Friday, January 8, 2010

Strange Adventures #10: "The Air Bandits From Space!" (July 1951)

People on Earth were dying from lack of air! Mysterious machines had landed-- invulnerable to attack-- that were drawing away the world's precious atmosphere! But in the fearful crisis, Earth found its champion-- the extraordinary and heroic Captain Comet-- who alone of all humans possessed unique futuristic abilities that enabled The Man of Destiny to seek out and defy an incredible enemy that none could withstand...
by John Broome (writing as Edgar Ray Merritt,) Carmine Infantino & Bernard Sachs.

As reported previously, and repeated here by a haggard reporter out of "Las Negas," six giant spinning tops would siphon all the planet's air within a day, emitted radiation that put approaching humans down, and shrugged off a-bombs. Humanities only hope was Captain Comet, who had just visited the city to combat this threat.

Back in an unidentified Midwest city, Professor Emery Zackro listened to the report over the radio. He recalled giving Adam Blake three times the amount of poison to kill a normal man, but left the future Captain Comet unaffected. "It must be that my futuristic body is immune is immune to this acid!" This had been yet another test of Blake's abilities, which were proven again when lethal radiation from the top left Captain Comet with only a slight tingle as he raced toward against its desert trek. Comet ripped the otherwise impervious metal skin of the top with his bear hands, making his own entrance into its belly. Captain Comet determined there was nothing inside but machinery, as it was being remote controlled.

Exiting the top, Captain Comet used a blackened piece of glass and his own incredible vision to see the radiomagnetic waves controlling the top came from near the moon! Swiftly returning to Zackro's lab, Comet constructed a spaceship with 200,000 horsepower. In minutes, this "Cometeer" craft sped its master to the dark side of the moon, where the Captain found an alien vessel larger than a terrestrial ocean liner! Maneuvering through an open hatch, the Cometeer landed inside, where the Man of Destiny found hundreds of humanoid aliens in suspended animation! The craft seemed to be running on auto-pilot, but one alien awoke. "Ana dok? Who's there?"

Making instant telepathic contact, Blake learned this was "Harun... leader of the Astur race... This creature has a brain almost equal to mine in power!" The Astur were a peaceful lot from an airless world, until a passing star caused "landquakes," forcing scientist-leader Harun to evacuate the population. Over a thousand years later, the ship's auto-pilot found Earth an acceptable replacement world-- once all that air was removed! Captain Comet girded himself for fisticuffs, but that option was dismissed by Harun. Instead, they would play a game of Echek, in which the first person to pick a white pellet blindly from a vase containing 100,000 black pellets makes the other their slave. Harun could detect the difference in weight from black to white pellet, and picked a winner in his fourth try. However, Captain Comet's fingertips were so sensitive, they could detect differences in color, and pullet a white pellet on the first try.

A poor sport, Harun whelched on the bet and fled the room. Captain Comet killed the tops' remote control, then pursued. Harun tried to revive his people to kill Blake, but the Man of Destiny had already determined they were all dead, their corpses perfectly preserved for a century! Horrified, Harun committed suicide by throwing himself out an airlock. Blake tried to save him, but even he wasn't fast enough to beat the ravages of outer space. While in his Cometeer, the alien craft's auto-pilot reset, carrying a ship of the dead in search of a more hospitable world. "What irony!"

Blake returned to Zackro's lab to strip off his uniform and secretly enjoy the global acclaim lavished on Captain Comet!

This two part origin was a fun story with nice art, and is available in full here...

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