At the same time that Libby Chambers was ushering Selena into her home that day in 1955, her husband was dodging lightning bolts aimed at him with lethal intent.
“You’ll have to get up mighty early in the morning to catch Mrs. Quick’s little boy napping! In fact, you’ll need to stay up all night!” quipped Johnny Quick as he ran in between the destructive bolts of lightning that raced out from the hands of the green-robed and hooded figure before him.
“I don’t need to hit you to get rid of you, you fleet-footed fool!” said the villain wearing the costume of the old foe of Superman and the JSA known as the Lightning Master. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Lightning Master,” Superman #14 (January-February, 1942).]
Spotting a bolt streak directly for a startled onlooker outside the First National Bank, Johnny flung himself forward and pushed the lady to safety, even as a bolt struck him in the back. He moaned and fell to the pavement, with smoke rising from his costume.
Great! Johnny-boy, you’ve done it now, he thought. Libby getting more distant every minute, and you get yourself fried by this goon!
The villain ripped off the green hood to reveal long blonde hair and a lovely face. “I am the Lightning Mistress, daughter of the Lightning Master,” she snarled. “It is in my father’s name that I kill you!”
“Not so fast, you hussy!” said a determined female voice, and a powerful blonde figure landed after vaulting over a wall.
“Fury!” sighed a happy Johnny as he wearily moved to his feet.
The blonde in golden armor smiled at her uncle and charged the Lightning Mistress.
“Die! Die! Die!” cried the angry woman.
Fury deflected the lightning bolts off her armored wrist plate and tackled the blonde criminal. Sparks flew upward as Fury pummeled her senseless with one swift slap.
“Thanks! Nice save,” said Johnny after they turned in the Lightning Mistress.
“I am so glad to see you!” said Helena Kosmatos.
“I missed you and Libby during my research work,” she said proudly. “I did finish my doctoral work, though. Greek Culture and Myth: A Comparative Study.”
“I told you that when you need info, go straight to the source, and you can’t get a better source for ancient Greek stuff than Queen Hippolyta and the Amazons,” he said.
“My surprise is how easy it was to let a few months turn into three years there!” said Helena. “I learned a lot, and I may have a book on Greek relics out of it, too.”
“I know you and the Queen became close, according to Diana,” he said.
“She was wonderful! Almost like a second mother to me! But tell me, how is Libby?”
“She’s fine, although Libby is pretty mad about my career,” sighed Johnny. “She wants a normal family life, and I am not a normal family man!”
“She knew that when she married you,” added his niece loyally.
Back in the Chambers home, Libby had to admit that Selena had charmed her with her naive eagerness to be a mystery-woman.
“I know your mentor Aquaman worked with Johnny once or twice and with the Green Arrow, but aside from a Squadron meeting or two, I never really knew Mr. Curry.”
“He is a noble man, and I want to carry on his heroic legacy,” Aqua-Girl said. She abruptly added, “How far along are you?”
“Six months! Feels like six years!” joked Libby.
“So, Aquaman said Johnny could start me right,” Aqua-Girl said, switching topics once again.
“I know he’ll help, but I want him to retire, so I don’t know how he could do much for you,” said Libby, frowning.
Charles Lane never knew his real father. His stepfather Chuck Lane had adopted him sometime after he had returned to this world from Earth-X in 1943, and he really considered himself the Jester’s successor. He had every desire to suit up and be a figure of daring and thrills, but he cared little about fighting crime or justice. It was sheer adventure he sought, though he never told his cop dad that.
He got the usual thrill when he embraced his girlfriend Deena Loomis. She was blonde, spirited, and smart, and so sure of herself. He loved the feeling of just letting the assured blonde lead him and do the thinking.
“Hello, you!” she purred.
“Hi, there! How about we get married right now?” he joked.
“I’ll be there with bells on!” she teased.
“No, the bells are part of my outfit!” he replied with a grin.
“Oh, no! Not the Jester suit again!” she said. “That isn’t what I had in mind!”
“Look, Deena, he is serious about it, and I get a rush out of the life,” he said. “Rooftops and danger and all that.”
“You love me?” she teased.
“More than anything!” he added.
“Prove it,” she said in a challenging tone. “Think with your head, not your daddy’s ego! You can live the life and not be the man he was! You can get rich and not be a poverty-stricken cop! I mean, you’re going to have to drop out of college due to the funds!”
“Crime?” he laughed, thinking she was kidding. “I mean, that’s not my style, baby.”
“It is not a style,” she said seductively. “It’s the road to wealth, comfort, security, thrills, and… oh, yes, little ol’ me!”
Charles ignored her except to kiss her again and again.
The black-suited feline motif of Bearcat looked far more dangerous on Sammy Skinner than it did when his dad had played Tomcat years ago.
“You got the look, kid!” said Ted Grant. “Real TKO!”
“Thanks, sir!” said Sammy Skinner. “Can I pull off the image? It’s close to your look, and I would never want to let you down.”
“Naw! I believe in you, and your talents are first-rate,” he said. “You and Edmund make a good team.”
Bearcat nodded. “I think so, too. Ed really lives up to his Mister Alpha name, and he knows so much, and he’s so smart. He could be a leader, not just a street brawler.”
“Takes both kinds, sometimes,” said Wildcat.
Several weeks passed, and Fury noticed that Johnny’s obsessive desire to train Selena made Libby ever more edgy. The disagreement between Johnny and herself about their life choices was making her icy and distant.
Wearing a white teddy and slippers, one night Libby shouted at him, “I need you, not some second-generation JSA! Not the Riddler or the Brain Wave! But me, your wife, the mother of your child. You either end the Quick identity, or I’ll end my own as Mrs. Chambers!”
Johnny Chambers sputtered and tried to get by on charm, but to no avail. “Libby, honey, I know how important it is to you that we establish a normal life for our baby,” said Johnny. “You even considered giving up your career to be a full-time mom, and I know that is a big decision. I want to be there for you both, but I’m a contender for the fastest man on Earth, especially since the Flash retired, and I know I can do both family man things and super-hero duties. I can be here in a second from anywhere… well, almost anywhere!”
His wife Libby was now eight months pregnant and still lovely in her pale white teddy. She smiled and said, “I don’t question your good intentions, but I really believe that you need to cast aside the hero role and be my husband and our baby’s father. I can make it worth your while, you know!” she said with a seductive smile.
As he started to reply, Helena Kosmatos ran in and said, “There’s a crime going down on the news! I figured you and I and Selena could handle it. She could use the practice, and you’ve trained her for weeks now.”
Libby frowned as her husband planted a kiss on her and led his blonde and golden-armored niece out. “Johnny, don’t you dare walk out on me!” she shouted.
But he was gone.
The downtown area of Civic City was the scene of a fight between the police, including Chuck Lane, and the Superman foe called the Prankster. He and his gang had taken over the block and were being surrounded rather ineffectively by the cops. The main building in which the fat villain held his ground was a research lab.
“Curse them all! They came at the worst possible moment. But are the gems secure?” he asked a blonde in a gold costume and mask.
“Yes, Daddy! I’ve got them, but the gang is getting nervous!” she said hurriedly.
“Bah! Time for a little fun. Humor lightens any crisis!” he laughed.
He sent out five robots with huge wind-up levers on their backs and painted smiles on their faces. “Stole these from that pesky Toyman!” he said, grinning to the delight of his daughter.
Then Johnny Quick, Fury, and Aqua-Girl showed up, but they were not the first heroes on the scene, for Mister Alpha, Bearcat, and Z-Man had also shown up.
The nineteen-year-old Edmund Blake, alias Mister Alpha, wore his red, gold, and blue costume and yelled, “Surrender now! There’s no need to prolong this until someone gets hurt. You just make things worse for yourselves by fighting!”
Next to him were Bearcat and Z-Man. Sammy Skinner, alias Bearcat, was eager for a fight. Rick Nelson, alias Z-Man, had met the pair a week earlier and had explained how he longed to make up for the crimes of his super-villain father.
“Make things worse! Ha! That insipid talk sickens me!” laughed the Prankster.
Z-Man leaped in front of his pals to block a laser beam from a robot’s eyes, his dense body structure allowing him to do so safely.
“Careful of the crowd and rebounds, Z!” instructed Mister Alpha.
Right! thought Rick. He shot up to giant size and slammed his huge fists down on the nearest robot. He shattered it to bits but reeled from a sudden electric shock. “Didn’t expect that!” he said as he returned to normal size in pain.
Mister Alpha kicked the nearest robot in the narrow knee joint and smiled in satisfaction as the spindly leg broke. “Aim for the joint connections!” he yelled.
Bearcat smiled and slammed into a robot with fists flying. “You metal morons won’t go the distance with the Bearcat in the ring!” he said, hammering them ceaselessly as he ignored the pain the blows inflicted on him.
“Daddy, do something!” whined the Prankster’s daughter.
“I will, never fear!” he said assuringly.
Chuck Lane and his men knew to just back off and let the super-heroes handle it, but he made a quick call. “Charles, this is it. Time to get the last laugh!” he whispered.
On the other end of the line, his son answered, “On my way!” Slipping into a modified Jester costume, Charles Lane Junior headed for the crime scene.
Johnny Quick also arrived and streaked around the robots at top speed, his whirlwind sending them crashing into one another. Fury kicked a human gangster in the face and sent a second one flying with a backhanded blow.
Selena the Aqua-Girl leaped high in the air and tackled the Prankster himself. “You garishly clad schemer! Let this lesson be a long-remembered one!” she said in her best-imagined heroine manner. She shook the fat man with ease and watched as dozens of weird prank weapons rained out of his pockets onto the floor. She spun him upside down and continued to shake him.
The blonde daughter of the Prankster fired a gun of her own at Aqua-Girl, only to be tackled by Mister Alpha. “No rear attacks! Fair play always!” he quipped.
She kicked free of him and slugged Selena in the back of the head. The girl ignored the blow and pummeled the Prankster again.
Grinning, Mister Alpha chased the Prankster’s daughter, who ran face to face into the suddenly appearing, madly laughing Jester. “Charles?!” she gasped in shock.
“Deena, what in the world?” he replied as he recognized the girl he loved behind the mask.
His own stepfather looked on eagerly. “Get her, Jester!” he yelled.
“Get me away, darling!” she begged him.
The new Jester hesitated for a minute, then sprayed his adhesive gum in the face of Mister Alpha as he ran up. The hero fell back, and the couple fled into the night.
Chuck Lane turned ashen as the cops yelled, “That Jester guy turned crook, too!”
A gang member activated a discarded Prankster weapon, and the wall exploded from a super-coiled, spring-loaded Jack-in-the-Box.
“Look out!” Fury yelled, and she and Z-Man charged forward to hold up the buckling wall as he surged back up to a giant size. She smiled at the handsome youth, who admired her as well.
Meanwhile, Johnny Quick carried observers to safety as the old building crumbled. Mister Alpha ripped free of the gum and led Bearcat in pursuit of the remaining gangsters. They caught them and made swift work of the thugs as their mentors had taught them before.
Selena saw the Prankster slip off in a speed boat, and she raced into the water like a bolt. Catching up to the craft, she dived below, and with a mighty heave she turned it over and dragged the wet and beaten Prankster to shore.
The crowd cheered, and after a brief dialogue with the younger heroes, Johnny Quick stepped up to a microphone held by a reporter. “You’ve just witnessed the birth of Team Justice,” he said, “a new heroic group dedicated to the ideals of the legendary Justice Society of America!”
“Are you their leader?” asked a reporter.
“Sure am!” he said, smiling.
At home, Libby Chambers had heard it all on the radio via a breaking news report. Sinking to the floor, she screamed in passionate anger at what she saw as his betrayal. “Johnny, how could you?” she moaned in their home. Crying out in pain, she suddenly passed out.
Johnny Chambers knew real grief that night. He returned home triumphantly, only to learn that Libby had been rushed to the hospital by their maid. She had lost the baby. An abnormal heart rate was one factor in the loss of the child.
He blamed himself, and Libby blamed him as well. There were no easy answers and no rapid solutions. However, they did have each other as well as time to grieve, argue, and love. They did all the above in the weeks that followed, and Johnny gave up his Johnny Quick career completely.
By the end of 1955, Team Justice was almost ended before it had even gotten off the ground. Without Johnny Quick to lead them, they turned to Fury, and she and Mister Alpha led the fledgling team of heroes through the hot summer of 1956 and the racial strife that ensued that year, in which bus riots, boycotts, and violence all occurred.
The Chambers stayed in their fragile isolation as Helena Kosmatos moved out and allowed Selena of Atlantis to join her as her roommate. Z-Man and Fury began a romance, and both knew it was pleasant, but it was rather ill-fated, since she could not bring herself to commit. And Edmund Blake managed to balance his studies at Harmouth College with his heroic activities as Mister Alpha, which was easy for the bright young scientist-in-training he had become.
The team operated quietly and without much media attention after their initial debut, although the older heroes knew of them and talked excitedly about these young keepers of their legacy.