In the early 1950s, editor Julius Schwartz at DC wanted to bring science-fiction to readers, but he had a problem. He felt that if the stories were too far out, readers wouldn’t be able to relate to the characters and events. His solution? Look at the amazing world of the future through the eyes of an average person. See it from the ground level, instead of from some godlike protagonist. After all, what kid would want to read about the gallant and incredible Commander of the Pluto Patrol when instead he could read about insurance agents?
Bert Brandon, interplanetary insurance salesman, has a problem. It’s been three months since he’s sold a life insurance policy, and his boss is not happy. The thing is, there’s just nowhere he can go to make a sale? The territory of all nine planets is already claimed by others! He only has one option.
There are two races on Gllyn. One is the Lullies, who have both humanoid and butterfly forms. The other are the Kroques, who are ugly and live on the dark side of the planet and probably aren’t going to be the bad guys at all.
Bert opts to hang out with the Lullies, reasoning that, “if their disposition is as sunny as their world, I’ll have a better chance to sell them insurance!” Bert learns their language before he even lands and gets to work, but he just can’t seem to crack into the Lully market. He asks a human neighbor of his what the deal is, and Mr. Cole explains that the Lullies have a strict monarchy and can’t do anything without the permission of Queen Pryll. Bert immediately goes to see the leader of the Lullies.
The queen is impressed with this earthman’s bold new insurance ideas! Not only does she buy a policy herself, she orders her subjects to buy them. What’s more, Bert has found out from a doctor that the Lullies — who have two hearts and three lungs — can never die, “except by accident!” So III will never have to pay off! What a coup! Bert’s made a fortune selling the Lullies something they don’t need!
However, before he can bask in his glory, he sees a hooded figure shoot at one of the Lullies with a ray gun.
The shooter turns out to be a hideous Kroque who somehow has gained the ability to withstand the sunlight on the Lully’s half of the planet! As the crook — the Kroque, I mean — is hauled off to jail, Queen Pryll is concerned about this new development.
Meanwhile, Bert’s got problems of his own. He’s summoned to the house of a policy holder who has “died”. He’s actually metamorphosed from his humanoid form into his butterfly form, but as far as he’s concerned, this is as good as death. Pay up, Bert! Just as happens in the present on Earth, Bert runs to the government to bail him out. But Queen Pryll is some socialist harpy.
How unfair! This means that III will actually have to pay off all these policies! It’ll ruin them if they actually have to do what they promised! Bert starts to threaten with legal action (he really does! I’m not making that up!) when suddenly the Kroques attack!
The peaceful Lullies, with no weapons to protect them, prepare for the worst, as does Bert, seeing visions of dead Lullies — and thus fleeing space credits — in his head. He’s got to act! He spots a telescopic lens and gets an idea.
Yes, he solves the Lullies’ problem with a little genocide! The queen is so pleased with his mass slaughter of their racial enemies that she absolves III of their need to pay off any life insurance policies! Bert doesn’t offer to repay the credits for them, of course, he just ensures that they all bought worthless scraps of paper for no reason!
But it’s not over yet! They pack up the fried corpses of the Kroques to bury on the dark side, having suddenly become concerned about the mortal remains of their foes, when something amazing happens. The bodies start changing and new forms emerge from the lifeless husks!
One of the things this comic has going for it is that the narration is in the form of Bert sending “Spacegrams” back to his boss. I’ll let him wrap this up in his own words:
Selling worthless insurance policies to one race, attempting to wipe out another race, and then selling worthless insurance policies to them…it’s all in a day’s work for Bert Brandon of Interplanetary Insurance, Incorporated!
Next week: The Thought Pirate!
“Interplanetary Insurance, Inc.”
Mystery in Space #16 (October-November 1953)
Writer: Sid Gerson
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Sy Barry
Editor: Julius Schwartz