The Wizard smiled from beneath his green hood as he relished the sight of four captive Justice Society heroes. The Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite, Mister Terrific, and Johnny Thunder stood within clear crystalline tubes. Rubbing his ornately gloved hands together in glee, he glanced at his reflection in the mirror and preened with a vanity all his own. He felt powerful and dangerous, and his new costume reflected that image, or so he believed.
Hearing a rumbling sound, he noticed the brutish Blockbuster grumbling in one corner of the abandoned old Injustice Society headquarters. “Where Batman? Wizard promised me Batman! I beat him, but he’s gone!” he said, over and over again.
“Hey, Wiz,” whispered Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, “if you’re done looking at yourself and your fancy sorcerer’s treasure pieces, you might want to restore that spell that made our king-sized pal think old fair play, there, was Batman!”
The alien Star Sapphire sat apart from the rest. She was in a trance of the Wizard’s creation, or so he assumed. In truth, the woman had turned against her fellow members from the very moment their leader had insisted that they journey from Earth-One to Earth-Two in order to aid him in attacking his hated JSA enemies. A spell had made her cooperative, but now she drifted in a weird mental fog not of the Wizard’s making. A female voice seemed to call to her from within… and without.
The weird Floronic Man idly caressed a thorny plant that he had somehow nurtured within the old structure.
“Hey, Floro! Leave your pet and come here!” said Zoom.
“Never, never, call me Floro!” snapped the former Plant Master. “That insipid diminutive belittles my natural grandeur!”
The Wizard nodded. “My allies, we have done well. We have four of the JSAers, and my sources say Doctor Fate and Hawkman have been taken by some other foe. Thus I say we suspend our efforts at revenge long enough for you to acquire for me this Earth’s versions of the sorcerer’s treasures!”
Zoom grinned. “At last, some action!”
At Keystone Labs, Alan Scott took a final look around his new department. He owed the position in the engineering department to his friendship with Jay Garrick, yet, as a self-made man, he was determined to prove his worth as soon as possible on his own merits. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Parting of the Ways,” All-Star Comics #70 (January-February, 1978).]
Jay Garrick entered and approached his friend. “Listen, Alan, I know it’s hard to adjust to career changes, but you’ll be fine — trust me. Why, I jumped from Midwestern to Coleman, and from Coleman to here without any trouble. In fact, I could not be happier than I am here. Keystone City is where I was meant to be. Maybe you’ll come to love it here, too, and forget Gotham City. If not, commuting is not a problem!” He smiled.
“Thanks, Jay,” replied Alan. “I’ll be fine as long as you promise Joan will only offer me home-cooked meals and not try to fix me up with any of her single or divorced or widowed friends!”
“Ted’s doing better, too,” said Jay. “The docs say he’ll be back to his scrappy self in no time, and that’s saying a lot. Folks don’t just bounce back from potential brain damage, even if they’ve been heavyweight champ of the world before!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Thorn By Any Other Name,” All-Star Comics #72 (May-June, 1978) and “Be It Ever So Deadly,” All-Star Comics #73 (July-August, 1978).]
“I’m glad,” said Alan. “I’ve always felt a bit responsible for him, since he says I inspired him. That carries a weight of sorts. I notice you said the docs, not Doc.”
“Yes,” replied Jay. “McNider has been absent of late from the hospital. Kent has as well. We’re dealing with strangers, not our own mystery-men medics. That’s odd, since either of them would be checking on Ted, even though they aren’t affiliated with his hospital. Why, Charles is so respected as a medical advisor that he can pretty much take over any hospital from here to Guam!”
“Carter has been absent, too,” said Alan. “The really strange part is that Ted’s best buddies Terry and Al haven’t been around to see him. After the Thorn’s attack, I was sure they’d be right by his bedside. Al’d even be ready to tear into Thorn with both atomic-powered fists!”
“Maybe we’d better check on them,” said Jay. “With Sylvester having left us, we are short on manpower, though I shudder to think what Kara would say if she heard me use that term!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Kara Zor-El is Power Girl.]
They laughed and prepared to leave the labs.
A screech of brakes and cries of fear came from a bus as it raced through Gotham City. The driver had a heart attack moments ago, and the vehicle was becoming a deadly, rapidly speeding projectile. Some watched in excitement, while one or two calmly wondered who would stop the bus in the nick of time. Odds would have been favoring Batman, but he had been seen very little in recent years. Perhaps his partner Robin was in town, or the lovely but brash Power Girl, or maybe even the mildly eccentric Johnny Thunder.
However, the red-white-and-blue-costumed figure who flew down to stop the speeding bus by matching its exact speed with muscle and mental powers designed to cushion and slow the vehicle, was a newcomer, at least by Earth-Two standards. Stopping the bus, he raced inside to examine the fallen driver. After quickly taking stock of the condition, his amazing brain enabled him to take the correct actions to save his life until medical help could arrive.
“He’ll be OK,” he said with a smile. “It’s not a true heart attack, just a spasm. With proper care, diet, and exercise, he’ll be as right as rain.”
Cheers erupted as he flew off. “Right as rain.” This was an oddly old-fashioned expression from a man of the future. Yet, in terms of his time of growing up and his values, mannerisms, and code of conduct, this hero Adam Blake — Captain Comet of Earth-One — was indeed cut in the mode of a Golden Age mystery-man, full of the desire to not just fight crime but to help make society a better place.
Thus he was not such a stranger to this world’s heroes or their values. That was a comfort, as was the fact that Captain Comet knew Earth-Two offered him a far better welcome than that he had received on Earth-Three, where the only super-powered types were villains. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “One Earth Too Many,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #13 (March, 1978) and “Crisis on Earth-Three (Reprise),” Secret Society of Super-Villains #14 (May, 1978).]
Captain Comet had tracked the multiverse-hopping Secret Society of Super-Villains from one world to another and now to a third in his quest to bring them to justice. He had vowed to succeed, and the odds were in his favor. He had dueled with them before, and most of the battles had been draws or, at worst, losses due to his being a bit rusty in using his gifts and being unfamiliar with modern times. Having been greeted upon his arrival to this world by a magically formed and mocking message from the Wizard, he was eager to show that rogue just how capable he could be.
His efforts would meet with a lot of conflict before he was done.
Back in the new base of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, Mister Terrific analyzed the situation with a keen mind and innumerable talents upon which he could draw as needed. He had already calculated the best way in which to free himself and his allies.
Johnny is drugged, thought Mister Terrific. Those villains could not take a chance that he might summon the T-bolt. That amazing genie could defeat them all with ease! Al’s OK, if annoyed at his capture… as am I! That brute called Blockbuster took me down with ease. I was worried about keeping him away from the kids when he attacked with such fury. I knew my defeat would likely make him leave them alone. Still, he attacked me with such raw fury because he thought I was his hated foe — the Batman of Earth-One. I learned as much as I listened to these rogues talk. The Wizard’s spell made Blockbuster think I was his foe. That wore off, and now he’s confused. I can use that.
Thinking the same thing, Doctor Mid-Nite nodded as he and Terrific glanced at one another. The Atom also grinned.
The Wizard and his hulking pawn were alone with the heroes, since the others had departed on some quest for magical relics like those their leader cherished so obviously. Terry Sloane had heard enough to have a theory or two on where their paths would lead them, too. Now the man of a thousand talents glanced around the old theatre. He had attended plays here decades ago, before the twin forces of time and neglect had left the building abandoned and condemned. Still, it was ironically next to a flashy modern Las Vegas-styled showplace, and the juxtaposition of old and new, classic and tawdry, did not escape his perceptive eye.
“Blockbuster!” he shouted suddenly. “Why’d you let Batman escape? Are you afraid of him?” He managed to catch the brute’s eye, and the Blockbuster lumbered over to stand before Mister Terrific’s prison. Good thing lip-reading is a talent of mine, otherwise I’d never have picked up everything that the villains were discussing, he mused. Information is power, as always! He continued taunting the Blockbuster as his friends tensed for action.
The Atom’s power-dampening tube left the little man helpless and almost frantic for action. With a shrewd mind of his own, Doctor Mid-Nite knew how all his friends were feeling and thinking, based on his years of association with them. Johnny Thunder dozed under the influence of some drug. The poor hero would be all right soon enough if he could just get some fresh air, or so Mid-Nite deduced based on the dosage given his pal.
The Blockbuster frowned. He could not hear Terrific’s words, but his expressive pantomime angered the brute. He lashed out and shattered the tube, even as Mister Terrific rolled to safety and kicked over the Atom’s tube. It crashed into the Blockbuster, who shattered it and freed Al Pratt’s smiling form.
“All right!” yelled the Atom. “Now let’s show these creeps the error of their ways!”
Mister Terrific was already opening Mid-Nite’s tube by activating a keypunch code. He had noticed and memorized the correct pattern for the tube when he had witnessed from his own tube his friend being briefly released and then imprisoned once more.
Doctor Mid-Nite turned to free Johnny Thunder as if in total sync with Terrific’s plan. He entered the code Terrific shouted to him, and Johnny fell into his arms. The Blockbuster yelled and charged them all.
The Wizard could not hear the altercation between his pawn and his prisoners, because he was mentally tracking the progress of his other teammates on their quests. He was furious at what he witnessed and roared in anger. None of the three Secret Society members were obeying his commands.
“You can’t get good help these days!” he muttered bitterly. “You can’t even enslave good help!”
Pacing the floor in the dusty loft above the old theatre, he mused to himself about the last time he had been inside the place. It had been years before, and he had been allied with villains he respected more than these other Earth ne’er-do-wells.
“The Gambler! Ah, he was worth three of these pups!” mused William Asmodeus Zard as he saw Star Sapphire ignore his conditioning to streak not toward the supposedly resting place of the glove of power he sought, but toward Salem, Massachusetts, or so it appeared.
The Floronic Man also ignored the directive he had been given concerning the box, and he was headed toward the Midwest.
Professor Zoom also raced across the nation, but as far as Zard could detect, this Reverse-Flash was being appropriately contrary as well.
“Bah! These fools have formed some agenda all their own!” he said. “No matter. My plan is still sound. I can easily bring forth other Earth-One knaves like Terra-Man or Hector Hammond to confound the JSA!” Still, he was more than a bit curious as to what the motives of the rebellious villains could be.
Little did he know that he was watched, in turn, by a more powerful magic-user who was decidedly amused at his frustration. A dapper man laughed with malicious glee at Zard’s rage.
Poor, pitiful Zard! he thought. You serve me without even realizing it. Such has it ever been with the greedy and the blind and the being called Zor!
The Atom slammed into the Blockbuster with the skill of decades at his disposal. Al Pratt was perhaps the single finest fighter this world had produced, with the possible exceptions of Mister Terrific, Batman, or Wildcat. Now, in his second bout with the Earth-One brute, he ducked the Blockbuster’s lunge and punched him with a series of rapid lefts and rights.
“You know, this brings David and Goliath to mind, and you know how that ended!” he joked.
Doctor Mid-Nite injected Johnny Thunder with a stimulant from his belt bag. “Johnny, wake up!” he urged. “It’s Doc! Just say the words!”
“Daisy…?” murmured Johnny.
Mister Terrific frowned as the Wizard entered the room at last.
“Confound you, you doltish lummox!” cursed Zard, raising his gloved fist. “I could send you all to the netherworlds at will!” he threatened.
“I doubt a fraud like you could send us to Brooklyn!” said Mister Terrific. “In fact, I’d say you can’t even read Latin!” he said laughing as he stepped up to face the evil man.
The Atom received a hard left from the Blockbuster, who yelled, “Where’s Batman?”
Doctor Mid-Nite tried to speed up Johnny’s recovery, but even he could only do so much. He gently released Thunder and rose to help his friends.
The Wizard pulled out an ornate box. “Mister Terrific, with his knightly slogan of fair play!” he sneered. “How fitting that a champion like you should be consumed by a dragon, like one of the knights of old!”
Terrific shoved the box out of the Wizard’s hand. “Clumsy of you!” he quipped.
But as the Wizard instinctively snatched for it with his nearest hand, he watched in horror as the sorcerer’s glove dissolved the box into a smoky mist. “You tricked me!” he cried. “You knew the touch of the glove would destroy the box!”
“Making a fool out of airbags like you is a hobby of his!” laughed Doctor Mid-Nite as he caught the Wizard’s wrist. “I’ll just take that glove!” he said as he ripped it free with a scalpel.
As the Wizard saw the Atom send the Blockbuster reeling, he made his decision. “I’ll fight again another day!” he vowed, and draped the cloak of invisibility over his head.
Doctor Mid-Nite slammed down a blackout bomb, and as the inky darkness filled the room, he saw something. “Looks like his magical invisibility can’t elude my night-vision!” he said, tackling the Wizard as Mister Terrific whirled to help Johnny up.
“What happened?” groaned Johnny Thunder.
“Say you!” urged Terry.
“Say you!” repeated Johnny. “Make me normal!”
The pink Thunderbolt, suddenly appearing in their midst, scratched his head as he said, “That is a job beyond even my near-limitless powers, but I can restore you from that drug!” With a mere gesture, Johnny was restored.
Johnny grinned and said, “Thanks! ‘Just say no,’ huh?” Standing to his full height, he pointed and said, “Take down that big jerk!”
In a moment, the Thunderbolt blasted the Blockbuster, and the brute fell down like a tree.
Mister Terrific saw Doctor Mid-Nite drag a battered Wizard out of the darkness.
“Put his lights out, right?” said the Atom.
“I’m glad you said that!” said Mid-Nite.
As they exchanged congratulations, the man called Zor, known to some as the Anti-Spectre, frowned as he watched from afar. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre, More Fun Comics #55 (May, 1940).]
I hoped Zard would at least be capable of holding his own, he mused. I’d better aid him while he can still be of use to me. By dulling his senses with my vapors, I also made him too slow and stupid to beat these mortals!
Speaking harsh words from a long-dead tongue, Zor caused the Wizard, the Blockbuster, and the glove itself to vanish and reappear miles away.
Now I’ll allow the Wizard to locate and retrieve the other items of power, thought Zor, and then, when he has them all, I’ll use them to free myself of this infernal limbo the Spectre placed me within so long ago!