Showcase: Insect Queen
The Last Laugh, or Cocoon
Lana Lang undergoes a metamorphosis as the Insect Queen when one of her TV reviews angers a not-so-merry Prankster!
“Canceled?! What do you mean The Last Laugh has been canceled? It can’t be!” shouted the Prankster.
“Sorry, pal,” whined a nervous producer. “It was a great idea for a game show — embarrassing folks as they compete for money, using a reformed villain as the host. But the ratings dropped out, and look at all the bad reviews, like this one from the Daily Star.”
The former Oswald Loomis felt angry and hurt. He had served his time and was a reformed citizen. He had sold the network on the idea of a game show hosted by himself in full Prankster costume and using his patented — but softened — technology. He had even followed the tradition of recent celebrities like Cher, Prince, and Madonna and changed his name legally to the Prankster. And now he had lost his beloved show due to hacks like this Lana Lang woman.
Her Daily Star review began thusly:
“Could the comedy coroner please tell the Prankster that Vaudeville is long dead, that Letterman is a funnier gap-toothed comic, and that his lame Last Laugh (pray that it is) show needs to be declared D.O.A. (Dead On the Air), stat!”
“I’ll have revenge upon her!” muttered the portly old man in the loud green suit. “I’ll teach Miss Lana Lang what it means to ruin the dreams of the artist known as the Prankster! She’ll slip on a banana peel to oblivion!”
Lana Lang was hit directly in the face with a cream pie, and then her costly dress unraveled, leaving her blushing in her underwear in the middle of the Daily Star office.
Suddenly, her tired office girl Betty Brant was snapped out of her daydreaming of ways her demanding boss-lady could get hers. Betty had just finished taking Ms. Lang’s laundry in for cleaning, and she had just been hoping for a few minutes of peace, when Lana screeched, “Betty!”
Betty raced into the office of the Daily Star‘s top TV/film critic. Lana Lang was a redhead (now thanks solely to hair dye) with a lined face (despite two face lifts) and an aging body. She had a short temper and made Betty’s life miserable. If only that opening for that kindly old man at the Bugle would open up. Lana was standing at the window when Betty ran inside. “Yes, Ms. Lang?”
“What is that?” said Lana. “Something Jimmy dreamed up for publicity without my approval?” She pointed at a huge jack-in-the-box-styled object plastered with glamor shots of a younger Lana from her time on TV and as a Rockette. The giant box was easily seven feet tall and equally broad. It sat in the middle of the street in front of the Daily Star Building.
A fat old man whom Lana suddenly spotted and soon recognized as the Prankster stepped out of the crowd of gawkers to shout through a loudspeaker, “Bring me Lana Lang, or this box opens and blows this whole block to TV limbo!”
Oh, no! This is not my day, thought Lana.
Sending the hapless Betty back to her desk and locking her door, she hesitated for a moment, then pulled a colorful, brown-and-yellow costume and a long, flowing, blonde wig out of her locked office closet. “I guess with Superman missing, it’s time for the Insect Queen to fly once more.”
Lana had briefly had a career as a costumed villain-turned-heroine in the 1950s when her father had gifted her with a magic scarab that gave her control over insects. Professor Lang had uncovered it on one of his digs. He was now ninety-five, yet he retained his mental health. Lana wondered if she had done so as she squeezed her body into the costume from her younger days. These days, her muscles ached from even a walk upstairs. How could she pull this off? Yet she had no doubt that the madman could blow up the block. Police had never been able to deal with his type. That’s why the city needed Superman so desperately.
Now dressed as the Insect Queen, Lana drew out a few glass containers and scooped up the ants in her office plant, then slipped out the window and willed them to grow. They became the size of horses and awaited her command. She stepped on the back of the red one, and down they flew to where the Prankster’s box rested.
She willed the first ant to seize the box in his mighty mandibles. Ants could easily lift larger objects than their body weight. The box tilted dangerously, and in a brainstorm, Lana ordered a silkworm from another vial to grow. The bug did so and spun a weaving of fiber around the top of the box, keeping it tightly shut while the ants carried it up and miraculously away to the harbor.
The Prankster ran forward after recovering from his understandable fear of the giant insects. Lana turned only in time to receive a squirt of some acidic liquid directly in the chest. She screamed and dropped to the ground without noticing that the irate Prankster had been subdued by a team of special forces police officers. She rolled in pain, and her life flashed before her mind’s eye.
She had been the spoiled daughter of a traveling archeologist who had pampered his princess, and she had seen the world by her teens. She had been Miss Metropolis of 1939 and had even been a Rockette for a time. Her beauty landed her a spot as a TV commentator with stars like Libby Lawrence and Steve Lombard. She had been haunted by rumors that her looks earned that position, so she had boldly quit TV. Clark Kent, the editor of the Star, had given her a chance to write. She had since made it into a thirty-plus-year career.
Funny, her looks had never brought her the one man she loved. Where was he now? If only the magic scarab could heal her. If only she could will herself back to a second chance at life. But what good could insect magic do?
The magic scarab responded to her frantic pleas. A cocoon formed around her damaged body, and she slept.
Hours later, she felt air upon her face as the cocoon broke open. She arose healed and miraculously young again. Like the transformation of a larvae to a butterfly, the scarab had made her young, beautiful, and healthy once more. She would not waste this second chance. First, she’d get Betty some flowers, then she’d get a new, flashier costume.
The Insect Queen was back.