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Strange Adventures 211
"Earth Victory -- By A Hair!"


Story: Gardner Fox Art: Carmine Infantino

The toughest battle officer in the entire Space-Marines Corps was The Wrecker! In the company of Earth's finest regiments, he fought his way across the stars! In order to drive back an alien invasion of Earth's galactic empire, he was ordered to the star-sun of Procyon! There was only one weapon which could beat the invaders -- but to the Major-General's amazement, he couldn't fire it! On the splash page, two figures survey what the aliens have wrought. The Wrecker and the admiral are unable to bomb the city because of the imprisoned Earth colonists being held captive there -- and they dare not engage in a frontal attack because the mind-machine placed somewhere in the city would enslave them all!

Every month, Howard Parker takes his son to the Space Museum, which is among the many wonders of the 25th century... Each exhibit has a story of great heroism and great sacrifice on the far frontier of space... Young Parker sees a human hair being kept in a case, and can't imagine why -- but his father has been waiting a long time for him to ask about that particular strand of hair! It has quite a story behind it, for the blonde hair aided Earth in gaining an important victory on a far-off world... It was fifteen years ago when the tough Major-General nicknamed The Wrecker by his fellow battle-veterans was on his way for a new briefing... The planet Alvoris of the star-sun Procyon was in trouble, and a starship would be picking him up in half an hour. Alvoris is under alien attack, and Earth headquarters has assigned the Wrecker to command the task force being prepared to fight 'em!

Three days had passed -- in the trip through hyper-space, and the Major-General was heading towards the latest battlewagon of the Galactic Fleet... The Colossus is considered the finest starship ever built, and is commanded by Admiral "Blondy" Gordon! The Major-General had heard of "Blondy" and had wanted to meet him -- His homeworld had prepared well, and all the Wrecker had to do was to leave the helicopter on the Colossus, and the task force would be able to move... The men and weapons were readied, and blast-off was set! The Wrecker was impressed by the fast work, even by his standards, and he went to see the admiral... Greeting a young lady, the Major-General asks to see Admiral Gordon! She introduces herself as Admiral Gordon! She is called "Blondy" for her hair, and her real name is Ann! Even the battle-hardened veteran known as the Wrecker is caught unprepared for what he sees as an admiral in skirts! She is quick to point out that women have been serving in the Galactic Navy for over a hundred years! He is aware of this, but considers this ridiculous... a woman commanding the ship taking his task force to Procyon, and he doesn't approve of such things... Whether the Wrecker approves it or not, they both have their orders! The admiral radios the engine room for blast-off, while the Major-General can't believe that he's serving with a woman!

Being a good soldier, the Wrecker wouldn't disobey orders, but he was still able to grumble... and grumble he did... He agrees to the arrangement, and tells her to stay out of his hair, while she smiles to herself, and agrees to try... Two days later, the Major-General saw first-hand why Admiral Gordon was the Colossus' commander, for as the huge battlewagon came out of hyper-space... a space-dragon is sighted! The mysterious and dangerous life-form crossed their path, and the admiral orders all forward rays to fire on the white globe, which is the dragon's heart! In her impatience, the admiral personally takes over the task and... leads the ship by a few feet, then makes the shot! The Colossus continued on its way to Alvoris, when two alien spaceships came forward to destroy it... The Wrecker advises the admiral that the ship will be caught in a cross-fire, and to reverse engines, but "Blondy" Gordon is determined to fight her ship without his advice!

The Colossus appeared to be heading for certain doom by her manuever -- but just as the ship slid between the two alien vessels... port rays and starboard rays are fired from the Colossus! "Blondy" turns and asks if the general has any complaints, and the Wrecker doffs his cap to her! On Alvoris, the Major-General organizes his task force for an all-out attack on the aliens, who are grouped near the city they've captured from the Earth colonists... Three hours pass, and the battle is hard and bitter... The Wrecker knew his work, and launched wave after wave of star-tanks, whose combined fire-power the aliens were unable to withstand... He realizes that it's a trap, for they are running to the city - where they have a mental-control device set up! If they come too close, it will enslave them, as it has enslaved the Earth colonists!

They are unable to bomb the city with atomic cannons for fear of endangering their imprisoned colonists. Their only chance is to destroy the mind-device! "Blondy" wonders how they'll be able to do that when they don't even know where it is hidden? The Wrecker shows her a ray-gun, equipped with an x-ray snooper-scope! It can see right through solid matter, and he offers her a look -- Using it, she can see through the building walls -- right through the city itself! All they have to do is to find the mind-device with it -- get it in the cross-hairs-- and BLAMMO! The threat will be gone! The Wrecker carefully x-rayed the city, and then focused on the cross-sights, when he found the mind-device... The admiral created a distraction by launching a distant attack with the Colossus, while the Wrecker made his move in a star-tank... With the snoopergun's limited range, he tells the driver to get closer! As the tank makes its way, a shot from the city sends the ray-gun from the Wrecker's hands -- shattering its snooper-scope sight!

In the evening, the two officers hold a council of war... "Blondy" figures that their mission is a failure, for without the x-ray sight, there's no way to destroy the mind-device! The Wrecker is determined not to give up, then asks the Admiral for one of her blonde hairs! She is struck by the sudden nature of his request, but the Major-General assures her that it's not what she thinks! He wants to use the hair as a cross-sight for the snooper-scope! He can re-create the x-ray glass, but he needs something to aim with! Once the new sight was prepared with two fine blonde hairs taking the place of the cross-sight... The Wrecker tells "Blondy" how in World War II, female blonde hairs were used as bombsights as well as in delicate recording devices! (An editor's note tells us that the blonde, silky strands were discovered by scientists, to expand and contract according to various conditions of heat and cold better than any other material!) She ponders this, then delightfully points out that women do come in handy, now and again. Once again, the Colossus makes a diversionary attack, and once again the Wrecker focuses on the mind device -- but this time, he fires... and hits it dead center! With the mind machine shattered, the space-marines are able to drive forward into the city, and mop up as they come!

The colonists are freed, and the aliens sue for peace... They will live in friendship with the planet Earth, and the leader's signature attests to it! Then.. for perhaps the first time in history -- a General gives an Admiral a great big hug and a kiss! Once Howard Parker and his son Tommy return home from the Space Museum... the young boy is impressed by the swell story, but wants to know about the Wrecker's last name... His father tells him that the name was Parker... Tommy looks at his parents, and realizes that's his name! And his mother -- her maiden name was Ann Gordon, and why "gulp" she has blonde hair, too! This must mean -- Tommy realizes that his mother was the Admiral and his father -- the General! His father tells him that it is so, and that the story ended as all good stories should end... "And so they were happily married!" Young Tommy hugs his parents and exclaims, "Gollywobbles!" He then wonders if any other kid ever had a General for a father -- and an Admiral for a mother? Wow!

A Silver Age story about a battle which was won by a slim thread -- by a hair!

The splash page by Carmine Infantino shows the two characters with their backs to us, and we can see the smoke drifting past the crimson sky, and the distant city being held hostage. The Wrecker in his green suit and rifle on his backpack, while the Admiral has a blue veiled helmet, and a white jumpsuit, with blue gloves and boots. The latest fashions when confronting a threat on an alien world.

The Space Museum is a place of history, where even the most innocuous object has the most incredible tale to tell.

Tommy Parker shares his father's blue hair, and also wears a red shirt with black tie.

One can see in a single panel by the Wrecker's stride, the type of character he is, and how his determination is revealed.

The man giving the briefing resembles Albert Einstein, with white hair and distinctive mustache.

The futuristic helicopter is green, and more closely resembles a land cruiser.

Considering the time this story is taking place and when the story was written, the Wrecker's reaction to "Blondy" being a woman is quite telling.

The space-dragon is an enormous, crimson, gaseous monster, with a white globe at its centre.

The Colossus is triangular in shape and viewed from the top, it resembles the command insignia seen on the original Star Trek series.

The star-tanks resemble their Earthern counterparts, and have star insignias on their rear-fins.

The Wrecker's head-gear resembles that of Silver Age Flash-foe, Mr. Element.

The leader of the aliens resembles a Ferengi with its bald head, creased brow, bulbous eyes, and pale, pink skin. It favors a blue shirt for the formal occasion of signing surrender.

As Carmine Infantino illustrates, a kiss between Wrecker and "Blondy" is more than just a kiss as time goes by.

Tommy's mother has her blonde hair back in a bun, and although his father's hair has a bit of gray in his blue hair, both have aged little in the time since the story.

It's a delight to see Tommy listen to the story and realize just who the characters were.

Thanks to Gardner and Carmine for showing that the future is still a safe place for families, and that there are still room in the 25th century for stories.

Steve Chung
"Earth Victory-- By A Review!"