"Vampirella and the Time Force" wasn't truly a series (at least, Warren didn't stay around long enough after its publication for more such stories to be written), but actually a book-length story that was the ultimate Warren crossover tale. It brought together many series characters from EERIE's glorious past when the company was now past its glory days, and it featured major and minor appearances of several of EERIE's anti-heroes crossing over with its two most popular characters, Vampirella and the Rook, whom author Rich Margopoulos wisely gave center stage in this tale, particularly Vampi. This story is pivotal regarding all Warren fans who are searching for crossovers between the characters that establishes a shared universe (as well as several closely linked alternate futures branching out from a common timeline) for many of the company's characters, thus truly establishing the Warrenverse as a alternate universe of great depth. Moreover, this tale is also important to creative mythographers who are conducting research on the Warren tales for the purpose of integrating the various Warren characters into the framework of the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], which the Warrenverse is an integral portion thereof. Though Vampirella and the Rook have long been accepted as parts of the "consensus" WNU (with no disrespect intended for the many disparate conceptions of the WNU that different creative mythographers may have), the other Warren characters were not so readily accepted as part of Newtonian continuity…though this story, along with several other crossover tales published by Warren, fully establishes the 'fact' that many characters published by Warren dwelled within the WNU.
Rich Margopoulos seemed to have a fondness for crossovers between the various characters, and much of what he did in the latter days of the Warren Publishing empire helped to establish the Warrenverse as a shared universe which included many of the disparate characters from the numerous series that were published by this company during the 1970s and very early '80s. Margopoulos presided over the crossover between Dax the Warrior and Bishop Dane in EERIE #120 (which brought Dax into the WNU) and the Demian Hunter/Darklon the Mystic crossover in EERIE #121 (which not only established those two heroes as existing on the same future timeline, but also featured a guest appearance by Quarb from the Rook strip, thereby officially bringing Hunter and Darklon into the WNU). Margopoulos seemed to have a passion for bringing new life to Warren characters whose series had run their course, and he may well have been inspired by Marvel and DC who were both renowned in fandom for harboring complex shared universes between all the characters that each of them published.
It's important to note, however, that this story was published following the onset of the '80s, when the horror genre was no longer rivaling the super-hero genre for popular space in the illustrated story (i.e., "comic book") medium, and where the super-heroes were beginning to take near-total control of the mainstream market (the many terrific independently-owned series now appearing on the scene, such as CEREBUS THE AARDVARK and LOVE AND ROCKETS, notwithstanding). As a result, many prominent writers, artists, and editors in the Warren stable were defecting to more lucrative and promising careers at Marvel and DC, or delving into the then fledging creator-owned comics experiments. To make matters worse, the hyperbolic Jim Warren was then suffering from ill health, and was unable to take a very active hand in the running of his company for its final few years, thus depriving it of a major creative and energetic force. Left in these less capable hands following Louise Jones' departure, the editors of Warren's twilight years endeavored to push the company into moving into the super-hero genre, something that Warren had never specialized in…and it showed in most of the end results. Though Warren, particularly EERIE and VAMPIRELLA, had published continuing series of heroes before, these were mostly anti-heroes and "monster heroes," the latter much in the vein of Marvel's Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider, the Living Mummy, and the Zombie (Simon Garth), and DC's Swamp Thing and I, Vampire. Vampirella was certainly Warren's most popular character (and the only Warren character to achieve a successful revival following the company's demise at this writing [Nov. 18, 2004]), but she was more of a "horror hero" as described above than a super-hero in the tradition of Wonder Woman or Spider-Man. Warren published few bona fide super-heroes in its later days outside of the Rook. The time-traveling hero Restin Dane (a.k.a., the Rook) was second only to Vampirella in terms of popularity in Warren's stable, and had a notable fan base, but he was hardly a household name.
The editors of Warren as the '70s ended and the '80s began appeared to have the ideology that they had better penetrate as far into the super-hero market as they could, since by 1979 it was already quite obvious that the horror genre was on its way out of the illustrated story medium as the force to be reckoned with that it once was, and Warren's diminishing sales and talent pool were making this painfully clear. And without the creative vision of Jim Warren and Louise Jones around, the editors must have concluded that the best strategy to take was to "adapt or die."
[ Note: Warren delved into this material before by publishing the first 17 issues of Will Eisner's 1970s reprint run of THE SPIRIT (before Kitchen Sink Press took over the title from that point onwards) along with an all-color one-shot Special, as well as reprinting Spirit stories in HELP! #13, EERIE #54-55, and COMIX INTERNATIONAL #5, but this was a creator-owned property, which was a truly rare phenomenon for that time period, and the Spirit practically stands in a class all his own as a masked detective character. The only truly original material about the Spirit published by Warren during the '70s was the fact that a few of the reprints were slightly re-written and re-touched by Eisner, and the cameo appearance of the Spirit (drawn by Eisner) for the Pendragon story "The Thing In Denny Colt's Grave" in VAMPIRELLA #50, this last instance being the only truly original appearance of the Spirit that was ever published by Warren.]
Attempts to adapt (before finally succumbing to death) was the launching of super-hero oriented projects, such as THE ROOK, with that mag's demise followed by the interesting but ill-fated mag known as the THE GOBLIN, along with pushing the various series in EERIE and VAMPIRELLA in a more super-heroic direction, going so far as to add small four-color inserts into the '80s issues of EERIE (i.e., 'Eerie Showcase') that were blatant attempts to find a niche in the super-hero market [CREEPY was kept mostly as-is with almost no continuing features but rather filled with stand-alone horror stories, albeit with decreasing quality and taking a slant towards sci-fi, another market they were attempting to cash in on with their 1984/1994 mag, which was their answer to HEAVY METAL, much as Marvel tried to do the same in the early '80s with EPIC ILLUSTRATED].
Despite a small and devoted fan base, these new mags and efforts just weren't enough to keep Warren in the black as the spectre of bankruptcy loomed more ominously over the company than any of their horror characters over a victim. In fact, I clearly recall certain fans of EERIE's output being visibly angry over the company's rather drastic shift of focus, often admonishing the appearance of four-color costumed super-heroes such as Fighting Armenian, the Gray Grasshopper, and Starlad on its covers in place of the prior scenes of horror. Further, the large amount of reprint issues that suddenly began appearing was an even stronger hint to the fan base that the company was teetering on the brink, as it couldn't afford to pay for too many new stories, nor could it apparently afford the talent needed to compose them in the first place.
Perhaps worst of all were vain attempts by the Warren writers and artists in these later days to mimic the popular house style of Marvel Comics, rather than sticking to their own inimitable style, something Jim Warren always insisted upon during his long active tenure in the company. As a result, Warren Comics started to look more like pale imitations of Marvel (and DC) rather than a small but unique gem glittering on the newsstands and the comic book store shelves.
Though "Vampirella and the Time Force" represented the ultimate attempt by Warren to create a cohesive shared universe for its characters, it also symbolized the final era of that once great company, as EERIE would publish but nine more issues after this (nearly half of them all-reprint), and then close its offices for good very soon after that with the March, 1983 issues of VAMPIRELLA (#112) and FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND (#191; the 192nd issue was apparently put together, as an advert for it appeared in the back of the last Warren mags, but the company folded before it could be distributed). EERIE quietly folded with issue #139, cover-dated February, 1983. Its final issue featured a fairly nice, almost book-length comic adaptation of the A.E. Vogt's alien-monster-loose-on-a-starship story "Voyage of the Space Beagle," along with its final attempt at a four-color super-hero comic insert, Bill DuBay's The Infinity Force, who were sort of a time-traveling version of DC's Challengers of the Unknown.
"Stitches In Time"
Story: Rich Margopoulos
Art: E. R. Cruz
This story was highlighted by a large top panel spreading over two pages that depicted a menacing vignette of Ten Ichi, along with Vampirella and the six members of the 'Time Force' that got major billing in this story, Exterminator One, Child, (Demian) Hunter, Schreck, Dax the Warrior, and the Pie.
As the story begins, the aged, blind psychic detective and vampire-hunter Conrad Van Helsing was walking across the evening campus of Northeastern University in New York City, where he was an adjunct professor, alongside his friend, astronomer and instructor Dr. Richard Harris, the holder of the Pie medallion, who now appeared to be about 48 years of age [see my Index to "The Pie" elsewhere on this site, along with Comments below].
Conrad was thanking Dr. Harris for providing him with a ride home, something Harris was happy to do, as he wanted to discuss his Operation: Signalwatch project with Dr. Van Helsing. Neither was yet aware that a portentous looking muscular figure in a robe and a black executioner-style hood was following them. Conrad told Harris that he could understand why the government was sponsoring his project [perhaps a WNU version of SETI?], but he asked him why he was convinced that an advanced race of humanoid aliens existed in the stellar environs of the Cassiopian constellation. Harris replied, "I have my reasons! In fact, that's why I've been anxious to talk to you! I've heard you believe that there's life on other planets!" [At this point in time, the Van Helsings still incorrectly believed that Drakulon was a planet elsewhere in their universe rather than an otherdimensional realm, but many alien races do indeed exist elsewhere in the greater WNU]. Suddenly, however, Harris realized that Conrad appeared to be in a stupor of some sort, and the vampire hunter remarked that his psychic senses detected a dangerous presence in their near-vicinity. Conrad quickly warned his friend about the robed and hooded man behind them, but the huge figure descended upon the two men with astounding speed, and struck the aged vampire hunter unconscious with a single backhanded swipe (though he managed to tear a piece of cloth from the attacker's hood in the process). Reacting as quickly as he could, Harris grasped the Pie medallion around his neck and generated a hastily erected force field in front of himself for protection. However, his nervousness left him unable to focus as hard as he needed to, and their masked assailant managed to shatter the hastily projected field of energy with a well-focused reverse punch. The robed attacker then rendered Harris insensate with another martial arts blow, and quickly absconded with the scientist. Conrad regained consciousness just as the robed malcontent drove away with the abducted astronomer in a revved-up black van…and the sightless psychic detected a great aura of evil surrounding the situation.
The black van parked in front of a dilapidated waterfront warehouse on the Hudson, where the hooded figure carried the still unconscious body of Dr. Harris.
Inside the edifice was a sophisticated scientific lab set up by the evil Oriental mystic/scientist who calls himself Ten Ichi [see WNU Connections below], and the hooded figure turned out to be his formidable son, Loo. It turned out that the mastermind was seeking the Pie medallion in order to gain vengeance on his hated, recurring foe Vampirella, the vampiric she-warrior. As the text explained: "It was she who ruined Ten Ichi's pact with the Dark Gods, shattered his alliance with the Council of Wizards…and it was she who bit deeply into his precious neck with her accursed fangs!" Ichi previously believed that Dr. Harris himself contained the sheer psionic power necessary to power his newest device, a temporal generator, but upon further inspection he now realized that in actuality, the power was inherent in the green medallion around his neck [formerly a sphere; see Comments below]. However, when Ichi attempted to take the medallion off of Harris's neck, he found his hand burned by a sudden surge of energy. The insidious mystic now realized that he had to take other measures.
Several miles away, Vampirella and her aged presdigitator mentor, Pendragon, had just concluded a stage performance at the Gin N' Tonic Cabaret. As they made their way backstage, Pendragon noted to Vampi that she missed several minor cues during the performance, and that obviously meant that something was on her mind…and that she was free to talk to her old friend if she needed to. As her mentor guessed, she was still grieving over the loss of her relationship to Adam Van Helsing, and the fact that he was now romantically involved with her best friend and (formerly) frequent ally, Pantha. She then assured her friend that if she could get over the death of her husband Tristan on Drakulon, then she could deal with this particular heartbreak. Pendragon reminded her that she could have bowed out of their whirlwind tour of NYC if she wasn't feeling up to it, but Vampi told him that she needed to move on with her life ("…I've got to force myself to stop living in the past! I have to carve a new future for myself! It's just that I'm having a little trouble getting started!").
Back in Ten Ichi's makeshift headquarters, Dr. Harris finally regained consciousness, only to discover that his entire body had been chained to a shimmering crystalline structure that the mastermind described as the Crystal of the Ages. This device was capable of penetrating the timestream, but it needed a vast energy source in order to do so. The only object he could readily find on Earth to provide this source of energy was the Pie's Cassiopian medallion. Since Ichi couldn't remove the object from Harris's neck, he was forced to use the astronomer's entire body as the conduit from which to drain the medallion's energy. Harris felt extremely weak due to the energy drain, and thus was unable to call upon the power of the gadget to free himself (his thoughts: "N-never felt so weak before! That two-bit Fu Manchu must be leeching energy from me through my medallion! Have to stop him…for Pie's sake!")
Harris then reminisced about the winter of 1934, when the large blue Cassiopian's spacecraft crash landed near the Harris's small New England farm, how the stranded alien was taken in by his family and became an extremely good friend of theirs, and how his spherical necklace [correctly drawn here in its original shape] was capable of manipulating vast amounts of energy so as to transform thoughts into reality; after the alien they nicknamed the Pie died saving his father from mob violence in the nearby sleepy town of Stillwater, Maine, the alien's life essence and consciousness was transferred to the amulet on the necklace [see my Index to "The Pie" elsewhere on this site for the full skinny on this].
Dr. Harris then noted to himself that he spent the better part of his life and career seeking out a means to contact the Cassiopians so as to return the device containing Pie's life essence to them, since he believed that he owed his friend at least that much. After that, Harris again fainted as the energy drain overcame him.
Ten Ichi then revealed that by utilizing astral projection, he discovered numerous warriors existing in various time periods, including both the past and various future timelines branching off from the (then) present, whom he could use his temporal device to summon to his own era so as to serve as his instruments of revenge against Vampirella. By using a combination of his own great mystically augmented psionic power and the energy of the Pie medallion transferred into the Crystal of the Ages, Ichi was able to home in on these various individuals and transfer them to his lab in the present (1981; see Time Frame below).
The five individuals he summoned from throughout the timestream were:
Derek Schreck, an adventurer from an alternate future of the early 21st century where nuclear detonations on the moon has transformed a large portion of the human race into psychotic lunatics nicknamed "werewolves" due to their behavior as a result of the 'moontaint', who then proceed to menace the remnants of the human race…and who also cost the man called Schreck his right hand, which he replaced with a multi-purpose metallic wrist cup that includes a retractable blade and removable hook;
Child, a man-made monster created earlier in the 20th century, with the head and brain of a young boy [and who now is no longer mute, but speaks in infantile third-person verse much as the savage version of the Hulk does, e.g., "Child will smash!" See the Comments section below, and my Index to "Child" elsewhere on this site]…and who is as physically powerful as the Frankenstein Monster;
Exterminator One, the result of the human brain of a man named Peter Orwell placed in the head unit of a gun and grenade wielding robotic assassin from the early 21st century;
Dax the Warrior (a.k.a, 'Dax the Damned'), a mighty sword-wielding barbarian warrior from the Age of Atlantis;
And Demian Hunter, a warrior from an alternate dystopian future of the early 22nd century, the same timeline as Derek Schreck, where the mutants spawned by radiation in the latter's time have since evolved into an even more horrific and dangerous form, where they are commonly referred to as "demons" due to their grotesque reptilian appearance, and who routinely kill, rape, and pillage the scattered remnants of the human race…and with Hunter himself being a human/mutant hybrid (he was the product of a mutant father who raped a human woman), and who has since dedicated his superior strength and fighting skill to wipe out all mutants that threatened what was left of the human race.
[Presumably, Ten Ichi utilized his mystical telepathy to enable each of them to speak to each other in a language they could understand, since Dax lived long before the English language, and its precursor, Latin, was ever conceived; this may also have been responsible for Child's new ability to speak, though I'm not sure how likely that is; see my Index to "Child" elsewhere on this site.]
Meanwhile, in a nearby disco club [which was probably one of the last ones in existence since this was the time period when it suddenly became fashionable to hate disco and praise rock n' roll with religious fervor], Adam Van Helsing and Pantha were cutting a rug together. As soon as the two lovers embraced and kissed, the cat-woman suddenly appeared to become faint (which Adam arrogantly attributed to his "dynamite" kiss). Instead, his girlfriend informed him that her "feline instincts" detected a sudden threat of danger. Just then, the Van Helsings' chauffer and butler Jeeves [oh, brother!] appeared in the club and told the duo that Conrad called them on the phone in Adam's Rolls Royce and warned him that an emergency was upon them. Realizing that this must be what Pantha's psychic premonition was about, the two ran to the car and headed for an immediate rendezvous with Conrad (leaving poor Jeeves stranded in the middle of the club).
Meanwhile, back in Ten Ichi's hideout, the five time-displaced warriors found themselves understandably wondering where the hell they were. Each of them demanded that the Oriental mastermind tell them why they were brought there, after which the evil mystic took advantage of their disorientation by casting a powerful spell of fealty over them, telepathically implanting horrific images of Vampirella into their minds, and convincing them that they were summoned here to this time period in order to rid the world of the great menace that Vampi posed to the human race (each of the five interpreted the "menace" according to the precepts harbored by their individual psyches, but all were overcome with the same artificially induced sense of dread). Each of the five members of the 'Time Force' therefore resolved to destroy Vampi at Ten Ichi's behest.
Near midnight elsewhere in NYC, Vampirella and Pendragon were again on stage in the middle of a performance at the Cabaret, where her mentor was gladdened that she appeared to be back to her old self. Suddenly, however, an enraged Derek Schreck and Demian Hunter kicked the front doors down, and proceeded to rush the stage and attack Vampi. Schreck made the first strike by firing a sharp wooden projectile from a small turret at the top of his wristcuff, which the she-warrior barely dodged with her preternatural reflexes, noting that this mysterious warrior attacked her as he would a member of a standard vampire strain (the supernatural strains usually have a vulnerability to wood).
Pendragon quickly jumped to his friend's aid by utilizing his learned talent for Drakulonian hypnosis to create the illusion of two huge monstrous beasts in front of their two mystery assailants. Much to the aged illusionist's surprise, however, instead of being taken aback by these horrid illusions, Hunter attacked them without hesitation (only Schreck was given pause), and quickly moved past these intangible psychic constructs to leap upon the stage and attack Vampi anew (as the text states: "The helmeted super-soldier charges forward…vaulting onto the stage and bellowing a warcry that would startle the deaf!").
At the Van Helsings' New York place of residence, Adam and Pantha quickly arrived, where the cat-lady noticed that Conrad appeared very "pale and drawn," as if he were under much strain. The elder Van Helsing informed the other two what had occurred, and told them that the only lead he had as to the whereabouts to Dr. Harris's place of captivity was a piece of black cloth he managed to tear from their assailant's hood when he attacked the two men. By using his great psychic abilities to home in on the sympathetic vibrations imbedded in the cloth, Conrad was able to discern not only the wharf warehouse location on the pier, but also Harris's predicament…and the fact that Ten Ichi was behind it.
Back at the Cabaret, Vampirella and Hunter were locked in mortal combat, with the she-warrior quickly proving stronger and quicker than the mutant-killer despite the fact that he possessed peak human strength. Startled by the fact that Vampi was beating Hunter as if he were "a soggy two-ply paper towel," Schreck resolved to enter the fray and lend his ally a hand.
In the process, Schreck mused to himself, as his ensorcelled brain mingled with the actual memories of his own nightmarish future timeline: "Ten Ichi said that when Earth finally cashes in during the next nuclear war, Vampirella's kind will breed into blood-thirsty mutants…mutants who I've tangled with before they were nicknamed werewolves! And years later, they'll eventually evolve into something still more creepy…a race of so-called demons! By us killing Vampirella now…we might avert all that horror in the future!"
[Note: It was established in Hunter's own series that his alternate future occurred on the same timeline as Schreck's, when Demian Hunter met the extremely elderly Derek Schreck during the former's final mission before his death.]
However, faster than Vampi anticipated, Hunter was back on his feet and once again savagely seeking to pummel the she-warrior with his battle staff, the human/mutant hybrid's speed so fast that she was barely able to avoid his attacks. Feeling that her life was truly endangered, Vampi concluded that she had no other recourse than to literally "go for the jugular," and she leapt upon Hunter and sunk her fangs into his throat…and was surprised at the unusually bitter taste of his blood, correctly surmising that her adversary wasn't entirely human. Horrified at Vampi's attack on his comrade-in-arms, Schreck quickly struck the she-warrior on her skull as hard as he could with his hard metal wristcuff, stunning her severely. A startled but robust Hunter got back to his feet, nursing the serious neck wound he had received, and resolved to smash the dazed she-vamp's skull with his staff. Reacting just in the nick of time, the stunned Vampi managed to morph into bat-form to escape the lethal plunge of Hunter's battle staff. Though surprised by the sudden metamorphosis of his opponent, Hunter still furiously attempted to strike the bat out of the air, but Vampi's quick evasive aerial maneuvers enabled her to steer clear of the deadly weapon. Schreck then stepped in and reminded Hunter aloud that Ten Ichi told them that if they couldn't neutralize Vampi, they should immediately return to his headquarters. Overhearing Schreck's statement, the she-warrior was alerted as to whose machinations she was truly dealing with. Reluctantly acquiescing to his ally's advice, Hunter followed Schreck out of the club, with the latter warrior relieved that he was able to talk his erstwhile comrade out of his killing frenzy.
Vampirella morphed back into her humanoid form, and resolved to pursue the two out to the streets, but quickly stopped once she heard the agonized moans of Pendragon. She then tended to her stalwart friend, ally, and mentor, who had been knocked aside and stunned via a sideswipe by Hunter (mentioning that he was lucky his vaudeville training taught him how to take a fall). For what it was worth, the audience began cheering loudly, believing that the entire altercation they just witnessed was part of the show. Vampi and Pendragon then pursued their quarry onto the street, seeing only a speedy black van quickly departing the area. Realizing that their two adversaries couldn't have escaped that quickly on foot, Vampi morphed into bat-form again and began to pursue the van. Pendragon, eager to follow, hailed a taxi and convinced the driver to follow the bat [see Classic Dialogue below]. Upon reconnoitering at the warehouse on the wharf, Vampi informed her ally that she arrived there and returned to humanoid form just in time to see their quarry enter the edifice in front of them.
Just then, a familiar looking Rolls Royce pulled up at the waterfront, and out of it emerged the Van Helsings and Pantha. Vampi, Adam, and Pantha were startled to see each other, particularly since the cat-girl was well aware that her boyfriend still had feelings for his old lover, which Adam confirmed to the reader by noting to himself that she looked "sensational" [I certainly can't argue with that, but it's not like the guy hasn't seen her wearing her uber-scanty outfit hundreds of times in the past, as well as seeing her without it!]. Adam explained how Conrad's psychic abilities led them to this warehouse, while Pantha mused to herself how she disliked the obvious "sparks" between the two former lovers. After quickly comparing notes, Vampi and Adam broke the door down together [not that she actually needed his help], and the five allies warily entered the mysterious building. Adam stated that he was fed up with Ten Ichi's manipulative and deadly involvement in their lives, and that this time he was determined to kill the evil mage, a sentiment Vampi agreed with.
A few floors up, Loo told his father that five intruders had just arrived on the premises, and Ten Ichi replied, "Ah so! My metaphysical and statistical calculations have again proven correct! The players are assembled…the pawns are in their proper places and the die is cast! I leave very little to chance, son Loo…and, by the gods of my ancestors, I will have my revenge!"
"Corridors of Doom" [Chapter 2]
Upon entering the warehouse, the five allies noticed that the entire place was adorned with Oriental statuary and ornamentation, and that before them stood five doors leading to different paths within a mini-labyrinth [Pantha noted that this set-up resembled a "Chinese version of 'Let's Make A Deal'"…ha ha]. Adam asked his father if his psychic 'second sight' could discern which door led to Ten Ichi, and in complying with that request, Conrad realized that all five paths led to the evil wizard, but also that each path was barred by a different warrior culled from different time periods, both the past and the future. Conrad's psychic abilities also informed him that Ichi set them up in a deviously wicked situation…if either of these five time-lost individuals were mortally wounded, it would "disrupt the timestream, perhaps dooming millions of people!" [if the WNU follows a multi-timeline universe, which many creative mythographers seem to agree upon, then the calamitous consequences for killing any of the five members of the 'Time Force' that Conrad's psychic senses warned him of may have been purposefully created by Ten Ichi using the power of the Pie medallion, rather than a natural phenomenon of the universe].
Each of the five members of Vampirella's troupe picked a different door, all being mindful that they dare not kill any of the opponents they would find along the path to Ten Ichi.
As Vampirella walked down the first dark corridor, she found herself distracted by her emotional discord at seeing Adam again, but she forced herself to get all of her faculties together, considering the dire situation she now faced. She then saw a room just ahead of her that appeared to be empty…unaware that Dax the Warrior stood outside the edge of the entrance portal with his sword drawn, waiting for his opponent to enter. As Vampi entered the room, Dax ambushed the she-warrior, striking her hard in the side of her face with the flat of his sword, stunning her and sending her up against the wall. The she-warrior found herself too dazed to morph into bat-form so as to avoid the advancing business end of the mighty barbarian's sword, and this also prevented her from reaching his throat with her fangs. As Dax launched towards her with the intent of skewering the powerful she-warrior with his sword, Vampi realized that she was forced against the wall at the far side of the room, unable to maneuver properly.
Along the second corridor, Pantha was walking towards her prey, also distracted by thoughts about the feelings her boyfriend still had for her best friend. Walking down a set of granite stairs into another room, the cat-woman was suddenly kicked from up above, and she realized that Derek Schreck was deftly lurking on the rafters for such a sneak attack ("I've made it a lifelong career eluding and strategically attacking mutants…and compared to them, you're a piece of cake!")
[Note: The mutants faced by Schreck and Hunter in their respective future timelines had no connection whatsoever to mutants who belong to the homo sapiens superior sub-species of humanity.]
As Schreck leapt down from the rafters to continue his battle, Pantha morphed into her panther form and angrily lunged for her opponent. However, Schreck managed to counter this move by retracting the switchblade from his wristcup and stabbing Pantha in one of her hind legs, painfully cutting her attack short. Schreck then told his injured adversary, "Next on my agenda…I'm gonna gut you!"
In the third corridor, Adam Van Helsing noticed that Demian Hunter was boldly standing out in the open holding his battle staff, waiting for his adversary to arrive. Recognizing Hunter from Vampi's description, Adam brandished his snub nose .38 firearm, and prepared to quickly end the situation. However, he underestimated Hunter's incredible speed and skill, and the mutant-killer quickly disarmed Adam with a swipe of his staff. The mutant-slayer then proceeded to beat Van Helsing mercilessly with his staff, and Adam realized that he was well out of his league with this particular opponent.
Within the fourth corridor, Conrad Van Helsing strode forth, his 'second sight' taking the place of his lack of physical vision. He suddenly sensed "seething hateful emotions" up ahead, and discerned that the entity responsible for them was not quite human. Sure enough, the robotic government killer Exterminator One hid on the other side of the tunnel with his fully automatic firearm in hand, his human personality thinking it was darkly humorous that Ten Ichi expected him to kill an aged blind man who had absolutely no chance against him ("Not that I haven't exterminated my share of derelicts, social misfits and street punks in my day, mind you! It's just that you're so out-classed, gramps…it somehow almost seems unfair, you know?"). As the Exterminator cocked his rifle bolt in preparation to fire, Conrad's keen hearing immediately recognized what the sound was, and the sentient robot quickly opened fire, spraying his opponent with a lethal rapid-fire salvo of lead [For those of you who may be interested in an example of Exterminator One's sardonic and crude sense of humor as he shot Conrad Van Helsing, these were his words during the attack: "So long, old-timer[,] can't say it's been nice knowing you! Easy as shootin' blind men in a barrel!"].
Over in the fifth corridor, Pendragon approached a doorway, and noticed a furtive, fear-laden face nervously peeking out at him from around a corner (…"as if my antagonist were an overgrown child frightened to death of me!"). Suddenly, Child jumped out into the open to face his aged opponent [and doing his best verbal imitation of the savage Hulk's speech pattern: "Bad man is friends with bad lady! Don't like bad man!" To which Pendragon wryly notes to himself: "Ye gods! My foe has the appearance and vernacular of a kindergarten reject!"]. Realizing the mental and emotional acuity of his powerful patchwork adversary, the stage illusionist wagered that his mind would be particularly subject to horrifying illusions. Thus, utilizing his hypnotic ability to cast convincing psychic apparitions, Pendragon made it appear that the boy-monster was under assault by several terrifying creatures. As Pendragon hoped, the monster kid recoiled in fear…but the situation quickly backfired when instead of fleeing the area, Child instead began lashing about blindly at the illusions with his superhuman strength. One of the monster's enormous hands struck Pendragon with a glancing blow, stunning him. The boy-monster then grabbed Pendragon and lifted him in his steely grip, and hurled the stage illusionist against the wall, intent upon finishing him off.
Back in the first corridor, Vampirella managed to sidestep Dax's lunging sword just in time, with the result that the extremely sharp weapon, thrust forward with all of the barbarian warrior's formidable strength, ended up being plunged deep into the rocky wall, trapping it there. Undaunted, Dax quickly drew a dagger from his belt holster, but he lost the reach advantage that his sword afforded him, and Vampi took full advantage of this, quickly going on the offensive. Following three quick and powerful blows (a front kick to the chin, a punch to the solar plexus, and a hand chop to the back of his neck), Dax lay summarily defeated.
In the second corridor, Pantha's great agility in her panther form enabled her to leap aside and avoid Schreck's attempt to eviscerate her with his switchblade. Realizing that she was too big a target for him in her panther form, considering the fairly cramped quarters they were fighting within, Pantha resorted to a desperate gamble and morphed back into human form [and btw, she called her one-handed opponent "Lefty," for anyone who may get a laugh out of insensitive puns]. Schreck was as surprised by this sudden transformation as Pantha had hoped, and the cat-woman ended the fight by kicking her opponent in the stones, her boots causing him enough pain that he quickly lost consciousness [any male would attest to the effectiveness of such a blow].
Within the third corridor, Adam Van Helsing continued to have the tar beaten out of him by Hunter's battle staff, when the vampire-hunter made a desperate move and delivered a karate chop to the mutant-killer's neck. He then noticed that he managed to strike and re-open the neck wound that Vampirella delivered to the super-soldier earlier. As Hunter staggered back in pain, Adam was determined to make full use of this situation, and he ruthlessly charged forward and repeatedly delivered hand chops to the human/mutant hybrid's wounded neck. Within several moments, Hunter finally succumbed to the extreme pain, and passed out, leaving a barely triumphant [and very lucky!] Adam Van Helsing to lick his wounds and leave the area.
Within the fourth corridor, Exterminator One extended his bionic arm to check the corpse of Conrad Van Helsing…and found it odd that his ocular sensors could detect no trace of blood. Realizing too late that his opponent was still alive, Conrad quickly reached forward and wrenched the deadly robot's main terminal power-artery from his head unit, effectively rendering the sentient automaton sessile. The blind vampire-hunter then noted to himself that as soon as he heard the distinctive cock of a gun barrel, he swiftly fell to the ground and avoided the lethal fusillade of bullets, and the entire incident occurred so fast that the Exterminator was momentarily unaware that his bullets didn't find their mark…and he then commended himself for doing quite well for a man without sight [but why the hell didn't he grab some of the immobile robot's weapons for use against Ten Ichi? And didn't those government spooks who designed the Exterminator One robot realize this obvious design flaw that made their robotic killer easy pickings by rendering him vulnerable to a move that was no more difficult than pulling an electric plug out of a wall socket? Maybe those technicians used to work for NASA…]
Down in the fifth corridor, the monstrous Child rushed towards the fallen Pendragon, intent upon finishing him off. Choosing to rely upon the many elaborate stage props he always carried with him, the deft illusionist threw a large amount of flash powder in the monster boy's face, stopping him in his tracks with the sudden brilliant burst of incandescence. He then began performing simple sleight-of-hand tricks, such as pulling a phony bouquet of roses from his cape in the hope of amusing his child-like adversary into a semblance of docility. As this appeared to be working [believe it or not], Pendragon finally produced a plastic ice cream cone, verifying that his opponent was "easily dazzled." When Pendragon mentioned that he regretted the ice cream cone wasn't a real one, but simply a cheap plastic replica, he was startled to see Child begin eating it anyway! Five minutes later, Child eagerly sat in the tunnel watching Pendragon entertain him with numerous stage tricks, including card tricks and the release of a living but anemic pigeon to flutter in the air about him, keeping the monstrous kid occupied [now, how the hell did Pendragon keep a live pigeon in his pocket?]. While "the patchwork juvenile with the sorely deficient I.Q." was occupied with the montage of stage tricks before him, Pendragon stealthily stepped out of the vicinity and escaped.
On the top floor of the building, Ten Ichi proposed a drink to his loyal son Loo in celebration of Vampirella's demise. Loo wisely advised his father to monitor the situation to make sure that Vampi truly met her end, but Ichi's arrogance caused him to refuse to consider the possiblility of a single member of Vampi's group surviving the assault of his 'Time Force.' Just then, the dark wizard was thoroughly startled and dejected when Vampi and her allies emerged in his lab from the corridors. Moments later, the five members of the 'Time Force' also appeared, led there by a very irate Exterminator One, who mentioned that he recovered his four allies after his back-up power system was activated and his mobility returned. The revelation of Ichi's lies had freed the warriors from his spell of fealty, and the cyborg expressed his extreme consternation for he and his allies being manipulated in that manner. As the ten allies advanced towards the evil wizard and his son, Ten Ichi utilized his psionic abilities to again tap into the power of the Pie medallion to activate the Crystal of the Ages, summoning five more warriors throughout various time periods to stand at he and his son's side (they were apparently all instantly subjected to a spell of fealty): the space hero from an alternate future timeline Maximillian Myron Mac Tavish, the zombie warrior Spook, the living dead man Coffin, the warrior and heir to Demian Hunter's cause known as Karas Hunter, and the lethal one-eyed sorcerer from the late 24th century called Darklon the Mystic.
Exterminator One was undaunted, however, and was certain the original 'Time Force' could defeat the new arrivals. Vampi instructed Pantha and Adam to tackle Ten Ichi and Loo, while the rest of them battled the new arrivals.
"Vortex" [Chapter 3]
Ten Ichi's lab was filled with chaos as the two opposing teams battled each other, while Conrad Van Helsing strove to free Dr. Harris from his entrapment on the Crystal of the Ages. As the battle raged on, however, it turned out that by summoning five more warriors from across various past and future time periods, the temporal generator was taxed beyond its limit, and it soon began reaching critical mass. Dr. Harris regained consciousness as his colleague attempted to remove him from his metal bonds. Realizing that the temporal generator was fast approaching overload, Harris warned his friend to move away immediately, but the warning came too late…within a second, the crystal device exploded, freeing Harris and knocking Conrad off of his feet. A swirling temporal vortex immediately began to engulf everyone within the room, warping each member of the 'Time Force' back to their respective time periods…while threatening to engulf the individuals indigenous to 1981 and whisking them off to other time periods, as well. Vampirella was quickly sucked into the vortex, where she managed to come into close contact with Demian Hunter. Loo managed to prevent his evil father from being sucked into the temporal whirlpool, while Adam Van Helsing helped prevent his father and Pantha from being engulfed…while the cat-girl shouted in panic that she saw her best friend absorbed into the vortex. As the temporal disturbance finally wore itself out, Conrad informed the others that the vortex took all of the 'Time Force' members back to their respective time periods…while taking Vampi "who-knows-where."
The recovering Ten Ichi then began boasting, stating that the fact Vampi was stranded forever in another time period meant that his plan succeeded in a certain fashion after all. Just then, the evil mage was stunned by the sight of Dr. Harris getting back to his feet, somehow having been prevented from being sucked into the vortex, with the Pie medallion glowing. Harris was speaking aloud, pleading to the Pie not to do something that the consciousness of the alien within the Cassiopian gadget was clearly intending to do. Harris's impassioned pleas ultimately went unheeded, and his body began to shudder as if a great force was coursing through it…and suddenly, Pie's consciousness actively took over Harris's body, using the power of the medallion to morph the scientist's body into a duplicate of the alien's true Cassiopian form in the process.
Upon witnessing the re-emergence of the Pie, Pantha at first assumed that this was another of Ichi's tricks, to which Conrad replied, "No, Pantha! The energy backlash from the time generator has released some sort of long-dormant life-force from the medallion! I sense Richard's body is now possessed by, God help him…an alien!"
The giant blue-skinned alien began to walk calmly but methodically towards the far side of the lab, when Ten Ichi angrily approached the Pie and (foolishly) demanded that the extraterrestrial hand the amulet over to him. When the Pie ignored those demands, the evil wizard attempted to challenge the alien with his spells and psionic abilities. The Pie responded by quietly turning, putting one of his hands on his emerald amulet, and simply shunting Ten Ichi and his son Loo off of the Earth. The alien then turned towards the wall and used the power of the amulet as pure destructive force, easily blasting a hole through the mortar. The Pie then stepped onto the wharf, and when Adam asked Pendragon if there was anything he could do, the aged illusionist reminded his ally that the alien's power greatly surpassed any trick he could bring to bear. Conrad ran up to the departing alien and shouted to Harris to try and reassert his consciousness, but the Pie simply pushed the vampire-hunter across the room with a casual shove.
As Adam tended to his father, Conrad told him, "That creature in Richard's body is more powerful than Ten Ichi and his time-warriors combined! He…it must be restrained until we find out what his intentions are!" As Adam, Conrad, and Pendragon rushed into the Manhattan evening to figure out a way to stop the Pie, Pantha elected to stay behind and carry out a "long-shot" plan she had to find and retrieve Vampirella. Having no time to waste with the Pie strutting through the streets of Manhattan, they felt they had no choice but to leave the cat-woman to her own devices.
Walking over to one of the advanced communication arrays that Ten Ichi had in his lab, she began to activate the machine ("Ten Ichi's got this place packed with more gadgets and devices than a James Bond heavy!") [hmmm…does this off-hand comment perhaps indicate that in the WNU, Mr. Bond, who is a prominent inhabitant of that reality, did indeed have many sensationalistic films made about his career?].
Within moments, Pantha managed to contact Manners, the robotic servant of Restin Dane, the time-traveling hero known as the Rook, at the latter's headquarters across the city. Hastily explaining the particulars of Vampi's situation to the robot, Manners regretfully informed the cat-girl that he had no idea as to the current whereabouts of the Rook, but he agreed to pick her up and bring her back to the headquarters until his temporal-spanning master returned from wherever he was. Within six minutes, Manners picked up Pantha on a highly advanced uni-purpose jetsled with "bat-out-of-hell drive" [*groan*]. Utilizing the flying vehicle, Manners and Pantha quickly departed to the Rook's Northeast Fortress at a speed exceeding that of Mach 2.
Meanwhile, well over a hundred years forward in Hunter's alternate future timeline, a reptilian mutant "demon" was scaling a human-inhabited stone fortress, intent upon investigating the structure's possible defenses since his commander, the mutant warlord Colonel Plith, was unable to attack the many unarmed human settlements in the North due to that human fort blocking their planned invasion route. Upon spotting a human sentry on the roof guarding the top of the fort, the deadly mutant attacked the hapless soldier from behind and stabbed him to death with his dagger. As the vile mutant departed the bleeding corpse before him to investigate the integrity of the fort, he failed to notice a shimmering azure light appearing outside the fortress on the ground. This was a brief manifestation of the temporal vortex, which deposited Demian Hunter back to his native time period…along with the anachronistic Vampirella. At first, Hunter was unable to tell Vampi precisely where they were, since there were no identifying landmarks that he recognized, though he tersely stated, "…wherever it is, I sense danger in the air! Murder! Intrigue! I think I'm going to be very comfortable here!"
In a cabin on the other side of the fort, the encampment of humans who were stationed there were mapping out their strategy to counter Col. Plith's mutant army, which their leader expected to attack the fort (one of his men was incredulous about this, thinking that they had managed to wipe all of the "demons" out). Suddenly, one of the other men burst into the room and announced that he discovered the body of their sentry, Josh, who had just been stabbed to death. The men (who dressed and spoke like cowboys!), quickly took up arms and went looking for the killer. They soon encountered Vampi and Hunter, whom they believed to be the "mutant-lovin'" killers responsible for Josh's murder. Refusing to listen to Vampi's attempts at an explanation, the men prepared to attack, after which Hunter told his ally to run while he held them off…and of course, Vampi refused to leave her ally behind. The men then blasted Vampi and Hunter with low-intensity laser pistols, rendering both of them unconscious.
Back in 1981, Manners and Pantha arrived at the Rook's Northeast Fortress. The well-mannered robot showed concern for the cat-woman's injured arm, but she assured him that she was okay (and noted to herself that her "Drakulonian cell structure" was quickly enabling her to heal from the wound Schreck inflicted upon her during their battle). Manners told his guest that she should make herself comfortable while she awaited the Rook's return, as the robot had to leave to attend to other tasks he was assigned.
Unable to sit back and do nothing while her best friend was time-lost and imperiled ("it's tempting to keep her stuck in time…away from Adam! But I couldn't do something as low as that…not to my best friend!"), she began manipulating the Rook's central computer, and programmed it to track any time displacement that recently occurred in the NYC area. She quickly managed to home in on the recent vortex, and she discovered that Vampi had been displaced to an alternate future of the year 2107 (specifically, on Hunter's future timeline). Locating one of the Rook's time castles elsewhere in the lab, Pantha resolved to use it to travel to 2107 on that particular time track to rescue her friend [she previously learned how to operate the time castles during the last time she met the Rook, in the Rook story from EERIE #94-95].
"Meanwhile," forward in the year 2107, Vampirella regained consciousness to find that she and Hunter were tightly bound to a large stake in the ground, where the humans in the fort were going to burn them alive. Once again, they refused to listen to their claims of innocence, particularly since the men recognized Hunter as a half-breed (the leader lamented, "Though I've gotta admit yore partner surely looks like a white woman…'cept she's dressed like one'a them godless demon harlots!"). Then, the scattered wood at the feet of the entrapped Vampi and Hunter was lit and set ablaze.
Back in 1981, the Pie strode through the streets of NYC, his medallion absorbing all available energy in the vicinity, such as electrical energy, thereby causing an exponentially growing blackout to afflict the city, as well as causing all cars in the area to stall. As the giant azure-skinned alien reached Broadway Avenue, much of the city was literally in the dark. In the meantime, Adam Van Helsing and his two allies arrived on the scene, and informed the gathered police officers that Pie was causing these blackouts. The officer in charge refused to believe that the being before them was an alien, however, instead thinking they were dealing with human terrorists. The lawman then announced that a S.W.A.T. team was called in to halt the alien's stride…to which Conrad pleaded that the Pie must be captured, not slain.
"Back" in 2107, Hunter and Vampirella were now trapped on a stake that was burning, and the flames were now becoming unendurable as they moved closer to the two hapless allies. Just then, however, the time castle carrying Pantha materialized in the vicinity. Pantha left the device, and saw the smoke from what she believed to be a bonfire several yards ahead, along with the gathered crowd; the cat-girl then noted to herself that it resembled a scene out of the Wild West. Unfortunately, Pantha's arrival was noticed by the mutant interloper who killed the human sentry. When the cat-woman noticed that Vampi "was the bonfire" and rushed to her aid, the mutant killer entered the time castle, determined to figure out how it operated, since he realized that if the humans (whom he and his fellow mutant "demons" pejoratively referred to as the "soft-skins") had more of these devices, the mutants would surely lose the war. Examining the interior of the time castle to report the results back to Col. Plith, the mutant accidentally activated the retrieval switch, and the time castle…along with its unwelcome passenger…returned to the Rook's headquarters in 1981.
Upon the time castle's re-materialization in the Rook's fortress, the mutant disembarked from the device, and was astounded by his surroundings. Upon hearing voices approaching, the killer mutant quickly hid.
Those voices came from the Rook, his anachronistic great-grandfather and ally Bishop Dane, and Manners, who were now entering this section of the Fortress. The Rook was complaining to Bishop for shooting up a network television studio they were being interviewed in when the aged but surly gun-slinger felt that some of the interviewer's questions insulted the good name of the Danes. Upon arriving in the lab, Bishop told Manners that Pantha was supposed to be waiting there for them, yet she was nowhere in sight; Manners couldn't account for her absence. Upon activating his infra-red ocular sensors, the robotic servant discovered that the time castle close to them had heat patterns around it, indicating that it was very recently activated. Hearing this, the spying mutant intruder now realized that he had happened upon a time machine, which was rumored to be possessed by certain "ancient" folk, and reasoned that if he could capture one of the time castles, he could return to his own time period and deliver a powerful weapon to Col. Plith for use in their war against the humans. The mutant understood that first he would have to destroy the two humans and the robot who inhabited this headquarters, so he aimed his laser pistol at the intrepid trio standing before him.
Meanwhile, in the middle of Broadway and 42nd Street, the NYPD riot squad opened fire on the Pie, who used the medallion to create a protective energy shield around him that easily repelled every bit of weaponry the S.W.A.T. team bombarded him with [too bad he didn't do this 48 years earlier in Stillwater, especially since he was then only going up against a group of shotgun-wielding hicks!]. The head of the unit told his men to cease fire, since their attack was having no discernable effect on the alien, and it was now up to the National Guard to step in.
As the attack ceased, the Pie raised his arms and his amulet began absorbing huge amounts of energy once more, causing the blackout to claim exponentially larger portions of the city with each step he took. Adam Van Helsing remarked that it appeared nothing could stop the Pie, but Pendragon finally decided to attempt to use his hypnotic ability to create illusions to halt the alien's progress. Using those abilities, the illusionist conjured a psychic image of a 15-foot giant humanoid in front of the Pie (who resembled a cross between a bulky barbarian and Henry Frankenstein's Monster popularized by the Universal films, complete with the metal bolts in his neck).
"Battle At The End Of Time" [Chapter 4]
In the year 2107, the brutal mutant military leader Col. Plith was being indulged in his palace by his harem of semi-nude mutant concubines, when one of his lieutenants interrupted him to mention that their scout had not returned from his mission. Reacting with extreme anger and swatting his concubines aside ("Away, worthless whores! I have work to do…strategy to plot!" [charming dude, eh?]), Col. Plith quickly made his way to his war room. Once there, he told his "demon" soldiers that they must assume their scout was taken captive, and that their plans had by now been tortured from his lips. Thus, Plith resolved to launch an attack on the human-controlled fort at dawn.
"Back" in the Rook's lab in 1981, Bishop Dane suddenly caught a waft of an odd scent…and being the formidable gun-slinger from the Old West that he was, he swiftly turned around and shot the mutant killer behind them to death, who was about to slay them with high-intensity shots from his laser pistol [sorry, but I don't want to call it a "ray gun," as was the case in this story, as I haven't used that term for such a weapon since my youngest days…I am currently too used to using more quasi-sophisticated terms like "phaser," "phase pistol," "plasma gun," etc.]. When the Rook queried as to how Bishop knew that being was behind them, the old guy replied, "Easy, son…I smelt it! This stinkin' critter's th' only one 'round here what's gone longer'n me without takin' a bath!" The Rook then surmised that one of the time castles must indeed have been used, and that must be responsible for Pantha's disappearance from the lab and her place being taken by the now dead reptilian being before them. Telling Manners to "hold down the fort," the Rook instructed Bishop to accompany him back to whatever time period the castle had been sent to.
In the year 2107, Vampirella, Pantha, and Hunter were brawling with the human encampment, when the Rook and Bishop Dane suddenly appeared from the time castle, and halted the conflict with a warning shot. Bishop then drew both of his six-shooters and told the men in no uncertain terms that if they didn't drop their weapons, his "trigger finger" would do the job for them.
In 1981, the Pie confronted Pendragon's monstrous illusion before him, and instead of attacking it he simply absorbed the psychic energy comprising the apparition into his medallion, proving that he could leech psionic as well as electrical energy. The alien then calmly continued his walk down Broadway, absorbing the rest of the electrical energy in NYC. Pendragon had to recover from a bout of vertigo caused by the Pie absorbing the psychic energy he used to create that illusion, and he subsequently noted that the alien now appeared more powerful than ever. Conrad then attempted a new stratagem…using his psychic abilities to try and telepathically contact the consciousness of Dr. Richard Harris, in the hope that he could enable his friend to re-assert control over the alien's body. Upon making the attempt, Conrad succeeded in contacting the psyche of Dr. Harris…who informed him that he was still alive, but his consciousness was absorbed into the amulet when the Pie took over his physical form…he then told the aged vampire-hunter that he wasn't certain what his alien friend was up to, but he asked Conrad to fully trust the sapphire-skinned giant. Concluding the telepathic communiqué, Conrad grudgingly agreed to trust the Pie…but only because he implicitly trusted Dr. Harris's judgment.
In 2107, Vampirella embraced the Rook for helping her allies, and the time-traveler was approached by one member of the encampment who apologized to the time-traveler, as he recognized the man as the legendary Restin Dane. The leader of the encampment disagreed, telling the man that the Rook was merely a "fairy tale"…until Bishop Dane changed his mind by poking his gun in the skeptic's face. The reverent man [whose name was also Josh!], explained the situation to the Rook regarding what they believed to be Col. Plith's imminent attack, and asked the time-traveling hero if he would lend his legendary skill to helping them fend off this attack. The Rook regretfully told him that such assistance wasn't possible, as he needed to get Vampi and Pantha back to their own time period. Just then, Bishop told his great-grandson that he had just realized exactly where they were…to which the Rook conceded that the area looked vaguely familiar. Bishop then told him that it "oughta" look familiar, because it was a fort they had been to before, albeit in another time period…the Alamo.
"Back" in 1981, the National Guard had arrived, commanded by a General Browning, who was angry to see Conrad Van Helsing on the scene. The general explained that back around World War II [actually, 1934], a large blue alien was said to have wiped a small New England town out of existence, and that he believed (correctly) that this was the same entity [see the Pie story "Daddy and the Pie" from EERIE #64 for the full details on that incident; General Browning was likely conflating the 1934 incident with the later incident involving Rich Harris using the gadget against the people of Stillwater several years later]. Gen. Browning wanted to avert the alien wiping out all of NYC (not understanding that the Pie was actually peaceful, and destroyed the town of Stillwater in defense of his friend, Dick Harris, Sr.). One of the general's men appeared and informed him that the blackout was quickly spreading, and it now covered all of Boston and Washington, D.C. Adam Van Helsing then mentioned to his father that it appeared that the Pie's medallion could absorb kinetic energy as well as other forms, and that he grew stronger with the great amount of energy he absorbed from the riot squad's attack…and that if the military launched a full-scale assault on the alien, and he absorbed all of that energy, he would become nigh-invincible. Conrad told his son that he was aware of the situation, but he had contacted the consciousness of Dr. Harris, who told him to trust the Pie. Needless to say, Adam couldn't believe his ears, especially with the alien being responsible for the entire East Coast being blacked out, and with the Pentagon being placed on full alert status.
Before the general could challenge Conrad on that, one of the infantrymen noticed that the Pie began using the power of his medallion to levitate into the air, with both of his arms outstretched…and the National Guard dreaded the alien's next move, whatever it may be.
"Back" in 2107, Hunter's enhanced senses caused him to realize that a large contingent of mutants were heading towards the Alamo fort…and all of the men in the encampment quickly manned the walls at the mutant-hunter's sudden command. Upon doing so, the Rook pointed out that the situation looked quite grave, as they were being surrounded by a huge mutant military contingent on all sides. Plith himself led the attack from the air, on the back of a large flying mutated animal that resembled a griffin with bat-like wings instead of feathered eagle wings.
As the attack commenced at Col. Plith's command, Vampirella, Pantha, the Rook, Bishop Dane, and Hunter assisted the outgunned humans in the Alamo fort to engage in a brutal battle with the mutant attack force. The humans fought back with both bullets and high intensity laser beam blasts, and the chaotic conflict (according to the narrative captions) lasted for hours [the two-page scene of this battle was easily the goriest part of the story, which included the Rook blowing a hole in a mutant's stomach with his semi-automatic firearm, and Vampirella crushing another mutant's throat with a spearhand thrust].
In 1981, Gen. Browning looked to the sky with binoculars, scanning for the squadron of jet fighters he ordered from Lakehurst…and was pleased to see that they soon arrived on the scene. Each of these naval combat jets locked their radar on the lone form of the Pie hovering below them, and unleashed a torrent of heat-seeking air-to-air missiles at the alien [in the middle of NYC?! Very responsible of you and the Pentagon, Gen. Browning]. Each of the powerful weapons exploded upon hitting the Pie's shimmering force field…and his amulet absorbed the kinetic energy of each blast, growing more and more powerful by the moment. By the time the assault was over, the Pie had absorbed such an extraordinary degree of energy that his hovering form was glowing with a blinding degree of emerald light, with a wave of heat that was almost overwhelming to behold by Conrad Van Helsing and the others on the ground below. Adam realized that with the power the Pie now wielded, he could actually destroy all of NYC (and he regretted not warning Gen. Browning about the ability of the alien's medallion to absorb kinetic energy).
"Back" in 2107, as the tumultuous battle at the Alamo continued to rage, Vampirella realized that they were greatly outnumbered by the mutant soldiers, and it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed. Thus, she decided to take a different strategy. Morphing into bat-form, Vampi quickly took to the air and attacked Gen. Plith himself (whom she recognized as the leader of the mutant assault due to the orders he was constantly shouting). Not expecting such an attack, Plith was taken off-guard, and Vampi managed to seriously wound him by tearing open his jugular while in bat-form. When Plith fell to the ground dead, as Vampi had hoped the remaining members of his mutant battalion took this as an "ill omen," and they hastily retreated. The man named Joshua expressed utter surprise that they beat the mutants considering the odds against them, but Hunter reminded him that though the reptilian malcontents fled now, they would retreat back to one of their radioactive "hot spots" to regroup, and would surely return again in the future, so the war was far from over.
With this battle done, the Rook, Bishop Dane, Vampirella, and Pantha entered the time castle and set the coordinates to return them to their proper time period. Upon doing so, Vampi requested that he drop them off in NYC.
When the time castle materialized in NYC (somehow at the very site of the military's stand-off with the Pie), Vampirella and her time-traveling allies approached the Van Helsings and asked them what was going on. Adam began to fill her in, until he noticed that within the blinding glare encompassing the body of the Pie, the alien suddenly morphed his form back to that of Dr. Richard Harris. Now having all of the Pie's recently acquired power as the consciousness of the alien returned to the amulet, the scientist hovered momentarily while the naval jets continued to circle him. As the text explained: "He knows…experiences what it is like to be a god…to be Pie! He looks down with benevolent eyes at his unseeing friend, Conrad, far below him…then turns his gaze at the full moon and the stars beyond…"
Upon doing so, Dr. Harris, now possessing the god-like power recently acquired by the Pie, soared away from the Earth, quickly reaching escape velocity. Gen. Browning was baffled as to why the alien didn't attack the city and destroy them once he gained all of that power…without realizing that attacking and harming others was never the Pie's intention, and that Dr. Harris's faith in his friend was well-founded. When Vampi asked Conrad for an explanation, he told the she-warrior that the Pie wasn't absorbing all of that energy to gain power so as to harm anyone, as they feared…he simply wanted his medallion to absorb enough energy so that he and Dr. Harris would be powerful enough to leave the Earth, traverse warp space, and return to the Cassiopians. This was also why the alien passively baited the military into attacking him, thus providing him with vast amounts of kinetic energy for the medallion to absorb.
As Dr. Richard Harris retreated from the Earth at incalculable speed, Conrad Van Helsing said, "Richard is relinquishing his life on Earth so that Pie can return to Cassiopeia! But the loss is not so keen: the two old friends will be together again at long last…and what better fate can an astronomer ask than to live among the stars?"
Comments: This book-length tale was in many ways the last hurrah for Warren Comics, as they closed shop for good less than a year later. This crossover epic was obviously an attempt to cash in on the Marvel crossover tradition as Warren unsuccessfully struggled to gain a niche in the super-hero field (Marvel was publishing their original mega-crossover CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS mini-series around this time). Though this story was fascinating to read because of its scope and the amount of Warren characters who crossed over with each other, the script by Rich Margopoulos, despite a shining moment here and there, was filled with much of the cheesy and histrionic dialogue that characterized many comic books during the time. Except for the very violent battle at the Alamo in the 2107 sequence, it became clear that the current staff of Warren were trying to move all of their books (save for 1994) from R-rated to what we would today call PG-13 territory, in the hope of tapping into the same audience who read Marvel Comics, as the latter company utterly dominated the industry then (this was before DC regained a hand-hold on the industry, beginning with the publication of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, which many believe launched the Iron Age of Comics). Hence, Marvel were then considered the standard to follow when it came to super-heroes…a genre that Warren was ill-suited to tackle. Despite this very interesting experiment, EERIE was to end nine issues later (along with CREEPY and 1994). The fact that their new super-hero mag, THE GOBLIN, was abruptly cancelled after only three issues when the fourth issue was announced on their bullpen pages--along with frequent reprints in most of their comic mag titles--served as clear indicators that the end was near. VAMPIRELLA and FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND were all to last but one month following the demise of EERIE, its parent title CREEPY, and its sci-fi title 1994 (formerly called 1984, until George Orwell's estate complained).
As such, though Warren published other book-length stories from time to time in the past, this type of massive crossover experiment was not to be repeated, since none of the titles lasted long enough after this to make it possible. Hence, EERIE #130 appears to be the Warren equivalent of the Godzilla movie "Destroy All Monsters"…representing one final, impressive attempt to combine numerous characters from elsewhere in their shared universe to end an era with something akin to a blaze of glory (if this analogy makes sense to anyone).
The story in this mag, "Stitches In Time," was divided into four separate chapters, each with individual titles (these chapter break-downs were noted above in the course of the synopsis).
The one very good thing about this story, other than being the ultimate Warren crossover issue that cemented the Warrenverse as a shared universe, was the honorable, dignified, and touching end to the saga of the Pie, one of the most fondly remembered of all of Warren's series characters, and one of the few true heroes among them.
Though it was more than welcome to see so many fondly remembered EERIE heroes again, especially since all of them had apparently died in the past, thanks to the convenience of time travel, that still didn't up sales enough to save the book. Moreover, because the appearances of Spook, Mac Tavish, Hunter 2, Darklon the Mystic, and Coffin were so brief, and because their battle with the initial members of the 'Time Force' was seen in just one splash panel, this probably served to make many readers feel cheated, and to leave the book with the idea that the return of these latter five--and perhaps the entire story--was nothing more than a glorified attention-getting gimmick designed to save a failing, once proud book that was part of a failing, once proud comic mag empire.
The art by E.R. Cruz was decently rendered, and also seemed to be a concerted effort to imitate the Marvel style…who didn't always have the best artists or art style around, contrary to popular opinion, especially not in the early '80s. Hence, the art may have seemed to be merely adequate to many readers (it was to me).
Because of all of this, the entire issue may have appeared more as a grandiose novelty rather than being perceived as the epic event that the Warren staff hoped its diminishing fan base would see it as.
Since Dr. Richard Harris displayed the ability to achieve limited control over the Pie's medallion without inadvertently causing it to release destructive force by 1981, it can be surmised that in the ensuing decades since the second (and final) Pie story, he had practiced using the device for quite a while. It also appears that the original spherical shape of Pie's gadget was changed to a rather flat medallion shape due to circumstances unknown during those years.
It was never explained how Child was able to talk in this story when he was unable to do so at all in his own series, and I'm sure the attempt to make him come off as Warren's answer to the savage Hulk with his stilted third-person vernacular (but replacing the self-referent "Hulk" with "Child," of course), wasn't very welcome by the many fans who adored the original "Child" series illustrated by the implacable Rich Corben. It was sad to see such a good and fondly remembered character treated rather disrespectfully and in a "gimmicky," derivative manner, especially after many Warren fans were doubtlessly glad to see him back. However, this could provide evidence towards my theory that Child may have survived his alleged death in the final story of his series ("Childhood's End"), and that Ten Ichi's Crystal of the Ages snatched him from some point in time after that story, after which he had learned the rudiments of language [perhaps from having issues of THE INCREDIBLE HULK read to him???].
WNU Connections: This story is particularly important to creative mythographers researching the Warrenverse, since it officially brings several Warren characters into the WNU by virtue of their crossover with Vampirella and the Rook, the only two Warren characters who have been readily accepted as part of the "consensus" WNU chronology. Hence, other than Vampi and the Rook, and their respective supporting casts, this story officially brings Dax the Warrior, Exterminator One, Derek Schreck, Demian Hunter, Child, the Pie (and thus, the Cassiopians), Spook, Darklon the Mystic, Mac Tavish, Karas Hunter (a.k.a., Hunter 2), and Coffin into the WNU. Some of these characters (such as Dax the Warrior) crossed over with some of the Rook's supporting cast before, as well as with each other (such as Hunter with an Exterminator cyborg and Darklon the Mystic), but this story truly made their inclusion in the Newtonverse official.
Since Schreck, Exterminator One, Hunter, Hunter 2, and Mac Tavish hail from alternate futures that are clearly a disparate branch from that of the Star Trek future, they can be said to inhabit some of the many alternative future time tracks that are known to connect to the WNU, or perhaps with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe [ERBU], another alternate universe frequently researched by creative mythographers for its connections to the WNU.
It is one of my theories that Ten Ichi has some connection to Fu Manchu (as does the Yellow Claw of the WNU), but what this connection may be is currently open to speculation.
Classic Dialogue: When Pendragon entered the cab earlier in the story and asked the cabbie to follow Vampirella in bat-form, their conversation went like this:
Cabbie: "Where to, bub?"
Pendragon: "Just follow that bat!"
Pendragon: "The ebon, web-winged night creature there!"
It was nice to see how well Pendragon can explain things to the layman when he's under pressure.
When the cab arrived near the warehouse, and Vampirella had by now morphed back into her humanoid form, the cabbie said to Pendragon: "Hey, pal…seems I lost the bat! All's I see is a chick decked out like she's ready for Halloween in the tropics!"
Ha ha…I certainly couldn't think of a better way to describe Vampi's way cool attire!
Time Frame: Much of this story likely took place at some point in late 1981, close to the publishing date of EERIE #130 but occurring enough time before it to give the publisher of EERIE in the WNU sufficient time to record the event by early 1982. Some portions of the story took place in Hunter's alternate dystopian future, which I posit to occur in the year 2107, and not 100 years after this date, as stated in this story. The precise time frame of Demian Hunter's native era has been contradicted more than once in the Warren chronicles, and I explain my reasoning for placing it in the first decade of the 22nd century (within an alternate future time track) in my indexes to "Exterminator One" and "Hunter," posted elsewhere on this site. One day, I hope to construct a timeline for the alternate future time track shared by Derek Schreck, Demian Hunter, Karas Hunter, and Darklon the Mystic, as well as a contingent of Exterminator cyborgs, the first of whom, Corben Steele, was first chronologically seen in the Exterminator story "Steele" from 1994 #19, which featured a guest appearance by Demian Hunter early in his career, and is indexed in the "Exterminator One" index. I refer to this timeline as the Hunter Timeline.
Demian Hunter was the only member of the 'Time Force' who was seen in his indigenous time period in this story.