Earlier this Summer I acquired a British edition of ANALOG magazine with a MOON CRAWLER cover [below] dated February 1963. The fabulous cover art is by John Schoenherr [1935-2010] as stated on the inside credits. There is also a fascinating 'Cover Feature' [below]. Together they're almost a pre-cursor of the 1969 double page spread in the Project SWORD annual [below].The edition is possibley one of the magazines that influenced Century 21 artist Malcolm Stokes a few years later. My own view is that Schoenherr's image represents the genesis of the Crawlers [sounds like Dr.Who!].
As mentioned the 1969 Project SWORD annual features an excellent Crawler double-page spread displaying the signature 'gas bag' tyres and grabbers. A two page strip set in the Pennine hills [near my house!] followed in the Annual [below]. The writer was Angus Allen and artist Malcolm Stokes [GACCH].
At the same time the Annual was published in 1969 it was Tri-ang's SPACEX line of toys, not Century 21, that brought us the only true Moon Crawler toy, albeit renamed as 'Surveyor'. Coloured purple on both the card art and toy itself [both shown below coutesy of WOTAN], it sported a larger rear antenna than had been seen before.
NB. right hand side red crawler is a WOTAN 'Sword' custom.
The next chapter in Moon Crawler toydom was the early 1970's. In 1972 Imai, as part of thier ongoing UFO range of kits, released the the first of the 'Base' sets, the 'UFO Thunderbird Secret Doom Centre' [below]. It included a miniature Moon Prospector, Scramble Bug and Moon Crawler [a similar 'Moon Base' was re-issued by Aoshima in 2002]. The wonderful artwork represents a second golden age of sword box art all by the late Japanese master Shigeru Komatsuzaki, who illustrated many Imai kits in his wonderfully bright style.
The Moon Crawler appears top centre on the box lid [pictured above] below the hills. You see it in close-up below.
Komatsuzaki went on to do the boxart for two more UFO Moon Crawler kits, where the vehicle, rather than having a bit part, was the star of show: 1972's 'No.4' set within the Moon Base again [below] and what for me is the artist's best rendition of the vehicle and probably the last time the Crawler was painted for boxart, 1973's set with 'headlamps' - in full and close-up below and below that respectively.
[All the above pictures are photographs of pages in the wonderful Japanese Book of
Imai Box Art ISBN 4872789911. My photographs do not do the book justice at all and I
wholly recommend that you purchase it.]
A postscript to the Schoenherr, Stokes and Shigeru ages [the 3 S's!] of classic Moon Crawler art is the guest appearance of our friend on an unlicensed UFO Missile Tank plastic toy box. You can see the white Crawler in the lower left corner of the box art [below] and in close-up below that. I'm assuming that this Crawler art is a direct lift of either a Malcolm Stokes or Shigeru Komatsuzaki illustration somewhere, although I haven't found it yet. Not owning the toy I can't be sure of it's year of manufacture [anyone?], though I assume it's around 1970 to coincide with the TV show.
The final and relatively modern incarnation of the Moon Crawler is Aoshima's 'UFO Moon Base' 2002 version in their re-issue of the 1970's Imai kit [above]. The vehicle is basically a miniature snap-fit model in the tradition of Komatsuzaki except for the addition of two large front antenna or cells [?]. If anyone has this kit it would be great to be able to post a better photograph of Crawler [and other SWORD vehicles], together with any artwork and description of the said antenna. Over, out and crawling back under a rock!
This article is dedicated to the artist John Schoenherr who sadly passed away this year.