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 #35 (March 1976)
Title: The 24 Hour Man
Synopsis: The ruins of Atlanta, GA. October, 43 years in the future. Killraven and his Freemen continue their uprising against Earth’s alien conquerors. The rebels are walking through Oakland Cemetery overlooking the city and encounter a beautiful but crazed young woman in tattered garments kneeling beside the emaciated corpse of a green-skinned humanoid clad in gold armor and matching helmet.
We readers watch the Freemen through the eyes of a yet-unknown character named Emmanuel who has been watching them enter his domain from hiding. The crazed, kneeling woman is his mother. Narration tells us that her unhinged whimpering is the same noise she made when bringing Emmanuel into the world.
“But that was a lifetime ago … All seven hours of that lifetime.” (Remember the story’s title.) The insane woman finally notices the presence of Killraven and company. In a panic she says “Who is there? Not G’Rath! G’Rath must stay away!”
The woman looks over our heroes then says “Do I know you? Have you come to … to save me? Don’t you know it is too late! Too late to save me. You are too late, you see. I have borne G’Rath’s child! Yes, I have.” Lightning flashes overhead and thunder rumbles.
The woman’s frantic rant continues: “My body nurtured it, yes, and sustained it, yes, and gave it life … midnight life, yes. Because it WAS midnight, you know … midnight when G’Rath’s child left my womb! And now it is morning, yes. And the spawn of G’Rath and I will seek its OWN.” So saying the woman runs off through the cemetery and our heroes run after her.
REVISION: My standing revisions would still be in effect – 1. Earth’s alien conquerors would be Zetans, not ridiculous Martians because I would never have used the vague War of the Worlds connection. And 2. The Freemen would still be lost in the biologically mutated jungle which I would have covering much of the American southeast, a jungle caused by the residue of the biological warfare agents humanity unleashed in the war against the aliens 18 years earlier.
The thick, often impenetrable jungle would explain why the Freemen remain so far off-course for Yellowstone Park, where Killraven’s brother is being held.
For new readers I’ll recap: Carmilla Frost, one of the Freemen, is a SCIENTIST. At least SHE should know that the sun rises in the East, so since they need to go West they should always walk in the opposite direction, yet ridiculously enough, writer Don McGregor has them wandering ever-further South. Hence my use of the jungle – which did not exist in the original stories – to explain why our heroes remain lost.
To explain the nicely maintained grass in the cemetery and throughout Atlanta I would have Carmilla speculate that SOMETHING must feed on the grass and weeds, which keeps the jungle at bay here. Obviously that something would be G’Rath.
I would also have the few human survivors in Atlanta living like scavengers, always trying to hide from G’Rath but not always succeeding. I would do that to explain where the hell this crazed woman came from.
Back to the unrevised story: As Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull and Carmilla Frost pursue the woman through the cemetery (Deathlok would also be with them in my revisions), the simple-minded Old Skull says “Old Skull don’t understand what’s going on, Mr Killraven.” KR replies “Neither do the rest of us, old friend. This woman speaks madness and flees from demons.”
Narration tells us “Emmanuel remains unseen, but he watches all that transpires desperately. He knows desperation well. He has known it almost from his first breath. After all, he is a 24-Hour Man, isn’t he?”
Killraven pauses as the group reaches a hilltop, and Carmilla Frost playfully challenges him: “Did you lose her, Killraven?” He replies “No, Carmilla Frost. I hope that does not disappoint you too greatly. She is taking flight from this place of the dead.” Carmilla says “Now, Killraven have you EVER disappointed me?”
The insane woman flees though the gate of the cemetery, babbling to herself “I’ve been here 9 months, G’Rath! Nine months with you hovering over me. Yes, hovering … waiting for Emmanuel’s arrival, yes. But now when you return I’ll be gone -”
The woman stops, terrified as she comes face to face with G’Rath, the huge, green, almost snail-like creature from the aliens’ homeworld, one of many they scattered throughout the world to prey on isolated groups of human survivors.
The still-unseen Emmanuel regards his mother as she trembles with fear before G’Rath. “Why is it, mother, that the most intimate thing I know of you is your terror, wonders Emmanuel. They are as ONE, G’Rath and Emmanuel, and her terror of G’Rath the creature is as much a terror of HIM. And he is her son.”
Killraven leads his Freemen into battle against G’Rath as the woman recoils from the beast, screaming “Pleeeaase G’Rath! Please don’t touch me AGAIN!”
M’Shulla, KR’s best friend on the team, tells him to be careful and he replies “That’s not a warning you’ll have to state twice, mud-brother.” Our heroes take up positions between the woman and the approaching G’Rath and as Killraven and M’Shulla banter they all open fire on the creature. KR with his photo-nuclear pistol, M’Shulla with his crossbow and bolts made of alien metal, and Carmilla Frost with her radium pistols.
(In my revisions Deathlok would be firing at G’Rath with his laser pistol. And I would still have Old Skull using the two-handled, wishbone-shaped plasma-ray blaster – and family credenza – which he was drawn with many, many issues ago)
Emmanuel panics at G’Rath’s pain and is afraid he may die, but calms down as the creature returns fire on the Freemen by bowing its head and shooting long, thin, green quills from the back of its neck. Our heroes are forced to retreat a bit among the Atlanta ruins, taking the crazed woman with them. They now assume defensive positions and stand awaiting G’Rath’s apparent counter-attack.
Emmanuel tries to ignore the pain he feels through his link with G’Rath and surreptitiously moves in on the firing Freemen from behind, intent on using the cover of G’Rath’s attack to grab “the woman that the red-haired one called Carmilla Frost.”
“He must ignore the pain he and G’Rath share. He must not let his desperation to fulfill his primary life-function make him act rashly.” Killraven orders his Freemen to cease firing as G’Rath seems to be retreating.
Carmilla talks to M’Shulla, with whom she’s having an interracial affair that was bold for a 1970s comic. (They had even shared the first-ever interracial kiss in color comic books) “I think we HURT it that time, M’Shulla. It seems to be shying away. Not that YOU have to shy away” she adds flirtatiously but is suddenly seized from behind and disarmed by “Emmanuel” who at last comes into view. He looks like a more handsome version of the green man fighting Killraven on this issue’s cover.
“Emmanuel has never felt a woman’s flesh before but there is no time to consider its sensations now. G’Rath is in danger!” Emmanuel holds Carmilla by both wrists with one hand and with his other arm he projects long, thin quills like the kind G’Rath shoots. Caught in the crossfire between Emmanuel and G’Rath, Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull and the crazed woman scramble for cover. Emmanuel takes advantage of this to run off with Carmilla as rain begins to fall.
“Emmanuel smiles with satisfaction. The intruders have all sought refuge. He will allow himself a moment. He wants to know tenderness first-hand and not intellectually.”
Carmilla is still struggling against the paranormally strong Emmanuel and says “I don’t know if you can speak or not, but I’m going to break your head open if you don’t let go of me!” Emmanuel replies “I can speak … Speak all the words of my race, for my race begins and ends with me. And you … are its future!”
Next the 24 Hour Man forces a kiss on Carmilla: “Though he has known the passion of every member of his race he has never tasted a woman’s lips personally. He seeks tenderness, seeks it as deserately as the other things he has sought, but finds anger in its stead.”
Carmilla breaks off the unwanted kiss and pummels Emmanuel’s chest with her fists. M’Shulla calls out to her in a fury and threatens to go straight through G’Rath if he has to in order to catch up with Emmanuel and Carmilla. (Deathlok in the revisions would presumably be outraged, too, since Carmilla is his daughter from when he was alive and not an undead cyborg.)
Emmanuel, feeling pity for M’Shulla, Carmilla and himself, picks up the struggling Carmilla Frost and resumes running off with her. M’Shulla gives chase and is nearly crushed beneath a wall toppled onto him by G’Rath but Killraven dives and gets M’Shulla free in time.
M’Shulla tells KR to keep “that thing” at bay while he goes after Carmilla. Killraven says “I might be willing to TRY keeping it at bay, mud-brother, though I’d not make any promises, but it has disappeared.”
Old Skull comes running to KR and M’Shulla, saying “Old Skull seen it happen, Mr Killraven … Seen it go POOF!” to which KR replies “Poof? You mean it vanished, old friend?” The brawny Old Skull says “Old Skull, he didn’t really believe it either, but he saw it. He really DID!”
Cut to more than a half-hour later. The rain continues as Killraven, M’Shulla and Old Skull continue trailing Emmanuel. His trail has led them back to the cemetery. Killraven observes “You follow this trail most eagerly, mud-brother. Are you anxious to make acquaintance with that creature anew?” M’Shulla counters “He TOOK Carmilla, whoever he is, and we haven’t got any guarantee against death. If we did, both Hawk and Grok wouldn’t be lying under the earth in a place we’ll probably never be able to find again.”
He continues: “It ended for me that day, K.R. … The belief that we were the select few that the aliens could never defeat.” “They CAN’T defeat us” Killraven asserts, somewhat desperately.
“Yeah,” M’Shulla says “well, like I said, I USED TO believe that, K.R. and I wish I still could. And sometimes I almost fool myself into believing we ARE immune … but the feeling doesn’t last long these days.”
Killraven replies “This woman has changed you, mud-brother, and not for the better, I’d wager.” M’Shulla retorts “You think my concern for Carmilla is a weakness, K.R? Is that it? You think there is strength only in solitude? Carmilla has changed me, yes, mud-brother, in ways she doesn’t even suspect. She taught me that I had enough strength to commit myself to another person and it’s not a kind of courage I thought I had.”
Killraven lightens the mood by saying “It’s good to hear you sounding so cheerful these days, M’Shulla.” “I try my best, K.R.” M’Shulla smiles back, “I’m glad you approve.”
Twelve minutes later, making it 8:21 AM the narration tells us, our heroes are still trekking through the cemetery on Emmanuel’s trail. Rain continues to fall. M’Shulla speaks up: “I wish you could invade the mind of Carmilla’s abductor like you do with other aliens, K.R.” NOTE: This is a reference to Killraven’s possession of The Power, a pre-Star Wars version of The Force, and a power he is still struggling to control.
M’Shulla continues: “I mean the way you sneak inside the alien overlords’ heads without them knowing it … If that Keeper Whitman who tutored you was gonna give you “The Power” as he put it, the least he coulda done is be thorough.” Killraven replies “This clairsentience is random, M’Shulla, and it is a power I must develop, learn to use at MY dictate and not at its own whim. That is a conclusion I came to without Carmilla Frost’s interference. And I see you’re not very observant this day, mud-brother.”
M’Shulla asks what he means and KR points out the green skeletal remains they saw the woman kneeling beside earlier. The armor and helmet are gone so that must be where “Emmanuel” got the ones he’s wearing.
The searchers continue on their path, not realizing Emmanuel is nearby, hiding, with his hand clamped over Carmilla’s mouth. After the Freemen pass by he says to Carmilla “My mother cries continually but there are no tears in your eyes. While I … I have never cried but know the pain of tears intimately.”
Carmilla is permitted to speak and tries to get information out of Emmanuel about himself. Among other things he tells her “The woman who fled from you hysterically was the woman who bore me and gave continuity to my species.”
G’Rath returns in the middle of their conversation. Carmilla cries out “The creature … it’s back!” Emmanuel says “G’Rath is never far away. He is the vital link to my race’s survival. And that is why YOU are here. I have chosen you to replace the woman who bore me … to be the mother to our whole race.”
Carmilla replies “You, friend, are OUT. OF. YOUR. MIND.” The time is now 9:03 AM.
Emmanuel explains “G’Rath and I … We are almost as one. By mental transmutation we can BE one. Merged. Absorbed. But even apart, we cannot live without the other. G’Rath’s body gives me the energy I need to live my span of 24 hours … a one-day lifetime. This day is infinity to me.”
“By midnight tonight I will be dead, my metabolism totally consuming me. Before that time I must find a MATE for G’Rath. Afterwards he will guard over you as he guarded over my mother, until you have given birth to our descendant. The inheritor of our collective consciousness. I will die with the knowledge that this mindless perpetration will be passed on to my son and his. Twenty-Four Hour Man to Twenty-Four Hour Man … endlessly.”
The still-struggling Carmilla says “You’ll die sooner than your 24 hour limit if I break free, I assure you of that. I’ll not be used as a pawn! You’d best understand that, or YOUR Midnight will never arrive!”
“Emmanuel holds her. Her blowing hair tickles his cheek as G’Rath towers over them. And he sees the first spark of terror enter Carmilla’s eyes, and knows it will reside there forever.”
The Freemen have obviously doubled back and Killraven now attacks Emmanuel, freeing Carmilla while joking with her “Carmilla, do you NEVER stop issuing threats? And M’Shulla was afraid that YOU were the one in trouble!”
Emmanuel’s unearthly strength lets him smack around Killraven and Old Skull while telling KR not to jest. “G’Rath MUST take the woman, or my peoples’ racial memory ends with me.”
Meanwhile, the crouching M’Shulla rains crossbow bolts of alien metal on G’Rath (Deathlok would be firing his laser pistol at the creature, too.) He hollers for Carmilla to get herself out of there given her importance to Emmanuel and G’Rath.
As the Freemen continue fighting the two beings amid their usual bantering dialogue, Emmanuel reflects on his and G’Rath’s shared pain. “How does life become so complex? Life was not complex to Emmanuel when he lived through his fourth hour. But now he is in his NINTH hour, and simplicity is an illusion of the past that will never comfort him again.”
Emmanuel and G’Rath are forced to retreat. They merge bodies, like he told Carmilla they could do, and teleport away, vanishing into mist.
Time cut to 5:13 PM. Dialogue tells us that our heroes have spent all the time since the aliens disappeared by searching for them. Presently giving up the search, Killraven decides that they should just set up a stakeout of the skeletal remains of the previous 24 Hour Man, assuming Emmanuel and G’Rath may return to it as they did earlier.
Carmilla asks “And what do we do if he DOES return? Kill him? Certainly we cannot save him, Killraven.” KR replies “Nor his race, for all those peoples’ histories are locked in his own mind, correct?” “Yes” she tells him “The bodies remain like this skeletal one. No one mourns the bodies, for they all reside in one flesh – Emmanuel’s.”
The conversation continues, and at 5:20 PM G’Rath emerges from the surroundings, with Emmanuel riding atop him like Danaerys on a dragon. He and G’Rath are finally healed from the wounds of their earlier battles with our heroes.
“Steady, G’Rath” Emmanuel says “Do not quiver. My life-day has not yet ended.” Narration tells us that Emmanuel speaks soothingly, but desperation is in every line that ages his flesh.
Emmanuel addresses Carmilla: “Carmilla, I ask you to come WITH me. Do not reject my life, and render it more meaningless than it already is. G’Rath and I never had any desire to kill any of you but we will if we are forced.”
While his Freemen open fire on G’Rath, Killraven manages to climb up G’Rath and attack the riding Emmanuel. They topple to the ground and continue their one on one combat. Emmanuel tells KR “You stalk through my life like some mystic harbinger of death … one I must defeat!”
While Killraven and Emmanuel battle, KR seeks some answers from the green-skinned hybrid. Emmanuel replies “Once, in the dim hours of my youth I thought there were answers, but not anymore!”
As the fight against G’Rath and Emmanuel continues, G’Rath eventually manages to ensnare the shooting Carmilla in his long, slender, wiry limbs. The creature rears its head, apparently poised to start whatever bizarre method it uses to mate with women, but at the last moment G’Rath instead drops dead. Carmilla’s radium pistol fire had at last penetrated vital centers.
Emmanuel despairs, noting that Carmilla has no appreciation of how beautiful G’Rath was in life. With G’Rath dead, Emmanuel melts away, leaving empty armor without even the skeletal remains that the previous 24-Hour Man left behind.
“Dying. Unreplaced. Extinct.” the narration says.
Killraven looks down at the dead G’Rath and the empty armor, and says “You were right, Carmilla Frost, we could NOT save him. By our separate natures and needs we were forged as opponents for our own survival. He would have shattered you, the way his mother was shattered. But it is more than passing odd … It is still as if we share a common curse. But the October rain is all we have in common, and the sounds of thunder mocking us.”
Emmanuel’s crazed mother has wandered into the scene and M’Shulla says “K.R, do you see the woman? She is back.” Killraven says “I see her, M’Shulla, and I hear her grief more clearly now.”
The insane victim repeats her mad rant from the story’s beginning. “Who is there? Not G’Rath! G’Rath must stay away … Do I know you? Have you come to … to SAVE me? Don’t you know? It’s too late. Too late to save me. You are too late. You see, I have sired G’Rath’s child! Yes, I have! My body nurtured it, yes, and sustained it, yes and gave it life, midnight life, yes. Because it WAS midnight you know … Midnight when G’Rath’s child left my womb. And now it is night again.”
She runs off and the narration tells us “They do not chase her this time.” And Killraven reflects that there are still women, even here in these ruins, who can make a man curse, yet still be lost.”
And in a beautifully wry closing line, Old Skull asks “Mr Killraven, what would have happened if Emmanuel had himself a child … and it was a daughter?” Obviously, our main character has no answer for that, and the story ends.
Once again we saw this series at the heights for which it is remembered. A few more such highs remain ahead. And remember, this story came before Alien or Forbidden World or other sci-fi movies with perverse impregnation and birthing concepts. It was a damn good piece of science fiction.
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I’LL EXAMINE THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
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