Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mermaids vs. Krypton

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post praising the work of writer Edmond Hamilton both as a science fiction writer for the pulps and later a comic book writer for DC.

He must have been good--because he once came up with a potentially absurd plot that involved a civil war within the Legion of Super Heroes involving exiled Kryptonians and mer-people who weren't quite mer-people yet.  And, gee whiz, did he make it fun!

This all took place in Adventure #333 (June, 1965)

Now read along carefully, because Hamilton moves his stories along very quickly and covers a lot of plot points in just a few pages.

The Legion uncovers some ancient records in an archeology dig on Earth, revealing that there had been a Kryptonian colony here millions of years ago. To investigate, a team of Legionaries hops in a time bubble and heads back to ancient Krypton. Another team goes back in time also, but stays on Earth.

The first group discovers that a band of Kryptonian scientists is being exiled to Earth during an anti-science jihad on old Krypton. They get some help from the Legionairies.

Simultaneously, a race of human-like aliens from yet another planet has colonized Earth. They make friends with the second group of Legionaries.

When everyone shows up on Earth (which turns out to have a red sun in this time period--which is why the Kryptonians don't win the upcoming fight in about a tenth of a second--natives of that planet have no superpowers under a red sun), it's quickly decided that the two groups of exiles can't share the planet.

That's the one major plot hole in the story. Despite the overall silliness of the premise, Hamilton constructs a plot that has relatively consistent internal logic. That was one of his main skills as a writer.  But why the two groups couldn't just, say, settle on different continents or trade materials and skills with one another isn't even touched on. Nor does the Legion even attempt to get everyone to negotiate.

Oh, well. The rest of the story continues to be fun. The Legion chooses up sides and the fighting begins (though the heroes insist everyone use non-lethal weaponry).

 By the way, Superboy is shown flying despite the red sun because he has a Legion Flight Ring. Hamilton doesn't usually miss on plot points.

After a bunch of cool stuff happens (including the use of a dinosaur stampede as a battle tactic), Braniac 5 realizes the atmosphere of Earth is toxic to the other aliens. So he whips up a serum that turns them all into mer-people and Star Boy uses his gravity power to sink their city into the ocean. That is probably the oddest method anyone has ever used to stop a war, but you can't argue with success.

The Legion heads back to their own time. The mer-people turn out to be the ancestors of one of several undersea civilizations that exist in the DC Universe (the one that Lori Lemaris--mermaid and romantic interest to Superman--comes from). It's later discovered that the Kryptonians all got eaten by dinosaurs a few years after the war, which seems a bit abrupt, but it ties up an otherwise dangling plot thread.

Despite the plot hole involving everyone declaring war for no good reason at all, I love this story. I love the way Hamilton constructs his plots and lets them flow along according to their own logic. He was a man with a lot of imagination--a trait he put to disciplined use to tell very, very enjoyable stories. It's important to note that he didn't allow his ideas to run wild. Instead, he made sure everything fit nicely into the established rules and history of the DC Universe. This made his storytelling that much better.

That's it for our excursion into both the future and the past. Next week, we'll return to our chronological look at Marvel Comics.

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