Marvel Super-Heroes # 18 (Guardians of the Galaxy)

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18; Jan. 1969; Marvel Comics Group; Stan Lee, editor;
featuring the tryout debut of the Guardians of the Galaxy in "Earth Shall
Overcome!"  The strory is scripted by Arnold Drake, who was working for a
time as a third-string Marvel scripter after having been blackballed from
DC.  (I recall as a fan at the time I was somewhat intrigued by Drake's
writing style because it was a bit different from the styles of Stan Lee or Roy
Thomas, but I didn't realize then that Drake had been the writer and co-creator
of the DOOM PATROL series which I had liked when I was a DC reader.)  The
art is by Gene Colan, with inks by Mike Esposito under his "Mickey Demeo" pen
name.  The cover depicts the four members of the new group marching
forward; a man in a purple bodysuit that completely covers his body and head, a
big blocky guy in a yellow space suit, a crystalline humanoid and an orange
alien carrying a bow and arrow. 

Review by Bill Henley.  I
decided to review this comic in honor of the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy"
movie-- even though, as far as I can tell from the trailers I've seen, the
membership of the movie Guardians is entirely different from the characters of
this comic book series.

Our story opens in the year 3007 AD, when all of
humanity and its colonial offshoot races are united under the banner of the
"United Lands of Earth" and the "ULE Federation".  "Wars among nations long
ago ceased-- but the war of the STAR SYSTEMS has only begun..."   A
"space militiaman" named Charlie-27 is coming in for a landing on his home world
of Jupiter after a six-month tour of solitary patrol duty.  (It takes the
first three pages of of this 22-page story just for Charlie to finish
landing.  Gene Colan was a fine artist, but sometimes his large panels and
leisurely storytelling meant that the stories he drew were skimpy on story
content compared to other Marvel comics.}  Charlie is a big, bulky, kind of
obese-looking guy, but it's not that he's been hitting the snacks too hard out
on solitary duty.  He's a fifth-generation Jupiter colonist, "adapted at
birth to withstand Jupiter's conditions of ELEVEN times the mass and THREE times
the GRAVITY of Earth. (But science says you're wrong if you believe that humans
could survive on Jupiter just by adding some extra bulk and muscle.  As far
as is known, the planet has no atmosphere breathable by any Earth-type life
form, and it's not even certain if Jupiter has a solid surface rather than a
continuously thickening atmosphere.)  Charlie has mysteriously lost radio
contact with Jupiter during his tour of duty, but his only concern seems to be
whether he will get the big party that is traditional "when a MIL-MAN returns
from SPACE SOLITARY".  Once he finally touches down and emerges from his
ROUSING CHEERS FOR THE CONQUERING HERO?"  But the space port is eerily
empty and silent, and the only ones present to give Charlie a reception are a
pair of armed, green, scaly, lizardlike aliens.  They are members of the
Badoon, an alien race which has schemed to conquer Earth since clear back in the
20th century, when they were stopped in their first assault by the Silver Surfer
in issue &2 of his original comic.  Alas, the Surfer is no longer around to
help out.  One of the Badoon says to the other, "There will be a MEDAL for
us, Maz!  We are about to capture the LAST FREE JOVIAN!"  The shout,
"HALT!  In the name of the glorious EASTERN ZONE COUNCIL!" finally gives
Charlie-27 a clue as to what has happened to his world and people.  But
though he may be slow on the uptake, he's not as slow physically as his bulk
might suggest.  He manages to dodge the raygun fire of the two Badoon and
shove them into an "incendi-drop" garbage disposal.  Charlie seeks out
"Command HQ", hoping to find other troops still fighting, but HQ is
deserted.  Now his only hope is to find his own family and help them to get
off Jupiter, but this hope too is dashed when he spots his father onboard a
Badoon prison transport, being sent to a labor camp to mine deadly radioactive
"high-intensity harkovite".  Before he can attempt a rescue, he is
confronted by more Badoon troopers.  Charlie momentarily resolves to "die
HERE- and NOW" rather than being caught and dragged off to a death camp, but
changes his mind and decides to try to make it off-plent to join the human
forces he hopes are still fighting elsewhere.  He makes for a "tele-port
depot" from which he can beam himself anywhere in the Solar System-- if he can
make it there before the Badoon get him.  "Like a 20th century commuter
running to catch the 4:57,  the 30th century Jovian dives for a beam that
will TRANSMIT him though space!"  He is in so much of a hurry that he has
no time to set the "directional guide", but takes his chances where he will end
up, since "ANY place will be better than THIS!"

Sorry, Charlie!  He
lands on the cold outer planet Pluto, which was targeted by the Badoon even
before Jupiter.  Donning an "atmo-suit" to protect him from Pluto's harsh
conditions, Charlie finds Pluto as deserted of free humans as was his
homeworld-- but there are Badoon.  They are tracking the one Pluvian known
to remain on the planet, with the aid of "Saturnian hound-hawks," and they are
startled when the beasts indicate there are now two "non-Badoon scents," rather
than just one.  With the hawks in pursuit, Charlie tries to get back to the
teleport depot, but the hound-hawks are about to bring him down when a
crystal-covered arm reaches out and pulls him into a hidden tunnel.  When
he gets a good look at his rescuer, Charlie exclaims, "BY KARSUS!  You're a
CRYSTAL MAN-- a PLUVIAN!"  (Well, duh.  You're on Pluto, so who would
you expect to find but a Pluto inhabitant?)  This Pluvian, whose name we
learn later is Martinex, seems to have a crystal chip on his shoulder. 
"You mean 'rock head,' don't you?  Isn't that what you always call
us?  Despite the fact that we, like you, are descended from
EARTHMEN?"  Charlie-27 reminds Martinex that "This is no time to fight a
RACE war!", and asks what is happening on Pluto.  Martinex explains that he
stayed behind when the rest of the planet was evacuated before the Badoon
advance, in order to blow up some industrial complexes.  He was about to
make his own escape through the tele-port when Charlie's arrival attracted
Badoon attention.  Charlie offers to surrender to the Badoon so that
Martinex can get away, but the crystal man declines the "unnecessary
heroics".  Instead, he uses a radio control to activate a horde of "robot
servants" (made to resemble Earthly butlers and maids) to attack the
Badoon.  Though the robots are not built for combat, they manage to
distract the Badoon long enough for Charlie and Martinex to reach the
tele-port... this time with a defihite destination in mind.  "Next stop
MOTHER-PLANET EARTH... and let's hope that it is still FREE!"

But yet
again our heroes' hopes will be dashed.  For at that moment on Earth, a
human prisoner is being dragged to the throne of "Drang, the SUPREME COMMANDER
of the EASTERN SECTOR of the BADOON EMPIRE!"  But not just any old
human.  This man is named Vance Astro (later Guardians stories established
that this cheesy sci-fi name was actually short for Astrovik),  and he has
a life story so unusual that he is known even to the Badoon.  The Badoon
want to hear his story from his own lips, and when he angrily refuses, Vance
Astro is subjected to a painful memory probe.  Back in the year 1988 (I
somehow missed hearing about all this in the news at the time), as a young and
eager volunteer, Vance Astro was selected to be the first man to attempt travel
to the stars.  But even at maximum travel speed of ten million miles an
hour, a trip to another star will take lifetimes.  Astro agrees to be
sealed in a copper foil "bio-suit" and placed in an icy coffin-like device in
order to make the thousand-year trip in suspended animation!   He will
have to leave his girl friend and everyone else he knows behind (he tells his
girl, "It'd never have worked!  I'd always be REACHING FOR THE STARS! 
You LIVE, sweetie!  LIVE!  Otherwise you'll HAUNT me for 1,000
years!")  and after he arrives he will have to spend the rest of his life
sealed in the purple bio-suit; if it is even punctured he will age 1,000 years
instantly and crumble to dust!  But his reward will be to be the very first
man to reach the stars.

Except it doesn't work out that way.  When
Astro lands his ship and emerges on an unnamed extra-solar world, he finds that
he has NOT gone where no man has gone before.  He is greeted by cheering
human crowds!  It seems that some 200 years after his departure, the
discovery of "Harkovian physics" supplanted Einstein's physics with its
limitation on traveling past the speed of light,   Other humans have
beat Astro to the stars by centuries, and his hero's welcome is no
consolation.  "Laughing hysterically, Astro shouts, "It was all for
NOTHING!  My HOME-- my GIRL-- my FRIENDS-- HA HA HA-- all thrown away for
NOTHING!!"  (This concept of the sub-light space traveler who is
outstripped and turned into a human relic by the development of
faster-than-light travel didn't originate with this story.  There was a SF
short story, I think by Poul Anderson, on the theme, and later Bill Roper wrote
a memorable filk song based on the idea.) 

And now Vance Astro is a
prisoner of the Badoon conquerors.  They are intrigued not only by his
"bitter yet funny" story, but by "the special knowledge of a man who has lived
FORTY generations" (even if he slept through most of those generations). 
Because of this, Astro is offered the privilege of being the only human allowed
to live under the Badoon without wearing a "psyke-disk" to turn him into a
zombie-like slave.  The price will be betraying his own people, but Astro
says that as a castaway in time, he doesn't really have a "people".  The
Badoon note that he does seem to have "one people"-- a blue-skinned alien
(rather than orange as on the cover), a native of the planet on which he first
landed.  "DUMBEST people that ever LIVED!  I kept him just for
LAUGHS!"  Okay, then, say the Badoon; Astro can show his new loyalty to
them by killing his alien companion, who has been judged too primitive and
inferior to live even as a Badoon slave.   The embittered Astro agrees
with no hesitation, but "It'd be interesting to do it with his OWN weapon"-- a
primitive-looking bow and arrow.  Astro aims and fires; "Sorry, my blue
friend!  But like we used to say BACK IN 1988, that's the way it
MOVES!"  "You called me-- FRIEND!  You were LIAR, copper-man!" 
But as Astro pulls back the string and shoots the arrow, the alien whose name is
Yondu begins a strange whistling-- and instead of piercing his heart, the arrow
swerves and begins flying around the room threatening the Badoon!  The
arrow is made of "sound-sensitive metal" and can be commanded by Yondu's
whistling, and it emits energy which blasts through a wall, enabling Astro and
Yondu to make their escape!  Astro soars through the air thanks to a
"psyke-pusher" power he somehow developed in his centuries of suspended
animation, with Yondu clutching his heels.  The primitive alien complains
about the "ugly things" the "copper-man" said about him, but Astro explains that
it was all a ploy to get his hands on Yondu's unique weapon. 

and Yondu make their way to the nearest tele-port station-- where Charlie-27 and
Martinex are just arriving!  In the great tradition of Marvel heroes past,
present and future, the two pairs mistake each other for enemies and fight with
each other briefly, until Charlie has a chance to explain, "We're the LAST FREE
MEN of Jupiter and Pluto-- and we're looking for a FIGHT-- but with the
BADOON!"  One of whom gets Vance Astro in his ray-gun sight, but Martinex
uses his ability to focus energy through his crystalline body and melts the
ray-gun with a heat beam.  Our new band of heroes reaches the tele-port
station, but where to go, with even Earth conquered?  Vance Astro has heard
rumors that somewhere a "free colony" still exists, and he is determined to find
it.  He wants to go to "New New York", the colony world that "took the
worst pasting from the Badoon," but which is also rumored to be where the "free
colony" started.  The others are skeptical, but Astro declares, "My
friends-- I'm the OLD MAN here-- by about TEN CENTURIES!  And I say we can
FIND the FREE COLONY!"  And he leads the others in a rousing chorus of an
old "struggle song" from his own time, adapted to the new circumstances; "EARTH

Maybe so, but it would take a while.  Though I recall that
I was intrigued by this story when I first read it, the Guardians of the Galaxy
didn't immediately win an ongoing series of their own.  It wasn't until
1975 that they turned up again as guest stars in Steve Gerber's DEFENDERS, and
then got a series in MARVEL PRESENTS, initially written by Gerber.  That
ended after a couple of years, and other than guest shots the Guardians didn't
show up again until they got a series starting in 1990 written by Jim
Valentino.  But at that time I had largely abandoned Marvel comics, and I
never read that series at all. (Should I?)
As I watched the movie trailers I
wondered if the movie makers took nothing from the actual "Guardians of the
Galaxy" comic but the name, but I see by looking at the Grand Comicbook Database
that a 2013 revival of the Guardians title (which I didn't read and have no
great interest in reading) replaced the original lineup of Vance Astro,
Charlie-27, Martinex and Yondu with  the characters who appear in the movie
such as Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, etc.  (But was the movie
already in the works by then, and did the new comic follow the movie script
rather than vice versa?) 

To cover the rest of MSH #18 briefly; the
"Marvel Mailbag" lettercol is devoted to comments on the Phantom Eagle, the
double-identity World War I aviator-hero who appeared in MSH #16.  All the
comments are complimentary, but the Eagle seems to have been the biggest flop of
any of the tryout features appearing in MSH.  All of the rest turned up
somewhere again sooner or later, but  I only recall one further appearance
of the Phantom Eagle, as a guest star in a HULK story involving time travel, and
he certainly never got a series of his own.

The rest of the issue is
devoted, as usual with MSH at this time, to superhero reprints from the 1940's
and 50's.  A three=page segment of the "Adventures of Sub-Mariner When He
Was a Boy" from SUB-MARINER #36 (1954)  depicts young Namor learning the
meaning of "Courage" as he fights a pack of wild dogs on an ice floe. 
Otherwise, the reprint section is devoted to the second half of the All-Winners
Squad story (Timely/Marvel's shortlived JSA imitation) from ALL-WINNERS
#21.  (The first half was reprinted in MSH #17, but I'm not digging that
issue out to review the story in detail. Per the GCD, the story is scripted by
Otto Binder, with various artists involved.)  The Squad is battling a
time-traveling villain known as Future Man (and his femme-fatale assistant
charmingly named Madame Death) with each Squad member assigned to protect one
continent from Future Man's plots.  Sub-Mariner prevents Future Man and his
allies, the "Pacific Pirates," from  unleashing a tidal wave that will
devastate Asia.  Miss America, the flying patriotic heroine, defends Egypt
and the continent of Africa from a horde of marauding mummies unleashed by
Future Man.  The original Human Torch and kid sidekick Toro save North
America from being devastated by Future Man's "atomic fire," which can consume
anything, by discovering that it can be extinguished by its own ashes. 
Finally, the team unites to stop Future Man from summoning a whole army from his
predatory future society to conquer the 20th century.  (I'm surprised that,
with his continuity mania, Roy Thomas never retconned this story to establish
that Future Man was another incarnation of Kang.)  Future Man flees to his
time machine to escape back to the future, and Captain America orders the other
heroes to let him go.  It turns out that Cap has sabotaged the time machine
so it can no longer travel to the future; instead, Future Man and his assistant
are doomed to an endless trip into the distant past.  "I don't think future
men will tackle the 20th century again, after one of their greatest scientists
failed to return!  THE WORLD IS SAFE AGAIN!  (caption) And the world
will ALWAYS be safe from any sinister plot, while the mighty All-Winners Squad
stands guard over it!" If that was so, then the world was soon in trouble again,
since the All-Winners Squad seemingly disbanded after that story.