Title: Savage Time
Date: August 1975
Writer: Steve Gerber
Artists: Sal Buscema and V. Colletta
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Al Wenzel
Editor: Len Wein
The Defenders: Doctor Strange, the Incredible Hulk, the Valkyrie, Nighthawk.
Special Guests: The Guardians of the Galaxy.
The plot began in Giant-Size Defenders #5, when a spaceship, resembling uncannily the Enterprise, crashed in upstate New York. It came not from a distant planet, but from the earth of 3015. which has been conquered by a race of reptilian aliens called the Brotherhood of the Badoon. The ship brings the Guardians of the Galaxy, future superheroes. They quickly become involved with the Defenders, who in subsequent issues will stumble about the future, where a teleportion accident has them dealing with alien swamp women and an extraterrestrial game show before they, the Guardians, and human rebels kick Badoon butt and set the stage for a short-lived Guardians of the Galaxy comic book.
But that's not what's interesting about Defenders #26, which really only tells part of an extended prologue. No. What makes this comic book worth reading is a segment wherein a Guardian named Vance Astro relates the story of earth's future history, from shortly after 1975, when this comic was published, to 3015.
"We made a very foolish choice," Vance explains:
We decided we valued dry armpits and the 3 billion dollar aerosol industry over our flowers, our food, and ultimately, our health. Oh, the scientists warned us.... They said the gas in those cans would break down the ozone layer-- the world's protection from ultraviolet rays-- but we didn't believe it. Not iuntil the first skin cancer epidemic in 1982. Not until a walk in the sun became so deadly that even to cross the street we needed protective clothing over every square inch of our bodies.
Buscema and Coletta illustrate this with a picture of a large city, where everyone mills about in what appear to be wetsuits and gas masks. Maybe this image is ripe for rediscovery by environmentalists.
As the skin-cancer rate soared, bionics technology, of the kind then being showcased
on The Six Million Dollar Man, was developed to repair those damaged by cancer. Meanwhile, the last of NASA's funding was used in 1988 to send a man on a thousand-year journey to Alpha Centauri.
The 1990s saw a Bionics War, as cyborgs battled over the world's dwindling food supplies. This bit of history works in the premise of Deathlock, a short-lived Marvel title of the mid-1970s. A disaster, finally, ended the conflicts; an accident at a nuclear power plant left western Canada uninhabitable.
In 1995, then, the newly-sobered nations of the world (no doubt flooded with refugees from Alberta and British Columbia) signed the Treaty of Peking and formed the Confederation of Nations. We then see an image worthy of a socialist mural, muscular humans working together to remake the world.
Until 2001, alas, which did not witness 9/11, but instead faced an invasion by Martians. Earlier, Marvel had adapted H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, and later told in comics of how the aliens returned, presumably immunized against the common cold, in the twenty-first century, only to be driven out by a buff guy named Killraven and his band of freedom fighters. Of course, the Guardians only know of this period through legend; the only definite fact is that the invaders had disappeared by 2075.
Technology advanced over the next 500 years, but under despotic feudal lords called Techno-Barons. Their reign finally ended (sing with me) in the year 2525, with a serf rebellion and the execution of a remarkably cowardly-looking, fat ruler named Kwaal, apparently in a dungeon. A new World Federation is quickly established soon after; our artists treat us to a band of humans in spandex standing in a city vaguely reminscent of the one from Planet of the Apes.
(The next two pages feature ads, including one for Atomic Man, G.I. Joe's mid-70s answer to Steve Austin. He had one atomic eye, arm, and leg. Presumbly, he hopped around really fast. But I digress....)
The next few panels slip in the origins of the Guardians, by explaining how sophisticated genetic engineering allowed for the breeding of people who could colonize the solar system. Mercury gets gray people with fire for hair; Pluto, gleaming silicon plutonians (the women with plutonium updos, at least in the picture), and the gas giants have "city-spheres" inhabited by Hulk-like men and women of incredible bulk. Finally, by 2960 our starships reached Apha Centauri, where we established relations with the inhabitants, blue humanoids with pointy ears large shark-fins growing out of their heads. The Guardians, of course, represent survivors of these various races.
In 3000, those races feared no Y3K disaster, but instead joined in the latest partnership. Six years later, they welcomed back the voyager who blasted off back in '88, when he finally landed to discover that we'd managed to arrive ahead of him. He, too, will become a member of the Guardians-- for he is Major Vance Astro, the teller of this history.
A year later, the Badoon invaded, wiped out most humans of various sorts, and prompted the forming of the Guardians who, with the aid of rebels and the Thing and Captain America, (who time-travelled to their future in Marvel 2-in-1 #5), have experienced some success.
Now, with the help of the Defenders, they intend to finish the job.
Of course, Marvel has since had to retcon most of this history, and Gerber knew this even at the time. One panel features Dr. Strange assuring his fellows that Vance's account represents but one possible timeline.
And it's one which has been remarkably wrong: a great relief, no doubt, to inhabitants of western Canada, and anyone unimpressed by the prospect of Invaders from Mars.