Justice Society of America: 1944: The Evil Plot, Chapter 5: Fear Itself

by Libbylawrence

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Professor Hugo Strange and the Scarecrow were now very upset. They had learned of all their failures by this time over the radio.

“The Joker failed, too!” said Strange, who was now wheezing painfully in his wheelchair. “He almost killed two of them, but the others got him! What do we do about these four?”

“We act decisively and refuse to let our fears govern us,” the Scarecrow said calmly. “We lure them here, and we kill them and Batman when he turns up!”

“I have taken the liberty of sending a few of the kidnapped doctors to make a ‘house call’ on the wealthy Bruce Wayne,” said Strange, “a civic leader by means of his wealth alone. The doctors will kill him and leave a calling card for the heroes.”

“Good. Are the doctors ‘doctored,’ if I may use the expression?” asked the Scarecrow.

“Oh, yes! My special formula…” said a smug Hugo Strange.

“And when the heroes get to us, we shall treat ourselves to a night of rare and unequalled terrors and intellectual stimulation!” said the self-proclaimed king of fear.


Three hulking figures made their way clumsily toward stately Wayne Manor, hell-bent on murder. They had once been three brilliant medical experts, but Strange’s odd formula had turned them into powerful, misshapen monsters with amazing strength and little intellect.

As they approached the manor, they were instantly detected by a hidden electric eye, which activated a hidden camera. Alfred Beagle, the faithful Wayne butler, turned to watch the television monitor as his four allies from the Justice Society of America made their way out to fight the monsters.

Brave men all of them! he thought. Truly worthy of Masters Bruce and Dick!

“Doctor Mid-Nite,” began Mister Terrific, “in my opinion those men were deformed through some drug that alters pituitary glands.”

“I concur,” said Mid-Nite. “I also recognize one as Dr. David Banner from the convention.”

“After Tweedledee and his brother, I would get these giants to even things out!” said the Atom.

Wildcat grinned and sailed into the nearest one, noticing how slow the hulking man moved and how clumsy his altered body was. Wildcat moved in and out of the creature’s grasping arms and steadily wore him down with powerful blows.

Doctor Mid-Nite merely touched one with his open palm, and down fell a giant. He looked at the Joker’s joy-buzzer, which he had confiscated from the criminal, and wondered if he might someday create a device that could be effective in crime-fighting. Perhaps it could do more than merely shock an opponent, he mused. I wonder… could I invent something that could circumvent the nervous system entirely? (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: A few years later, Doctor Mid-Nite would invent a prototype of the cryotuber device, which could do just that; see The Brave and the Bold: Doctor Mid-Nite and the Guardian: Times Past, 1947: Shedding Some Light.]

“They are especially susceptible to electric shocks, since their metabolisms and nervous systems are almost raw,” Mid-Nite noted aloud.

Mister Terrific watched as the Atom downed a third with strong blows to the knees and joints. “It’s inhuman what that madman did to these poor men,” he said. “Can we restore them if we readjust their pituitary glands?”

“Doubtlessly, in time,” said a grim Doctor Mid-Nite.

“The question is — where did they come from, and who is behind this?” said Wildcat.

“I can answer that, based on an examination of the Batman’s past cases,” said Mister Terrific. “It may be Professor Hugo Strange, though he is thought to have died after his last encounter with Batman, when he fell off a cliff into the ocean. However, no body was ever found, so it’s likely he may have survived, after all, though I imagine he sustained terrible injuries in the fall.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See 3rd story, Batman #1 (Spring, 1940).]

“Well, let’s teach the professor a few things from the Ted Grant school of hard knocks!” said an angry Wildcat.

“I see he wants us to come to him,” said Mister Terrific. “There are easy signs of where they came from… oil on their shoes and white sand places them near the convention center where these doctors originally were to go.”

“Then let’s go bring this Strange to justice!” said the Atom eagerly.

“I’ll meet you three there,” said Mister Terrific. “I have to make a quick stop at a local chemist’s.”


The three JSAers made their way to the Gotham Harbor Arms, a luxurious apartment house whose top three floors were rented out to a Dr. Syn. There, they only waited for a few minutes before Mister Terrific showed up, carrying a bag, and as soon as they told him the name, he smiled knowingly.

“Dr. Syn was the eponymous antihero from Russell Thorndike’s novels about Romney Marsh,” explained Mister Terrific. “He was also known as the Scarecrow. I suppose Jonathan Crane must be in this with Strange.”

No sooner had they made their way to the bottom of the Crane-owned floors than they were bombarded with a noxious vapor. Mister Terrific and Wildcat rushed their friends out, since they were in the back.

“Atom! Mid-Nite!” they called, but they received no answer from the dazed heroes.

“It’s his fear gas, for lack of a better name,” said Terrific. “It creates hallucinations drawn from the victim’s inner phobias.”

“What do we do?” asked Wildcat.

“I’d say we should take them back–” But Mister Terrific’s words were cut short as a gang of the mutated doctors suddenly rushed into the hallway. “Just fight!” yelled Terrific.

“Now those are orders I can really get into!” said Wildcat.

Although they were quickly overwhelmed by the mutated giants, they fought on bravely and skillfully.

Meanwhile, Doctor Mid-Nite gasped as his eyes stopped working via his goggles. Now he was truly blind again, and nothing he could do would change that.

No! I can’t see! he thought in desperation. It’s total blindness this time. The darkness is unending, even with the goggles! I’ll never see Myra’s face again!

A sound reached his keen ears, something like the noise from a farm. Memories of his uncle’s farm came rushing back to him, along with the smell of old straw. The Scarecrow was here and coming for him. He reached down for the belt where he stored the blackout bombs and dropped one. The room was quickly plunged into darkness, although he could not tell the difference.

It’s dark for him, too, he thought as his heart pounded. It must be. All I need to do is use my brain. He makes a slight noise when he moves, and he smells of the old straw. I can use that to fight back, darkness or not!

Indeed, he had frustrated the Scarecrow by remembering to use the blackout bombs in spite of his overwhelming fears. Curse him! thought Jonathan Crane. He is too brave, too resourceful… the fear does not incapacitate him as it would a lesser man. He felt his way through the darkness, immune to any trace of the fear gas. He would never make that type of error again.

Doctor Mid-Nite heard him and soon tackled him. He fought in the blackness against every fear it represented to him: abandonment, isolation, and loneliness. And by fighting, by striking with all his strength and will against the fear, he also pummeled the Scarecrow, who was indeed wiry, fast, and deadly, but ultimately no match for Mid-Nite’s unleashed emotion.

The Scarecrow fell still and stunned, and Doctor Mid-Nite took the moment to draw in several rapid breaths.


While Mid-Nite struggled against the darkness in the adjoining hallway, his friends fought on against Professor Hugo Strange’s mutated giants.

“Wildcat, we can’t keep battling these poor souls much longer,” said Mister Terrific. “We need to stop them at their source — Hugo Strange himself. Let’s try this idea.” Pulling out a seltzer bottle from his bag, he fired a misty spray from it that slowly put the giants to sleep.

“Hey, did ya pick the Sandman’s pocket or something?” asked Wildcat.

“No, actually the Sandman once told me the precise chemical makeup of the sleeping gas he uses in his gas-gun,” explained Mister Terrific. “I believe he mentioned it during an All-Star Squadron gathering just before Christmas of 1942. I made a mental note of the formula in case this very situation arose, and I was able to cobble it together from supplies at the chemist’s. I just didn’t know if the dosage would be enough for their mutated systems.”

“Whew!” said Wildcat, impressed. “Remind me never ta play blackjack for money against you! With your photographic memory, countin’ every card in the deck would be no problem! Now, where’s the Atom and Mid-Nite? They wandered off during our brawl with the giants!”


Not far away, the Atom was sitting in an empty room reliving his worst days on campus as Al Pratt before Joe Morgan trained him. He was literally looked down on by all. He felt as if he was shrinking even shorter, becoming virtually microscopic, yet still within view of the laughing women and men of Calvin College. No Joe Morgan! No costumed life! Just tiny Al! Small, useless, under-appreciated Al Pratt!

Al felt himself shrinking completely out of existence, but it was all in his drugged mind, of course.

“No!” he said, fighting back. “I do have worth! Small I may be, but my mind is good, my will is strong, and my courage unchanged!”

Gradually, the Atom was able to overcome his doubts, and an impressive Hugo Strange gazed on in wonder from his wheelchair. A hero with self-esteem issues, he mused. A mystery-man with an aggressive, angry desire to constantly prove himself. What a treasured find.

The Atom drew in a sharp breath and saw Professor Strange. “I can stop you! I know it’s all in my mind. My fists don’t need direction to do the job!”

Raced forward, in his anger, the Atom caught Strange off-guard. The fight ended before it could truly begin, since the crippled mad scientist in his wheelchair was no match for the Atom’s energetic might.

Mister Terrific and Wildcat then entered, along with Doctor Mid-Nite.

“I saw the whole thing,” Mid-Nite said to Terrific. “I’m proud to say that my vision is back like before!”

“Yes, and the mutated doctors can be restored as well, according to Doc, here!” said Wildcat.

“Are you OK, chum?” Mister Terrific asked the Atom.

“Yeah, thanks!” said the Atom. “I had a rough spot for a minute. I thought I was plain old you-know-who again, but it wore off!”

“No, Atom, you fought your way through it like the hero you are!” declared Mister Terrific.

“Thanks,” said the Atom. “But what really got me through was a little speech our president made a while back, when he first took office. ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ Once I fully realized that, I was able to block out the fear long enough to take action.”

They led out the defeated Professor Hugo Strange and the Scarecrow, who sniped at each other.

“I thought your stars claimed we would win!” sneered the Scarecrow.

“They only said Batman would not defeat us,” replied a livid Hugo Strange from his wheelchair. “Obviously, he didn’t. His JSA pals did!”

Mister Terrific laughed. “Oh, Strange, I wonder what drives a man to leave the academic world to study his fellow men like mere specimens without any emotional attachment? It must take a lonely and flawed individual. If you just reach out to others, you won’t need to feel superior.”

Strange blinked and croaked, “I don’t need a costumed psychologist!”

The heroes laughed and walked out into the Gotham City air.


“I can’t thank you Justice Society fellows enough for guarding the city while we were away!” said a smiling Batman.

“Ah, it was fun… mostly!” said the Atom.

“You did a great job!” said Robin. “The Scarecrow, Professor Strange, Catwoman, the Joker, and the others aren’t pushovers!”

“Let’s just say that we all gained an even greater respect for what you two face so regularly,” said Doctor Mid-Nite.

“We feel the same way about all of you!” said Batman.

Mister Terrific nodded. “We’re just glad we were able to help. Did your case go well?”

“Yes,” said Batman. “With the help of the Pueblo people of Lost Mesa, we were able to recapture the escaped crooks.”

“Sounds like a good story,” said Wildcat.

“Yes, we could even make a mini JSA meeting out of it — swapping tales and so on,” offered Batman.

And as Alfred Beagle served a fine dinner at Wayne Manor with the permission of Batman’s friend Bruce Wayne, they did just that.


Unknown to the Justice Society at the time, Professor Hugo Strange managed to break out of jail a short while after he was taken in, thanks to a time-delayed, temporary treatment of his own pituitary gland, which transformed him into a hulking monster long enough for him to flee custody.

But Strange had not counted on the side-effects of his transformation, however temporary, combined with the severe injuries that he had sustained nearly five years earlier during his final confrontation with the Batman. For when the giantism effect wore off, he found himself to be not merely a crippled man in a wheelchair but a misshapen, malformed wreck of a man who was completely unable to utter a word.

Hugo Strange would spend nearly forty years in this condition, growing more and more resentful, blaming Batman and his allies and Gotham City itself for all his woes while slowly trying to regain both speech and a measure of mobility. And when the time finally came a few years too late to seek his revenge on the Batman himself, instead of completing his revenge on Gotham City, he would ultimately embrace death as a mercy. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Interlude on Earth-Two,” The Brave and the Bold #182 (January, 1982).]

The End

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