June - July, 1958
Art: Jack Kirby and Wally Wood
A Challenger of the Unknown places his life on the line against overwhelming odds. What is met during such an encounter may be so overwhelming that "risk" is the law of the day. Even an honorary member of the Challengers must adhere to this rule. When June Walker finds herself forced to violate this sacred rule, the other four members learn to their horror that she is... "The Traitorous Challenger" On the splash page, Ace Morgan is sighting his rifle, while Red Ryan and Rocky Davis are aiming their bazookas, and Prof. Haley is double-checking the connection to the dynamite detonator... which is being sabotaged by June! (Holy Unknown Challenge, Batman!)
A helicopter lands at an isolated Australian village... The Challengers see June Walker at the controls. She has arrived from Washington to inform them that they are needed on a more important assignment! Ace begins to tell June about the task at hand, and she recalls hearing their plans to trap a wild animal! Digger Bill, the prospector, assures Miss Walker that the creature that wrecked the village was no fantasy! (Holy De Plane... De Plane, Batman!) The prospector had entered a grotto for shelter from a rainstorm... He awoke suddenly from his slumber -- possessed by a sense of overwhelming fear!
Digger Bill saw a small green rectangular thing heading towards him! So heavy was the creature, that he couldn't hold onto it or else be crushed if caught in its path! The elderly prospector last left the thing outside the grotto with its large eye reaching out towards the sunlight! As June tries to figure out what kind of animal it could be, Digger Bill tells her what happened the next week... The villagers fled in terror from the evil spirit from the grotto! He saw the thing -- its huge shadow on the grotto wall... then ran with the others! Miss Walker figures that the animal must be a one-eyed elephant, and that there's a much more urgent emergency in the states! (Holy Horton Hears A Who, Batman!) Ace suggests that two of the Challengers accompany her back to Washington while the others deal with the immediate emergency...
The prospector tells her that the job is too big for just two men, and Rocky agrees that a Challenger can't back out of the current assignment! Ace plans to bring out the creature with a rifle grenade, while Rocky and Red will fire their bazookas at it when it comes outside! If this should fail, Prof will be ready with the dynamite! Unbeknownst to Haley, June has plans of her own for the dynamite! As the Challengers double-check their equipment, Miss Walker heads towards the detonator... where she proceeds to fall upon it! KABOOM June is sure that this will end their plans here than the elaborate lie she told them about an emergency at home! When Ace checks on her, June lies about tripping on a stone, and landing against the detonator plunger!
They see that the grotto entrance has been sealed by falling rock and debris. Prof knows that he had cleared the area before setting up the detonator... and June couldn't have tripped on anything... Red can't believe that she would purposely detonate the dynamite -- Prof finds much strange about her sudden appearance... her attitude towards their current assignment in Australia... Red Ryan knows that by sabotaging their assignment, June is going against the Challenger code! Prof knows that there's a way to find out if she's turned traitor! When Ace has returned to his teammates... June knows that the Challengers will continue on their current assignment... and she must remove their equipment from them! Out of sight... June walks up towards the truck, arranging so that the weapon-laden vehicle will roll down a steep incline... and keep the Challengers out of action!
The truck begins to roll... and goes into the gully! Ace knows that their weapons were in the truck, but the others took the precaution of removing them while he was with June! When confronted about her actions, June confesses that she couldn't stand by and see the Challengers go off to certain death! At a research lab, she had been working on a new electronic calcuator, and decided to check out the odds of their survival on their Australian assignment... Upon seeing the computer's coded results, June knew that she had to get to them right away! Now, she hands them the computer tape translation... (Holy Esperanto, Batman!)
"Danger: Cannot Be Estimated By Any Known Standard Defense: Inadequate In View Of Findings. Conclusion: Challengers Must Die." Ace tells her that their lives are devoted to defying death -- not running away from it! The four gather their weapons and prepare to open the grotto entrance! As June is telling Prof that she's going to go with them... CRASH The large creature comes crashing through the rock slide! FOOSH Red fires off a bazooka shell, but it does no good! While he and Ace fall back, Rocky heads up for a shot from higher ground! RATARATARA Before he can get far, Rocky is knocked aside by a sweep of the creature... and begins to fall...!
Digger and June head for the fallen Rocky! The elderly prospector sees that the thing has gotten much bigger and stronger since it attacked the village! It will be capable of destroying entire cities if it isn't stopped! They pull Rocky from the debris, while Prof and Red start throwing bundles of dynamite towards the creature! KABOOM The blasts do nothing, and Prof shouts for them to head into the helicopter... as the sun begins to go down! Inside the helicopter, Ace confesses that he doesn't know what Prof has in mind, but he has a feeling that an atom bomb wouldn't stop the creature! Prof agrees, and believes that the thing would enjoy an atomic blast! It would dine on the expended energy like fast food! Once the helicopter is in the air... Prof tells Aces to buzz the creature and get its attention!
Hearing the whirling helicopter blades... the green creature turns towards their direction! Red sees that the green thing's "eye" looks like the sun when seen through a telescope! Rocky figures that the "eye" must indicate several atomic reactions going on within the thing at that very moment! (Holy Pepto-Bismol, Batman!) Red doubts that they're dealing with a live animal, and Prof figures that it must be a new type of lifeform -- the result of mineral and animal substances reacting to atomic tests from the British north of the area! With the large creature in pursuit, Prof tells Ace to fly a straight course away from the grotto! At twilight, the thing continues the chase... but begins to slow down...! Prof knows that the green creature will begin to turn and head back for the grotto! It will not make it... for it is too far from where it can feed on volcanic heat in the absence of sunlight!
The creature begins to weaken... then falls to the ground! After landing the helicopter, the Challengers see no light in the thing's "eye." Prof knows that its purpose was to capture atomic particles from the sunlight. The particles would be circulated inside the creature, giving it energy and strengthening its bodily tissues! In the evening, the thing couldn't get around unless it had access to the volcanic heat from the grotto! Rocky is glad that the creature wasn't able to move around at will, and Red is thankful that June delayed their plans to lure the thing until nightfall! Had the Challengers attacked in the daytime, they would have been killed! June smiles and tells them that her presence changed the calculator's equation, introducing an x-factor it hadn't planned on! The four smile at June Walker...a heroine, not a traitor! She has saved them... for another assignment!
This story was reprinted in Challengers of The Unknown #76, Oct - Nov, 1970.
On Earth-One, it is June Robbins who is the honorary member of the Challengers of the Unknown.
Perhaps the Challengers depicted in this adventure are from Earth-Two, not Earth-One?
This story reminds me of a later one, where four equally fantastic characters find themselves with an equally sinister subterranean surprise in their first issue.
If the Challengers of The Unknown had been a live-action motion picture during the 1950's, I'd like to have seen Victor Mature as Rocky Davis, Paul Newman as Ace Morgan, Jimmy Cagney as Red Ryan, and Burt Lancaster as Prof Haley! Ann Francis would have been my choice to play June Walker.
The new electronic calculator at the research lab takes up the entire room. I'd hate to have seen the old version! (Holy Abacus, Batman!)
The giant green creature has the body of a brontosaurus with a telescopic neck for its glowing "eye."
In the Silver Age, Scott Summers would draw the energy for his optic-blasts from the sunlight.
In the early days of the Silver Age, Dr. Bruce Banner would transform into the Hulk at nightfall.
In the 1970's, the villain known as Solarr would draw his power from the sun itself!
Superman draws his super-powers from Earth's yellow sun and lighter gravity.
"The Traitorous Review!"