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Superheroes – Once upon a Time in 1968 – Issue 15 – Double Feature

17 November, 2022

Sometime after Issue 14, maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, time is strange in the comics.

Ah, the theater!Cover:  A man in a tacky suit with a bow tie and a woman in a formal black dress pulling back the curtains on a movie screen showing our heroes scattered and unconscious. “Welcome to your defeat, heroes!” they say in unison.

Opening pageVulpix and Shadowfist in considerably fancier clothes than normal in front of a mirror.  “I am not sure if this jive is my scene,” says Shadowfist.  “It’s not mine either but if it keeps my uncle off my back for the next few weeks it is worth it, yes?” replies Vulpix.

Next page: Vulpix has been “invited”, that is her uncle has insisted, that she attend, with her teammates if possible, the American premiere of The Red Fox of Belgium.  This movie, which is a Franco-Belgian co-production, tell the story of Vulpix’ grandfather who rescued people from behind German lines during the Great War.  Her uncle warns Vulpix that it does show the Red Fox, his father, as an aristocratic snob and a womanizer, which, he admits, is not entirely inaccurate or unfair.

Horizon has been suffering from painful and intense headaches, fortunately not when he is using his powers.  They strike without warning and pass just as quickly.  His grandmother does not know the causes but offers some specially mixed herbal tea that she hopes will help.

While Roboto finds himself once against being investigated by the Special Projects Division, the people who do military cybernetics, as they measure and test Roboto’s limbs with hopes to design simpler (and less expensive) versions for injured veterans.

Jaiipuur Central has contacted Agent 808 and instructed him to expand his patrols along the East Coast searching for illicit dimensional crossings when he does not have other duties.  Jaiipuur is deeply concerned

The home office wants 808/Bob to patrol along the East Coast looking for dimensional breaches when he does not have other duties.  Jaiipuur is worried that the illegal cross-dimensional trade with Earth will continue and the attack on the home dimension has left them exceptionally worried about their trade monopoly.  808 happily agrees, or so it seems, his inner thoughts (visible in thought balloons to the readers) are full of doubts about Jaiipuur.

While Shadowfist has been approached by representatives of the Chinatown gangs who have decided to form a united front and keep outsiders out of Chinatown until the gang wars resolve and they can come to terms with the new leadership.  They want Shadowfist to know they are doing this with the aim of keeping the peace in Chinatown, in return they have agreed not to deal with cross-dimensional trade until after the gang wars cease.  Shadowfist talks to Bob and they agree to accept the deal.

The premier Screening is held at the Guild Theater which is just off Rockefeller Center (as it seems to be one of the recurring locations in the comic).  There are various famous actors in attendance such as Sean Connery, Alain Delon, Jeanne Moreau, and Vincent Price.  Additionally, the French and Belgian UN delegates are here to support their film industry.  One of the other attendees is a stout man in a very loud suit who is very excited to be here and happy to let everyone know.  (“The ugly American,” sniffs Vulpix’ uncle.)  Bob asks to talk to le Renard Noir (Vulpix’ Uncle) alone [the meeting is not portrayed in the comic but will be revealed in a flashback later].

About halfway through the movie, there is a scene where Belgian civilians are being rounded up to be publically executed in reprisal.  While this is World War One, the Germans here are obviously stand-ins for the Nazis, but as they are marching forward toward the camera, they start marching right off the screen and into the theater!  The crowd is unsure at first if this is some sort of stunt or something more sinister.

Our heroes quickly realize that something is wrong.  Roboto tears up his chair and tosses it to block one of the lines of marching soldiers.  The soldier coming up that aisle just . . . stop, the lead one does not try to go around or move it, it just waits with the other soldiers on that side stacking up behind.  Shadowfist vaults up off the back of the chair to try and knock the projector out of commission, her blow knocks the projector off-kilter, stopping any more soldiers from coming out while it stabilizes.  Through the projection window she also sees the man in the loud suit who waves and gives her a big smile.  Bob makes the intuitive leap that since they are created by the projector, they must be made of light and uses his control of light to unmake one, it dissolves like a film projection when the film melts.  Horizon draws power into himself, rattling some of the chairs.  The soldiers each chamber a round in their rifles and prepare to fire.

The actors and Vulpix’ uncle, a former hero in his own right, are trying to get people to safety away from the soldiers, which means back into the lobby,   Vulpix vaults ahead to help to organize things in the lobby.  The main doors have, inexplicably, been covered by a theater curtain, behind which is . . . a blank wall.  Bob has teleported out to help and tries to project a door in the blank wall but it does not materialize.*   A lady in formal black places her hand on Bob’s arm, “Not yet, my dear boy, it has yet become a proper tragedy.”  Bob is nonplussed but quickly makes a decision, leaving a holographic double behind to keep talking while he teleports up to the projection room.

It works for a panel, then she taps the hologram and it folds up and vanishes.  “Ah, a deception,” she says, “how delightful and unexpected.”  Vulpix uses this moment of distraction to hit her with an electrofox dart.  The woman is black, Tragedy, hisses and pucks the dart out.  “Poor little girl, you must be missing your parents right now.”  The sorrow and guilt of the moment when she realized her parents were gone crashes over her again, driving her to her knees.

Back in the theater, Horizon levitates up a chair, intending to charge forward using it as a battering ram.  He starts his charge only to have a leg stick out from one of the rows of seats tripping Horizon.  “That is what we need!  More pratfalls!” says the man in the loud suit, Comedy, which has only gotten more garish, sitting up, who was behind the tripping.

The projector has steadied and the villainous German officer has stepped up as well.  Roboto charges down the other aisle, scattering the German soldier images who shatter and dissolve into sharp and hot shards of light.  The Officer shoots Roboto to no effect.

True faces revealedShadowfist starts to head off for the lobby when Comedy says, “What am I, chopped liver?” and promptly hits her in the face with a cream pie.  He laughs and smirks at her, leaning forward.   An incensed Shadowfist punches him, hard, right in the nose.  Comedy recoils, clasping his hands to his face, “You broke my nose!?  No, you broke my whole face!”  And he pulls his face apart revealing . . . a comedy mask.  Shadowfist reels back in shock and horror.

Bob uses his light powers to manifest the heroes from the film, the Red Fox, to defeat the German Officer.  Horizon mops up the last of the soldiers which flicker out.  Roboto catches Humor is a steel tight grip.  “This is funny how?” he asks.  Tragedy makes her way into the main theater, pursued by the tear-stained and enraged Vulpix.  Tragedy surveils the situation and calculates the odds.  She looks to Vulpix and says, “The Black Rabbit sends his regards to you and your Uncle.”  She gestures to the team as a whole, “And Doctor Demonicus^ wish you to know he has not forgotten you.”

“Foxes eat rabbits,” snaps Vulpix.

“Come comedy, our time on the stage has ended for now.”

“But we were winning!” Comedy says dissolving into a flurry of fireworks.  Tragedy is simply gone.

There are some minor injuries among the patrons but most agree to come back and watch the rest of the film.

In the final panel, the team together eating popcorn (except for Roboto, natch) as the screen shows “The End.”

Next time, Issue 16.

Notes: *This was perfect as Bob’s light powers just do not work right against magic, this is not a mechanical thing, the dice just have always rolled poorly when he has tried to effect magic.

^Last seen in Issue 11.  It seems that Dr. Demonicus has become the Dr. Light to our team’s Teen Titans.  It was not intended that way but so it has played out.  For those not up on 80s comics, Dr. Light was a fairly powerful adult DC villain who simply could not defeat the Teen Titans, even when he tried to stack the odds in his favor.

A nice Halloweenish issue with some good scenes and exchanges of dialog.

Images are public domain clip art found online.

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