Calista Jewelers was a store with a lot of glass — huge display window, and a front door that was mostly glass. The key word in that phrase is was, as there was very little glass left after the Fiddler had played his tune. When Hourman and Starman arrived, the Fiddler was hauling jewelry out of the display window and dumping it into a cloth bag; the Thinker inside the store rifling the display cases.
“Hourman — and Starman?!” the Fiddler exclaimed. “He wasn’t supposed to be here!”
“I could say the same about you,” Starman declared. “I don’t suppose you’ll give up without a fight?”
“Certainly not, but thank you for asking,” the Fiddler replied as he raised his bow to the strings. Starman barely had time to erect an energy-shield against the sonic burst.
“I’ve never cared much for long-hair music, anyway,” Hourman stated, as he knelt beside a fire hydrant. His powerful fingers manipulated the hydrant more quickly than a fireman’s tools could have done, and he directed the resulting jet of water at the Fiddler. The malevolent musician’s wig and violin were both separated from him as the column of water struck him squarely in the chest. As soon as the Fiddler was down, Hourman closed the hydrant again.
“There’s another one in the store,” Starman called. “Can’t tell who it is from here!”
“Whoever it is, I’ll get him!” Hourman replied, and charged for the entrance to the store.
“Hourman, wait!” Starman called. “We don’t know–”
Starman’s warning came too late. As Hourman crossed the threshold of the store, an electric charge suddenly shot through his body, stopping him in mid-stride. He uttered not a sound, but simply fell forward into the store.
The Thinker paused in his task of looting the establishment, and drew a revolver, which he aimed at the fallen hero. He never fired it; Starman blasted it out of his hand with a bolt from his gravity rod. Another beam picked up the display cases like a child’s blocks and made an impromptu prison for the Thinker.
Starman knelt beside Hourman, who was already coming to.
“Ohh… what happened?” Hourman asked.
“You rushed in where angels fear to tread,” Starman quipped. “The Thinker rewired the store’s electrical system into a shock-trap.”
Hourman shook his head to clear it. “I’m doing it again — letting the Miraclo affect my judgment.”
“Aren’t you and Charlie working on a new Miraclo formula?” Starman asked. “One without those… properties?”
“Working on it, sure,” Hourman said. “We’re a long way from a workable formula. And I didn’t expect to run into a super-villain delegation tonight!”
“The tip I got didn’t prepare me for this, either,” Starman said, as Hourman got to his feet. “It’s like some kind of guerrilla warfare of crime.”
“I hope we’ve seen the last of it,” Hourman said. “I only have about fifteen minutes left of my–”
“Hourman!” a voice from outside the store called. Both heroes looked and saw a young police officer, a frantic look on his face.
“Yes, officer?” Hourman said.
“Are you finished here? Because there’s another robbery going on!”
Hourman and Starman both sighed audibly. “Where now?”
“Bygone Era Antiques, on Jackson Street!” the officer said. “Two guys are robbing it; one’s dressed in head to toe black, the other all in white!”
“Black and white?” Starman asked, turning to Hourman. “Who does that sound like?”
“The only all-white elf I know of is the Icicle,” Hourman said. “The black one could be any number of crooks.”
“Well, let’s go see,” Starman suggested. “And this time, hang back. Let me take the point.”
“Wait a minute–”
“No, you know I’m right,” Starman insisted. “You said yourself your hour is almost up! You’ve been fighting super-crooks for almost an hour; you’re worn out. Plus, that electric shock you just got. I’m not saying stay out of the fight; I’m just saying, let me do the lion’s share.”
Reluctantly, Hourman agreed to this.
It was then that Joar Makent and I came into the conflict. In selecting our plunder for the evening, we found a charming antique store with a nice selection of jewelry. Joar had a passion for diamonds, while I naturally had a predilection toward antiquarian objects. Thus we broke into the Bygone Era Antique Emporium, Joar’s gun having rendered the sturdy door brittle as spun glass. I smiled in secret irony as I noticed an ivory-handled letter-opener among the objects for sale. It had once belonged to my friend, Oscar Wilde; he had pawned it for money to finance one of his appetites, I forget which. Obviously, the owner of the store did not even know of its original ownership, or else a much higher price tag would have been placed on it. I slipped the knife into my pocket.
Not long after we broke into the store, Hourman and Starman arrived. Joar was genuinely surprised to see Starman there; I affected the same emotion. We wasted no time in starting the battle; Joar opened with a wide-angle spray of ice pellets, which I complemented with a cloud of darkness. Starman’s gravity rod rendered both attacks inert.
Joar, remembering that the purpose of our fight was to wear down Hourman, shot me a knowing glance. I nodded, almost imperceptibly. I then summoned a small cloud of shadow that surrounded Starman’s head, clinging to him like a lover; try as he might, he could not get it off. Hourman charged into the fray then. Joar quick-froze his feet to the floor, stopping him in his tracks. Hourman’s chemically enhanced muscles strained to tear his feet free of the ice, while I created a scimitar of solid shadow, poised to strike him down.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Starman shining his gravity rod at his own head, trying to pierce the shadow-cloud; I surreptitiously dissolved the cloud, making it appear as though Starman’s rod had done it. Seeing the danger his friend was in, he quickly erected an energy-barrier between Hourman and my scimitar; the ebony blade crashed harmlessly upon the glowing circle.
Joar aimed his gun at Starman, intending to freeze the hero in a block of ice. Seeing this, Hourman grabbed a ceramic figurine from a nearby table and flung it at Joar with all his strength. The figure flew like a bullet and sheared the barrel clean off Joar’s gun. A flash from Starman’s gravity rod sent Joar hurtling upward, where he struck his head on the ceiling, inducing unconsciousness. I had to smile in appreciation of the fine teamwork.
Hourman then finally succeeded in wrenching his feet free. I threw up a shadow-cloud that enveloped both heroes, but Hourman charged through it blindly, fists flying in all directions. One blow caught me on the point of the chin, and I went down.
“Four attacks, by eight villains, all in an hour,” Starman said as he stood over our unconscious forms, though actually I only feigned unconsciousness.
“Yes,” Hourman said, panting and wheezing. “I hope… that’s the last… of them. My hour is up.”
“You mean your time is up!” a voice from nowhere snarled. It was our mysterious employer; he had been in the store all the time.
“What? Who?” Hourman gasped, too exhausted for clever banter.
“It’s someone invisible, Hourman,” Starman declared. “Possibly my old enemy, the Mist, although it doesn’t sound like him.”
“I am not the Mist, nor am I your old enemy,” the voice declared. “But you have made yourself my enemy by siding with Hourman! Only he was supposed to die tonight, but you will now join him!”
“We’ll see,” Starman stated. “And I mean that literally!” He shined the beam of his gravity rod in the direction of the voice. Long ago he had learned how to use it to nullify the Mist’s inviso-solution; he hoped this man’s invisibility worked on the same principle. It did; a form quickly became visible — a man dressed in black, pointing a futuristic-looking pistol at the heroes. The man’s face was a mass of scar tissue; he looked even uglier than Mister Ghool. It was as though he had gone bobbing for apples in a vat of boiling oil. Hourman gasped audibly at the sight of him.
“Doctor Darrk!” Hourman exclaimed. (*) “Good Lord — I haven’t thought of you in years! Not since–”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Hour Man, Adventure Comics #65 (August, 1941).]
“Not since you did this to me?” Darrk demanded, indicating his own face. “It was nearly eight years ago, Hourman, when we fought! With my robots and my invisibility formula, I was going to conquer the world! But you, the knight-errant in shining cowl, had to stop me! And what did you do?”
Darrk was silent. Starman waited for Hourman to answer, but Hourman merely stared at the man, as if not believing he were truly there.
“You made me turn visible,” Darrk declared, “by hurling a beaker of acid at my voice! Acid! Do you have any idea how an acid burn feels? How a faceful of acid feels, the searing, white-hot agony of it?” The madman’s ranting paused; silence was the only response. “Or the terror of that first night, lying in the jail ward of the county hospital, my wrist handcuffed to the bedrail, my face burning under the linen bandages, not knowing if I would ever see again? Do you think I slept that night, hero? Would you have?”
Darrk’s insanity grew more apparent with each of his words. “And the years in prison, ostracized even there because of my disfigurement, the object of ridicule, of scorn, of abuse, verbal and physical. And when I got out, what chance had I of rejoining society? You scarred me for life, ruined my face, ruined my life! You, the hero, the shining example of all that’s good and right. Ha! This is your handiwork, ‘hero’! Look at me! Take a good, long look!”
Hourman hung his head in shame. Starman was grimly silent.
“Well, tonight I take my revenge! And you, too, Starman, foolish enough to join forces with this acid-throwing fool! You, too, shall die! Don’t bother raising your gravity rod; I had almost eight years to perfect this weapon, and it will–”
We never learned what it would do. Perhaps it would have been effective against the gravity rod, perhaps not. Darrk’s rant was cut off then, as was his vision. For I summoned two tiny pools of shadow, no larger than quarter-dollar pieces, directly over his eyes. He was blinded, but the heroes could not tell what had happened. Starman noticed Darrk’s confusion; he did not know the source of it, but took advantage of it. In a thrice, Darrk was disarmed and captured.
Starman and Hourman did not speak of Darrk’s accusations, at least not in my presence. All I saw was them bind him for safe handover to the police.
I, of course, escaped police custody on my way to the jailhouse. I always did; I love adventure and the thrill of the joust, but the idea of imprisonment disagrees with me. Especially when I consider what it did to my good friend Oscar.
Later, I heard that Doctor Darrk hanged himself in his cell. He had waited nearly eight long years for his grand scheme of revenge, and it failed; I suppose he had nothing left to live for after that.
Six weeks after the Baltimore incident, I received a letter from Joar. It seemed a large, uncut diamond the size of an ostrich egg had been unearthed in Africa by an archaeological expedition headed by a professor from Calvin College. The diamond was on display at the college, temporarily. Calvin College, of course, was the bailiwick of the Atom. Joar wondered if I would be interested in helping him steal it. I smiled and picked up my pen to reply.