|Edited by John Morrow||Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at even larger size.|
Captain Victory & The Lightning Lady
The Original Screenplay © Jack Kirby and Steve ShermanFrom Jack Kirby Collector #20
Attacking the Insectons in CAPTAIN VICTORY #4.
Art © Jack Kirby.
(The concept of Captain Victory began in the mid-1970s as this movie screenplay by Jack and Steve Sherman. This first draft story treatment was initially submitted on March 11, 1977, and while a number of things changed when Jack produced it in comics form, the character of the Lightning Lady is remarkably well-defined. Our thanks to Steve Sherman for sharing this rare gem with us.)
The film opens with a weirdly-diffused lighting effect which leaps busily across the screen, accompanied by a soft, droning, musical hum, the strange embodiment of what is happening on the screen. The formless, shifting light begins to resolve itself in more meaningful terms to the viewer. The humming sound has grown louder. It is _recognizable as a human chorus imitating the collective buzzing of an insect swarm. In effect, what we are witnessing, as the image is brought into sharper focus, is the human equivalent of a beehive in the heat of furious activity. Men and women, in sharply animated condition, jostle past each other in endless haste to accomplish some nameless task in an alien structure, which is not unlike the natural environment of a bee colony as visualized by the average audience.
This, in fact, is just what a larger overall shot of this scene communicates to the viewer, as the sound, having reached crescendo, blends with the devastating impact of the entire image: A sight, similar to the startling and intriguing sensation achieved by one who has sliced away the section of a hive to reveal the massive turmoil within. The people, in a far shot, ape the seething movement of an insect horde, in tightly packed numbers, diligently engaged with some universal purpose, undefinable and alien to the human mind.
We begin to rise above this scene, for a larger view of the structure, as it breaks through the surface of the Earth in an ugly lumpish design, like some monstrous mouth emerging from the soil, its giant, bony teeth poking through the cracked surface of the wide circular heap caused by the force of its thrust.
On the surface, the buzzing has subsided and become a tolling bell which echoes in the deserted streets of a fair-sized town. The buildings and stores look unoccupied. Traffic vehicles are not to be seen. A rooftop shot of the surrounding countryside accents the complete absence of life. It is a place sucked clean of all moving things-an empty husk, a past tense existing in the present.
We are now on a road, moving like a car, past billboards leading out of town. It is on the progression of these signs that the film's title and credits are brought into view. This is accompanied by appropriate music, which increases in pace as the speed of movement accelerates with each passing sign. The last billboard rushes out of view as the road and billboards become a moving blur, hurtling at the audience at breakneck speed.
The lighting starts to fade as we barrel through the growing darkness. We hear the roll of thunder, and the first flashes of lightning make an eerie web of the sky. A moment later, the sky becomes alive with the continuous traces of fiery brilliance, which now forms a permanent curtain of lightning across the black horizon. As this elemental draws rapidly closer, it becomes more violent in nature, until we find ourselves swept into its blinding fury. When we are inside its chaotic core, our senses are assaulted by naked light and frightening, unbearable sound. This nightmarish experience ends at its most terrifying peak and, abruptly, we plunge through to face a startled policeman and a crowd of onlookers.
The viewer begins to understand what this movement through the barrier represents when we see the policeman confronted by a smiling young man attired in a costume-a costume common to the super-hero genre. Although it is apparently of some kind of fabric, it has a dull, metallic sheen and is molded extremely well to his body. This man is capable of guided levitation and it was his flight through the barrier the viewer experienced.
"How did you get in there?" asks the policeman. "How did you get out of there?"
This, of course, embodies the theme of the film-that man's game is not the only game in town. The universe is large and diverse in social pathology. There are others with their own pattern of existence who must thrive and expand, irregardless of the effect this will have on the host society.
Even as the Spaniards plunked themselves down among the Aztecs without invitation, a similar operation has begun in the heart of the US. However, this intrusion is of a completely alien nature and is inexplicable to the onlookers.
In essence, what has happened is that destructive, insectlike creatures, human in form, with the power to unleash vast amounts of raw energy, have begun to build the nucleus of a colony which will eventually extend throughout the entire Earth and make of it a planetary hive. This process repeats whenever a queen is born and seeks another planet to begin a new hive.
Although the premise has the surface look of simple science-fiction with comic strip ingredients, it also contains all the elements to be utilized for suspenseful, human drama, resolved in the happiest of feelings. The finished script is intended to emerge as a product pleasing to a wide range of age groups.
The young man (described earlier) is a member of a three-man galactic team, assigned by unseen superiors to contain and drive out the planet-hopping "bee-people," who, it seems, have broken through the cordon of an area in space where their kind are permitted to breed in peace. In short, if they are allowed the freedom to roam unmolested, they could easily overwhelm entire star systems and leave their planets empty, tunnel-ridden husks, abandoned for new places of habitation. Not only Earth, but every planet in our galaxy is in danger of falling victim to this weird life process.
Indeed, the vastness beyond Earth is as chancy in structure as our own space pebble.
Thus, the appearance of this young man and his companions in answer to this strange situation. He faces the policeman and a crowd of anxious onlookers-a variety of people caught by fate on the scene of an incident which will try them psychologically, spiritually and physically. Oddly enough, like the "bee-people," confined by authority to a specific domain, these citizens are now in a quarantined area, surrounded by American troops assigned to control this bizarre situation.
To avoid an embarrassing brush with the policeman and those present on the scene, the young man presses one of a symmetrical series of studs on his chest plate and vanishes into a color range which cannot be detected by the human eye. This act generates confusion and fear, but in concentrating on his progress, we find him reappearing to join the other two members of his team who have become part of a circus, stalled in its journey by this unforeseen turn of events, which has engulfed in its perimeters a small army of motorists.
In this manner, we meet the three principal characters, Captain Victory, The Human Missle and Razzle-Dazzler. Of course, these names suggest special powers peculiar to super-heroes. However, despite the fact that these men do possess them, these powers have a sober purpose in relation to their assigned task-a Herculean task-a dangerous, but spectacular removal of the bee people from their entrenched and almost impregnable position.
The leader of the galactic trio is Captain Victory, a truly heroic figure who projects authority, decisiveness and confidence with a likable human quality in his manner. The young man we've already been introduced to at the beginning of the film is The Human Missile. He can, naturally, levitate with accomplished skill and speed. Razzle-Dazzler is a super-illusionist who can induce visions in the mind which are fantastically real and offer some opportunities for entertaining special effects during the circus sequences and dramatically utilized in the terrifying climax of the film.
These talents have earned these men a place in the circus where their costumes are accepted as show business accouterments and their skills as part of a clever gimmickry all their own.
Captain Victory, though, truly confounds witnesses to his feats because of their overwhelming nature. He is a powerhouse of strength, a dynamo of unending stamina and instant reflex. He can lift a bull elephant with ease, snatch a man from sudden death in the path of a speeding car and absorb enough electrical current to light up a city.
In a preliminary conversation, The Human Missile reveals that he's penetrated the barrier and made a survey of the situation. The "bee-people" have repeated here what they've done on many other worlds. They've occupied a populated site, pressed the natives into service with mind-control and established the nucleus of what is to be a planet-spanning network of tunnels. These creatures are capable of releasing mammoth amounts of energy from which they create the material for their structure and form the protective barrier to insure the safety of their operation. As their structure expands, so will the barrier, not only in circumference, but in killing intensity. Expansion will, of necessity, generate increased energy power and render new penetration almost impossible. The source of this power is the queen of the hive, a female giantess, a biological marvel of a female who overpowers the senses by her very presence. It is she and a small escort of males, driven by a ritual perpetuated somewhere in outer space, who must seek and find a host world in order to continue their existence. When new queens are born in this new hive, they will be forced to fight for the Earth-hive or be driven in turn to seek another suitable world for their purposes.
The present queen will be identified in the script as the "Lightning Lady," a protagonist to be reckoned with. Not only can she unleash energy bolts of staggering power, but like Razzle-Dazzler, is capable of deceiving the senses with frightening images. In addition, she is an awe-inspiring sight, in view of her imposing stature and desirability. She is an alien image designed by nature to overwhelm the male and render him defenseless to her purposes.
The story itself rolls on at this point with focus on the secondary characters-the natives of Earth, ordinary men, women and children caught in a deadly happening they don't understand and must endure until it's all resolved. There are the people who live in the area, the travelers and the forces of authority who must risk their lives in an attempt to contain this menace.
Naturally, they don't know how. They are dealing with extraterrestrial beings and four days of time before the entire country becomes aware of the reason why the lid of secrecy has been clamped down on this particular area of middle America. An initial attempt by troops to penetrate the barrier results in death and casualties. What's more, the barrier itself erupts with renewed power as it begins to expand.
In this threatening atmosphere, the characters of the story are forced to abandon their roles in society and react as endangered human beings who must also battle their own conditioning. Facades crumble and the true people emerge. Some with the face of respectability and unquestioned morality react with decided flaws; there is an armed gang with stolen cash in their car trunk, whose members break into segments of varied character, which are not without some admirable qualities. Still, the basically decent guy will remain so, under pressure, even as the incorrigible rat is too damned screwed up to change.
All this is revealed in the four nightmarish days which this variety of characters will spend in the path of burgeoning death. Kept in the area to enforce the secrecy order, their rear is blocked by troops, and what lies before them is tightening the squeeze upon their lives.
Every manner of habitation, from barns to hotels within the cordon, are requisitioned by the hapless civilians. But the steady advance of new eruptions of the barrier begins to destroy these places and panic the occupants. Cars explode and buildings touched by the barrier burst into flame. Acreage is ignited and the troops are fighting fires as well as preventing chaos. The immediate countryside now takes on the appearance of a scorched battlefield.
This is the framework in which Captain Victory and his galactic team set to work. Isolating themselves from other members of the circus, they apply their powers to the mission. Razzle-Dazzler is in reality a mind-wave jammer. By marshaling his power to its maximum he sends a powerful mental beam lancing through the barrier. (This is visible to the audience and is accented by sounds of electronic origin. His entire head begins to glow and his face is encompassed by a sun-like corona of light which broadens into a long undulating beam upon which bullet-shaped globs of light are shot into the barrier.) The effect of this on the queen of the "bee-people," who rules her subjects with mental _commands, is equivalent to a disruptive force which destroys communication within the hive.
It also disrupts the flow of energy to the _barrier and makes it unstable. The evidence of this soon becomes apparent. The barrier, which has achieved a certain consistency, begins to crackle and pop and "blink out" in various places on its surface. It becomes a mass of wild electrical activity and shows signs of losing its structural form.
At this point, Razzle-Dazzler ceases his mental cannonade. The galactic team knows it has shaken up the foe and made known the fact that opposition to the building of the hive has come from those qualified to stop the process.
However, since this fact cannot come across in an abstract or obscure fashion, it must be illustrated in a sequence involving the queen in her habitat. We've got to see her surroundings and life-style, her male attendants, the captive humans. We must see the constant leap of energy from the queen to every element of her domain. Even the walls of the structure under construction are organic spin-offs of this energy and emit flashes, as does every living thing in the hive. In essence, the queen is a biological generator, gaining sustenance in a highly-pitched environment. And only when everything around her begins to sputter and falter, and lose its intensity, can we see the effect of Razzle-Dazzler's mental assault. The queen herself is momentarily stricken. The smoothness of her operation suddenly fades and organizational control becomes jeopardized. Her male helpers develop difficulty with the mind-enslaved humans who are losing their bee-like attitudes and show signs of returning to their natural behavior. Fear and anger overtake the queen. She struggles to resume her normal output. Slowly and finally she does. The "Bee-Machine" works again. But, she is now aware of the galactic hunters on her trail. It is a warning of new assaults upon the hive. She must fight back, or clear out. Proud and savage, she decides to fight back.
There are unopened cells in the structure. When their lids are blown away by blasts of energy, full-grown warriors come pouring from their crypts, alive with crackling energy and eager for battle. With a regal flourish, they are sent on their way.
What has been an anxious situation, at this point, for the people on the barrier's rim, now becomes a frightening tribulation from which there is no telling what their fate may be. They are caught as unwilling captives in a contest of alien wills. Captain Victory and the Lightning Lady (the name given to the bee-queen) will make a shambles of their lives, but the survivors will emerge from it with an extraordinary experience which will destroy their game-playing and bring them face to face with their true selves. At its core, this is essentially a story of people facing disaster in a bizarre, but exciting context, slanted towards audience appeal.
The queen's bee warriors attack with their own peculiar brand of ferocity and terrorize the humans. Through the efforts of Captain Victory and his companions, they are thrown back. Super-gimmicks, of course, are involved. There are feats of fantastic strength. Captain Victory ignites the fuel in a large truck and hurls the flaming vehicle like a molotov cocktail at the enemy. He uproots a large tree and shatters it among his foes with a splintering force equivalent to an explosion. The bee warriors are showered with a deadly rain of flying shards. They reel before monstrous illusions conjured up by Razzle-Dazzler. An attack from the air by The Human Missile causes chaos among them. The fierce creatures keep up their attack despite this threat to their ranks. The insect culture does not allow for retreat. They must destroy the enemy or be destroyed.
Meanwhile, the humans do the best they can against this alien force. But bombs and bullets are exploded harmlessly by the shield of energy which rises from the massed ranks of the bee warriors. Rifles blow up in the hands of soldiers. Mortars, machine guns, any weapon loaded with ammo suffers a similar fate. Dive-bombing planes are exploded by their own ammunition when the raw energy makes contact with them. It is a mad melee which is turning in favor of the warriors, until they turn as a group in unison, and vanish into the barrier. Behind them, the perimeter looks like the aftermath of a tornado.
While the humans are occupied with their casualties, Captain Victory, extricating himself from a heap of fallen bee warriors, moves on to rejoin his two friends. The Human Missile has been jolted from the air by energy blasts, but he's survived them. A bright corona of light emanating from a heap of dead bee warriors indicates the location of Razzle Dazzler. He's at the bottom of the pile and literally ablaze with light. He is battered and dazed, but will evidently recover. It was his powers that cut communication between the warriors and their queen and caused her, in panic, to recall them with a renewed burst of energy.
At any rate, he is weak and over-extended. His extraordinary capabilities have been seriously reduced. It will take time to replenish himself and this sad condition renders him comparatively ineffective against what is yet to come.
Although the human interest has not been fully described until this point in the treatment, it runs throughout the film, from beginning to end. There are romantic cameos involving female circus performers and the galactic heroes. Specifically, a young widow and her boy become closely attached to Captain Victory. This is not a cardboard relationship. These people are trying to cross a gap of danger and differences in origin. There is also the insect queen herself. Although she descends from an insectlike strain, she is definitely human in form, as are her people. This heritage, sadly, makes her an object of conflict and misunderstanding. She is not a villain, per se. She is a departure from familiar guidelines. The Lightning Lady must, because of her own instincts, act out the role in which the vagaries of the universe have cast her.
The Lightning Lady is sexy, statuesque, and a dominating figure of force and organization. She is capable of projecting sincerity and tender emotion as well as a fierce nobility peculiar to her own background. In short, the Lightning Lady is an intensely desirable "Earth Mother" image who is a danger because of these very admirable qualities. She can overwhelm the male, but must react to the code dictated by her genes, and kill him when he has fulfilled his part of the courting ritual.
Strangely enough, she is a creature without guile or machiavellian propensities. She does what she has to do and wins or loses like anyone else. In this case, she will lose, but not without a certain admiration for her courage and sympathy for her plight. In the end, she and her people must leave the Earth and elude containment, to find another nesting place among the stars.
The Lightning Lady gives as good as she gets. She unleashes every power at her command as she expands the hive. From the volatile energy she generates, she creates terrifying creatures which she sends through the barrier. When these are dispatched after wrecking havoc, they are followed by meteoric fireballs which scream out of the barrier to heighten the panic among the humans.
Meanwhile, the deadline of four days is reaching its explosive limit. The country, already aware of the quarantine, is witness to the movement of troops and planes, and a feeling of national apprehension is rapidly mounting. Every imaginable, negative rumor is adding to a clamor for the truth. Time is being consumed as the queen's barrier expands. The quarantined perimeter is narrowing at a frightening pace, leaving less and less room for the humans to maneuver. The breaking point is approaching swiftly.
The galactic team must now initiate the final phase of its operation. This must depend on Captain Victory alone.
In the final moments before the climax, there is a meeting between the Lightning Lady and Captain Victory. Being as much a creature of love as well as power, she tries in desperation to overwhelm the Captain, a task which she is readily equipped to accomplish. However, Captain Victory is hardly eager to cash in his chips for a short-lived period of unequaled ecstasy. She is hypnotic and appealing. The Captain is shaken, but resolute. They are victims of their own conditioning and meant for conflict. One must destroy or put the other to flight.
If the Lightning Lady wins, if she destroys this galactic team, Earth will be well on the way to becoming an impregnable hive before the next team arrives. If Captain Victory wins, it may be at the cost of his own life, or at best, a trial of his powers with consequences of an unpleasant nature.
Nevertheless, the battle is on. While the circus puts on a show for the depressed and nerve-shattered humans, Captain Victory emerges from the woods. (His spaceship is hidden there and will be revealed at the film's end.) He is wearing what looks like a spacesuit encrusted with complex gimmickry. Upon his head is a large, bulbous helmet which obscures his face.
The Human Missile and Razzle-Dazzler bid him good luck and watch as he approaches the barrier. They watch him activate the suit, which comes alive like some alien electronic machine. A humming sound generates from his metal space shoes and he rises from the ground and begins to move into the barrier. There is a huge explosion of energy which cracks and roars, surrounding his helmet with scrabbling fingers of fire, before the energy puffs out and disintegrates. Captain Victory has made a large hole in the barrier and surges through it. Then, soaring above the highway which leads into the captive city, he heads for his target-the center of the hive. This will mean running a gauntlet of extraordinary ferocity. No man, except Captain Victory, is equipped to survive what will befall the intruder.
Behind him, the circus performance is presented in a tense and gloomy atmosphere. Uncertainty is written on every spectator's face. Men, women and children, strung out as far as they can go on courage, are momentarily diverted by what transpires in the arena. The Human Missile, through the use of fireworks, performs spectacular aerobatic feats which are visually spellbinding.
Razzle-Dazzler creates mental fantasies of a wholesome and humorous quality, which brightens the mood of the audience. He supplements the usual circus acts with innovations of his own and gives the entire bill a super-image it never had before.
Unhappily, it is a super-spectacle given in the shadow of Gotterdammerung! The twilight of the gods! The awesome, frightening sounds of the barrier intermittently penetrate the proceedings and affect the audience. But there is no panic. The performance seems to be the anchor upon which the humans screw their courage. As long as the acts go on without pause, the spectators do not respond to their hidden fears.
Within the barrier, all hell is breaking loose. Lightning stabs down from the black heights and winds of tornado force sweep the land.
The land itself seems to have turned personally hostile. It cracks apart and spews great gouts of flame in Captain Victory's path. Boulders tear themselves out of the soil and hurl themselves at him, en masse. Even as he burns a path through them with a chest laser and smashes the rest of them with his fists, he is faced with being decapitated by uprooted telephone poles which come at him like missiles. When his flight level becomes packed with deadly debris, he rises above it and is forced down by tremendous fireballs which narrowly miss him. At low level, the earth forces up hills in his path. Only experienced maneuvering enables him to keep from crashing into these obstacles at killing speed.
Captain Victory reaches the empty city to encounter even greater hazards. He is almost crushed by a falling building. He is struck by simple objects which shatter upon him with the force of cannon shells. Anything from a sewer cover to a steel girder attacks him as if by silent command. The sounds of impact will serve to heighten the effect of the action.
Naturally, the Lightning Lady is the source of what is happening. She stands transfixed, ablaze with crackling energy which rockets off beyond the structure. The fact that this is a crucial moment for the "bee-people" is evident in the absence of activity. They flank their queen in groups and step forward to contribute their energy charge to hers. One by one, they die, like batteries emptied of power.
What they fear most is happening. Captain Victory has reached the base of their structure and is unslinging some equipment from his pack, which he assembles in the fury of the electrical hell that boils around him. His bulbous helmet is now a fiery torch. His suit flashes with deadly discharges and is slowly being destroyed. The instrument he has fashioned is completed with great difficulty. He jams it into the ground and attempts to levitate with his boots. But they've been _damaged in the holocaust. There's no choice but to leave on foot-a monumental task in this atmosphere of roaring chaos.
Captain Victory crawls like a stricken bug in a sea of pyrotechnic violence. He is trying to put as much distance as he can between himself and the "imploder" he's planted near the structure. It will act upon the energy storm as dynamite does to a blazing oil well. It will do its job in one terrifying moment. It will implode and draw into itself every iota of existing energy around it. It will be an instant of horrible impact, followed by an eerie silence, in which the barrier will have vanished. The alien nest will have disintegrated to harmless silt and the "bee-people" will have been entirely drained of their life-force.
In the death-like stillness, the planted instrument itself will glow with a blinding brightness, a beautiful star against the dark backdrop of churned debris.
The performance at the circus will be interrupted at the moment this happens. An echo of something calamitous in nature will wash into the great tent and then subside. It will affect the audience and the performers as well, and bring them out into the open, to fill the silence with murmurings of wonder. The barrier is nowhere to be seen, and they somehow sense that the menace to their lives is gone as well.
Razzle-Dazzler and The Human Missile immediately take off in search of Captain Victory. He is nowhere to be seen in the smashed heap of a city. Only when he slowly crawls out from beneath the debris is he found.
In the aftermath, the only ones alive in the alien structure are the enslaved humans, who emerge in a dazed condition. The "bee-people" are drained, smoking husks. The queen and her entourage have fought to the death, and lost. Captain Victory can only comment that they've been true to their own instincts and the unfathomable arrangement of things in the universe.
At any rate, the galactic team must now leave and dispose of the dangerously energized instrument which has decided the issue. As for the humans, they are busily picking up the pieces of their fragmented lives. This traumatic experience is beginning to fade as do all disasters that never come to pass. Normality is returning and the quarantine is due to be lifted.
When this is done, the people emerge from the area in a jubilant rag tag parade; in cars, on foot, civilians, soldiers, and the circus itself. The music which pervades the scene is really army band music, well-chosen, well-played, stirring and somehow, happy. The core of the film, after all, is not really heavy. It's simply a testing of the spirit which expands when it survives in triumph.
There is a final scene, in which Captain Victory and his companions take their leave. Strangely enough, the most important character here is the widow's boy, to whom Captain Victory is not only a heroic image, but a possible step-father. This is not to be, but there is a strong residue of "manhood well-demonstrated" that will always live with the boy and shape his character.
The galactic team repairs to the woods, where Razzle-Dazzler puts an end to the illusion of trees which camouflages the deep space vehicle which has brought the team to Earth. With workman-like efficiency, the three fasten the still glowing "imploder" to the top of the vessel where it projects the effect of a candle on a cake.
Containing the massive power of what it has absorbed, the "imploder" bristles with potential for calamity. It is an erratic package which must be gotten rid of, in deep space.
Thus, the departure of the galactic team is dramatic and swift. They shoot skyward as a sort of pyrotechnic adjunct to the patriotic blare of the band and the continuing flow of people from the field of trial.
Of course, all this may seem a bit hokey, but it is contrived to leave the audience, at the film's end, with a time-proven positive and happy feeling in the best tradition of a socko finale.
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