Later it would all seem funny that the clue she had needed to realize how her world had changed had been something so subtle as her father’s smile. After all, Alex DeWitt had so much going for her, in terms of her keen mind, travel experience, and interpersonal skills, that one would have assumed the blonde photographer would have spotted some other sign. Still, she was a photographer, and that, more than her role as a new heroine, defined her life. She had the eye of the photographer, and she had memories of childhood that were enshrined in those precious photos. Maybe it was natural that a beloved picture would reveal even more to the perceptive young woman than an alien power ring. In any event, she later realized exactly when the changes had occurred in all their slightly ominous subtlety.
Alex had returned from a job involving a corporate tour and two super-powered villains. (*) Now, that little description amused the lithe blonde. She had never expected that her hours of training and practice in the art of photography would eventually become merely part of the training she required in her chosen profession. Then again, those little words said a lot.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Corona and Arsenal: Girls’ Night Out.]
Chosen profession, she thought. I may have chosen to become a photographer; I even dreamt of it. Still, I never imagined that another, more deadly role would choose me! How could I have known that my boyfriend would be given a magic ring by mistake, and that he, in turn, would pass it on to me? Or that I would use that ring to fight crime along with legends like the Green Lantern and other JSA members and their kids! (*)
Alex ran a hand through her blonde hair and gently touched the photo on her nightstand. It revealed a middle-aged man with a certain air about him. He was not handsome in a conventional way. He lacked that boyish charm Kyle Rayner had possessed. He did not have the silver screen idol looks of a man like Alan Scott. Still, Alexander DeWitt had possessed a twinkle in his eye and a slightly crooked smile that let people know that he was something special. He had a vitality about him that did not fade, even when captured artificially in a photograph taken by his little girl years ago.
She had taken the photo of her late father when she received her first camera from him. Her mother had scolded the irrepressible man of the house for buying such an adult present for a little girl. Amanda DeWitt had frowned in consternation and sighed in resignation when Alexandra, as she was actually named, tore open the wrapping paper to reveal the expensive camera.
“Alex, really! A camera of that quality is not a fit present for a child!” her mother had said.
Alex DeWitt had flashed the crooked grin and swept his wife into his arms. “Now, Mandy, what would you have me do? Buy her a Barbie dream house every year?” he had said. “This gift may lead our little Alex into an exciting new world of possibilities. That’s the best gift you can ever give. You like it, eh, Alex?”
Alexandra, who seldom used her given name, had been thrilled. Nothing her father could ever do was ever wrong in her eyes.
“I love it, Daddy!” she had squealed. “Thank you so much! Let me take your picture!”
Her baby sister Aimee had pouted as she idly trailed a teddy bear along in her wake. “I’d rather have a Malibu Barbie!” whined the small child.
Alex smiled now as she gazed at the photo and thought of her late father. Daddy, even you did not know what kind of new world would open up to me through your gift, she thought.
Perhaps it had actually started in a movie theatre, where Alex and Jennie-Lynn Hayden had rushed in to catch an art house showing of the Judy Garland classic, Meet Me in St. Louis. Jennie-Lynn, alias Jade of Infinity Inc., loved the film and adored Garland. She talked in her usual rapid way, and Alex grinned as she realized that, when Jennie was excited about a topic, she really didn’t require another speaker.
“I did Oz in school, and yet I always felt that Judy brought just as much feeling to St. Louis,” she said, gushing. “That scene at the window when she sings The Boy Next Door really sends me! If I could bring emotion like that — pathos, joy, and larger than life vitality to my acting — then I would really be somebody special!”
Alex nudged her gently. “You will. You can’t expect to come from an apple pie-type family like the Haydens of Wisconsin and carry Garland-level vulnerability around with you. Give yourself time to grow,” she urged.
Suddenly, a tall man with a gaunt body and a grim expression stood up and said, “Could you kindly stop your inane chatter? This type of rudeness in a public entertainment complex is a blatant example of the overall decay that rots modern society like a canker!” he said in a venomous but precise tone.
As Jennie-Lynn stammered an apology, Alex watched the rather prissy man fade into the darkness of the theater. He was frighteningly familiar to her in some way.
She forgot about him as she slipped into a pair of light green pajamas and smiled sadly as she recalled her childhood evenings from years before. Too often her dad had been away on business, and she had been forced to go to bed without his kiss goodnight. She had comforted herself with the various photos she had collected in her early, mad-but-exciting rush headlong into photography. Now she glanced at the photo from the birthday party and blinked in surprise. In the dim light of her bedroom, the old photo seemed different. Some joy or sparkle was missing from the features she knew so dearly. She sat up suddenly and glanced around the room.
Funny, I didn’t recall leaving the place in such order before heading out for the trip where I met up with Buffy, she thought. Guess the housekeeping fairy is looking out for me. Even the carpet looks clean. The worn spot seems level and as thick as a new rug.
She looked once more at her father’s picture and wondered what made it look different.
The next day found the attractive young blonde in the offices of the magazine called Okay. She hoped to interest the gruff editor in her portfolio and find a freelance job or two.
He bit down on his cigar and said, “Your work is sloppy, Ms. DeWitt. Oh, you have potential, but you have failed to nurture it. Hard work is the only way to advance. You should bring order to your artistic vision. Tame it with a sense of how things should be. Order is vital above all else! You need that if you want to last at Okay.”
She glanced at his desk. Nothing was out of place. The paperclips were even lined up neatly. “Mr. Jameson, I think you miss the point of my vision,” she began.
He cleared his throat and said, “You need to bring control to your work. Do not darken my door until you have learned to see the world in terms of a place in need of tightly regulated control. That is the only method by which decay may be checked!”
She rose slowly and wondered about his odd tirade. As she opened the office door, she frowned at the sight of the name painted on the office door.
“Julius Black? I was certain his name was Jameson!” she said with a puzzled tone.
She now flew over the city in her gold and white Corona costume and enjoyed the warm sun and the sensation of freedom. The gleaming golden energy of her power ring lifted her lithe form high above the city below.
“Now this is living!” she sighed. “How I wish Daddy could have lived to see me. He would have loved the whole Corona gig. I can’t even bring myself to tell Mother or Aimee about it.”
She frowned as her peaceful patrol turned into a sudden scene of danger. She used the ring’s energy to create a magnifying lens that revealed in minute detail the scene she had glimpsed from above. A man was rushing out of a store with the air of a man used to trouble.
“Oh well,” she said. “I suppose it’s time for this girl to prove she has some sense of order!”
She dropped downward with the ease of practice. Her slightest thought or urge directed the amazing power of the ring. It responded to her thoughts with ease. She confronted the man in his mad flight.
“Hold it, pal. I think you have something that belongs to that store — something like their payroll!” she joked.
The handsome man had brown hair and good features. He had a dashing charm about him that appealed to her in some subtle way. He also looked familiar. She had seen him somewhere before. Most likely on a wanted poster, she said to herself.
“I’m not afraid of you. Take me in — if you can,” he said in a cocky manner.
She created a golden sphere that encircled him and held him fast until she could turn him in to the police.
An officer with a thin mustache and prim manner greeted her and led him away. “Thank you for your assistance,” he said. “Without people like you, this world would crumble away into lawlessness and sheer chaos. Sometimes I wondered if it deserves our efforts.”
She nodded silently. Weird cop. Something creepy about him. He gives me the chills!
The thin cop led away the thief and sneered as he shoved him forward. “Jordan, you did not think you could ever truly best me?” he said in a mocking tone.
Corona flew off and pondered what she had seen and heard. I don’t know the name Jordan, she thought. I guess he was some small-time punk. Still, the cop was bizarre. He spoke like the villain in some old-time drama. He reminded me of the guy from the movies or like Black from Okay Magazine.
She shivered inside the golden energy aura that surrounded her as she saw the flash of lightning.