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Lloyd Bridges and his shrink-wrapped batch. IN COLOR. – Sea Hunt #13

October 23, 2011

My favorite professor back in college had a nice one-liner about the mummified Strom Thurmond (this was in the late 1990s): “Strom Thurmond ran for President against Harry Truman in 1948, and he wasn’t young then.”

I’ve always felt something similar for the late, great Lloyd Bridges. My generation came to know him as the glue-sniffing airport chief in Airplane and Seinfeld foil Izzy “It’s go time!” Mandelbaum, but this acting family patriarch had a long and varied career. He starred alongside Gary Cooper in the all-time great film High Noon, guested as Cain in the original Battlestar Galactica, had roles in madcap farces during the ’90s, and everything in between. His greatest star turn, though, came at the end of the 1950s and into the next decade with the syndicated scuba diving adventure show Sea Hunt.

Late 1950s. Early 1960s. And he wasn’t young then.

Sea Hunt is a strangely hypnotic series. It features some nicely shot underwater sequences (granted, many were filmed in back lot tanks, but still…) and calm, even-toned narration from the very-fit-for-a-middle-aged-man Bridges. And oh, we always saw how fit he was, since he often eschewed full diving gear for the tightest, shortest shorts the world has ever known, perfectly tailored for accentuating his Jeff- and Beau-siring bulge. Look into my area. You’re getting very sleepy…

Some might take issue with the repetition in the scenarios that would get Bridges’ character (Mike Nelson) underwater, and that he suffered a deadly crisis with his air tanks in almost every episode. The latter would even spawn a recurring quip in Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s mockfests. “At this point, my lungs were aching for air…” I’m not one of those detractors. I enjoy the show. I see it on in reruns now and again, and I can’t help but watch. It’s soothing, like watching fish swim in an aquarium. That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but it is.

This comic, published in 1963 after the show ended (this is the last issue), is quite faithful to the original material. Comic book Nelson looks like Bridges, genial facial lines and all. The narration is in there and the diving adventures are (of course) present, though I’m relieved to note that the form-fitting crotch-huggers aren’t. Phew.

The first Mike Nelson story (Script: Eric Freiwald, Robert Schaefer, Art: Dan Spiegle) finds him having his R&R interrupted by murderous shenanigans. You get some underwater knife-play (which always reminds me of the Magnum, P.I. intro):

Again with the oxygen!

Amphibian Nelson can also kick ass on land:

The second tale has Nelson trying to locate some lost fossil bones in an underground lake (rank that as one of the last jobs in the world that I’d ever want to do, up there with changing the light bulb at the top of the Empire State Building). I like a lot of the shadowy cave artwork in this one:

There’s a collision course for wackiness when two children get lost on a tour and a couple of convicts dig their way out of prison and into the caves (displaying a Bugs Bunny-like tunneling ability). Never fear, because Nelson finds the bones, rescues the kids and subdues the cons. The day is saved and the rugged gentlemen can smile and smoke their pipes:

When men were men!

As far as old-timey comics based on old-timey TV shows go, I’d rank this one towards the top of the I Spy, Adam-12 and Dark Shadows pile. It’s really not a bad read, especially if you like the show. And if you’ve never seen the show, check it out. It just might put a smile on your face.

“At this point, my fingers were aching from typing…”

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