Jonny Hero and the Dragon-Men From Mars
By Jeff Baker
Miss Tomoko stood by the big pole and glanced up at the menacing insect sculpted out of metal on the top. When the wind blows, the insect’s wings fluttered.
“How many of you ever watched Jonny Hero on T.V.?” she asked her class.
In answer, most of her grade schoolers gathered in the hillside raised their hands and said “Me,” or jumped up and down.
“How many of you know that it started as a true story?” she asked.
Not as many hands went up.
“The real Jonny Hero was about nine when the dragonfly men from space showed up. They wanted to take over the world, starting with Japan. Some people called them Dragon Men, but they were like dragonflies, not dragons. But good space people showed up too, and they gave Jonny Hero a suit of space armor. And in it, he could fly and pick up cars and do all kinds of things. And right near here, he fought the dragonfly men with his space armor.”
One of the kids raised a hand. “Did he have to ask his Mom and Dad?”
“He may have,” Miss Tomoko said. “But he defeated the dragonfly men, who never came back. And he saved Japan, and the world.”
The class let out a cheer. Miss Tomoko smiled.
“And then they made the big movie and the T.V. show,” she said. “And they put this up, right here to remind everybody.”
“Ooooooooooo!” the kids breathed in unison.
Miss Tomoko smiled again. Hiro Kakunaka had been these kids age when he’d used the space armor. A grade-schooler was the same size as the aliens, the “Space Council” in the movie, who gave it to him. But then he grew too big to wear it, so the aliens had taken it back. They had probably known. And all Jonny Hero’s adventures after the first one with the dragonfly had been made up for the T.V. show. Kakunaka ran his own computer firm in Tokyo and he didn’t give interviews about what had happened nearly fifty years ago. And reruns of the T.V. show had never been off the air.
Miss Tomoko glanced up at the dragonfly on the pole, tried to imagine what it had been like when hundreds of them had filled the sky. She reminded the kids it was almost lunch time. They cheered and started down the hill. She smiled. The kids were singing part of the closing theme to the Jonny Hero T.V show. The American version she showed them to help them learn English.
“If you’re brave and if you’re true
You can be Jonny Hero too…”
—–for the staff, nurses and physicians at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, circa 1969, where I watched Giant Robot and Ultraman.