Given all the conspiracy theories and faux histories out there these days, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when the idea that gods might just be spacemen wasn’t a belief so widely shared. That all changed with the publication of Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past by Erich von Däniken in 1968, promoting his hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods.
Bolstered by the attention Däniken’s theories gained through the cinema release of a German documentary of the same name, Britain went mythos-crazy in the 1970s, with books on UFOs, UFO conspiracies, Atlantis and other folklore rapidly filling the shelves of bookshops. Däniken’s work may have since been debunked (as far as some are concerned, anyway) but the impact of his work on popular culture was quite significant.
It was also something of a money spinner, the books selling in their millions – and not just in the UK. The huge sales of the Polish edition of Chariots of the Gods prompted Alfred Gorny, the director of the publishing house Sport i Turystyka, working with the German publisher Econ Verlag, to take up Däniken’s idea of a comic based on his theories and commission what are still sought-after comic books today, four of them published in English by Methuen Children’s Books.
Although credited to Erich von Däniken, the Comics in Poland web site notes the eight albums, launched in 1977 in Europe, were the work of Alfred Gorny, editor and script writer and Auschwitz survivor Arnold Mostowicz and artist Boguslaw Polch (suggested by Grzegorz Rosinski, who had been considered, but had begun work on his Thorgal series), now best known for the space detective comic, Funky Koval.
Popular across Europe, translated into 12 languages including Spanish and Swedish, ironically what’s one of the best-known Polish comics were not published there until 1982, by the Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, after the series had been published in full in Germany. Even then, only seven were released, until earlier this year.
The comics enthralled young minds, telling the tales of visitors from the space on the prehisoric Earth, creating human kind and responsible for its later development, suggesting, like Däniken’s books, that signs of this interference were still visible, such as the famous Nasca lines in South America. Many events described in the Bible and in the myths of different nations, were “explained” as the activity of visitors.
Earlier this year, Polish publisher Proszynski Media released Ekspedycja (“The Expedition”) a Polish collection of all eight stories – 400 pages in all.
Let’s hope some enterprising British publisher picks up on the release and re-publishes it in English…
The original English language volumes published by Methuen Children’s Books under their Magnet Books imprint:
Descent in the Andes, 1978 (ISBN 0 416 87150 X)
Atlantis, Men and Monsters, 1978 (ISBN 0 416 87160 7)
The War of the Chariots, 1978 (ISBN 0 416 87170 4)
Revolt of the Titans (ISBN 0 416 87180 1)
The Full Series
1. “Lądowanie w Andach” (“Landing in the Andes”)
2. “Ludzie i potwory” (“Men and Monsters”)
3. “Walka o planetę” (“The Struggle for the Planet”)
4. “Bunt Olbrzymów” (“Giants’ Mutiny”)
5. “Zagłada Wielkiej Wyspy” (“Great Island’s Doom”)
6. “Planeta pod kontrolą” (“The Planet under control”)
7. “Tajemnica Piramidy” (The Mystery of the Pyramid”)
8. “Ostatni Rozkaz” (“The Last Command”)