Wesley Dodds was somewhat relieved. While the problems with his future as a mystery-man were still largely unresolved, and Sandy Hawkins’ condition was unchanged, he had spoken with Rex Tyler, the Hourman, about the myth-filled dream. Rex had joked with him, and done his very best to reassure the doubts and concerns in the Sandman’s mind. As night now fell over the city, Wes sat and tried to calm his own nerves. This proved all too futile.
A crash like summer thunder shook his home, and the large windows that led out onto his penthouse deck shattered inward. The cause of the destruction stood in the moonlight. Her eyes gleamed and her sharp teeth stood in contrast to her tanned and taunt muscled form. She had long, flowing black tresses and wore a brief tunic with a leopard print. Next to her booted feet on each side crouched pairs of savage, wolf-like animals who snarled their hunger to the night air. She was Diana of the Hunt.
Wesley leaped up in time to meet Dian Belmont, who had rushed into the study after hearing the crash. “Wes! What on earth?!” she asked.
“Not precisely of this earth!” growled the woman calling herself Diana of the Hunt. As the beasts jumped forward at their prey, a colorful yellow and black figure raced in the doorway and met them in mid-leap.
“Hourman!” shouted Dian.
“Just in time, if I do say so myself!” quipped the man of the hour. His mighty muscles caught the first beast and slammed it to the ground into the path of the next one. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, he struck down a third with a powerful punch. By this time the fourth beast had attacked; he felt claws tear at his cape, and he kicked out rapidly.
As Diana of the Hunt scowled, her pets arose anew, as if in silent response to her mental order.
Wes glanced around the room; the special guns he used as the Sandman were in the laboratory. “Get the guns!” he shouted to a frantic Dian. The deadly Diana of the Hunt moved toward him, a menacing look upon her bestial face.
Hourman took a deep breath and prepared to do battle with the hounds once more. He had just left Wesley’s home minutes ago, when some urge, some instinct born in along career of fighting evil, led him to look back up at the penthouse. Then he had noticed the arrival of the deadly group. It had taken only a few seconds to activate the small black-light projector he now used to activate the Miraclo-induced hour of power that gave him superhuman reactions, agility, and strength. He felt the adrenaline rush through his body, and he grabbed the closest hound. This feeling can’t be beat. The danger, the thrill, the feeling of doing good in a dark world. I guess being a mystery-man is one addiction I’ll never shake.
But it had been too long since he’d last felt this rush. Except for a few All-Star Squadron cases and the wartime Stalker case in 1945, he had not been Hourman regularly since 1943. He had missed it so much. Now he would get all the action he had ever desired.
The biggest monster hit him solidly, and he almost fell beneath their fierce assault. Wes knew his mythology. These things came from myth, from dark legend born at the ancient hearths of old. His dream had come true again, and, as it happened all too often, it was a nightmare.
Diana of the Hunt closed in on Wesley as Dian returned with something. Wes grabbed at the object and fired his trusty old wirepoon. The metal-like coil wrapped around the legs of the former Tigress, and she struggled against its pull. Wes held firm.
Meanwhile, Hourman tossed the huge hound out the window and into the street below, which at this hour was surely empty. The second dog rolled away from his reach and snapped at his hand with razor-like fangs. Rex kicked it back, and with a mighty heave he sent the third creature to destruction below as well.
The Huntress, for such the Tigress had now become, saw her pets meet their doom, and she became enraged. Tearing out of Wesley’s grasp, she broke the coil that had bound her, then kicked Hourman with a well-chosen blow that sent him reeling. She clawed at Wes as he tried to slow her. Nearby, Dian screamed as the two remaining hounds noticed her and moved in for a kill.
As Hourman tried to stop all the threats at once, he realized that he was in danger of being overmatched. Luckily, he managed to catch the first dog and held it up as a shield against the attacking Diana of the Hunt. These creatures are some magical abomination, thought Rex. They aren’t alive in the normal sense, so I have no qualms about killing them — if I can.
Just as Wes had aimed his wirepoon once more at the Huntress, she whirled and sent it crashing to the floor. Dian’s panic-filled cry caught Wesley’s attention; he could not reach her in time. Then a crimson mist filled the room; it was cloying, and disoriented both the animals and the humans, except for Wes, who breathed a prayer of thanks. He recognized the source all too well. From out of the concealing cloud stepped a commanding, masked figure.
“The Crimson Avenger!” shouted Dian as one of the first mystery-men of all, clad in red and yellow, entered and blocked the demon dog bodily. He kicked it back, and Wes caught it in his hastily snatched wirepoon. The coil held the beast long enough for Wes and the Crimson to subdue it.
Diana of the Hunt saw her final pet meet a crushing defeat in Hourman’s powerful arms. She moved back, and with an inward struggle she transformed herself back into Paula Brooks, the human but deadly former Tigress. She made her way backward. “It all came from Gudra… and Mars! She works for Mars. They used me! If I ever find them again, they’ll pay.” Pushing her way through the windows, the Huntress vanished into the night, her criminal destiny before her. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Shortly after this story, the Huntress fights Wildcat for the first time; see “Wildcat, Former Crime Fighter,” Sensation Comics #68 (August, 1947).]
Wesley Dodds, Hourman, Dian Belmont, and the Crimson Avenger recovered their repose. “You two surely saved the day,” said a grateful Wes to his friends.
The Crimson Avenger, whose real name was Lee Travis, smiled. “I just had this urge to come see you. I thought I was needed. I guess fate just links us together, ever since college.”
Wes thought to himself, I just hope Lee’s partner Wing doesn’t meet a fate like that of poor Sandy.
Lieutenant Diana Prince was proudly looking on as Major Steve Trevor and other notable military heroes were being honored. After several speeches from political and military leaders of all branches, including Naval Secretary James V. Forrestal, the luminaries gathered aboard the newly christened USS Victory.
She scanned the deck past the press and the Secret Service honor guard. She knew trouble was brewing here in Man’s World, and she wanted to be prepared for anything. What she was not prepared for was a crash of thunder that rocked the giant ship. A green light irradiated the ship, blinding even Diana. Backing her way out of sight, she changed into Wonder Woman. She rubbed her eyes until they cleared, then ran forward to see scattered bodies of soldiers and guards. The figures who had wrought such chaos were laughing madly. She saw Forrestal being rushed off the ship to safety, but there was no sign of the man she loved: Major Steve Trevor.
Wonder Woman nimbly leaped toward the creators of the madness, effortlessly covering the distance with the grace of a goddess. She recognized the beautiful blonde who sat on the top of the highest deck railing with her shapely legs crossed and her blonde hair blowing in the sudden wind. She was Gudra, and she was trouble.
As a Valkyrie from Norse myth, Gudra had power enough to challenge Wonder Woman easily. But for now she was apparently content to remain high above as a laughing, mocking spectator. “Well met, Princess! ‘Tis no longboat like those of my ancient Viking worshippers, but t’will do quite nicely for this day’s game of slaughter!” Her cold, but oddly girlish, laugh echoed out over the deck.
Wonder Woman had never seen the other figure, who was closer, and was bent on damaging the ship’s deck with oddly huge, hammer-shaped fists. He had a strange appearance, with skin of a chalk-white shade and no distinctive facial features, seeming to shift from moment to moment. The amazing Amazon tossed her golden lasso around the being, who shimmered and folded in upon himself until he slipped, serpent-like, out of the lasso that never managed to actually touched him. “Great Hera!” cried the heroine.
“Great, indeed!” laughed Gudra from on high. “It is Proteus, the shape-shifter of your paltry myths. You do recall your heritage, don’t you?” mocked the Valkyrie.
Wonder Woman retrieved the magic lasso and pondered her next move. She did know the legend of Proteus. He had been able to alter his shape with a mere thought. This modern-day Proteus seemed equally adept. He’s like Kung, the assassin I fought years ago, she thought. He, too, could change his form, but I stopped him. “And I’ll stop you, too!” she vowed out loud.
Proteus had returned to his efforts to damage the ship. This time, his arms were scythe-shaped blades that sliced through wood and steel with equal ease. Wonder Woman charged forward, dodging his blades quickly. She landed a kick on his solid chest that send him crashing to the deck.
Before Proteus could shift his form further, Wonder Woman gripped his waist and applied intense pressure upon it. He changed into the shape of a snake, but she closed her grip even tighter to hold his narrow form. He grew larger, but her viselike hold refused him room to expand in the middle of his body. As she held him, he rocked around the ship and smashed her slim but lovely form into every metal and wood object in reach. She was battered, but her hold would not be broken.
Proteus tried to change his skin’s surface to nothing but razor-sharp blades, but Wonder Woman merely concentrated and held firm. Finally, he fainted and changed into none other than Major Steve Trevor. She gasped. Had she harmed her love?
Gudra laughed and clapped. “Well done. Now, see if you can maim some other loved ones!” Then two other identical Proteus beings crawled out from the lower deck.
“Hera, help me!” cried Diana.
The two Proteus figures came toward her. Wonder Woman had taken time to check Steve’s breathing, and he seemed fine, only stunned and bruised. Gudra had somehow made Steve turn into this creature, and if she could be believed, the others were also her loved ones. How could she subdue them without harming them? The magic lasso seemed useless. Who were they? Her mother? Etta? Mala? Colonel Darnell? A Justice Society member? Paula?
As Proteus closed in on her, brandishing a claw-shaped hand, the Amazon princess did the best she could do. She grabbed the claw and twisted it downward, then followed by closing one arm around the neck of the second Proteus. The shape-shifting started immediately, and she pushed him overboard to the waters below. As she guessed, he merely sprouted elongated wings that kept him afloat.
The remaining Proteus had grown to an enormous size. Swelling up over Diana, he then enveloped her like a living parachute. She rolled across the deck and kicked out with both heels. The third Proteus closed more tightly around her struggling body. While Wonder Woman did not want to harm anyone needlessly, she had her own survival to think of, too. She heard Gudra’s laugh from without. Using her full strength, she burst free of this Proteus, who curled up into a ball before suddenly transforming into a gasping Mala.
“Mala! Suffering Sappho! Even an Amazon was not safe from Gudra — or Mars, since these mythical beings were clearly his work.” The blonde Amazon seemed unhurt, to Diana’s relief. “Thank Hera!”
The second Proteus flew down like a buzzing bomber. Wonder Woman barely ducked in time. Gudra called down, “Oooh! Did you hurt your pretty little blonde playmate?”
Odd how this Valkyrie has picked up American slang, thought Diana. She then had an idea. Leaping toward Gudra, she decided to take the direct approach. “You’ll be the one harmed! Your games end here.”
Gudra fell back, caught off-guard as she found herself pinned under the assault of Wonder Woman, while her sandaled legs flailed out helplessly. Diana caught a glimpse of Proteus swooping down from behind, and released her grip slightly. Gudra lashed out with her glowing spear as Diana dived to the right. The magic energy hit Proteus directly, causing him to fall to the deck, and changing into Paula von Gunther once more.
Wonder Woman raced up to her friend’s side. “She’s unhurt, but you could have killed her!”
“No, no, my sweet — you could have killed her!” cooed Gudra. The Valkyrie lashed out with the magic spear, and the side of the already damaged Victory caved inward, causing the ship to tilt ominously. As Gudra vanished, she called back, “Areopagus!”
That’s the ancient hill of Mars, thought Wonder Woman as she prepared to try to save the sinking ship.
Wonder Woman leaped up and over the deck of the tilting ship. Landing on the deck, she tossed her magic lasso over the top of the ship, and it closed around a large observation deck. She braced herself and used all of her considerable power to singlehandedly steady the ship. A now-awake Steve Trevor had carried Paula von Gunther to safety nearby, while the ever-agile Mala was even now aiding her Amazon sister in saving the ship. Two sets of superhumanly strong arms righted and then tied off the boat with coils of metal chain from the dock. Wonder Woman used her goddess-given might to bind the ship safely for repair.
She exchanged words with her allies, who all told her of sudden attacks from Gudra, followed by a loss of time until returning to human form. Paula added one detail. “She whispered the name of Mars to me as she changed me; it’s clearly his work. Gudra wanted you to know.”
“I expect she betrayed the war god, since she cares only for herself and her Norse pantheon,” said Wonder Woman. “Even if she is long gone, she expects me to attack Mars at his earthly temple.”
“That’s where I can help, Angel,” vowed an earnest Steve Trevor.
“We can as well,” chimed in Paula and Mala.
“No, my friends, I will do this alone. I can’t risk any more magical transformations.”
“But, Angel–!” sputtered Trevor.
Wonder Woman silenced him by placing one hand on his lips. “Steve, you’re a dear, but this time I guess I’ll just use my Justice Society friends, if you insist on my getting help. They are already in this line of work.”
“Where’s Diana?” remembered a suddenly worried Steve.
“I saw her race off with the Secret Service guards,” replied Wonder Woman as she raced to her stored invisible plane.
“I wish I could do something,” said Steve, frustrated.
“You can, Steven. You can pray,” replied Paula as Mala watched her friend head into peril.