Justice Society of America: 1943: Woman Trouble, Chapter 3: Battle of the Sexes

by Libbylawrence

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Superman hovered over Science Island, where Paula von Gunther’s lab was based. Knowing he could land on this neighboring smaller isle of the sacrosanct Paradise Island without offending any custom, he landed and waited as various Amazons alerted the pretty blonde that she had visitors.

“Paula, I thought you had reformed, but I see you’ve returned to your old ways,” Superman said, squinting in that odd characteristic way of his as he scanned the lab. “I want the real Lois Lane now!”

Wearing only the sandals and brief tunic of an Amazon, the reformed Paula von Gunther looked truly radiant. The magical facelift Aphrodite had given her following some burn injuries made her more gorgeous than ever before. She was also very confident and frighteningly smart. “Superman, I assure you that I have not left this isle, nor done anything to the famous Daily Star reporter,” she said.

Superman stepped forward. “With your super-science, if you’ll excuse the expression, you could have done any number of things to Lois without setting one dainty foot off this beach!”

Wonder Woman raced over to confront him. “Superman, I vouch for Paula. Step back!”

Superman frowned. “Don’t turn this into a battle of the sexes!”

“It is nothing more than a battle between truth and lies, right and wrong, male stubbornness and female intuition,” cried Wonder Woman. The two powerful heroes came to blows, and the Amazons cried out their encouragement to their princess. She wrestled with the Man of Steel as they backed each other across the sandy shore.

“Diana, must I spank you?” he said. “I refuse to punch you like Ultra or Luthor!”

Wonder Woman kicked him flat and said, “I’d like to see you or any male try!”

“Didn’t I give you enough of a beating last year?” said Superman, getting up and backhanding her before she could kick him back down again.

“As I recall, the only reason our fight ended was because you fought dirty!” cried Wonder Woman. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman Versus Wonder Woman,” All New Collector’s Edition #C-54 (1978), which takes place in June, 1942.]

Superman blew a sandstorm into her path, which she blocked with her golden lasso. But he quickly fused the sandy whirlwind into a glass prison that entrapped her. “Now, Paula, you’re coming with me.” He looked around and said in annoyance, “Where’d she go?” In her mad scientist’s lab, no doubt, he thought.

As he flew toward the lab, Diana shattered her prison and pulled his cape back. “Nobody does that!” replied Superman, and they crashed into the huge lab. Wonder Woman used her agility to flip him directly toward a precise spot in the room, while Paula activated a weird device. He was hit with a purple ray, and his face instantaneously changed.

“Great Scott!” he said with dismay. “I was brawling like some schoolyard bully! Can you both forgive me? I should have just checked Paula’s heartbeat or had you use your golden lasso to determine what the truth is!”

“No apology is needed,” said Diana. “You were sick — under the influence of some drug or toxin the fake Lois Lane carried. I assume there was a fake Lois? That is the pattern Flash and I have encountered, and we suspect that someone is using Paula’s old methods and her former pupils to pull it off. Fritz Klaver appears to be opposing them.”

“You’d never acted so brutishly if you had not been poisoned or drugged,” agreed Paula, “and if my memory serves me correctly, only magic could really affect you.”

Superman nodded. “That means someone with supernatural talents is backing this plot. I suggest we call in the other JSAers. As an honorary member, I’m not too proud to ask for help!”

Diana smiled. “Good idea!”

***

Hawkman, Starman, and Wonder Woman, along with honorary members Superman, Batman, and the Flash, sat together around the meeting table in a room at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. This had been the team’s headquarters ever since the War Department had re-formed the JSA as the Justice Battalion of America with a new mission to assist in America’s war efforts against the Axis.

“Too bad the Spectre and Doctor Fate are off in another dimension, and the Atom, Sandman, and Doc Mid-Nite are all busy with solo cases,” said Hawkman.

“True, but it’s great to have our honorary members here, even if it’s due to a crisis,” said Starman.

Batman grinned. “We’re glad to be here. This looks to be a mystery bigger than any one of us. Let me review the facts thus far. One: various women in positions of authority have been replaced with surgically altered doubles in order to use their connections of one type or another for purposes friendly to the Axis cause. Two: the women seem to be members of the now-reformed Baroness Paula von Gunther’s Leipzig Academy of fanatically loyal slave girls, complete with the bracelets. Three: Paula herself has no connection to the crimes. Four: many of the crimes were stopped due to mysterious tips, some of which seem to have originated with members of Fritz Klaver’s Bundist group, the Grey Shirts.”

The Flash interrupted, “Look, Batman, real women are in peril here. My Joan could be dead or hurt! Let’s do something!”

“Easy, pal!” said Hawkman. “You’re not the type to get so emotional, even with a loved one in peril.”

Superman quickly added, “I suspect many of us who encountered these doubles were also infected with some toxin that warped the judgment, creating anger, passion, and paranoia.”

“I wore a gas mask during my fight,” said the Batman.

“Paula suspects the toxin to alter men’s minds, but to have no effect on women,” Wonder Woman said. “Thus, the doubles are carriers of a kind.”

“We also know many of the acts involved the theft of official documents that revealed the current schedules of our president,” said Batman.

Starman nodded. “That must have been how they knew to send the fake Linda Page to Hot Springs on this particular week.”

“Yes. I had them alter that visit, but what of other planned presidential trips?” replied Batman.

“Wait!” said Wonder Woman. “Don’t you see? It’s not FDR they want to infect with the madness toxin the impostors carry — not primarily.”

Batman slammed his fist into his palm. “Of course!” he cried. “Diana is right; that schedule also revealed the planned visits and duties of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. She is as active a traveller as anyone. If she is infected and becomes a carrier of the madness toxin, then she would, in turn, spread it through all government and social circles!”

“I’m a scientist,” said the Flash. “I need to do something. Let me examine all of you — try to pin down the nature of the drug. Otherwise, I’ll go stir-crazy worrying about poor Joannie.”

“Maybe Rex Tyler could help as well,” said Starman.

Superman grinned. “You know, Bannermain Chemicals would be an ideal place to manufacture such a drug. If they had large enough amounts, then millions of women who actually serve our foe could spread it across the whole nation, including defense factories!”

“Let me get on it,” said Batman. “I’ll try to track down which factories or chemical plants have recently taken on the largest number of female swing-shift workers. Of course, only female workers would be needed to make the stuff; males would be affected by it.”

“Good thinking, all of you!” said Hawkman. “What about Klaver, though? Why would he send his men to stop the doubles? He killed the fake Joan Williams, or at least one of his agents did. Could Fritz want Paula’s job?”

“Yeah, that could be it,” said Starman. “He may want to show up the female spy ring so his own Grey Shirt traitors can gain power under Uncle Adolf!”

“Please remember, friends, Paula is not behind this,” said Wonder Woman. “It is one of her former aides, possibly Mavis, or since drugs are involved, I’d suspect another old foe of mine!”

“Doctor Poison, I presume?” said the Batman.

***

Nighttime at Bannermain Chemicals found Johnny Thunder creeping through the busy plant, high above the main floor where the women workers labored over various production centers, conspicuous in his white sailor’s outfit but still managing to remain unseen for now. That girl who called me over when Rex was busy with poor old Mr. Bannermain said that she was sure Beverly Bannermain was a fake, he mused. She’s the real Bev’s cousin, Regina Bannermain, and she insisted that she knew this Bev was a look-alike double. Since Rex is sweet on her, I figured I’d be wiser to check it out myself first. No need to upset the poor guy. Plus, I’d sure hate to do anything that might make him risk using Miraclo again and get sick again!

Johnny frowned. “Say, you know, it would help if I could see better!”

At the sound of the magic word, Johnny’s Thunderbolt made his commands a reality. “Lights! Camera! Action!” cried the pink Thunderbolt as Johnny blinked in a bright spotlight.

“You there — stop!” cried a woman in a black jumpsuit and mask. “A spy — get him, ladies!” The female workers rushed toward a ladder that led to where Johnny watched.

“That’s Doctor Poison!” exclaimed Johnny. “She’s gotta be up to no good. That stuff they’ve been making must be bad — a poison, befitting her name. T-bolt, make it a knockout gas!

The powder below turned into a pale yellow vapor, and the angry women were quickly overcome. “Nicely done, Master!” said the Thunderbolt.

“Bah, you fool!” said the evil Doctor Poison, alias the Japanese Princess Maru. “My manufactured toxin may be ruined, but I carry a personal supply. It harms only males, so you, too, will soon go mad!”

Johnny frowned. “Say, you’d be the one in trouble if you were a man!”

Instantly, Doctor Poison switched sexes and gasped as he inhaled the toxin, then began to shout and wave his arms in a mad rage.

“T-bolt, can you get rid of the toxins she — I mean he… or is it she? — carries?” asked Johnny.

The Thunderbolt inhaled, and the powders that lined the now-male Maru were absorbed in his bloated jaws. A spark-like burp ended the latest scheme of Doctor Poison who, between the toxin’s effects and his new gender role, was no longer a threat.

“Will he turn back to a woman? I know I’d hate to be a guy named Maru!” joked Johnny.

The Thunderbolt grinned. “Sure. You know, you could have stopped her by becoming a woman yourself, a Jonni Thunder, if you will!”

“Naw,” laughed Johnny. “That’s a stupid name!”

***

Baroness Paula von Gunther, livid with anger, stalked across the room to confront Fritz Klaver. “My women have failed, and in many cases it appears to be due to warnings to the victims or heroes,” she said coldly. “These warnings could not have come from my slave girls, since they have no free will. You, however, are all too capable of turning on me.”

Fritz Klaver rubbed one hand across his thinning hair. “Baroness, you wrong me! I wish you only success. Surely tonight, when we turn the first lady herself into an agent of the Thousand-Year Reich, you will no longer doubt my loyalty!”

The blonde woman in the tight silver dress sniffed in disdain. “We’ll see, Klaver.”

They were at the rally being held in Detroit for the first lady’s special concern — the domestic New Deal programs, many of which faced an abrupt end as wartime demands robbed them of the resources they required to thrive. Mrs. Roosevelt had campaigned vigorously for the continuation of both. She repeated her famous phrase about making the nation one worth returning home to after fighting a war overseas.

“When will one of your agents be ready to dose her?” asked Klaver.

“See below?” said Paula, smiling. “That auburn beauty with the Secret Service is mine. Lorna Dawn is a prisoner; that doubly serves me.”

At that moment, a green glow filled the room. The Green Lantern appeared and shouted, “Mrs. Roosevelt, get away from that woman! She’s not a real Secret Service agent!”

At that moment, the fake Lorna Dawn frowned and pulled out a small vial of powder. “Too late, Amerikaner!” she cried.

“I’d say just in time!” said a smiling Flash as he spun her to the ground and pocketed the still-sealed vial. “What brings you here, pal?” he asked the pleased Green Lantern.

“I got a tip from Lorna through my friend Alan Scott that she had learned of doubles trying to get to Mrs. Roosevelt,” the Green Lantern replied as he bound the agent with glowing green chains. “A scan with my power ring proved that this Lorna is a fake.”

“How’d you know?” asked Starman as he flew down with Wonder Woman and Batman.

“The real Lorna has a birthmark — this one doesn’t!” said Green Lantern with a smile.

Paula cursed. “You had to be the one who tipped him off!” she shouted to Fritz Klaver. “We subdued Dawn before she could have alerted him!”

Wonder Woman vaulted the railing as Superman and Hawkman led the real Mrs. Roosevelt to safety. She raced across the room and leaped skyward to confront the arguing pair of Paula and Klaver.

“You aren’t Paula!” said Wonder Woman as she spun her magic lasso. “Johnny Thunder caught your agent, Doctor Poison. So just who are you?”

The false Paula laughed in a harsh male tone. “Who alone could impersonate the mortal so well that all of her devoted female slaves obeyed his every command? Why, none other than the Duke of Deception!”

Wonder Woman frowned as she watched the blonde figure of Paula von Gunther transform into the laughing Duke of Deception. He was an old-looking male demigod with Roman-style armor who used magic to make reality and illusion seem almost interchangeable.

Superman, Batman, Starman, Green Lantern, and the Flash joined Wonder Woman then, and together the JSAers closed in on the demigod, while Hawkman remained behind to protect Mrs. Roosevelt, just in case other agents were in play.

“I took on the body of the beauty called Paula to make use of her women,” he cackled. “It is a shame to see such fine Axis agents waste their talents for want of a strong mistress. Thus, I gave them one! I also used my magic to enhance the poison of Princess Maru to make Superman here battle you, my pretty!”

Superman grabbed the evil man. “You seem to be enjoying your defeat!”

The Duke smiled darkly. “Oh, you’ll pay for that, trust me. But I owe my loss not to your little mortal team of modern-day Argonauts, do I?”

Fritz Klaver broke free of Starman’s grip and laughed girlishly. “No, Father, you owe it to me!” he laughed, glowing brightly before transforming into a beautiful young woman wearing a short toga.

“My traitor of a daughter always seeks to ruin me!” he cried. “You want me to lose my position in the court of Mars so that you may take my place!” he said to her accusingly.

The evil Deeceit, daughter of Deception, said, “I hate you, as you know! You fall short of Mars and lose his favor each time I play you for a fool. I care nothing for the Axis or the Allies, but by hurting you, I gain Mars’ respect!” Deeceit turned to the heroes. “I took the form of Klaver and used his Grey Shirts to warn you all, just to thwart my father in his own little role-playing game!”

“Tell us where the girls are!” demanded the Batman. “Ruin his schemes completely.”

Wonder Woman looped her lasso over the startled Duke, as his daughter’s speech had occupied his attention completely. “Where are Joan Williams and the rest?” she demanded.

The Duke cried in pain as he was forced by the magical weave of Aphrodite’s girdle to speak that which was most unpleasant for him — the truth. “I planned to give them all to Saturnette, slave queen of Saturn, for her own pleasure,” he groaned. “They have not yet been shipped from my base, located in the catacombs beneath the Capitol!”

“Deception living in the heart of Washington, D.C.,” whispered Starman. “That’s irony for you.”

A red blur indicated that the Flash had departed. Seconds later, he returned carrying a dizzy Joan Williams. “I freed all the gals,” he said with a smile. “Some of you fellows will want to help them get settled down after their fright. The real Lorna, Lois, Linda, and Beverly, among others, are now safe!”

The Green Lantern nodded as he thought of the real Lorna Dawn, whom he had once met as Alan Scott. “Wait a minute!” he cried. “Deeceit has vanished!”

Diana frowned. “No need to worry about that. No jail could hold her kind. Her father and herself thrive wherever there are lies and malice. He, too, slipped through my lasso’s grasp. Truth may vanquish Deception, but it eventually returns if one is not careful.”

Superman agreed. “Now that is what I call a never-ending battle!

***

Rex Tyler sighed in relief as the real Regina Bannermain returned from her vacation, for it had been Deeceit in her form who had tipped Johnny Thunder off about the doings at Bannermain Chemicals. He greeted the vivacious blonde beauty and said, “Are you ever a sight for sore eyes.”

Regina smiled. “You flatter me, kind sir. I heard Uncle Bob had an attack.”

As if on cue, a shout of “Tyler!” echoed through the plant.

“No, he is an attack personified!” said Rex with a grin as Beverly Bannermain, newly freed from the Duke of Deception’s lair along with all the other prisoners, led her newly recovered father out of his office.

Tyler!” he roared again. “Where are those samples you promised me yesterday?”

Rex shrugged. “Where’s Johnny when you need him?”

The End

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