Wildcat continued talking as he and the Atom headed out of Gotham City. “So I got here earlier and started to cruise around town when I saw trouble in a sexy purple dress slit up to here — the Catwoman on the prowl!
“I suited up and trailed her over the rooftops until she vanished inside a museum. I dropped down after her and glanced around to see what the doll was up to. Then the lights flashed on, and I was blinded for a minute. When I could see again, I had quite a show! The Catwoman and three other ‘kittens’ were loading up rare art, including a bunch of the stuff that Hawkman likes from Egypt.”
“‘So, tomcat, what brings you out this night?’ the Catwoman snarled at me.
“I played it all strong and silent, and dodged a net that one of her cat-dolls tossed my way. I crossed that museum in a single bound, not that I mean to steal Supes’ line or anything. A kick left one kitten stunned, while I pulled my punches and tossed their own net over the other two! They were skilled thieves, not rough and tumble types. Their boss-lady was a cat of a different stripe, though!
“‘If I can match the Bat, then I can easily outwit a bruiser like you!’ she teased, flaunting her leg and attitude.
“A whip lashed out and stung me quite a bit. I rolled aside and took a vase as a shield. I blocked her with it, to the dismay of culture lovers everywhere. Then I got closer and received a kick in the teeth for my efforts.
“She was good. Real good. Maybe even better than that Tigress babe from a couple years back. (*) I made one wrong move, and she had me down, and claws raked my face. Drugged, too! I watched the world shimmy like her hips, and all went black.
[(*) Editor’s note: The Tigress was a short-lived mystery-woman active circa 1942 who would later become the villainess called the Huntress.]
“When I awoke, I saw very little except for a huge, ugly brute of a cat monster! It was in the middle of the museum and had the Cat-babe in his black paws! He was like that Bast, the cat-god the Egyptians worshipped. Mister Terrific told me about that once. I can only guess the Catwoman tried to steal it and somehow invoked the creature. Well, a doll like that doesn’t deserve to be anybody’s snack!
“I slammed into the monster and had absolutely no impact on it. It was like fighting a brick wall with shining eyes and sharp claws. He snatched at me like I was a ball of string. I barely dodged in time. I did manage to carry Catwoman to safety, though.
“This Bast prowled around as if… as if he was getting used to our world, or somethin’. I saw his tiny counterpart on the floor — it was an icon from the old tombs. I figured if it was enough to hold the cat creature for eons, it would still work now. I raced toward the statue, and as I touched it, Bast began to slap me silly! I was almost out cold when the Catwoman made her move. She snatched up the icon and placed it back in its exact original location. When she did that, the mojo worked, and Bast disappeared again!
“I turned to thank her and to turn her in, when she made an escape, leaving her kittens behind. They squealed and said they were supposed ta come to this old lighthouse outside of Gotham to divvy up the loot. So that’s where we’re going, too!”
“So that’s your ‘cat-o’-one tale,’ huh?” quipped the Atom.
“Enough talk,” grumbled Wildcat. “Let’s get goin’.”
The Scarecrow and Professor Hugo Strange had been amusing themselves while their operatives performed their assigned tasks. They had captured a convention of notable scholars and doctors in order to inflict tortures on them, both for the study of fear and psychology and for the ruthless fun and revenge they had always wanted to take on the academic worlds that had rejected them. It grew old rapidly.
“They have all failed in their tasks, or so it seems in the cases of Catwoman, the Mad Hatter, and Kite-Man,” said the crippled Strange, speaking slowly. “I have heard naught from the Cavalier. Still, it amazes me that Batman did not oppose them! He is either playing some subtle game or is away from the city.”
“If Batman is away, then what point is there to this plan?” asked Jonathan Crane. “His death was a central feature from the inception. Where has the Cavalier headed with Gordon?”
“I see power as its own reward, and the study of why others in addition to the Bat don those costumes to prowl the night interests me,” said Strange. “Plus, I sent word to the Cavalier and all those who had failed in their tasks that they were to go to that lighthouse I mentioned.”
“What is there?” asked Scarecrow. “Not us!”
“I put the mad clown there to deal with anyone who may have followed the potential failures, like Kite-Man,” offered Strange coldly.
“Nicely played! The Joker will settle these heroes while we await the return of Batman!”
The Joker was one happy guy. He had been given the use of the lighthouse by Professor Strange, and he saw it as a wonderfully atmospheric place from which to work his urban renovation plan.
“I shall try the old reliable ‘spell my name out based on where I strike’ plan! It’s an oldie but a goodie!” he laughed. “Now, where haven’t I struck — striked? — struck! Hmm… Li’l Lotta’s Ice Cream? No… too small-scale. Big scoops or nothing for mama Joker’s boy.”
As the clown of crime made his mad plans, Mister Terrific and Doctor Mid-Nite encountered Wildcat and the Atom on the sandy shore below the old lighthouse.
“What is this? A JSA meeting in the making?” joked the Atom.
“We wondered that as well,” said Mister Terrific.
“We’re actually after the gang or person in that lighthouse,” said Mid-Nite. “He is the mastermind behind two crimes.”
“Make that four… and still counting,” piped in Wildcat.
“Batman’s away from the city at the moment,” said Doctor Mid-Nite.
“We can do the job for him,” said the Atom.
“This guy is a real planner,” said Terrific. “He lined up these felons with their special M.O.s and did it at the exact time Batman was away.”
“He may not have known that. Could just be chance,” offered the Atom.
“Well, let’s go beard this lion in his den!” declared Wildcat.
“Spooky old place, huh?” said the Atom, looking at the lonely old lighthouse.
“A real chiller,” said Mister Terrific. “Ripe for a Karloff film!”
The Joker saw them approaching and gleefully pranced around the room. “The masked men cometh! Time for the haunted lighthouse!”
Weird laughter echoed through the building as the heroes entered.
“That sound makes it pretty certain it’s the deadly bat-foe called the Joker,” said Doctor Mid-Nite.
“Oh, great!” said Wildcat. “Why couldn’t it just be Clayface?”
“The Joker uses some kind of toxin that leaves people dead with the rictus grin in place,” noted Mister Terrific.
“True. I’d say we’d better be prepared for that kind of trap,” agreed Doctor Mid-Nite warily.
“Look out!” cried the Atom as a gang of odd figures ran out to confront them. “The circus is coming to town!”
Wildcat sparred with a wildly flipping acrobat who spun through the air while twirling a knife. “Stay down where I can see you!” ordered Wildcat as he delivered a knockout punch to the acrobat.
The Atom faced a weightlifter with bulging muscles. “You’re big, but I’m faster and stronger!” he boasted as he leapfrogged the hulking figure’s back and caught him in a full nelson hold. A few moments of pressure brought him to earth, stunned.
“The bigger they are…” began Mister Terrific.
“I’m glad you said that!” laughed the Atom.
Mister Terrific faced a knife-tosser who blinked in dismay as the man of a thousand talents caught both knives and tossed them back at him with the handles extended. They bounced off his chin and left him dazed.
Doctor Mid-Nite had raced up the stairs into the darkness, which was virtually like light to his special eyes. He kicked in a door behind which laughter had been echoing from, only to find a jack-in-the-box.
“Old hat for the Joker,” he mused. Turning back, he ran out, leaving the box alone as he made his way through the dark lighthouse.
“Whoooo — goes there!” laughed the Joker as he confronted Mid-Nite, squirting acid toward him from a lapel flower.
Doctor Mid-Nite dodged the stream and slammed down a blackout bomb. The inky cloud enveloped them both, and as the Joker whipped out a weird gun, Mid-Nite swung a punch straight into the villain’s gut.
As the Joker groaned and bent over in pain, his gun misfired a lethal spear attached to a Bang! sign that hit the wall near Doctor Mid-Nite’s head.
“I guess I laugh last, you grinning fiend!” he said, frowning.
The Joker screeched at him, “I can’t see you, but I can get you with my joy-buzzer!”
Doctor Mid-Nite had been keeping a close eye on the Joker, who stood several feet away in the dark room. Still, when the Joker clutched a small device, Mid-Nite suddenly fell in a faint. Electrical current ran through the entire floor, not just on the Joker’s gloved hand. Since the villain wore rubber-soled shoes, he felt no pain.
“Shocking, isn’t it?” laughed the green-haired fiend. “Can’t believe he fell for it!”
Elsewhere, Mister Terrific pushed Wildcat down as a sharp razor swung from the head of the lighthouse steps.
“Close shave, in more than one way!” said a grim Wildcat.
“Will the Atom be OK?” asked Terrific.
“Sure. The kid’s a scrapper,” explained Wildcat. “He wouldn’t have listened to us, anyway!”
The pair headed slowly up the stairs until they saw a spectral sight. There the Joker sat above a prone Doctor Mid-Nite and held his head up with a needle posed above it.
“Stop him!” yelled Mister Terrific as he tossed a knife he’d taken from the circus gang at the Joker, knocking the needle out of his hand.
The Joker, frowning, said, “You will meet a grim fate for that, Mr. Fair Play! You, too, cat-man!”
But Wildcat slammed a fist into the Joker’s grinning face. “I thought he’d never shut up,” the boxer said to Mister Terrific, who was checking out their friend. As the Joker had fallen down hard to the floor, apparently unconscious, Wildcat turned to inquire about Doctor Mid-Nite. “Is he OK?”
“He’ll be all right after a rest. Looks like… Look out!” yelled Mister Terrific, who saw the Joker suddenly rise up behind Wildcat with a weird egg-shaped object.
The Joker cracked the waxen egg on Wildcat, who fell to the floor in pain as a gooey acidic substance burned his back. “Ah, the old acid goo! Can’t live without it!” cooed the Joker.
Mister Terrific hurled himself across the room to rip away the back section of Wildcat’s costume, tearing off the shirt. He checked his friend’s back and found purplish burns stretched across the broad shoulders.
“Nice tan. I thought you dark avenger types only came out at night!” said the Joker.
Mister Terrific moved to challenge the Joker. “You’re not funny. You’re sick. You need therapy. You need to be locked away, and I’ll do just that!”
As he approached the Joker, the clown clicked his remote once more. Mister Terrific smiled as he belted the Joker across the face.
“Rubber soles on my shoes, too,” he said as he slapped down the clown.
The voltage had not harmed Wildcat, either, since he had thrown himself onto a table. The comatose Doctor Mid-Nite remained very still.
Suddenly, the Atom swung into the lighthouse from the outside. The mighty mite landed on the Joker’s back and pummeled him senseless, eliminating any further threat he might pose.
The heroes dragged the villain away for the arriving police and treated the injured Wildcat and Doctor Mid-Nite, who both recovered after a rest and some medicated treatments.
“You did great, Atom!” said Mister Terrific. “Climbing up the side of the lighthouse like that was mighty impressive!”
The Atom smiled. “I’d like to think that Batman himself would have approved!”