Anyone standing outside the JSA Brownstone couldn’t help but notice the strange quintet coming out. Two looked like adolescent versions of the World’s Best heroes from decades back. One looked like a teen beauty pageant contestant ready for the swimsuit competition. One was a fairly ordinary-looking youth with a hangdog look on his face. But surely the oddest of all was their leader — a somewhat dumpy-looking woman in red long-johns, yellow vest, and a cape, with a large soup pot over her head.
“I thought we were going back to our training work, Ma,” said the young version of Superman. “How come we’re heading out all of a sudden?”
“We are, Superboy. And the first rule is, outside of the JSA Brownstone, you call me Red Tornado, or Reddy. It was because the Hawk-lady don’t need us underfoot right now. Imagine getting to the meeting late and finding that all of the JSA members, including your husband, have been spirited off to fight something that has already taken out the Spectre! That poor fella, I hope he’s at least found some peace now.”
“Then why did Corona stay?” asked Damage, the forlorn-looking teen.
“Because if whatever the JSA has gone to fight makes its way back the the headquarters, Hawk’s gonna need some help. I figure Corona is the best bet for a guardian. Er, no offense, Superboy.” It was odd how, even through a featureless steel pot, the youths could envision the Red Tornado’s quirky smile as she said this.
“No, ma’am, you’re probably right. I’ve already realized that I may have the strength and speed, but there’s always somebody faster and stronger.”
“I don’t know about stronger, but I’ll bet I have the faster covered.”
Seemingly from nowhere, another super-powered teenager appeared in front of the Junior JSA group. He was small and easily younger than any of the others, dressed in tight blue pants, a red T-shirt with a lightning bolt, and a baseball cap with silver wings attached.
Coral was the first to speak. “Oh, don’t tell me. You’ve got to be related to Jay Garrick, right? Does everybody up here on land have to copy their forebears so closely?”
“Sorry for sneaking up on you. Yeah, Dad left a message for me to meet him at the Brownstone this afternoon, and I saw you guys coming out. Is he still there?”
The Junior JSA members looked at each other. The Red Tornado led the group to a couple of benches in the park across the street and took it upon herself to break the news.
“Your dad left, along with the rest of the team, about an hour ago. There’s something big brewing, and they said something about going back in time to stop it.”
“Wow. Big stuff, huh?” The others all nodded. “Then I guess I’d better stick with you guys until they get back. Dad was telling me about this Junior JSA group, and he wants me to join up, too.”
“Who are you? I’ve never heard anything about the Garricks having a son.” Batwing grew up on the streets, but like most people his age, he had followed the exploits of the JSA’s most public and outgoing hero for years. He had supplemented that by researching the computer files on all of the members when Red Robin had suggested he lead the Junior JSA.
“I’m John Garrick, but I guess you should call me Whiz Kid when I’m in uniform.” John grinned. “Mom whipped it up last night.”
“But your folks are old enough to be grandparents. How could you be their son?” The Red Tornado herself was older than most of the JSA members and a great-grandmother, so she was having trouble with his story.
“You know that Dad’s aging was slowed along with most of the other JSA members because of a case back in the ’40s. The same thing happened to Mom. They didn’t realize that it also let them have kids much later. I was born after Dad went public with his secret identity. So they’ve always shielded me from publicity.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: Times Past, 1973: The Family Business.]
“I take it you have your Dad’s speed?” Damage asked.
“Yeah. It just showed up a couple of days ago. That’s why Dad wants me here — to learn control. I’ve had a couple of, umm, accidents with it.”
Superboy looked around. “I think we’ve all done that.” Damage grimaced, remembering the explosion in Atlanta that had brought him to the attention of the Atom. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 2, Chapter 2: Damage.]
Batwing looked up at the Red Tornado. “Looks like you’ve got another one to babysit, Reddy!”
“Look, gang, it’s probably not a great idea to hang around in front of the JSA Headquarters all day. Besides, I figure to make you all practice working together. Let’s go.” With that, the Red Tornado stretched out her arms. They started whirling faster than the eye could see, and cones of swirling air formed in their place. She stretched them out and gathered the assembled Junior JSA members into the eye of the funnel cloud that formed. How did I know I could do that? she thought to herself.
From high in the air, she spotted a deserted stretch of beach outside Gotham City. She directed herself there and deposited her charges on the sand.
“Cool!” said Superboy, summing up the reaction of the group to this novel mode of transportation. Red Tornado sketched a shaky curtsy in response.
“Now, who wants to play the bad guys first? We’re going to square off against each other and try our own powers against other super-powers.”
Superboy and Whiz Kid stood off to one side, facing the others.
“Now, Damage, can you control yourself to keep from hurting anyone?”
“I think so. The Atom was trying to work with me on that.”
“Good. How about you, Coral? I expect you to be unbeatable in the water, but how about on dry land?”
In response, Coral darted over to Superboy, grabbed him by the wrist, and spun him over her head.
“Yipes!” cried the startled Boy of Steel. He tried with his free hand to break her grip, but short of breaking her hand, he could not pry her fingers loose.
“That’s pretty good, Coral, but if he thinks about it, there’s a way to get you to let go.” Batwing looked at the Tornado. “Right, Reddy?”
“Uhhh, yeah, kid. What say you whisper it so Superboy can hear you?”
Batwing grinned, knowing that the elderly super-hero had no idea what he was thinking of. As quiet as he could, he whispered two words: “Take off.”
Superboy heard the message and suddenly took off into the air. Startled, Mina Curry let go and started falling. Before she got far, Whiz Kid was circling under her, setting up a cushion of air beneath her.
Suddenly, a voice that seemed to come from all around them called out, “Nicely done, kiddies, but you’re no match for the greatest of your mentors’ old foes.”
Six heads looked around quickly, trying to find the source of the voice that spoke to them.
“Go ahead, look around, but you cannot see that which does not wish to be seen.”
The Red Tornado signaled for her young charges to gather close. “Watch for anything odd, kids. Not that a disembodied voice isn’t odd enough.”
It did not escape the notice of the Junior JSA members that the Tornado was shaking, but they circled her, hoping to hide her quivering fear from their unseen taunter.
“On the other hand, some things are meant to be seen.” There was a flash of light, and the group found themselves surrounded by snakes.
“Got it,” whispered Superboy. “It came from over by those rocks. Bats, can you, Damage, and Coral take care of those snakes? I need Reddy and the kid.”
Everyone nodded assent. Damage knelt down and unleashed a series of mini-explosions in the sand, tossing most of the snakes away. Coral grabbed most of the remaining serpents and tossed them into the surf, while Batwing snared the remaining ones in a small net.
Following Superboy at a rate normal eyes couldn’t follow, Red Tornado and Whiz Kid churned up a sandstorm directed toward the rocks. The swirling sand caught on an invisible shape, and the outline of a tall, slender woman took shape.
“Finding me isn’t the same as catching me, heroes!” The woman gestured with something in her hand, and up she flew until she stood upon a cliff overlooking the shore. The sand fell away, revealing a woman dressed in a modified black tuxedo, with black hair that had a streak of white through it. Her most outstanding feature, visible even from the bottom of the cliff, were her eyes — they were completely white, with no visible iris or pupil.
“For years, June Moon sought knowledge of the arcane. Little did she know that it was to be found in a seaside cave, where the Wizard stowed his precious wand before casting the spell that would take him to another Earth. That same wand now lets the power of the Wizard live on in the Enchantress!”
Superboy’s thoughts flashed back to a conversation with his adoptive parents a few days earlier. He had asked how they met and came to be married. Lois Lane Kent had told him.
“We had worked together for almost ten years, but I always dismissed Clark as a wimpy sort of fellow, always hiding when there was danger. Little did I know!”
“Right. I hid so I could change to my costume and save the day.” The words were boastful, but Clark Kent’s voice still carried a laugh with it. “Poor Clark couldn’t be a hero so long as Superman was needed.”
“Then Superman disappeared, didn’t he, dear? Thanks to the Wizard.”
“That spell he cast effectively killed Superman, pushing all my memories of him out of my mind. It freed me, in a way. I could act more freely as Clark, and it had its effect on your adoptive mother.”
Lois chuckled. “It sure did. First you became a crusading reporter, rooting out corruption and scams. Then you turned your attention to me. We were all set to be married when I came across the Wizard in Superman Park.”
“Metropolis set up a memorial to Superman after I disappeared, son.”
“Anyway, I found him there in a tattered tuxedo, feeding the pigeons. It took a while, but I coaxed the story out of him. It seems that nobody in the underworld would believe he killed Superman without a body, and he couldn’t very well go public with it, so he’d ruined himself. I convinced him to bring Superman back and nearly ruined my own wedding plans.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman Takes a Wife,” Action Comics #484 (June, 1978).]
“You really should have known me better, Lois.”
Superboy’s thoughts returned to the present as a bolt of lightning struck the ground in front of him. He shook his head to clear it as he took to the air and checked on his teammates.
The Red Tornado rose up over the beach on a whirling funnel-cloud. She could see the Enchantress on the cliff gesturing with her wand at the group of young heroes on the beach below. Ma Hunkel pointed at the young woman, and a bolt of lightning flew forth. The Enchantress looked up in time to see it and quickly threw up a magical shield that deflected the bolt, sending it toward Superboy.
I wonder if magic bothers him, thought the Tornado. Raising her voice, she yelled at the magic user, “Hey, how about picking on someone yer own height, girlie!”
“You pathetic old woman! What do you think you and your kids can do against me? Already two of them have disappeared, and the girl is running off!”
Red Tornado looked down long enough to confirm the young woman’s words. Sure enough, Whiz Kid and Damage had disappeared, and Coral was at the water’s edge. “Can’t say as I blame her, with this little witch here. After all, what will swimming do against magic?”
Reddy bent forward to drive herself into the Enchantress. She started forward, only to be stopped short by the sound of an explosion. She looked up to see a startled look on the Enchantress’ face as she started to fall.
More precisely, the cliff under the Enchantress started to fall away, the rock underneath suddenly pulverized by Damage’s explosive touch. The Red Tornado reached out with a small cyclone stretching from her hand, prepared to keep the villainess from being dashed to the ground below, when a shimmering platform formed under the falling girl. Dang, she’s still able to use that stick, ain’t she? the Tornado thought.
“What the–?” the Enchantress started to wave her wand, only to have it snatched from her hand by a translucent, shimmering fist propelled through the air on a column of water.
Looking down, the Red tornado saw the source of the hand and the platform, which was shifting to form a cage around the Enchantress. At the shore, Coral stood with a look of concentration on her fair face. Both the platform and the fist were part of an extended column of water that started in the sea and stretched over two-hundred feet to the cliff.
“Coral! How did you do that?”
“I inherited it from my mother,” the redhead said, smiling. “I guess I should have told you before.”
“No problem, lady!” said Superboy, swooping up to grab the wand. “Any other powers we should know about?”
Batwing, who had remained on the ground, pulled out his radiophone to call for the police. “Let’s get this chick locked up before we start discussing personal information, folks.”
“Before they pick her up, I want to try something.” Superboy landed near Batwing with the Wizard’s wand in his hand. “Stand by to grab this thing from me, though, OK?”
Without waiting for anyone to agree, Superboy closed his eyes and focused on a specific image. A swirl of colored lights erupted from the wand and flew at the Red Tornado. For a moment, she was lost from view in their brilliance. When the lights faded, all of the young heroes grinned.
“Now that’s more like it, Superboy! I didn’t know you were into fashion design, though.” Damage clapped the young Kryptonian on the shoulder.
The Red Tornado now stood before them in a loose-fitting crimson costume with a yellow vertical banding on the torso. A white cape with red and yellow edging fluttered from her shoulders, and violet gloves and boots covered her hands and feet. And atop her head a gleaming silver helmet, not unlike her original soup kettle, shone in the sun.