The coldly mechanical voice of Brainiac echoed all the way to the back of the huge crowd as he continued speaking to the garish army of super-villains assembled aboard the living metal skull ship that was, in a bizarre way, merely an extension of the alien fiend. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “War Zone,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 (December, 1985) and DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War.]
“…but now the Earths are in chaos — seemingly normal, yet partially merged,” he said.
The red-headed man watched with frustration from the rear, then pushed himself angrily forward past the original Cheetah, who was absurdly young as if displaced from her proper past, which he calculated to be about 1947 or so. Of course, time itself was in flux, with dinosaurs roaming city streets filled with 1930s Dead End Kids right next to jetpack-wearing Space Rangers.
It was obvious to the watcher’s brilliant mind that many of his so-called peers had been plucked from generations earlier in their nefarious careers. Still, age mattered little, since his own role as leader was assured because of who he was and whom he had battled for so long. He passed a pink-skinned, insect-eyed alien and yelled his challenge to the robot and to that young punk who had dared to usurp his fame and his rightful role.
“Wait one bloody second!” shouted Alexei Luthor. “Who appointed that second-rate lab-rat our spokesman? I’m the Luthor of Earth-Two! My genius is far greater than his! You don’t need him!”
“You speak logically, Luthor,” said Brainiac. “But I assembled this group. The decision for leader is mine. But you are correct. We do not need two Luthors. Farewell.”
Then, with a blinding flash of energy, Alexei Luthor was gone — dead, destroyed, dispersed, to exist no more. However, the moment in which the evil genius would meet his demise was more than forty years in the future.
The young Alexei Luthor now sat with his chin resting on a gloved fist in a glistening laboratory in an Eastern European nation in the year 1943. Though war ravaged this area, those forces did not stray too close to the dark woods that surrounded his abode, one of many around the globe. The arch-enemy of Superman himself, Luthor was feared by all.
His guest, sitting across from him, had described this bizarre tale of his own future some forty years in the future. “I swear it to be true,” said the man, who was portly and bald. “You died at the hands of that infernal machine! Your counterpart from this other Earth — or parallel timeline, as I prefer to call it, due to my own considerable expertise in the field of chronal displacement — Have you read my thesis on time-travel consequences? The McFly Doctrine is a fascinating piece of–”
“Cease your insipid prattling, man!” interrupted Luthor. “I defer to no man when it comes to all fields of science. Your time-travel nonsense has certainly served you little enough, so save me the arrogant academic babble. I wrote the book of any field of science you can dare to comprehend. However, I admit that you are known in our circles for your frequent time-travel ventures. If, as you claim, you witnessed my death in the far future, why return to 1943 to warn me? I feel that destiny is ours for the shaping, in any case, and I refuse to bow down to some supposed preordained fate. I owe you no thanks! I would have triumphed on my own. I shall triumph on my own.”
Dr. Doome frowned. He was not used to being spoken to in such a manner. Had he not dueled with heroic legends as well, and mastered time travel far more than any other? “Please, Luthor, I cast no aspersions upon your intellect. I only saw you die and felt it fair to warn you and offer you my services to prevent such a fate from befalling you — and to revenge ourselves upon the costumed ilk that plague us both.”
Luthor thought to himself, If Doome speaks the truth, then I do feel a need not wholly incompatible with his schemes. I must eliminate my enemies now before they can live to see me die. Changing time in any way may yet offer me an escape. Plus, this merging of dimensions holds out a rare and enticing opportunity.
“I agree to a partnership,” he said aloud. “We shall make use of your time-travel devices and my own inventions to take advantage of the very circumstances that led to my death in the possible future you witnessed.”
Dr. Doome smiled. “Then together we shall make history by slaying every mystery-man alive!”
Later, Dr. Doome watched Luthor work with grudging admiration. “I must admit that this modification to my time device is remarkable. Your probability scanner allows me much greater accuracy in locating exact periods of time as destinations where I shall locate the pawns we need.”
“True,” said Luthor. “By using your machine to go back — or should I say forward? — to the moment in which the multiverse merged during this Crisis, it will give the craft almost infinite possibilities in terms of where and when it may venture. You may go to any one of these Earths and even travel back farther to Earths that had been destroyed by the Crisis.”
Doome frowned. “I know you theorize, like that Brainiac, that the universe is full of parallel Earths with subtle differences, such as a Superman active in the 1980s like the one I spotted during the Crisis. However, I hold a differing opinion. I see them merely as being divergent timelines in which, say, a Superman didn’t start his career until later or perhaps never at all. Still, I shall go to the time we described, and from that launching point to the infinite Earths, where I shall select our army with which we shall slay the heroes of 1943, thus giving you revenge upon all who might have outlived you.”
Luthor sneered, thinking inwardly, Let that fool think simple revenge which he can share in is my only goal for now. I will use him to find pawns with which to slay the mystery-men, because they have presumed to ally themselves with one who has opposed me in all my plans. But my plan goes far deeper. Luthor shall not sit idly by and allow death to befall him at the lifeless hands of a glorified toaster!
“I know Superman’s friends in the JSA are your primary targets,” said Doome, “but we will kill the Seven Soldiers of Victory as well, correct? They are my sworn foes!”
Luthor smiled sarcastically and wrung his hands in mock terror. “Surely we dare not face those indomitable champions! It is one thing to dare to fight the JSA with three members who can bend steel in their bare hands and three others with supernatural powers at their disposal, but it’s entirely different to propose we risk all by dueling with a team composed of two living anachronisms, oafs dressed in the flag, and a second-rate imitation of Batman and Robin!”
Dr. Doome grew angry. “I tell you, they are capable heroes. The Green Arrow may be nothing more, in your opinion, than a second-rate Batman, but I know better. And I won’t hesitate to add that from what I have read about your future as it stands now, the Batman you belittle will crease your chin with his fist on more than one occasion.”
“Fear not,” said Luthor. “I hate loose ends and will slay the Seven Soldiers, as well as non-entities like the Whip and Air Wave, too, for that matter. Perhaps you’d feel safer if I killed the Red Tornado and Little Boy Blue first.”
Doome frowned. If I didn’t need Luthor’s genius, I would kill him myself! he mused.
Luthor summoned two other figures from the back of the lab. One was an elegantly dressed man called Haldane the Sorcerer. (*) The other, a strange man in red called the Psycho-Pirate, had been plucked from the future by Doome. Luthor ordered them about with disdain.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Fate, More Fun Comics #63 (January, 1941).]
“Haldane and Pirate, you know what to do. Go with Doome as instructed and use your magic and your power to enslave the pawns we choose.” Luthor gave a nod to Haldane, a foe of Doctor Fate who had secretly agreed to serve Luthor alone and to dispose of Doome when ordered to do so by the red-headed genius.
Doome, for his part, had secretly made the Psycho-Pirate his own partner against Luthor, if needed. They were united by their memories of the future, for the Pirate had been plucked from decades ahead, and Doome had lived through those years but was not old due to the chronal radiation he had absorbed in many time trips.
It was midnight in 1943 on an Earth without a numerical designation. This world would be among the earlier to die in the universe-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths. As Dr. Doome’s time craft bobbled across the sky, the Psycho-Pirate grinned madly, while Haldane merely scowled.
“See? My buddy the Anti-Monitor was gonna make me a king,” babbled the Psycho-Pirate, a man named Roger Hayden who possessed the Medusa Mask, allowing him to control the emotions of others. “If only he hadn’t lost. He’ll be back, I tell ya. Till then, I’ll help you guys slay those JSA creeps. I got me a real grudge against the Hourman. Always wondered what the outcome would’a been if I had fought him back when he was in his prime.”
Haldane wearily gazed out at the nightscape. “What is this world?”
Dr. Doome laughed and rubbed his fat hands together with glee. Out of the overpowering presence of Luthor, he was quickly reverting to his old arrogant self. “It is unknown to the heroes of our world and lacks a number,” he said. “No Earth-One or Earth-Y here! It may as well be called Earth-Et Cetera, since it is soon to become nothing but a memory. And we shall have taken what we want from it — living weapons! But be certain that you ensnare our prey quickly. It would not do at all for us to end up in some jail on this doomed world.”
“I am ready,” said Haldane. “If I dueled Doctor Fate himself, then I can easily handle anything this backwater parallel world has to offer.”
They skimmed along until they spotted a costumed man who wore a black leotard and a black mask. His blond hair and eager, darting eyes caught the glimmer of the streetlight as he stalked his criminal prey.
“Who is he?” said Psycho-Pirate. “Kinda looks like that chump the Sandman, what with the gun and all.”
“The probability scanner identifies him as the Ferret,” said Haldane. “How unfortunate a name.”
“Yeah, too bad it’s not classy like mine,” said Hayden, smiling madly.
“Watch!” shouted Doome. “Ill-chosen name or not, the man is good.”
They watched as the Ferret spotted three lurking gang members as they exited a store with broken windows and sliced alarm systems. “Game’s up, punks!” he said, grinning.
“Ahh! Not him!” whined one. “Why couldn’t it be the Red Skeleton? At least she’s a babe!”
“Too bad you’ll be without girl-watching for a long, long time now,” said the Ferret as he fired his weird-looking gun.
A shock of high voltage went through a gang member as he pulsed oddly and fell to the cold pavement. “I’m always up on current events,” laughed the Ferret as he swung his gun and clubbed a second thug to the ground with brutal ease.
The third drew a knife on the black-clad hero, only to scream as a streak of darkness leaped from the Ferret’s shoulder to claw at the man’s face. He yelped, and the hero turned to deck him with a strong left. The small live ferret that had attacked the hoodlum jumped for the arm of its master, who grinned. “Nicely done, pal.”
Then Haldane the Sorcerer acted. With outspread arms, he chanted weirdly. The Ferret glanced up, only to stiffen in fright as he saw the Psycho-Pirate’s equally scared features. Then the nimbus of energy conjured by Haldane surrounded the heroic author-turned-mystery-man, and he knew no more.
They scooped him up, and Doome callously tossed the pet to the street. “Hate filthy animals like that,” he said and turned to the sorcerer. “So your magic will make the Ferret our slave?”
Haldane nodded. “He’ll be ours to turn loose on any hero we choose. Which one’ll face him?”
Doome smiled. “He is an author who became a mystery-man to experience the thrill of adventure firsthand. I know from my own time of Earth-Two’s 1943 one hero who may very well be his counterpart — the Tarantula.”
“Who’s next?” asked an eager Hayden.
“We gather all of this world’s heroes,” said a smug Doome, “like the sultry Red Skeleton, the lethal Challenger, and the inhuman Dynamic Man, and then we head for the other Earths and choose their heroes for our army.”