Superboy 141
"No Mercy for a Hero!"
(aka "One Element Story That's Bound to Give Jack Selegue Laughing Fits")
Sept. 1967
Cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
Story: Jim Shooter
Art: George Papp & Frank Springer

One fine day in Smallville, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are sitting in the stands at a baseball game when the winning homer heads straight for them. Clark, ever obliged to put on the clumsy act, tries to catch the ball, but falls backward out of the stands, losing his glasses in the process, as Lana makes the catch. Looking for an excuse to slip away for his afternoon patrol, Clark searches for his glasses on hands and knees, until the stadium empties. But one other person remains... Ron Avnet, a new student at Smallville High who already has quite a reputation as a bully. He kicks Clark's glasses aside, then kicks Clark... all the way across the stadium.

Realizing that there's more to Ron than meets the eye, Clark switches to his Superboy costume, and returns to find his nemesis in a cape and costume of his own. Ron Avnet is really Ron-Avon of Belgor, a warrior world, who has come to Earth to challenge Superboy to combat. He sprays Superboy in the face with a stinking blast of Bor-Gas, the traditional Belgorian combat challenge. Superboy tries to back out, but Ron presses a button on one of his Power Gauntlets, demonstrating a metalizer ray that he'll use to turn all life on Earth into metal statues if Superboy loses or refuses to fight.

The rules of the challenge are simple: there will be four duels. Superboy must pick two of Earth's "elements"... earth, air, fire, or water... as sites for the first two duels, and Ron will pick two Belgorian elements for the fianl two. Superboy chooses fire for the first battle, as his telescopic vision spots the Smallville Fire Department setting fire to an abandoned wax museum as part of a demonstration for Fire Prevention Week.

Superboy tosses fiery statues of Genghis Khan and Napoleon at Ron-Avon, who blocks them with a repeller force from his Power Gauntlet. Ron retaliates with a thermal vortex that reduces Superboy to a puddle on the floor... but no, it was only a wax statue. The real Superboy sneaks up behind Ron and disarms him by slicing his Power Gauntlet off with a beam of heat vision. Superboy has won the first combat, and allows Ron to take his gauntlet back, though he feels like a fool for doing so.

The next battle is to take place in air; the first combatant to touch ground loses. Ron-Avon strikes with an invisible fist of Dyno-Force. Superboy whips up a tornado to drag Ron downward, but the wind also frees several giant parade balloons, including a Superboy balloon, which breaks Ron's fall. Superboy punctures the balloon with a telephone pole, knocking Ron earthward towards a spot where two large Kryptonite meteors are buried. Superboy hopes that Ron, being an alien, may be vulnerable to the green mineral like he is. Then an emergency strikes. The windstorm Superboy created has damaged a high voltage line, which he must repair.

Meanwhile, the plummeting Ron fires a Vibro-Beam to open a fissure in the ground, giving him a few extra moments to recover from his fall. The fissure reveals the K meteors, which Ron scoops up, one in each arm, to use against his opponent. He tosses the boulders at Superboy, who uses another telephone pole like a billiard cue to knock them into orbit. Another button on Ron's gauntlet projects a Cyclo-Drill beam, which bores a hole through the Earth's crust right below Superboy, spraying lava everywhere. Superboy just laughs at the molten rock... until a column of earth is hurled upward at him, causing him to become the first combatant to "touch ground" and lose.

With the score tied at one win each, Ron-Avon takes Superboy to his hidden spacecraft, in which they will travel to Belgor for the final two battles. Thanks to its spacewarp drive, it takes them mere moments to reach the sunless, moonless planet, illumnated by an artificial satellite. Superboy panics when he sees the ship heading straight for a building, but there's no need to worry. The building is made of phantron, one of Belgor's unique elements, which allows fast-moving objects to pass through it like radio waves. The ship flies right though a high-ceilinged dining hall. (Seems like a waste of good phantron to build such a tall building with only one floor... but I suppose that there'd have been real problems if the ship had flown through an occupied second story, phantron or no phantron.)

Ron-Avon parks his craft, and recharges its fuel cells with dynerg, an element composed of pure super-energy. He appears nervous at the sight of three men in green uniforms. These are the Guardians, the rulers of Belgor, and they are launching a rocket from which screams can be heard. Superboy attempts to look inside the craft, but it seems to be "made of another one of those amazing Belgorian elements" that his X-ray vision can't penetrate. Suddenly, the rocket explodes... and Superboy discovers that he's just witnessed a Belgorian execution.

A pink glow appears over the horizon... but Belgor has no sun! Superboy witnesses the rise of the helion... floating pink crystals of light, which circle the planet in a kind of day/night cycle. This is the element that Ron-Avon picks for their next duel. Superboy rises shakily into the sky, as Ron-Avon blinds him with a dark cloud, and buffets him with chain lightning. He gambled that the red light of the helion would affect Superboy the same way as the light of a red sun, cancelling his powers. He removes his Power Gauntlets for the pleasure of beating a weakened Superboy with his bare hands... when suddenly, the Boy of Steel recovers, and takes out the Belgorian with some fancy boxing moves. It seems that the helion rays were cold light, and didn't come close to duplicating the power-draining spectrum of a red sun. Just being away from a yellow sun reduced Superboy's flying powers, and removed his super-senses and invulnerability, but the lighter gravity of Belgor allowed him to retain his strength and speed.

Ron-Avon admits defeat, for some reason forgetting that there was still supposed to be one more battle. He asks Superboy to do him one favor before he leaves, and Superboy, out of respect for his foe, foolishly agrees. Ron asks Superboy to kill him. Superboy refuses, until he learns that, unless the victor kills the loser, Ron-Avon's parents will be executed in a rocket similar to the one they saw earlier. Superboy attempts to save Ron's parents, only to be told that if he breaks the force field surrounding the launch pad, the rocket will detonate immediately.

Ron and Superboy fly to the Arena of Sacrifice, where a crowd gathers to watch Superboy drop Ron into the Urn of Crystal Death, a pit of sharp-pointed, steaming, multi-colored crystals. Superboy grabs Ron by the wrists and flies above the pit, trying to stall for time until he can come up with a plan. As smoke rises around them, Superboy lets go, and Ron drops. The crowd exits the stadium, as the Boy of Steel screams at them for forcing him to violate his code against killing. The Guardians release Ron's parents from their execution rocket by remote control.

After the arena has emptied, Superboy turns around and reaches into the pit. Just before he dropped Ron, under cover of the smoke, he wrapped Ron in his cape, which, while not indestructible on Belgor, was insulated well enough to provide a few minutes of protection from the crystal radiation.

Meanwhile, the Guardians are ordering another young novice warrior to challenge and kill Lorban, the Hyper-Hero of the Golden Galaxy... and if he fails, his sister will die. Suddenly, Ron-Avon's parents, purple with rage (ummm... no, that's just a coloring gaffe), burst into the Guardians' office, calling them "murderers" and "dictators." The Guardians try to silence them, when Superboy and the not-so-dead Ron-Avon come crashing in through a window. With their fists alone, the duo defeats the dastardly dictators. Ron uses his gauntlet's Flexor Effect to make the Guardians' bodies elastic, so Superboy can tie them into knots and deliver them to prison. Belgor establishes a democratic government, and they send Superboy home in a spacecraft, seeing him off by "using their super-science and weird elements to create a space aurora" in his likeness.

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Superboy has a hard time of it when Avon comes calling.

Jim Shooter was in high school at the time he wrote this story. One has to wonder just what they were teaching in those science classes. He appears to have had some strange concepts of what an "element" is. He also seems to have had a fixation on the alchemical "elements" of earth, air, fire, and water. It was around this time that he wrote the Superman story, "The Element Enemies," about a space pirate who transforms four humans into elemental creatures to battle Superman.

Ron-Avon's Power Gauntlets are very similar to the power bands of Space Ghost, who debuted on Saturday morning television almost a year earlier.

The Smallville wax museum can't have been abandoned for all that long, if they had a statue of Superboy on exhibit. Doesn't it seem likely that they'd have removed or sold all the figures before letting the Fire Department burn the place down? And wouldn't it have been a better fire prevention demonstration if the S.F.D. had made some sort of an effort to PUT OUT the fire?

Superboy's naive attempt to weaken his Belgorian opponent with green Kryptonite just goes to show how inexperienced the Boy of Steel was compared to his adult self.

We never see more than three Guardians in the entire story. One wonders how three men with ray pistols were able to keep an entire planet's populace living in terror... especially with security so lax that an elderly couple can burst into their headquarters without warning.

-- Bob
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