He moved gracefully across the rooftops from years of training. He was a shadow among other shadows as he went from one skylight to the next. Finally, he paused at one of the skylights, seeing what he expected to see.
The man tried to pull the skylight open gently; it was locked to keep out intruders. He slapped a glass pane gently but precisely, and his gloved fingers silently pulled out the piece of window. A twist of the latch, and the huge window creaked open to let him slip in.
Now inside, he dropped silently on a catwalk, then descended to the floor of the warehouse using the pallets stacked under the walk. He paused to listen to the group of men who were loading several crates on the back of a yellow truck. Should he interfere, he wondered, or follow the men to their chief? He knew his adopted father would follow.
The man waited for the men to finish and begin shutting down the warehouse. At just the right moment, he rushed forward and slid out under a closing bay door. The man pulling the door shut didn’t even hear his gliding footsteps or the roll under the metal barrier. He leaped from the bay before the last man turned and saw him. Sliding under the truck, he secured handholds for the journey ahead. He hoped he could finish this in time to make the yearly barbecue his honorary uncle Greg threw on his ranch. He waited silently as the truck rolled along streets and then on the highway, and he listened to the road hum below him as the vehicle sped on its way.
Finally, the truck passed through a gate and rolled to a stop. He dropped to the ground quietly; one quick move, and he was standing in a concealing shadow. He paused to listen and evaluate, as he had been taught.
The men from the truck were busy unloading the crates from the warehouse into a new warehouse. Of course, the first warehouse was a Customs warehouse, so what he had witnessed was illegal. He decided he needed to see what was in those boxes before he called the cops. Maybe he was jumping the gun. Evidence of contraband would be needed for any type of conviction.
Crossing behind the men like a ghost, he passed them and waited for them to deposit a crate, then go back for another one. As they did so, he gently pried open the top of the crate, smelling coffee wafting in the evening air. He searched the crate rapidly with one hand, pulling a bag of white powder to the surface, then closed the lid gently. He stepped into some concealing shadows as men came back into the area where he had been searching.
One of the men opened the crate that had been searched. He pulled his pistol automatically. “Who’s been in the stuff?” he asked quietly.
“No one,” said one of the truck loaders. “It’s been sitting here since we unloaded.”
“Someone’s been in the shipment,” said the man with the pistol. He aimed it at the unlucky truck driver. “Who?”
“Actually, it was I who searched the box,” said the concealed man. “I had been curious as to what was in it for a while. Now I know.”
The man with the pistol searched the shadows with the weapon but could not see the speaker among the shadows. Then a thin piece of steel flew out of the darkness and sank into the man’s arm. He dropped the pistol in shock and pain.
“No guns, please,” he said, stepping into plain sight.
“It’s a mask,” said the leader, clutching his arm. “Get ‘im.”
He smiled under his full mask, knowing he was better trained than these oafs. The fight lasted as long as it took for each man to be intercepted and hurled in a direction by his trained hands. He produced a set of ropes and secured each man quickly and surely. The leader had tried to escape out the door while he was occupied with the underlings. He scaled the crates and ran with the man until he could leap down in front of him and secure a chokehold. He used another set of ropes to secure this one and dragged him back to his men.
Grabbing a cell phone from one of the men, he called the police department and reported strange lights from the warehouse. He made sure to puncture the bag and spread its contents around a bit before he left. Then he waited on top of the warehouse for the police.
He had caused a small interruption in business, but that was fine. Greg Sanders, his adopted father, would have been able to meet the police at the door. He didn’t enjoy that type of reputation yet. He was just another mask in the crowd, so to speak. He hoped his anonymous phone call would at least give the police enough cause to search the rest of the boxes. He pulled his gauntlet down to check his watch. Ten minutes passed before he saw the first blue lights.
The police paused long enough at the locked gate to cut it open with bolt cutters to the chain that kept it locked up. The patrol cars rolled up to the open door of the building, and policemen rushed inside with guns drawn.
He was pleased to see one of the cops test the white powder with a thumb. He was equally pleased that the policemen didn’t believe a story that they had walked in on someone planting contraband among legitimate shipments.
The man used a telephone wire to escape the building and the perimeter of the fence. Once away from the police activity, he went back to the city.
Daniel Victor Leong was pleased with his first solo foray as a vigilante, and he wondered what his dad or Uncle Greg would think about his choice for a vocation.
Jogging through the early morning streets, Daniel Leong passed from shadow to shadow like a ghost. He had learned well at the hands of his teacher.
Leong’s father Victor had been a hero nicknamed Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, of all things, back in the 1940s, working almost exclusively with the hero known as the Vigilante. His father used to tell him stories of riding with his Uncle Greg and occasionally working with the Seven Soldiers of Victory. His father’s only regret seemed to be not being around when the Soldiers fought the Nebula-Man and were thrown back in time to their their respective past eras for so long. (*) It was almost as if he blamed himself.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Unknown Soldier of Victory,” Justice League of America #100 (August, 1972).]
Then Uncle Greg returned to the present in 1972. Victor “Stuff” Leong cast off his regrets and was happy to see his one-time partner and true friend returned to the living, even if the ages of the senior and junior partners had been reversed. And then, weeks later, the Dummy came along and murdered Victor Leong.
Thanks to the notorious longtime enemy of the Vigilante’s, Daniel Leong was made an orphan, and he joined his Uncle Greg on bringing the villain to justice in Gotham City, assisted by an aging Police Commissioner James W. Gordon, who retired later that year. Danny liked stopping the bad guys, and he became Stuff Junior for a while, having received some martial arts training by an old man named Richard Dragon. (*) He soon realized that he needed more training, however, and he set off on his own to learn what people could teach him about the secret life he was he was going to live.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Son of a Gun,” World’s Finest Comics #246 (August-September, 1977), “Deathmaze,” World’s Finest Comics #247 (October-November, 1977), and “All the Dummy’s Men,” World’s Finest Comics #248 (December, 1977-January, 1978), which we place on Earth-Two in 1972 rather than on Earth-One; this Richard Dragon is the Earth-Two counterpart of the Earth-One character who starred in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter.]
He also knew he needed a name, and Daniel came up with one inspired both by his original martial arts teacher and by the less-conventional occult teachings he later received. He called himself Dragonmage.