by Dave Barnowski
Zor and the Corrigan family had materialized on the Kent farm just outside the bunkhouse used by Alexander Lane. There, Zor gleefully gloated over the Corrigan family. “For some reason, the Spectre talks to some ignorant farmer. No matter. Soon, I’ll turn you into giant hell-hounds. You’ll be immune to magic; he’ll have to hit you with his tremendous strength, and that will kill you. And you, my dears, will attack him and the farmers. You have no choice. Now go and die.”
The Corrigan family was rapidly transformed into giant hell-hounds, each as big as a house, breathing fire as they bounded toward the Kent homestead. The hell-hounds were quickly met by Superman, the Spectre, and Superboy in front of the Kent house.
Zor’s eyes grew wide as he realized that the anonymous farmer was Superman. “Bah! What a waste of power. I’ll change his family, too.” With that, two more giant hell-hounds grew out of the Kent house.
“Great Scott!” cried Superman. “Lois! Mary!”
The Spectre and Superboy just watched in stunned silence. Then the Spectre quickly waved his arms and said, “Let the mist of Morpheus put the hounds of hell asleep.”
Zor cackled then. “They’re immune to magic, you miserable ghost.”
Alexander Lane, the Monitor, suddenly materialized between the three heroes and quickly warned them not to hit the hell-hounds, because one blow would kill them, and that the other three were the Corrigan family.
“What?” screamed the Spectre.
“Meddling scum, die!” screamed Zor as he fired a bolt of magic lightning at Alexander. Superboy stepped in front of Alexander and took the bolt. The force of the bolt knocked C.J. into Alexander as both young men fell to the ground unconscious.
The giant hell-hounds now surrounded Superman and the Spectre. Superman flew C.J. and Alexander out of harm’s way, but the Spectre stood there transfixed.
Superman flew back, grabbed the Spectre, and flew up into the sky just as flames from the five giant hell-hounds were about to converge on him. The giant hell-hounds jumped up at them and circled the Kent farm.
“Jim, snap out of it.”
“Andrea, the girls — it’s my fault.”
“No. It’s Zor’s fault. He’s the villain. We’ve got to save our families.”
“How? They’re immune to my magic.”
“They’re sure to defend Zor if we attack him, and I’m certain that they’ll move on to attack Smallville if we stay up here. It’s just the way villains think.”
“What do we do?” asked the Spectre with tears in his eyes. Corrigan was not handling this situation at all well. He knew it, and was trying to get a grip on himself. Superman was inspiring him, as he was in the same situation and was the very essence of calm.
Superman smiled a grim smile. “They’re not immune to the Sandman’s sleep gas. And add a little kryptonite in the formula for my Mary,” he said sadly.
The Spectre nodded in agreement, and a cloud of gas came over the giant hell-hounds. Zor watched and laughed again as he again said, “I told you, Spectre, my pets are immune to your magic.”
Zor’s jaw dropped as the cloud cleared, and he saw the sleeping forms of the Kent and Corrigan families; they had been transformed back to normal when they fell asleep. From out of the cloud, he saw two angry heroic figures coming directly at him.
An angry Superman flew directly at Zor with both of his fists directly ahead of him, while the Spectre spent a barrage of mystic energy at Zor. When Superman was within five feet of Zor, he was stopped cold, not by a force-field nor wall of energy, but simple inertia. The Man of Steel just hung in the air, unable to fly any farther.
Zor laughed. “I am more powerful than either of you. I shall defeat you both and kill your families.”
Superman planted his feet on the ground and concentrated, firing his heat-vision at Zor. The only thing was that the heat-ray from Superman’s eyes moved terribly slowly. Zor was easily able to move out of the way.
The Man of Steel frowned, and with great effort he took a step toward Zor. All the while the Spectre unleashed the full force of his mystical fury at Zor, to no effect. The astral avenger was also advancing toward the sorcerer, though he hadn’t yet touched Zor’s inertia field.
As Superman took his second step, he realized that the inertia field would get stronger as he advanced on Zor. He smiled grimly as he also knew that he had enough strength to get to the sorcerer. It would just take a couple of minutes. Zor noticed the Metropolis marvel walking steadily toward him and gestured at the Man of Steel, whose costume suddenly turned into kryptonite. Superman screamed in agony as he collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Zor laughed. “One down, one to go,” he said as he blasted the Spectre with eldritch energy.
The Spectre went flying twenty feet from the blast and was still lying on his back when Zor approached him. Zor hit the Spectre with magic energy every now and then as he walked toward the Spectre. The blasts were for sadistic malice rather than any need, as the Spectre was all but defeated.
“I think I’ll kill Superman, too. Then I’ll destroy this miserable mud-ball of a planet. Before that, though, I’ll kill all the heroes and their families. And I’ll let you watch.”
“Why not just kill me, Zor?”
“Because you were a ghost when we first fought. If I kill you, you may come back as powerful as you were, more powerful than I am. Plus, you are a creature of the Divine. If you were to die, you would reside in heaven. This way, you’ll have a living hell.”
Superman, who was being ignored by Zor, realized that the sorcerer had made a mistake and that the Spectre could easily defeat him if Jim was thinking clearly. Clark had to tell Jim. He gathered the last of his strength and used his power of super-ventriloquism.
“Spectre! Jim Corrigan!” Superman whispered in his ear. “Zor’s out of his inertia field. Physically, he’s no match for you.”
Zor towered over the Spectre, laughing and said, “I think I’ll slay the Man of Steel’s family before he finally dies.”
Suddenly, quicker than the eye could see, the Spectre elongated his left arm and then coiled it around the surprised Zor from head to toe. The Spectre broke a few of Zor’s bones as he wrapped the sorcerer up tight.
While holding Zor firmly in his left, the Spectre waved his right, and Superman’s costume returned to normal. He waved it again, and the Kent homestead and surroundings were returned to the way they were before the arrival of Zor. The villain now struggled in the coils of the Spectre’s left arm, pure hatred emanating from his eyes.
Superman walked up to the Spectre and asked, “Why didn’t you just hit him and knock him unconscious?”
“Zor, for all his power when in his normal spirit form like mine, is presently in the form of a mortal human, and I don’t have as much experience hitting mortals as the Spectre. Although I’m not sure it’s even possible to kill him, I didn’t want to take that chance.”
“Well, you can’t hold him like that forever.”
“Would you mind?”
“Not at all,” said Superman as he tapped Zor on the head, knocking the wizard unconscious. “Now, what are we going to do with him?”
“I think he can easily escape any prison I can make, but if I can combine my powers with those of Doctor Fate, Green Lantern, and Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt, that would be sufficient.”
Alan Scott was in his study reading corporate reports when the Spectre’s face came out of his famed power ring. “Green Lantern, please come to the Kent family farm, for your verdant flame is needed.”
“On my way, Spectre,” said Green Lantern as he wondered what threat could be so powerful that it could threaten both Superman and the Spectre.
Johnny Thunder and his wife Daisy were watching TV when the face of the Spectre showed up on the screen in the middle of a commercial. “Johnny Thunder, you and your Thunderbolt are needed at the Kent family farm.”
Daisy Thunder gave out a shriek, and it took a moment or so for Johnny to calm her down. He then summoned his famed pink Thunderbolt and went to the Kent farm.
While Superman and the Spectre waited for the three heroes, they brought their families into the Kent house and put them in bed where they could rest.
The three JSAers arrived at the same time. The Nelsons, joined together in the form of Doctor Fate, were aware of the situation before the Spectre’s call came and had already been on their way. They were quickly brought up to speed on the situation.
“Say, you know, I hope no one’s traumatized by that experience,” said Johnny Thunder.
The other heroes looked at one another and smiled, each knowing that now, with that simple statement, Johnny had taken away any and all trauma experienced by the Kent and Corrigan families.
Doctor Fate coughed and said, “Now to the matter at hand. What do you propose to do with Zor, Spectre?”
“I remember reading about how the JSA captured Solomon Grundy, and Green Lantern enclosed him in a bubble of energy and trapped him on the moon back in the ’40s,” said the Spectre.
“That’s true, but I don’t think I could contain this guy,” said Green Lantern.
“No, you could not. No one of us alone could contain Zor, especially if he reverts to his spirit form,” replied the Spectre.
“But if we combined the power of our magic, we could contain him,” said Doctor Fate as he saw the merits of the Spectre’s plan.
“Where do we put him after we create the bubble?” asked Johnny.
“I suggest at the barrier of the Earths. I know it’s impenetrable now. Therefore, no one would go there,” said the Spectre.
With that, the magic-wielding members of the JSA combined their powers, entrapped the unconscious Zor, and placed his prison in the former barrier between Earths.
While the magic-wielding JSAers were taking care of Zor, the Corrigan and Kent families were waking up. Superman greeted them as they awoke. Fortunately, Lois Kent woke up first. After she was quietly apprised of the situation by Clark, she told her husband that she would need to talk to Andrea Corrigan alone.
Lois had Clark wake C.J. and Alex, both of whom were fine. Alexander Lane quickly excused himself and went back to his bunkhouse. C.J. Kent was given the unenviable task of waking up the Corrigan girls and his sister. Superboy was the idol of teenage and pre-teen girls in America, and C.J. winced at the idea of entertaining the two young girls over at the barn, but his mother insisted.
Next, Lois shooed Clark out of the house. She told him that Andrea had likely never been placed in this situation before and would probably need to talk about it. He should talk to Jim.
Clark smiled as he was chased out of the house. His wife was right — he did have to talk to Jim. He walked over to where his fellow JSAers were. They had just finished with Zor, and the other three were preparing to leave.
“Is Lois talking to Andrea?” asked Doctor Fate as he turned into a female form, that of Inza Nelson. “Good,” said Inza as Clark nodded yes. “Jim, take it from a former damsel in distress, she needs to talk to Lois before you take your family home. Farewell.” She then flew off.
“Are you guys in the phone book? ‘Cause I’ll have my Daisy give her a call, too. She’s been placed in rotten positions by bad guys, too, you know,” piped in Johnny Thunder. “Well, we’ve got to be going. C’mon, T-bolt, let’s go home. Take care, Supes.”
Green Lantern held out his hand and shook both Superman and the Spectre’s hands. “Well, I have to go also,” he said, and flew off.
Superman and the Spectre watched the heroes fly off in silence. They remained quiet for a long time. Finally, the Spectre spoke. “Thanks to you, Superman, my family is alive. I panicked.” Clark remained silent; he had a feeling that Jim had more to say.
“Back in the ’40s, when I was the Spectre, I was a ghost and pushed everyone I cared about away. But now…”
“This is the hardest part of being a so-called super-hero,” said Superman as the Spectre trailed off. “It’s also why we have the secret identity. I’ve been saving Lois for close to fifty years now, but don’t think that I don’t get scared every single time, because I do. In a way, you’re lucky Andrea’s not an adventurous girl reporter out to prove herself.”
“No, no, she’s not. Still, if Zor had attacked me at home instead of here, it would have been lights out.”
“Jim, in this business, it doesn’t pay to worry about what might have been. In all the years I’ve been in the business, I know of only two family members who ever got hurt. ”
“Yes — Larry Lance, and the Earth-One Aquaman’s son.”
“Still, it can happen.”
“By God, Jim, it’s our job to see that it doesn’t. Sometimes we fail. We’re human. We have these powers to do good, and unfortunately that draws enemies toward us who want to hurt us any way they can.”
“Yet we still have to have to fight the good fight,” said Corrigan, smiling. “I know. It’s just that when it comes to my family in danger, I don’t think straight. That’s why I acted like I did last October during the Boogeyman case. You know, when I turned Red Robin into a boy again? I was angry that someone threatened my child and took my anger out on poor Dick.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Fear the Dark, Chapter 9: Rescue Mission.]
“That’s what friends are for. Why don’t you come to the next JSA meeting?”
“I don’t think so. Between the job and the kids, I don’t really have the time.”
“Is it that, or are you embarrassed about that Boogeyman case?”
After a moment, Jim admitted, “Both.”
“Well, when you get over your pride, come and see us. I’m sure the guys would like to see you again, Jim.”
They were quiet again for a while, just enjoying the sunset and the sound of children’s laughter coming from the barn.
“Clark, I have something for you to give to Lois,” said Jim as he held out a ring. “It’ll allow her to interact with Mary as she would with a human toddler. As long as Lois wears this ring, any children you two have will be as normal earth children to Lois.”
“Wait a minute, Jim. Mary is a special gift — a boon of Odin. We can’t have any more children.”
Jim smiled. “Ah, you misunderstand the nature of Odin’s boon. Mary was not the boon. Creating life is not in his purview. Changing your and Lois’s physiology so that you could have children was his boon.”
Clark coughed and said, “You mean we could have other children?”
“Yes, you could. God willing.”
“In the meantime, please give Lois that ring so that she can enjoy being a mother to the fullest, even if the two of you only have Mary.”
Clark’s eyes glistened as he thanked Jim, but he wondered why Doctor Fate, who was a physician after all, never caught on to this fact that Jim was telling him.
Jim said it probably had to do with the fact that he was a detective, and as such he never took things on face value. Jim said that was true of the famed Superman-Batman team, too. Even though Superman had the greatly advanced Kryptonian mind and super-senses, it was the Batman who often found the clues and solved the case. The mind of the detective just worked differently.
With that, their wives came out with smiles on their faces as they called out to their husbands. Soon, the children were gathered from the barn, and the Corrigans were on their way back to Gotham City. The ghostly guardian’s children were surprised to find out their father was a super-hero, but were chagrined to learn they couldn’t tell anyone about it.