Journey to Jason
Writer: Don Freeman
Artist: Steve Dowling/John Allard
Published: 5/6/50 – 23/12/50 (J132 – J305)
Number of Episodes: 174
Garth, recovering at Sam Gorgon’s home, along with Karen, is surprised to receive a visit from a sculptor who asks Garth to pose for a giant statue of himself. It has been commissioned anonymously by someone “in high quarters”, and is to be shipped abroad when completed. Karen tell Garth the contents of an “extraordinary” letter she has received from Professor Lumiere, sent from a new secret observatory – the address of which has been censored -from where he has apparently observed a “flying saucer” headed for Earth!
The newspapers are full of a story that a new planet – named “Jason” – has wandered into the solar system from interstellar space. The press reports come from an observatory in El Wadi, and when Garth’s completed statue is collected by a lorry with a military escort, and the sculptor tells him it is to be shipped to El Wadi, he is intrigued. Lumiere, his statue, and the new planet are obviously somehow connected. He cables to Lumiere that he is returning to El Wadi. Karen elects to stay behind to help the blind Sylvia Silverado prepare for her wedding to Sam Gorgon.
Alighting from his plane at El Wadi, Garth is met by Lumiere – and an escort of American troops. Lumiere has been appointed as Director of an international stellar research station. Elaborate secrecy is being maintained following the crash landing in the desert of a flying saucer from Jason. Their ship is destroyed but its alien crew of two diminutive humanoid aliens have survived, and are being held captive.
Lumiere tells Garth that he has learned from the aliens – who are telepathic – that they were advance scouts for a planned invasion of Earth. Jason was originally a planet revolving around a star in Argo Navis. Its highly evolved scientific inhabitants have discovered the secret of near immortality but are facing over-population. Discovering how to navigate their entire planet through space by atomic power, they set out to find another world to which they could migrate, and are now in orbit around the Earth.
Lumiere’s plan is to send Garth’s imposing statue by a remote controlled rocket to Jason. As a representation of mankind, he hopes it will impress its inhabitants (who are physically puny) giving them a broad hint to ‘keep off the grass! It will have a warning note written by the hostages not to attack Earth and seek to destroy such a godlike race of giants. The Jasonites themselves are weak, and fear the physical prowess they lack. The hostages consent to write the letter on Lumiere’s promise that they will be given a rocket in which to return to their own world, if the message was heeded.
The rocket with Garth’s statue is duly launched, and lands on Jason. But the strategy does not work – Jason moves threateningly nearer to the Earth. The hostages inform Lumiere and Garth that this is a prelude for either bombarding the Earth with super weapons, or actually to impinge upon it, for a mass landing. But they are grateful for how well they have been treated, and impressed by Garth. They offer to plead for the invasion to be called off, if Lumiere will allow them to return to Jason – taking Garth with them as an ambassador for Earth.
The plan is agreed.
Their spaceship takes off, and on the journey Garth names the aliens Romulus and Remus. They are both over a hundred years old, and are the latest generation, the population needing to be rigidly controlled. Garth is appalled on learning that there are no children or young men and women on Jason – but the aliens let slip that there is one beautiful young woman, the product of the union of an advanced Jasonite and a ‘Hoolig’ – an unmentionable race of primitives who still dwell on the surface – the advanced Jasonites living mainly in underground cities.
Jason has a very light gravity and a dense atmosphere which enables people to swim in it – akin to flying. They teach Garth how to control his breathing of the dense air. The low gravity is a consequence of Jason having suffered aeons of excavation, which have almost hollowed out the planet.
(It should be noted that Freeman’s brilliantly original plot device of aliens being able to “fly” in a dense atmosphere was shamelessly and quite blatantly plagiarised three years later in the Dan Dare story “Operation Saturn”!)
Using Lumiere’s guidance system, Garth pilots the rocket to a landing, only to encounter very dense clouds that are caused by a planet-wide thermal system which maintains a uniform heat and enables the roving planet to move unharmed through interstellar space. The clouds cause Garth to overshoot the designated landing area, and the rocket lands in one of the Hoolig reservations.
The Hooligs are a primitive race whom the Jasonites had enslaved until, with the advance of science, they became obsolete, and are confined to reservations on the surface. They are avoided and feared by the Jasonites because of their physical strength. Although they are almost immortal, the Jasonites can be killed by physical violence.
On reaching a Hoolig settlement they find that Garth’s statue had landed there, and has been set up as a sort of idol which the Hooligs worship. Presently a flying craft arrives, dispatched by the Leader to collect them. Garth is taken underground to meet the Leader, Alpha.
Alpha has learned English and converses freely with Garth after an awkward initial encounter. He respects Garth and confides to him that Jason is beset with problems posed by the Hoolig reaction to the arrival of his effigy. He symbolises their aspirations as a race – strength, virility, grace – the human qualities they admire, and which the advanced Jasonites lack. They regard the statue as having fallen from their heavens, to lead a Hoolig revolution on Jason. Alpha had moved Jason nearer to the earth as a device to divert public attention from its internal troubles. By attacking Earth he had hoped to solve his racial problem and gain more territory.
Alpha shows Garth a projection of the beautiful Zeta, the last born child of a Jasonite father and a Hoolig mother, both of whom were liquidated for their offence. The Jasonites keep her because of her great beauty, which inspires their sculptors, artists and architects. But lately the Hooligs had been claiming her as their goddess until Alpha let them keep Garth’s statue instead.
Alpha’s television devices allow him to see the Hooligs marching to that part of their city serving as an entrance to the underworld, ostensibly to demand Garth’s release. Alpha is about to activate their death ray defences when Garth stops him, offering to meet the Hooligs himself and tell them to go back.
Alpha is not absolute Ruler; he is head of a Council, on which he has a bitter rival, Omega, who is in favour of the invasion and of destroying the Hooligs. However Garth is backed by Alpha and is allowed to meet and disperse the Hooligs peacefully, on his promise to meet them later.
Alpha conducts Garth down into the bowels of the planet, where Garth sees the giant robot, Phi, who pilots Jason through space from a vast atomic power house at the core of the planet. He is responsive only to the Leader’s voice.
Garth returns to the surface with Alpha and visits the beautiful Zeta, who has already fallen in love with Garth from observing him earlier. Garth’s visit stirs jealousy in the heart of Skal, a sculptor who has been modelling Zeta on his arrival. Alpha shrewdly observes that Garth has revived old emotions on his planet, as well as bringing new ideas and perspectives. He conducts Garth to the Star Council – the inner Council of Five – Alpha, Omega and three others – who are elected by an outer Council of one hundred. Garth makes an impressive plea to the Council to reconsider their decision to invade Earth. He warms them that humanity shall fight them to the death. Invasion would only unite the peoples of Earth – just as the Hooligs are already uniting on Jason to overthrow their soulless regime.
Omega then intervenes to advocate destroying the Hooligs, killing Garth, and proceeding with the invasion. But he is outvoted, and Garth is spared to visit the Hooligs, and the larger issue of invasion is to be put before the Council of one hundred. Omega threatens to bring about Garth’s death and Alpha’s resignation, and flies off, after donning special headgear to screen his thoughts from being read by the others. To counter this threat, Alpha gives Garth special tablets which will render his body impervious to the Jasonite death ray.
Omega and his men kidnap Zeta, knocking Skal aside. She is taken to Omega’s dwelling and locked in a transparent bubble prison, following which he returns to the Council and informs them that as Minister for Internal Affairs he is holding Zeta as a hostage to prevent Garth leading a possible Hoolig uprising.
Meanwhile, Skal alerts Garth before he leaves with Omega to visit the Hooligs, and instead directs Garth to Omega’s dwelling. Garth bursts in, and after brushing the guards aside, smashes Zeta’s prison and frees her, intending to take her to the Hoolig country for her own safety.
Despite Omega’s effort to destroy them using his ray machine, Garth and Zeta escape the city, together with the loyal Skal, and reach Hoolig territory. Garth learns their simple language from Zeta, and teaches them morality in order to prepare them to share eventually in the running of their planet.
At length Alpha loses control of the Star Council and a civil war breaks out between the adherents of Alpha and Omega, using chemical and ray weapons. Romulus and Remus are refugees from the conflict and join Garth and the Hooligs, bringing this news.
Omega is gaining the upper hand, and sends out a fighting craft which ray-blasts Garth’s statue, whilst the Hooligs take refuge in their caves. Garth, who is impervious to the rays, leaps into action and brings down the craft by smashing into the cockpit. The crew meekly surrender, and tell Garth that Alpha has been wounded – perhaps fatally – and that as the robot Phi is no longer receiving his instructions, Jason is now careering through space.
Garth returns to the city and comes upon the dying Alpha being tortured by Omega and his men to record new instructions that will make Phi (who presently only obeys Alpha’s voice) obey Omega as the new Leader. Garth springs into action to free Alpha, and his mighty blows kill Omega by crushing his skull.
Just before he dies, Alpha – who has been afflicted with a new ray weapon to which he was not immune – manages to record his verbal instructions to Phi, so that the robot will obey Garth’s voice. Garth descends to the internal regions and by playing the recorded message manages to get Phi under his control and to return Jason – which had been careering towards the sun – to a safe Earth orbit. The violent gravitational changes cause havoc on the surface of Jason.
As Garth is ascending he is confronted by the sudden appearance out of thin air of a new figure – the “Thinker”, the Chief Scientist on Jason. He explains to Garth that he had built Phi, and had hitherto solved all the material and scientific problems that the Council had put to him. On the outbreak of the Civil War he had made himself invisible during the conflict, and awaited the outcome to see which Leader he should obey. Garth tells him that with both Alpha and Omega now dead, he has assumed temporary Leadership and tasks the Thinker to determine Jason’s future whilst he ascends to the surface to see who has survived the cataclysm. He also charges him to solve the problem of how he can return to Earth.
On the surface, Garth discovers that a few Jasonites have survived the general discussion and he rallies them to his support before hastening to the Hoolig territory. He finds that Zeta and some others who obeyed her had survived in the deep shelters – but that many other Hooligs had marched on the city and had been swept off into space when Jason went into reverse. Garth tells the survivors that both Hooligs and Jasonites must now unite to rebuild life on the shattered planet. Under his leadership, new buildings arise, including an impressive new temple (“dedicated to a power that is above us all”) and in it Garth is asked to officiate at the wedding of Zeta and Skal. Garth hopes that the example should soon provide a balanced population.
Considering his work on Jason done, Garth instructs the Thinker to take Jason back to its original constellation – after he has solved the problem of his return to Earth. After several days the Thinker comes up with an amazing solution. Not by spaceship, but by Garth travelling in Space-Time: instead of following the usual course through curved space, Garth will take a straight line through the fourth dimension, overtaking time and arriving almost instantaneously at his destination.
The Thinker has constricted a cloak to cross space and a helmet to control time. Wearing them Garth will be insulated against heat, cold and friction whilst the ‘no time’ factor eliminates the need for breathing. The Thinker warns that if Garth goes a fraction off his course he might arrive on Earth a few thousand years earlier or later, but by taking off again from a high point, he may be able to try again to reach his target – the desert observatory, 1950.
Garth bids farewell to his friends on Jason, and then in his Space-Time flying kit, leaps into space on his fourth-dimensional journey back to Earth…
Synopsis by Philip Harbottle
In a feature encompassing the entire history of the much-loved strip, Garth writer Philip Harbottle pays tribute to artist and editor John Allard, who worked at the Mirror for over 50 years, outlining his huge contribution to Garth‘s enduring success
Strip dates given are those of their original appearance in the British newspaper the Daily Mirror, first compiled by Geoffrey Wren and Ann Holmes and updated by Ant Jones and Philip Harbottle
Garth © REACH/ Daily Mirror