Dedicated to the memory of K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting, who first gave us Perry Rhodan in 1961 and of Forrest J and Wendayne Ackerman, who first brought his adventures to the United States in 1969.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Perry Rhodan #2(b), Twilight of the Gods (1969)

By Walter Ernsting (= German issue #4 “by Clark Darlton,” 29 September 1961; published as the second half of the second US volume)
The siege has continued, but augmented by the Arkonide auxiliary vessel’s shields, the force field dome is holding. Rhodan lays out his plan to Thora to prepare humanity for the stars as a condition for helping her and Khrest return to Arkon. Meanwhile, the heads of the security services of NATO, the USSR, and the Asiatic Federation meet, and after consulting with the agents Klein and company regarding the failed bacteriological attack (with Mercant hinting to Klein that he suspects why it failed), they adopt a new plan. Under cover of the violence of the bombardment, they will dig a shaft and place a nuclear bomb beneath the Stardust – the force field does not extend underground. Oblivious to this threat, Rhodan and Bell undergo the first of their hypnotraining sessions to raise their intelligence and knowledge far beyond that of current humanity. In the wider world, a series of vignettes reveal a quantum leap in human evolution is coming to fruition. The birth of the Atomic Age a generation before (remember this is 1970) has created a new breed of human mutants. In short order, the telepath John Marshall, the telekinetic Anne Sloan, the teleporter Ras Tschubai, and the “teletemporter” (can jump through time) Ernst Ellert are introduced. In a secret excursion outside the dome seeking suppliers for the Third Power’s nascent shipbuilding effort, Rhodan meets and recruits Marshall. With the help of another teleporter to whom the force field presents no obstacle, Tako Kakuta (whose parents had survived Hiroshima), Klein and company warn Rhodan of the underground threat in time for Arkonide weaponry to slag it. The Third Power has survived and gain more allies. In a final humorous bit, Tako accidentally teleports into Thora’s quarters, where he surprises her in a disrobed state – whereupon Reg begs the mutant to teach him how to teleport!
The geopolitical situation: In earlier posts I characterized it as “East” vs. “West,” which is true but a bit of an oversimplification. The context is specifically the Cold War, which has continued to escalate through the 1960s bringing the world to the point that the slightest upset could trigger a nuclear war. But the People’s Republic of China has risen to ascendancy, outstripping the Soviet Union which stands as a sort of weaker partner of the Asiatic Federation, which oddly enough includes Japan alongside the PRC. Together they stand as the “Eastern” Bloc against the Western Bloc, essentially NATO with the USA still the dominant power. But there have been times when the terminology seems to distinguish between Eastern and Asiatic blocs, so I’m not entirely clear. Interestingly, Australia maintains a precarious neutrality. The major powers are in a tense standoff, a balance of power. Rhodan recognizes that any one bloc gaining Arkonide technology would disrupt the balance. The real danger he perceives is that if any one gained the tech the others would feel compelled to launch a preemptive strike that would bring Armageddon. The fear is borne out by the end of the second story, The Third Power. This seems to me to be a more realistic portrayal of the realities of geopolitical wrangling than is present in more recent sagas such as Stargate SG-1 (much as I love it) where one state gains alien science but then does not use it for its own advantage over the others. (A difference is that SG-1 is supposedly happening in real time and that the creators were compelled to keep the overall situation to some degree reflective of real world events. Perry Rhodan was written as happening in the future with no such restriction.) Rhodan intends to use Arkonide tech for the good of all mankind. In fact, he renounces his US citizenship and declares himself a “Terran” – a citizen of the world.
Advent of the mutants – Oh yeah! I discovered the Perry Rhodan series sometime in 1975, I believe, about the same time that Marvel Comics published Giant-Size X-Men #1 with “the All-New, All-Different X-Men”:

By the point in the Perry Rhodan series that I started with, an important part of the saga was Rhodan’s “Mutant Corps” – a legion of mutants wielding all sorts of crazy spectacular powers. Talk about serendipity! My Perry Rhodan reading thus coincided with the greatest era of the X-Men, the Claremont-Byrne years, and for the latter half of the 1970s I was mutant happy! Of course, since I never until now read these early issues of Perry Rhodan, I never knew how the mutants had come to join Perry Rhodan.

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