by Doc Quantum
The Galaxo Movie Studios on the other-dimensional world of Thraxx, a few years ago:
“Well, Jolax? You’ve got my attention for the next ten minutes, so let’s hear it. Mya mentioned you have a great new show — a new dynamic concept in the works, if you will.”
The man was well-dressed and had a balding head of white hair, which along with his slight obesity denoted him as a man of wealth and power beyond that of the common man. As the president and CEO of InfiniCorps, he had the kind of power over the bodies and minds of beings from more than seventy-thousand civilizations in over fifty dimensions. He was also Galaxo’s chief sponsor, and manufacturer of the Optiviewer, and as such he expected the finest in quality entertainment and family-friendly viewing. Contrary to his gruff personality, the sponsor enjoyed these meetings, since it gave him a rare opportunity to participate in the magic of movie-making. And, just like any fan of movies and OpTiVi, he loved seeing his ideas, his creative suggestions, play out on the syntho-screen across Thraxx and all its territories and subsidiaries.
“I do, sir,” replied Jolax, a lean man clad in a brown and yellow outfit who sported an artistic-looking yellow cap and a twirled black mustache, outwardly denoting his career in the arts.
“Don’t get me wrong — we love what you’ve done with your Superman opti-show, and its spinoff, The Justice League of Earth is always popular. Do you have another idea similar to those Galaxo specializes in? Perhaps something more like your old classic, The Superboy of Earth? Optiviewers just love watching those ‘super-zero’ fellows running around in colorful outfits, saving some helpless Earthers while putting others in prisons of their own design.” He chuckled. “I’ve never understood why they don’t simply take over Earth and be done with it, but then I don’t make the movies — you do!”
“It’s ‘super-hero,’ sir, and I think we may just have what you’re looking for.” Jolax gestured toward the syntho-screen on the opposite wall of the skyroom, and several images began to appear of a group of super-hero Earthers with various skin colors and costumes doing amazing things with their bodies as they battled a group of green-skinned, lizard-like warriors appearing to be part of an invading force from another planet. “I’ve been saving this one for a while. It’s a pilot for a show I call The New Teen Titans, a spinoff of Justice League.”
“Another spinoff, eh?” the sponsor replied skeptically. “And what do these ‘New Teen Titans’ do, exactly?”
“If you recall, a few years back we had a show called The Teen Titans of Earth, which starred the child partners of some of the members of the Justice League.”
“Yes, yes,” replied the sponsor grumpily. “As I recall, it did moderately well, despite the fact that you never took up my suggestion to include a new Superboy in that show, something that would have surely allowed it to remain on the air a lot longer than it did. Frankly, Jolax, the last season just didn’t have the same kind of… flair that the earlier ones did.”
“I agree, sir, which is why I’ve been waiting until now for this new reboot,” explained Jolax. “The New Teen Titans has got it all: drama, suspense, romance!”
“Hmmm… that does sound intriguing,” said the sponsor. “But let me ask you one question.”
Sweat began trickling down Jolax’s forehead; he had a feeling that he knew what that question would be. “Yes, sir?”
“Will Superboy be in the show?”
“Uh, no,” said Jolax.
“Then is the original classic cast returning?” asked the sponsor, peering at the screen in an attempt to recognize the characters. “I see Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, but where’s everyone’s fan favorite, Aqualad?”
“Yes… and no, sir,” said Jolax. “Some have returned, and others are new characters.”
“And yet — none of them are Superboy,” stated the sponsor.
“I… I’m afraid not, sir,” replied Jolax. “You see, I–”
The sponsor began to rise from his chair; the OpTiVi producer of Thraxx knew he had to say something quickly, or his latest opti-show was never going to get off the ground.
“–I knew you’d want more Superboy, sir, and that’s why — in addition to all the time and money I’ve spent producing this fantastic new Titans show, I’ve also begun work on a new show featuring Superboy!”
“Oh?” said the sponsor with a slight frown. “Is it a team show, like that other spinoff, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes?”
“You bet, sir!” said Jolax, his mind racing as he tried to come up with a viable concept on the spot. “Uh, it’s a new Superboy and, uh… erm… uh…” Jolax began pulling at his shirt, which was clinging to his body as he racked his mind for an idea.
“And maybe a boy Batman as well?” suggested the sponsor.
“Yes, yes!” replied Jolax. “In fact, it’ll be a whole Justice League of children!”
For the first time during this meeting, the sponsor began to smile. “Excellent, Jolax! Excellent! I’ll be glad to sponsor something to hearken back to our old, family-friendly roots — especially since the numbers for our current lineup are below projections.”
“You are so wise, sir.”
“Well, that’s that. I want to see a pilot for the upcoming season,” said the sponsor. “If it’s everything you promise, we’ll pay for a full season.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Oh, and sometime down the line you’ll need to arrange for some kind of crossover with the real Justice League of Earth, too,” said the sponsor. “Our optiviewers are going to want to see how they interact with their junior counterparts, aren’t they?”
“Of course,” replied Jolax, speaking before he could fully process what the sponsor was saying. “Already in the works!”
“Good to hear,” replied the sponsor. “Now, please let yourself out.”
“And a-about The New Teen Titans, sir?”
“Fine, fine, send me the pilot, and I’ll take a look,” said the sponsor. “But in return, I expect you to fast-track Junior Justice League. Now please leave.”
“Thank you, sir. I–”
Jolax nodded his head and backed out of the room, waiting until the sliding door closed behind him before he stopped smiling.
“Great moon-quakes!” he muttered to himself as he started biting his nails. “What am I going to do now?”
Upon returning to his nearly empty studio, which was dominated by a gigantic telescope-like object, Jolax explained everything to his assistant, Mya. Years ago, the attractive young blonde had been his script-girl, and she had been the only studio employee who remained on after he made a discovery that had made Galaxo Movie Studios more profitable than any other optiviewer studio in history. Unfortunately, that discovery wouldn’t be able to get him out of another jam.
Mya’s first response had been to laugh and say, “You’re always telling me that your number one rule is to never over-promise and under-deliver.”
“What are we going to do, Mya?!” cried Jolax, pacing across the empty studio. “I mean, I had a plan — pull the same stunt we did with Superboy’s parents and make the Justice League itself young again — but the sponsor wants this to be a spinoff, not a reboot, with the old and young heroes meeting on-screen!”
Many years ago, seeking to save money, Jolax had commissioned a super-space camera to be built with the capability to peer into another dimension, and thus film real events and pass them off as fiction. It had been a brilliant idea, since he no longer needed actors, sets, stage hands, cameramen, or special effects. And when he discovered the existence of a costumed youth on the other-dimensional world of Earth called Superboy, he had an instant hit on his hands that paid off that overpriced camera and more when it became his newest cost-free opti-show.
The optiviewing public of Thraxx loved The Superboy of Earth and couldn’t get enough of it, but the sponsors came back to him with the same criticism that the majority of optiviewers had about the show. Superboy’s parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, were far too old to have a teenage son, so young viewers had a hard time identifying with Clark Kent. The sponsor told him that the solution was simple: he needed to hire new, younger actors to play the roles of Ma and Pa Kent.
Unfortunately, since Jolax used no actors at all, such a suggestion was impossible to implement — or so he thought, until he came up with his next brilliant idea.
Taking inspiration from the criminal justice system of Thraxx, Jolax took some of the youth serum administered to hardened criminals during their “executions” to turn them into babies and thus give them a chance to start over in a new life with honest parents. Converting his super-space camera into a dimensional teletransporter, Jolax instantly teleported a bottle of diluted youth serum to Earth, where it materialized in the bottom of the drinking well at the Kent’s home in Smallville. Thus, after the Kents drank some lemonade made from that contaminated well-water, they awoke the next morning to find themselves some twenty years younger.
Jolax thus managed to save the needed sponsorship of The Superboy of Earth through unconventional means, and turned a profitable opti-show into a super-hero franchise. (*) Since then, of course, he had used his profits to purchase more super-space cameras, and even secured the patent to ensure that none of his competitors, such as Mar-Vell Studios or Imajj Entertainment, ever got their hands on one.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Fantastic Faces,” Superboy #145 (March, 1968).]
“I see what you mean,” replied Mya thoughtfully.
“Well?” cried Jolax. “Why aren’t you tearing your hair out by now? We’re in a bind! If we lose our sponsor now, we’ll go out of business! When they find out how we’ve bamboozled the optiviewing public all these years, no one will be on our side! My creditors will feed me to the wulgargs — literally!”
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking…” she said. “What about… clones?”
“Too risky!” said Jolax. “I took a big enough chance as it was when I made the Kents young again. If I took genetic samples from each of the Justice League members, at least one of them would investigate, and then our whole operation could be exposed!”
“That didn’t stop us from making certain other changes in their lives from time to time,” Mya said slyly.
“Yes, but those were less noticeable!” he retorted. “Earthers tend to ascribe anything strange in their lives to coincidence or natural causes. This is too big a change to get away with this time!”
“And you don’t think posing as famous Earth author Robert Kanigher to get rid of the entire ‘Wonder Family’ counted as a big enough change to be noticed?” she said with a laugh. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The End, or the Beginning,” Wonder Woman #158 (November, 1965).]
“I swear you’re never going to let me live that down!” growled Jorax. “Besides, it worked, didn’t it? With that ‘Wonder Queen’ Hippolyta always erasing her daughter’s memories, nobody really knows how weird Wonder Woman’s past is, and as long as that damned genie never talks, they never will!”
“That’s a big if,” Mya said. “Though I must admit the Batman opti-show got much better after you forced all those aliens to stop visiting Gotham City. Of course, most of those aliens only went there in the first place because you wanted to spice up the show for sweeps week.”
“How was I supposed to know that those aliens we bribed would spread the word throughout Earth’s galaxy that they’d be rewarded for interfering with the Batman of Earth?” he sighed in frustration. “Now could we please get back to the issue? What’s your brilliant solution?’
“Parallel universes?” suggested Mya. “There’s got to be a world with ‘Li’l Justice Leaguers’ out there somewhere.”
“That may be true, but do you have any idea how hard it is to calibrate those cameras to pick up the right dimension? The vibrational frequencies are far too narrow to take that kind of chance — I might end up losing access to our other super-hero shows from Earth’s dimension just before sweeps week!”
“Maybe just hire some actors, then?” Mya said with a shrug.
“Why do I keep you around? You’re useless!” cried Jolax. “By the jumping moons, I’m doomed! Doomed!”
“Not… necessarily,” said Mya, looking at herself in a compact mirror as a tiny robotic arm extending from the compact carefully applied makeup to her cheeks.
“Do you have an idea?” asked Jolax hopefully.
“Not sure, but I might have one,” Mya replied calmly. “Tell you what. Let me use one of the cameras tonight — alone — and I’ll see what I can do.”