Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
This one’s just for fun. Fanboy speculating and goofing off. Completely and utterly nerdy. You were warned.
I don’t know if it’s March Madness or what, but suddenly people are sending me all sorts of links about odd superhero matchups and teams and so on. Of course we’ve got all the stuff here on the blog, and also several friends have pointed me to this site– Super-Team Family: the Lost Issues.
Basically the site’s just one man with Photoshop skills and a dream, but I defy anyone who loves comics– particularly if that person loves the glory days of Marvel Team-Up and The Brave and the Bold — not to find an issue they wish really existed, probably within the first thirty seconds of visiting the site. Here are two I would have snatched off the stands so fast they’d have left a smoke trail.
Anyway, that was a diversion I wasted way too much time on between various work-related panics this week. But it kind of kickstarted the back of my brain into thinking about impossible crossovers… and then our own Pol Rua put up this challenge…
…with an invitation to assemble our OWN dream team.
I laughed and went on to the next thing, but the idea kept bugging me. Childhood heroes dream team. If I could have ANY-damn-body on my team from my childhood favorites, who would I pick?
The thing that makes the challenge tricky and interesting isn’t just the time frame, though that comes with its own limits too. It very specifically says “CHILDHOOD” heroes. For example, I’d love to be able to have Black Belt Jones on my team but I’d never have been allowed to see an R-rated film in my youth, so he’s out. Likewise the Six Million Dollar Man, because I was thirteen when I found out about Steve Austin and that’s when I was a teenager, not a child. (That would exclude Black Belt Jones too, actually, the movie came out in 1974.)
Otherwise these would have been my FIRST TWO PICKS, believe me. But they’re both out. You have to work within those limitations– childhood heroes in both time frame and familiarity.
For me that means I have to stay between the years of 1965– when I was first old enough to comprehend what I saw on my TV– and 1973, before I turned thirteen. And they have to be heroes of mine from that time, from my childhood. Even totally legit picks from between 1965 and 1973 like the Vision or Mr. Spock– if I didn’t know about them and love them before age thirteen, then I can’t use them.
Plus, when you’re putting together a team of good guys for a story, if you’re being conscientious you want to be sure you have a mix of talents and personalities along with fighting skills. The Strong One. The Smart One. The Mysterious One. The Specialist. The Crabby-But-Still-Dependable One. And of course the Leader.
So who did I get? Here’s my roster.
Tarzan 1966. That is to say, not the Burroughs Tarzan– though he would be an awesome asset to have– but the television Tarzan, Ron Ely’s version. The one that was operating as a sort of loinclothed cop in 1966 Africa.
He’s a Specialist– can command the animals, knows all the African jungle, can function as a diplomat and go-between anywhere in that part of the world. He’s great in hand-to-hand combat and has spectacular endurance. Week after week some evil white poacher would shoot Tarzan or push him off a cliff or whatever, and he’d wake up, decide it was just a flesh wound, and go clean their clocks. This was a never-miss show for me when I was a kid, and I’m glad it finally got a legit DVD release. Holds up pretty well, as long as you know going in that it’s not the Burroughs Tarzan.
Next is Callisto. Friend of Matt Mason, for those who are too young.
Callisto was the alien scientist that worked with Major Matt Mason and his Moon exploration team. He’s our Smart Guy– I mean, look at that brain, you can SEE it throbbing with intelligence! If I can’t have Spock, I’ll take Callisto. Plus, we can put him into our Mysterious One slot,as well… since that was literally all anyone ever said about him– according to his Mattel box, he’s a “mysterious alien with advanced mental powers.” That’s it. That’s all we got. I’m not sure we were ever even told what planet he was from.
Most of you are probably too young to know this but Matt Mason was to my generation what Star Wars action figures were to the generation that came after. They were amazing toys, but not built to last; they were essentially the same rubber-over-wire as Gumby, and an active kid would soon find himself with a set of quadriplegic heroes if he wasn’t careful. The accessories, though– the Space Crawler, the Space Station, the Space Bubble, and so on– those were AWESOME.
I’m going to say that having Callisto on my squad means we get that equipment as an asset, too.
We’ll need some good hand-to-hand fighters. Here are my three picks for the baddest dudes I knew in my childhood… Kato, Linc Hayes, and James West.
Kato is obvious, but some of you may be scratching your heads wondering about the other two. (“Linc from the Mod Squad? Seriously, dude?”)
Seriously, dude. I would absolutely have put either one of them up against Kato in any given episode of The Green Hornet. James West, especially, thought nothing of taking on five guys at a time hand-to-hand and he always won in a fair fight. Invariably, to pull out a win, the villains ended up having to gas him or the double-agent girl would drop a vase on his head or something, but in clean hand-to-hand, West was unstoppable. He’d even spot the other guys their horses. (Check out this collection of stunt clips and see for yourself.) And Linc had moves too… it was supposed to be a ripped-from-the-headlines drama, but my little brother and I didn’t care. When we watched The Mod Squad we knew that at ten minutes to the hour Linc and Pete would be beating the shit out of some roomful of thugs, and that was the whole point. (Check out this clip and you’ll see what I mean.)
Incidentally, these three guys were often wary and untrusting, too, and will neatly fill our Crabby Guy Who Is Nevertheless Dependable slot, along with being Specialists.
Without question, the biggest heroes of my early childhood were the ones from Saturday morning television. As such I have to recruit Space Ghost, and also Igoo the Rock Ape from The Herculoids.
God bless Alex Toth; my childhood would have been a hell of a lot bleaker without him. These two will fill our Strong Guy spots, I think. Although you could slot Space Ghost into a number of different places, his specialty is overwhelming force, and Igoo… hell, all he does is growl, break stuff, and lift heavy things.
So that leaves our Leader.
Well, I have two candidates but I can’t decide.
The first is the Bronze Age Superman.
I liked the Silver Age Superman, as I knew him from the 80-page Giants I grew up reading.
My gateway to superhero comic books was largely the Filmation Superman and Aquaman cartoons, and those were really faithful adaptations for the most part, there was no transition trauma there for me from TV to the comics at all.
But it was Superman’s Bronze Age incarnation I truly loved, when Clark Kent became a TV newscaster.
You had Kirby tearing it up on Jimmy Olsen with the Newsboy Legion and Project Cadmus, you had Kryptonite Nevermore, and you had all sorts of other great things. Morgan Edge, Steve Lombard, all of that. It was really new and exciting and I was just barely old enough to understand that it was all new and exciting. That version of Superman is still my favorite, and that guy would make a great team leader.
However, that leaves out my favorite childhood hero of all…
…the Adam West Batman.
There’s no way I wouldn’t have that guy on my team. He knows everything. He’s thought of every contingency and usually has a device in his Utility Belt ready to deal with it. He never lost in a fair fistfight and often beat even the cheaters. Everyone in the world respects him. And if you posit that this is the same Batman that was in the comics and on Super Friends, well, even Superman defers to him.
The solution? Clearly, Superman and Batman are co-leaders. My squad is headed up by the World’s Finest.
So there you go. That’s my team.
But that’s the EASY part. Picking folks for a roster isn’t really much of a challenge, even within the limitations I was given. The hard part is putting all these people into the same story. How in the hell would Callisto’s path ever cross Jim West’s? Or Tarzan meet Space Ghost?
The story is what’s hard. Making it plausible– at least, superhero-comics plausible– and figuring out how to get all these guys into it is what made it interesting. That was what was floating around in the back of my head all week. As I’ve said before, I’m really not able to turn off the part of my brain that spins Useless Stories. There’s no off switch there.
So here’s the scenario:
There is an interstellar scientist, a horribly unethical one, stealing specimens of various animals from a variety of planets in order to build and test an unstoppable weapon no species can withstand. We’ll call him Drang.
One of Drang’s captures is Igoo, the giant rock ape. The Herculoids enlist the aid of Space Ghost, who takes off in pursuit. Space Ghost follows Drang in the Phantom Cruiser, and the chase takes them into our solar system, into low Earth orbit, where a huge battle takes place. Space Ghost is knocked unconscious when his Heat Force ignites Drang’s ship’s exhaust stream into a huge ion blast. The Phantom Cruiser is crippled and drifting, inviso-power and shields gone. In a few hours the orbit will decay and the ship will burn up.
Drang’s ship is crippled but he manages a crash-landing on Earth…. somewhere in central Africa. Igoo smashes his way out of the ship and disappears into the jungle.
Meanwhile, on the Moon, Matt Mason’s space station crew has noticed their instruments showing some sort of weird conflagration in Earth orbit. They are the only ones in a position to launch a rendezvous operation to look for survivors. Callisto begs to be allowed to accompany the search team, despite Mason’s government mandate to keep the alien’s presence on the Moon crew as covert as possible. “Please, my friend Matthew. I cannot tell you why but if my suspicions are correct I must accompany you. It could mean life or death for your world.” Reluctantly, Mason agrees.
In the Hall of Justice, Superman and Batman have also noticed the orbital conflagration and are determined to investigate. They managed to track the ship’s crash in central Africa but have also picked up evidence of some kind of super-powerful life form drifting in the orbital wreckage. They decide to split up– Batman will take Africa, while Superman checks out the space wreck.
In Africa, as it happens, the Wayne Foundation has sponsored a charitable expedition in cooperation with the Peace Corps to teach young native children to read in one of the emerging nations there. Britt Reid is covering it for the Daily Sentinel, and while he’s interviewing the program director in the village his chauffeur Kato has nothing to do. Bored, he enlists one of the Foundation’s volunteer tutors to take him on a short hike away from the village. The volunteer is Linc Hayes, on sabbatical from the LAPD, trying to find himself and his place in the world. They set off into the jungle together. As they are walking down the trail, they see a ship spiral into the jungle nearby and crash. Because they are who they are, they run to investigate.
Fighting their way through the jungle Linc and Kato soon realize they are hopelessly lost… then a man in a loincloth drops out of the trees. “I’m Tarzan. I need you to clear the area.” Argument ensues, with Linc saying it’s more important to locate crash survivors and Kato bristling at being told what to do by ANYONE not named Britt Reid. The argument is cut short when a giant ape– seemingly made of solid ROCK!– comes smashing out of the jungle growth, roaring his rage…
Meanwhile, Superman has run into the Mason team as they approach the drifting Phantom Cruiser. They decide, for the sake of discretion, that this is best handled at Mason’s Space Station One on the Moon. They take the still-unconscious Space Ghost with them, Callisto looking unaccountably relieved. Whatever he was expecting, Space Ghost and the cruiser weren’t it. Superman follows, easily taking the Phantom Cruiser in tow with one hand.
In Africa, at the crash site, Batman has found the wreckage of Drang’s ship. Drang surprises him and a huge fistfight ensues. Batman is winning until Drang emits a shrill, unhuman whistle, at which point one of the creatures still caged spits an alien venom at the Caped Crusader, rendering him unconscious.
Drang chuckles. “It’s the Vortex for you, Masked Meddler!” He produces a sort of projector and aims it at his captive, but Batman regains consciousness just in time and hurls his Batarang. The projector is knocked loose and its rays envelop both Batman AND Drang.
They materialize in the middle of a crowd, in a dusty desert town. Batman instantly recognizes the town, the era, and the bearded man at the podium. Drang does not, but he heads for the bearded man anyway, thinking he’s the most important person and would make a great hostage. Batman tries to follow but he’s tackled by a man in a beautifully-tailored blue suit who seems to have amazing athletic prowess. A legendary fistfight ensues as Batman tries to get past Secret Service agent James West to prevent Drang from harming President Grant and changing all history…
Meanwhile, on the moon, Space Ghost is regaining consciousness. He’s lying on a cot in Space Station One’s sick bay. Mason’s crew is gathered around him, including Callisto. Space Ghost sits straight up and points at Callisto, his expression full of righteous fury. “I should have KNOWN Drang would seek allies! Where is he?”
Superman steps in between them. “Callisto is under MY protection. Suppose you tell us who YOU are.”
Space Ghost is baffled, but Superman’s presence is enough to calm him. Still, he doesn’t get it. “Superman? The last Kryptonian? Why would you be protecting a… BADOON??”
Callisto looks ashamed. “Then it WAS one of my race…”
Just as all is about to be revealed, both Superman and Space Ghost stiffen. “There’s some sort of disturbance…” Superman says, “My super-senses are detecting–“
“TIMEQUAKE!” Space Ghost roars, and jabs at a button on his gauntlet. “This calls for my FORCE FIELD!” Instantly a bubble of pure invulnerable Energy Force surrounds Space Ghost, Superman, Callisto, and the rest of the crew of Space Station One. The quake subsides a moment later and everyone looks around, wondering.
“Is everyone all right?” Superman asks.
“We are,” Callisto says slowly. “But your world is not.”
He points at a part of Station Control that was outside the bubble. The panels and insignia have all changed. Now, everything is done in red and green, and looks far more advanced that it was before. But it’s the flag hanging over it all that gets everyone’s attention. It’s deep-maroon red, and in the middle is a green scaly hand holding up a swastika.
“Somehow,” Callisto says grimly, “This Drang has changed all history. Now your Earth belongs to.. the brotherhood of the Badoon.”
“And somehow…” Superman’s voice drops to a horrified whisper. “… they’re NAZIS!”
I could keep going, but I think that’s probably enough. I wish I had the Photoshop software (and skills) to put together some visuals for it. You can take it on faith that it gets bigger and bigger, races across all time and space, and the big final donnybrook will include the Herculoids AND probably also the Defenders and the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Justice League of the early 1970s. Against the entire BADOON NAZI EMPIRE!
Let’s see somebody top THAT. It would be the greatest Childhood Heroes Epic ever.
So what have YOU got?
(Seriously. Have at it in the comments if you like. Don’t forget to play by the rules though!)
….See you next week.
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