Under the Hood of the CARS Comics: Ramone & Flo.

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Cover A for Cars: Radiator Springs #1 – by Allen Gladfelter.  (This image was also used for the cover of the Radiator Springs trade paperback collection).

After spending time at the track with CARS: The Rookie, it was time to head to Radiator Springs for the second World of CARS mini-series. The pitch this time around was to tell the stories of how the diverse cast of characters arrived in the sleepy desert town and why they made it home.

Deciding which characters to kick off the series with was relatively easy as the first releases of the CARS movie on DVD included a short on how Flo, owner of the V8 Cafe arrived in town. So for the first script, I adapted and expanded on the groundwork that had already been set.

The story kicks off with the various characters celebrating Ramone and Flo’s anniversary, and Flo being persuaded to tell the story of how they met. I established that Ramone had always been based in Radiator Springs and that Flo had arrived in style as part of a fleet of Detroit Motorama show cars who got stuck in town for a few days. It was a great excuse to do some research on the extravagant fin ladened show cars of the 1950s. As s troop of 1950s showgirls on a road trip, Flo and her friends sure knew how to have some fun, and the young Ramone was quick to offer new paint jobs, pin-striping, and all the things to make a girl look good. – But there was one car that Ramone refused to paint – that was Flo as in his eyes she was perfect as she was.  (We actually got a couple of complaints that this love story between two cars was “too sensuous” !)

Covers B and C for CARS: Radiator Springs #1 by Allen Gladfelter

One of the fun parts of developing this script was put in a one-panel cameo of a small car called Susie, who isn’t featured in the movie. She was the star of an animated short called “Susie the Little Blue Coupe” produced Disney in 1952, and her design style is a direct precursor to the one used in CARS. Susie

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s DilloCon Time

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It’s that time of year again, as the next round of convention appearances kicks off with my local event, ArmadilloCon. Summer in Austin wouldn’t be the same without the DilloCon weekend.

This year you can find me on the following panels etc.

  • Friday, August 2nd
    • 8:00pm – Best Comics You’ve Never Read – Ballroom D
  • Saturday, August 3rd
    • 12:00pm – Signing – Dealers Room
    • 6:00pm – Writing Work For Hire – Ballroom E
  • Sunday, August 3rd
    • 12:00pm – Good Omens – Ballroom F

Or just wandering the halls, hanging out in the bar, and generally enjoying the convention.

My Almost Toy Story

 

With Toy Story 4 now playing in movie theaters, I thought it might be a good time to tell the tale of my close encounter with the denizens of Andy’s toy chest.

Back in 2009 when I was writing the CARS comic books I was asked to pitch some ideas for a possible four-issue Toy Story mini-series. I wrote down a few ideas and submitted them, and they seemed to be well received. I was asked to rework one of the story concepts a little, as well as put together another pitch for a potential second mini-series.

I then heard that instead of mini-series a new on-going title was being considered. Imagine my surprise one day to open the latest comics PREVIEWS catalog to see the new Toy Story series being promoted with my name attached as the writer.

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A few days later I got a call that a decision had been made to go a different direction with the series and they would be using another writer. I never really got a good understanding of what drove that decision, but these things happen in work-for-hire type situations.  So I never got to hang out with Buzz, Woody, and the gang.

Now that the gang are back in action on the big screen I thought it might be fun to dust off those decade old pitches and share what might have been my Toy Stories.

TOY BE OR NOT TOY BE

The story is set in the weeks immediately following the finale of the first Toy Story movie as Andy, his family, and more importantly, his toys settle in to their new home. While it’s a time of transition for all the toys, for one in particular it’s a major adjustment. BUZZ LIGHTYEAR must comes to terms with what it means to be a toy, and who better to show him than the other inhabitants of Andy’s Room?

​Issue #1 – COWBOYS AND DINOSAURS

Andy is playing a made up game of the story of a Dinosaur (Rex) attacking a cardboard box Western town (an expanded version of the scene at the start of the first Toy Story). Buzz, who has been thrust into the role of Woody’s deputy, while grudgingly accepting that he is a toy, starts to comment on the implausibility of the scenario that Andy is developing. Until Woody shows Buzz that it’s the child’s imagination that is the most important thing, and if Andy believes it can happen that way, then the toy’s job is to make sure it does happen that way.

​Issue #2 – RULES IS RULES

When Andy gets the Buzz Lightyear video-game, Buzz shows Rex how to play the game and Rex becomes addicted to video games. The other toys aren’t happy about it, so Hamm and Mr. Potato Head with the aid of several other toys use the opportunity to help teach Buzz the “Toy Code,” while Buzz shows them that they can open up to doing things they were never designed to do.

​Issue #3  – THE RETURN OF MRS. NESBITT

Andy’s little sister Molly finds Buzz lying around and crawls off with him. She puts him in her room with her cuddly toys and cloth dolls. Buzz is desperate to get away from the cute toys, until Woody finds him and teaches him that even though he’s Andy’s toy, he needs to be whatever the child holding him wants to be.

​Issue #4 – FELLOWSHIP OF THE AA

When R/C’s batterers run down, Buzz decides that it’s up to him to make the perilous journey to the kitchen, to obtain replacement power units. The only problem is that as it’s a new house no-one is really sure of the way. Buzz and the green army men team up to map the house and restore R/C to working condition. During the quest Buzz learns the importance of team work and loyalty among toys.

THE ROUND UP GANG

We know how Woody ended up in the clutches of Al from Al’s Toy Barn; but what about the rest of the Roundup Gang? How did Jessie, Bullseye and Stinky Pete end up in storage, and what’s the connection to the mysterious Mr. Konishi?

Issue #1 – THE PROSPECTOR

Left high on the shelf of an old-fashioned toy store, Stinky Pete, the prospector has been neglected for years. He’s seen children come and go, but one in particular he always liked. A chubby boy named Al, who often whispered to Pete that he would one day own a toy store of his own. True to his word Al opened his store, the discount Toy Barn, and promptly drove the local toy store out of business and bought its remaining inventory, among which was the still unopened Prospector. A disgruntled neglected toy who thought he had seen how being ruthless could get you what you wanted.

Issue #2 – BULLSEYE

The old fashioned horse was a favorite toy kept by an old lady who had owned him since new. She kept him around for her grandchildren to play with, but after she passed Bullseye found himself consigned to an estate sale where he was picked up in a job lot by a local antiques dealer. The dealer posted Bullseye’s picture on an online auction site, where Al found him. Poor Bullseye went from beloved family heirloom to Al’s storage unit – awaiting the arrival of Woody.

Issue #3 – JESSIE

After being abandoned by Emily, Jessie finds her way to a charity store, where she sits for weeks. Until Al enters the store looking for bargain “collectibles.”

 Issue #4 –THE LEGEND OF WOODY

In the Tri-county storage unit rented by Al, The Prospector is telling Bullseye and Jessie all about Woody’s Roundup and Al’s search for the elusive Woody and how he will mean their freedom. Meanwhile in Japan, the mysterious Koinishi-san is telling his young daughter about Woody’s Roundup and how as a child it inspired him to help others, and that e know wants to set up a toy museum to share these lessons with a new generation. The perfect center piece for that museum would be his childhood hero – a genuine Woody cowboy figure.

 

The Ones That Got Away – Star Trek Manga

ST_POABack in 2006, Tokyopop, a US based publisher of Japanese style manga comics produced a volume of new manga style stories featuring the cast and concepts of the original Star Trek series. A couple of more volumes appeared in the following year, and as we were working with Tokyopop on GOD SHOP our planned manga series at the time, I was asked to pitch several story ideas for the Trek series. This was pretty much a dream come true to be asked to pitch for Star Trek. Although none of my ideas were picked, it was an honor to even be asked.

While hunting through some old files the other day I came across a document outlining those long forgotten attempts to help guide the adventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and thought it might be fun to share a few of them here.

THE GAME

Two years after its original visit to Sigma Iota II (in 2268 in TOS episode “A Piece of the Action”) the Enterprise returns to see how its “gangster culture” has progressed. The planet is now run like late 20th Century Las Vegas with the “mobsters” controlling strings of casinos. The landing party is captured by the current boss and Kirk must play a high stakes card game for the lives of everyone being held hostage. The game is “Fizzbin” an imaginary game invented on the fly by Kirk as a ruse during their previous visit. However the Iotians – known to be highly impressionable – have developed the idea into a real game. Can Kirk bluff his way out of this one, or will he be forced to play a game where he doesn’t know the rules? As the game progresses it turns out that the game’s underlying complex logic means that it is Spock who is the best player and wins the crew’s freedom.

THE GREAT HUNT

A young Klingon warrior is chosen by the empire for training on a special mission. A mission to totally eradicate one of the empire’s greatest foes. As the training goes one, the young warrior begins to wonder the exact nature of the foe he must face. Eventually he boards the ships of the armada being assembled to obliterate the foe’s homeworld, and once on board he learns that he has been assigned to take part in The Great Tribble Hunt.

THE THREE RUSSIAN PIGS

During a visit to a starbase Ensign Chekhov is nearly bowled over by a group of unruly kids. Deciding to try and calm the youngsters down he decides to tell them one of his classic “Russian” folktales. The tale he decides to tell is his version of the Three Little Pigs, in which the characters he describes pay more than a passing resemblance to Kirk, Spock and McCoy, while the Big Bad Wolf is portrayed by Khan. Unknown to Chekhov the three officers are stood behind him listening to his tale.

WAGON TRAIN TO THE STARS

The Enterprise encounters a convoy of old Earth ships deep in space being attacked by a hostile force. The Earth ships are clustered together for protection. The Enterprise arrives and scatters the attackers. The Earth ships belong to a collection of unauthorized colonists who had decided to set off on their own to find a new home on the frontier and had based their journey on the early American pioneers. Despite the unauthorized nature of the venture, Kirk decides to give them needed supplies and point them in the direction of the nearest uninhabited Class-M planet. The Enterprise crew is impressed by the spirit and determination of this “wagon train to that stars.”

 

 

Under the Hood of the CARS Comics: The First Win

Regular A and B covers for Cars: The Rookie #4 – art by Allen Gladfelter

My fourth issue of The World of CARS: The Rookie was designed to complete the story of why the newly nicknamed “Lightning” McQueen was considered to be the “rookie sensation of the year.” I once again kept the interview framing device at the start and end of the story, and returned to McQueen narrating what happened from his somewhat exaggerated perspective, which meant I could again use visuals to contrast between his narrative and what actually happened. As the story opens McQueen is seen is his now familiar Rust-Eze paint scheme for the first time, and having established his speed on ovals is about to tackle a road course for the first time.

If I recall correctly I wrote this issue after watching a pretty thrilling NASCAR race on TV that had been held at the classic Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York, one of the few road races on the NASCAR schedule; so I decided to model my story on that.

Watkins Glen was renamed “Bowling Lake” and we were off to the races. But not before McQueen has a nap on the grid, a character trait I added that was borrowed from several top line drivers who have been known to nod off while waiting in their cars for a race to start.

In the race itself I focused on a particular tight corner for all the action to happen with the ever eager McQueen learning an early lesson about the  differences between ovals and road circuits that don’t have banking. He was quick on the straights but just couldn’t figure out how to get around the corners quickly. As the race progresses the young hot shot learned about the apex of a corner, and thanks to, Strip “The King” Weathers, that the key to speed on road courses is not how quickly you enter a corner, but how quickly you exit it.

I had some fun along the way having the Hummer crew chief throw in a few quotes from racing movies like Grand Prix, and Days of Thunder.

The story ends with Lightning being true to character and ignoring his crew chief’s advice (again) and staying out too long on worn tires. But thanks to some defensive driving by The King to keep the charging Chick Hicks behind, the struggling McQueen just crosses the line as his tire blows, but it’s enough for the rookie to score his first win.

I’d had a blast writing this “prequel” series for the CARS movie building the backstory of Lightning McQueen, and was pretty proud of the miniseries – which would eventually be collected in both paperback, and a special limited edition hardback editions.

Now we just had to wait and hope that we had also scored a win and that the sales numbers would be good enough for the planned return to Radiator Springs.

Unused connecting covers for Cars: The Rookie #4 – art by Allen Gladfelter

 

 

 

I Never Met Stan

I never met Stan, but one year at San Diego Comic-Con my daughter, Meggan, and I were sat in the lobby of one of the hotels chatting with the editor of our upcoming manga series when I felt a kick on my shins, and Meggan mouthed the words “Stan Lee” and pointed. Sure enough standing right behind me with his back to my chair was “The Man.” Several years later at a Con in Chicago my wife, Gill, and I were almost bowled over by Stan as he rushed to a panel or signing. Only her last minute side step avoided a up close encounter. Two chances, yet I never did get the opportunity to thank him for what he inspired in me.

I never met Stan, but he introduced me to some amazing people. While I love the mythic grandeur of the iconic DC heroes, it was Stan who made me invested in the lives of Peter, Matt, Tony, Bruce, Steve, Don, Hank, Janet, Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny and the rest of the Marvel Universe.

I never met Stan, but his was the first name I came to recognize as someone who created the amazing worlds and characters on the comic book pages. He fired the imagination of a seven-year old boy that maybe one day he could write stories too.

I never met Stan, but I’m proud that we shared a couple of professions over the years, as technical writers (him during his brief military service, me for most of my career), and comics writers (him for a life time, me sporadically over the last decade).

I never met Stan, but he always reminded me of my favorite Great Uncle when I was growing up. Someone who would tell wonderful stories of his life and exploits, some of which might even have been true.

I never met Stan, and now I never will. It’s difficult to believe he’s gone. He’s been there for most of my life. But as I think about his passing I realize that I will never live in a world without Stan Lee. His words are on my bookcases, his cameos are forever in the 10 years of amazing movies he inspired, his philosophies on life, tolerance, respect, and a little showmanship inform ever character I create, every story I write, how I conduct myself in business, and in everyday life.

Thanks for everything, Stan.

Nuff Said.

The Ones That Got Away – Buck Rogers

For every story, comic, article, or book that gets published there are those that for various reasons never happen. I thought it might be fun to do an occasional post on a variety of pitches, ideas, and almost happened projects.

The idea of revisiting these was prompted by this recent bookstore find:

Buck

Many years ago I reached a verbal and handshake deal with a publisher to do an official history of Buck Rogers.

We had the outline agreed, had lined up in interviews with Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering themselves (Gil Gerard and Erin Gray from the 1980s TV show), started to pull together research items, and then it all went quiet and the final contracts never materialized.

Unfortunately due to a variety of reasons outside our immediate control the book never got to happen.

One of those projects that got away, but I remain fascinated with the subject, and hope to get the chance to revisit someday.

 

It’s a Con. – I’m on the Road Again

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It’s that time of year again. The start of my convention season, and the next several weeks are looking to be busy.

We kick of next week at the STC Summit in Orlando. It’s been a few years since I was last at this event, and I’m looking forward to catching up with my professional colleagues, and meeting some new people. The conference sessions are looking interesting, and as I’m not speaking this year I should have more time to sit back and absorb some new knowledge.

As soon as I get back from Orlando, it’s off to Houston for Comicpalooza. Over the last few years this has rapidly become one of  my favorite pop-culture/comics events. Three days of fun, networking, and entertaining guests. Along the way I’ll be participating in a few panels:

  • The Secret History of James Bond in Comics
  • The Editing Process
  • Finding Writing Inspiration.

In early June I’m heading to Poland for the first time to speak at LocWorld #37 in Warsaw on the subject of Content Convergence. Should be a great experience.

At the end of June I’ll be a little closer to home with my first appearance at SoonerCon in Oklahoma where I’ll be on panels discussing:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Podcasting: How to win Listeners and Influence the Internet
  • Doctor Who: Regeneration – It’s a Lottery
  • All Ages Comics as a Development Tool

I’ll also be doing a reading (I just need to decide what that will be).

Phew… it’s going to be an interesting couple of months, and I’m looking forward to it. If you’re going to be at any of these events, make sure to come find me and say “Hi.”  – See you on the road.

Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: The First Race

Cars3_special

The third issue my Cars: The Rookie series debuted around the same time as that year’s Heroes Con held in Charlotte, North Carolina; the heart of NASCAR country and home to many of the race teams. To mark the occasion a special limited edition of 500 was produced with a cover spotlighting the Strip Weathers character (above), based on, and voiced in the movies, by legendary 7-time NASCAR champion, Richard “The King” Petty.  One of my prized possessions related to my time on CARS is a poster sized copy of this special cover signed by Richard Petty himself. – A special thanks to cover artist Allen Gladfelter who made that happen.

For this issue I continued the TV interview framing device, but this time had Strip Weathers tell the story of how he had first seen the young rookie McQueen in testing and been impressed by him, which then led into a flashback sequence of McQueen’s first Piston Cup Race at the “Beachside 500.”

I have a vague memory that my friend, and occasional creative partner, Paul Benjamin, who was writing the Monsters Inc. comic at the time, and I talked about trying to sneak in some mutual cross-references into our scripts at this point. I think I asked for some of the gate signage at the entrance to the race track have the Monsters Inc. logo and Paul asked for one of his characters to be drawn playing with a Lightning McQueen toy car; but it didn’t work out. – Shame it would have been a fun Easter Egg moment.

Also on the art front, it was important for a pay off on the last page that McQueen’s race livery was just plain red with the 95 number and a single Rust-Eze logo on the hood at this point. Thankfully my description in the script was followed to the letter (not something that always happened in later issues).

One of the things I wanted to establish in this issue was why McQueen couldn’t keep a crew chief. I played up that having only recently come up from local events that he was used to working on his own, and that he felt himself to be a “one-man show.” It was a nice throw away line that highlighted his selfish character trait (at this point). It also provided the catalyst for him being taught a lesson when he comes in to the pits for fuel and tires and the crew don’t move, reminding him that he is a one-man show and should  be able to do it all himself.  His reluctant apology results in him getting the fuel and tires he needs. Once back on track he tries to use some of his old local track “bulldozer” racing techniques, but they don’t work and he is quickly schooled in the realities of big league racing, especially by Chick Hicks who doesn’t take kindly to the new kid on the block.

McQueen ends up third (appropriately enough for the third issue of the series) behind Weathers and Hicks.

The issue ends back with the Strip Weathers interview who let’s it slip that he was so taken with McQueen’s zig-zag attempts to overtake in that first race that he told the young racer that he looked like a streak of Lightning.

The regular “A” and “B” covers for CARS: The Rookie #3

The Spirit of Christmas – A Captain Scarlet story

Introduction: As this year marks the 50th anniversary ofCaptain Scarlet and the Mysterons one of my all time favorite TV shows, I thought it might be fun to roll out a seasonal story that I wrote way back in 2002 for the Comicopia APA magazine, and that has subsequently been republished a couple of times by Spectrum Headquarters, the leading Capt. Scarlet website, in 2004, and 2013.

So sit back and enjoy….

spv-snow

The Mysterons: sworn enemies of Earth.

Possessing the ability to recreate an exact likeness of an object or person.

But first, they must destroy.

Leading the fight, one man fate has made indestructible. His name:

CAPTAIN SCARLET

*************************

LONDON – DECEMBER 23rd 2068.

No one heard the body fall or the squelching noise as it came to rest in the bank of week old snow at the entrance to the alleyway.

The corpse had hardly come to a rest before it was dragged back into the shadows between two department stores. The nearby mass of humanity that made up the last minute Christmas shoppers never even realized that a murder had taken place in their midst. A few may have noticed that the usually occupied street corner spot was now empty, but it’s doubtful that they gave more than a passing thought to its regular Yule-time inhabitant.

If they had looked closely, they may have seen the tracks in the dirty brown slush where a pair of boot heels had dragged furrows. The body to which those feet belonged now lay full length in the filth and damp of the alley. The boots were black and worn over a pair of velvety red pants. Above those the corpulent form of the victim was wrapped in a coat made from the same velvety material, but trimmed with an off-white faux-fur. The fur almost matched the white bushy beard that adorned the face of what, in life, had been a jovial man. But that face now wore a frozen look of shock. The red coat and pants complemented by the equally red pool of liquid that now collected behind his head.

The pool of blood soon became a rivulet that flowed towards the drain in the center of the alley. Its course, however, was blocked by another pair of black boots. These boots also belonged to a man who looked like he too had been touched by the hand of death. But this was a living corpse – a man whose very essence had been sucked out of him, a man whose soul had been violently ripped from his body, no long human he was the agent of a malevolent alien force. He was a man dressed totally in Black.

The man in black looked down at his victim waiting.

He didn’t have to wait too long. Two rings of light suddenly appeared on the floor by his feet. Lights without an apparent source. They moved along the alleyway and swept over the length of the body, then disappeared. The man in black turned and looked in grim satisfaction of the figure of the department store Santa who now stood by his side.

“You know what to do, Earthman,” the man in black intoned in a voice that sounded as if it too came from the grave.

With a nod, the man in red stepped over the body of his former self and took his place on the pavement in front of the alleyway. Picking up his hand bell he took up his familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas, and good will to all.”

THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS.

WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US EARTH MEN.

IN RETALIATION FOR YOUR ATTACK ON OUR MARTIAN COLONY

WE WILL CONTINUE OUR WAR OF ATTRITION.

OUR NEXT ACT OF VENGEANCE WILL BE TO DESTROY…

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS.

       High above the Earth’s surface, in the floating carrier known as Cloudbase, Colonel White, supreme commander of the earth defense organization known as Spectrum, sat at his circular command station staring intently at the speaker on the wall in front of him. The last words of The Mysterons latest threat fading out into silence.

The aptly named Mysterons were indeed a mystery. No-one had ever seen them, except for the crew of the ill-fated Martian Expeditionary Vehicle who had fired on the aliens’ outpost mistaking the sudden appearance of a scanning probe for a hostile act. That single instinctive act of self-defense had triggered a war of nerves between the aliens and humanity. A war that had seen much death and destruction. Apparently without corporeal bodies the aliens had taken to using their powers of reanimation to turn various men and machines into living weapons, costing several Spectrum agents their lives. How this reanimation process could work so precisely when activated from the distant surface of Mars was part of the mystery, along with how, and why, these Mysterons could tap into the Spectrum communications system to deliver their threats.

Common sense would suggest that they were using someone with inside knowledge of Spectrum’s operations. But the only member of the organization known to have had contact with the alien methods and survived was now their greatest nemesis.

Colonel White’s thoughts focused on the most recent threat.

“Destroy the spirit of Christmas,” he muttered almost imperceptibly.

The other members of the senior staff sat around the periphery of his desk had also been pondering the same message.

“What does it mean?” asked the tall blond officer in the blue jacket.

“How can they do that ?” came a light female voice with an alluring French accent.

“Destiny’s right,” interjected a new voice from behind the seated officers. All turned to look at the Communications Officer in the green jacket. “I mean the spirit of Christmas is an idea, a concept. The Mysterons only destroy physical objects, machines, people.”

“Then that’s what we should look for.”

All turned to look at the speaker, this man knew more about the way the Mysterons worked than anyone alive. Spectrum’s top agent, he had once been an instrument of death under the alien’s control when had tried to assassinate the World President. But a second “near-death” experience while under Mysteron control had freed him from the their servitude yet had left him with some remnants of their power of retrometabolism. Paul Metcalfe was now indestructible. Not truly immortal, but close to it. For the members of Spectrum, the man in the scarlet jacket was their greatest weapon. He knew how the enemy thought.

“I don’t follow you Captain Scarlet,” said Colonel White.

“I mean we should look for something physical that embodies the spirit of Christmas. That’s what they will destroy.”

LONDON – DECEMBER 24th 2068

The two World Intelligence Network agents finished their security sweep and radioed in.

“It’s all clear, Sam,” reported the larger of the two agents. He paused, listening to the response over the hand held radio. His shoulders slumped in resignation as he thumbed off the radio. Turning to his much smaller companion he sighed. “It’s no good, Joe – he wants us to check it all again. I’ll take the luggage racks, see if you can squeeze under the seats and check those again.”

The two agents glanced at each other, neither saying a word as they turned around and started back down the length of the Eurostar Trans-continental train.

“Are you’re sure you have everything, sir?”

“It’s only an overnight trip to Paris. Just a goodwill show. There’s no need for fussing.”

“You still need to look right when you are among your peers, sir.”

“All right, I take your point. But this isn’t a formal summit meeting, it’s just an informal gathering of European leaders with a couple of photo opportunities to help spread the message of the season.”

“Ah,” responded the butler dryly, “instead of a summit meeting it’s the European Prime Ministers’ office Christmas party.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.” The British Prime Minister agreed. “Now where’s that invitation and ticket?”

“Here sir,” said the butler as he handed over an envelope decorated with the Eurostar logo above a line of text that read

European Spirit of Christmas Summit Meeting

“Status, Lieutenant Green?” Colonel White asked his communications officer.

“We have senior officers in all the major cities where we believe that The Mysterons will strike. Captain Brown is in New York, Captain Grey is in Los Angeles, Captain Ochre is in Paris and Captain Blue is in London.” The ambitious lieutenant looked towards his commanding officer for some acknowledgment. All he received was a brief nod and a slight raise of the chin which he took to be the signal to continue.

“Captain Scarlet is standing by here on Cloudbase with a Jetcopter fueled ready to go where ever he’s needed.”

“And the Angels?”

“They are on full alert, Colonel. Destiny is already in her aircraft ready for immediate launch; Rhapsody and Melody are suited up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“Good. Now if only we knew what the target was.”

Joe and his partner Mac stepped off the Eurostar tired and dirty after yet another exhaustive search.

“She’s clear, Joe, there’s no way on Earth that anyone is going to get a bomb onboard that train.”

“Well, let’s just hope that the big-wigs appreciate all our hard work when they are enjoying their eggnog on the way to Paris tonight.”

Joe wiped the back of his grubby sleeve across his forehead wiping away the sweat and grime from spending the last few hours crawling between and under train seats.

Then he removed his overalls and what appeared to be a pair of protective goggles, but just as easily could have been thick glasses.

With the work clothes and glasses gone he suddenly looked different, his posture reflecting his physical size. And when he spoke again, his voice was almost child-like.

Pointing down the platform towards the security gate at the entrance, he said with excitement:

“Hey look, they even have their own Santa on the train.”

The sleek red Spectrum staff car pulled off the busy motorway outside of London and made its way to a small village filling station away from the main roads. The filling station didn’t look like it had had a customer in years. Away from the main traffic flow it still had old fashioned pumps and was lacking the requisite mini-mart for snacks, maps and newspapers. It was amazing that it was still in business.

Captain Blue brought the staff car to a halt and walked over to the small hut where the sole attendant sat reading a newspad with his feet up on the desk. The attendant didn’t react to the bell that rang above the door when Captain Blue entered.

“We’re closed,” he muttered, head still buried in the paper.

Captain Blue just said, “Spectrum.”

The attendant dropped his pad on the desk and quickly stood up.

“ID,” he asked, even though the man before him was in full Spectrum uniform. Better not to take chances, and anyway, uniforms are easily faked. Although no-one outside of Spectrum should have known of this filling station’s real purpose.

Captain Blue proffered his ID card for inspection. The seemingly slovenly attendant now acted like a professional security agent as he checked the credentials.

“What can I do for you, Captain?”

“For a start, I need some gas for the staff car.” The American Captain Blue could never bring himself to say ‘petrol’, no matter how often he worked in England. “And if you don’t mind, I’ll take a look at your pad while I wait.”

“Sure,” the attendant replied, “no problem.”

Captain Blue had read two pages when his expression froze. For there was a small article headlined “Spirit of Christmas train ride for PM.”

 Captain Blue immediately activated the radio built into his uniform cap. The boom mike swung down from his cap’s peak and the lights built into his jacket insignia flashed white to indicate that his transmission was to Colonel White.

“Colonel White,” he talked briskly and clearly with just a trace of excitement behind his professional demeanor, “I know what the target is. The Mysterons are going to attack the Eurostar train tonight.”

Captain Blue listened for the response and his orders. They were quick in coming and by the time the attendant returned, he knew what to do.

As the man walked back into the small hut, Captain Blue was straight to the point. “Forget the staff car. I need the SPV.”

“Follow me, sir.” The attendant turned on his heels and lead Captain Blue to the rear of the filling station. “There she is,” he pointed to what appeared to be an abandoned trailer home parked between two trees. The trailer looked like it hadn’t been occupied for years, the paint was peeling, the windows opaque with filth and the sides covered with green mildew for the close trees. As Captain Blue looked on the attendant withdrew a small device like a TV remote control from his pocket and pressed a combination of buttons.

Suddenly the sides of the trailer folded outwards as it opened like a blossoming flower. And in the center stood a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, the most specialized piece of equipment in the organization’s impressive arsenal. Part armored car, part tank it could withstand any sort of attack but was also highly maneuverable and fast, quicker than any production sports car, despite its large size.

As Captain Blue walked over to the trailer, the garage attendant keyed another few buttons on the hand-held device and raised it to his mouth like a cell-phone.

“Spectrum agent 042 reporting in. Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle 105 requisitioned by Captain Blue at 17:30 hours.”

As soon as the blue light on his desk had illuminated, Colonel White knew that this was the signal to action. Captain Blue was not one to report in unless he had found something significant. Upon hearing Captain Blue’s report of the news article, he immediately put his plan into action.

“Captain Blue, requisition an SPV and head for the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. If our earlier attempts to thwart this threat fail, then you must stop the train entering the tunnel. My guess is that the Mysterons will try to destroy it in the tunnel, not only killing the leaders of several European countries but also disrupting European commerce for years to come.”

Breaking the communications with Captain Blue, Colonel White turned to his communications officer. “Get me Captain Scarlet and launch the Angels.”

“SIG, Colonel,” responded the Lieutenant using the organization’s usual acronym to confirm that an order has been received and understood: Spectrum Is Green.

Sat in the cockpit of her advanced swept wing fighter jet on the deck of Cloudbase, Destiny heard the command she had been waiting for all day. “Destiny Angel, immediate launch.”

She engaged the powerful engines, keyed the catapult that would launch her aircraft off the deck of Cloudbase at near supersonic speed and pressed the red button on her control panel that released the pent up energy of engines and catapult. In an instant she was airborne.

“Instructions please,” she radioed in.

“Head to the London area,” she heard Lieutenant Green’s response. “The other Angels will join you there shortly. Contact Captain Blue for details on exact co-ordinates.”

“SIG.”

And with that acknowledgment, the fighter banked over and set course for London’s airspace.

Behind her, the other two Angel pilots settled into their seats in the Ops Lounge, keyed the correct sequence of buttons and were soon hoisted on lifts straight up into the cockpits of their aircraft. Less that two minutes after the departure of Destiny, they too were also airborne and following the vector taken by their leader.

Shortly after the departure of the Angel interceptor aircraft, a Spectrum jetcopter lifted off; at the controls was Captain Scarlet receiving his briefing from Colonel White over the radio.

“The Mysteron target is a train carrying several of the European leaders. We believe they plan to destroy it in the Channel Tunnel between England and France. But what we don’t know is how they plan to do it. The Angels will provide air cover in case The Mysterons plan to use an aircraft to attack it. Captain Blue is waiting at the Tunnel entrance with an SPV to stop it if it gets that far. We have had assurance from our colleagues at WIN that there were no explosive devices on-board before it left. But I’m not so sure that the attack won’t come from within. Anyone on-board that train could be a Mysteron agent. I want you to board the train and using your unique sense for the Mysterons, check it out and stop any attempt to destroy it and its passengers.”

“What are those aircraft doing?” asked the Prime Minister. His gaze firmly fixed out of the window of the speeding Eurostar train. “They look like they are following us.”

“I’m sure it’s just a security sweep, sir,” his aide responded. “Air cover, that sort of thing.”

“But those aren’t WAF aircraft. I don’t recognize the type.”

“They’re Spectrum Angel aircraft, I think. Never seen one before, but if I recall the photographs I’ve seen then that’s what they are,” responded the aide.

Above the two politicians another aircraft kept pace with the train. Captain Scarlet’s jetcopter had increased its velocity to match the near 300 kph of the high speed train as it hurtled through the early evening of the English countryside on its way towards the Channel Tunnel entrance.

“I’m sure I saw this in an old movie once,” though Scarlet to himself as he placed the copter on autopilot and descended down a flimsy steel rope ladder to the speeding roof below him. Once on the roof he found the slipstream was too strong for him and he immediately lost his footing. With a sudden and hard bump, he crashed chest down into the roof as his feet were swept away by the vicious winds. He reached forward in a desperate attempt to find a hand grip. But the sleek train had been designed to be as streamlined as possible. The roof was a smooth as glass; there was nothing to hold on to. The Spectrum agent was swept backwards at immense speed.

As he was dragged back, Scarlet twisted onto his back and not without difficulty, pulled his flailing arms in to his body. It seemed to take an eternity, but Scarlet eventually brought his hands together and flicked a switch on what appeared to be a standard wrist watch. Above him the jetcopter performed a neat 180 degree turn and tracked his movement and speed towards the rear of the train. Just as Scarlet’s legs started to disappear over the rear of the Eurostar the steel ladder appeared above his chest. Reaching out, he grabbed it. The train rushed ahead and the Spectrum agent was left hanging from the now hovering jetcopter.

No matter what they showed in the movies, there was no way he could board the speeding train. The only way to get on board was to stop the Eurostar.

As he climbed back up the rope towards the aircraft above him, Scarlet’s boom mike dropped from his cap peak. The light on his uniform flicked blue.

“SIG, Captain Scarlet,” responded Captain Blue. “I understand.”

Reaching forward for the controls, he brought the SPV to life and set a course away from the tunnel entrance towards the speeding train.

The armored vehicle was wide enough that its tracked wheels spanned the monorail track used by the Eurostar. Soon it was up to top speed. Captain Blue sat in the rearward facing command chair, watching for the approaching train on the video monitor that showed what was happening in front of the SPV.

It didn’t take long for the train to appear on the horizon, the gap between it and the SPV closing with frightening speed. Captain Blue brought the SPV to an immediate halt and radioed the driver of the Eurostar.

“This is Captain Blue of Spectrum. We need to bring your train to a halt. You will see a Spectrum vehicle parked across the track in front of you. Stop before you reach that vehicle.”

Before he received any acknowledgement that the message had been heard, Captain Blue pressed the buttons to operate the sliding door and seat mechanism and soon found himself outside the casing of the SPV. The seat gently lowered to the ground. He undid the restraining harness and ran towards the jetcopter that was now waiting for him in a nearby field.

“Let’s hope he stops in time,” he said looking up at the pilot.

“If he doesn’t try and stop,” replied Captain Scarlet, “then we know that the Mysterons have already taken over the train and we can order the Angels to destroy it. If he does stop, then I can get on board and conduct a more personal search.”

The jolly man in the red suit stumbled as the speeding train came to a sudden halt. The sack he carried swung over his shoulder slipped and bumped against the back of the British Prime Minister’s head.

“I say, watch where you’re going,” the politician said in an annoyed tone of voice. Then, turning to glance behind him, he saw who his “assailant” had been. The tone of voice softened. “Oh I’m sorry, Santa. I didn’t realize that it was you. Do you have anything special for me?”

“This will be a Christmas you won’t forget,” intoned the man in the red suit, his voice oddly flat.

“What a serious Santa,” the Prime Minister murmured to his aide as the subject of his conversation continued down the carriage. “I wonder why we’ve stopped?”

“I think that’s why,” responded the aide pointing back to the rear of the train.

Walking towards them down the passageway between the seats was another man in a red jacket, but this was no Santa.

“Excuse me, sir,” Captain Scarlet stopped by the side of the PM’s seat. ”Are you all right?”

“Yes, why shouldn’t I be?”

“Is there a problem, Captain?, asked the aide. “Why has Spectrum stopped and boarded this train?”

“We believe that there is a Mysteron threat against this train and its passengers.”

“Nonsense,” replied the PM. “How could they get on board, the only people here are the politicians and their staff – we’ve all been through security checks.”

“Thank you, sir,” continued the Spectrum agent, ”but if you don’t mind I’ll continue looking?”

Suddenly Captain Scarlet’s world turned hazy, he began to feel faint. The world began to spin.

This was a feeling he only ever felt when close to a Mysteron agent. It wasn’t an infallible “sixth sense”, it didn’t always warn him in time and its focus was imprecise, but he’d learned to trust it. Forcing himself back to equilibrium he looked at the Prime Minister again, this time with closer scrutiny.

Suddenly a dry gravely voice interrupted his deliberations.

“You are too late… Earthman.”

Captain Scarlet spun and saw the incongruous sight of a man in a Santa suit holding a gun at him. As he stared at the Mysteron agent, he noticed wisps of smoke starting to creep slowly out of the collar of the man’s costume. He was a human bomb. There was no choice, Scarlet had to get him off the train before he exploded, killing everyone on-board.

Before anyone else in the carriage could react, Scarlet moved; he rushed straight towards the gun-wielding Santa. The carriage was filled with the sudden report of a gun being fired. The first bullet slammed into Captain Scarlet’s chest. He staggered, but kept moving. A second bullet slammed into his arm. But he kept moving, getting closer and closer to the assassin.

Then he was on top of the Mysteron agent. The gun fired twice more, Scarlet’s body convulsed as the bullets tore into him. But the momentum of his run and collision with the Santa carried them backwards towards the door of the carriage. As their combined weight hit the door, it burst open and they fell out onto the trackside.

The smoke continued to pour out of the collar and cuffs of the assassin. He was getting closer to the point of detonation. The wounded Spectrum agent grabbed the smoking collar and dragged the struggling Santa towards the SPV stopped on the rail ahead of the train. He had to contain the explosion.

Locked in a death struggle, the living corpse of Christmas spirit and the incredible agent of order moved closer and closer to the armored vehicle. With a final effort, Scarlet pushed the Santa back into the open cockpit of the SPV.

But the flailing arms of the Mysteron managed to find a purchase on the jacket of the wounded man dragging him in afterwards. The door of the armored car closed on the two combatants.

Suddenly three Angel aircraft descended at high speed towards the SPV and opened fire. As the deadly missiles hit the armored car, they exploded with blinding light and deafening sound.

The SPV was reduced to a smoking pile of twisted metal. In the fields close by, lay two bodies.

CLOUDBASE – DECEMBER 25th 2068

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Colonel White motioned to Lieutenant Green to close the radio connection, his call over.

“How are they all feeling, Colonel?” asked the communications officer.

“The politicians are all a little shook up, a few are even complaining that their Christmas trip to Paris was cancelled, but most are glad to be alive.” He paused. “The British Prime Minister in particular wants to hold a memorial service for Captain Scarlet. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary. He now thinks I’m callous and insensitive over the loss of one of my own men.”

“It is difficult to explain, sir.”

“Well, let’s go and see how the patient is this morning?”

Colonel White was unprepared for the sight that greeted him when he pushed open the doors to the Cloudbase medical center. Standing in the middle of the room was a man in a red Santa costume.

Instinctively, Spectrum’s commanding officer went for his sidearm.

Santa laughed a hearty laugh. “Relax, Colonel.” His hands went up to the white beard and tugged it down to reveal the laughing face of Captain Scarlet. “I just thought I’d see how it felt to be the other fellow for a while.”

The Colonel’s only response was a muted “humph!!”

Captain Scarlet removed the Santa Costume; underneath he was dressed not in his uniform but in casual civilian shirt and slacks, no sign of the devastating injuries he had received the day before.

He was no longer the indestructible Captain Scarlet, he was just plain Paul Metcalfe.

Reaching round he handed a small wrapped parcel to the man in white stood before him.

“Merry Christmas.”

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Captain Scarlet and associated concepts and characters are © Gerry Anderson and Carlton International Media .