ASTROBOY VOLUME 17

1. THE FROZEN HUMAN

First appeared in the July 1955 supplement edition of Shonen magazine.

A Frenchman by the name of Monsieur Ampere is leading an expedition of explorers on a search to excavate the tomb of an ancient ruler of the Mayan civilization among the pyramids of Mexico. He has enlisted the services of Astro to assist his crew.

But things are not simple. A strange robot built like a sphinx, a half human half lion mythological creature is attacking and killing the people and also some other robots in the form of huge crabs. Astro has to protect the explorers but half of them are already wiped out before Ampere can bring Astro to join them. The survivors all prepare to begin work and a man known simply as Professor explains the layout of the pyramid. It has openings on the east and south sides and their goal, the burial chamber is in the middle. They all grab their equipment and set off.

When they enter one of the passageways they strike a cave-in that blocks the passage. Ampere goes outside for fresh air while his men start digging and is captured by a wild Mexican played by Duke Red. The Mexican holds Ampere captive with a shotgun saying that he won’t let him interfere with his brother’s goals. Ampere’s men sneak up from behind and tackle him when they come out having left Astro to take full charge of clearing the debris.

Astro announces that he’s opened the passage and Ampere leaves three men to guard the Mexican while they search further. They find water has flowed in underground and Astro goes ahead to see if they can easily get to the main chamber underwater. Meanwhile they discover that the Sphinx has killed the men left outside but remarkably not the man they were guarding. They take the Mexican into the pyramid with them and Astro appears to say they can reach the main chamber safely. He was delayed in his return by a fight with ten crab robots. Holding their breath they find the chamber but only the mummy’s sarcophagus is there. They search around and find a secret doorway though and Ampere says this is what he’s really been looking for most of all.

It turns out to be a hidden laboratory where a man is frozen in a huge block of ice. The Mexican declares that it is his brother, Doctor Don Peres Prado. His dream was to meet people many centuries in the future. So he chose to freeze himself here in this pyramid to keep his body alive in suspended hibernation. His equipment is set to awaken him after a few centuries worth of frozen sleep. The Sphinx appears and fights Astro. They both run away into another chamber during their battle and Astro gets the upper hand and the Sphinx is badly broken. Astro asks why he attacked humans and he explains that he and the giant crabs were created to protect Doctor Prado while he peacefully sleeps. Astro bitterly regrets his actions upon understanding at last and promises to repair the Sphinx somehow. The Sphinx humbly admits that he also should have explained this to Astro in the first place.

Meanwhile Ampere is instructing his men to help him steal the uranium reserves but the Professor objects when Ampere prepares to kill the frozen doctor. When he refuses to let go of the gun Ampere throws him aside and shoots him dead. Then one of the other men reveals himself as an undercover policeman sent to investigate Ampere’s criminal activities. He charges him with murdering the Professor. He fights Ampere’s remaining men and one of them (played by Lamp) flees carrying the box of uranium. Ampere follows him through the underwater passage but Lamp betrays his boss. Before Ampere can get out the other side Lamp drops a huge boulder into the water cutting off the passage. Lamp runs off with the uranium and jumps into the waiting car. But he forgets in his jubilation that the pyramid had two exits. Everybody gets out and Astro tries to capture Lamp. Realizing what is going on Lamp tries to drive away but ends up crashing the car killing himself. The detective and the Mexican take Ampere to jail while Astro returns to try to fix the Sphinx and make sure Doctor Prado is able to continue hibernating in peace and safety.

Trivia

This story is used in episode 50 of the 1980’s series entitled The Secret of the Mayas.

2. GADEMU

First serialized from August to September 1959 in Shonen magazine.

Astro is a passenger on an ocean liner taking him back home to Japan from Egypt. He runs afoul of a bald-headed man with a black eye-patch that evening with forty-seven robot servants. They squirt him with a sticky gel that forms into a ball and throw him encased inside into the water where he sinks. Having disposed Astro the man meets with various gangsters to offer to sell them a special robot he has created. He tells them the robot will be seen in action at midnight precisely. Then the following morning at eight o’clock he will offer it for sale.

That midnight as promised a giant robot looking like a centipede crawls around the boat breaking into cabins and swallowing money and other valuables into its mouth. Everybody panics and the crew search for the monster but it appears to have vanished into thin air. The man goes back to his cabin confident of making a huge fortune later tomorrow and is shocked to be confronted by his younger brother Tommy. Tommy tells his brother, who is called Mephisto, that he stowed away and saw him talking to the criminals. Tommy is the real inventor of the monster robot known as Gademu and Mephisto stole it from him. Tommy never intended his robot to fall into evil hands and is very upset.

He demands that Mephisto goes to the captain and confesses when suddenly one of the mob bosses bursts in with some gunmen demanding to get the monster. Mephisto breaks down when they threaten to shoot him and admits that his forty-seven robot servants next door all join together to form the monster when you say the codeword Gademu. Tommy protests but Mephisto is dragged out on deck by the mobsters with all the robots. Tommy puts up a fight with his guards and is shot. Meanwhile Mephisto has Gademu transform and to get revenge he commands it to kill them all and so it does. But then it tries to kill him too and tosses him into the sea.

It transpires that Astro was able to escape from the sticky ball with the help of some killer whales searching for something to eat and flew back to the boat. He overheard Tommy being shot and saw the monster dive into the sea after throwing Mephisto. He dives and saves him. Mephisto comes to in the hospital ward and finds his brother, wounded but alive in the opposite bed. Mephisto is deeply ashamed and tells Astro that Gademu has gone on a killing rampage and must be stopped. They’re so close to Japan that the danger is very serious. The Japanese Navy is alerted to the defense and Astro goes to help them.

Working together Astro and the navy succeed in destroying Gademu but in the meantime Mephisto has been atoning for his crimes by pointing out to the captain the names of the wanted men on his passenger list. As he courageously begins a gangster who was listening at the door bursts in and shoots him. Tommy pulls out another gun and shoots the gunman dead. Mephisto is still just barely alive however and wills himself to live long enough to point out every single other name on the list. Then he breathes his last. The police are waiting to take all the bad men into custody when the liner docks in Japan and Astro gives his condolences to Tommy.

Trivia

Tommy sort of looks like he could be played by Tezuka’s star character Rock or perhaps by Kenichi.

While this story did not appear itself in the 1980’s series in episode 25 The Robot Vikings a gang of robots appear who can similarly combine themselves into such a monster. They were originally created by Astro’s enemy the robot Atlas but they rebelled against him and went to wreak havoc on earth for their own vindictive pleasure.

3. FUHRER ZZZ

First serialized from September to December 1954 in Shonen magazine.

Fuhrer ZZZ is the leader of a terrorist society that has been targeting important world leaders and prominent scientists in every corner of the globe. They spray them with a dreadful gas that renders those who inhale it deeply incurably insane. To protect their identities they all wear masks. When President Lyon comes to visit Japan with his son Roberto to discuss ambitious plans to form of federation of the earth’s nations devoted to maintaining world peace with the Japanese Prime Minister Hakone ZZZ follows.

Roberto is convinced he and his father are in danger when they hear of the latest attack on the President of France and he follows a suspicious man with a peg-leg he notices in the Kabuki Theater during the intermission of a show they were invited to. He gets himself in deep trouble when the man realizes he is being spied upon and almost shoots Roberto with the gas. Just in time Astro happens to pass by and he saves Roberto throwing him into the river before he breathes it. The peg-leg man escapes because Astro has to save Roberto from getting swept over the dam but he does manage to snatch the gas gun first.

Professor Ochanomizu is able to identify the gas in his lab and tells Astro and Mustachio about the ZZZ gang. Later Prime Minister Hakone is rendered insane by the gas when he’s attacked by gang members infiltrating his bodyguards. Astro tries to capture them but they cry out that Astro helped ZZZ gas Hakone. Astro flees and the police issue a warrant for his arrest. Lyon and Roberto can’t believe it when they hear this.

Later they are both captured and taken blindfolded to ZZZ’s secret headquarters. Fuhrer ZZZ himself warns them both to co-operate with him if they know what’s good for them. But Astro has trailed them to their base when they flew away after the hit on Hakone and he slips a message to Roberto to assure him that things will be well.

Astro discovers the gas pipelines but unfortunately as he begins to destroy them Fuhrer ZZZ appears with young Roberto tied and gagged. Astro is forced to climb to the top of an electro-mag dissolver tower and ZZZ switch it on allegedly destroying Astro’s electronic brain. Fuhrer ZZZ has his body secured in the warehouse and returns Roberto and his father to Japan warning that they’ll be constantly monitored. Roberto still resolves to somehow fight but Lyon seems to cower before ZZZ. The peg-leg man appears and tells Lyon not to keep hi9s scheduled meeting with General Cagliostro of Argentina. The Fuhrer will go instead disguised as Lyon. Mustachio captures peg-leg but he sneaks a poison pill rather than talk.

Roberto tells ZZZ’s plan though the Fuhrer badly injures Lyon in payback leaving a note by his unconscious body saying to be grateful they didn’t use the gas on him. Astro chases ZZZ while they are escaping. He was only pretending to be damaged. Just before the electro-mag ray was switched on he had jumped up and grabbed hold of the ceiling safely out of range. Now he has destroyed all the gas pipelines and obliterated their headquarters. However Astro has been sighted and the police send air force jets to capture him so ZZZ escapes once more.

Mustachio persuades Inspector Tawashi to let Astro come with him to the hospital to hear Roberto’s testimony and Astro’s name is cleared. Astro says he saw ZZZ’s face while hiding at the secret base which he’s now destroyed. Strange thing is it looked exactly like President Lyon. Mustachio gets a hunch and arranges with the police and the hospital to announce to the newspapers and radio that President Lyon is mortally injured and has not much longer to live. His hunch proves right when ZZZ turns up at the hospital with two henchmen desperate to see Lyon. Astro has been disguised as a nurse and captures them. Mustachio unmasks the Fuhrer before Astro, Roberto and the police to reveal Lyon’s twin brother. He confesses that when his brother became President of the Earth Federation he schemed to blackmail him and conquer the world. This is why Lyon often meekly told Roberto that he had no choice but to comply with ZZZ. He took revenge when Roberto talked with a knife but he really did not mean to kill his brother. Upon being assured by Mustachio that Lyon will recover after all ZZZ is so relieved that he cries upon his brother’s bed begging forgiveness.

Trivia

Unlike Tommy in the previous story above who only sort of loosely looks like Rock, Roberto by contrast is unmistakably played by Rock.

4. THE FACE IN THE ROCK

First serialized from February to March 1966 in Tetsuwan Atom Club magazine.

Astro is taking a bus holiday tour with Uran and Mr. Mustachio. The tour guide makes special mention of a large boulder on top of a nearby mountain with a unique pattern in it that looks like a human face. According to one of the legends associated with it if it ever turns around to face the western direction the village at the base of the mountain will be destroyed. Mustachio says it seems weird but he could swear the last time he ever saw the rock it was facing a different angle. It appears to have shifted position a little.

Astro flies over to investigate and meets a strange robot who introduces himself as the Fireball Kid. He also meets the headman of the village who tells Fireball to return to the village. He tells Astro that Fireball is a problem child and everybody hates him. Even though the headman tells Astro nobody believes the superstition about the boulder moving nevertheless most of the houses are deserted. Astro finds out from asking an old woman that people have left because of all the recent earthquakes and that the headman only came to the village three years ago. He made a huge monetary donation to the villagers and became appointed head. He originally came to explore a nearby cave that’s claimed to be haunted.

Astro investigates the cave and discovers that the Fireball Kid is helping the headman excavate an ancient family treasure tomb and this is what’s causing the earthquakes that are slowly turning the strange boulder. The headman is actually former mafia gang leader Kim Sankaku seen in a couple of previous volumes and he orders Fireball to fight with Astro.

As Fireball blasts at Astro more earthquakes happen and the rest of the villagers all flee as the boulder turns to fully face west. Astro flies out of the cave just as it begins to roll down the mountainside towards the village and though it is so heavy he is able to hold it in place just long enough for everybody to escape. Then he lets go and it rolls towards the cave causing the roof to fall in sealing off the opening. Sankaku finds some ancient writing that reveals that the boulder is actually a trap rigged up to bury grave robbers and Fireball says he knew about this but kept silent. He says Sankaku is a bad man and he’s been waiting for his punishment.

Astro barely manages to tunnel underground and Fireball refuses to give him any energy. He makes his own exit but he actually makes a big enough tunnel so Sankaku can escape. Astro has no energy to walk but Sankaku helps carry him and they both get to safety.

Trivia

There is some tongue in cheek humour in this story. Astro hears Fireball calling “Hey c’mon out!” to lead them to freedom and Astro was told earlier by the old lady that one of the local superstitions was that if you called that out at the entrance to the cave ghosts would come out.

This story is also unique in that Kim Sankaku saves Astro rather than just thinking about himself. He may be one of the few villains Astro’s ever faced with some small trace of goodness deep down within.

This story is retold in the 1980’s series episode 47 The Human-Faced Rock with Sankaku replaced by another original character.

5. SPACE PARASITES

First serialized from January to April 1962 in Shonen magazine.

This is another alien invasion story. It all begins when Mr. Mustachio goes to visit one of his students up in the mountain area when he hears from the boy’s parents that he’d suddenly taken sick one night. The poor boy, Kyutaro, tells his teacher fearfully that he’s scared of his parents. They don’t seem normal anymore. Later Mustachio sees trees in the forest crawling around like worms and when he tells Kyutaro’s parents what he saw they try to kill him. Mustachio fights back and they call the trees to attack him. He barricades himself inside with Kyutaro while the trees pound at the door and they phone the police for help. The police arrive and bring Astro with them to save Mustachio and Kyutaro. The trees have disappeared along with Kyutaro’s parents but they do find a single small piece of wood that wiggles and squirms. Scientists affirm that it is alive with some new crystals in place of most of its wood fibres.

Later a policeman is alerted to reports of a giant rat when young Tamao is attacked and only just manages to escape. The policeman investigates and is attacked himself. He shoots off the tip of the rat’s tail but it kills him and runs away. When Ochanomizu and the other scientists examine the severed tail they find it is composed of the same material as that of a dead tree.

While Astro and Ochanomizu are contemplating this mystery in his office at the Ministry of Science they receive a strange visitor through the window. He seems to be a masked man and he announces that he is part of an alien race so very tiny that human eye cannot see them. They are parasites and live off the bodies of animals, plants and humans. He makes a proposal that his people be permitted to inhabit the bodies of certain animals such as rats and other vermin. Ochanomizu says that he will put this proposal to the general meeting of the Japan Science Academy the following day. If they agree they will shoot a white smoke signal from the top of the building. If not a red one. But if the offer is rejected the parasites will do as they see fit. The man leaves taking the piece of wood and the rat tail with him.

At the meeting everybody is adamant that they must fight and not give in to these parasites so Ochanomizu shoots the red smoke signal. The parasites respond by attacking Japan with the bodies of the rats they’ve inhabited and turned into giants. The armed defense forces try blasting them with all their artillery but they keep healing and getting back up. They try calling in the robot troops to capture them so they can store them in a spaceship and send them off into space but a flying saucer appears and melts the robot troops to molten slag. Astro flies up and dodges the ray beams knocking out the protruding weapons. However he dares not smash the saucer for fear of filling all Tokyo with hundreds of more parasites so he lets it fly away.

Later a Professor Akiba is murdered by the parasites and his body possessed. Akiba had calculated where a group of flying saucers were coming from and where they would land on earth and he was supposed to give his report at a defense meeting that day. The possessed corpse claims he is feeling sick. Astro promises Ochanomizu to go and get the report. Other parasites see him depart and alert Akiba. The man who used to be Akiba tries everything to destroy Astro or even prevent him getting the report but Astro overcomes all obstacles and delivers the data. On March 19th tomorrow the spaceships will land on earth around the North and South Poles.

Professor Ochanomizu is traveling by car with Mustachio and another scientist to investigate further when they are blocked in the road by crowds of panic-stricken rioting people. They recognize Ochanomizu and blaming the invasion of the parasites on the Ministry of science they drag him and the other scientist out of the car. When Mustachio tries to first reason with them, then fight back they bash him up. Astro comes along the scene too late and finds Mustachio alone with the car wrecked and burning.

But Astro informs his teacher that the parasites are preparing to meet the flying saucers and Mustachio flies with Astro to Professor Akiba’s observatory. They sneak into the saucer inside and overhear the parasites inside the human bodies they’ve taken over talking about how the most important thing is to guide all the others safely past the Van Allen Belt. Mustachio explains to Astro that the Van Allen Belt is a band of radiation that circles the earth except for the North and South Poles and realizes that radiation must be very dangerous to the parasites. Working together Astro and Mustachio are able to subdue the main ship after it takes off and greets the rest of the invasion fleet. They pilot all the saucers into the Van Allen Belt and all the parasites are killed by the radiation thus saving mankind once more.

Trivia

There are a couple of unresolved plot holes in this story. For example it is never revealed what ultimately happened to Professor Ochanomizu though it is obvious he had to have survived his fate at the hands of the angry mob. Also while the parasites occupying the bodies of Professor Akiba and two other scientists are annihilated in the Van Allen Belt it is unknown about the state of other humans who had been possessed including young Kyutaro’s parents. Are they still alive or were they already dead at the moment of possession like Akiba was?