The Calvin College Science Expo of 1949 was not as exciting to Al Pratt as fighting the Thinker or even Moustache Max. However, Al was one of the members of the Student Welcoming Committee, and he had a real appreciation for the esteemed guest speaker, Dr. John Albertson. He had been applying himself to his education in physics with extra zeal of late, and he had begun to gain a little confidence in himself as an academic, even though friends and family teased him about being a lifelong student.
Al also felt great in his second career as the Justice Society member known as the Atom, due to the atomic strength he had developed a year earlier. He was no longer the runt of the litter, but stood proudly alongside Wonder Woman and Green Lantern of the most active current members. Why, compared with Black Canary, Doctor Mid-Nite, and the Hawkman, he was a real titan in the raw strength department.
Still, this Science Expo allowed him to shine as plain old Al Pratt. He knew he could never get the same satisfaction out of using his mind that he got from his action-packed adventures as the Atom, but perhaps one day a man’s intellect would attract and impress a girl like Mary James as much as brute force did.
Mary yawned demurely down in front as Al nervously brought Dr. Albertson, a gray-haired physics giant, to the podium on the stage. Al stood behind the elderly man and watched him work the crowd with true showmanship. This guy’s a top scientist, yet he’s got these kids eating out of his hand like he was Sinatra or something, thought Al.
Before Dr. Albertson could finish his opening remarks, the doors at the back flew open with a bang. A costumed figure ran inside and pointed directly at the old man.
“You smug old goat — I’ll split your atoms!” he yelled in an odd tone from beneath a red hood that covered his head, draping over a red and black costume.
Al was an old hand at this game, so by then he had already slipped behind the curtains and torn his shirt open to reveal a yellow and blue costume of his own. He burst back through the curtains as the Atom, just as the old man was being grabbed by the burly red-and-black-clad figure. Mary James perked up noticeably as her hero made his entrance.
“Hold on, pal!” he said. “Just try to split this Atom, if you got the nerve! I think you talk a good fight, but I bet you’ll be spitting teeth out of that big mouth when I’m done with you!” Don’t want to break this jerk in half, so I’ll hold back on my strength, he thought.
“Atom!” said the man as he shook Albertson. “Why, you need not involve yourself. I have no grudge with you. Only, I shall get my pound of flesh from this strutting old swine!” Albertson began to shrink before the Atom’s eyes; he literally grew smaller, losing mass with every second.
The Atom smashed his fist into the hooded man’s face and frowned as he stood unhurt. As Dr. Albertson dropped to the floor, his shrinking stopped suddenly. The Atom’s foe stood oddly inactive, yet obviously unhurt, so he decided to unleash his full atomic punch.
Striking the costumed man, the Atom knocked him off the stage to crash into the aisle below. Students ran to each side, except for a staring Mary James. Oh, great! mused the Atom as he jumped off the stage to finish the villain. Just watch her — she’ll get taken hostage again!
“I am big enough to crush you like a bug!” roared the man in red and black as he grew to enormous size.
“This goon is as big as Doc Fate’s old sparring partner, Mister Who!” gasped the Atom.
Watching as the giant stepped menacingly forward, he threw himself under the man’s massive foot. The Atom strained to toppled the giant in an empty direction. With effort he succeeded, only to see his enemy return to normal size and remain still.
The Atom tackled him and began to pull off the hood. “You must be really ugly to need this big a mask!” he bantered.
Before he could do so, his foe spoke in that odd tone, “You should go to the roof and enjoy the view!”
Instantly, the Atom was alone on the roof. That creep must have teleportation powers, or the ability to control what he touches, like Sargon, he thought.
When he finally got back down to the lecture hall, the villain and Dr. Albertson were both gone.
“Atom!” cried Mary. “That fiend took the scientist! He said to tell you that you’d been beaten by a better man — the Dynamo!”
The Atom gazed at her pretty face. “We’ll just see who wins in the end,” he vowed.
In Washington, D.C., crowds were gathered to honor the retiring military biochemist, General Gregory Gayner. Among the crowd were Diana Prince and Steve Trevor.
Glancing around the crowd, Steve whispered to the bookish Diana, “You know, Di, this crowd gives me the willies. I’d rather be test-flying a new jet than stand up here before them and make a speech! Just my luck Colonel Darnell came down with a cold.”
Diana smiled at the boyish blond and said, “Now, Steve, I hardly think Colonel Darnell’s bad cold could be called your bad luck.”
Steve shook his head. “Aw, you know what I mean. He’s a more polished speaker than I am, and I get nerves before addressing big crowds. I wish Wonder Woman could have been here to do the honors.”
Diana shook her head and said, “Steve, that Amazon can’t save you from everything! I’d sure you’ll do fine.” She smiled to herself at the usual irony that poor, besotted Steve Trevor could never realize that his angel was right beside him wearing glasses and a severe bun hairdo.
Before Steve could walk to the podium, a hooded figure flew down from the blue sky above. “I’m the Smasher, and you are in the path of destruction and retribution, Greg Gayner!” he said in a weird tone.
Diana had watched Steve eagerly toss down his notes at that moment to rush the gold-and-blue-costumed man. Slipping away, she quickly returned in the star-spangled glory of Wonder Woman.
Steve was being hurled through the air by the Smasher when she reached the stage. Great Hera, guide my arm! she prayed as she jumped skyward and caught him in time to cushion his fall with her own sturdy body. “Stay down, Steve,” she warned him. “This guy has an arm like Superman’s!” He slowly groaned and rose to his feet, heedless as usual.
“Stop, Gayner!” said the hooded man. “Why, you can’t get out away from the reach of the Smasher!”
Wonder Woman saw the Smasher shatter the stage, and as she blocked the splintering wood with her flashing bracelets, she noticed him elongate an arm impossibly and snatch up the frightened Gayner. Noting the elasticity of his limbs, Diana threw her tiara at the pliable arm. The gleaming golden circlet sliced through the rubbery limb, but it immediately molded itself as good as new. He has the very restorative powers of Proteus, as I suspected, she mused.
She kicked him across the damaged stage like a Rockette as the crowd cheered and whistled madly. The Smasher remained oddly silent and inactive as the Amazon princess caught him and spun him around like a top. “You’ll get air-sick, but that’s a small price to pay for attempted murder!” she said.
The Smasher suddenly spoke in that odd tone of before, “No! You’re the one who is sick!”
Wonder Woman suddenly fainted from a massive wave of vertigo and queasiness. When she woke up later, holding her aching stomach, both the Smasher and Gayner were long gone.
Hawkman stood at the head of the table at JSA Headquarters as he addressed his fellow members in the cool, paneled meeting room in Civic City. “General Gayner’s abduction, along with that of Dr. Albertson, has Washington worried. The two of them were in a World War II think tank, and it’s just possible that the Smasher and Dynamo are after every other member, too. They’ve asked us to look into the matter.”
“They didn’t need to ask me!” said the Atom. “I’m more than eager to get my hands — or fists — on that jerk, Dynamo!”
“Atom, I have also suffered defeat at the hands of the Smasher in a very personal way,” said Wonder Woman, “but we must keep our objectivity if we are to succeed in battling these men.”
“You know, I think it’s a bit ironic that you Amazons preach peace, and yet always speak of every action like it was something from out of Homer!” replied the Atom. “The way of the warrior, et cetera, et cetera.”
“Easy, Al!” said Doctor Mid-Nite. “Diana is trying to help!”
“Yeah, sorry, Diana,” said the Atom, grinning ruefully. “I spoke without thinking… imagine that!”
Wonder Woman patted his arm and smiled as she said, “How very unlike you.”
“But listen, we also have a lead, thanks to Mister Terrific, here,” said Green Lantern, pointing toward the Gateway City hero, who sat next to Black Canary.
“Well, as Terry Sloane I was in that government think tank back in 1945, so I can at least help you pin down the other four members,” Mister Terrific said with a smile.
The Flash grinned. “If you were in it, it must have been more like a ‘think atomic bomb’ than a think tank!”
“I did my part, just like you did, Jay!” said Mister Terrific.
The Black Canary crossed her legs and smiled at Mister Terrific. He was bright and handsome, yet modest. He seemed to be a perfect man, but he also had a fiancée. She sighed and wondered if her own close friend Larry Lance was at home right now.
“We’ll split into four teams and check out the other names from the think tank,” urged the businesslike Hawkman.
“Yeah, and anybody who runs into Dynamo better save a piece of him for me!” joked the Atom.
Hawkman and Black Canary looked up at the penthouse home of Samuel Meadows. He had been a specialist in the application of electronics to weaponry; he was also a young man and still active in his field. His luxurious home looked more pleasure dome than laboratory, though.
“Shiera would throw a real hissy-fit if she saw this place,” said Hawkman with a smile. “I can bet she’d spend her whole quarterly allotment on copying the furnishings.”
“Well, speaking strictly as a non-heiress, I don’t blame her,” said the Canary. “Meadows must enjoy the good life more than the lab, even if he is a brilliant man. I could live for a year on the cost of that China collection alone.”
Hawkman grinned at the blonde in fishnets. “You mean to say that you think most of us who dabble in labs are too dry and stuffy to enjoy life?”
“Well, winged wonders are an exception,” teased Black Canary. “I can just imagine the decadent Egyptian splendor that fills your personal life. I’ll bet Shiera’s evening wear would put Cleopatra to shame.”
Hawkman said nothing as he carried her through the air and into the open doors of the penthouse’s terrace.
“Something is wrong!” said the keen detective in fishnets. “Notice that charred spot on the door latch?”
Hawkman nodded and drew out his mace. “Could be a simple burglary, but…” he trailed off.
They soon spotted a prone figure in a silk robe. It was the young Dr. Meadows. “I doubt this is due to a hangover,” quipped Canary as she bent over the fallen man.
Spotting something, Hawkman suddenly yelled, “Look out!”
A new figure darted into view. She was a female in a purple-hooded robe, and she waved a feathered staff in one hand. “Hawkman — what an honor!” she said in a distorted tone. “Why, you are the elder statesman of mystery-men!”
Hawkman gasped as his body suddenly withered, and he grew decades older in seconds. He hurled his mace, but as his arms dwindled, the power within them did as well.
Black Canary had rolled across the room like a blonde dervish, and she rose up now to tackle the woman.
“I am Godiva, and you are nothing more than a would-be showgirl!” the woman said as she hit the ground under the fighting Canary.
Black Canary’s costume suddenly changed to a gaudy feather and beaded number with a sheer body and heavy headdress.
Before she could react, Godiva spoke again. “No, better yet, you are a true pretty bird!”
The Black Canary then turned into a real canary and watched helplessly as Godiva vanished with Meadows.
The Atom and Mister Terrific spoke with Leonard Blush as he explained his newest idea. “By adjusting the servos just so I can eventually regulate the precise wavelength of spectro-analytical emissions–” he droned on eagerly. Al followed most of what the feeble old man said, but he dearly wished for some action.
Mister Terrific listened intently. “Perhaps you could get a greater duration by altering the left gasket thirty percent,” he suggested.
Mr. Blush nodded like a delighted child. “Oh, my, you are right! I never saw! I never thought! My good sir, you should be in science!” he said, gushing.
The loud crash of a broken window echoed through the small house. “This could be it — let’s go!” yelled the Atom.
Terrific warned Leonard to stay put as he followed his eager buddy. They soon saw the entrance of two costumed men, and they expected the worst.
One was a short man in an ornate military uniform, while the other was a man with a grotesque face mask and a beat-up old hat. They looked decidedly shocked to encounter two mystery-men in the lab.
“You assured me that this endeavor would proceed without the unwanted attention of costumed lawmen!” said the indignant masked man.
“I am Napoleon!” snapped the small man. “It is not my place to soothe the fears of those I lead. It merely your place to obey without hesitation.”
“Well, Little Nap Boyd — the so-called general of the underworld,” said the Atom. (*) Turning to the masked man, he said, “Let me guess… do they call you Mister Ugly?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Brothers in Law,” World’s Finest Comics #8 (Winter, 1942).]
“Actually, I believe the man with the mask is called the Goblin,” said Mister Terrific with a grin, “a notorious safecracker operating, like Boyd, in Gotham City.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Goblin of Gotham City,” Detective Comics #152 (October, 1949).]
They sailed into the villains, who had hoped the eccentric scientist would be an easy victim for a fast robbery. Needless to say, the pair of transplanted Gothamites were sorely mistaken. Mister Terrific caught the Goblin’s left hook with his own fist and twisted the arm around until he had bent the villain nearly double in helpless submission.
“You really need more leverage and traction. That mask you wear just blocks your field of vision, and gives your foe an advantage,” instructed Terry Sloane as he shoved the Goblin to the ground.
The Atom jumped over the head of the short Little Nap Boyd and grinned. “A guy like you makes me feel like a real bully. But you know what? I can live with it!” He spun around and kicked the general of crime in the face. One swift punch finished the fight.
Mister Terrific dialed the police, and as the heroes waited for them to arrive to pick up the battered pair, the Atom glanced over at his good friend. “The wheels are turning,” he said. “What’s on your mind, other than the usual half-dozen equations, quotes, theories, and obscure mathematical formulas?”
The man of a thousand talents wore a concerned look on his face as he replied, “Those two career criminals don’t fit the pattern established by Dynamo and Smasher. They weren’t out for revenge on Blush. They just wanted money. Plus, they didn’t speak in the odd manner you mentioned. That and the fact that neither of these two wore hoods makes me think of something else. I want to run a check over our morgue files back at the headquarters.”
The Atom nodded. “This was no workout, and I also agree that the voices of both Dynamo and Smasher were weird, both from what I heard and from what Diana said.”