FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.
AMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #32 (September 1975)
Title: Fantasia in Psychedelic Sound
NOTE: One slightly comical aspect of vintage comic book publications was the way the story titles on the cover often did not match the actual interior title of the story itself. Today it puts one in mind of reruns of the old show Police Squad! because of the intentional way the on-screen title NEVER matched the title said by the announcer.
Anyway, in this particular case the internal title is incredibly stupid – Only The Computer Shows Me Any Respect. Therefore I’m going with what the letters page of the previous issue said the title was going to be: Fantasia in Psychedelic Sound. To me it’s a better title AND sounds more Don McGregor-ish.
Synopsis: Writer Don McGregor and artist Craig Russell are back after Mantlo/ Trimpe’s disastrous fill-in issue last time. It is June, 44 years in the future. Killraven and his Freemen (M’Shulla, Old Skull, Hawk, Carmilla Frost and her creation Grok – Deathlok in my revisions) continue their guerilla campaign against Earth’s alien conquerors.
Their wandering has brought them to the war-ravaged ruins of Nashville, TN as they seek shelter for a few days. One of the buildings still standing is a pre-war Mural Phonics Theater. As opposed to the individual-unit Mural Phonics System still in use by Earth’s alien overlords, the old Mural Phonics Theaters offered a theater-sized virtual reality experience in which the entire audience lived and experienced the on-screen movie.
Killraven dismounts from his pinkish-red serpent-stallion. He and the African-American M’Shulla, his best friend on the team, banter while leading their teammates into the sprawling building.
We get a nice character bit with M’Shulla. He is three years older than Killraven and has actual memories of going to Mural Phonics Theaters with his parents when he was a small child.
His spoken musings on the past with KR lead to him recalling how broken his father seemed on the day the aliens invaded Earth 18 years earlier. His father’s other family members were wiped out in the initial invasion.
M’Shulla states the only previous time he saw his father that shaken was when his business collapsed. After that collapse they never played at their favorite activity of mock-boxing very much. “Not much at all” he says in closing.
NOTE: We readers know from The Rebels of January and Beyond that M’Shulla’s father is still alive, unknown to him. That parent is being held at one of the aliens’ prison compounds in Hawaii for an unknown purpose.
After Old Skull, the big bald and brawny guy, scouts the immediate vicinity to make sure there are no signs of any pursuers or other dangers he and Hawk, the Native American member, move the injured Grok’s still-comatose body and cot into the building.
REVISIONS: My standing revisions still apply – Earth’s conquerors would be Zetans, NOT silly Martians, and Grok would instead be Carmilla Frost’s creation Deathlok. Plus instead of STILL being semi-comatose Deathlok would have recovered two issues ago.
The Freemen would still be lost in the mutated jungle which now covers much of the American southeast, a result of residue from some of the bio-warfare agents unleashed in Earth’s war against the aliens. For my reasons see the previous installment.
Dialogue would tell us that the Freemen lingered for a few weeks in the West Virginia human settlement in Seneca Caverns or Lost World Caverns. They would have recovered from their exhausting trek that far into this mutated jungle.
With those humans – led by the black man Chandra – freed from the alien monstrosity which was requiring human sacrifices from them, the Freemen could have been instructing them in tactics to use when fighting the Zetans and their human quisling troops.
Back to the unrevised story: Killraven, Hawk, M’Shulla, Old Skull and Carmilla Frost explore the interior of the long-disused theater. They pass garish lobby posters and come upon the locked audience/ screening area.
Killraven uses The Power (a pre-Star Wars version of The Force) for enhanced physical strength to burst into the locked “arena.” The Mural Phonics devices power up, but we aren’t told how this is possible. Since it was the future even when the aliens first attacked I guess we can assume that buildings like this were solar-powered, with batteries capable of storing energy and functioning for decades.
With no pre-programmed “movie” to be shown, the Mural Phonics Theater starts to project images drawn from the Freemen’s own minds. The devices – presumably malfunctioning after long disuse – access our heroes’ subconscious minds, sort of like the Id Machine in Forbidden Planet.
REVISIONS: Most of that is fine but Deathlok, mobile and talking, unlike the bizarrely wasted character Grok, would bitterly refuse to enter the audience/ screening area of the theater. It would remind him too much of the distant past when he was alive and human, not the undead cyborg he is now. He would volunteer to go stand watch outside the theater.
Back to the unrevised story: The Mural Phonics Theater is providing individualized experiences to the Freemen, almost like dreams. Slightly contradicting his earlier description of Mural Phonics technology, McGregor treats it more like the holo-deck on Star Trek: TNG.
Each rebel sees their own separate images: KILLRAVEN sees himself fighting in the current war, his uprising against the aliens. Soon he grows puzzled to experience himself fighting in earlier wars from humanity’s history, then experiencing other memories from mankind’s past … the history that Earth’s alien conquerors have tried to censor out of existence.
NOTE: This is a mystery in this issue, but to avoid confusion I will point out that it winds up being another aspect of The Power that Keeper Whitman granted Killraven. Projected into KR’s mind was a wealth of knowledge about world history from before the alien conquest. Our main character does not yet know this himself, but since the technology providing these images is accessing his subconscious that’s why he – and the readers – get this tantalizingly enigmatic “sample.”
OLD SKULL, the mentally challenged Freeman, sees what his childlike, innocent mind can handle – cartoonish living celery stalks and talking animals including a squirrel who identifies himself as Walter J Throgmoid.
CARMILLA FROST sees a blood-covered moon and a body lying on a mortuary slab. She pulls back the blanket covering the body and sees it is her creation, Grok. She feels overwhelmed by her usual guilt at having created him and feels like she’s suffocating as if buried alive. (She has not yet revealed the secret between her and Grok)
M’SHULLA sees himself, like KR, glorying in battle against a host of enemies. His images don’t change to mankind’s history because only Killraven has The Power.
HAWK sees the desert southwest as it existed before the alien invasion. He is the oldest Freeman – in his 30s – and realizes it is the scenery he was looking at when everything changed: the day the alien conquest started.
Killraven realizes that another aspect of The Power lets him alone see the visions experienced by the others, not just his own.
REVISIONS: All of that is fine, but it would be Deathlok that Carmilla sees under the blanket. He shares the same secret with Carmilla that Grok does in the original, but we won’t learn what that secret is until next issue.
In a poignant bit, even Old Skull’s innocence has been undermined by the war and the Freemens’ harsh existence. Amid the cartoon animals a large dragon now appears, spoiling the man-child’s safe fantasy world. The Freemen leave the screening room and the visions all stop.
They console Old Skull on the grim finale to his images. Killraven and Hawk talk war strategy while M’Shulla and Carmilla go off together to make out. This mixed-race romance was bold for 1970s comics and in fact the pair had exchanged the first interracial kiss in full-color comic book history.
Cut to the ruins of Gary, IN. The enigmatic yellow being Skar (Warscar in my revisions), still hunting the Freemen at the behest of the High Overlord, comes across the aftermath of the battle fought there between the Freemen and Atalon, the Sacrificer and their Death-Breeders.
He is still driving his tripod and notices the corpses of Atalon and the Sacrificer, the former in the mud, the latter crushed underneath the Golden Arch. Skar/ Warscar uses communications technology to contact the High Overlord (Abraxas the High Overlord in my revisions).
The hunter informs the High Overlord, ruler of the aliens, that Atalon and the Sacrificer did not die in Fortress Death-Birth’s implosion, but were killed by Killraven and his followers at this separate location. The pair muse on how the Freemen are obviously off-course now for the Yellowstone Park compound of the aliens. But the hunter can still track them.
Eventually, to close out the conversation, Skar/ Warscar says “After I slaughter Killraven and each of his followers I’ll bring you back a piece of each of them for mementoes. Terminate linkage.”
Back to the Nashville Mural Phonics Theater. Killraven is getting his serpent-stallion settled for the night as he continues outlining strategy to his Freemen. M’Shulla and Carmilla have rejoined the others but are still all lovey-dovey.
KR emphasizes the need to continue recruiting any human settlements they encounter to the rebel cause. Already Mint Julep and her rebels are active in the Washington DC area, the thousands of Adams and Eves liberated from Death-Birth will be fighting the aliens, too.
Chandra and his West Virginians are also now active, and in my revisions Killraven recruited the Survivalists of Battle Creek to the rebel cause. Eventually Hawk observes that Grok somehow just keeps hanging on to life even though it’s been months since he was injured by the Kaiju-sized Lampreys at Lake Erie.
Soon the other Freemen try to convince Hawk to open up about why he is always so exceptionally bitter. KR says “What gnaws at you, Hawk? There’s not one of us here who hasn’t had to fight for survival. Not one who hasn’t been left a bitter taste by the aliens’ attack, yet you brood constantly.”
Hawk replies “And you do less? Your moods are endless.” M’Shulla puts in “But at least he has more than one.” This turn of conversation gets Hawk to relent and discuss his inner rage with the others. He rehashes being part of Killraven’s original colony of rebels at Staten Island, a colony wiped out back in Part Two leaving only him, KR, M’Shulla and Old Skull still alive from that large group.
He then elaborates, pointing out how, even before the alien conquest, he and his people were already having to fight. Hawk was a Native American activist – possibly a violent one – in the pre-invasion years.
By his mid-teens he was disgusted with many of his people for lacking his revolutionary zeal, especially his father. His father was one of the people who lost himself in the individual Mural Phonics Systems.
NOTE: This flashback story nicely anticipates the way human beings would tend to lose themselves in high-tech entertainment, video games and social media while letting real life pass them by. No matter what happened in the real world Hawk’s father was content to just retreat to his escapist pastime. This eventually drove a permanent wedge between the two of them.
The other Freemen console Hawk, with Carmilla adding “Families … we’re never free of them.” Soon they realize that Old Skull has wandered off, so they go to look for him in the screening room.
Once there Killraven sees that Old Skull’s cartoon world has once again been invaded by the dragon. Killraven attacks the creature to save Old Skull and eventually the battle ends when M’Shulla vandalizes the Mural Phonics Theater’s tech.
Old Skull sadly reflects that he wishes the illusion could have lasted a little longer. Killraven gives us an ABC Afterschool Special ending by telling Old Skull “As long as it IS just for awhile, old friend, and doesn’t take over your whole life.”
Don McGregor, apparently concerned that some rubes among his readers may not have gotten the message, underlines it with closing narration saying “And that’s the REALITY of it.” Gee, Zeke, I get the feeling he’s not just talking about them there Mural Phonics thingees, ya know?
REVISIONS: I would have had Deathlok be fighting a REAL dragonish mutated creature outside the theater while our heroes were lost in their images inside the screening room. I would restructure it so that part came last, too.
The climax would find the dragonish creature’s battle with Deathlok carrying over to the inside of the building. The other Freemen would be lost in their individual illusions and would think the creature was not real, either.
Deathlok would use his laser pistol to shoot out the controls of the theater, freeing the others, who would join him in killing the deadly, gigantic creature. This would also play into McGregor’s point about being lost in fantasy while oblivious to real world dangers.
Plus having Deathlok fighting solo for awhile would help make up for the few issues he spent semi-comatose and being carried around on a cot. Picture a typically melodramatic comic book cover with blurbs that say “DEATHLOK battles ALONE …While the Freemen face certain DEATH!!!”
This issue was definitely much better than Mantlo’s fill-in story but overall it feels like a waste. There was no real action and no blow struck against the alien overlords. Next issue, though, reaches the heights that the Death-Birth storyline reached.
FOR THE NEXT PART CLICK HERE
I’LL EXAMINE THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.