The Seven Soldiers of Victory arrived in Hollywood, and after a brief rest they each set out on their separate journeys with a plan to meet again that night for dinner.
Sir Justin marveled at the splendor of the Hollywood setting. A movie lot with a King Arthur theme caught his eye during a tour. Zounds! That poor varlet shalt ne’er equal the glory and the splendor that was my liege! he mused as he saw an actor reenact the sword in the stone legend.
A scream echoed on the set, and the chivalrous champion of old Britain raced forward to see what was the matter. He saw a timid prop girl run screaming out of her office. Stopping her and calming her down, he asked, “Milady, how might I be of service to you?”
She nearly swooned at his courtly demeanor. “I… in the office!” she cried. “That evil little man! He has it!”
“What is it? I shall assay to stop the bounder!” he said.
“The Maltese Falcon! The prop from the Bogart film. Movie buffs would pay a fortune for the one we used, and that man just broke in and took it!” She shuddered, then suddenly rebounded and looked into his blue eyes, saying, “Are you seeing anyone?”
The Shining Knight smiled. “Duty ever calls the chivalrous away from fair maids like thee!” He then ran into the back office where he spotted a fat, short man in a tuxedo and top hat. “The Penguin! I have heard my ally Batman speak of your dastardly and craven perfidy!”
The Penguin frowned. “Any ally of that flying rat is assuredly an enemy of the Penguin!” he said, cradling the Maltese Falcon under one arm and waving an odd umbrella in the other.
The Shining Knight walked calmly forward as flames shot out to bounce harmlessly off his enchanted armor. “Wak-wak! You’re fireproof!” said the foul bird.
“Mine enchanted armor came from the heart of a meteor and was forged by none less than Merlin himself,” explained Justin as he walked closer and snatched the umbrella away from the Penguin.
“Get him, my flock!” cried the Penguin.
Seven thugs charged the Knight, only to be whipped backward by the flat of his flashing blade. He drove them back, and with swift blows from his mailed fists, he knocked them out cold.
“You do abuse the fair code of combat with your multitudinous assault, but I am worthy to best you all!” he vowed.
But the Penguin made his escape as Sir Justin dodged and battered the gang.
Seeing the Penguin race for a weird, bird-like car, the Shining Knight stood at the window and whistled, and from above his loyal flying stallion Winged Victory quickly descended. Justin leaped into the saddle and rode off in pursuit of the so-called Penguin-mobile. “Onward, my faithful steed! We do duel with a most nefarious fiend this eve!”
Swooping forward, the Shining Knight soon outdistanced the odd, souped-up car, passing the car and riding onward, leaving an astonished Penguin to gaze in wonder.
“Wak-wak! The metal-clad moron went right by me!” said the Penguin. “I guess, in Hollywood, this car doesn’t stand out!”
The Penguin increased his speed, only to gasp as he saw the Shining Knight turn and charge the Penguin-mobile with a lance drawn and positioned. Sir Justin’s aim was as true as was his noble heart, and the enchanted lance shattered the engine of the car, leaving it smoking in the street.
“Stay back, my friends! Yon knave is a most fatal man!” he warned the crowd of autograph-seekers.
The Penguin swung out of the wrecked car and fired another umbrella. A flock of mechanical crows appeared in answer to some signal, and they swooped around the Shining Knight with razor-sharp talons.
The carrion crows of metal do seek to assail me! thought Justin. He doubted they could pierce his armor, but his bare face was vulnerable. He drew his sword and, with a dazzling show of swordsmanship and aim, carved every metal bird to bits before he could even be touched.
The Penguin tried to flee once more, but a man from the crowd stepped forward to trip him. He fell hard and jumped up to swing at Sir Justin. The Shining Knight ducked and flattened the Penguin with his good right hand. He dragged him back to the police along with the priceless Maltese Falcon. “Thank you, my friend, for that timely aid!” he said to the handsome man who had tripped the Penguin.
“Think nothing of it!” the man said with a sweeping bow and a twinkle in his eye. “Sir Justin, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sir Justin replied. “And who are you, good sir?”
“Errol Flynn, a swashbuckler like yourself… only I do mine on camera!” he said.
Sir Justin nodded and headed for the authorities.
Greg Sanders smiled as he strolled around the set of his first movie. He was set to become the newest singing cowboy, following in the steps — or boots, as the case may be — of Gene Autry. He admired the set of The Prairie Troubadour and marveled at the sheer size of the Stellar Studios western lot.
I bet my grand-pappy lived in this kinda place. He was a lawman in the Old West, and I like to think of him as the first Vigilante. I hope he’s lookin’ down on me with approval. ‘Course, his saloon weren’t made of this fake Hollywood stuff! he thought with amusement.
Greg listened as Guy Bonde, the director, and the stuntman Rick Leeds explained the first scene of the morning. “So, Greg, darling, just look starry-eyed at Veronica while you sing the theme and ride the stage into Harmony,” he was told.
Veronica Lake smiled and climbed up on the stage coach next to him. “Don’t be nervous,” she whispered. “Just pretend we’re old friends out for a drive!”
“I reckon that’d be a whole lot easier if you weren’t one of the biggest glamor gals to come outta Hollywood!” he said with a smile.
She looks like Liberty Belle, he mused. Maybe I kin just treat it like an All-Star Squadron case — minus the Brain Wave or Ultra!
As they rolled down the street of the Western stage set for Harmony, he sang the theme song, and his nerves ebbed.
Suddenly, the horse neighed and raced off at breakneck speed. The wagon swayed dangerously, and the crew caught their collective breath. Greg Sanders grabbed the reigns and pulled back as Veronica Lake clung to him in fear.
“No use! Somethin’ spooked him fierce!” he said. “Gotta try another trick!”
Catching the famous actress up in his arms, he leaped off the speeding wagon. Rolling in the air, Greg landed hard with Veronica cradled in his arms and cushioned from most of the impact.
Ignoring the pain, he jumped up and dived for the back of the speeding wagon. Gripping the edge, he heaved himself aboard with effort. He climbed down to the seat and jumped between the horses, then landed and slowly pulled them to a stop by skill and daring.
Then he examined a saddle and found a thorn. “This here drove ’em wild,” he said with a frown. “When I pulled the reins, they tightened up, and the thorn stuck one of ’em. This weren’t no accident.”
Greg Sanders frowned as Guy and Rick searched for answers. “Look, Rick was responsible for the equipment,” said Guy Bonde. Looking at the stuntman, he said, “What game are you playing?”
Rick Leeds turned red with anger. “I don’t know what you mean!” he told the director. “I had nothing to do with this! I’ve been in this biz for years without any trouble till I signed on for your film!”
Greg expected more trouble, and he knew it was most likely going to be aimed at him. He did the next scene in the bunkhouse and prepared for the shootout. He then saw his enemy Roger Gwen playing Black Bart. He knew they were to draw and fire the blanks at each other, and he was to win.
The scene started when Greg spoke up. “Hold it! I want to see that gun.” He looked over Gwen’s gun and emptied it of real bullets.
Gwen almost fainted. “I could have killed you!”
“I reckon that was the idee!” drawled Greg.
Rick ran up. “I had those guns double-checked. It’s impossible!”
His aide Jim Jones grinned. “You didn’t have me do the checking. You did it personally, and that’s not your style normally. I’d say what I heard last night when you were drinking explains it. You want Greg’s job!”
“You liar!” Rick shouted. “I didn’t check the guns — you did!”
Greg stepped between them. “I can clear this up. I looked ahead at the ropes for the next scene. Sure ’nuff, they had been cut to break when I tried to swing across the canyon in that scene. The cut was made by a lefty. That ain’t you, Rick. That’s Jim. He’s the skunk anglin’ for my job or yours!”
Jim Jones stepped backward. “I don’t know what you mean. This is wrong. No proof!”
“I don’t need no proof,” said Greg. “I’m not a lawman. Just a justice-seeker, and I know your name — and record, too. I called a policeman pal of mine, and he says Jim Jones has a criminal record a mile long!”
Jones ripped out a gun. “OK, you got me. But I can still see you dead!”
Greg fired first, for he had also drawn, and quicker. The gun flew out of Jim’s hand. Greg waved him aside. “I outdrew ya, and I can make the next bullet go just where I choose!”
Cowboy Jim Jones knew he was outgunned. He was not a criminal in the league of the Shade or Per Degaton, and he knew it. (*) “I give up. I did it all! I did want Rick’s job.”
[(*) Editor’s note: Cowboy Jim Jones would later plague the Green Lantern as a criminal posing as a costumed hero called White Star; see “Green Lantern Vs. White Star,” Green Lantern #34 (September-October, 1948).]
Greg tied him up and turned him in to the police. As Veronica Lake kissed him, he said, “This actin’ is a purty good life!”
The sight of the relocation camp sickened Lee Travis. He had seen the bloodshed of many a battle in two identities. He had stood in the ranks of heroism with Zatara, Superman, Doll Man, Nadir, and Doctor Occult as one of the first mystery-men. However, he knew this was a wrong unlike many he had battled, because it was caused by his government and his country, not the Axis or a masked thug like Doctor Weerd.
He didn’t believe that the loyalty of these Japanese immigrants and their American-born children should be in doubt. Indeed, his own information showed that literally none of those interred had been guilty of anything except being born racially diverse.
Lee could do little about it as the Crimson, even though he had been given the additional nickname of the Avenger as well. He hoped that, as newspaper publisher Lee Travis of the Daily Globe-Leader, he could expose the injustice of the plight of those ripped from their homes for no good reason.
He and Wing had left in despair after seeing the people within and their so-called protectors standing guard over them. Now, turning from the Japanese-Americans to the Chinatown district where Wing’s childhood friend had settled, he hoped for some sense of peace.
Wing smiled with quiet pleasure as he hugged the demure woman named Lu Chan. She smiled, and her beauty was evident.
She’s just a kid, mused Lee. Younger than Wing, maybe younger than Speedy and the Kid!
She led them to her shabby apartment and eagerly offered them refreshments. “It is so nice to see Wing again. We were separated in 1937 when my family died during the mass evacuation, because of the Japanese invasion of Suiyan.”
Wing nodded. Although he had been raised since childhood in New York City, he had returned to China briefly before the Japanese invasion and had barely managed to escape with his life after doing all he could to protect his family still living there. “It occurred so fast. Many were uprooted forever. Finding Lu Chan like this is due to your kindness and resources as a press man!”
Lee smiled. “Glad I could do something good.”
A cry brought them to the window. Below they saw a bright figure in white and red. “What the–?” said Lee.
“The Red Dragon!” said Lu Chan. “He leads the gangs in our city! He is feared by many as a very evil man!”
They saw the Red Dragon and his gang frightening the residents of the street stores with random acts of violence, and Lee Travis could immediately tell that this was not the same Red Dragon who was the enemy of the Shining Knight, and whom the Law’s Legionnaires had battled during their first gathering, when they defeated the Hand. (*) This Red Dragon was evidently Oriental rather than Occidental.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Blueprint for Crime,” Leading Comics #1 (Winter, 1941-1942).]
“He has never acted so ruthlessly. He loses profit by this damage!” said Lu.
“He’ll lose teeth soon!” vowed Lee.
The rapid disappearance of Lee Travis and Wing How and the sudden appearance of the Crimson Avenger and Wing was no mystery to the clever Lu Chan. She knew Wing and thus knew at once who was behind the mask. She could be trusted, however, since the Chinese girl had a secret all her own.
The Red Dragon fired flames from his wrists, where tiny nozzles could be glimpsed embedded in his ornate costume. “Death to all who oppose me!” he cried in Chinese.
“Count me on that select list, villain!” said the Crimson Avenger.
Wing raced through the teaming streets of Chinatown to pull children and old people to safety and to halt the rampaging Red Dragon Gang. His martial arts skills enabled him to subdue them with little effort. He spun, punched, and jabbed with precise aim and little brutality, and soon made his presence known.
The Red Dragon flamed up again and fired at the Crimson Avenger, who leaped for cover and released his red mist. It obscured the street scene and painted a garish picture of the Dragon’s gleaming armor and the darting, shadowy Avenger in his sleek, form-fitting red costume.
“I need not see you to bring you out, American!” said the Dragon. “I may burn this village of rabble to the ground unless you step out!”
The Crimson Avenger shoved a straw dummy out into the street from an open store. The Red Dragon destroyed it, and in that moment Lee was upon him. He fought with a silent rage, for he could see that this Dragon was not acting randomly, but on orders from the Axis cause. That made this Chinese man a traitor to his people. It angered Lee. He pounded him ceaselessly and with little grace. For once the Avenger avenged without regard for his own conduct.
The battered Red Dragon ripped free from his grip and clicked a device. The nearest building suddenly erupted in flame.
Wing gasped in horror as the walls buckled down toward them. Then a rapid blur raced by them, and with sheer will and power shoved the crumbling wall aside away from them. She wore a green and white costume and was a Japanese-American and sometime member of the All-Star Squadron.
“Tsunami!” cried Wing.
“Yes. I followed you from visiting the relocation camp where I have family,” she said. “I admired the passion and concern you displayed so clearly. I followed you, and I fear I have learned your secrets, but I am glad to be in service to one who is not blinded by race and sees clearly, unlike justice!”
Wing saw the angry Red Dragon race off and stop suddenly as a costumed woman blocked his flight. She wore black and gold, and her lovely face was masked by silk. She moved with speed and talent, kicking the Dragon flat.
“I know that move — I taught it to you!” said Wing.
“It’s Lady Fear!” cried a watcher. “She has stopped the Dragon’s reign at last!”
Lady Fear, who was really Lu Chan behind her veil, nodded and disappeared in the streets.
“Wing, you have a very special friend, there!” said the Avenger.
Tsunami nodded. “As do I, if I may call you both allies.” They shook hands with her and watched her walk off.
“Odd, one Chinese man who is a traitor to his people, and one Japanese-American who is loyal to our cause,” mused Lee. “The one who would be locked away according to the law of the land is our ally, while the criminal one is legally free until now.”
“Justice is often imperfect,” said Wing.
The Avenger nodded grimly.