Johnny Thunder was whistling as he walked down the sunny streets of his hometown of Appleville on Long Island. He waved to a grocer as he passed the fruit stands and called out, “Hiya, Tom! How’s business?”
“I’m ripe for a customer, Johnny!” said the fat man.
“Ha! Something is rotten here, and it’s not the apples!” joked Johnny. “Your sense of humor needs polishing! Get it? Apple-polishing!”
“Young whippersnapper!” said a snooty old lady who waved an umbrella at the man in green. “Blocking the streets when other young men are at work!”
“Sour grapes,” muttered Johnny as he passed on.
As he suddenly heard a scream echoing, he rushed forward to see a pretty blonde in a white sweater and skirt being grabbed by three men. “Say, you mugs should keep your hands to yourself!” he shouted as he ran forward.
Instantly, the three goons began to slap themselves. Johnny smiled as he realized that they had been victims of his accidental use of the magic words that let him control the magical Thunderbolt who hovered overhead.
“You know, Master John, you attract the oddest element everywhere you go!” said the Thunderbolt.
Johnny knocked a thug down flat as the other two collapsed from their own efforts. “No, there are mashers all over the world!”
The Thunderbolt pointed at the fallen men. “True, but these particular mashers have pointed ears and red eyes!”
Johnny helped the crying blonde up and gasped, “You’re right! They’re goblins or something!”
“Hobgoblins, to be specific,” said the Thunderbolt with a pedantic air.
Johnny turned to the frightened blonde who said, “You’re Johnny Thunder?”
“Sure,” he replied, “and your name?”
“I’m Becka Barnes,” she said tearfully. “Those creatures just came at me from out of nowhere. I fear they won’t be the last, either!”
The Thunderbolt looked on with interest. “They are hobgoblins, and they are returning to the Land of Magic, even as you blubber!”
“The Land of Magic? You say that as if it’s a real place and not some metaphysical description,” said Johnny as he held out a handkerchief to the admittedly blubbering Becka.
“It is!” explained the Thunderbolt. “It’s located near my own dimension, although in a decidedly low-rent district!”
“Why would monsters from this… red-light district of a dimension come after you?” asked Johnny.
Becka blew her nose loudly and said, “I don’t know! A fortune-teller told me my family was deep in the ways of magic, and that the veils between the realms were paper-thin where a Barnes is concerned. That’s why I fear there may be more of them. I know the old wise woman was sincere!”
“Ah, don’t cry, Becka!” said Johnny. “I’ll keep you safe.”
The Thunderbolt snorted in disdain and listened while miming the playing of a violin.
“Excuse me a minute,” Johnny said, stepping over to the pink Thunderbolt. “What’s the deal, T-bolt?” he whispered. “You seem like you don’t like Becka, or at least distrust her.”
“I only know her story is full of holes… like someone’s head!” said the Thunderbolt.
“I’m the boss of this team, and I believe her,” insisted Johnny, pointing at himself with his thumb. “If she is vague, it’s ’cause we’re dealing with more weirdness from outside any ordinary person’s experience. Tell me straight out — is she lying?”
The Thunderbolt frowned. “Well, no… but I still…”
“OK, then!” said Johnny. “I’ll just summon the Justice Society!”
Johnny Thunder and Becka Barnes were soon in JSA Headquarters in New York City before the assembled members who could attend.
“The Atom is busy with a private concern, so I’m filling in for him!” explained the black-clad Wildcat.
“That’s swell of you,” said Johnny. “We could use your help!”
The Flash grinned. “Tell us the story from the beginning, Johnny. Bring us up to speed, so to speak!”
Hawkman smiled at the pun. “Right. We’ll help Becka here in any way we can, but with Doc Fate and the Spectre no longer active, we have to look to you and G.L. for magical expertise!”
Johnny blushed. “Thanks, guys! I know that Becka was told by an old fortune-teller that her family was connected to magical stuff and could sorta weaken the walls between dimensions. My T-bolt says this Land of Magic is near his dimension.”
Wonder Woman crossed her legs and looked up from taking notes. “Johnny, I have been to some fairy realms, as well. There really are such places.”
“Well, sure, but what can we do to keep Becka safe from them?” said Doctor Mid-Nite. “Do you propose we go to this Land of Magic to investigate?”
“Yeah, that’s my idea, too,” said Johnny. “My T-bolt can bring us there, and we can take it up with the big cheese there!”
Green Lantern spoke up. “I’m sure my ring could do so, too, but can you tell us the nature of the threat, Miss Barnes?”
Becka clung close to Johnny and said, “No, sir! I just know the old wise woman told me to beware the hostility of the dark realms!”
“Let us worry about the dark realms,” said Wildcat. “They can’t be any worse than some dives I’ve been in.”
“Say, you should take us all to this Land of Magic place, pronto!” said Johnny.
Instantly, the pink-hued Thunderbolt transported the members of the Justice Society of America and Becka to a cloudy dimension colored garishly, like a child’s picture book.
“That’s the wise woman!” cried Becka as they spotted a woman with white hair and a tattered shawl.
“Dearie! I told you that you’d find travel between realms easy!” she cackled. “I sense you are precious to many here for that reason!”
“Look, ma’am, how can we stop these attacks on Miss Barnes?” asked the Flash.
The old wise woman smiled. “Only through valor and skill may you safeguard the pretty one! If your hearts and minds are true and sound, then you shall find the talismans to lock away the evil ones who hunger for my pretty one!”
“How do we find these talismans?” asked Hawkman. “How many of them are there, and what do we do with them once we locate them?”
“They number five and may be found with ease,” she replied, “but earned only with grave peril for the quester! Merely concentrate on the words ‘the magic talismans,’ and you shall be led to where they await. However, I warn you they shall not be easily won, since the dark forces want to use Miss Becka’s magical lineage for their own foul plans.”
“Wonder Woman and I always make a good team,” said Doctor Mid-Nite.
“Becka, you stick close to me,” said Johnny.
“G.L., you inspired this pug in the beginning,” said Wildcat. “How about we tag team?”
Green Lantern nodded. “Sure, that sounds fine.”
“That settles it, then,” said Wonder Woman. “The Flash, Hawkman, and Johnny will each seek one talisman, while Doc and I try for a fourth, and Wildcat and the Lantern seek the last one.”
They parted, and the old woman laughed. Her form shimmered and turned into a youthful, if prim, small woman wearing a weird pillbox hat.
“See, darling? The old wise woman was really the mad Miss Gsptlsnz in disguise,” explained Mr. Mxyztplk to his daughter as he told the tale in the present. “She lured the pretty Becka, first to Johnny Thunder and then to the Land of Magic, as part of some dark plan of the evil being who’d taken over her mind!”
“Ooh! She wanted the girl, but why bring the JSA, too?” asked the Yellow Peri.
“They were needed to win the talismans that she wanted all along for a purpose very different from the one she gave of protecting Becka Barnes!” explained Mxyztplk.
Little did the poor, mad Miss Gsptlsnz realize that her plan was witnessed and known of by another resident of that dimension. A boyish sprite with pointed ears and cerise-colored hair had spied upon her from the start.
Unlike many of the Land of Magic’s natives, he knew about Earth’s heroes and desired to help them do good works. He also knew that with the heroic JSA blindly serving the evil imp’s mysterious master, her chances of success were high. However, the boy knew other heroes whom he personally held in high esteem.
Thus he planned to get them to fight the JSAers before they could claim the talismans. The boy’s name was Willie Wisher the Wish Master, and the heroes he revered were called the Seven Soldiers of Victory. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Land of Magic,” Adventure Comics #438 (March-April, 1975).]
The Jackal laughed madly and fired his machine gun into the dark streets. “You’ll never get the last laugh on me,” he screamed. “I pay my foes back with their own blood!”
Then the red mist swelled up around the terrorist, and he frowned beneath his savage mask. “What the–? I can’t see! Everything has gone all red!” He swung the gun and tried to cover all directions as the sticky red cloud enveloped him.
“Not red — crimson, to be precise,” said a low voice from the mist.
A strong fist shoved the gun aside and crashed into Jackal’s chin. Three more swift punches followed, and he collapsed into the arms of the Crimson Avenger.
“Wing, did he hit anyone?” asked the man in the mask. “By a miracle, most folks were in bed this time of night.”
The Crimson Avenger’s crime-fighting partner Wing approached silently. “No injuries. Good fortune truly blessed us this evening.”
They gasped as Willie Wisher materialized in the air.
“Hello, Crimson Avenger and Wing!” he said. “I need your help to right a great wrong. The Land of Magic is now hosting the JSA, and they are being tricked into aiding a dark evil! May I reassemble your once-valiant team?”
The Crimson Avenger, alias Lee Travis, frowned at the sight of Willie Wisher. The last time he and his old team had seen him, Willie had voluntarily disappeared after they used trick psychology on him. (*) That had been the team’s last case, and indeed the Crimson Avenger’s last case as well, since he’d mostly retired from solo crime-fighting by that time. It was very strange, he realized, that on the night that the Jackal’s rampage had prompted newspaper publisher Lee Travis and his chauffeur Wing How to don their red and yellow costumes for the first time in a year, they and their old team would be needed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Confrontation,” Adventure Comics #443 (January-February, 1976).]
“Certainly,” the Crimson Avenger finally replied. “But I wonder how even the Seven Soldiers of Victory can stop the Justice Society of America, if they’ve gone wrong?”