Published: Tammy 15 January 1983 – 16 April 1983
Artist: Guy Peeters
Writer: Jake Adams
Translations/reprints: De kristalmonsters [The Crystal Monsters] Tina 1984, #45
Keats Estate used to be a great estate, but it has been plagued by hooliganism ever since Tony Jenkins and his gang arrived. However, one night far worse arrives when a meteorite shower hits the estate, and the damage is so extensive the estate looks like it got bombed out. Following this, the estate is nicknamed “E.T. Estate”.
But nobody realises this is no ordinary meteorite shower. The “meteorites” carry crystals, each of which contains a gaseous alien life form. Being gaseous, the crystal alien can only leave its crystal by creating a synthetic body that replicates the body of the first life form it comes into contact with – in this case, humans. The real life form is trapped within the crystal while the alien double takes its place. The alien feeds by progressively siphoning off the life force of the host trapped inside the crystal until it dies. Then the alien moves onto another life form…
As the story progresses, the aliens demonstrate other abilities. They have telekinetic powers and can also plant hallucinations into people’s minds. The energy for these powers is also drawn from the hosts’ life forces. The aliens are not telepathic, though; in fact they have to use Earth equipment such as radios.
Their main weakness is that they have to carry their crystals at all times to maintain their synthetic bodies. If the crystal is removed from them or fails to transfer the host’s life energy, their synthetic bodies disintegrate and they return to gaseous form. They are particularly vulnerable to this if the life force of the host is nearing exhaustion. Their powers also weaken if the host is nearly spent. And sometimes the transfer between the host and the duplicate fails, as will be seen later.
Jenny Holmes stumbles onto the aliens when she sees her sister Sarah being replaced by one of these crystal aliens. But of course nobody believes her when she tries to tell them what happened. Jenny soon finds it’s not just her sister – these crystal alien doubles are replacing other people on the estate. Like Sarah, Tony Jenkins was among the first. The duplicate Sarah and Tony Jenkins try to dispose of Jenny by attacking her with telekinetic powers. This causes Jenny to have an accident, but fortunately the police intervene and put her in hospital before the duplicates can finish the job.
In hospital, the Sarah duplicate slips Jenny a crystal so as to replace her too. But sometimes the transfers fail because the energy from the host fails to come through. And fortunately for Jenny, this is precisely what happens. The energy transfer failure causes the alien’s synthetic body to disintegrate, making it return to gas. The crystal dies and Jenny manages to escape from it.
Jenny is confident that someone will believe her now that she has the dead crystal for evidence. However, when she shows it to her parents when they visit, they make remarks that indicate that they, too, are crystal aliens (the duplicate Sarah must have passed crystals to the Holmes parents too). But the hospital staff don’t believe Jenny when she starts screaming about this and put it down to some sort of mental disorder from the accident. So Jenny runs away from the hospital and heads back to the estate to get some evidence.
However, the crystal aliens anticipate this and are on the lookout for her. They spot her and Jenny overhears the duplicate Sarah’s orders to ‘neutralise’ her (the duplicate Sarah is clearly emerging as the leader figure). Jenny finds a hiding place where she also finds a human who has not been replaced – a bag woman whom everyone calls “Old Mad Dora”. Dora tells Jenny that the aliens do not sleep and work non-stop. They do not eat either (Jenny and Dora do not yet realise how the aliens do eat). Dora also witnessed Mr Holmes being replaced by his duplicate. Unfortunately people think Dora is mad (hence her nickname), apparently because she’s a bag lady who keeps her belongings in a pram and keeps a pack of cats around her. Although she now comes across as sane, they would not take her seriously as a backup witness to Jenny. so they would not take her seriously as a backup witness to Jenny. On the other hand, the crystal aliens are leaving Dora alone because they also assume she is mad and therefore of no use to them. They do not realise Jenny is hidden in Dora’s pram.
Jenny soon finds the crystal aliens have hollowed out an entire building. She can’t understand the point of this. But it is now that the aliens corner Jenny. They try to kill her by sending her upwards telekinetically and then letting her fall to her death. Dora saves Jenny by using a pile of mattresses for Jenny to land on safely and whisks her away before the aliens find her. While searching for Jenny’s body, the duplicate Sarah recognises Dora’s bags, which she carelessly left behind. She realises what happened, so now the aliens are after Dora too.
Yobs from a neighbouring estate then attack the Sarah double and take her crystal, mistaking it for a diamond. This causes the alien’s link with Sarah to break and she collapses on the ground. The other aliens just go after the yobs and leave the alien’s synthetic body to disintegrate. Jenny and Dora are watching. They now understand the aliens’ power to siphon off the life force of the hosts they capture and duplicate – and what it means for those hosts.
Jenny is able to find the yobs before the aliens do because she knew where to find the yobs whereas the aliens did not. The yobs are stunned at how the crystal begins to grow, and it grows until it is large enough for Sarah to emerge. Sarah collapses, looking completely emaciated. The yobs are too terrified of the police to call for help, so Jenny takes it upon herself to call for them and an ambulance. By the time she returns she finds the crystal has disappeared. She does not realise that one of Dora’s cats has become the new host, and the cat she is about to pick up is the duplicate. Moreover, the duplicate can still speak although it is now in cat form, and it’s still the leader of the alien swarm although its form has been reduced from human to animal.
Sarah’s condition is so severe that she has gone into a coma. She is taken to hospital but the police still don’t believe Jenny and think she is crazy. They take her off in their patrol car, but the duplicate cat uses its telekinetic powers to make the car crash. Everyone escapes relatively unscathed. Jenny goes back on the run from the police with the cat, but still does not know it is a duplicate. She finds out, though, when the aliens finally capture her.
The aliens have also captured Dora and tie both of them up. While doing so, they explain about their crystal pod, which is what they hollowed out the building for. They intend to make the pod grow large enough until it is ready to shoot millions of these crystals all over Earth. When that happens, what happened to E.T. Estate will happen everywhere, and it will go on happening until Earth is stripped of all life. Then the crystals will go into outer space and search for another host planet. Their justification for all this is the right to survive; they cannot live on if they cannot consume the way that they do. To feed the pod, the aliens surrender their own crystals, although it will mean sacrificing their own synthetic bodies. Of course all the people trapped in the crystals will die in order to feed the pod. A few aliens remain behind to guard the pod and the prisoners.
Meanwhile, in hospital, Sarah awakens and convinces one policeman enough to send a patrol force out to E.T. Estate. However, the aliens trick the police into leaving by hypnotising them into seeing everything is normal on the estate. On the other hand, performing this trick weakens the aliens. In fact, two of them somehow disappear (and their hosts later emerge from the pod for some reason) and all that is left is the duplicate cat. The real cats now start attacking it, which gives Dora and Jenny their chance to escape their bonds. Jenny goes into the pod to get the crystals out and the duplicate cat realises it is now too weak to stop her. Then Dora takes its crystal, which causes its synthetic body to disintegrate.
Jenny comes out with the crystals, which promptly expand to full size and release the prisoners within, including Jenny’s parents. Without the crystals to feed from, the pod disintegrates. The flood of gook it makes is so massive it just about drowns all the humans. The crystals disintegrate too, which means the aliens are no longer able to duplicate anyone else.
At the hospital, the doctor says the people will recover, but it was close. Jenny wants to put E.T. Estate behind her, so she hopes the council will demolish what’s left of it and put them elsewhere.
E.T. Estate was Guy Peeters’ one and only serial for Tammy (The Human Zoo reprint during the merger is not counted as it came from Jinty). It was one of my biggest favourites, and it must have been very popular as one reader wrote in to say she liked it so much she cut the pages out and pasted them on cardboard.
This was the only story in Tammy to use the alien invasion theme. Jinty never used it, despite her strong emphasis on science fiction. The setup for this particular invasion is very well thought out. In many alien invasion stories in girls’ comics, the aliens just invade for no apparent reason or are driven by power. But here the aliens’ motive is straightforward, credible and realistic: They are doing it to survive. They need the life energy of other life forms in order to keep themselves alive and fed because that is how they have evolved. For this reason they invade ‘suitable’ planets and strip them of their life forms in order to feed. In other words, they are a form of intergalactic parasite.
Although the crystal aliens do what they do in order to survive, they are not at all sympathetic. Indeed, they come across as totally irredeemable creatures with constant evil and cruel expressions on their faces. They may have the right to survive as they say, but so do the other life forms they try to feed off. They are a death warrant to any world they land upon if they are not stopped and eradicated in time. One hopes that at the end of the story, the whole species has been wiped out and not just a swarm of them. But we can never know for sure.
The aliens are very insidious and frightening invaders. A large part of this is due to their ability to replicate the body of whatever host they come across. Fortunately they are not good actors or bother with the culture of whatever planet they encounter. Part of this would be not having telepathic abilities, but perhaps they have little need of it. Their MO is not to infiltrate but to take over their victim planet as quickly as possible with their pod once they have established a launch site for it. What makes them even more dangerous is their telekinetic and hypnotic powers. Their ability to duplicate also transcends the human boundaries of human society, which can make for some odd scenes. Jenny, for example, finds it weird to see ordinary people working alongside workmen. She realises they must all be duplicates, but it is still a strange sight. Boundaries between good and not-so-good people are also transcended, such as the hooligan Tony Jenkins apparently working alongside Sarah Holmes because they are both duplicates. We can also feel pity for hithterto unsympathetic people like Tony once they fall victim to the crystal aliens.
Jenny falls into the long-established category of the protagonist who’s the only one who realises what’s going on but can’t convince anyone else. Nobody is listening and people think she is crazy. So she has to act on her own. Fortunately Jenny finds an ally in Dora. Dora would also fall into the same category as Jenny, not least because everyone calls her mad. Jenny used to do the same, but once she gets to know Dora better, Dora becomes established as a perfectly sane woman and a clever and courageous woman. We hope others will respect Dora and stop calling her mad after E.T. Estate.
The environment of E.T. Estate itself also adds to the creepy, grim atmosphere of the story. Even before the invasion begins, there is foreshadowing that the estate is going to go on a downward spiral because a gang of hooligans have moved in and threatening to destroy once was a great estate. This is reflected the story logo itself, which also lends itself to the yob theme that runs in the story. The opening blurb says the sun is setting on the Holmes sisters’ way of life, which implies their lives are never going to be the same again after the events in the story.
Then actual destruction on the estate begins with the meteorite shower, which causes intense damage to every building and leaves craters everywhere. The estate now looks like a bombed-out World War II city. However, eventually the people inside the estate are no longer survivors but the conquering duplicates, which makes the estate even more frightening. When Jenny finds Dora, the only human left on the estate, she finds her under the rubble of a car park, which is reminiscent of a WW2 bomb shelter. Dora’s hungry, scavenging cats, which can’t even find scraps to live on because the aliens don’t leave any, are reminiscent of scrounging, desperate survivors in a war zone. And when you think about it, E.T. Estate has become a war zone. Taking all these together, Jenny’s hope that E.T. Estate will be demolished altogether sounds prophetic.
There are a couple of weaknesses in the ending – like how did three aliens suddenly get reduced to one – and it’s the one the cats could conveniently beat up? How did the two hosts those duplicates used come to be rescued from the pod when their crystals were not even put in there? It also feels a bit convenient that the crystals dissolved too and were not able to move onto other hosts as Sarah’s crystal did. But then, perhaps the aliens only get one shot at whatever planet they land on. At one point, they did hint they had limits on their resources after all. So maybe if the pod fails, that’s it for the swarm and they die. If so, it can be explained away, plus it is very fortunate for Earth or any other planet these crystal aliens land on. It’s not the more common and more trite ending where the aliens just give up and go home.