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Menzel's Martians Frolic

By Garrett Epps

The martians in Holyoke Center arcade goggle, swoop, slither, crawl, and ride dirigibles for the Christmas shoppers dashing by.

The creatures-which include walking, talking flowers, animated eyes, and glass-feathered birds-are part of a Harvard Information Center window exhibit of martian art as interpreted by Donald H. Menzel, Paine Professor of Astronomy.

Menzel began drawing the creatures-known to admirers as "Menzel's Martians" -about 12 years ago. Since then, they have been exhibited in cites all over the U. S. and featured in magazines here and in Europe.

"At first I just drew them as a kind of doodle, and then I got interested in them as a form of art, particularly in the use of color," Menzel said yesterday. He draws the outlines of the creatures in India ink, then fills in the bright colors in watercolor.

Some of the martians are currently on display at the National Geographic Building, and another exhibit will open this Spring in Harrisburg, Pa.

Scientists seem to find the creatures fascinating. "I can hardly walk into an observatory anywhere without seeing one on the wall," Menzel said. Science-fiction fans also delight in the martians, and Galaxy Magazine published a large color section of them last year.

A genuine Menzel now brings from $50 to $75, although some have sold for as much as $150.

Menzel, who served as a "trouble-shooter" for the Air Force during the flying saucer craze, is well-know as a debunker of reports that unidentified flying objects are actually spacecraft from another planet. He is the author of Astronomy, a popular survey of the field, published last month by Random House.

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