The Parent Trap
Learn the untold story of the romance between the villainous Brain Wave and the heroic Merry the Gimmick Girl, the parents of Hank King, Jr., alias the hero Brainwave II of Infinity Inc!
Henry King Jr., the member of Infinity Inc. known as Brainwave, looked up from a leather-bound book and saw the lovely Jennie-Lynn Hayden, his fellow Infinitor and girlfriend also known as Jade, enter his room.
The pretty, perky young woman wore a cotton blouse with a Peter Pan-type collar and a short black skirt. “Knock, knock,” she said as she entered.
“Oh, hi, Jenn,” said Hank. “What brings you to this dark little corner of Stellar Studios?”
“You,” she replied. “Specifically, your behavior lately. I know you and I started off on the wrong dainty green foot, but I thought we’d gotten past that. You stopped treating me like a Kermit-colored airhead, and we’d begun to share a lot. Lately, though, you’ve been so withdrawn. You never smile or even just hang out with me. For a while there, Todd was getting worked up over the idea that we were something of an item. And you also never use your powers at their highest level any longer. So talk to me, or I’ll use ways handed down from generations of Hayden women to make you spill what’s wrong.”
“Well, you kind of put your finger on it,” he replied. “‘Hayden women.’ You can look back on your heritage with a sense of pride, both from the Haydens, your adoptive folks, and the Scotts, your dad and family. I know my father and I reached a real accord just as he died, but for years before that, we just didn’t talk.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Dark and Deadly Place,” Infinity, Inc. #11 (January, 1985).]
Jenn plopped down on the bed. “So, why the Alex Hailey stuff now?”
“I went up to Sharktooth Bay, where he had his… lair, I guess you’d call it,” Hank replied. (*) “I found this journal. It tells about his life. He was a mutant. He was a loner. He was living virtually within his own mind for much of his youth. He never learned socialization skills. Look, see this part? He lived in a mixture of fear of being different and an arrogance of being better than ordinary folks.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Brain Wave Goes Berserk,” All-Star Comics #17 (June-July, 1943).]
Jennie-Lynn nodded. “I can understand his feelings. When I stepped from most popular girl out of the shower into being Miss green genes, I freaked out. I felt I’d never be normal again.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Origins and Outcasts,” Infinity Inc. #4 (July, 1984).]
“I know,” said Hank. “Well, I read about his early battles with the JSA and got to a point in the late 1950s. Let me read it to you.”
Jenn smiled. “I’m all ears.”
From the Journal of Dr. Henry King:
My satisfaction at seeing the Justice Society disband partially due to my own efforts turned to bitter gall as the 1950s ended. My plan to make use of a mentally enslaved Superman, Batman, and another failed due to the intrusion by a team of young upstarts who were inspired by the cursed JSA!
And now I find myself thinking more and more about my own legacy. I need to rebuild my personal fortune, and I find that the most likely way to do so would be through means both legal and intriguing.
Jennie-Lynn cut in, “Whoa! The young team who beat him? Who were they?”
“Team Justice,” said Hank. “Mister Alpha, Bearcat, Aquagirl, Fury, and others.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Team Justice: Times Past, 1959: Justice in the Making, Chapter 3: Triple Trouble and Showcase: Team Justice: Times Past, 1959: Justice in the Making, Chapter 4: Conspiracy and Corruption.]
Hank continued to read from the journal. “‘The society columns reveal the Civic City heiress Merry Pemberton had come into a fortune upon reaching her twenty-first birthday a few years ago. She is one of the wealthiest of women, and I find her attractive. I propose to woo and win her by projecting an image of her perfect man as drawn from her own mind.'”
He stopped reading and said, “That’s the origin of the tall, red-haired form he used when he fought the JSA in the 1970s. (*) He picked that look out of Mom’s head and projected it as his own look until he could win her. By knowing exactly what she thought at any given time via his powers, he was able to charm her effortlessly.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “All Star Super-Squad,” All-Star Comics #58 (January-February, 1976) and “Brain Wave Blows Up,” All-Star Comics #59 (March-April, 1976).]
“Wow!” said Jennie-Lynn. “He could have made a fortune hiring himself out to marriage-minded singles. Find the perfect mate by mind-reading!”
Hank nodded. “Pretty low, I know, but look — he fell for her. By reading her mind, he saw her as a smart, capable, caring woman who was able to hold his interest. He revealed his true self to her before the wedding, but theirs had become a meeting of the minds. She loved him, and he loved her.”
“That’s cool, even if it is still a bit creepy,” said Jennie-Lynn. “Kind of Harlequin romance, Cartland kind of stuff, but cool.”
“Yes,” Hank replied. “They told her folks, and they tossed a fit. A banker — especially a stuffy one like her pop — could not manage to accept the notorious Brain Wave as a son-in-law. They’d lost two sons already, one to crime and one to time-displacement.”
“So they did learn Syl was the Star-Spangled Kid?” Jennie-Lynn asked.
Hank nodded. “Yeah. Apparently Merry told them after his disappearance, but even I never knew he was a hero or my relation until I met him. Mother never told me her maiden name.”
“Mom renounced her right to any of the family money,” continued Hank King. “She married my Dad, who had some money of his own, and they were happy. Her folks never forgave her and died soon afterward.”
“So the senior Pembertons never saw Sylvester again?” said Jennie-Lynn sadly. “He came back from time-displacement after their deaths?”
“Right. Plus, Mom had recently died before he made himself known after the return… but I get ahead of myself,” said Hank. “The marriage of Merry Pemberton and Henry King resulted in my birth. I even looked like father’s mental image. I think they conceived me while he was using that form.”
“File that under more than I need to know,” chimed in Jennie-Lynn.
“Duly noted,” said Hank, grinning. “And so, all was happy for us, except that by the time I was born in the 1960s, the JSA had returned to action. Dad began to yearn for mental challenges, and he wanted to make them pay for all his past jail time. Before the end of that decade he returned to crime and in the process broke Mom’s heart. They separated, and he fought the JSA again, both on his own and with the Injustice Society, and went back to jail for several years, until she died of a broken heart, while I ended up being raised by a court-appointed foster family. I had been away at school when Mom died. I still regret that we didn’t have any final words, and she never got to tell me about her past, her heroic career, or about her missing siblings.”
“I’m sorry, Hank,” said Jennie-Lynn. “I can’t imagine losing any of my folks, not the Haydens or the Scotts.”
Hank nodded. “Your parents were at all your school plays.”
Jennie-Lynn nodded. “Pop had the video camera going when I was Alice, Dorothy, Annie… you name it.”
“The journal continues,” said Hank finally. “‘The news that Merry has passed away grieves me. I could have been with her in those final moments, had it not been for the hated JSA. They sent me to prison like a common thug and robbed me of my one true love. Henry Jr. is in foster care and returns my letters unanswered. Perhaps it is all for the best. Perhaps I am not meant to be as other men with domestic ties. Still, I miss the lad. His loss will be another debt I take from the JSA when I take their lives.'”
Looking up, Hank said, “He did love Mom and me. I know that now. Back then I felt abandoned by him. It was like he had placed revenge on Hawkman and the rest above my needs.”
“Yeah,” said Jennie-Lynn. “That’s the flip side of Hector’s deal. He felt his dad placed stopping people like your father above his own need for a dad.”
“We have more in common than I thought, I guess.”
“When does it end?” asked Jennie-Lynn.
“The journal recounts a fling father had with a model named Zeta Harris in the late 1960s. That resulted in my getting a half-sister, Henrietta, who, as you know, calls herself Savant and has her own team of super-villains, the Junior Injustice Society. (*) She got to spend time with father between some of his crimes, and I never saw him again until our final battle with Ultra. I didn’t know about her until his death; the lawyer revealed her existence. We just don’t connect. She has his sense of emotional detachment from others.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society.]
“Did Brain Wave know his brothers-in-law?” asked Jade.
“He knew Mom was a heroine in the late 1940s, but he only learned about Sylvester being the Star-Spangled Kid years later. He offered to try to find him for mother. Apparently, one thing or another prevented him from doing so. As for Arthur Pemberton, he was away from home and in prison before Sylvester even first donned his star-spangled outfit. No one ever talked about Art. He was the black sheep of the lot, according to Syl. Remember, even I never knew Mom had been a Pemberton or that Syl was the Kid for years.”
“So Brain Wave had been trapped in Limbo right after the times he had spent with his daughter?” Jennie-Lynn said. “And then, when he got out, he was still allied with the Ultra-Humanite until he died saving us all?”
“Right. He passed his mental talents on to me, but I feared to use some of the powers. I feared he had passed on his anger and madness, too. I see now that I was being distant to you and everyone out of fear. I worried about becoming like him. After reading this book, I feel like I know him better and see him as more than a monster. He was just a man with problems, weaknesses, and loves, like anyone.”
Jennie-Lynn leaned over and kissed Hank softly. This continued for a few more moments as they bonded anew.