Angela Leonard was bored. The pretty blonde smiled at the latest customer at the Altered Ego Eatery and asked in her perkiest voice, “May I take your order?”
“Sure, doll,” chuckled a fat African-American man. “I’ll have the Johnny Thunder Burger, and make it quick — Johnny Quick!”
“Certainly, sir,” said a smiling Angela as she thought, in her most sarcastic mental tone, Haven’t heard that one before. She wished she could tell the customers what she thought of them and of her boring job, but she knew the little café was all she had to live on.
The heroically themed café was the legacy of her honorary uncle, Jonathan Law, alias the Tarantula. She had been partly raised by the former hero, and his housekeeper Olga Clatterbuck had been Angela’s grandmother. Now he was seriously ill, although truth be told, the young blonde girl felt guilty because she had not been to see him recently.
She straightened her fish-netted Black Canary costume and approached a heavy girl dressed as Hawkgirl. “Madge, take over,” sighed Angela. “I have to get some air.”
“No problem!” said the cheerful Madge.
Angela gazed around the cafe with its heroic-themed decor and menu. “The Black Condor chicken pattys are not selling, the hours I spend dressed like old heroines gets me nothing in tips, and all those bad puns — I can’t stand it here!” she muttered to herself as she stepped out.
She wondered if she should resort to the outlet she had recently discovered, having become a heroine in her own right. She had modified her uncle’s old look and added weaponry that incorporated his All-Star Squadron associates’ own inventions.
Under the name of Lady Tarantula, as she now called herself, she had donned a sleeveless brown and black costume with fishnet hose and black slippers. She added a wrist wirepoon that fired either wires, knock out pellets, or sharpened darts. She could climb walls due to her special slippers, and she knew martial arts. She had even agreed to join a new, unauthorized version of the Law’s Legionnaires (no relation to the original group) sponsored by the glamorous Queen Arrow, yet Angela still wanted more. (*) Perhaps she would find it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: The Deadlier of the Species.]
Angela returned to work, finished her shift, and crawled into her room above the Eatery. She sighed and slipped on the Lady Tarantula costume. After spending days dressed as various heroines while waitressing, she relished the irony of actually being one. She teared up as she thought again of her ill uncle. Jon had not answered his phone recently. That could mean he’d had a relapse; of course, she could also be worrying herself for nothing, since his health could have also improved. (*) It was not knowing either way that bothered her.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Suicide Squad: Path of the Immortal, Chapter 2: Don’t Look at the Fnords.]
Swinging out across the night cityscape, she smiled as she heard people gasp and point at her.
“Spider-Girl!” cried a kid.
“Well, I guess that’s close enough!” she laughed as she expertly fired one Sandman-style wirepoon after another and, by losing each in mid-swing, raced over the city streets at an impressive rate.
Lady Tarantula paused as she saw the furtive movements below her. Someone else was out and about tonight, possibly up to no good.
She stuck to the wall and scampered across it to get a better view. Her flaxen hair was drawn back in a ponytail, and she gazed down to see a woman hurrying down the street of the old Bannermain Chemical Company. Most people still called the place Bannermain’s, since it had been called by the name of the autocratic founder, his son, and his grandson since Victorian times.
But since the mid-1960s the place had been owned by the Tyler family, and it was the sight in which many adventures had occurred. Nazi agents or criminals had tried to rob the place, heroes like the Hourman had been seen there, and action, glamor, and mystery were etched into the very walls of the atmospheric old place.
Angela caught her breath as she saw the woman below stop in her tracks and yell, “I see you up there! Come down, or I’ll make you sorry!”
Lady Tarantula dropped down to see a lovely woman with black hair and a revealing red and blue costume. “Who are you?” demanded Angela. “This is private property!”
“Indeed it is — my family owns it,” said the costumed beauty. “I’m Deena Tyler.”
“Funny fashion sense,” said Lady Tarantula.
“I’m wearing my new costume,” said the beautiful woman. “I’m a would-be mystery-woman like you. I am known as Blackout.”
“So, why give me your real name?” asked Angela.
“Because I know who you are,” she said simply. “My studies of past heroes gives me the background to guess that you are related to Law. He was a trusted ally, so you must be very close to him.” She smiled and added, “Plus, I can take you in a fight, so I’m not too worried.”
Angela grinned. “You’re right about my secret. So, Blackout, why are you here?”
“That is a trade secret,” she began, “but I guess…” She was interrupted by a loud explosion. “We’d better check that out and swap stories later!”
As Lady Tarantula and Blackout raced toward the fiery chaos, they spotted Hourman fighting three dark figures.
Deena was a distant relative of Rex Tyler’s, and she had gained her own powers through exposure to the blackout bomb of the Night-Owl. (*) She had learned much about the use of black light in weapons and various scientific experiments through her study of Rex’s own works with the source. She knew he was Hourman, although she was not sure that she should let her female ally know too much too soon, either.
[(*) Editor’s note: See All-Star Squadron: Mid-Nite and Murder.]
Blackout aimed a kick at the first dark-clad figure and nearly took his head off. He reeled back from her enhanced strength, and she connected with a second quick jab.
Hourman grimaced at the sight of Blackout. He knew she was Deena, and he was not happy that the sharp girl had helped herself to so much of his past work. She had an intellect, stealth skills, and fighting prowess beyond what he could easily explain. What was her secret? “These shadowy thugs blew up one of the labs in their efforts to escape with a black-ray generator,” he explained.
Lady Tarantula dropped on the back of the third figure but gasped as she fell through his sticky body to land covered with black goop. “Yuck! This creep’s body just melted over me!” she said. The shadowy film suddenly squeezed her tightly as it responded to some inner command and tightened over her trim form. She frowned; none of her weapons were of any use against such a foe. “Some help, please!” she called.
Blackout brought the darkness around them down with her innate power to generate darkness. She smiled as she saw as clearly as if it was still daylight. That nut the Night-Owl had given her amazing powers through his own insanity. She saw the shadowy forms leave Hourman and Lady Tarantula and race toward her.
They like the dark, she thought. “They seem to be composed of nothing more than some dark light themselves. Wasn’t there a villain called Doctor Light?” she yelled as she high-jumped over the heads of the three figures.
Hourman nodded. “He’s dead. I have it on good authority.”
Lady Tarantula swung down to join them. “They do look like black-light men, if that’s possible!”
Hourman smiled. “Anything is possible. I’ve learned that.”
The three figures massed together and flickered out of sight.
“They’re gone!” cried Angela.
“Come inside,” said Hourman. “We have to talk.” He sat them down in a plush office and said to them, “Look, you’re Jon Law’s girl, aren’t you? And you are Deena Tyler. I know your movements well.”
Deena took off her red mask and said, “So what, Rex Tyler! We know your secret, too. I happened to stumble upon it after I realized what the implications were for your black-light work.”
“Now, look, ladies,” said Rex, “I need you to keep my secrets. I also need your help. Whatever brought those things here will likely bring them back. They seem to be made of solid or semi-solid black light, and they wanted my old projector. They may feed off such a power source.”
“We’ll help you,” said a gushing Angela.
Deena crossed her legs and smiled in a sultry manner. “Anything for family.”
Rex Tyler was uncertain what his best course of action should be. He was well-known as a chemist, and he was known in some circles as husband to a movie star. He didn’t want his secret identity to be made public. As Hourman, he had many enemies, and he couldn’t bear to think that his wife Wendi or son Rick could be harmed because some maniac had learned his secrets. It was true that his work with Miraclo was top secret. However, he had written extensively on black-light scientific applications and never knew this might come back to haunt him if anyone was ever brilliant enough to connect such black light with adrenal surges and super-powers.
He paced his office with restless energy. “Look, I may have been a bit abrupt a few minutes ago. You aren’t wearing those costumes, or what passes for a costume, because of any bad motive. I know that. I also could use any help you can offer. This place is simply too big a complex for one man to patrol alone. They want my devices, and I know where they’re stored. Let’s stake out the main lab.”
Reaching the laboratory a few moments later, Deena’s eyes gleamed. “This place always amazes me!” she whispered.
“‘Always’? How have you ever even seen it before?” asked Hourman.
Deena smiled. “A girl has her secrets.”
Angela admired the girl’s cocky charm.
“Deena, you stole my plans to save your kidnapped mother from Night-Owl,” said Hourman. “I forgave you for that, but I need to know how you have such skills at… espionage.”
“That girl’s school I attended in France was not what it seemed,” she explained. “It was a training ground for female agents. The school turned wealthy girls into trained fighters, killers, and spies.”
Hourman gulped. “How can that be? The Université Notre Dame des Ombres has a fine reputation.”
Deena smiled. “Ever heard of the Leipzig Academy from the 1940s?”
The lab shuddered as a black creature erupted through the floor. “Good night! Get back, girls!” cried Hourman as he charged the huge monster.
“Too late!” hissed the creature. “The black-light energy my children have drained from your devices has freed me at long last!”
“He’s right,” said Hourman, frowning. “I thought the projectors were safe, but he didn’t need to steal them. Somehow, while we fought those three goons, this creature or his pawns drained all the others dry.”
“Exactly; it was a nice ploy, and it achieved the desired result,” gloated the black figure.
Hourman swung at the beast and felt his fists connect with a solid jaw.
“You are powerful, but your cells feed me!” laughed the monster. “You have a residue of black-light energy within you, as does this vixen!” It touched Rex and Deena, and they dropped into stunned states.
“You killed them!” shrieked Lady Tarantula as she fired her knockout pellets at the creature.
“Smoke pellets don’t work on someone who doesn’t breathe anymore, sweetie!” he laughed and enveloped the fallen pair. He vanished, taking them with him.
“I have to rescue them,” said Lady Tarantula. “And I need help — I know just who to call!”