A Tribute to the of

The webmaster has an incredibly formidable memory, so if I’m wrong here, he will correct me, but I do believe I’ve featured a Tommy Tomorrow story here at the Silver Lantern exactly once and it was clear back in Sage #36 [Webmaster's note: Make that exactly twice, my friend: Sage #383]. I’ll grant you, I don’t often follow any particular rhyme or reason with my selections. Often it’s just whatever happens to tickle my fancy or perhaps to mark a milestone of some sort. In this case, it’s the latter as Tommy is officially 70 years old this month. He was first rolled out in a comic book that I have never seen in my life: Real Fact Comics #6, (January/February 1947) to be precise and why, pray tell, with a title like Real Fact was there a science fiction story included?

Interestingly, “Columbus of Space!” was quite the team effort with not one, not two, but three credited writers: Jack Schiff, George Kashdan and Bernie Breslauer. Not to be outdone, there were two artists on the job, namely Virgil Finlay and Howard Sherman. Editing was by Whitney Ellsworth, though the Grand Comic Database informs us that it was actually Jack Schiff, pulling double duty. Someday maybe I’ll stumble across one of these “Real Fact Comics,” but it appears that it was a limited series.

After all that, I’m not even reviewing that story. In fact, I learned a couple of other interesting things from my online research. In an odd twist, Tommy’s Showcase appearances weren’t his first. He showed up in Real Fact #6, #8, #13 and #16. Then he had a regular backup feature in Action Comics beginning with issue #127 and ending in #251. Then he played second fiddle in World’s Finest #102 to #124 and finally and at last he was featured in five issues of Showcase beginning with issue #41 and ending with issue #47.

One final anecdote: GCD tells us that the three stories in Real Fact contradict all subsequent stories and therefore they can be considered apocryphal.

So, with all that as a backdrop, let’s dive into Showcase #46 from September/October of 1963. Editing is by Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan. The full-length 3-part story is scripted by Arnold Drake with Lee Elias on artwork, both cover and interiors with Ira Schnapp lettering on the cover and Stan Starkman on the story itself.

Time to check out the first part, “Mission to Disaster!

Things begin with Planeteer Captains Tommy Tomorrow and Lon Vurian in a simulator getting some refresher training on piloting their spacecraft through a treacherous asteroid belt while being pursued by an enemy ship. At one point they hide out, but in order to further conceal the ship they have to deactivate their anti-meteor screen, leaving them vulnerable to stray asteroids.

A little later they are summoned by General Nordyke for a special mission. The General introduces them to Gur Doyka, Chief Minister of the Federation of Planets. (Do you supposed Gene Roddenberry read Arnold Drake’s stories to get ideas for Star Trek?)

The mission is to get Droyka over to a distant solar system to persuade the people there to sign a non-aggression pact. The two Captains quickly agree to escort and provide protection to the Chief Minister. We quickly learn that Droyka can be absent-minded and he has a passion for botany.

The first stop for the trio is Roukar where they are greeted by the court of the boy king Lorgi the Third. The Planeteers manage to thwart an assassination attempt and are sent away with a box of gifts as a reward, but when they open it, they discover an orphan boy who says he wants to be a Planeteer. Soon the boy is screwing around with the ship’s equipment and manages to fire off a round from the ray cannon. Then they receive a communication from the prime minister of Roukar who says a fleet of battle rockets is on their way to retrieve their kidnapped king, ending Part I.

Part II, “The Plot to Kill a Solar System!” has a very agitated Lon Vurian accusing the king of provoking a dust-up, but the two Captains decide that it must be a bluff because they wouldn’t attack the vessel that holds their king. In the next moment, however, they find themselves ensnared in an energy net, which once again looks suspiciously similar to the one created by the aliens in the Star Trek episode, “The Tholian Web.”

So, the ship is forced to the surface and the Planeteers and Gur Doyka are imprisoned, but rather than cell bars, they are guarded by a huge, dinosaur-like beast. The Chief Minister uses some sleeping pills he happened to have to put the “guard” out and they make good their escape.

Next up, the trio stumble upon scale models of New Paris and New York, reminiscent of the cover and discover that they’re being used as a tool for a simulated attack on the Earth, but the model space ships are firing live rounds. Tommy and Lon are able to fight back by utilizing the roof mounted ray cannons, but are now faced with how to warn Earth of this planet’s planned treachery.

Lorgi then appears and explains that his Prime Minister is behind it all and is even plotting to create a war that will make it appear that Earth is the aggressor, wrapping up Part II.

The concluding chapter is titled, “The Palace of Peril!” Lon Vurian is given a life mask that will allow him to impersonate King Lorgi while the real Lorgi and Tommy work to thwart the plans of the Prime Minister. Soon Tommy, Gur Doyka and King Lorgi notice a sort of Jumbotron showing the Planeteer Captains and Doyka, explaining that they’re criminals who have kidnapped the king and they are to be shot on sight.

Our heroes search vainly for a ship to hijack in order to warn Earth of the impending invasion, but they all seem to be heavily guarded. The resourceful Tommy Tomorrow uses a fuel truck to cause an explosion that distracts the guards and soon they’re on their way.

Unfortunately they soon discover that the ship is nearly out of fuel. Shouldn’t have blown up the fuel truck after all, Tommy! Furthermore, the radio signals are being jammed and just to put a cherry on top, they see the armada of alien ships taking off for the Earth.

Meanwhile, Captain Vurian is checking things out in the palace. He learns that today is to be the day of the attack, but while he’s been nosing around, the Prime Minister, Bsorbo, has discovered what he’s up to and deduces that he is an imposter. Soon, Bsorbo is broadcasting their plans with the phony Lorgi next to him, under threat of a ray gun.

Monitoring things on the ship, Tommy and his comrades wonder what they can do. They begin to search the ship for possible ways to let the real Lorgi communicate his wishes to the people and stumble across a crate containing miniaturized live horses. The king explains it’s done with a de-moleculizer, which is also on board.

Exiting the craft in space suits, Tommy uses the contraption to make the king larger, expanding him to a 100 foot height. Now he is more than visible to the armada and Tomorrow uses a trail of rocket exhaust gases to carry the king’s voice to the ships. Soon the armada is wise to what Bsorbo has been doing, but one ship’s captain is unconvinced and is determined to follow Bsorbo by attacking the massive King Lorgi.

Using some top notch skills, Tommy Tomorrow maneuvers the ship until he’s able to defeat the rogue vessel from the armada, saving the day and ending this tale of space adventure.

Even though our interview didn’t come to pass, the few e-mails I exchanged with Arnold Drake before his death and the taste I’ve had of his talents have left a soft spot in my heart for the man. It seems he could write for any number of genres and do so in an imaginative and interesting way. I enjoyed this story, even taking into account my bias for Arnold and for the genre of science-fiction in general. Lee Elias’ art is okay, but not my favorite. I’ll give this one a 6 on the rating scale for an enjoyable story despite Tommy Tomorrow being a definite second string character in the DC Universe. While he’s not been a major player it’s still an accomplishment being around for seven decades.

Before I go, I’ll enter into the shameless plug arena. My latest piece for BACK ISSUE magazine, issue #94 will be available January 18th, so please consider picking it up and letting me know what you think of my history of the revival of Red Circle’s Mighty Crusaders.

As always, thanks for spending some of your valuable time here, dear reader and if you have comments, don’t hesitate to drop a line at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you February 1st with the latest installment and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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