Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 1: Unlucky Stars

by Libbylawrence

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The lovely red-haired broadcaster Lana Lang smoothed the hem of her green skirt as she sat down across from her guest on the set of WGBS News. Lana was adept at making her guests feel comfortable, and she smiled winningly as she looked over at the beautiful blonde woman who sat in the studio chair.

“Now, Stacy, I want you to relax and treat this interview as if it was just a chat between two exceptionally stunning young women!” she joked.

Stacy Macklin smiled back and said, “Ms. Lang, I appreciate your kindness. My years at NASA didn’t exactly prepare me for live TV! I’d almost prefer to be back as an astronaut in orbit to being in the hot seat, so to speak!”

Lana nodded and said, “Your book Lunacy is terrific, and moving as well. The viewers will be fascinated by your experiences. I mean, how many women can say they went from being a Georgia farm girl to being an astronaut to gaining super-powers and battling Superman and Batman?”

Stacy’s eyes narrowed briefly as she reacted to Lana’s words. Pull it together, Stacy Jane! she thought. If you weren’t prepared to talk openly about your Lady Lunar identity, you shouldn’t have written about it all in a book!

“I was mentally ill, and under a compulsion I couldn’t resist back then,” Stacy explained, accidentally lapsing into the thick Southern accent she had worked to eliminate during her beauty pageant days, when she was still a redhead. “I’m thankful that my super-powers are a thing of the past, along with my role as a costumed criminal. I’m happily cured of being a super-villainess! Still, if people find it interesting and are willing to buy my book, then I’ll certainly talk about it. Now that I’m no longer at NASA, I need to make my writing career a successful one.” Tossing back her long blonde hair, she took a deep breath as TV news director Josh Coyle signaled the opening of the live broadcast.

Lana beamed at the cameras as she confidently introduced herself and began the newscast. “I’m Lana Lang, and this is GBS Spotlight. My first guest today has led a remarkable life full of achievements and traumas. Stacy Jane Macklin rose from rural Georgia to become a celebrated female astronaut. However, in addition to fame, her missions brought her a transformation that threatened her very sanity!”

Stacy Macklin adjusted her stylish Arabella Pollen miniskirt and jacket as she looked ahead and listened to Lana’s questions.

“Stacy, growing up on a farm in Georgia, did you aspire to becoming an astronaut when you were a child?” asked Lana.

Nodding, Stacy replied, “Yes. We lived in the country, and on summer nights the stars were so bright and seemed so near. I guess as a little girl I imagined I could just reach out and touch them!”

“And you did exactly that, in a sense,” said Lana. “Your path to the stars was an unusual one, to the say the least!”

Stacy laughed as she replied, “You could say that. I paid for my college education by winning scholarships, some of which came along with various beauty pageant titles I won. I rather doubt astronauts like Neal Armstrong or Brice Rogers ever held the titles like Miss Magnolia Blossom Queen!”

“From college you moved to the life of a NASA trainee at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where you excelled in every facet of the space program despite some strange events there,” continued Lana. (*) “And yet, didn’t you find yourself frustrated by being assigned duties related to your beauty?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Empress of the Silver Snake,” Wonder Woman #252 (February, 1979) and “Spirit of Silver, Soul of Gold,” Wonder Woman #253 (March, 1979).]

“Yes, eventually,” said Stacy. “As chapter ten of my book explains, I was later given public relations tasks because NASA found the hook of ‘Space Barbie’ to be irresistible to journalists like yourself. However, even before those strictly glamorous duties, I did make it into space, despite the scandals that arose during that time!”

Fighting the urge to merely relive her past experiences as memories surged through her mind, Stacy described briefly her encounters with not only Wonder Woman, but also a few super-villains in a relatively short span of time. Stacy recalled how she was briefly possessed by the spirit of the goddess Athena, who defeated Angle Man while in her body during her very first space mission. (*) Then Queen Bee attacked the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center with a swarm of bees in a mind-control scheme. (*) And finally there was the incident involving the Royal Flush Gang, in which fellow trainee Mike Bailey was revealed to be working with the gang as the new Ten, followed by the revelation that her friend and fellow trainee Diana Prince had not only left the program, but was being investigated by United Nations Security for an unspecified charge. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Angle in the Stars,” Wonder Woman #254 (April, 1979), “The Insanity Swarm,” Adventure Comics #463 (May-June, 1979), “Slave of the Queen Bee,” Adventure Comics #464 (July-August, 1979), and “The Return of the Royal Flush Gang,” Wonder Woman #256 (June, 1979).]

Thankfully, the astronaut program managed to survive those scandals, and with trainees Prince and Bailey gone, things began to settle down once more. Unfortunately, since she was so closely linked with those two failed trainees, Stacy found herself sidelined into public relations duties, even as she tried to continue her training in earnest. And then the day came when everything changed.

Stacy Macklin had been on special assignment as a guest speaker for a lunar exhibit at STAR Labs in Metropolis when exposure to a latent radiation in a lunar craft had caused her to take on a strange new identity as the costumed superhuman Lady Lunar. Losing touch with her true nature, she had become a violent and potentially murderous demigoddess with an obsession to punish the mortals who had tainted her sacred home with their space landings.

Focusing her attention on Lana, Stacy explained how her super-powers and her split personality had faded after receiving help from Superman and Batman. “The space radiation created a separate personality in my mind. I was no longer in control of my actions. Stacy Jane Macklin was gone. My body and mind were under the control of Lady Lunar, the ‘high priestess’ to a Moon goddess, and far superior to mere mortals. It was madness! I was helpless to resist. I did things I’m ashamed of, but as I said, I was as much a victim as anyone else in her path.”

Lana nodded as an image of Stacy dressed in a helmet and brief green and orange costume with high-heeled orange boots appeared on the monitor. “Attractive costume, even with the aviator helmet covering up your stunning features. As Lady Lunar, you battled Superman and Batman.”

“I was cured thanks to their efforts, and their endorsement enabled me to resume my NASA career and complete my training,” she explained. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Last Laugh of Lady Lunar,” World’s Finest Comics #266 (December, 1980-January, 1981).]

Lana nodded thoughtfully, then added, “And yet you weren’t quite through with the role of Lady Lunar, were you?”

Crossing her legs, Stacy leaned forward defensively. “No,” she said. “During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, I spontaneously turned back into Lady Lunar. I theorize that the trace amount of radiation still in my body was amplified by the presence of five moons from five different universes, along with the transient cosmic energy in the air. (*) Thankfully, it wore off soon enough, but that still wasn’t the end of the story for Lady Lunar.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 3: Three Worlds to Conquer.]

Stacy went on to explain how she had later been forcefully turned back into Lady Lunar by Black Manta, assisting the Crime Champions invade Atlantis and battle Aquaman and the Force of July in the process. (*) Later, Lady Lunar was compelled by an irresistible urge to lead the super-villains to the Central American nation of Tropidor, where the others discovered that she’d been manipulated by the super-criminal called Eclipso ever since they’d met during the Crisis. Eclipso took possession of her body and used both his own powers and Lady Lunar’s to battle his enemies until Captain Comet and several others managed to defeat Eclipso and cure her. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Force of July: The Crime Champions, Aquaman: Atlantis Attacked, and The Forgotten Heroes: Terror in Tropidor.]

“After that, I decided to part with NASA for good,” continued Stacy. “Being an astronaut just wasn’t in the stars, you might say. I decided to come to terms with it all by writing my book, so I could put my past behind me and carve out a new future for myself.”

As Lana finished the interview, and the broadcast switched to another story, Stacy sighed with relief. “Thanks, Ms. Lang. If this helps me sell a few copies of Lunacy, I’ll surely appreciate it,” she said.

Lana shook hands with the taller woman and said, “Best of luck to you, luv.”

As Stacy’s high heels clattered across the hallway outside the studio doors, she frowned as she heard a loud noise from outside the Galaxy Building. I saw the construction workers across the street when I arrived — I heard enough wolf whistles to prove it — but that sounded like the whole site collapsed!

Hurrying to a window, Stacy gasped as she saw the burly construction crew racing in terror away from a scene of twisted metal girders and one rampaging inhuman figure.

A powerfully built alien figure clad in a purple and yellow costume was screaming in pain as his superhuman muscles enabled him to smash through solid steel, even as he melted girders at his slightest touch. He was ivory white, with bulbous pale blue eyes, a shock of red hair, bushy red eyebrows, and red muttonchops over his cheeks.

Stacy cried out in shock as she saw the girders above the scene of his rampage begin to shake and lean precariously over. The structure is collapsing! People will be killed! she realized as her heart raced and she felt herself growing warmer.

A green glow enveloped her, and her eyes widened as her designer suit and shoes changed into the brief green and orange bodysuit she had worn as Lady Lunar. High-heeled orange boots and an aviator helmet completed her outfit.

“No! This can’t be happening!” she cried, and sank down to her knees for a second before regaining control of her emotions. Flying out the window, she acted on instinct born from years of training and soared across the street as the girders snapped with a final metallic groan.

As she flew beneath the metal barrage, she concentrated, but nothing happened. “No magnetic power?” she said, moving forward and catching the falling metal before shoving it aside and away from the fleeing passersby below.

The crowd cheered as Stacy thrust her arms forward, and energy bolts surged out of her hands to melt the remaining metal into a more manageable mass. “I don’t have my magnetic powers anymore, but my energy-field is still intact!”

She caught her breath as she realized that the unheard-of had happened. “I’m still Stacy,” she said softly. “I’m superhuman again, right down to the costume, but I’m in control. I’m not crazy or in my old Lady Lunar mindset!”

Glancing down at the cheering crowd, she slowly removed her helmet and tossed it aside to let her normal features and long blonde hair be seen.

“I don’t need that helmet. I’ve nothing to hide or be ashamed of now!” she vowed, feeling caught between so many conflicting emotions that she could barely take stock of them. I thought it was happening again when I felt the heat of the change, she thought. I’ve lived in fear that I might lose it all again and become that other person once more, but now, somehow, I’ve got her power, but I’ve kept my own free will!

A roar echoed through the streets below as the alien who had melted or smashed the construction site appeared once more and stepped directly in front of a speeding car. The vehicle slammed into him before Stacy could react, and she gasped as she saw the alien remain in place as the impact crumpled the front of the car but left him unhurt.

The driver managed to leap out even as the deathly pale alien brought both glowing fists down and melted the car to so much scrap metal.

Stacy hesitated for a moment, wondering if she should just wait for Superman to show up, then dropped down to confront the creature herself. “Stop! You’re going to hurt someone! Just calm down!” she said in her soothing Southern belle tone of voice.

The being stared at her through eyes that changed back and forth from a milky white to a gleaming red.

“I won’t harm you. Let me help you!” she said. Hovering in place for a moment, she reached out one gloved hand and asked, “Who are you?”

Opening his mouth, he replied to her in English. “Karb-Brak! My name is Karb-Brak!” he cried as the last syllable became a groan.

The figure radiated tremendous heat, and Stacy realized that it was only the glowing green energy-field surrounding her body that prevented her from feeling the extreme temperatures his body was emitting. “You seem as if you’re in pain!” she said.

Grasping his head in both hands, he charged her with an incoherent cry on his lips.

Stacy danced aside with the grace she had brought to her childhood ballet days. I’m faster, but he can’t be allowed to run wild, she thought. I don’t know if he’s just in pain as he seems, or if he’s truly bent on harming others!

Kicking out, she caught him directly in the face. As he grunted, she followed up with a second kick. Karb-Brak fell backward for a moment, and Stacy moved closer to him.

Suddenly he leaped toward her, knocking her to the ground before pouncing on her and clutching her throat with his burning hands. She began fighting to break free.

“Can’t do it!” she gasped as her efforts met with failure, and his red glow began to overwhelm her own green energy-field.

She thrashed and kicked, but she was losing the fight. Karb-Brak, be he monster or madman, was slowly choking the life out of her.

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