A Tribute to the of

Not long ago I made mention that I’d not revisited a Rip Hunter story in a coon’s age. Well, it struck me the other day that there’s another character who has had a total of one appearance here at the Silver Age Sage, clear back in entry #36 and since the artist, the wonderful Jim Mooney, has been gone from us 8 years this month, it might be a good time to pay a little tribute to the man by looking at one of his long-time, but often forgotten assignments with a tale of Tommy Tomorrow.

Originally presented in Action Comics #238,[May, 1958] with yet another gorilla cover [by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye], “Marooned in the Fourth Dimension!” was scribed by Otto Binder and editing was credited to Whitney Ellsworth, though the Grand Comic Database says Mort Weisinger was the actual editor. That probably wasn’t a great thing for Gentleman Jim Mooney. During my very enjoyable interview with him back in 2007, he got in line with the rest of the Mort Weisinger fan club:

Jim Mooney: I would imagine it would be a totally different thing, because Weisinger was a very hard taskmaster. He was a very difficult guy to get along with, and it had to be Mort’s way or it didn’t go anyway. You know Mort and I had quite a few bad times. We got along pretty well socially. When he came to visit Hollywood I took him out to the nightclubs and so on and he had a pretty good time. So socially, we got along okay, but as far as the professional end of it at times, if it didn’t go Mort’s way, Mort was as tempestuous and difficult to get along with as a spoiled child, and I think you’ve probably already seen that on one of my bios. I had gone into the office to bring Mort my Supergirl, and he was busy and waved me out. So, I went into the other office and I was talking to Jack Schiff and Murray Boltinoff and the whole gang in there, and Mort came steaming in and, “When you come in here, you come to see me first and show me these Supergirls!” And I said, “Mort, I’ve got news for you. I’m not drawing your Supergirl anymore.” (Chuckle.) I quit right then and there and everyone in the office was aghast. Well, two weeks later I come into the office and Mort walks up to me as if nothing had ever happened and said, “Here’s your Supergirl script.”

Jim persevered, though and how about we take a look at our featured story, where famed Planeteer Tommy Tomorrow finds himself in a bit of a bind after accepting an assignment to set up exploration of the 4th Dimension. Apparently Professor Jaxon, whose lab is located at Asteroid X-33 has located a gateway to this dimension and needs a volunteer to scope things out. Colonel Tomorrow tries to take it on himself, but his commander says they can’t risk it. He directs Tommy to get a prisoner from Space Alcatraz to undertake the dangerous mission.

After ascertaining how things work after a pow-wow with Professor Jaxon, the recruitment process begins, but none of the prisoners is willing, despite the promise of their freedom, until they chance upon the infamous Space Looter, who agrees. As a precaution he is given suspended animation serum and is administered a freeze ray, so you’ve got a human popsicle for transport to Asteroid X-33.

Upon arrival, the Space Looter is thawed out and the Professor prepares to use his Dimension Cabinet to send the criminal through. As the process goes forward, Tommy notices that the cabinet isn’t plugged in and that the Space Looter is actually dropping through a trap door like in a sophisticated magic act. He tells the Professor he wants to go to the 4th Dimension, too and the wily Professor, in league with the Space Looter, plugs the cabinet back in on the sly and sends Tommy Tomorrow into the 4th Dimension.

It turns out Professor Jaxon is really “Genius” Jones and when the Planeteer emerges from the cabinet, he’s a disembodied specter, unable to influence the world around him. The Looter is off to pull some jobs and will split the take with the phony Professor and while Tommy tries to alert his colleagues, he realizes he cannot in this phantom form.

Ultimately he forlornly drifts through space until he finds himself on a duplicate earth. Somehow the gravity of the 4th Dimension Earth has solidified his body and he begins to explore, startled that both the written and spoken words in this parallel world are precisely backward. When he looks over a newspaper he makes another discovery. This 4th Dimension Earth is 1 day behind the real planet, which gives Tomorrow his ticket home.

He soon materializes in the cabinet on Asteroid X-33 and after subduing the Space Looter and “Genius” Jones he explains what has happened: “Events in the 4th Dimensional mirror-universe duplicate earthly events…but a day later! At the Space Alcatraz, the Space Looter was just being frozen in ice after volunteering! And soon, at the asteroid lab of Professor Jaxon, the same cunning trap was tried…but with one difference…caused by me!

Colonel Tomorrow simply shoved his doppelganger out the window and took his place in the cabinet, which sent him back to his home world.

All’s well that ends well and I found it a bit interesting in this 6-page backup tale that some familiar elements from other classic DC stories were present, such as phantom figures, like Superman’s fabled Phantom Zone, which was first rolled out in Adventure Comics #283 in April of 1961, a parallel Earth, sort of like Earths 1 and 2 that wouldn’t be explored until the famous Flash storyline in issue #123 [Sage #33] in September of 1961 and the reverse wording, which made me think of the magical Zatanna [Sage #55], who, of course, learned the method from her father, Zatara the magician, who has been with us since his debut in Action Comics #1 [Sage #113] from 1938, where it all began. So, were the ideas of Otto Binder actually the inspiration behind a couple of the above mentioned features of the DC Universe? It does pique the imagination.

This story was reprinted in my trusty and vital edition of The Greatest 50’s Stories Ever Told and it was a great story, so I’m giving it an 8 on the 10-point rating scale.

Don’t miss the next installment of this ongoing feature when we explore another classic or not-so-classic story. While you wait, don’t hesitate. Drop me a line with any comments, questions or other feedback: You know the address: professor_the@hotmail.com .

See you April 15th and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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