Lost in Space aired soon after the Space Family Robinson comic book’s debut, leading one to conclude that the theme of Space Family Robinson and the usage of the Lost in Space indicates a nexus between the comic book and the television show. Such is not the case.
Shifres cites Connell’s explanation of Gold Key’s creative borrowing of the Lost in Space title on a regular basis as a simple capitalization on the show’s success. Nothing more.
“After the TV show got going and was getting publicity, it was decided to add ‘Lost in Space’ to our ‘Space Family Robinson’ title. I believe it was our Eastern office that made this decision, thinking that the addition of the TV show’s name might increase sales of our book. I didn’t like the idea, but the decision was made.”
Additionally, Shifres notes another futuristic take on the Wyss tale. This offering has a tie to the comic book. Hilda Bohem wrote a script entitled Swiss Family 3000, commissioned by Bud Groskopf, Director of Business Affairs at CBS in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Groskopf sought entry into the producing arena. He envisioned futuristic versions of classic stories, his two primary ideas being takeoffs on Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson.
When Groskopf learned of Western’s Space Family Robinson under the Gold Key banner, he approached the comic book company (through Bohem) about live-action rights to Space Family Robinson, presumably to avoid potential litigation over his Swiss Family 3000 property that might become a feature film. Luckily, Groskopf had a connection to the Benstead family that owned Western. Mel Benstead was a fraternity brother. Groskopf secured the rights and his project appeared to be all systems go. But a conflict delayed its launch.
Irwin Allen sought to procure the Space Family Robinson title from Western Publishing (parent company of Gold Key) for a television show he was producing at the time. When that avenue resulted in a dead end, Allen decided to use the Lost in Space moniker for his project.
After learning about Allen’s television show for CBS, Groskopf (again through Bohem) took legal action and reached a settlement with the producer and the network for approximately $20,000, according to Groskopf. At the request of Benstead, Groskopf and Bohem returned the live-action rights to Western, now somewhat useless because of Allen’s project. In 1991, Innovation Comics distributed a Lost in Space series. Dark Horse Comics released a series concurrent with the 1998 feature film.
Shifres theorizes that Lost in Space predates the Space Family Robinson comic book, despite the former debuting in 1965 and the latter in 1962. He believes that the real inspiration behind the television show was not Irwin Allen, but a science fiction writer named Ib Melchior. Melchior wrote the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Shifres bases his conclusion on the parallels between the Lost in Space pilot and a treatment prepared by Melchior circa 1960 entitled Space Family Robinson, unrelated to the comic book.
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Tags: 1950s, 1960s, 1998, Bud Groskopf, CBS, comic book, Dark Horse, Dark Horse Comics, feature film, Gold Key, Ib Melchior, Innovation, Innovation Comics, Irwin Allen, Lost in Space, Mel Benstead, Robinson Crusoe, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Space Family Robinson, Swiss Family Robinson, television, television show, Western, Western Publishing