Dick Grayson knew STAR Labs well, since he had visited his only living relation there often.
Chuck Grayson had been Dick’s cousin, and the fact that the body now housed the brain of his best friend Bob Crane after Chuck’s death made their own relationship a truly bizarre extended family, but Dick took what he could get. After all, he had once been menaced by an evil uncle named George Grayson and was more than happy to enjoy the company of a kind and heroic supposed cousin after years of friendship. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Bruce Wayne Loses the Guardianship of Dick Grayson,” Batman #20 (December, 1943-January, 1944).]
Dick gazed around the lab in wonder. He was no stranger to science, since his mentor had been a master of every known science in his own way, and Dick had also been closely acquainted with alien science from Krypton through his friendship with Superman. Still, he admired the beauties of robotic genius that filled the lab around him. There were so many uses for artificial beings or computerized improvements that could make life better for millions.
Chuck Grayson, who was now gray-haired and very fat, sidled up to him. “So, what do you think of the new project? Does it look at all familiar?” he said as he unveiled a cloaked figure.
“Holy rewind!” joked Dick as he gazed upon the weird robotic head of the famous Robotman. “He looks just like the one you used to be inside!”
“He is exactly the same on the outside, but he has a few new features,” said Chuck. “Mainly, he requires no human host. I can guide him via remote control.”
“So you can fight crime from the comfort of your own living room? Seems like cheating,” teased the wealthy man.
Chuck grinned. “The real Chuck would have loved this. I wished he could have lived to see it.”
Dick nodded. “Sometimes I feel like calling you ‘Chuck-Bob,’ but it sounds like something from off the Waltons.”
The scientist grinned. “I was hopeful that you might be willing to try him out for me. Use him to patrol Gotham.”
“Well, sure,” said Dick. “I’d have to slap a bat-sticker on him. Kara jokes that that’s a requirement of mine!”
They continued to talk into the evening, when the heir of Bruce Wayne and the former Robotman departed for dinner. They didn’t realize that, seconds after they left, the robotic husk flickered away and returned again seconds later.
Elsewhere, in the facility called the New Bunker, an old man smiled.
“Excellent!” he said. “My time-scanner ray has retrieved the automaton and returned him seconds after he was first taken. When the creature is taken to Gotham, he shall live up to the old name once associated with that prototype — the Murder Machine!”
“But, sir, how do you know it is going to go to Gotham, or get anywhere near Red Robin?” asked a Nazi stormtrooper.
“Because it already did once, according to the time scanner… only this time when it arrives, it shall serve the greater glory of the New Reich!” he laughed.
Joan Garrick gazed down on the Scott triplets, Adam, Megan, and Sarah, she cooed, “They are sooo adorable!”
As proud parents Alan and Molly Scott displayed their new additions to the couple from Keystone City, Jay Garrick turned to his blonde wife and said, “Now, honey, don’t go getting any ideas. I can barely keep up with one child!”
“Honestly, Jay!” laughed Joan. “You’d think you had forgotten about your own child at times, but you’re not that absent-minded!”
“Don’t worry, Jay,” said Alan, “you can always drop by Gotham here in minutes and play with them.”
Jay grinned. “I am the fastest diaper-changer around!” The friends enjoyed this moment of warmth.
“What with little Celeste Nelson being my new godchild, and our three, I’m going to be up to my big green boxing glove in babies!” said Alan.
“In brightest day, in darkest night, wet diapers shall–” joked Jay.
“More like I shall shed these dirty diapers…” laughed Alan.
Joan frowned. “Fellows, before this gets any worse, I better tell you that the news says there’s a costumed villain loose in the Sprang district!”
As Green Lantern and the Flash rushed to investigate the newest crime in Gotham City, Red Robin was fighting for his life against Gotham’s newest defender. The remote-control Robotman had been a success at first. The heir to the Bat had sent the robot out on its rounds and guided it perfectly via the remote scanner. He saw and heard all that the robot’s sensors detected. “This armchair crime-fighting could become addictive,” he had said with a smile as this Robotman had picked up the alarms from a bank and had raced to the scene in minutes.
Two extending arms had snaked out to catch the robbers, and the powerful servos had easily lifted them off the pavement, before beating them half to death.
Red Robin had tried everything in his power to make the violent machine release the thugs, but nothing worked. He arrived at the scene and fired the car’s special laser straight into the metallic murderer.
The impact left the metal man unharmed, and Red Robin breathed a sigh of relief when the machine turned away from the battered thugs to face him. Thank heavens, I classified him as a murderer too soon, he mused. They are still alive, just badly beaten. Wish I could raise Chuck back at his home, but he doesn’t answer. I guess I’m going to have to shut the machine down by force.
The Murder Machine, as the Nazi troops at the New Bunker had named it, had a weird smile on its otherwise inhuman face.
“You have heard the Batman speak of his first case with the JSA, eh?” cackled a German-accented voice from the robot’s speakers. “They fought the robotic Murder Machine in Scotland. Now this is the new, improved version, and you’ll have to die in your partner’s place!”
Great — some Nazi blast from the past has taken over Chuck’s creation! he thought as he rolled aside from smashing fists of metal.
“Batman defeated the first one, and I’ll do my best to destroy this retro one, too,” he said.
But it would not be that easy.
Green Lantern and the Flash arrived in time to see Red Robin hurl a pellet toward his grinning metal foe.
“Looks like the lad is holding his own against a Robotman gone bad!” said the Flash.
“Well, that sure isn’t Bob Crane, but there’s no mistaking his work!” said Green Lantern.
They saw the pellet explode against the hulking man of metal without slowing down his charge for the masked hero. Red Robin fell back on his superior acrobatics and swung high off the ground, inches above the Robotman’s snaking arms.
“I was the first to fight the JSA before they even named themselves,” said the voice from the machine’s speakers. “I was not yet known as the Red Panzer, but I was held responsible by Hitler himself for your victory.”
“The blond Nazi from the Scotland castle!” said the Flash. (*) “What was his name?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Untold Origin of the Justice Society,” DC Special #29 (August-September, 1977).]
“Does it matter? He’s trying to pulp our pal!” said Green Lantern as he solidified a green shield around Red Robin to block the robot’s hands.
“Welcome to the rampaging robot-a-rama,” said Red Robin.
The Flash grinned, then raced in tight circles around the robot until a yellow burst of energy sent him flying into a green cushion. “What was that?” he said. “It looked like some type of energy blast on a neuron level!”
“This Robotman or Murder Machine is not like the original,” said Red Robin. “Remote signals control him. This old Nazi seems to have taken him over. Can you block his reception?”
“Consider it done!” said Green Lantern, who was a former radio engineer. The blockage took the form of a green circle, which closed off the robot’s contact with the outside.
“You did it,” said the Flash. “Without outside help, he’s just a big metal stiff!”
“True. But I wish we could trace the control signal back to our bitter Nazi friend,” said Green Lantern.
“How did the Nazi get Chuck’s robot under his control?” said Red Robin. “Security at STAR needs work.”
“Son, security at STAR Labs has always needed improvement. Folks like Vandal Savage and Brain Wave use STAR like we use 7-11s!” laughed the Flash.
“Red Robin, the Nazi in question was the man Batman, Flash, and I fought in a castle in Scotland during our first meeting,” explained Green Lantern. “He employed a Murder Machine of his own back then. I never knew he went on to become Wonder Woman’s old foe, the Red Panzer.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Retreat to Tomorrow,” Wonder Woman #228 (February, 1977).]
“The ring won’t track the signal. It’s just vanished or burnt out in trying to override the blockage my ring created,” said Green Lantern, shaking his head.
“The Panzer had some time-ray, according to Diana,” said the Flash. “That would explain how he could snatch the robot so easily, if that scanner does more than just let him look ahead.”
“Speaking of old menaces, Mid-Nite vanished while fighting Night and Fog — two other old Nazi enemies,” said Red Robin. “Could be connected. Hourman and Sandman are calling a group together to try to find him.”
“Let’s go!” said the Flash. “Old evils coming back — that seems to be pattern we never can escape.”
They left the inert Robotman at the JSA Brownstone and placed it inside a sphere that contained it and prevented new signals from reaching it.
The inert Robotman or Murder Machine was now stationary, but as the heroes would learn, it was far from harmless. A gleaming sphere within its chest hummed softly in response to a preprogrammed directive. It would soon spell danger for the Justice Society of America.