Wesley Dodds slumped in his chair in his now-cold laboratory beneath his home. His fireplace was cold; the fire had long since died. He slept the sleep of the weary of mind, soul, and body, still dressed in his white lab coat. Tools, chemicals, and odd compounds were spread across the lab table near his sleeping form. In the shadows of the room, a large, glass-like container held an immobile, inhuman figure in a dreamless stupor.
Wes did dream, seeing colorful figures out of his boyhood myths — distorted, frightening, modern counterparts of the monsters who so populated his boyhood reading. Against these fearsome images warred his family, his loved ones from the Justice Society of America. Superman was there, as were Rex, Alan, Diana, and others. Among them was a blonde woman he did not know. It had been too long since he had seen them. Now the shadowy, mythic terrors were coming closer. He screamed.
Dian Belmont raced into the darkened lab. Holding Wes, she soothed him as she had so often before. “Wes, come back to the room! You’ve been working for weeks now with little rest and less food. Sandy would be the first to tell you that you are pushing yourself too hard.”
She gazed at the glass-entombed figure. Oh, poor Sanderson. You were so pleased with any new toy Wes or Lee Travis brought over. That silicoid gun was too unstable. It turned you into that beast, and oh, what it did to Wes! He has been frantic with worry, guilt, and now despair. If only his friends Rex or Alan could have helped him restore you. With Johnny powerless, and the Spectre and Doctor Fate missing, Wes has had no real options but to contain you. But what can restore his peace of mind?
“I dreamed of monsters from myth!” he gasped. “I saw Batman and a winged creature! I saw… I saw…”
“So call someone,” said Dian, handing him the telephone. “Warn them, but you can’t get involved. Not this time. I can’t watch you destroy yourself anymore.”
Wes knew, to his sorrow, that she was right. His first duty was to help Sandy. He needed to restore that loyal, brave boy.
As the crime-fighting Sandman, Wesley Dodds had left his friends in the Justice Society three years earlier in 1944, preferring to focus on street-level crime. After that time, the Sandman had only rejoined them for a full case once. In February of 1945, the strange case involving the Stalker, an invader from another dimension who sought to end war by ending all life on Earth, briefly brought him back to the Justice Society less than a year after he’d resigned his membership. The Sandman had also been with the team when the JSA acted as the honor guard at President Roosevelt’s funeral two months later in April. But he had never really returned to the hallowed meeting rooms of the JSA thanks to a series of setbacks.
At the end of 1945, Wes suffered his first heart attack, which forced him to retire from crime-fighting. Dr. Charles McNider had called it a “mini-heart attack,” as if anything that altered one’s world, one’s body, so severely could be called mini. Still, that’s what Dr. McNider had called it, and both he and Wesley’s longtime family doctor had told him he needed to rest. And so the team of the Sandman and Sandy the Golden Boy seemed to be over for good.
Wes had watched with a great deal of pride as Sandy Hawkins graduated from high school in June of 1946, then went on to attend City College of New York that fall. They may not have been fighting crime together any longer, but Wes had such high hopes for Sandy’s future.
Since his heart attack had forced him to be less active, Wes had spent a year and a half in his underground laboratory, working on new equipment and weapons that would make his crime-fighting efforts more effective if and when he ever became the Sandman again. Neither he nor Sandy had ever stopped thinking about their eventual big return to crime-fighting. And if it could be done sooner rather than later, all the better.
So Wes had worked on the prototype of a weapon he would one day call the sand-gun, but that he originally dubbed the silicoid gun. He had been inspired by theories and principles that he had learned on another planet, of all places. In April, 1942, he and the rest of the Justice Society members had each been sent to another planet in a dimension connected to hyperspace. The Sandman had ended up on an alternate version of Uranus, which was populated by a race of men with crystalline bodies. After he had helped that world’s King Ulala defeat Kafta the evil one, the grateful Ulala had given the Sandman a crystal able to cure brain disease, along with several volumes of books explaining its use. Both the crystal and the books disappeared upon his return to Earth, but Wes had been able to remember much of what he’d read on the long voyage back to his own world. (*) Wes had been able to implement some of the alien principles he remembered into the prototype silicoid gun, which was, in turn, modified from the ray-gun that he had developed for the U.S. government back in 1939. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Shanghaied Into Space,” All-Star Comics #13 (October-November, 1942), “Shanghaied Into Hyperspace: Interlude Two,” All-Star Squadron #55 (March, 1986), “The End of the Beginning,” All-Star Squadron #60 (August, 1986), and The Sandman, New York World’s Fair Comics (1939).]
It took a while, but Wesley finally completed his prototype silicoid gun in March of 1947. During spring break that month, Wes and Sandy donned their crime-fighting costumes together for the first time since 1945 in order to give the silicoid gun a full test. They had both decided it was the right time, since a new crime boss called “Snooze” Simpson had been gaining power through a series of daring crimes, and the police seemed helpless to stop him from becoming New York City’s biggest crime boss.
That was when disaster struck. Instead of operating as it had during all of Wesley’s previous tests, the silicoid gun exploded. It didn’t harm the Sandman, but Sandy was caught in the blast. Unexpectedly, it transformed Sandy’s body into its present monstrous form of a silicoid man. Moreover, the grotesque creature in Sandy’s place seemed bent on using its powers to cause earthquakes for evil. Wes had no choice but to contain Sandy in a gas-filled chamber, where he’d kept him sedated upon a velvet-covered bed for the past two months. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Creature in the Velvet Cage,” Justice League of America #113 (September-October, 1974).]
Instead of reaching out to his friends in the Justice Society, Wes had confided only in a few trusted friends and had been working feverishly day and night to find a cure for Sandy, sometimes with their assistance. Wes had begun telling anyone else who asked that Sandy Hawkins had left New York City and college itself to make his way in the world, reasoning that the young man would need a believable story to explain his long absence after he was cured. But the truth, Dian knew, was that Wes was simply too ashamed of what he had done to tell them the truth. Dian was worried for both her tragic nephew and for Wes, and she had watched him put his health at risk for several weeks now, as he preferred to go without sleep rather than suffer the nightmares that had plagued him ever since. She didn’t want to watch this tragedy utterly destroy the man she loved.
“Hello, Rex,” said Wes over the phone. “Good to hear your voice. Thanks again for working with me on… Sandy’s recovery.” He paused for a moment, then said, “I… need you. It’s a dream again.”
After a few more moments of discussion, Wes hung up, reassured. It was odd how each of the original JSAers had become close buddies with another on the team. There was Batman and Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash, Hawkman and the Atom, and even Doctor Fate and the Spectre. The Sandman had been drawn into a friendship with Rex Tyler, the Hourman. It was funny that Wesley’s more reserved, philosophical tastes and his wealthy background had not stopped him from becoming pals with a self-made guy like Rex “Tick-Tock” Tyler. He guessed opposites did attract, after all.
Of course, Lee Travis would always be a friend, too. The two had even collaborated on some of the Sandman’s tools. Still, since the Crimson Avenger had never been in the Justice Society, they saw each other less. If only Rex could help him turn back time to save Sandy. He covered his face with sorrow while the clock ticked.