Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Ficta of Sun Strike: days on Earth, days in dream

Being abducted to become the champion of another realm may sound like the ultimate delayed adulthood fantasy to some. But dividing times between the normal and super normal worlds can have its wear and tear on one’s nerves, as Sun Strike, aka Clay Alexander Reaves, discovers in the pages of his famous 1970s book SUNSTRIKE! by Broke As a Joke Comics Group. Here's another column devoted to the history of this fictional series.

So the Star Man takes him in a bolt from the blue, going to be with the universe not long after taking Clay to the solar powered world of Luxitca, to be the sole champion of an oppressed people. Dragon Chest, his gruff instructor, nevertheless comes to be impressed with Clay and begins to lay out for him his role in facing the Voidon invasion from the towers of Kolpar, powered by the Zavox on the Dark side of the Moon.

Let’s say there’s 5 times Clay finds himself back on Earth from Luxitica. One is when he goes back to cover his tracks so he is not declared legally dead. Does he come back for weddings, funerals, births? There’s three instances more to choose from, it’s like a hitch in today’s Army. The other time, he doesn’t know why he’s back on Earth and can’t seem to find the reason why, while events on Luxitica had grown to a sort of crucial boiling point or transformation. It could also be related to Tranz on that world if I see how. But at the time, Clay doesn’t figure out why that happened.

As the lone and secret star, he goes to risk his life while exploring how to be a super powered being. He’s interrupted in this by a trip back to Earth depicted mostly in issues 7 and 8, though a couple of famous flashbacks fill this story in with deeper context, once in 31 and then again in #97.

It’s the ultimate fantasy about not going to college or a job and becoming a geek’s dream life. His exploration of his abilities and existence living like this super man are enveloped in lessons and observations and interactions with Luxiticans, and occasionaly Earth people.

The first three times Sun Strike comes back to Earth from Luxitica, he has his powers as Sun Strike. The first happens around issue seven, just as he’s dealt with the homesickness of his bizarre fate, drafted by the Star Man. In 9 he achieves a total surrender of self that allows his Sun strike powers to show themselves, and he feels a connection with Luxitica and her champions and the cause of their freedom. His adjustments to something of a normal life, when any institutionalizing of him as hero is outlawed by the new invaders, get him involved with the people of Luxitica and the rebellion. So, he’s quite surprised to leave, find himself solving a crime on Earth. But savin the day means coming back across the barrier as a more complete Sun Strike than the one so frustrating to the last masters.
So, the first visit to Earth is fairly short.

I think we get him back to Earth the second time around 23, where he follows a vision of peril and tries to be Earth’s defender as well as luxitica’s. But he forgets he’s Sun Strike, possibly, until the menace makes its move. He becomes aware of the subtle menaces of melancholy on Earth, and praises its beauty. It is in essence one long poem about being “the Lone and Secret Star” that sees a different mode of operations and a different relationship with his own powers as he wonders if he can set up life on Earth again. After his second transfer back to Earth, he believes he can do so at will. The conditions of this alignment persist several Luxitican months. At that point, however, he can no longer traverse the barrier successfully and feels needed most in Luxitica.

Clay’s access to his powers gets blocked by a blanket effort to trap him in human form, I’m guessing. That’s why it takes us till 26 & 27 for him to face the Voidon’s source, in “And now...Zavox!” That very battle takes him back to Luxitica, and the phase where he can traverse the barrier begins, though it will not remain as casual to do. “In or out!” as Mom used to say when we kids were running between the yard and inside the house, restlessly. Really, that’s the emotional place in me where I find this acceptable. My childhood seems full of angels.

So by issue 31 he’s come to Earth the third time, and tries to fill in to be Clay Reeves again, like he’ll ever just have a normal life. Strangely, this is the time he doesn’t actually direct himself toward Earth in any way, but simply finds himself resuming life there, but with full knowledge of who he is as Clay and SunStrike. He never finds out why at the time he is moved, but never does he know why he’s been transferred back. Was he needed for the war? Was he summoned? Was there an important death? He finds the rebel contigent in tatters and doesn’t know if any mortal hand was in this random change of states that involves his life. The next three issues make a poignant trilogy in which he summons the will to fight for his loved ones, and pays the price for his victory by remaining on Luxitica at the end, to find he cannot traverse back again.

The three Earth visits are more like traditional super hero comics where the hero has a civilian life and his super powered life parallels a human experience with a supporting cast, who unwittingly share in that super human’s altered environment. We’ll get to what is altered and how, later, I imagine. Sometimes a super villain attack is part of that environment, but there will be time to deal with his absentee life. It’s fitting that he leaves it without willing consciously to do so, only to discover the paths to Earth, while they might be discovered, will take time to suit Clay Reeves when Sun Strike is the only hope of rallying the Rebels. Now, even if he can go back to Earth, he can’t.

But it does in fact happen anyway, just as we’re building up the last pieces of the confrontation for which he’s prepared all this time, with the shadow government’s successful attempt to blend in and rule the Luxiticans not as conquerors but from the inside of their democracy. They essentially launder their resources and go from a failing invading army to behind the scenes powers in the new Luxitica, the big subplot on display in the first half of 1978's episodes.

The successful comeback of the remaining Rebels will set the stage for a Final Battle, of the sort that the craftiest of the enemy realizes will risk eliminating their overt occupation of the country. The opportunity to play behind the scenes will give them leverage over Sun Strike even in victory. That battle begins in #38, only to see SunStrike somehow sent back to Earth without his powers. It is probably one of those things manipulated by an enemy deep inside the camp of the Everlasting Champions that provides support and training to Sun sTrike and other guerillas, but it brings him close to some important aspect of Earth life: either the birth, the death, or the wedding. I think this time its the birth, to contrast with the death of the battle field. At any rate, powerless Clay is off the field until the penultimate chapter following, #40.

At this point, he’s declared an outlaw for usurping the powers of Sun strike as an outsider. By the time he leaves in #41, it’s apparently for good.

Appropriately, there are five times in the remainder of the 109 issue run where Sun Strike returns to Luxitica, though again, some are close together enough to seem like the new status quo for the series. But where they fit in to the remaining 68 issues is the subject of another story.

Marc's in the Dark

Questions from the mail bag about the history of this nearly-impossible-to-find collectible series that predates the upcoming PORTAL IMMORTAL stories from Integr8d Soul Comics!

WHATEVER HAPPENED to the cool ass S?unStrike space plane?

In the first issue, the UFO like craft is his means off planet to the dimensional riff. The craft reappears in issue eleven as his own, though he is not prepared to do anything but run away in it until #14. Still, he is aware it is a high-profile way of letting the enemy know they are dealing with the Everlasting Champions. He wonders sometimes if he is not sent out there to draw fire.

His actual fights in space occur in #14, #17, and then #19 thru #22 are centered around an odyssey mostly taken in that Space Plane. Its first appearance in #1 in 1974 presages the popular Lucasfilm world to debut three years afterwards in theaters everywhere. The first eleven issues come out over ’74 and ’75. So by the spring of ’76, a year before STAR WARS, Sunstrike is depicted in his Space Plane (sorry scans not working).

In fact, all his initial space fighting adventures above the planet occur in 1976. The next year finds him on Earth much of the time, but they close out ’77 with one more Space Plane dogfight, in #29. After that, two years after the first appearance of him using it, Sun Strike uses it in #38, where it’s apparently destroyed. By this point, Sun strike’s sent back to Earth, as Clay. When he makes it back for the last battle in #40, he doesn’t need the Space Plane to deliver what is as close to a killing blow to tyranny as he can deliver.

So! you didn't just imagine it. There were five great adventures of Sun Strike playing star pilot, just as there were five great adventures from Luxitica back to Earth!

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