Zephyr Jones

and the Birdmen of Sunev

Zephyr Jones was one of many sci-fi heroes in early Marvel Comics (then known most often as Timely Comics). His backstory was pretty simple:

His father, Dr. Morrison Jones, dreamed of one day going to Mars with a rocket ship of his own design, but the elder Jones died under mysterious circumstanes. Completing his father's ship, Zephyr and his friend Corky Gorgan prepared to leave for Earth's sister planet to much fanfare and media attention.

Unfortunately, he never made it to Mars.

In his first adventure (from Daring Mystery Comics #2 in Feb 1940, recounted here), Zephyr and Corky get side-tracked by strange planetoid somewhere between the earth and the moon inhabbited by Birdmen, and in his second adventure (from Mystic Comics #1, March 1940) his ship is hijacked by a scientist determined to land on another star (?!), inside that star (!!?!) they find a race of space dwarves that try to club them to death. Luckily they are able to bring back enough stardust to cure all diseases (!?!?!?!). Needless to say Zephyr's adventures could be read with a grain of salt.

Table of Contents


Story One: "Zephyr Jones and His Rocket Ship"
Comments
Characters

"Zephyr Jones and His Rocket Ship"
by Joe Cal Cagno and Fred Schwartz

It opens in a field of indeterminate location with Zephyr Jones understanding that the mayor (no name or city given) might understandably think “this flight to Mars is foolhardy,” but that he must go because that was his father’s dream. Morrison, you see, started building the rocket ship but died “through mysterious circumstances” (no further details given).

Traveling at 5,000 miles per minute, Zephyr tells his friend Corky Gorgan that “we should cover the 35 million miles to Mars in a day.”

Unexpectedly the ship is drawn in by the gravitational pull (I assume anyway, they don’t really explain why the ship is pulled off course) of a smaller, uncharged land. This is the Sunev, a lush forest and mountainous planet located between the earth and the moon. Leaving the safety of the craft and are quickly encountered by Birdmen, including one named Roudo.

The Birdmen are initially surprised that the humans “look like us,” but Roudo explains that Sunev was once part of earth, but it “broke loose and flew into space” long ago. Roudo says he speaks English because that was the language spoken by the people on the land when it broke loose. He further explains that earthmen never noticed Sunev because “the suns rays did not reflect this far -- you’ve heard how they curve. They just miss this satellite and so it is invisible in the stratosphere” (ironically the earth is visible from Sunev, although it is shown with red oceans and with the geography reversed)

Following the exposition, Roudo introduces Zephyr and Corky to King Bolo and Princess Tonka (sporting a set of very lovely Princess Leia-style hair buns).

Over time (how much time isn’t clear) Zephyr and Corky learn of Birdmen science – they have an “elixir of long life” that allows Birdmen to live 300 to 400 years for example – and teach the Birdmen about earthmen technology – including “radio, motion pictures, television, motor cars, etc.”

During this time Tonka falls in love with Zephyr and Roudo, secretly a member of the until-now-unmentioned but none-the-less-evil Parrotmen, has been plotting a way to turn the earthmen’s arrival to his advantage so that he may take over Sunev and have the princess for himself.

Roudo presents evidence before the king’s tribunal (Bolo and two unidentified Birdmen) that Zephyr and Corky are spies for the Parrotmen, and much to the king’s displeasure, that means they must be executed.

While waiting in jail, Zephyr realizes the Birdmen “don’t know anything about firearms,” and asks the visiting Tonka to bring him his violin case from the ship (apparently she knows what a violin is). Meanwhile Roudo signals the Parrotmen to begin their attack.

As the Parrotman invasion begins, the princess returns with the case and the “strange looking violin” (a pair of revolvers and a machinegun inside the case). Using the guns to escape their cell, Zephyr (using both handguns) and Corky (using the machinegun) fire upon the city’s attackers. Although Corky is briefly captured, the presence of the earthmen was enough to turn the tide of battle. Zephyr captures Roudo and exposes him as a spy.

Their names cleared, Zephyr and Corky prepare to return to earth, so they may try for Mars another day. Zephyr and the princess say their goodbyes, but it’s agreed the Birdmen will never forget the wingless heroes.

Comments

Why devote so much space to such an odd story? Well, Zephyr may have been published a few months before Red Raven, but these Birdmen sure seem like the same Birdmen that raised Red Raven. Both have a land that floats in the sky, and both Sunev and the unnamed Sky-Isle were once part of earth. Both have a kindly peace-loving bearded king ( Aerivar XVIII has been drawn with a different beard in every appearance). The Parrotmen subculture has a similar relationship to the Birdmen as the Bloodravens do.

That isn't to say there aren't differences. Naturally, Bolo and Aerivar are different names. Sunev is presented initially as a grey moon, smaller than earth's official moon, existing just beyond (or in) the stratosphere. More of Sunev's plain and forest region is shown than ever was of Aerie's.

I guess it's up to interpretation.

Realism is also a question for Zephyr (more so in his second story than in his first), but this is true for any sci-fi story.

For the record, here are the closest points between Earth and Mars during this time: Aug. 4 to Aug. 19 1939, Mars was 36 million miles, Oct. 13 to Oct. 21 1941 Mars was 38 million miles. The closest point in 1940 was Jan. 1, at 108 million miles. This according to Windows to the Universe. Yes, I was bored and looked it up. Of course, using modern spaceflight techniques, he wouldn't have travelled in a straight line anyway.

Characters

Zephyr and Corky

Zephyr Jones is the son of “well-known scientist and inventor, Dr. Morrison Jones,” and an all-around good guy, a mechanical whiz and can easily handle two revolvers at once. Unfortunately he never made it to Mars (that we know of). In his second adventure he wore an all blue jumpsuit.

“Corky” Gorgon (quotation marks used in his introduction, but no first name given) is utterly faithful, even explaining to a gawking bystander that “where Zephyr goes – I go – see?” He’s a bit stockier than Zephyr (through fat or muscle) and has a lighter sense of humor (cracking a joke whenever possible). In his second adventure he wore an all purple jumpsuit.

King Bolo and Princess Tonka

The ruler of Sunev is Bolo, who manages national affairs along with his daughter Tonka. During the trial of Zephyr Jones, Bolo was part of a tribunal, so this may or may not be an indication of city government.

Roudo

Roudo is a member of the Parrotmen and a spy within the royal court of Sunev. Although the Parrotmen are described as different from the Birdmen, and are said to not live in the city (Sunev is the name of the city and planetoid apparently), they look just like Birdmen (although most of their warriors are bald and have hairy arms, many with darker colored wings). They may be a minority group (religious, racial or political) on Sunev.

Star Dwarves of Cygni

Scary ain't they? (More on them later)

The Red Raven main page


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