Nadir the Master of Magic followed the mystic trail that led him to the ruins of a demolished old home in the southern part of the the region. He mustered his concentration and received a clear image of the yellow-hued creature within.
He is not evil. He merely seeks to protect his homeland, he mused. I can’t argue with that, yet something tugs at me to enter his presence and seek answers.
But Nadir did not get a chance to ask the questions, since the Skritek bounded out of the rubble to attack the elegantly suited East Indian prince.
The mystic struggled against the monster’s inhuman power with little luck. In a purely physical brawl, Nadir was truly a beginner. He tried a desperate ploy. He sent his thoughts across the city until they echoed in the mind of the Unknown. This being of power was not known to Nadir. He merely tried to summon help, and by fate’s whims, a man with enough raw power to make a difference was near.
Bounding through the sky, almost flying, came the darkly handsome Clark Kent — the Unknown. He smiled boyishly and said, “I see you can’t get along with anybody!” to the red-eyed beast. He tackled the monster and rolled him off of a relieved Nadir.
“Great Scott! Superman!” cried Nadir, who instantly sensed the hero’s true identity through the misty veil that clouded his memory.
The Unknown caught a talon in one fist and twisted hard enough to wrench the creature’s wrist out of socket. He hesitated as his keen ears caught the name Superman. “That is my name!” he recalled, only to shudder under a sudden blast of magical power from the Skritek.
Nadir took a chance and jumped forward to touch Superman’s head. The memories surged back, fully restored, and he smiled grimly.
“Thanks, pal!” said Superman. “Now let me return the favor! This thing needs a lesson in picking his foes better. He must be trying to defend his home, and that’s my goal, too. Though I’ve been going about it in an odd way these last few days, thanks to his spell!” He lifted the beast skyward and heaved him through the stony rubble.
Before he could do much more, the Nazi troops in the region of Austria closed in on the hovel of Heinrick Donher, who had stolen the Spear of Destiny hours before the Axis forces took the city. He watched helplessly as an Axis leader ripped the talisman from his hands.
A shudder passed through both Nadir and Superman. Nothing had been activated yet, but the weapon would soon reach one who knew what its magic could do.
The Skritek faced his foes warily. He seemed about to attack anew when Nadir and Superman worked as a team to restrain and then reawaken the human mind within the monstrous form.
“Mein! What ist this? What have I wrought?” muttered the poor man through inhuman lips.
“We want to help you. We, or I, rather, came here to drive back the thugs who bullied their way into taking a piece of this land. I’m the Unknown!” said Superman as if on whim.
Nadir understood the American’s desire to act without drawing down repercussions upon his neutral homeland. Thus, for this case, the hero would be called only the Unknown.
“I am Skritek!” he said. “That is the name of what I have become. I am sorry if my zeal brought harm to you who could be allies!”
“I’m rather hard to hurt, so don’t worry yourself!” said Superman.
“That is subject to change!” roared a massive creature who rose literally from the earth to menace them all. It had multiple limbs and jagged teeth, and seemed to lack any purpose other than destruction of all living beings. It had been conjured up from the same regions out of which the benign Skritek also ventured through more scientifically blended means.
Nadir gestured, and the monster’s smashing bulk crashed down apparently upon the suave wizard, but in truth feet away from the man.
“Illusions? Nice method!” muttered Superman.
Nadir nodded. “I try!”
Superman stared at the creature, then leaped at it and struck its body at a precise spot, causing it to scream.
“Ah, you were able to spot the creature’s weakest point,” said Nadir. “Do you have a mystical third eye providing you with perception beyond ordinary sight?”
“No third eye,” said Superman with a shrug. “I call it x-ray vision.”
Skritek rolled forward and clawed the monster back, only to fall beneath a swinging limb.
The Axis troops in Vienna brandished the Spear. “The Führer will be pleased!” They little knew just what a treasure they had located.
When word of the discovery reached Adolf Hitler, he immediately gave orders that a special envoy should waste no time in delivering the artifact to him. It was dispatched accordingly. Superman’s fate rested in the hands of men who would hesitate at nothing to master his awesome powers. At this point, the Axis intelligence could only confirm that a powerful being in black aided the nationalists.
At that moment, the Skritek fell as the creature summoned by accident thrust itself into his scaly hide with cruel talons. Superman charged the monster relentlessly as Nadir concentrated and tried to stave off further attacks. The fight raged on as pavement stones shattered in a rain upon the struggling figures.
With every second they fought, the Spear crept closer to the possession of the madman who would use it to enslave the super-powered foes who dared invade his Axis dominion.
Superman froze the creature with icy breath, and Nadir dashed forward to send his own commanding thoughts into the mind or what passed for a brain of the monster.
In a thunderous puff of smoke, the beast was banished to its netherworld home, while the heroes bent over the wounded Skritek.
“Nadir managed to send it packing! Are you badly injured?” asked Superman.
Nadir frowned. “I think the poor man is hurt but will recover. He may heal himself magically.”
Superman suddenly stiffened as the Spear of Destiny entered the Reich base that currently housed Hitler. At that moment, his future and perhaps also the fate of the free world, hung in the balance.
He was saved when a sandy-haired man in a faded aviator jacket attacked the Nazi troops in Vienna as he fought to escape from within the Nazi stronghold. He slugged a trooper and kicked one flat. The Spear dropped for a second, and he gripped it long enough to battle free before an agent retrieved it.
“Let the fool go! The Spear is of more importance!” ordered their leader.
“He was spying upon the Führer!” whined another.
“He shall be dealt with,” assured the leader.
The distraction made all the difference, since the delay gave Nadir the chance to urge Superman to cross the border with him.
“Why the urgency? I have a job to do!” said an annoyed Man of Steel.
“I can only say that something spoke to me through the ways of magic,” urged Nadir in agreement to the magical compulsion that spoke to him from the Spear itself. “It demanded that I get you out of Nazi-held lands immediately. Trust me on this: you must not return here until I personally vouch that the danger is passed. Will you trust me in this matter? I did restore your memories.”
Superman agreed, and they returned to their normal lives. Nadir vanished not long afterward, and thus never did get to fully explain the weird danger posed by the Spear. Perhaps he didn’t know what it meant himself.
The sandy-haired hero who had fought his way to freedom and unknowingly gave Nadir time to get the greatest of the mystery-men out of the range of the Spear was Cliff Cornwall. He had spied upon the Nazi leader for a friend, and the government would one day thank him for it — if they could find him. This was uncertain, since Cliff was only one alias of many, all used by America’s brave defender, Tex Thomson. (*) He would return to the heart of Germany years later and serve equally well before coming home and fighting on under dozens of other names.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Tex Thomson: An American Tale.]