All-Star Squadron: 1942: Gender Gasp, Chapter 3: Star Family Reunion

by Libbylawrence

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Doris Lee was a wealthy debutante with a social conscience. That was a potentially deadly combination, and she knew it. Her father’s oil money didn’t equal that of the famous Tex Thomson load, but she had plenty of money and free time. She saw the same small East Coast social scene of bored playboys such as Bruce Wayne, Rod Reilly, Wes Dodds, and Ted Knight, and she was ashamed of most of them for living such vacant lives.

Ted Knight of New York City, Opal City, and Washington, D.C., had brains, and she had scorned the way he lived from party to party until he admitted that he wished to become a mystery-man. She had laughed. Oh, how she had laughed. Still, he had done it. Although he wore no mask but only covered up his maskless features with the radiant glow of his gravity rod, she still had not figured out her Ted’s secret on her own. After all, how could she believe that Ted Knight, the sick boy of society as people called him behind his back for his queasiness, could possibly be the JSA’s Starman? It was true that he had enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but he had been sent home again after a few weeks of basic training and appeared to be his old sickly self once again.

This had all changed just a few short hours ago while she had been waiting in a pretty new nightgown for him to appear for their date. However, instead of Ted Knight, a female version of Doctor Fate, Inza Cramer, appeared and told her what had happened to Ted — and that he was Starman. Her heart had soared in admiration even as she realized his danger, but she went with Inza Cramer and picked up a gravity rod and a spare Starman suit from her fiancé’s home after a quick search with Inza’s newfound mystical powers. Inza altered the suit appropriately, and Doris wore the suit as she flew next to Inza with the gravity rod to All-Star Squadron Headquarters, where they had learned of the vanishing males and were then sent by Rose Psychic to retrieve some time-lost jewel of mystical power.

Now I feel even worse for teasing Ted so much, she thought. But he must have been feigning sickness all those times when he went off to his night job. I must say I don’t envy him; this rod is hard to use. I marvel at how well he does all he does. At least Doll Girl is a real mystery-woman and can help me!

The two arrived in a new environment with futuristic spheres and odd, Flash Gordon-like air-cars. The nighttime skies were lit with lights from cloud-piercing skyscrapers and flying craft hovering overhead. In her fiancé’s outfit, she looked right at home.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore!” quipped the Doll Girl, alias Martha Roberts. She seemed unfazed and unflappable, since she’d shared a few adventures with her fiancé, Darrel Dane the Doll Man, and had also had adventures on her own as a mystery-woman since his disappearance. At five-and-a-half inches, the ultra-petite beauty wore a red and blue suit with bare arms and legs, and tiny slippers. Her brunette hair was cut short, but stylish.

“I think we’ve been propelled into some weird future society. Let’s look around,” she said as she hopped on Doris Lee’s shoulders and crossed her legs demurely as if she was at a tea social, not a space-age nightmare.

They met an official-looking man who seemed prepared to meet flying women any time of night. “I am the Justiciar! You wear the colors of the legendary Starman. I see the gravity rod as well. What brings you to the twenty-fifth century, Mrs. Knight?”

Mrs. Knight? thought Doris, whose head began to reel.

“We’re here to seek a jewel fragment for a crisis in our time,” explained the demure Doll Girl.

“Ah, yes. There were dozens of those, as I recall,” pondered the Justiciar.

“Can you aid us?” replied Doris.

“I do know of a jewel that fits your situation. It is my sad duty to say that it has been… what is the word? Stolen! Yes, stolen. We have rarely had crime here, and I am the only peacekeeper in the world, along with Myrg, of course.” Doris and Martha traded glances. This could be the start of real trouble. The Justiciar indicated a redheaded woman nearby. “This is Myrg. She is an unofficial help to me in my previously nonexistent duties.”

Myrg smiled. “I know you. You travelled with the greatest heroes of all time — the JSA! You mated with their Starman!”

Doris blushed as Martha giggled. “I seek the stolen jewel. Can you help?” asked a red-cheeked Doris.

“Well, we have only one known criminal here,” said Myrg. “He is known as the Last Criminal, and his name is Knodar! His lair is known to me, but I have made little effort to track him down, since it is yet all too new to me.”

Doll Girl piped up, “Just tell us where to find him, honey, and we’ll do the rest. You can go back to drying your nails.”

Myrg frowned. “I did track him once before, but your Green Lantern caught him. Could you do the apprehension for us? You may have the jewel for whatever noble purpose your mate Starman requires,” she said to Doris.

The women flew off to the silvery tower where Knodar had lived before his criminal tendencies separated him from society.

“So, you’re to be Mrs. Knight! Congratulations!” teased Martha.

“I could put you in some preserved puppet theater, you know,” said Doris.

“OK, OK. Just having some fun,” replied an amused Doll Girl.

As they entered the building they saw two odd sights. Knodar, for it was he, stood waiting impatiently in front of two bound figures. The blonde woman wore a pair of faded pink pyjamas and was bound tightly by twisted metal, while her companion wore a colorful costume of blue and red with stars across his shirt. He was almost entombed by a wrought metal cocoon.

“Doris!” the star-spangled man yelled as they entered.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

Knodar waved his gray-clothed arms and stared in shock from beneath a black, tattooed mask. “Who in the cosmos are you skirts?” he asked in a weird combination of futuristic and 1930s gangster movie slang.

The women started to speak when Knodar’s rod waved at them and the trouble began. Doris saw her gravity rod tear itself out of her hand as her legs were ensnared by grabbing coils of metal. Martha slipped under Doris’ green cape and bided her time.

“This must be some Star family reunion, babe. I got the drop on your boy Pemberton, here, as well as his pretty doll Jonni Thunder,” sneered Knodar.

Doris knew the gravity rod she carried could do virtual miracles, but the heiress-turned-heroine was naturally unprepared for an attack by metal coils that moved like snakes all on their own. She saw the rod rip from her hand and struggled futilely against the metal coils that bound her legs. Oh, Ted! How can I save you when I can’t even help myself? she pondered.

Knodar laughed at her plight. “I know that rod from my holo-discs of your era’s crimes. I’ll just add it to the pile of rubble that once was the Star-Spangled Kid’s converter belt.” Doris saw a twisted red metal belt on a table where he tossed the rod by waving the odd rod of his own. He left them in a high good humor.

The black-haired youth, who had been entombed by the metal, spoke in a hushed tone. “Doris, I see from your youth and the early state of the future cosmic rod that you’ve come from the past. I will meet you and Ted in your future. He is a mentor to me. You may even know my name from your time — the Star-Spangled Kid.”

Doris nodded. “How did you get here?

The blonde in pink pyjamas said, “We defeated that creep hours ago, our time, and we headed homeward separately. (*) He must have returned to this era, and at some point later he returned to the night of the day we fought him. He caught us off-guard, as you can see by my outfit,” said the woman.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Back from the Future,” Infinity Inc. #24 (March, 1985).]

“He planned well,” said the Kid. “My belt had already been damaged, and he struck well before I could fix it.”

“I have an ally,” said Doris, turning around to look for her. “Doll Girl?” There was no sign of the diminutive daredevil.

“I’ve got a plan,” said the Star-Spangled Kid. “I’ve had experience with a more updated rod. Let me try a trick Ted once showed me.” He concentrated until sweat broke out on his handsome features. To Doris’ amazement, the gravity rod rose from the table and flew slowly to his grasp, as if summoned by sheer will. He sighed and used the rod to part the metal casing that trapped him. He pulled his hand into the narrow opening and melted the rest of his friends free of their bonds.

Where can Martha be? wondered Doris.

***

Doll Girl, meanwhile, had hitched a ride with Knodar as he walked off by riding delicately atop his 1930s-style gangster hat. She spotted his loot by the sign he had actually painted above a pile of odd items he had stolen, including a jewel shard. This guy’s living a real-life Cagney picture! she mused as she dropped off the hat. He was too absorbed in his gangster posturing to even notice. Doll Girl saw Knodar with an odd assortment of thugs. Her mind flashed back to old photos of some such as Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and John Dillinger.

“You mugs need to listen up; we got more super-powered do-gooders on ice,” said Knodar. The others came forward with different attitudes. None seemed overly impressed with their boss.

“So we rub them out,” offered Dillinger.

Martha took instant action, leaping across the room and growing every second. Then she kicked the metal-controlling wand out of Knodar’s hand.

“Get her!” he screamed.

Bullets sprayed the spot where the heroine had been seconds before. She shrank beneath the bullets and grabbed the wand. Her tiny hands eased around the wand as she grew once more and waved it in a bullet-deflecting arc. To her relief, it worked as she had hoped.

From out of the next room charged the others. Starwoman, Jonni Thunder, and a flying, rod-holding Star-Spangled Kid raced inside to confront the time-tossed gang.

Jonni raced forward and tackled a shocked, blonde Bonnie Parker who fell beneath the detective’s pummeling fists. “I hated your movie!” she quipped as she wrestled the confused gang moll to the floor.

The Kid used the gravity rod with practiced ease. “I’ll just make you all feel at home by caging you lifers!” he said. A glowing sphere solidified around several unknown thugs who struggled helplessly against Ted Knight’s brilliant creation.

John Dillinger swung at Starwoman, narrowly missing her dodging form. Doris Lee punched out at the gangster and felt a rewarding gasp as her fist hit his chin. Meanwhile, the Doll Girl made all the guns fly to her feet with the wand. Knodar yelled in helpless fury and charged her. He fell flat as the diminutive daredevil shrunk once more, then grew into his stomach with a strength greater than that she had at full size. The Kid dropped Al Capone with a quick left and sent Clyde Barrow and Baby Face Nelson to their knees with a wide energy blast. Starwoman kicked Dillinger beneath the belt and saw him fall as well. Knodar was angry and fierce, but he had no formal training, while Doll Girl could fight and had the metal wand that pinned him to the wall by his belt.

As Jonni got up from the stunned Bonnie to join the heroes, she spotted the jewel shard. “Nice trinket,” she said, smiling.

“And it’s what we came here for. The Justiciar even said we could have it for stopping the so-called Last Criminal!” cooed Doris. “Thanks for your help,” she said as the Kid tossed her the gravity rod.

“I’m not sure I know what’s happened to Ted, but I can promise you with thirty-plus years hindsight that he’s going to be OK,” said Sylvester, who smiled sadly. Doris had already died by his time, but he could not let that fact slip out.

The Doll Girl and Starwoman faded away to their own time, as did the Star-Spangled Kid and Jonni Thunder, but the magic of Rose Psychic caused them to forget how they found the shard.

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