Paragon had arrived at the Punch and Jewely robbery too late to help, but he had watched Captain Triumph in action, and he was impressed. The student of the golden age of heroes could not resist introducing himself to the World War II hero. Thus he had done so, and the two men shared a lunch together in which they talked of glory days from forty years before.
“I never mixed much with the other mystery-men except for a couple of cases with the All-Star Squadron,” said Lance Gallant. “Maybe it was because I never went in for a fancy costume, like some. I just did my job as best I could. I admit that part of my loner state was due to the fact that I was never really alone. Michael was and is always here, too! We didn’t need other people’s help. That was wrong. I want to be an active member of the super-hero community. That is what they are called nowadays, right?”
William Everett nodded. This man was interesting. He was as strong as Wonder Woman, could fly, could turn invisible, and through some mystic tie to his ghostly brother could perceive and affect the supernatural. He was a natural for any heroic team.
“That’s the name for them, and for you,” said Will. “Listen, I have an idea. There is a new team forming in Star City. Queen Arrow is the name of the lady with the dream for a new Law’s Legionnaires team. (*) What if you joined her group? They could use your muscle and experience.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: The Deadlier of the Species.]
Lance grinned. “Sounds great! What about you? Are you not interested?”
Will shook his head. “Nope! I want to be in the JSA! That’s my dream.”
A scream suddenly echoed through the room, and a waitress raced back from the glass window. “A monster!” she screamed.
Captain Triumph jumped for the window, followed by Paragon, who merely dropped his long coat to reveal his costume. He moved with the same speed or slightly more that Gallant had, since their proximity had empowered his cells.
As they raced forward, they spotted the monster — it was a rat the size of a Buick racing down the street and shoving cars aside as it went.
“Great guns!” cried Captain Triumph. He flew toward the creature and drew back his fists, pounding at the beast as its teeth snapped near him. “Sorry, Jerry, but my invulnerable body is too tough for your Kong-sized dentures!” he quipped.
He struck the creature repeatedly until it lay still. Paragon watched again without being needed. His keen memory and near-photographic recall of JSA cases from reading Liberty Belle’s files and his own research in the field instantly connected the creature to an early case of the Sandman’s.
“Listen, Triumph, I know where that thing may have originated, and it sure isn’t Disneyland!” he said. “Ever heard of Dr. Alphonzo Faversham? In the year 1940, he created such oversized monsters as part of a plot that the Sandman foiled. (*) This has his M.O. all over it.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The First Meeting of the Justice Society of America,” All-Star Comics #3 (Winter, 1940).]
“We agree,” said Captain Triumph. “How can we find him? Any leads?”
“Well, I do have an idea,” said Paragon with a smile.
The Sandman had been tipped off about the grisly murders that had plagued the city over the last few days. He knew the M.O. well. Corpses found nearly ripped apart on the same night separated by a distance great enough that a gang had to be involved. Nothing to connect the victims, and superhuman strength and agility evident from the handiwork. He had suspected an adrenal-enhancing drug like Miraclo had been used by the killers. However, he knew his close buddy Rex Tyler, the inventor of the wonder drug, no longer even made the addictive stuff. He also recalled the fact that the chemist had vowed that the drug would not work for anyone else, or at least no one without a body chemistry remarkably close to his own.
He had given the notes on the crimes to the JSA’s major medical expert, Doctor Mid-Nite, and had set off to track down the “Miraclo Murderer,” as he was calling the madman. He knew one other formula that granted the drinker super-powers and speed and body control: the Z-solution used by a maniac named Mister Who, who had tormented Doctor Fate back in the 1940s. (*) Though Who was dead, he had a son. Rick Nelson had called himself Z-Man back in the 1950s when he was a member of Team Justice. He had sought to make up for his dad’s evil ways, but he, too, had retired by the time the JSA returned to duty.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Fate, More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941).]
The Sandman now prepared to speak to Rick about the possible use of the Z-Solution. He was in full costume, for he expected trouble. His instincts honed by decades of experience told him to be ready for peril. He was always ready for adventure. The need to cure poor Sandy Hawkins, transformed into a monster for decades, and his own health troubles had sidelined him with two exceptions for years after the mid-1940s. He had packed away the purple and gold costme that reminded him so of the boy and had worked with Lee Travis all too briefly, as well as with Rex Tyler, Jay Garrick, Sargon the Sorcerer, and others to seek a cure. When that had failed, he finally returned to active duty with the JSA and his old green suit. He had never looked back since then. More recently, with Sandy finally cured a few years ago and his and Dian Belmont’s rejuvenation a few months ago, the once-more-youthful mystery-man had celebrated a return to the career he had begun almost fifty years before.
Now he tensed up as he knocked on the door of Rick Nelson’s home. He was led inside by a young man whose appearance startled even his experienced eyes.
“I’m Ronald Nelson,” said the young man. “You knew my late father Rick?” He was stocky and somewhat fat beneath his green suit and bushy beard. What was more remarkable was that he looked exactly like his late grandfather, the evil Mister Who.
“Yes,” said the Sandman. “I never heard of Rick’s passing. I’m so sorry.”
He glanced around the halls that led to labs on two sides, then reached for his gun out of some instinct or need for the security it brought him.
The man spoke in the guttural tones of his German grandfather, too. “Yes, but be comforted as I that he died for science!”
The Sandman spotted a newcomer — an old man with a spiked white beard and mad eyes. “Faversham!” he shouted as he recognized his old foe. He grabbed the gun, only to fall forward as a blow to the head blackened his world.
“Yes, father died for science — I killed him for the formula in his veins!” laughed the new Mister Who.
Hourman drove through the city with incredible speed until he reached the apartment of the Nelson family. It was a penthouse, and it seemed ominous as rain began to fall and night closed in. He frowned to himself.
I think Wes came here, too, to check on the Nelson family, mused the man of the hour. He knew that the Z-solution could give a person powers somewhat like mine in terms of strength and speed. Rick was a hero as Z-Man, who did atone for old Who’s actions. I hate to think the worst, but I’ve experienced what a drug can do to the body and attitude of the user. Could the Z-solution have driven the poor man mad? I’m going to trust my gut on this one and act first, then ask questions!
Turning from the front of the building, he rubbed his hourglass. The Miraclo power surged through his system anew, and he leaped upward from one terrace to another until he crawled over the rail of the Nelson penthouse. He saw darkened glass doors and heard the hum of lab equipment. “Not a good sign,” he whispered to himself. “Rick was never a scientist.”
He was grabbed from behind and struggled against super-strong arms. “Not going to get away that easily!” said a deep voice behind him. He elbowed his captor in the ribs three times and broke free, only to face Captain Triumph.
“Hourman! I didn’t recognize you in the dark!” explained the blond hero. “Are you after Faversham, too? Paragon tracked the old man from his prison release to here.”
“Look, I’m on a case,” explained Hourman, trying to calm himself down after the misunderstanding. “I could use your power, too. You are Captain Triumph, aren’t you? After forty years, a guy forgets.”
Paragon swooped down from the roof. “Hourman! Great to see you. We suspect trouble inside — giant monsters all from the labs of Faversham, a nut from your early days.”
Hourman didn’t get to answer, for the rush of mighty wings brought down a black bat the size of a typical private plane. It shrieked deafeningly and clawed at Hourman, who gasped and punched it with all his power.
It rolled back, and Paragon dropped on its back, using his hands to grip its neck with power now slightly beyond that of Captain Triumph himself. He struggled to retain his hold on the weird creature before snapping its neck backward in a final move. It dropped to the roof and did not move.
“I hate to kill anything, but from my notes, I know nothing Faversham mutated lived for long afterward, anyway,” Paragon said to Captain Triumph as he flew closer.
Then the glass doors swung open to reveal a figure from the past: Mister Who born again in his evil splendor.
“You fiend!” cried Hourman as he shoved into the mad Ron Nelson. “What have you done to the Sandman?!”
“Hourman! You fought Grandpa once!” said Mister Who. “I’ll enjoy ripping out your heart!”
The Sandman hung from the beams within, his arms chained above his head.
Dr. Alphonzo Faversham approached him with a needle and a gleeful look on his old face. “This is for forty years behind bars!” he cackled.
Captain Triumph charged forward and slapped the elderly scientist to the floor. “You won’t harm anyone while I live to fight!” he vowed.
Mister Who suddenly displayed a new facet of his own power. The Z-solution did grant strength, agility, and invulnerability like Miraclo, but it also enabled the user to alter his body in various ways. The first Mister Who had used it for growth, while Z-Man had added shrinking. The new Mister Who seemed eager to show off his own use of the wonder drug.
He shot up to giant size and tried to crush Hourman. “I killed them all for parts for Faversham’s lab experiments. It was fun and educational. I could kill in far locations due to my giant-sized travel ability!” He laughed.
Hourman realized that explained away the notion that a team of killers was loose. “Why? You had no reason to get these ‘spare parts,’ as you call them!” cried Hourman as he grappled with the hulking man.
“Ah, but I did!” groaned Faversham as he rose from the floor and sought his needle again.
The Sandman suddenly stopped playing stunned and kicked the needle out of Faversham’s hands. But as the old scientist twisted at that second, the needle plunged into his own veins. Faversham screamed in exultation and transformed into a densely skinned monster of a man.
“Now I have the power to avenge myself upon you!” he crowed, even as the light of intellect faded from his now-dull eyes.
Faversham turned toward the Sandman even as Paragon rolled forward from an invisible position, having picked up this power from Captain Triumph. He shoved the monster that had been Alphonzo Faversham into the wall and ripped the Sandman down. “Help Hourman!” he urged.
The Sandman nodded and fired his wirepoon. It was meant to hit the wall behind the struggling figures, but the sudden growth of Mister Who caused it to implant itself in his back. He roared with pain as the Sandman reeled back on the weapon, and Hourman slugged the villain with both fists. Captain Triumph took his chance and crashed into Mister Who as well, knocking him flat even as the wirepoon drew free.
“I never meant to damage him like that!” said the Sandman.
“You didn’t,” said the knowledgeable Paragon. “He heals — part of the Z-solution’s magic.”
Faversham had fallen, too, after Paragon had used Triumph’s strength to drop him cold.
“Tragic waste of life,” said the Sandman. “Young Ron inherited his grandfather’s madness, and it cost poor Rick his life. He extracted the solution from his own father’s veins, and with the help of Faversham, he embarked on that murder spree to gain more parts and victims for their mad science.”