Wednesday, December 28, 2011

“THE OMEGA GLORY” *** “THE OMEGA GLORY” Season 2, Episode 23 (Production 55), Story 52 Written by Gene Roddenberry; Directed by Vincent McEveety PLOT: Some bad-ass renegade Captain has decided to take control of a planet. SUB-PLOT: Dumbest twist ending ever? KIRKISM: “A star captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive.” HEADER QUOTE SPOKEN BY: Scotty Morgan Woodward guest stars Ron Tracey, Captain of the USS Exeter and Prime Directive renegade. Tracey has taken up residence on the planet Omega 4, after some mysterious infliction has befallen his ship. The Enterprise finds the Exeter in orbit around Omega 4, and finds the creepy sight of scattered uniforms and crystals, but no actual crew. They find info in the ship’s logs that tells them the crew was exposed to some kind of disease and the only way to survive is to head to the planet. If Kirk and Co. head back to the Enterprise, they’ll expose everyone there. Good set-up. The pacing in STAR TREK is generally a little slow (by now that quality is nothing more than a dull annoyance than a problem), so in comparison to much of the rest of the series, THE OMEGA GLORY positively rips forward. The crew jumps from Enterprise to Exeter and now to Omega IV, and we haven’t even gotten to the main plot, yet. They land in the middle of an ancient, Earth-like village, where Mongul-looking folks are about to behead barbarian-looking folks. The “Kohms” decide, hey, what the hell, let’s behead us some Federation dickwads, too, but before the axe can fall, Captain Tracey steps out and stops the execution. The Enterprise crew discovers that Tracey has been siding with the Kohms against the barbarian Yangs, which violates the Prime Directive. Which would mean something if Kirk didn’t treat the Prime Directive like we treat Speeding Limit signs, and violate it himself every now and then. But that’s STAR TREK, isn’t it? Things that are super important one week, aren’t important at all in the next. It’s bad writing. Taken in the singularity of this episode, however, the tension surrounding the Prime Directive works more than it doesn’t, as Tracey captures the Enterprise crew and forces McCoy to get to work on figuring out the secret to the long lives lived by the inhabitants of the planet. Tracey is insistent that this information is important to the future of the Federation, because the Kohms and Yangs are totally immune to everything. Kirk and Spock are put in a jail cell, and Kirk is then stuffed inside the same cage two Yangs: a male and female who take turns trying to kill him. They all try to kill each other until Kirk says the word, “Freedom,” which gives the Yangs pause because “freedom” is a holy word in that culture. Up until now, they Yangs hadn’t once spoken, so their newly revealed ability gives Kirk an avenue to make a deal. The Yang male rips free one of the cell’s bars to the outside world, knocks Kirk out, and escapes. Up through this point of the story, OMEGA is a pretty good spin, but after this it starts to fall apart. McCoy’s learned revelation is a good one; he discovers that there is no magical immunity here, that the Kohms only live long because of natural evolution – there is no magic immunity bullet, in other words. (And, you know, I’m not sure if that really matters in a scientific sense, but McCoy knows Tracey’s a nutbag so … whatever.) But the rest of the story … ugh. Typical, formulaic, silly. We get another Earth-influence bit forced on us. Turns out the Yangs and Kohms are supposed to be “Yankees” and “Communists” and what we’re seeing is the effects of a US/Soviet Cold War that took place earlier in a timeline. Or something. Because … BIG TWIST ENDING … the Yangs carry around an American flag and have the Pledge of Allegiance, which they horrendously mispronounce and … Yeah. It’s totally and completely stupid. Too bad, because until the Yangs started acting like some kind of mutant Hollywood Indian tribe, and until they pulled out the American flag and the Pledge, and until Tracey accused Spock of being the devil and the Yangs follow along with that sense of logic despite it coming from the guy who’s been trying to kill them … until this horrid, awful, insipid final act, OMEGA GLORY was a really good story. But that ending totally blows the story apart. A major league set-up and performance by Morgan Woodward are wasted by Roddenberry’s minor league ending. Plot Summary: When the Enterprise encounters the Exeter in orbit around Omega IV, an away team including Kirk, Spock and McCoy discovers that the entire crew appears to be dead but the captain, who remained on the planet after the away team brought a deadly pathogen aboard. Discovering that they are also infected, the team beams down to the planet and meets Captain Ron Tracey, who tells them that the planet offers natural immunity and that the peaceful Kohm village in which he lives is under attack by the violent Yangs. Kirk discovers that Tracey has used his phaser to affect the balance of power on the planet, and when Tracey demands more phasers from the Enterprise, Kirk formally arrests him, accusing him of violating the Prime Directive. Tracey, who believes that the virus infecting them might hold the key to longevity like that of the Kohms, wants McCoy to isolate a serum that will give humans longer lifespans and justify his interference. Kirk and his crew are taken prisoner by the Kohms, but are captured in a Yang attack. In the Yang stronghold, Kirk and Spock discover that they are on a parallel Earth following a Third World War won by the Communists - the Kohms - and that the Yankees, the Yangs, have hidden away as a sacred text the US Constitution. When Kirk demonstrates not only that he can defeat Tracey in single combat but that he can recite the words, the Yangs agree to heed his message of freedom, and the crew finds it can return to the ship, having been cured by exposure to the planet's atmosphere. Analysis: Because of the last fifteen minutes, "The Omega Glory" must be classed as one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever, but until it falls completely apart, it's rather enjoyable in a campy, superficial way. This is the only episode I can think of where Kirk gets knocked out not once but twice and by both sides of the conflict, and William Shatner plays his scenes with a sour, grumpy expression as if Kirk has a headache throughout, even before the dialogue has degenerated into the nonsense at the end when Kirk attempts to make a case for truth, justice and the American way. Tracey's character is written as so over-the-top crazy that Shatner can emote to his heart's content and Kirk still seems calm and rational. That said, the episode doesn't start badly; there's a crisis with another starship, a rescue mission in which Kirk learns (or should learn) the hazards of beaming both the captain and first officer into a potentially hazardous situation, the catastrophic discovery there (very well-paced, letting the audience begin to guess that those salt crystals are the crew bodies before McCoy confirms it), the realization that the Enterprise crew could share the same fate, the beamdown into the middle of what appears to be a public execution and the discovery that Captain Tracey controls the events and has used his phaser in front of the natives. Tracey seems surprisingly stable for a man who has lost his entire crew - compared to Matt Decker, at least - but soon the extent of his madness becomes clear, as the landing party is taken prisoner and told they can never leave the planet. Tracey needs McCoy's help isolating the agent that has allowed the Kohms to live for centuries, so he can't kill Kirk and Spock outright, but he can use their lives as bargaining chips, and can use Spock and McCoy to keep Kirk from trying to inform his crew of what's going on. McCoy makes it look as if he's going along with Tracey's plan - he is genuinely curious about the virus that has trapped them on the planet - but he's not afraid of his powerful Kohm guard and is ready to knock him out if he gets a chance. Sulu picks up on the fact that there's trouble and refuses to cooperate with Tracey's demands through Kirk for more weapons. But it's not clear what triggers Sulu's suspicions, and the episode begins to degenerate once Kirk discovers that the savage Yangs use "freedom" as a worship word. Sirah, the Yang woman, seems to exist solely as a device, first so Kirk can grab her and demonstrate his non-savagery by releasing her (he is repaid for this by being conked over the head by Cloud William), then so Spock can intrude upon her mind and use her to retrieve a communicator. We hear that there are thousands upon thousands of Yangs massing for an attack on the Kohm village - which does indeed seem peaceful and stable, and Tracey's initial decision to ally himself with them doesn't seem that much more outrageous than Kirk threatening to blow up Eminiar 7 or destroying Landru. He has to be portrayed as mad for power and wealth as well as having exercised the bad judgment of using phasers to shoot Yangs, but it's still hard for me to judge him as harshly as Kirk does given his ongoing sympathy for John Gill after the stuff he pulled on Ekos - Tracey's wish to cure all human disease still seems relatively sane compared to a history professor making himself Fuhrer. And then there's the distorted playing of the Star Spangled Banner as the American flag is brought in by the Yangs, Cloud William's near-unbearable reading of the E Plebnista and Kirk's even worse reading of the Preamble to the US Constitution (I can excuse Shatner's awkwardness somewhat with the words - having been raised in Canada, he didn't have to memorize it in grade school like I did - but the fist-waving is a little much under any circumstances). As if the rah-rah patriotism isn't enough, Tracey drags God into the proceedings, insisting that Kirk is the Evil One and everyone can tell from Spock's pointed ears (fortunately the Holy Bible is also a sacred text of the Yangs, though not in the same place of honor as the E Plebnista). It's frankly embarrassing - the single combat so that good can defeat evil (though it allows McCoy to utter the great line about how evil often wins unless good is very careful), the symbols of American patriotic glory without any sense that the Yangs understand any better after Kirk's speech what they mean, the weirdness of the fact that we get no indication of the Kohms as communists except racially...there's an icky racism in play in which the "Americans" are ethnically white Anglo-Saxon in appearance. The American-born actors on Star Trek are a lot more diverse than that! "The Omega Glory" seems derived from several previous episodes, and the timing of its airing is particularly unfortunate because it follows those of which it is most reminiscent. The crew of the Exeter has been reduced to essential body elements without water, which it turns out has been caused by a genetically engineered disease that has greatly increased life expectancy for the survivors. The latter storyline is very reminiscent of the one from "Miri", and the bodies being reduced to chemicals is a lot like what the Kelvans did so recently in "By Any Other Name", turning crewmembers into hexagonal forms composed of their essential elements and brain patterns. But the bigger problem is that "The Omega Glory" is a parallel Earth storyline of the sort that Spock said in the just-seen "Patterns of Force", where he claimed that the odds of a replica of Nazi Germany developing on its own right down to the uniforms was infinitesimal. In "The Omega Glory", we're asked to buy a parallel Earth so perfect that the same Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, which would be fine if we got some explanation of how these Yangs and Kohms came to be there -- did they leave our Earth at some point in a secret launch like Khan's and establish rival bases on this planet from which they fought World War III? Somehow another Earth like dupicated everything,right down the exact symbols and words,just two Star Trek parellel worlds Is this entirely a parallel universe the Enterprise has somehow discovered? There's no explanation whatsoever, which renders everything very silly. There are some entertaining scenes, but given the overall quality of Star Trek's second season, there's also a lot in "The Omega Glory" that's inexplicable, even inexcusable.Oh, and then the crap revelation of parallel development. One side is called the Yangs (yankees) and the others something based on the American Indians.Couldn't the planets symbol vary off a bit.Maybe white stars in circles on a blue and red stripped background.I'm sure Betsey Ross,had two or three alternate ideas. When one of the Yangs walks in with a Stars and Stripes and the incidental music goes all “land of the free” the rubbish score I was going to give this episode plummeted. They even have their own constitution which is almost word for word the same as the American one. Oh, and they have a Holy Bible with a picture of Satan which looks almost exactly like Spock.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Famous First Fridays: Amazing Adventures #18-War of the Worlds

Friday, March 13, 2009
Famous First Fridays: Amazing Adventures #18-War of the Worlds
Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! The Groovy Agent is comin' at ya with another all-time fave--the dazzling debut of Marvel Comics' sequel to H.G. Wells' classic War of the Worlds by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Howard Chaykin, and Frank Chiaramonte. Amazing Adventures #18 reached out from the spinner rack and jumped in Young Groove's hands back in February, 1973. That Romita cover, man, it just could not be ignored. It looked like a red-haired Conan tricked out in leather standing in the midst of a burning city with a couple'a big honkin' Martian Tripods burning people and property with perilous propensity. And, dude, the red-haired-Conan-type wasn't just carrying a sword, but what looked like a ray-gun, too! And ninja stars! Now, Groove, at any age, has always been a sucker for anything that mixes fantasy and sci-fi, so, as much as I hated to see the Beast go, I was dying to know what was going on in AA #18. I laid down my quarter, got my change (change from a quarter for a comicbook! No wonder I love the Groovy Age!), and entered a brand new world...

...As you can see, it was a world filled with savagery and science gone amok! And speaking of amok, the red-haired-Conan-dude, Killraven is his name, was laying a major smack-down on man and mutant alike as he made his way to the lair of a man he called "Keeper"...

But who was Killraven? Who was Keeper? And what was Marvel up to with this alternate future in which Wells' Martians came back and won? To get the answers to those questions, Groove-ophiles, we have to dig a bit. First up, here is some behind-the-scenes info from Roy's editorial in the letters page of AA #18, "War of the Words"...

"Two years. That's how long it's taken, friends and neighbors. Two long and not-always-enjoyable years. Circa 1971, Stan Lee asked me to submit a list of ideas for new titles for his own and then-publisher Martin Goodman's consideration..."

(Roy talks a bit about some ideas he tossed out, like Werewolf By Night, Red Wolf, and Ant-Man and Dr. Strange revivals--and yeah, Ol' Groove still has a lot of ground to cover based on that list alone!--He then talks a bit about Wells' novels and the effect it, the Orson Welles' radio version and the George Pal movie and the effects they had on him.)

"The direct inspiration for the story, I suppose, was the chapter Wells called 'The Man on Putney Hill,' in which a visionary artilleryman talks at length about how life will be under the triumphant Martians. Nearly everything set forward in the main line of this series comes from his speeches: earthmen living in drains (read: subways); Quislings who hunt and rule earthmen for their Martian masters; plus a host of things still upcoming and waiting to be developed by the Bullpen Stalwarts.

"It took a long time for the opportunity for the series to be begun to present itself. Once it did, though, it occurred to me that nefarious and deadline-dodging Neal Adams was the perfect artist to draw the strip. I presented the general concept to Neal one day over the phone and suggested he stop by in a few days so we could talk it over at greater length; the very next day, he show up--with a whole plotline and lead character, yet. I accepted most of what he wanted to do, with a few changes here and there to bring things in line with my original idea--which included keeping the Martians and their technology almost exactly as Wells had envisioned them (they are, after all, a dying race). The only changes: their destruction of our atomic stockpiles and their biological victory over the germs and bacteria of our world--two crash programs which they would logically have deemed vital before a second invasion attempt was begun.

"Eventually, as deadline time rolled around, problems developed because by then Neal had become immersed in several time-consuming projects, including designing costumes for an off-Broadway (like Chicago) stage musical. (Warp--which I'll cover in my upcoming Blinded Me with Comics blog!) We threw in one reprint of the Beast's origin to give him more time to finish--but, in the end, it was no go, and Neal's sometimes crony Howard Chaykin wound up making virtually his Marvel debut by finishing up the last half of the book nearly overnight. By this time, I too had become too immersed with editorial duties to burn the midnight oil over scripts the way I used to with Neal on X-MEN and AVENGERS, so I sorrowfully but confidently turned the scripting reins over to Gerry Conway..."

That's how AA featuring War of the Worlds #18 came to be. A couple decades later, both Roy and Neal Adams would flesh out a few more details about the origins of WotW and Killraven. Here's what Neal had to say about the strip's development (quoted from TwoMorrow's Comic Book Artist Vol. 1, No. 3, Winter 1999):

"This character--later named Killraven (by Gerry Conway)--was travelling through his world, collecting things. And he would trade things in order to create and put together technology to fight the aliens. He carried his backpack all of the time and everywhere he went, he would trade off bits of technology for other bits until he could bring the world together, by putting the pieces back together again, to fight the aliens because civilization was being destroyed. "I was putting together a science-fiction concept. This guy, in effect, was the son of Doc Savage--not the Doc Savage, but a Doc Savage-like character. This guy is motivated by instincts he doesn't even understand; he's doing these things, but he doesn't know why he's doing them--he's very good at doing them because he's the son of Doc Savage and he's a wonderful genetically-created person. And he has a twin brother--only he's working for the aliens. To me, that's a set-up for a really good series. "That concept got lost and, in place of it, was an adventure that didn't actually have progression. My tendency is to move things from point one to point to and on, and when that's not happening, then people jump in and out. It was like what was happening with "Deadman"; the would have writers come in and do a story that would have nothing to do with the last story or anything to do with the next story, so there was no progression. Here, this story was started by Roy and I, and midpoint into it, it was turned over to Gerry Conway again, so I backed out of it. This sounds like a criticism of Gerry again, but it's really not. It has to do with working with the people and and having a relationship, and trusting that it's going to go forward and be positive, and it just seemed to crumble. I felt betrayed."

Finally, in the Alter Ego half of Comic Book Artist #5 (Alter Ego Vol. 2, No. 5, Summer 1999), Roy added the last few details...

Referring to the "The Man on Putney Hill" chapter of Wells' War of the Worlds Roy states: "From this material, I hoped to develop a series to appeal to readers who liked Marvel and DC comics based on the fiction of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In fact, a secondary influence on my concept was the ERB-inspired series "The Lost World" which ran for years in the Planet Comics of the 1940s-50s, with a hero named Hunt Bowman."

On Neal Adams' part in the creation of War of the Worlds: "Much as I wanted Neal to draw this feature, this time I found I couldn't go along with all his ideas (mainly the Martian technology as noted in the AA #18 editorial)...Other notions of Neal's did, however, fit in quite well with what I wanted, particularly at this early formative stage. His somewhat Hunt Bowman-like hero, who wanders around gathering up scrap and discarded gadgets for use against the Martians...I found intriguing. Neal had a great name for this character: 'The Junkman.' I'm surprised he neglected to mention that moniker in his interview; perhaps he's forgotten it... "Naturally, this is not written to denigrate in any way the work that Conway, Chaykin, Marv Wolfman, Herb Trimpe, and others did on the series before Don McGregor and Craig Russell inherited it and proceeded to take it off in new and interesting directions. What would "The War of the Worlds" have been like if Neal and I had stuck it out in tandem? The first near-dozen pages of Amazing Adventures #18, and that single penciled page reproduced in CBA #3, are the closest anyone is ever going to get to knowing."

So, Killraven was to be the son of a Doc Savage-type, and Keeper was "Doc" himself! How wild is that? And as cool as this first issue is, it's genesis is even more interesting. After the debut story, Conway and Chaykin teamed for one more (#19, April 1973) and the strip went through a revolving door of creators. Marv Wolfman wrote #20 (June 1973), joined by new artist Herb (Incredible Hulk) Trimpe. Don McGregor came aboard with AA #21 (August 1973), giving the strip the purpose, focus, and cast it needed to make WotW one of the greatest, best remembered series of the Groovy Age. He remained as writer for the remainder of the series (with the exception of the Bill Mantlo written/Herb Trimpe drawn issue #33, August 1975, and the Mantlo-penned/Keith Giffen penciled fill-in issue #38, July 1976). Rich (Deathlok) Buckler provided energetic and exciting pencils for issue #25 (April 1974), and Gene Colan and Dan Adkins did a beautiful job on issue #26 (June 1974). P. Craig Russell took over as permanent (except for the afore-mentioned issue #'s 33 and 38) penciler with issue #27 (August 1974). In Russell, McGregor found the perfect artist to give life and form to his pithy prose. So strong (and beautiful, and magnificent) were the McGregor/Russell-produced issues (ending with the book's cancellation with issue #39 in August 1976), that it is their run that is remembered and most-praised by fans of WotW.

But the story of the McGregor/Russell WotW collaboration is fodder for another post, Groove-ophiles. Keep your eyes peeled--ya never know when Ol' Groove'll spring it on ya! Pax!

Trimpe / Frank Giacoia

35 -- Killraven Amazing Adventures #20, p. 11 >>
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Amazing Adventures II#25 (July 1974) killraven

Amazing Adventures
Issue # 25

1. The Devil's Marauder
2. The Vengeance Threshold
3. Are You Ready For The Impossible?

Marvel Comics Group
July 1974
Featuring: Killraven.
Written by Don McGregor.
Penciler Rich Buckler.
Inker Klaus Janson.
Letterer David Hunt.
Colorist Linda Lessman.
Cover Art: Gil Kane, Michael Esposito.
Regular Series

The Real Nick Fury

The Real Nick Fury-skept as the dumass internut choises,the movie and tv choises.The real Nick Fury isn't David Hasselhoff or Samuel Jackson or even Tom Cruise.The real Nick Fury,if you cut passed the the Hollyweirdo or internut choises and the comic bs,is the late actor Vic Marror.It was his role as Sgt.Chip Saunders,of Combat,that inspired obviously the creation of Sgt.Nick Fury,by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963).Combat! is an American television program that originally aired on ABC from 1962 until 1967.You even look at early renderings of Nick Fury and tell me you don't see Chip Saunders peeking out of Kirby's art.This is before Jim Steranko created the look of Colonel Nick Fury everyone imatatess.Kirby's Sgt.Fury was more stocky,than the taller,more built Colonel Fury.And if you can't see it,I have a carboard Hellicarrier,that really flies to sell you for 14 dollars ,95 cents.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963).