens — and he penned 36 pages of yokels staring into empty fields and dim men transfixed by weather balloons. The children are so disappointed that they’ve gone colorblind out of sheer protest, but god damn if I don’t admire this artist’s unflinching commitment to science.
Only one page has actually been colored in this entire book, and it is the saddest thing I have ever seen. This child had two crayons and a dirty bic. It is no wonder they put prison stripes on the man’s suit; it’s the only clothes they’ve ever owned.
Jesus Christ, look at how utterly splintered little Martin’s world just became. Look how much he loves it.
“DEATH RAYS WOW WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT.”
Martin is gone. None of these words are registering with him. He is lost to the world of man. He stares at the radio but does not hear the sounds it plays; he only sees transistors that could be repurposed for rays of death.
I have never seen a face like that before in my life, but I instantly recognize it as the birth of a momentous evil. This is the origin story of the world’s first supervillian. Time travelers from the future keep coming back to this very second with lasers in their hands and murder in their hearts and none of them ever return. This endless stream of dead men from nowhen is why Taco Bell never runs out of meat. Ironically, it is their laser-batteries which fuel the thresher that Future Martin feeds their children into. Fate is an ouroboros, an idiot-worm forever devouring itself, and there is no hero that can sav-