Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Weightless Warriors

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 1973 issue of Strange Sports Stories, making the case that the theme was too limiting to be truly successful. I still think that's true--Strange Sports Stories gave us a contrived or mediocre tale for every good one. Unlike a more general theme, such as science fiction, specifically telling SF sports stories on a regular basis is simply too limiting.

But that doesn't mean its impossible to tell a good science fiction, fantasy or horror story with a sports theme. In the years before Strange Sports Stories, DC Comics gave us a number of these. I think the key is to tell a sports story when the writer or editor simply has a good idea for one and is not being required to come up with two or three ideas for every issue of a regular book.

In 1971, DC Special #13 reprinted a number of sports-themed tales published in the 1950s & '60s. All are at least pretty good and a couple of them are memorable. But all originally appeared in general sci-fi anthology books, so had a sports theme because it inherently belonged in these specific stories--it wasn't forced in.

By the way, several DC Specials featured reprints of strange sports stories. I wonder if good sales for these issues prompted the creation of the short-lived Strange Sports Stories.

One of the two more memorable stories reprinted in DC Special was "Warrior of the Weightless World," written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino. Originally published in The Brave and the Bold #49 (Aug/Sept. 1963), this story introduces us to the 22nd Century sport of spaceball.

It actually looks like a pretty cool sport--essentially it's basketball played in a zero-gravity chamber. The main characters--including a guy who only plays spaceball to put himself through medical school--are the three greatest stars of the game.

When Earth goes to war against an alien race, the opportunity to use their spaceball skills in a military unit soon arises. The aliens have a vital repair base set up on a zero-g planet. The spaceball stars are sent on a commando mission to blow this up and possibly end the war.

The three discover that tactics they used in spaceball work quite well in zero-g combat. They complete the mission and the future doctor learns to have more respect for a sport he had previously played only for money.

It's a fun, well-constructed story--setting up the premise efficiently and giving us an exciting action set-piece, all of which is brought to life by Infantino's striking art work. "Warrior of the Weightless World" is simply fun to look at.

And, by golly, I'd pay for a ticket to see a spaceball game. Add this to the list of stuff that should exist in real life!

I'm going to contradict myself by mentioning that this story is part of a five issue run of The Brave and the Bold in which the book specialized in strange sports stories--nearly all of which were pretty good. (Issues #45-49) So perhaps it is possible to write such stories on a regular basis without losing quality--at least for a short time. Next week, we'll look at yet another of those sports story reprinted in DC Special #13--one that is memorable in that it actually predicts the future! (Well, sort of. But not really.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...