“Mac Tavish” was another unusual series for EERIE, as it wasn’t horror but straight sci-fi adventure. However, sci-fi was becoming more visible in EERIE (and its companion titles, CREEPY and VAMPIRELLA) since the late ‘70s was the height of the Star Wars craze, and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was also released during that time. Furthermore, the classic film epic "Alien" was likewise relased in the late '70s and struck big with audiences, spawning a popular franchise that continues to this day (at this writing, a prequel to that classic debut entry in the series is now in production), and many believed that the H.R. Giger-designed flick effectively combined sci-fi and horror elements, thus providing good indication that the two genres could co-exist and even intermingle with each other. So perhaps “Mac Tavish” wasn’t overly out of place in a mag like EERIE after all. Not only that, but the great sci-fi craze of the late '70s that made the genre all the rage at the time included the original "Battlestar Galactica" film and TV franchise, the fondly remembered if not commercially successful big budget sci-fi flick "The Black Hole" (notable for being Disney's first PG-rated film), the popular-at-the-time phenomenon of "Logan's Run," the interesting if unsuccessful TV series "Space: 1999," and a slew of cheap and now deservedly obscure cinematic attempts to cash in on this mighty trend such as the atrocious "Star Crash." Even the venerable Sid and Marty Krofft attempted to get in on the craze with memorable sci-fi themed comedy TV series for younger audiences such as "The Lost Saucer" and "Far Out Space Nuts"; more serious sci-fi TV fare designed for younger people at the time included the cult classic "Ark II," along with the great series "Space Academy" and its enjoyable to watch spin-off, "Jason of Star Command." In other words, by the late 1970s sci-fi was everywhere, both on the big and small screen, so it was inevitable that the illustrated story medium (i.e., comic books) would pick up on the trend with many sci-fi offerings of its own. When Warren finally launched a sci-fi/science fantasy mag of its own in the late '70s, 1984--title later changed to 1994--it was more a shoddy, classically offensive, and sometimes outright pornographic attempt to copy the format of the highly "adult" but then-wildly popular comic magazine HEAVY METAL rather than the standard type of sci-fi stories that most often appeared in its three horror comic mags. Thankfully, most of its its good sci-fi stories and series of the standard type, which includes "Mac Tavish," continued to be published in its three horror mags, and only one story ever published in 1994 during the entirety of its few years of publication is known to be in-continuity with the Warrenverse (that story, a stand alone Exterminator tale titled "Steele," is covered in my index to "Exterminator One" elsewhere on this site).
“Mac Tavish” wasn’t so much a series as a single story told in six parts, as it contained but one storyline (with a major sub-plot) and always ended in a cliffhanger that led directly into the next chapter. It was a fairly cool series with an interesting if formulaic space hero. Maximillian Myron Mac Tavish was a fun-loving, often irresponsible space jockey, adventurer, and former soldier who was depicted in the first story as a womanizer (to give him some macho credentials), but his womanizing quickly took a back seat to his hopeless but charming love affair with a hologram generating machine that could simulate the appearance and persona of a woman, the quasi-lovely Ida Lizer. This love was first played for laughs, but became quite serious and filled with genuine emotion as the serial progressed. Also notable in this series was Mac Tavish’s partner, his alien friend and stalwart comrade Spider Andromeda, who became popular enough with the readers to on one occasion garner a cover of the mag sans any depiction or mention of the series’ feature character. Though the story was a bit too high on hammy humor in its earliest chapters, and though the one-liners never totally went away, the series quickly became serious enough that it can be considered a true adventure tale, rather than primarily a comedy with adventurous aspects. Though some of the humor is groan inducing, some of the witty comments were indeed terrific, and the banter between Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda was quite entertaining. Mac Tavish could be considered a true hero, but like all Warren characters, he had enough foibles that one could more readily identify with him than the usually pristine heroes who inhabited Marvel and DC Comics. He resided in an alternate future universe that didn’t seem to be connected with the Hunter Timeline that formed the backbone of the Warrenverse, though it was made clear in EERIE #130 that Mac Tavish’s future time track was nevertheless accessible to that shared universe.
The series was entirely written by Jim Stenstrum, who was good at giving his readers characters that we cared about and situations and themes that were cornerstones of various issues covered during the progressive era of the 1970s. Republican readers of this series should beware: they will get quite angry with its theme. Nevertheless, the theme was typically courageous of Warren writers during the ‘70s decade, and it’s a shame that we never got to see what Warren would have come up with had it survived well into the conservative era of the 1980s and ‘90s. Mac Tavish was perhaps the last truly popular character to be created for EERIE (outside of the Goblin) before Warren Publishing started going through its final quality decline, leading to its death throes. Stenstrum was assisted on the plot (and possibly the script) by other writers during the course of the series, but he stayed with it through the end, and was certainly the major hand behind it. This series is more than worth a look by any fans of sci-fi who enjoy space opera, alternate future worlds, flawed heroes, and the sci-fi genre in general. It was handled by two different artists, but both did a competent job for the look of this serial.
Mac Tavish’s above mentioned cameo as one of the second ‘Time Force’ team who appeared alongside other Warren characters in EERIE #130 clearly brought the character and his entire alternate future time track into the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], so any creative mythographer with an interest in all future time tracks accessible from the “consensus” WNU may want to take heed of this series. The fact that it was far from a bad read should provide more impetus to do so.
“Caucus on Rara Avis”
Writer: Alabaster Redzone (pseudonym for Jim Stenstrom)
Art: Pepe Moreno Casaures
The first story begins on the planet Earth in an alternate future timeline an unspecified number of centuries hence (but probably at least at some point in the late 23rd century; see Comments, WNU Connections, and Time Frame below). A group of children are on a tour in a public showroom of Allied Astronautics, a large manufacturing firm of personal spacecraft that exist in this particular alternate future timeline (mention is made of solar wind vessels existing in this future). One of the kids asks to see Mac Tavish’s starship, which is known as the Sunfisher. The tour guide, Mr. Grimside, was asked by the children’s teacher about how Allied Astronautics constructed the Sunfisher many years previous as a type of experiment, and then Mac Tavish purchased it from them (Mr. Grimside insisted that it was more accurate that Mac stole the vessel rather than actually buying it). The teacher said that the kids still wanted to see the Sunfisher, and that she promised them they could. Another tour guide took over when Mr. Grimside walked away in a state of extreme annoyance over the mention of Mac Tavish’s name (this new tour guide excused his behavior as being due to “space lag”--*groan*) and she in contrast was more than happy to speak about the Sunfisher, as well as giving the kids some info about Mac Tavish that they weren’t likely to know.
The new tour guide asked if the class knew how Mac Tavish acquired the title of the “Master of Zodiac V,” and one of the kids knew that he bought the title for 40 million megadollars in gold and negotiables (*double groan*--keep in mind that in this particular future timeline, currency is measured in megadollars, not just regular dollars).
The tour guide then went on to explain how the Sunfisher was the last and largest of the Neutronium-9 starships, and the only such ship to be equipped with a form of hyperdrive known as “homicide drive” (I will resist the temptation to groan a third time in as many minutes). The Sunfisher was by this time illegal in inhabited space due to its dangerous power source, and the vessel was now docked in frontier space in an area known as the Blue Drift, where the ship serves as personal transporation to the only man who has proven capable of handling her…Maximillian Myron Mac Tavish.
This prologue sequence then gives way to an area of space that is said to be 40,000 parsecs in the direction of the constellation Scorpio, in “the furthest reaches of the galaxy” known (again) as the Blue Drift. The text described Mac Tavish as an “adventurer, startrotter, and luminary-for-hire,” and that he was by the time of this story considered a celebrity hero to “trillions of people on thousands of worlds” for almost 30 years. The now middle-aged hero sat floating in a no gravity area of his ship playing an ode to Typhoid Mary on his guitar, having by now resorted to alcohol and songwriting as a result of having “resigned to the eventual collapse of the universe and his inability to reverse it” [ha…ha], when he was interrupted by an audio-visual transmission from his agent Alex. The agent told Mac that he found him a paid engagement as a speaker on the humanoid inhabited planet of Rara Avis. All he had to do was “tell some funny stories and introduce the high governor.” Mac Tavish mentioned that he hadn’t even thought of that world of endless blue desert sand since a conflict known as the Aesthetics War. He thought the engagement might be “fun,” as well as easy.
Alex then mentioned to Mac that the ruling council requested that he dock his ship outside of their star system, because they feared he would inadvertently “barbecue” their planet in his ship’s exhaust if he brought the ship close to it. Mac Tavish agreed to dock at a remote space station and take a shuttle craft to the blue world. Looking somewhat forward to this engagement, Mac told the computer of his ship to set a course for Rara Avis. When the speaking computer (which seemed to have a sophisticated A.I. system) quipped “Don’t forget your hair, skipper!” Mac Tavish noted that a lot of gray was creeping into his coif and that he needed to touch it up with coloring (his computer clearly had a programmed personality that would engage in light-hearted trading of insults with its master).
After docking in a space station that was located a million miles away from Rara Avis, Mac Tavish passed the tedium while waiting for a shuttle to talk to an admiring female fan. She identified herself as Marianne Immemann, a native of Earth whom he had sold an autograph to a long time earlier when she was a child who sat on his lap at some public appearance (he made a little girl purchase an autograph from him? Geez). Mac welcomed the now grown young lady to sit on his lap once again, now finding her much more appealing than before. She then reminded him that back then he showed her his special gun (yes, the double entendre you expected was indeed made), and she clarified that she actually meant his talking Lucite revolver, and asked to see it again. Mac displayed his weapon, which resembled an Old West six shooter with revolving chamber that held a variety of projectiles for different occasions (these disparate cartridges containing multiple types of weaponry could be accessed by a turning of the chamber), including what he referred to as decibel salvos and nova blasts. He then demonstrated how the gun was capable of speaking, as it contained a sophisticated miniaturized computer that was linked to some sort of hard drive in his belt.
As the shuttle finally landed on Rara Avis, described in the text as “a hot, azure world of blue deserts and blue municipalities,” Mac Tavish was greeted in the streets of an unknown municipality by Lazard, the secretary to the reigning High Governor Tagus (when Lazard asked Mac if there was anything he could do for him, the space hero gruffly specified that he could tote his duffel bag). Lazard told Mac the itinerary for the caucus activities of the following day, which would be a short talk where he would speak about a few of his more well-known adventures, all the while keeping it funny, and then provide an introduction for Tagus. Mac Tavish then asked where all of the people he saw in the streets came from, because the last time he was on the planet (about 15 years earlier) he recalled that it was “just a pleasant little dustball” and “dull” and “nearly lifeless” save for indigenous Rara Avans. Now he noticed that it seemed filled to the brim with humanoids from all over the galaxy, particularly “Earthens” (this future’s slang term for people from Earth, of course).
Lazard explained that this was due to simple progress. The current planetary high governor was working overtime to bring commercial prosperity to Rara Avis. The various corporations on Earth had heavily invested in the planet for its rich mineral resources, and so had many other worlds (nice to see a largely capitalistic galaxy that Earth is a major player in; see Comments below). Mac Tavish felt a bit forlorn that the quaint little world he remembered from a decade and a half ago had changed so much. Lazard then handed Mac a flyer that promoted a politician called Gorgo the Man for high governor in the upcoming election (what kind of a name for a human is “Gorgo”? And yes, it did make me think of the British dai kaiju of the eponymous film with that name). When Mac Tavish asked who that was, he was told that Gorgo was a candidate for the position of high governor of Rara Avis who hailed from Earth (and naturally represented Earth’s corporate interests, or did you need me to tell you that?). Gorgo was more popular (and probably a lot richer, as the two often go hand-in-hand in elections) than any of Tagus’ other competitors and scored high in the Rara Avan polls. Lazard then noted that there was a lot of opposition to an Earthen running for high governor of Rara Avis, particularly from a man known as Spider Andromeda (yes, I’m going to assume that this name is a rough translation from his native language).
Mac was startled to hear Spider’s name, and Lazard informed him that Spider was there for years, and wondered if the space adventurer personally knew the man who was considered a notorious terrorist. Mac Tavish replied that he was certain that Spider Andromeda wasn’t a terrorist, and noted that the man was his partner and staunch ally during the Aesthetics War, with the two having spent six years through eleven star systems together. He was even awarded Rara Avis’ highest honor in the past. Lazard stated that though Spider Andromeda remained a hero to many people on Rara Avis, he had become known for terrorist activities over the past few years that garnered him “no less than 300 separate death sentences.” In fact, according to Lazard, Spider and his troupe of robotic assassins known as the Steel Gang had declared open war on the Rara Avan planetary government. Asking where Spider was now, Lazard simply told him that he was “hiding in the hills,” that he threatened to make an unwanted appearance at the caucus activities the following day, and that Mac Tavish should avoid all contact with him because he had allegedly greatly changed from the man that Mac once knew and respected. Mac Tavish then turned and walked away from Lazard, who reminded him that his hotel was in the opposite direction. Mac, however, wanted to go elsewhere for the time being, since he had someone he wanted to visit.
The next scene showed Mac Tavish enter a popular social establishment known as the Rare Bird, which was legally required to be located on the outskirts of the unnamed town. Mac told the innkeeper at the front desk that he was looking for Ida Lizer (get it? Don’t worry if it takes a while, as I had to see the name a few more times in the series before I finally got the metaphor). Mac was told he could see her, but there may be a wait. Mac Tavish then spotted a tiny little tree (that looked more like a flower, but he called it a tree) sitting atop the front desk area and said he wanted to buy it. He was told it was house property and not for sale, but that quickly changed when Mac offered 500 megadollars for it. He then walked over to a small mechanized booth where Ida awaited him, the tree intended as a gift for her. Ida was excited to see Mac, as she thought he had either died or gotten married and started a family on Earth (interesting that monogamous marriage and the nuclear family unit remains the norm for Earthens in this alternate future timeline). When Mac Tavish asked Ida if she had any room for him in the booth, she eagerly threw her current customer out to make way for Mac. The rather confused customer was a bit surprised that his paid hour was already over, and Mac Tavish simply replied, “Amazing where the time goes. That door out, sir.”
Upon entering the mechanized booth, Ida Lizer was revealed as an extremely sophisticated simulacrum, a mentally projected hologram created by advanced technology and an incredibly sophisticated A.I. system that appeared in the form of a beautiful young woman who could also create any type of environment that either her program or the customer in question desired. She appeared to have her own personality that reacted to the thoughts and emotions of the person she was serving, and Mac Tavish was obviously highly fond of the simulated woman. He gave her the gift he purchased for her, telling her it was genuine polyvinyl, and Ida hoped the plant would survive the chemicals utilized to clean her mechanized innards. Mac warmly embraced the simulated woman, and asked her for a “grueling romp in the sack,” which Ida was happy to oblige (“I just love it when you talk cultured”).
The following day, Mac Tavish was giving his speech at the head of a podium for the caucus as he was paid to do, telling of one of his more riotous adventures (see Classic Dialogue below). Upon the completion of his narrative, Mac introduced the reigning high governor, who was hoping to be re-elected and whom the space adventurer was endorsing. However, as soon as Tagus took the stage, he was suddenly mortally wounded after being struck by a high intensity beam of energy. The hooded figure that shot the governor then plowed through the crowd and escaped. Mac Tavish ran to the governor’s side, and with his dying words Tagus told the space hero that their supposed benefactors were actually their “invisible masters,” they were devilishly cunning, and they served only their own interests, and he urged Mac to stop them. The governor then expired from his wounds. An irate Lazard appeared and insisted that Mac Tavish do something to stop the unknown assassin from escaping. Doing all he could do, Mac Tavish drew his gun and told it to identify the governor’s wound. In a split second, the gun’s A.I system determined that the wound was caused by a fatal neuroblast from a piece known as a supranuclear 680 irregular firearm. Lazard asked if Mac could capture the assassin with his gun, and Mac Tavish replied in the affirmative, setting his weapon for blood hound mode and pulling the trigger. Lazard was angered that Mac would fire his round in a crowded room, but the projectile deftly careened around everyone in the room, following its intended target, and after traveling a long distance it zeroed in on the still fleeing assassin and struck him, revealing the killer to be a robot that exploded when the projectile impacted with it.
Mac Tavish regretted the loss of the robot, as he was hoping to capture the assassin live for questioning, but the projectile, though set for stun, was programmed for an organic target, and the computer guided bullet evidently hit some vital circuitry in the robot, therefore resulting in its unintended destruction. Mac was surprised that any robot was capable of killing a living being, but Lazard mentioned that the mechanized being must have been built by Spider Andromeda, because his robots are programmed to kill on command. Lazard blamed Spider for the assassination, saying that he must be stopped, only to suddenly have the dreaded accused terrorist appear before him and say, “Then stop me now.” Lazard was astounded, and Spider happily greeted his old friend and ally, a greeting that was just as happily reciprocated. Lazard shouted at Spider, telling him that even his most ardent supporters would desert him after learning he killed the high governor. Spider Andromeda assured the secretary that he had nothing to do with Tagus’ murder, “even if he did have it coming.” He then said that even if he was behind the murder, who would arrest him? Spider then casually mentioned that since Tagus had now gone to the great beyond, Rara Avis needed a new candidate to replace him against Gorgo, someone worthy of so exalted an office, and the accused terrorist nominated none other than Mac Tavish, Master of Zodiac V, himself.
Comments: It was never revealed anywhere in the series how many centuries in the future Mac Tavish’s alternate future timeline existed, but as noted in the synopsis above, it’s my theory that it couldn’t have been at any point sooner than the late 23rd century, and more likely some point in the 24th century of that particular timeline. Nothing seen anywhere in the series suggest that Mac Tavish’s alternate future timeline was part of the Hunter Timeline (the latter future timeline being a staple of the Warrenverse), and though it was never proven not to exist in that timeline, it’s my personal conjecture that Mac Tavish’s future lay in a separate timeline with a different sequence of events leading up to it. The history of this particular timeline from the late 1970s to the time seen in the series wasn’t revealed.
It was quite clear that on this particular timeline, capitalism remained as the reigning economic system, not only on Earth, but evidently on numerous other inhabited planets in the galaxy of this time period. It was also clear that, as one would expect, the corporations that existed in this future capitalistic world had immense power over the political process, and the economies on all of these starfaring inhabited words had become intertwined, with a common currency recognized by all. The currency used in this series was referred to as megadollars, and presumably each world participating in this interstellar capitalistic system had currencies that could be converted into a form that anyone on any participating world could use (much as American dollars in the present can be converted into pounds under the British system, and vice versa). The Earth of this future was evidently run by a planet-wide government that was firmly under the control and influence of the wealthy capitalists who owned the corporations. Little of Earth and its culture in Mac Tavish’s future timeline was seen outside of the brief prologue sequence in this first story, so what life was like for the average person there was anybody’s guess, but it was likely a highly class divided society that nevertheless enjoyed some advanced technology. Further, by this time Earth had long since become a spacefaring society with warp drive (referred to as ‘hyperdrive’ in this series; in the late ‘70s, when this series was written, the currently more popular warp space was often referred to as hyperspace, a term largely popularized by the mega-popular, then recent “Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope”). Artificial intelligence was quite sophisticated at this time, as Ida Lizer was a hologram that created interactive environments that could be felt by all five physical senses by patterning them on the thought processes of sentient beings who entered her booth. It should be noted that this type of holographic environment preceded the popular holodeck that first appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” a decade later, though the holograms in Mac Tavish’s future timeline worked differently.
It was never revealed how the various humanoid races seen in this series could speak to each other without concern for a language barrier. Earth was seen as a very influential and wealthy world in the interstellar capitalistic system that dominated the known galaxy during this future time period, so it’s possible that at least one of the native Earth languages was learned by many races by this time. It’s also possible (though never implied or made clear in the series) that some form of miniaturized universal translator was used by these alien races to communicate with each other, or some type of universal language was created and very widely used (such as Interlac in the DC Universe’s 31st century, used by the Legion of Super-Heroes and the various alien races that interact with Earth during that alternate future time period).
This series mostly focused upon Rara Avis, but a few more planets were seen or mentioned in the flashback sequence that appeared in the third story in the series.
Spider Andromeda remained a major player in this series through the entirety of its run. He easily became as popular a character in the series as Mac Tavish himself. Andromenda's race was later revealed to hail from the planet Alcimedon, and his species was humanoid with facial features that were slightly simian, and Spider's facial features and hair style seemed to be heavily inspired by the sentient simians seen in the then still popular “Planet of the Apes” film and TV series.
This first story provided a good introduction to Mac Tavish and his future timeline, though this initial tale played a bit heavy with the humor, though it was wisely stopped short of getting outright silly by scribe Jim Stenstrum. The series got more serious as it rolled along, thus preventing this serial from being categorized as a space opera comedy, but rather as a bona fide sci-fi adventure series that incorporated a lot of humor. Stenstrum did a good job on the scripts, and though some of his humor and one-liners were eye rollers, he did manage to provide a lot of witty dialogue that enhanced the entertainment value of the stories.
This series was basically one long story, with each part before the finale ending in a cliffhanger which led directly into the next chapter. It could easily have been collected in one issue, though that never happened. Mac Tavish was perhaps the last truly popular character to be created in EERIE before Warren Publishing quietly went into bankruptcy a few years later.
The artwork by Pepe Moreno Casaures was well suited for this series. It was clean and competently done, but not in the same league as such great Warren artists as Rich Corben and Jose Oritz.
WNU Connections: At some unspecified point in Mac Tavish’s career, the space hero was briefly snatched from his native time period into the year 1981 of the “consensus” WNU by the scientist/sorcerer Ten Ichi to be used as one of the unwilling soldiers pitted against Ichi’s arch-nemesis, Vampirella, in the “Vampirella and the Time Force” story in EERIE #130 (indexed elsewhere on this site). That story made it quite clear that Mac Tavish’s future timeline, while likely distinct from the Hunter Timeline, was nevertheless extant on a time track that diverged from and was directly accessible to the WNU. That brief crossover with other Warren characters also made it clear that Mac Tavish and his future timeline was connected to the Warrenverse, and EERIE #130 officially brought Mac Tavish into the WNU, as part of one of its many disparate alternate future time tracks. Obviously, Ten Ichi’s time travel device, the Crystal of the Ages, was able to locate and capture warriors from more than one possible future timeline, even though the majority of future warriors were purloined from the Hunter Timeline.
It was rather obvious that Mac Tavish’s future alternate timeline was not the Star Trek Universe, which is one of the WNU’s most celebrated alternate future time tracks. It’s not totally clear if Mac Tavish’s future timeline was the same as what creative mythographers often call the Non-Trek/Legion Future--where the “Alien” and “Riddick” film franchises take place, as well as the short-lived but cult classic TV series "Firefly" and its well-received big screen resolution flick "Serenity," apparently along with anomalous films from other franchises such as "Jason X" (which also combined horror and sci-fi themes)--but if it was, then it certainly occurred further in the future than either of those two franchises. I will let future chroniclers of the Non-Trek Future (such as my colleague Jay Lindsey) decide this matter once and for all, and I encourage all creative mythographers who are interested in future timelines of the WNU to give the “Mac Tavish” series a read for future theorizing as to whether or not this serial could have taken place in some alternate future time track of the WNU that was seen in some other source. We only saw one truly exotic alien lifeform throughout the course of this series (and only then in a single panel flashback sequence), while the rest we saw appeared to be humanoid. This future timeline supposedly involved Earth interacting with thousands of inhabited worlds, and a large proportion of these worlds were apparently engaged in a mutual system of capitalistic commerce and business dealings with each other (see Comments above). This future timeline was distinct from the one that Darklon the Mystic inhabited (see his index elsewhere on this site), as the Hunter Timeline of Darklon’s era possessed hordes of truly bizarre humanoid aliens that were dissimilar to the less exotic and more human-like races seen in Mac Tavish’s future timeline. This is what makes me suspect that alien life can take different paths in different timelines that diverge from each other, or perhaps these differences in alien life forms seen in different time periods are strictly due to artistic license on the part of whomever is writing and/or drawing any given series that take place in different timelines originating from within the same multiverse.
Classic Dialogue: Some readers may hate the humor in this serial as written by Jim Stenstrom, but I am of the opinion that the story told to the gathered crowd by Mac Tavish attending High Governor Tagus’ re-election ceremony was more than worth repeating here:
“She was as ugly as possible for her size and weight, but she was the queen and accustomed to having her way. So when she caught me and her scullery maid not dressed for receiving company, I had to think fast or be punched into shapeless protoplasm, which was that planet’s form of execution. So I said: ‘I wasn’t kissing her; I was counting her teeth with my tongue!’”
Time Frame: As noted above in the synopsis, Comments, and WNU Connections section, it’s not entirely certain how far into the future this series took place, but it’s my conjecture that it occurred in a never before seen alternate time track (distinct from the Hunter Timeline) sometime between the late 23rd century and late 24th century.
“Hero of Zodiac V”
Writer: Alabaster Redzone (uncredited)
Art: Pepe Moreno (uncredited)
Picking up immediately where the last story left off, Lazard was incensed that Spider Andromeda nominated Mac Tavish to replace Tagus as candidate for the office of high governor on the grounds that he considered Mac “a notorious hooligan” and “an irresponsible freebooter”; further, he was not a resident of Rara Avis, and the secretary mentioned that a non-resident of the planet running for this office was forbidden according to the world’s civil charter. However, Spider countered that since Mac Tavish was hired by the Rara Avan government to speak at the caucus, he was now effectively an employee of the Rara government and thus arguably eligible to be a nominee to the office (wouldn’t that be an unlikely technicality? Then again, I’m not an expert on the Rara Avan civil charter, so what do I know?). Predictably, at least two of Spider’s robotic aides seconded the nomination (you gotta love pre-programmed sycophants!).
Mac Tavish then intervened and stated in no uncertain terms that he had no interest in being high governor of Rara Avis (“The work is hard, the wages stink, and besides, high governor’s got to get up early in the morning”). He wanted nothing to do with the campaign, as he wasn’t prepared to settle for anything permanent. One of Spider’s Steel Gang then informed the accused terrorist that he detected numerous troops approaching the building and would soon have it surrounded, so they must make a hasty exit. Spider excused himself and told Mac that he hoped he would stay on Rara Avis for awhile, and the space hero said he would take the offer into consideration. Just before he left, Lazard exclaimed aloud that since he was secretary to the high governor, the assassination of Tagus meant that he was now acting governor until the results of the election came in, and he would use his new position of power to see to it that Spider’s rebellion would be crushed. Spider merely quipped (“Excitable, isn’t he?”) and nonchalantly left the area.
Several minutes later, one of the authorities who arrived told Lazard that Spider Andromeda managed to break through their cordon and elude capture courtesy of a ship that was waiting for him on the roof of the building. Lazard was furious, and he told the officer how incompetent he considered him. Mac Tavish was a bit upset to hear that Lazard had set a trap for Spider, and the secretary to high governor told the space hero that he was determined to be ready for Andromeda’s arrival at the caucus. Lazard then reminded Mac that he heard Andromeda ask the space adventurer to remain on Rara Avis, and he told him that if he took that offer up, he had better stay away from his friend and former partner-in-arms.
Mac Tavish then spent one happy week exclusively in the company of Ida Lizer, and he was shown in the midst of a pleasant psycho-holographic seaside beach with the object of his dreams. Ida noticed that something was clearly bothering Mac, and he told her that he was concerned about Spider and wondering why he hadn’t contacted him during the week since he last saw him. Mac Tavish then apologized to Ida for being such poor company due to what was on his mind, and she told him it was no problem since it wasn’t any trouble for her to create any illusory environment that he wished. Mac then told Ida the extent of his feelings for her, and that he could not view her as nothing more than a sophisticated machine even though, intellectually, he knew that this was precisely what she was; but his heart just wasn’t in agreement with his brain. Ida explained to the space hero that she was simply a service machine, and she was doing nothing more than following the programmed instructions she was first given when she was built 100 years previous. She told him that he couldn’t help loving her and having the strong emotional feeling that she was a real woman because of the way she affected her customers on a psychic level, as this is what kept them returning for more escapist sessions with her. She assured him that she wasn’t capable of true emotions herself and therefore could never return the love that Mac Tavish felt for her. Dejected, Mac began walking into the water of the simulated ocean, and Ida satirically stated that his attempting to literally drown himself in sorrow wouldn’t work since she would make the water simulacra vanish before any of it got into his lungs. He then sighed and retorted, “Is there no more romance…anywhere?”
Later that evening, a frustrated Mac Tavish was in his hotel room packing to leave Rara Avis for at least another 15 years when he was visited by one of Spider’s robots, who told the space soldier that his old friend had sent for him. Walking to the roof of the hotel, Mac Tavish found a small flying craft called a hovercat awaiting him, and he and his robot companion easily snuck past two security guards assigned to the roof since they were peacefully dozing off on the job (it was implied that they were somehow deliberately sent into sleepy land by the robot minion of Spider Andromeda, possibly via some sort of anesthetic dart).
The hovercat swiftly carried Mac Tavish to the distant stronghold of Spider Andromeda, which was hidden in the side of a huge dune of suspended sand that was held from collapsing inward by massive force grids. An automated door built into the side of the dune opened to let the craft in as soon as it approached closely. Upon entering the cavernous stronghold, Mac looked around at the large amount of robots, weaponry, and machinery laying about, but there was no sign of Spider. When the space hero asked where his friend was, one of the robots told him that Andromeda was currently busy, and they were instructed to entertain Mac Tavish in Spider’s absence. Sensing that something was amiss, Mac swiftly drew his quasi-sentient gun and asked it what type of weapon was in its current setting. The gun responded that the cartridge now armed was holding a collapsed matter shell. Before Mac could use it, however, a robot with extendable prehensile arms grabbed the space soldier and held him fast, preventing him from using his handgun on any of the Steel Gang. As Mac Tavish struggled to escape (unsuccessfully), Spider Andromeda suddenly appeared and told his robotic servitor to let his old friend free. The incensed hero got back to his feet and told Spider how annoyed he was with what passed for his dramatic entrances these days (“It’s lucky you got here when you did. Your metal toughs were getting me steamed. I was just about to step on some toes when you arrived.”).
After calming down, Mac Tavish asked his friend why it took him a week to contact him. Spider replied that it was too difficult to get to him in order to make contact, since Lazard had spies everywhere and he would give his “front fangs” to know the location of Andromeda’s hidden stronghold, a sentiment echoed by the accused terrorist’s prime robotic aide, Sundog. Spider then formally introduced Mac to his Steel Gang, mentioning how they were all either built or retooled from previous robotic incarnations by himself (thus making it clear that Spider Andromeda was a mechanical genius in addition to being a former soldier and adventurer). It was then that Mac Tavish demanded answers in regards to what was going on.
A flashback sequence began where something of the past history of Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda was revealed. Fifteen years in the past the Aesthetics War came to a conclusion, and Mac and Spider ended their partnership on Rara Avis. Spider was given a large medal for his heroic actions in saving Rara Avis during the war, while Mac (much to his consternation) received only a “dinky” medal for his own actions. But that wasn’t what ended their partnership; it was Andromeda who wanted out of it. Mac was then said to go on to “even more unimaginable fame and riches” whereas Andromeda went on to seek a commission with the Zodiac Marines (a panel was included that showed Spider walking with a “traitor” sign in front of him, but the story behind his fall from grace with that organization wasn’t told until the next story, indexed below). After Spider realized he could progress no further in rank with this platoon of spacefaring soldiers, he retired and then roamed the galaxy as he pleased. During Mac’s wanderings across the galaxy in the amazing Sunfisher starship, Spider would periodically hear of the space hero’s adventures and longed to be his partner again.
Later arriving on Rara Avis, Spider discovered something that came as a great shock to him: the reigning High Governor Tagus had left a bleak confiscation notice to all the native Rara Avans who were working in the mines, telling them that they must relocate from the mining zones with no compensation for loss of property. Andromeda realized that the peaceful planet he loved had now become enmeshed in corporate and political corruption, which the assassination of Tagus was part of. Spider then revealed that Lazard had Tagus killed so that he could succeed him in the office, and the secretary had a robot programmed to commit the murder so that Spider’s Steel Gang would be blamed. The reason Spider’s supporters didn’t abandon him was because Lazard had supposedly committed murder for political reasons before, and his actions and frame-ups were “becoming as transparent as he is.”
However, Spider explained that Lazard was nevertheless nothing more than a “cog” in a much larger metaphorical machine of corruption, as the real power behind what Andromeda called a “massive conspiracy” was a huge Earthen mining company called Rainbow Mining (a rather innocuous and cheery name for such a vile capitalist monstrosity!). This company had been masquerading as the benefactors of Rara Avis (which is what Tagus was alluding to during his dying words to Mac Tavish in the previous story). The most cunning of all of these corporatists was, of course, Gorgo the Man, who was chairman of Rainbow Mining and now the leading candidate for high governor of Rara Avis. The goal of Gorgo’s candidacy was obviously an attempt to consolidate a full marriage between the company and the political structure of the little blue planet. Both Lazard and Tagus were “in deep” with the mining company, and Spider was certain that Lazard’s current plan was to deliberately throw the election so that Gorgo could be elected high governor and thereby allow Rainbow Mining to take total control of the Rara government.
Spider then theorized that Tagus had evidently had some degree of loyalty to his native people despite his corporate backing and realized what “evil sorts” the Earthen capitalists were and sought out help from Mac Tavish in a covert manner. Gorgo, however, realized what Tagus was up to and therefore worked with Lazard to have Tagus assassinated, as the company could no longer trust him to be their corporate lapdog. Tagus was also apparently upset over the deal because he originally believed that by bringing in contacts from Rainbow Mining it would bestow further prosperity upon his home planet, when in actuality it brought the world to the brink of disaster with much corruption and subversion. When Mac asked Spider why he nominated him as a candidate for high governor, Andromeda explained that it was simply an “inspiration of the moment” that he knew Mac would refuse to accept, and he just did it to aggravate the hell out of poor Lazard. Spider then intoned that he did seriously believe that his old friend would make a wonderful high governor, but in the end it would be futile for him to run for the office anyway since Lazard would be sure to find some legal technicality to prevent him from running.
Spider said he would like to run for high governor himself, but he couldn’t do so legally because he was a wanted terrorist with 300 death sentences. The only way he could take the office was to overthrow the current government and establish a new one. This was exactly what his plan was, nothing less than inciting a civil war on Rara Avis. He and his Steel Gang would first seek to get rid of Lazard and then go for Gorgo and his corporate benefactors. He decreed they would be unable to take over his world and its resources then. Mac Tavish asked why Spider’s supporters wouldn’t aid him and his robots in that task, and Spider said the people were too apathetic to be of any help (they had a case of “the terminal slows,” as he put it). So it was all up to Andromeda and the robots.
Spider then began to explain to Mac Tavish (and the readers) exactly what resource Rara Avis possessed that had Rainbow Mining so interested in taking over the planet in the first place (but we had to wait for a brief interlude to pass before we were told).
The aforementioned interlude brought us into the office of the high governor, now seating Lazard, who was communicating with Gorgo via some audio-visual device. Lazard asked Gorgo if he had the opportunity to examine their mutual problem yet, and the capitalist told him that he was paying the secretary a high salary for what he was doing and saw no reason to abide by his request to renegotiate his contract with the company. But Lazard insisted the contract was made under false pretenses because he had no idea at the time he signed it what the full scope of the company’s financial investment in Rara Avis was. Lazard then demanded 20% of all the profits made by the company’s mining activities or he would use his power to stop the election and “negotiate the mining rights with some other, more deserving star system.” Gorgo then politely said he would discuss Lazard’s conditions with the company’s board of directors.
With the interlude ended, we returned to Spider’s revelation (to both Mac Tavish and the readers) about what resource Rara Avis had that merited such a huge investment and power play from Rainbow Mining. Showing Mac a bowl of a mud-like substance, Spider asked the space hero if he knew what prismite was. Mac Tavish replied that the question was a silly one because many people throughout the galaxy were aware that prismite was the main ingredient in any drug that conferred longevity upon someone who imbibed it. For humans, it would extend the natural lifespan from 40-50 years. But Mac didn’t’ understand what all the fuss was about, because prismite was widely available on many worlds.
It was then that Spider told him that it wasn’t mere prismite that Rainbow Mining coveted, but a specialized version of the substance called polyprismite. As far as was known, the sands of Rara Avis were the only place in the galaxy where this precious substance could be found. Twelve injections of the serum over a three month interval would confer indefinite longevity, effectively conferring virtual immortality upon anyone who undertook the complete regimen (provided they didn’t die from some disease or accident at a later date; polyprismite simply prevented those who took the full treatment regimen from suffering from the debilitating effects of, and dying of, old age). Total stabilization of the aging process took place after the treatment was completed, and anyone who undertook the regimen would remain at the exact age they were when they completed it for potentially thousands of years, with no deterioration of mind and body that typically occurred in the course of the aging process of humanoids. Mac Tavish now understood what all the fuss was about.
Spider Andromeda then went on to say that polyprismite was worth a whopping 120 billion megadollars per kilogram. But since it’s merely a trace element it required a massive amount of land scraping to get a kilogram of the substance, in the neighborhood of a thousand cubic acres. Eventually, the entire planet would be strip mined into oblivion in order to allow Rainbow Mining to acquire every single atom of polyprismite. Mac stated that he thought it was wrong to deny hundreds of billions of people virtual immortality just to save one tiny planet. But Spider disagreed because the natives of Rara Avis were not given a fair price to evacuate the planet for another habitable world. Andromeda demanded 150 million megadollars to justify the mass exodus of the Rara Avans, and was willing to take 75 but no less than that. Thus far, however, the benefactors gave absolutely nothing to the people of Rara Avis because it was far simpler for them to simply “bribe a few officials, strongarm the council, and rig the election” (you gotta love capitalism!). Now fully understanding the situation, Mac Tavish asked Spider why it was him that wanted to fight to save Rara Avis and what he felt he owed the planet. Spider simply replied that if he didn’t do it, no one else would, but that didn’t provide Mac with a satisfactory answer to his question. Spider evaded answering the specific question as to what he felt he owed the planet by saying he was running late for a raid and he bid Mac to accompany him on it. Spider’s fleet of hovercats (which resembled small modern day airplanes) then took off, and Mac Tavish wondered aloud how he ever gets himself involved in such things.
As the hovercat fleet neared the objective of their raid, it was revealed to be an immense mobile unmanned factory known as a planet-breaker (spelled without the hyphen in the story), which was described in the text as being, “a monstrous roving factory designed to rip up whole landscapes and shake them down for their hidden treasures.” The planet-breaker was diligently scooping up massive amounts of sand to sift every little bit of polyprismite that it could find, leaving behind large amounts of purplish mud that indicated there was no longer any of the indescribably precious substance in that area anymore. Noticing that the enormous device was unguarded, Spider ordered his fleet to launch on attack on the factory with nova blasts. The planet-breaker had automated weaponry of its own and returned fire, but its targeting circuitry was confused by the myriad small attack fleet and it failed to zero in on a single one of the flying craft. Spider then had Sundog maneuver his command craft over the top of the planet-breaker and he told Mac Tavish that they would be jumping out of the ship and on top of the moving factory. Mac thought the idea was crazy, but Spider explained to him that the assault by his fleet was a mere distraction to keep its defense systems occupied and the only way to actually destroy it is to land on it and drop a disruptor bomb into its water intake. Mac Tavish said he would not be jumping because he gave up jumping on giant robots years ago, but Spider told him that he should have let him know that before the bomb bay began opening underneath them.
With that done, both Spider and Mac fell and landed on the gargantuan robot, with the space hero screaming all the way down. When the two middle-aged adventurers landed on top of the planet-breaker, Spider’s fleet took their cue to call off their attack. Quickly getting the water intake lid unlocked, the disruptor bomb was successfully dropped into the opening. The explosion went off as planned, and the innards of the massive machine were successfully destroyed. Unfortunately, what wasn’t planned was the fact that the giant device started tipping over. Spider shouted for Mac to follow his lead and jump into the deep mudhole laying beside the falling factory just before it impacted with the ground. The two did indeed land where they intended. While deep within the giant puddle of purple mud, Mac Tavish complained loudly about the predicament that Spider got him into, telling him (among other things) that 300 death sentences were “too cheap” for him. He flippantly said he would give many of the most horrific execution ideas he ever heard of to Lazard to use on Andromeda…just as soon as he saved him from drowning in the mud, since he couldn’t swim.
Comments: The script for this chapter of the serial was better than the previous one, with a good amount of humor and riotous banter between Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda, and the camaraderie between the two was well displayed in this tale. The reason behind the civil war that Spider had enacted was well thought out and quite compelling, and we got a partial origin of Mac Tavish and Andromeda when we saw a flashback sequence into some of their past history. Both characters were well-drawn out here and scribe Jim Stenstrum did a good job of making his readers care about them and their cause.
Mac Tavish got the cover of this issue, in a well done rendition by Penalva. He was referred to as a “robot smasher” on the cover, and his struggle with the Steel Gang that appeared only briefly in the story was depicted on the cover, which may have misled readers and others who saw the cover into thinking that the space hero may have specialized in battling robots (as was the case with Gold Key’s Magnus, Robot Fighter) and would have an adversarial role with Spider Andromeda’s robots in the tale, which really wasn’t the case.
The “Mac Tavish” serial received a good amount of praise on the letters page, and this seemed to ensure that the serial would be featured until its conclusion.
This serial was a clear protest against the evils of capitalism and showed a nightmarish scenario of what may ensue if this economic system survived to the point when Earth became a starfaring society. Though this series would likely anger any staunch Republican who read it, or anyone else who was a firm defender of capitalism and the alleged virtues they believe it to have, one cannot deny the prescience of this series in regards to what has happened with our corporatist society in the three decades since this series was published. This serial was composed at the end of the 1970s decade, just before the big conservative takeover of the American government that would usher in a 30 year period of rampant capitalism and the building of a capitalist world empire with America at the forefront, much as Earth was at the forefront of the interstellar capitalistic empire we saw in the Milky Way Galaxy of this particular future time track. Though I try to prevent my personal political position from entering into my index analyses, I do think it’s important to make note of what I believe to be the important theme that this series explored, well hidden behind the façade of science fiction elements. Warren should be commended for many of the horror and sci-fi series it produced during the great progressive decade of the 1970s, something that may only have been rivaled by DC in its early ‘70s issues of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW. It remains to be seen at this writing whether or not the newly revived CREEPY by New Comic Company and Dark Horse Comics will produce equally relevant stories in today’s era.
It would be several issues before the next chapter of “Mac Tavish” would appear in EERIE, something that doubtlessly annoyed some of the readers who found this series enjoyable (one said as much in the letters page).
Time Frame: This story began immediately after the previous chapter ended. About one week of time passed during the course of this particular chapter.
“Demons of the Zodiac”
Writer: Gary Null and Alabaster Redzone
Art: Moreno Casares
Shortly after their successful demolition of a corporate owned planet-breaker, Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda were walking the streets back in the previously seen (but unnamed) town on Rara Avis with the latter displaying great irritation at the lack of adulation and praise the two received from the people walking the streets after their act of heroism on behalf of the planet (the only response Spider got was one man asking him for some spare change…you gotta love capitalism!). Mac Tavish noted that Gorgo had this town well under control, and Spider himself noted that a vote for Gorgo the Man equaled a vote for corporate control over the planet and “windfall profits” by Rainbow Mining. Andromeda then roundly scolded the native Rara Avans before him, telling them how Gorgo and his corporate benefactors would make the planet look like “a slab of cheese at a rat convention” by the time he was done with it [since it’s much more likely that Spider Andromeda would mention a rodent-like animal from his home planet than a creature that inhabited the planet Earth, it can be surmised that this line was artistic license utilized by author Stenstrum to make the comment palatable to us Earthen readers]. Mac then told Spider to calm down due to the attention he was attracting, and this warning proved wise after Andromeda was nearly struck in the head by an energy beam. Mac Tavish noticed that the author of that beam of energy was a member of approaching soldiers who weren’t Rara troops but rather Zodiac Marines. Spider corrected his friend by saying they were more accurately Zodiac Mercenaries, a new chapter of that organization who was in the employ of the Earthen mining company (“rape and pillage” was their specialty, according to Andromeda). He then requested that Mac follow him, as he knew a hiding place that was nearby.
The two ducked into an alley filled with trash cans, and Mac Tavish mentioned how much he disliked the spikes of the cactus peels he was sitting on. Spider retorted that the planet wasn’t all sand and cacti, and reminded him to show his friend a place called Oasis in the future (more on that later in the series).
As Spider explained while the two hid from the armed mercenaries in the alley, “One of the Zodiac’s main functions is to keep interplanetary supply lines open. We messed up Gorgo’s mining exports, so he’s called the Zodiacs in to stop us!” Andromeda then reminded Mac that he was once an officer in the Zodiacs, and originally the platoon was designed for keeping the peace in the galaxy (“they only plundered and pillaged on weekends”). But they eventually changed after falling under corporate influence (you gotta love a privatized military unit!) and Spider didn’t, so they kicked him out and deemed him a traitor. He was pleased that he saw them now since he felt he owed them one, and he always paid off his debts.
Mac Tavish quickly told his friend that he knew a better hiding place, and it was located in the Rare Bird sauna. Spider was reluctant to enter the sauna (see Classic Dialogue below), but Mac was insistent. The space hero then introduced Spider to Ida Lizer, telling her that they needed a quick and convincing illusion to hide them from the pursuing mercenaries. The Zodiacs then entered the establishment in hot pursuit of Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda, and entered the booth of the servicing machine. Instead of finding their two fugitives they only found themselves ankle deep in a foul-smelling liquid, and not wanting to know what it was, they quickly exited the booth (in the background of the booth could be seen a huge dinosaur-like creature that resembled a Stegosaurus, which implied that the men were stepping in gallons of simulated dinosaur urine…ha ha). The leader of the soldiers turned mercenaries told the innkeeper that if either of the individuals they were pursuing should enter the Rare Bird, he would inform them, and the innkeeper agreed (probably facetiously).
When the illusion inside the servicing machine was no longer necessary, Mac Tavish commended Ida for the convincing psycho-holographic concealment, and Spider was likewise impressed, as he noted that few servicing machines were capable of such a feat. Ida decided that she liked Spider due to his compliments. When Mac noticed that Spider was looking rather haggard, Andromeda insisted he was okay and wanted to get back to running the revolution…only to collapse due to extreme stress and exhaustion at the feet of Mac Tavish and Ida.
As Gorgo and some fellow executives looked at the wreckage that was once their best planet-breaker, the Man was angered that they had Spider Andromeda and his robotic accomplices surrounded yet they still got away. The leader of the Zodiacs mentioned that he knew the area better than they did and they had only just arrived, but he assured the errant capitalist that they would take Andromeda into custody soon. As Gorgo began to scold the mercenary leader because of all the money the company was paying them for apparently no results, he was interrupted by one of his corporate officers who informed him that Lazard was again threatening to cancel the election if they didn’t give him more money, and Gorgo told him to give the secretary anything he wanted…for now.
Just then, one of the troops came across what appeared to be a bomb left behind, but it simply opened to reveal a jack-in-the-box-like jester’s head that we were led to believe squirted some type of sticky liquid on Gorgo and his crew [this was implied, not explicitly shown, because the panel where we saw the jester’s head didn’t show it squirting any liquid, but the next panel of the following page showed a livid Gorgo apparently covered in what appeared to be a sticky liquid; was it perhaps an error that no panel showing the liquid actually squirting out of the jester’s face appeared on either page?]. Gorgo now declared that this time Andromeda went too far, and he wanted him killed.
Back in the servicing station within the Rare Bird, Mac Tavish and Ida stood over the now unconscious Spider Andromeda. After determining that his vital signs were okay, Mac told Ida that he wanted to take advantage of this situation by finding out precisely what was bothering Spider via a mind probe. Since Ida could create psycho-holograms by taking imagery directly from her clients’ psyches, she said a mind probe would be simple enough. She did, of course, create a simulacra of the images she pulled from Spider’s mind, and the readers would find out more about the histories of both Mac Tavish and Andromeda.
Via the mind probe, we are shown what Mac Tavish looked like when he first joined the Space Force a few decades past. He was a red-haired “hotshot” in those days, 20 pounds lighter and a fighting soldier who proudly wore the Scottish clan tartan, which included a kilt (he was even seen playing bagpipes in a later panel while so clad). We are then treated to Mac’s first meeting with Spider, the latter of whom thought he was a “piece of candy” and therefore set a trap for him, which included the old rope loop on the ground that would raise him helplessly in the air by one leg after he unknowingly stepped in it. After being hung upside down by one leg, Mac’s kilt fell down, revealing to Spider and everyone else watching precisely what lay underneath (it was easy enough, since Mac Tavish wore no underwear beneath it!). Finding the whole thing fun, Mac Tavish decided to get revenge by capturing numerous flea-like insects in a jar and setting them free in the quarters shared by Spider and his fellows, which quickly had the desired effect. These incidents led to the two becoming close friends and partners-in-arms, and the two went on many missions together as soldiers, battling in “every major skirmish in the galaxy,” such as one referred to as the Phobos Rebellion.
One specific mission that was mentioned was one where the two were ordered to deliver a rare antidote for a disease called Smith’s Fungus that was plaguing the troops stationed on a world designated Epsilon 12 (you gotta love planets named after Greek letters by we Earthens!). After walking through the sandy marshes indigenous to that world, Mac Tavish ended up contracting Smith’s Fungus himself, and much of the antidote they carried was used by Spider to cure him since he wasn’t a medic and didn’t know the correct dosage to use. Though this saved Mac’s life, their commanding officer was quite angry at them for wasting so much of the rare antidote. The two were shipped off into deep space as a result, where Mac Tavish and his friend learned “the fine art of swapping lies.”
In one panel that occurred after this time, we were treated to a glimpse of the only truly exotic alien race we saw inhabiting space in Mac Tavish’s alternate future timeline, the Ortuvian Gas Men, who were evidently a sentient gaseous life form that lived on a world with surface conditions that were highly hostile to humanoids (as were the Ortuvians themselves), and these incorporeal beings attempted to infiltrate the air cooling system of Spider’s space suit, a situation that Mac saved him from, thus paying Spider back for having saved his life previously.
The mind probe then recounted a later episode where both men were captured by nemeses known as the Zorovian Zanies, and tied to wooden posts by heating wire where they would be burned to death Inquisition-style, the preferred form of execution to the natives of that planet (it seemed as if every inhabited planet in the Milky Way Galaxy had the death sentence for those who broke its laws, and it also seemed as if all of these methods of execution were what American law would likely consider cruel and unusual punishment; very harsh galaxy in a very harsh timeline!). It seemed that neither man had any idea how they escaped from that particular predicament.
After they somehow got out of that situation came the previously mentioned Aesthetics War, where the two became heroes. [The nature of the Aesthetics War was never described, but it was said in this chapter of the story to have been a major conflict that “involved several star systems and myriad planets[,] including Rara Avis.”] That war went on for a long time, finally just “petering out.” As noted in the previous chapter, Spider Andromeda was given a huge medal by the Rara government for his heroism, while Mac Tavish was merely given a “dinky” one. They then parted company and Mac lost track of where Spider was for a long time afterwards.
Again via this mind probe, Mac and Ida learned that following the awarding of the medal to Spider for his valor in the Aesthetics War, he traveled to his home planet of Alcimedon to visit his father, whom “he both feared and adored.” Sadly, old age and illness had depressed his father, who was evidently a great soldier who could no longer fight, so he decided to “die the warrior’s death” (presumably ritual suicide, much as was sometimes done by the Klingons in the Star Trek Universe once they aged or received a severe enough injury or impairment that they could no longer fight). Spider then realized that he was a “warrior without a war” (heaven forbid should a warrior society ever achieve peace!), and with his father gone and his cherished ally Mac Tavish out of his life, he became as depressed as his father had been. He evidently needed both a new family and more combat to satiate his warrior’s heart, so he joined the Zodiac Marines. He became an officer in their ranks, and he enjoyed the idea of fighting for peace and prosperity rather than for money and conquest. However, the platoon changed after a while, and on one occasion apparently poisoned an entire planet’s population in order to plunder its wealth. After discovering that some of the men under his control were involved in that massacre, Spider informed his immediate superior that he would report what happened to the top brass. That was when Andromeda found himself implicated and framed for the crime, and years later discovered that it was no less than his own superior officer who masterminded the massacre/plundering. Stripped of his rank and branded a traitor by the Zodiacs, he was tortured in an attempt to brainwash him into revealing where he hid the treasure that he actually had nothing to do with taking. All of this is what filled Andromeda with extreme bitterness towards the Zodiacs, an organization he once took great pride in being a part of.
The only thing that kept Spider sane during the torture and brainwashing sessions with the Zodiacs was the memory of being honored and respected by the Rara Avans. At this point, the mind probe became too painful for Spider to endure, and Ida insisted on breaking contact.
Mac Tavish said that was okay, because he already knew what followed. Since then, he mused that Spider had gone “mad” and become “a lunatic—an idealist. They’re the same thing.” To this end, Spider utilized his mechanical expertise to build the Steel Gang to help him in his revolutionary goals, and it was then that Mac showed up on the scene.
Ida then revealed to Mac Tavish that Spider truly appreciated him being on Rara Avis and at his side again, and that the strain of the situation was causing him to head inexorably towards an emotional breakdown. He had a fond hope that Mac could serve to turn the revolution around for him. The space hero then decreed that this wasn’t his fight. Ida then wanted to show him something else she learned in the mind probe: Spider had the medal he won on Rara Avis permanently imbedded into the tissue of his chest (and to think that some people simply get tattoos!).
Comments: This was an interesting chapter in the six part saga, as we learned much more about the histories of Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda, including all that drove the latter to his present status as a revolutionary, and also the name of his home planet and the alien race to which he belonged. This flashback sequence courtesy of Ida’s mind probe of Spider Andromeda took up a good 80% of the pages devoted to this story.
It would appear that the concept of the jack-in-the-box and jesters were widespread among the galaxy thanks to the infiltration of popular Earth culture throughout the many inhabited worlds of the Milky Way that exist in this particular timeline and time period. It’s also possible that Earthen colloquialisms and slang phrases had also become widespread among the inhabited worlds of the Milky Way by this time, as it was shown that Earth was a major player in the interstellar economic system, much as America is a major player in the global economy of Earth in the early 21st century.
Mac Tavish got his second cover with EERIE #105, once again well rendered by the mysterious Penalva. However, once again the potential readers were deceived, only worse this time: Mac and Spider Andromeda were seen fist fighting, though they were good friends and allies in the story, and despite what happened later in the series (see below) never did the two of them get into a mano-a-mano fight with each other. Was Penalva given accurate information about the contents of the story when he was commissioned for the cover? The senior editor of this issue of EERIE was Louise Jones, and I would expect better of her.
The change in artist was a bit glaring, as the style was noticably different than the one in the previous chapters, but thankfully Stenstrom’s scripts remained relatively strong.
Classic Dialogue: When Mac Tavish pushed Spider Andromeda into the service machine containing Ida Lizer’s A.I. system to hide from the pursuing Zodiacs, Spider protested by saying, “The Rare Bird? A sauna? I can’t go in there—steam makes me wrinkle like a prune. It’s horrible. My hair gets frizzy, my nose starts to run. I go limp. No way, Mac. Forget it.” Mac Tavish quietly replied, “Mmm—I see your point.”
And are we to assume that Earth fruits such as prunes became popular throughout the galaxy in Mac Tavish’s time period? If not, then how else or why else would an Alcimedon like Spider Andromeda mention a prune instead of a fruit native to his world? Or was this just more artistic license?
Time Frame: This chapter took place no more than a few days after the last one.
Writer: Alabaster Redzone and Alex Southern
Art: Moreno Casares
This story begins (following a textual recap of the story so far; see Classic Text below) with another audio-visual communiqué between Lazard and Gorgo the Man. Lazard was preening over a bunch of gifts he had received from Rainbow Mining, and Gorgo told him the good news didn’t end there: the company’s board of directors approved the conditions that Lazard requested, and he would now claim 20% of the profits from the corporation’s polyprismite mining. Then the happy and appeased Lazard told Gorgo that he would indeed throw the election and that Gorgo’s bid to become the high governor was as good as won.
After the communication ended, Gorgo told one of his mercenary lackeys that the moment the election ended with the Man’s victory, he wanted Lazard killed (you gotta love the loyalty engendered by capitalism!).
Back in Ida Lizer’s servicing machine, a perfect illusion of the Sunfisher was created, perfect because it was culled from Mac Tavish’s own psyche. She created the simulacra of the Sunfisher as a favor to Spider Andromeda, as he always wanted to see the ship, and she realized this may be his final chance to get a look at it. She told Mac that she believed if Rainbow Mining or the Zodiacs didn’t kill Spider, his own recklessness would. She pleaded with the space hero to help his friend, who still lay insensate in a state of total exhaustion. Mac replied that he would do what he could, but at the moment, he didn’t want to talk about Spider’s situation, but rather about his and Ida’s.
She once again tried to tell Mac Tavish that is was “lunacy” for him to have emotions for her, and it was “impossible” for her to feel them for him in return. He then told Ida that he refused to see her as a mere machine because the two just complimented each other too well, and she was more human than she realized. When he reminded her that she was “stuck” with him for life now, Ida decided to show him something that she hoped would change his mind about her. She then made the illusion of a human woman vanish and be replaced by what she truly was: an array of machinery and circuitry. She explained that it takes a dozen years to construct a servicing machine, and a century of intensive programming for it to become as sophisticated as she was now. She said, “I am a thousand times more complicated than a starship, with more working parts than there are drops in the sea. But I am still a servicing machine.”
She then stated that she has had 50 million customers during her 100 years of service, and that she is no more capable of feeling actual love for Mac than she has for any of her other customers. Even though their scenarios seem to be between a man and a woman who are in love with each other, she can never truly feel anything real for him: “What I feel for you is entirely simulated…a series of correct responses programmed to complement your every mood. That is Ida Lizer! A series of correct responses. Nothing else.” Mac Tavish responded to that by asking for a kiss and telling Ida that she is beautiful when she responds. She then proclaimed him impossible.
By then, Spider was awake again and Ida’s human simulation walked away as her latest attempt to break Mac Tavish of his feelings for her having failed and leaving her perplexed. Mac was surprised that Spider heard the last few minutes of his conversation with Ida, but he didn’t want to interrupt what he considered “such a terrific argument.” When Mac inquired, Spider said that he was feeling better after the rest he just took, but his nerves were still rattled by the revolution he was fighting. He then changed the subject and noted how fascinated he was with seeing the Sunfisher, as it had long been his wish to see it (it’s a shame that the readers got to see so little of the Sunfisher in this series). Mac Tavish went on to reiterate what we learned about the Sunfisher back in the first chapter of this story: “The Sunfisher is the last of her breed, Spider. The biggest Neutronium-9 starship ever built. It’s been outlawed in civilized space. They’re afraid I’ll barbecue their planets in the ship’s exhaust.” Spider then suggested that perhaps they could scare Rainbow Mining away from Rara Avis by threatening to blast their cash cow “to cinders,” but Mac interrupted and told his ally that he didn’t think the revolution was working. When Spider asked him what his solution was, the space hero suggested that they evacuate the planet’s native population before the entire world is completely strip mined. He said it was futile for Andromeda to fight the revolution as he was because now that the existence of the polyprismite was known, even if they got rid of Gorgo and his goons there would be others stepping in to exploit the world in the Man’s place. He suggested that Spider make whatever deal with Gorgo he could and just get the Rara Avans off the planet. Andromeda saw that as accepting defeat, but Mac told him that it was his only recourse because polyprismite wasn’t worth constantly fighting for. Spider then told his friend that he didn’t have to help him, but he warned him not to try and stop him from fighting the revolution his way.
The subject then changed again when Mac Tavish asked Spider about the medal of honor he had grafted to his chest. He said it was indeed a silly idea, as he stitched it on himself, but he wasn’t the type to simply get a tattoo (would getting a tattoo actually hurt more than stitching a metal disc to your chest?). Spider then asked his ally if he could borrow his handgun, and Mac agreed to let him do so. Taking the weapon and walking out of the servicing machine, Andromeda exited the Rare Bird to find Sundog and a hovercat waiting for him. He knew this was the evening that Lazard was going to throw the election. Managing to (all too conveniently) time his flight perfectly, the hovercat took Spider to the Election Hall just as Lazard was about to make his concession speech. Lazard did indeed announce that he conceded defeat to Gorgo, and the people erupted in anger as they realized the votes were barely in and not even counted yet, so they were aware he was throwing the election and therefore sold his people out. Lazard warned them to begin behaving orderly or he would call in the Zodiacs to handle the situation.
Just then, Spider’s hovercat crashed into the hall. Andromeda then forced Lazard to come into his craft at gunpoint. Despite begging and offering Spider riches in exchange for letting him go, the revolutionary told him that the matter was not open to debate.
Spider quickly brought Lazard back to his stronghold with him. He then flippantly introduced the secretary to his Steel Gang, saying, “Welcome to Sherwood, Governor Lazard. Have you met my merry men?” [Once again, it can be conjectured that due to the great amount of infiltration of Earth culture and folklore into the rest of the galaxy by this time period, even various alien races were aware of the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who were actual personages in the WNU of the past]. Lazard told Spider that he wouldn’t get away with this abduction since a whole platoon of Zodiacs would be searching for him within minutes. Spider knew this, and told the former high governor that this was precisely why he brought him to his stronghold: to save his life. At first, Lazard thought it was to protect him from the people at the Election Hall, but Spider corrected him, telling him that though he sold them out severely, they still wouldn’t have killed him. It was Gorgo and the Zodiacs he had to fear. Lazard retorted that he was on good terms with Gorgo, but Spider told him that his part in Gorgo’s plan ended as soon as he threw the election. Now he was expendable, and all promises made to him by the corporation in the past were effectively rendered forfeit. When Lazard asked him why he cared if this was true, Spider replied that it was because it was the Zodiac Marines who would do the killing for Gorgo, and he didn’t think even Lazard deserved to die at their hands. Lazard said he was willing to take his chances since he had a ticket for the shuttle that left at dawn, but Andromeda didn’t even think he could make it off of the planet alive. He offered to let Lazard stay at Stronghold (yes, Spider’s stronghold is called Stronghold…very creative!) until the present situation blew over. He even told him he could dust the place for him in gratitude. If Lazard failed to believe him, then Spider told him he was welcome to take the hovercat and leave the stronghold.
Lazard chose the latter option, as he said he would “rather take his chances with the Zodiac than remain in the company of a noted terrorist!” (Very smart guy, isn’t he?). Then showing how he was a turncoat to the end, Lazard used the hovercat’s communications system to contact Zodiac Base 7-14 to relay the location of Spider’s stronghold, only to be shot down by two missiles fired by the Zodiacs before he could do so. Spider thought it was interesting that Lazard didn’t even make it back into the city (“There’s a lesson here, someplace”).
When Spider finally returned to Mac Tavish and gave his gun back to him, he told his ally how Gorgo still won the election and Lazard wouldn’t even allow him to save his life. When Spider then asked Mac why he was loitering outside of the Rare Bird rather than in the servicing machine, the space hero told his ally that Ida threw him out of the machine, so his plan was now to get as drunk as possible and then go back in. When Spider queried as to why Ida threw him out of the machine, Mac replied, “Nothin’. I only asked her to marry me.”
Comments: This chapter of the story was as well written as any other, with things getting more serious despite the continued injection of humor, witty dialogue, and one-liners into the scripts. We finally got to see the treacherous Lazard meet his maker in this story. We also saw a turning point in the one-sided relationship between Mac Tavish and Ida Lizer.
For the third and final time, the “Mac Tavish” serial was the cover feature of an issue of EERIE, this time painted quite well by Romas Kukalis. But interestingly, the cover was devoted to Spider Andromeda, with the feature character of the serial nowhere in sight, nor even mentioned. The cover blurb read, “Spider Andromeda risks his life to preserve his planet’s freedom!” (Well, actually, his adopted planet, but followers of this series probably got the gist of it.) This was testament to the popularity of Spider Andromeda within the series, as his character was every bit as colorful as that of Maximillian Myron Mac Tavish himself.
Classic Text: After the text on the splash page of the story reiterated the events of the story up to that point, ending with a description of how Lazard planned to throw the election in exchange for riches from the corporation he sold his people out to, the next caption said, quite succinctly, “It’s enough to make you loose your faith in politicians!” Ha ha! Was this series prescient or what? Sort of reminds one how President Obama always sells out his base supporters to the Republicans. Okay, I promise to try harder to keep my politics out of this index.
Time Frame: This story took place roughly a few hours following the previous chapter.
“The End of the Steel Gang”
Writer: Alabaster Redzone and Alex Southern
Art: Moreno Casares
At the beginning of this chapter, Mac Tavish’s starship, the Sunfisher, was being impounded by the Zodiac Marines under the orders of Gorgo the Man, in retaliation for Mac’s aiding of Spider Andromeda (see Comments below). As the newly elected high governor of the planet Rara Avis, Gorgo now had the power to do this.
Meanwhile, having re-entered Ida Lizer’s service machine, Mac Tavish and Spider were treated to a deep-mind projection of a Western dude ranch in the middle of the desert that appeared to be from 19th century Earth. This was not done at the request of either Mac or Spider, and the former conjectured that Ida chose this holo-environment on purpose so as to provide them with the least comfortable setting she could create, but to Andromeda, it simply reminded him of the endless deserts of Rara Avis [a word balloon that appeared to be pointing to Spider Andromeda said, in faux cowboy style, “Come ‘n’ git it for’ ah th’ows it t’th’ hawgs!” but I would think it was more likely intended to be from Ida, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of Earth history and its various cultural accents and pronounciations programmed into her, and also because she was shown serving the two men a meal in the next few panels. It's less likely that Spider would know how to talk like this, but one may imagine, as noted elsewhere in this index, that Earth history and its various cultures, slang terms, and idioms are well known throughout the galaxy by many alien races in Mac Tavish’s future timeline]. The two men then sat at a simulated wooden table inside the cabin, with Ida dressed in 19th century womanly regalia and serving them food. Spider told Mac that he had to do something to assuage Ida’s anger (is it only simulated anger?) over his marriage proposal and refusal to see her as merely a sophisticated machine, because his stomach was suffering as a result (he had no idea what the “glop” Ida just served him was, but Mac said it was better than what she was doing for him, which was making him starve). Mac Tavish then asked Spider to lend his mechanical expertise and explain what Ida truly was to him. Spider told him that they both knew she was one of the most advanced servicing machines ever created, and it took literally decades to build and program her. He explained, “She is the composite of her programming and her experience…but this could be said of any intelligent machine. Ida has become something more…over the years she has developed her own definite personality. The Ida we see is a projection of that.” He then told Mac that the trick is to give Ida some substance to contain her developed persona, to give her an existence in the world outside the service chamber, since then she would have to accept his love for her.
Spider opined that such a thing may actually be possible, since on the planet Delvis there was a group called the Miracle Men who had been successful in “similar operations.” He wasn’t certain they could help Ida become human, but he said it was at least “worth looking into.” Ida’s projection overheard the conversation, and she seemed stunned and flabbergasted that there actually may be a chance for her to become human.
Outside of the Rare Bird some time later, Sundog reported more info about the ongoing revolution to his commander and creator. Mac Tavish apologized to Andromeda for not being more help, as he was now leaving. Since Spider had no idea if he would ever see Mac again, he gave him a box that he said contained a wedding present: enough polyprismite to serve a complete treatment for two humanoids (one for Ida after she became human). Mac Tavish declined the gift, telling Spider that he didn’t want immortality, since (like too many characters in fiction and any anti-immortalist in real life; see Comments below) believed that it would lead to nothing but “century after century of incredible boredom, weariness, and lonliness” (even if Ida did become human and was at his side for all of that time?). He said he would likely be insane after a thousand years of living. When Mac asked Spider why he didn’t take the treatment himself, the revolutionary told him that he didn’t want to for the same reason as the space hero; he would go crazy (it’s nice to see that Luddite ideology remained alive and well into this particular alternate future time track).
It was at this point that Sundog informed Spider that the Sunfisher was impounded, info he quickly reported to Mac Tavish. Just as Andromeda was about to leave in a hovercat, Mac now had a change of heart due to the circumstances and agreed to go with him.
In the next scene, we are introduced to the massive superstructure known as Oasis, built to provide comfortable and elaborate temporary living quarters and operational base for Rainbow Mining executives. A party was in the process of being planned to celebrate Gorgo’s political victory. Gorgo asked the commander of his mercenary platoon if the Zodiacs were prepared for anything Spider Andromeda may have planned, and the commander responded in the affirmative; he had evidently planned for all eventualities.
Back in Stronghold, Mac Tavish was determined to wrest possession of the Sunfisher back from the Zodiac Marines, and Spider agreed to help him. Andromeda’s plan was a single massive assault of his fleet on Oasis, which would wipe out Gorgo and the rest of the benefactors, thus winning the revolution for him, and getting the Sunfisher back all in one fell swoop. Mac believed it was insane to attack Gorgo on his own territory, but Spider retorted that he was quite serious, since the all-day victory bash they would be having the following day would mean that the entirety of the Rainbow board would be present, Gorgo included. The opportunity to get all of the benefactors at once was just too good an opportunity for Spider to pass up. Andromeda then showed Mac a small tracer device (anyone with a dirty mind can tell you what that small tracer looked like, but I won’t mention it here) that he said needed to be planted on Gorgo’s person so that Spider could direct the attack to that specific area. Mac Tavish then asked the perhaps rhetorical question as to who would be the infiltrator at the party that would put the tracer on Gorgo, only to be handed a forged invitation to the party that Spider managed to acquire, with instructions to be home before 12, because that was when the assault was planned.
The next day, advanced ferry boats brought the various attendees to Gorgo’s victory bash across the artificial lake surrounding the enormous Oasis facility. Mac Tavish attended in formal attire, with the tracer hidden in his mouth in the hope of getting it past the large security checkpoint (it was also made of plastic to prevent it from being caught by the metal detectors). Gorgo was making his victory speech as the disguised space hero made his way towards him through a crowd of apathetic Rara Avans and exuberant officials of the company.
Meanwhile, back at Stronghold, Spider Andromeda was giving a speech of his own to his Steel Gang, reminding them that not all of them would return intact from the conflict, but he assured them that all of their wives and kids would be well looked after (ha…ha), but a few of his mechanized liberationists broke through the humor and requested that they get on with the assault. Spider agreed, and the mission was about to begin.
An hour later, Mac Tavish carefully inched his way closer to the podium where Gorgo was speaking. But just as his speech was ended and the new high governor was about to leave the stage, Mac was suddenly taken into custody by security (they apparently noticed him walking a bit too close towards the Man). Gorgo then realized who the man before him was, and Mac Tavish confronted the corporatist for impounding his ship. Gorgo then asked him to be searched much more thoroughly, and within a short time the tracer in the space hero’s mouth was unfortunately discovered. Gorgo then got back to the stage, telling the attendees that they would soon see a demonstration of the Zodiac’s lethal efficiency (perhaps to serve as a warning to anyone else who may get any ideas in the future).
Moments later, Spider’s hovercat fleet approached Oasis, homing in on the tracer. But in the Zodiac Command Base, Andromeda’s fleet was located and the mercenaries rushed to board their fighter crafts. When Gorgo was informed of this, he told Mac Tavish that they knew Spider would arrive during the celebration, and they were well prepared for him.
As Spider’s fleet reached Oasis, he was stunned to see Zodiac fighter craft awaiting his arrival. The Zodiac squad’s firepower proved superior to that of Spider’s hovercat fleet, and within minutes half of his crew was blown out of the sky. Nevertheless, with Sundog’s skillful navigation, Andromeda’s lead ship managed to stay ahead of the Zodiac fighter squad, and he continued to head towards Oasis. By the time he reached the enormous edifice, his craft was the only one in his fleet that was left flying. Asking for the tracer reading, Spider was told by Sundog that the reading was discontinued, and extremely surprised and angered, he told his robotic second-in-command to aim its missile load at the last reading that Sundog had recorded.
Inside Oasis, Gorgo and his panicking executives saw that one of the hovercats broke through the defenses and was heading right towards them. Spider’s missiles were fired, and the boardroom of Oasis was obliterated, with each guest standing close to the viewports being instantly killed. In the confusion, Mac Tavish managed to make his escape, head for the hoverport on top of the facility, abscond with a small ship, and make his escape (very conveniently, of course).
His missiles fired and the mission apparently accomplished, Spider turned his hovercat away from Oasis and headed back to Stronghold, with the Zodiac craft in hot pursuit. Sundog let his commander know that their shots were getting closer to their mark, when suddenly Sundog was wrecked beyond repair when a blast from one of the Zodiac craft struck him through his head module. The craft, deprived of its navigator and with much of its circuitry ruined, careened to the ground, landing hard in the sand. The wreckage of the hovercat was inspected by the Zodiacs, but no organic body was found, so they concluded that it must have been a robot craft and Spider Andromeda must have been in one of the other craft that was destroyed earlier. They returned to Oasis to report Spider’s death to Gorgo. Just as they left, a still surviving Spider emerged from his hiding place behind a nearby sand dune.
The walk back to Stronghold took hours, and upon returning there, Spider found Mac Tavish waiting for him in the hanger bay. Mac told him that they never had a chance to pull that mission off because they were outgunned from the start. Spider was still incredulous, because he flew under their radar and he believed that they couldn’t possibly have known of the coming assault…unless someone told them about it. Mac took umbrage to the insinuation, as he felt Spider should have known him better than that. But Spider reluctantly decided that the insinuation was the only thing that made sense, and he surmised that Mac Tavish must have made a deal with Gorgo to get his ship back by betraying Andromeda’s mission. He then said that more evidence for his conjecture was provided by the way in which Mac fought against him at every turn, trying to convince him to give up the revolution, believing that it was pointless and futile. He said, “Nothing I offered could make you lift a finger to help me, but the moment the Sunfisher was at stake, you sprang into action. At least you got a good price for your betrayal!”
Mac Tavish then responded that though he didn’t agree with the revolution, he still put his hide on the line. And he didn’t do it to get his ship back, he said, but to try and end all the bloodshed the civil war was causing. He also said he didn’t want to see his “best friend in all the universe” destroy his life in yet another “questionable crusade.” But Spider was not to be swayed, as he announced that Mac was no longer his friend and that he would see justice done for this imagined betrayal. Mac still insisted that Spider was wrong, but realized there was no way he could convince him of this in his present state of mind. He saw nothing he could do other than take the craft he absconded with earlier that night and leave. He couldn’t help blaming himself for the failure of Spider’s mission, though, because he did let Gorgo’s men find the tracer, but he did not betray his friend. They found out about the coming assault some other way.
Mac Tavish returned to the Rare Bird to talk to Ida, wondering if perhaps she had heard anything. Seeing an audio-visual screen inside the establishment, Mac dejectedly saw a public announcement from a fully intact Gorgo saying that the rebellion was crushed and all the rebels were destroyed. The space adventurer then told the innkeeper that he wanted to see Ida, and he was instructed to go right into the service machine, as she wasn’t seeing any customer right now. Upon seeing Ida, she asked why Spider wasn’t with him, and Mac regretfully informed her that his good friend had finally gone completely over the deep end.
Back at Stronghold, Spider was looking into a mirror and cutting his hair, saying aloud to himself, “Stop me, Mac…give me a reason to stop what I’m about to do!”
Comments: At the beginning of this chapter, the Sunfisher was said to be in orbit around Rara Avis, and that it was there when the Zodiacs impounded it. This is almost certainly a story error, because it was established in the first chapter that the vessel was too dangerous to bring too close to a planet because of its highly volatile power core, so he docked it at a space station located about a million miles from Rara Avis, and took a shuttle to the planet from there. It was likely still docked at the space station in question when Gorgo, now having much political clout as the new high governor of Rara Avis, had his hired mercenaries impound it.
The series got ever more serious in this, its penultimate chapter, and it was sad to see the break-up of the friendship between Mac Tavish and Spider Andromeda, and the latter succumbing to madness. Everyone who read this chapter could well determine that the conclusion of this series wouldn’t put smiles on anyone’s face (and also, Warren didn’t often give us happy endings to its series).
The all too common ideology that immortality would be undesirable because it would inevitably result in horrid boredom after a few centuries, and that dying after perhaps 80 years of life is actually a beneficial thing, was briefly explored in this chapter of the serial. This is the modern day Luddite ideology, and many characters in fiction have claimed this horrible side effect of immortality, some of them longing for a way to die and believing that choosing immortality was a grave mistake on their part. Though it’s not unlikely that some people would feel this way if medical science eventually came up with an anti-aging process in the future, it’s highly unlikely that everyone would adopt the Luddite ideology after taking the plunge. Is suffering the detrimental effects of old age after just a few decades of life really such a beautiful thing simply because it’s natural? Can aging be considered a disease that everyone eventually suffers from? Is any type of disease, such as polio and syphilis, beautiful in their own way simply because they are natural? Is an anti-aging drug any more a betrayal of the natural way of things than a flu or measles vaccine? Is it truly the case that everyone who would experience virtual immortality couldn’t possibly find new pursuits to take up, and new means of adventure and entertainment to keep them occupied, as technology continued to advance and new opportunities continued to beckon as the centuries progressed? Is the above mentioned nightmarish boredom and longing for death truly the only possible outcome for everyone who may choose to partake of an anti-aging regimen? And, perhaps most importantly, should anyone have the right to deny anyone else the choice of immortality simply to make things closer to fair for those who would choose not to partake of this opportunity? Should those who wish to experience the detrimental effects of old age and early death have any right to force everyone to experience these things in short order too? Would people truly go to almost any lengths to acquire these drugs? Would it be fair in a capitalist system to make these drugs only available to those who could afford paying a high monetary price for them? Then again, couldn't someone at least try their hand at near-immortality, and if they did indeed grow so bored with unending life that they didn't want to live anymore, then have themselves mercy killed? Wouldn't a society that respected the right to die allow this option for those who grew totally disenchanted with their immortality? These are interesting questions that the existence of something like polyprismite in the future would bring to society, and it would have been very interesting if these implications were explored in more depth in this series. But it was good to see these questions at least touched upon, so kudos to author Stenstrum for doing so.
Time Frame: This chapter took place no more than a few days after the last, and occurred over the course of a few days.
“50 Million Spacemen Can’t Be Wrong”
Writer: Jim Stenstrum (finally dropping his pseudonym of Alabaster Redzone)
Art: Moreno Casares
As the final chapter in this serial begins, an unknown hovercraft flies towards the immense Rainbow Mining facility called Oasis, gliding over its reservoir lake. A searchlight finds the craft, and the facility’s defenses blow it out of the sky. But below the surface of the water is Mac Tavish, the pilot of the now destroyed craft, traveling fast with the help of a jetpack on his back. Small enough to move under the facility’s radar, Mac quickly jets out of the water and up the side of the Rainbow building. Landing on top of the structure, he divests himself of his jetpack, draws his multi-application sentient handgun, and sneaks into the facility.
Stealthily making his way into the boardroom, he sees Gorgo sitting with his back to him in a chair. Pointing the piece at the capitalist and telling him that it’s over, he suddenly sees the Man’s aide appear behind his superior officer, and he turns the chair around to show Mac a surprising sight. Gorgo is paralyzed from neck to toe, and is no longer able to speak. The explosion resulting from Spider Andromeda’s assault a few days previous severed Gorgo’s vertebrae, and evidently not even his time period’s advanced medical science can help him walk or speak again (there are ways to enable quadriplegics to speak in the early 21st century, so don’t ask me why Gorgo’s company didn’t provide him with a much more advanced version of such a device, or even an exo-skeleton that enabled him to simulate human movement to at least some extent; we simply have to go with this and not ask too many questions, since writer Stenstrom obviously didn’t). The fearful aide offered to give the space hero anything he wanted in exchange for not hurting them. Right off the bat, he offered Mac a box containing almost a kilogram of pure polyprismite, letting him know that with it he could live for many centuries. Mac Tavish was angered at yet another person trying to give him some of the wonder chemical, asking the aide if it ever occurred to him that some people may not want immortality. The aide then offered the adventurer money, but Mac Tavish responded that he already had a lot of money and what he actually wanted was Gorgo’s hide.
Gorgo’s aide begged Mac Tavish to make him an offer for something in exchange for Gorgo’s life. What he asked for was answers, specifically how Gorgo knew about Spider’s assault on Oasis. The aide informed Mac that Gorgo knew Spider was likely to attack, but didn’t know exactly where it might come from, but the tracer that was taken from the space hero solved that problem. Andromeda intended to use the tracer to locate Gorgo’s position, but failed to realize that his enemies could use the same tracer to find out his own location in turn. Hence, Spider’s fleet ran right into the Zodiac’s hands.
The next answer Mac Tavish wanted is how Gorgo could make the televised announcement that the rebellion was crushed if he was paralyzed and unable to speak. The aide replied, “I act for Gorgo now. With makeup and technical trickery, I made the announcement.” The board of directors ordered the aide to do this so that Rara Avis would remain under Rainbow Mining’s control. Mac then mused that this aide was now a de facto surrogate mob boss, so perhaps he should now kill him in place of Gorgo.
The unnamed aide exclaimed that there was no single villain for Mac Tavish to kill. Gorgo and the entire board of trustees were all merely employees of Earthen stockholders, all of whom demand to see a profit “come the quarterly balance sheet” (you gotta love the bottom line of capitalism!). He explained that no matter how many executives in the corporate structure that Mac Tavish happens to kill, it will mean nothing because all will soon be replaced. He said the actual enemy is the Earth itself, because that is where the stockholders, the banks, the businesses, the churches, and the charities are located, along with “men and women and kids with trust funds.” They are the true enemy, not any single individual (actually, the enemy is the economic system of production for profit, but I didn’t expect Mac Tavish, let alone the unnamed aide, to draw that conclusion, instead preferring to blame people as the problem; I said I would try to keep my political position out of this index, not that I would always succeed, especially when that position is so relevant to the theme of this series! I can hear the grumbles of my Republican readers from here! Down, guys!).
Mac Tavish simply nodded in response, understanding perfectly, and his last request was that his ship be released. The aide said it was now being released from impoundment, and the Zodiac Marines were now leaving too. The aide then ominously stated, “Earth is willing to shed any amount of blood in its search for polyprismite. Rara Avis and Spider Andromeda are but the beginning of a long, long line of casualties.”
When the space hero asked the aide what would now become of he and Gorgo, the aide replied that his employment was assured for as long as Rara Avis’ polyprismite supply lasted…but as for the Man, a month ago he completed the regimen for immorality, so unless he chooses to arrange for someone to take his life, he will remain in his quadriplegic state forever (I wonder if mercy killing is legal in this alternate future timeline).
The following morning, Mac Tavish again visited Ida Lizer, telling her what occurred the previous night. Ida reminded Mac that he now had proof that he didn’t betray Spider, and the space hero replied that he couldn’t wait to tell his old friend. He once again stood beside Ida in front of a simulated seaside beach, and he was as in love with her now as ever before. He told her that after he gave Spider the truth, he would travel to Delvis and see if that world’s Miracle Men cabal could use their procedures to make her human. He said that after that was accomplished, the two of them could get married, and Spider could be his best man. Ida was overjoyed at the prospect of finally leaving the service chamber and having a real life. After this (and after a particularly silly one-liner that I won’t inflict on any of my readers), Mac Tavish left the Rare Bird to find Andromeda and tell him the good news. He walked past several humanoids while doing so, failing to notice that one alien in particular, who was covered head to foot in desert robes, was observing him.
The robed alien asked the space adventurer if Ida Lizer was truly as great as he heard, and Mac responded in the affirmative, telling him to enjoy her now, because tomorrow she will no longer be there. It was only moments later that Mac Tavish noticed a spark of familiarity with the alien who just passed him, and he realized, to his horror, what was about to happen. He then ran back into the sauna as quickly as he could to stop Spider from doing the obvious.
Walking into the service machine, Ida greeted the new customer, only to have him pull the hood off of his face, revealing the visage of Spider Andromeda with his hair shaved off. Ida was startled to see Spider there, and not suspecting anything amiss, she simply made a joke about his lack of hair. Spider explained that the cutting off of body hair was a ritual from his homeworld done when a warrior feels that he has become useless to his tribe, just before he wanders off into the ice to die. Spider said, “Mac has taken everything I have from me. My revenge would mean nothing if I did not do the same to him.” When Ida asked him what he was thinking (though she should have already known given her mind-probe capabilities, correct?), Spider assured her that he had nothing against her personally, but his hand was forced, and just before apologizing for what he was about to do, he revealed that he was carrying a bomb.
Running frantically towards the service machine, Mac Tavish shouted for Spider to give Ida a chance at life, only to be knocked off of his feet by the explosion that destroyed both Ida and Andromeda. He lay on the ground stunned, thinking endlessly of various individuals who had meant so much to him in both the past and in recent days (including Ida, Spider, and Gorgo) The innkeeper found him laying there in the wreckage that used to be Ida’s service machine and called for someone to summon an ambulance.
Two days later, Mac Tavish had recovered and he was holding a funeral service for Ida at his expense. He couldn’t bear to see her junked or dismantled, so he insisted that the machine he loved like a woman be given a proper, respectful burial. Mac told the Rara Avan councilman standing beside him that she was the only innocent in the entire affair, and he was told that Ida was such an institution to Rara Avis that they would immediately begin her reconstruction. The space hero mentioned that while they could build another service machine, it wouldn’t be Ida. The councilman replied that they still possessed all of her original programming, so it was not impossible to rebuild her as she was, but it would take many years to build her, and many more years after that before she obtained enough experiences to once again resemble the womanly persona he once knew. Mac responded, “One hundred years. That’s how long it took Ida’s personality to completely develop. It may as well be an eternity.”
After everyone else left the funeral, Mac Tavish remained behind, standing before the Lucite monument he purchased for her, holding flowers in his hand, and telling the fallen Ida that there was no way he could adequately apologize for both himself and Spider. He said, “Spider did what his peculiar code of honor required him to do. I understand that. Though I cannot say I hate him any less for it.” But Mac continued that he really blamed himself just as much, because he refused to let her simply live out her existence as a service machine, instead insisting that she try to become human so that she could truly love him like he loved her. “This made you in the end neither human nor machine, and that is the real tragedy here, for which I will be eternally sorry,” he said. His final words in front of her grave: “Forgive us, Ida…if you can.” Her grave marker read: “Ida Lizer…50 Million Spacemen Can’t Be Wrong” (hence, the title of this chapter).
A short time later, Mac Tavish was giving a speech to the Rara Avis council, urging them to abandon their planet for another habitable world or they would eventually end up dying as their cherished hero, Spider Andromeda, did. He said he would help them by putting a large amount of currency from his own account into a central account for Rara Avis to finance the evacuation and relocation of the entire population of the planet. He only asked that they use the money, and use it wisely.
The council appreciated what the space hero did for them, but the council head addressing him said they could not accept his charitable act. The council head stated that many of their people blame Mac Tavish for the death of their hero Spider Andromeda, but they still felt an obligation to give him something in return for all of the money he donated to their evacuation fund. They handed him a box, and told him that was all they could offer him, then requested that he leave their planet, because he is no longer a hero to the people of Rara Avis.
Some hours later, Mac Tavish was aboard a shuttle headed for the space station where the Sunfisher was docked, the space adventurer locked in an extreme state of melancholy over all of his recent losses. He noticed that several of the shuttle’s other passengers were Zodiac soldiers, and many of them were likely some of the same soldiers whom he and Spider had recently fought. None of them seemed to recognize Mac, nor did any of them show any interest in his presence, and the text explained that the irony of this was not lost upon him. As the text said when the space hero looked out of the window, “For awhile, Mac watches the faint blue twinkle, then lies back in his pillow. He is asleep before Rara Avis is gone from view.”
Some time later, Mac Tavish was back aboard the Sunfisher, flying in an area of space that was far from any inhabited star system. He told his computer to open a hailing frequency to Earth (it can be presumed that sub-space communications exist in this future time period), and he sent what he decreed a “top-priority emergency message to the world cabinet.” The world cabinet of Earth responded and asked the communicator to identify himself, which Mac Tavish did. He told them that in six hours and 31 minutes, he was going to ram the planet Earth at near light speed with his Neutronium-9 spacecraft, which they knew contained an unstable, highly volatile power core. He said the ensuing explosion would likely obliterate the entire planet (that is one dangerous starship!). He radioed suggestions for a total evacuation of the planet to all the regional traffic computers. He urged them not to delay informing their respective heads of state, because what he was saying was not a bluff.
He then quietly cut communications with the world cabinet, and they began discussing options.
The Sunfisher then began heading on a direct collision course with the Earth, just as Mac Tavish had promised. The ship quickly covered many millions of miles (likely, thousands of light years) as it headed towards the familiar blue planet. He continued to push the ship faster and faster as it approached its target, and as he said, it was heading towards Terra near the speed of light. As the text noted, “Time…and choices…have run out for the planet Earth.”
Monitors on Earth (which resembled modern day radar dishes, possibly more artistic license) tracked the ship and realized that it would indeed do as Mac Tavish said it would. The world cabinet desperately tried to convince the space adventurer to change course, but he refused to respond to any further hails. One of the officers suggested they use deep space guns to destroy the Sunfisher before it hit, but another replied that the weapons would be useless because Mac Tavish was continuously jumping his ship in and out of hyper-space in such a way that they couldn’t get a fix on it.
Finally, a decision was made by the world cabinet. There would be no evacuation of the general populace of the planet, because with so little time left to them, all the announcement would do is create a global panic and likely a rebellion. The only thing they could still do was evacuate the planet’s leaders (you gotta love the priorities of the commanding voices of capitalism! I know, I know, there I go again…).
As the Sunfisher rocketed towards Earth, dozens of small escape craft carrying the world’s leaders attempted to flee from the world’s coming destruction, but it would be too late, as the resulting cataclysm would surely wipe them out as well (excuse me if I don’t shed any tears for the top brass of the world).
However, at the very last possible moment, the Sunfisher veered away from the Earth, with a maneuver that could likely only be accomplished by a pilot as skilled as Mac Tavish. Evidently, he only wanted to put a huge scare into the world leaders, or, to use a bit of slang, he wanted to “psyche them out” in a major way (since this story was written in the ‘70s, I figured I would throw in a bit of slang that was popular back then). Mac then received a message from Earth authorities telling him that he was violating galactic traffic laws, and they demanded that he surrender his ship to the nearest police outpost. He simply broke the communication and went on his way outside of Earth’s solar system.
Reaching into the box given to him by the Rara Avan council, he took out the gift left for him in exchange for his money, which was enough polyprismite for a full treatment regimen. Though he still loathed the idea of immortality, and was “terrified at the prospect of life without end,” he was willing to confer it upon himself in order to still be around, willing and waiting, 100 years from that point in time when his beloved Ida Lizer would finally have reached the point where he would recognize her again. His last action as the final chapter of the story drew to a close was to raise a vial of the polyprismite as if making a toast, and then imbibing the first of the treatment.
Comments: This final chapter in the serial was brought to a nice and definitive ending by author Stenstrom. Though he decided not to kill off the series’ feature character (or give him an end as ignominious as that of Warren character Zud Kamish), Mac Tavish received more than his share of tragedy and sorrow during the short span of days that this series took place. Nevertheless, it can at least be said that the series ended on a note of hope, as he very reluctantly took on chemically induced immortality, something he dreaded, just for the chance to once again be with the machine he loved as a human at some point in the following century. The ending of this series provided a great degree of pathos, as did many of the Warren series, and gave yet another example of how love may be the most potent force—and the most powerful emotion—in existence.
Mac Tavish was never seen again after this story, save in a brief cameo in the Vampirella and the Time Force story in EERIE #130, and it wasn’t made certain in that story whether or not the space hero was pulled back in time from some point after this story or some point earlier in his career. The great majority of Mac Tavish’s early adventures remain a mystery, as does his final fate. Though the first chapters in the series gave one the impression that the main point of the stories was to make us laugh (or roll your eyes, take your pick), the series eventually proved that scribe Jim Stenstrom was just as interested in tackling various issues of human nature, displaying the meaning of friendship, how a life of constant battle can wear down one’s sanity, and the different ways people can react to tragedy as he was trying to generate laughs. The “Mac Tavish” serial had all of that, plus its share of witty one-liners. One can only hope that New Comic Company, who now apparently owns the rights to Mac Tavish, will one day allow Dark Horse to show us a glimpse into this character’s future. What happened to him during the 100+ years he waited for his lover to be reborn as he remembered her? Did he ever reunite with Ida? Did he truly find immortality as boring as he thought he would? These are all questions still to be answered.
The love story between Mac Tavish and Ida Lizer, such as it was, may have been the highlight of the series, along with the repartee between Mac and Spider Andromeda. The funeral of Ida was truly touching, and I think many readers fully empathized and sympathized with Spider’s descent into insanity. This made the tragic loss of both Ida and Spider in the last chapter of the series have a powerful impact upon the readers.
The section of the table of contents covering the Mac Tavish story in EERIE #111 had an error in the brief teaser synopsis for the story. It said that Ida Lizer wasn’t certain she wanted to become human or not and marry Mac Tavish, but nowhere in this chapter did she ever object to becoming human and then being able to return Mac’s love. To the contrary, she actually appeared quite enthused about the prospect, not ambivalent.
WNU Connections: As stated in the WNU Connections section in the first story (indexed above), it will be interesting to see what creative mythographers who have taken up an interest in recording and researching the nature of the various alternate future time tracks of the “consensus” WNU have to say about where Mac Tavish’s particular time track fits in, and if we may have seen this future in some other, non-Warren sources.
Time Frame: This chapter occurred no more than a few days following the last one, and several days passed during the course of it.