This Used to Be the Future: The Return of the Conqueror

Welcome to the exciting world of The Future! I’m your host, Dave Lartigue, and I’ll be taking you on an exciting and educational journey into the time to come! Sit back, pull up a cosmo chair, pour a space drink, and enjoy!

Here at This Used to Be the Future, we often hear stories of the brave men and women of the future who emerge victorious in battle! Today, however…well, it’s no different…OR IS IT???

We open up on a familiar scene. Some old dude in a space yarmulke sees a stranger in a park looking at a monument labeled “EARTH’S HERO” and decides to tell him the story behind it.

There are two brothers, Erik and Jasper Brandon. Erik’s got big dreams of being a hero someday. Possibly Earth’s hero! He is full of ambition and makes it into Space Academy, where he performs…well within normal limits.

After graduation, Brandon is sent to fight on Jupiter. It’s a sad commentary on the comics of the time that they actually use the racist word “Jupes” to describe the Jovian natives. According to our narrator, “dozens” of space force soldiers were lost in that mission, though the artwork shows green dudes in loincloths with clubs getting mowed down by lasers. But then comes Brandon’s big moment! He rushes onto the battlefield to help a falling…

…flag. Brandon survives, and a photo of his heroic rescue of cloth excites the folks at home! He’s a hero and becomes a general at a crazy young age. But he’s only just getting started, and he’s got some brash, bold ideas.

He…

I’m sorry. Let’s see that again.

O…kay… so Erik

All right, stop that, old dude in the park. Erik goes to

ENOUGH! STOP! We have a story to tell!

Yes, so Erik is triumphant over…that planet…and soon he’s given EIGHT battlerockets to go give Neptune hell! But Neptune, it turns out, has some rockets of their own!

Their rockets, though, are short and stubby and not nearly as powerful and virile as ours, an soon they too are forced to surrender. (Saturn, I guess, just capitulated at once.) Will Erik Brandon single-handedly bring the entire solar system under the benevolent patent leather boot of Earth?

He stops by to say hello to his little brother, Jasper, who is a mere atmospheric scientist. That’s okay. Someone has to not conquer entire planets, I suppose. Erik talks about how famous he is and then dashes off to Pluto with a fleet of 24 battle rockets.

Jasper’s worried, though, about the ozone layer. It seems that the atmospheric shield that protects us from harmful radiation is developing…holes in it! And he can’t figure out what could be causing it. All of a sudden he realizes — it’s the battlerockets! Their atomic discharges are punching holes in the ozone layer! All along Erik has been sending his mighty missiles to other planets and ignoring the holes at home that need filling!

Soon Earth feels the effects of this atmospheric calamity!

With untold millions of coffee cups in peril, Jasper has no time to lose. He fits a special generator to his rocket and begins circling the Earth, spewing out some kind of electricity that plugs the ozone holes. Unfortunately, just as he finishes, he succumbs to the radiation paralysis himself and crashes to his death.

So, see? The true hero isn’t the military champion, it’s the nerdy scientist! It’s not the conqueror, but the protector! And if that’s not enough of a twist for you, you’ll never guess who the stranger is! It’s none oth–

Yeah, it’s Erik.

“The Return of the Conqueror”
Strange Adventures #40 (DC, January 1954)
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Murphy Anderson
Inker: Bernard Sachs
Editor: Julius Schwartz

(Hey gang, This Used to Be the Future now has a Table of Contents page!)

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