Gateway City’s Fair Play Club was now empty after a night of a festive celebration, which had attracted a larger number of kids than the loyal group who usually attended the activities at the popular center. The center’s owner, millionaire Terry Sloane, smiled with satisfaction at the thought of what a good turnout there had been. Every child who came was one less child in danger of falling into criminal or dangerous habits out on the streets, he thought. Every life influenced for the better was a more fulfilling victory in the long run than stopping the Rag Doll from robbing a bank.
Turning to the ruggedly handsome man eating a few leftover snacks, he said, “Thanks again for coming, Ted! The kids were thrilled to meet the heavyweight champ himself. You really drew in a crowd.”
Ted Grant shrugged in a dismissive manner. “Aw, Terry, it was the food, not this old boxer, that drew ’em in. Plus, I enjoyed it! Now that I’ve got a kid of my own, it does me good to get used ta bein’ around the kids. Besides, it sure beats the last night out we had!”
“Now, Ted — the Literary Awards Gala wasn’t so bad,” said Terry, “and I do appreciate having a buddy there to see the ceremony, although I don’t think my book was that worthy.”
Ted Grant, the hero known as Wildcat, was always kidding around with his multitalented friend. “I think that literary stuff is fine for you, but I prefer the fights, the World Series, or something else with a little action to it.”
“You can’t fool me, Ted,” laughed Terry. “You know you told me your dad, Henry, had pushed you to succeed at academics, as well as athletics! You underestimate yourself. After all, you were planning on going into medicine once.”
“OK, OK, that’s what I get for arguing with a guy with a photographic memory!” said Ted. “Ya never forget a thing!”
The two old friends had spent a lot of time together over the years, along with Al Pratt. Their common background as masked heroes had initially drawn them together, but a real friendship kept them in touch. Wildcat looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know, Terry — a guy like you does more real good helping people and all than most of the world-savers ever do!”
Terry modestly dismissed his friend’s comment by saying, “Ted, you cleared your name long ago, yet you still keep wearing that costume and stopping crimes. That proves you aren’t just in the mystery-man game for the action. You care about helping make the world a better place, just as much as I do.”
At that moment, a police alarm echoed through the night. “Looks like we might get a chance to do just that tonight,” said Ted, watching as the police car sped by, heading toward the Gateway City Museum. “Let’s go! That many police cars indicates real trouble!” They raced off into the night in their respective identities of Mister Terrific and Wildcat.
The Gateway City Museum had seen it all. The Mist, the Spirit King, and even Tweedledee and Tweedledum had robbed the hallowed halls in the past. Security was good, but no ordinary security system could do much against the colorful costumed villains who had plagued the cultural center far too often in the past. Tonight was certainly no exception. Police barricades surrounded the stately museum, but no police officers had managed to get inside the main exhibit room because of two powerfully built intruders who stalked up and down the room, with little recognizable purpose beyond creating panic and chaos. All attempts to subdue the mighty pair had failed; their swift fists had sent several units of police rolling out of the chamber helplessly.
When Mister Terrific and Wildcat arrived at the museum, they were immediately cleared by security and were allowed in the front lines. Officer Lysette Andrews, a pretty blonde known to Terry Sloane, waved them through. “Thank goodness! Mister Terrific, the madmen inside are just destructive. We can’t get to them, or at least we can’t stay within range of their fists without being knocked senseless. Bullets seem equally useless, though we’ve been loathe to use them against two unarmed men.”
“We’ll unarm ’em, and un-leg ’em, and un–” muttered Wildcat as he leaped nimbly up the stairs, while Mister Terrific followed.
“Don’t worry, Lysette. We will take care of the problem. Just keep your men back safely. This looks more like a mystery-man job than a typical crime,” he smiled reassuringly, and the lovely blonde cop did feel better, as she always did when her hero was around.
Inside the dimly lit chamber, precious objects were now lining the floor in disorder. Exhibits had been smashed, but nothing had been taken. In fact, the two intruders were making no effort to escape. They were identical musclemen with odd ancient weaponry and tunics like those worn by gladiators of the Roman Empire.
“What’s this,” said Wildcat, “a new publicity stunt for one of them foreign films?”
Wildcat did not hesitate. He charged into the room and landed a powerful right cross on the nearest supposed Roman. The figure swayed, then quickly struck back with a rapid, painful punch. This guy is good, marveled the champ. Maybe even better than that little sailor Castor Oyl used to manage. What a punch!
Meanwhile, the second Roman had noticed Mister Terrific and had charged forward. He swung at the champion of fair play and narrowly missed as Terrific ducked. Mister Terrific connected with a punch of his own, but it seemed to have no effect on the bronzed giant. As he felt a quick thrust send him spinning back, Terrific carefully observed the twin fighters. “They’re the Dioscuri from myth–” shouted Mister Terrific, “–Castor and Pollux!”
Wildcat reeled backward out of range of the jabbing Roman. “I see they are wearin’ cestus — Roman boxing gloves! What’s your story?” he questioned the looming boxer. The pair remained silent and made no noises, even when the two reserve members of the Justice Society connected with their own skillful blows. Wildcat suddenly yelled, “This is it! I’m holdin’ my ground, and no lookalike Rover Boys are gonna move me!” The dark-costumed crime-buster did just what he said, planting himself firmly and holding his position even as Castor pummeled him mercilessly.
Mister Terrific dodged agilely as Pollux descended toward him with gleaming eyes. Think! Use that memory, Terry! he urged himself. After a minute of careful observation, during which Wildcat received enough blows to stun a team of Olympic-level boxers, but still stayed in place daring the giants to try to move him, Mister Terrific smiled; he had an idea. “Wildcat — the mythical twins shared their lifespan after the mortal one died! I think that’s why we can’t hurt these two. The have some bond that allows them to shrug off damage as long as one is still standing. Try a unified effort at my count — one, two, three!”
The powerful fighter known as Wildcat had seen Terrific pull off greater miracles before, so he instinctively followed the masked man’s lead. As one, they landed knockout blows on the twins, who swayed, then fell to the cold museum floor with a resounding thud.
“What do ya know? Two glass jaws if hit at the exact same time — I like it!” said a smiling Wildcat. “Next time I’ll buy the museum tickets. This highbrow stuff can be fun, too!”
Mister Terrific merely smiled silently.
Johnny Thunder was excited. The future looked bright for this slightly dim bulb. He feared that he was beginning to lose the control of his magical Thunderbolt, who wasn’t responding to Johnny’s magical cry of Cei-U as often any longer, he was out of work, Daisy Darling never called him, having married another man, and even his adopted kid Peachy Pet was away at a boarding school, or was that a boring school?
Still, Johnny thought things were looking up. He had hit upon an idea for the perfect job — he would go into journalism. Since he had a friend in that field, Johnny figured that he could even get him a job where he worked, too. That would be great. With a spring in his step, and egg on his face, as some would say, the JSA’s first addition to its original ranks hurried to Metropolis and to his pal, Clark Kent of the Daily Star.
Young Jimmy Olsen had been a cub reporter at the Daily Star for a few years now. He had started at the paper as a copyboy, before finally getting a real scoop as a child involving a Superman foe called the Archer, which eventually led to becoming a cub reporter. Now, six years later, he had lost the baby fat he had started with, but he still remained a boyish, freckled youth. His checkered green coat set him apart from the dark blues and browns that adorned most of the other staffers, too.
While hurrying through the offices of the Daily Star with a fresh draft of a story pitch, he collided headfirst with a blond man who wasn’t watching where he was going. That wasn’t a smart idea in a busy city room like that of George Taylor’s Daily Star. Jimmy and his accidental assailant blurted out apologies and helped each other up. The clumsy blond guy smiled. “Great coat! I like green myself.”
“Thanks! Your green suit is swell, too,” replied Jimmy, leaving a bemused Johnny Thunder to stumble his own way to the office door of Star reporter Clark Kent.
“Oh, Johnny, nice to see you,” said Clark Kent with almost total sincerity. Clark Kent, as Superman, had known Johnny in the Justice Society of America and had also met him a few times in his civilian reporter identity. Johnny had a warm heart, courage, and a desire to help. He was clumsy, a little slow, and not always reliable about remembering things. Still, he was the master of a powerful magic being called the Thunderbolt, who could do things that rivaled the magic muscle of Doctor Fate and Sargon the Sorcerer.
Clark ushered Johnny to a chair. “How’s it going, Johnny? What brings you to the Star? Need my help?” offered a concerned Clark.
Johnny announced proudly, “I need work, and I thought that maybe… you could get me a job as a reporter. I write good.”
“You write well,” corrected Clark.
“Thanks!” said Johnny, beaming. “Since you think so, too, can you put in a good word for me?”
Clark sighed and struggled for the right word. Before he could question Johnny further, he heard screams from below. This looks like a job for Superman! And just in time, too, he thought as he headed for the storage closet after telling Johnny to sit tight.
Lois Lane loved the thrill of closing in on a story. She enjoyed the sensation of uncovering some subtle mistruth or hidden agenda. There was a pleasure in bringing new facts to light and letting the ordinary reader share in her discovery. She was more than willing to risk her life in chasing down a hot lead. For these reasons and more, she viewed her co-worker Clark Kent with a certain wary disdain. He was too timid, too mild, almost to the point of staging a broadly acted farce. She often wondered if he was hiding something, and had the wild idea that he was connected with Superman. He could be the Man of Steel in a meek disguise. In any case, learning Clark’s secrets was one of the lovely woman’s top priorities.
Today, however, she was watching another story unfold. It required no reporter’s skill to track it down; it did require her own brand of daring, though. The topic of today’s story for the evening edition of the Daily Star was easy to see. He was a brown tunic-wearing giant who had hurled several vehicles, including a truck, down a busy Metropolis street — during rush hour, no less. Lois had even heard him roar a challenge to Superman. He might be a worthy foe for the heroic man she loved. Luthor, Ultra, the Archer, and the others were evil and daring, but none of them could match Superman in the muscle department. This guy could do so.
The man on Miss Lane’s mind, Superman, had heard the cries caused by the rampaging titan, and he was now bounding over the city with a determination unequaled by almost any mystery-man in the business. “Great Scott! That behemoth is tossing cars like they were baseballs, and he was a Yankee! And, of course, Lois is in the thick of things!”
Bracing his mighty muscles, Superman caught a flying station wagon. With a practiced ease — and who else could say they had done this before? — he set the car down and offered words of comfort to its frightened driver. “Don’t worry, sir! That giant is about to see what happened to Goliath firsthand.” Shouting with a commanding voice that was worthy of some Olympian of the past, he said, “OK, big fellow, your day out ends here!”
“Come, little man,” bellowed the giant. “Face Antaeus! I’ll rend you!”
“Well, that is an offer I don’t hear every day,” joked Superman. He walked forward and prepared to stop the charging Antaeus. Instead, he was sent flying backward with a thud. He shook his head and brushed back his errant spit curl. This Antaeus packs quite a punch. Leaping up, he drove his own fists into Antaeus’ chest. The Titan screamed in pain, only to swing a return blow that just missed the Man of the Future.
Superman saw Lois to the side. “Keep back, folks! This may get ugly.”
Meanwhile, Johnny Thunder had caught up to the scene and now gaped in disbelief at the sight of Superman struggling against the powerful giant. “Say, you’d think Superman would be able to handle this mug. Maybe I can help.”
While Johnny wistfully watched for his Thunderbolt to answer his summons, Superman put himself between Antaeus and the crowd. There was no way he would let any bystanders suffer — not in his city, and not while he still breathed. Superman slipped on the pavement as two huge fists pounded down upon his back. He grabbed the giant and applied all the pressure he could bring to bear. The giant cried out, but still remained strong. He broke free and left Superman puzzled, but more determined than ever to stop him.
When the Thunderbolt did not show up, Johnny grew more anxious. How can I do anything? he wondered.
Lois gasped as Antaeus loomed larger than ever over Superman.
Johnny stepped forward. “Leave him alone, you big jerk!”
Antaeus effortlessly shoved Johnny aside and bellowed, “Keep back, puny mortals. Only a man of legend can face the scion of a Titan!”
Jimmy Olsen raced up at that point, immediately taking in all that had happened, as a good reporter should.
“Jimmy!” shouted Lois. “This monster called Antaeus is almost unfazed by Superman! We’ve got to find some way to help!”
The lad frowned for a minute. “Hey, I know that name from school. In mythology he was a big, tough guy who drew his power from the earth. Hercules — or was it Theseus? — slew him by keeping him from touching the ground that gave him power! Do you think…?”
“Keep him off the ground, Superman!” yelled Lois.
Superman listened and smiled, then suddenly punched the giant so hard that his feet left the pavement. He then caught him as before, only this time he kept the giant’s feet off the earth. As Antaeus roared and struggled, Superman lifted him higher. This time, Superman’s grip seemed to hurt Antaeus. As several minutes passed, his struggles grew less, until finally he passed out from lack of air. Superman smiled and hefted him across his shoulders. He noticed the weight ebb as the mighty giant shrunk into a normal man. “Thanks, Jimmy and Lois! You really came through for me. That myth was one I never read.”
While Jimmy and Lois returned their pal’s smiles, a dejected Johnny Thunder moped away. I can’t be a reporter. I can’t be a hero. Without the T-bolt, I’m nothing. He walked away silently, so silently that even Superman failed to see his friend leave.
After filing a quick story, Clark Kent tracked down Johnny Thunder and caught up to the sad man. “Why’d you leave, Johnny? That giant was too much for anybody. No need to feel down about that. I’m sure our friend Superman will be glad to help you get to the bottom of this T-bolt problem, too.”
Johnny smiled ruefully. “Maybe, but I doubt even he can restore him these days. I really just need a job.”
“Perhaps Bruce Wayne can find you something in one of the companies he owns. He’s an acquaintance of mine. Let me call him.”
Johnny smiled. “OK, great idea! I could see myself moving to Gotham! It would be easier to attend JSA meetings, for one thing.” And for another, he thought, I’d be able to meet that beautiful dame the Black Canary again, since she lives there! If only she wasn’t an outlaw…