Man of Steal
Part 9 of JSA: A Thunder God Among Us
When Superman attacks Thor in an attempt to steal his hammer, Wonder Woman must rein in the thunder god’s fury long enough for them to discover the real story.
Thor nodded appreciatively as he toured the JSA Brownstone. The burly warrior had gained a respect for these mortal champions, and his time with several of their famed members had been of benefit to him. The Asgardian warrior had learned that mercy could be a virtue and not a weakness, and that even the oddest beings of the most unassuming appearances could be heroes.
“By Odin’s beard! That Thunder proved most valiant for one I wrongly judged to be as callow as one of Frigga’s maids!” he said as he looked at a photo of Johnny Thunder.
“Fair play! ‘Tis a creed most striking. Yon mortal’s raiment bespeaks this to have been his code of honor. No wonder the poor man be in cold Hel’s hall!” he said as he stopped at a statue honoring Mister Terrific.
Wonder Woman stepped out of the shadows and said, “I assure you, Terry Sloane must hold a place in Valhalla according your culture, since Mister Terrific was one of our brightest and best. He lived by the code he wore proudly. He knew that a warrior’s greatest claim to honor is found in his desire to help others.”
Thor chuckled loudly. “In truth, once would I have mocked such sentiment. Now, perhaps, I see the merit in your words, fair one! Truly, for a daughter of Midgard, you are as passing fair as the Lady Sif herself! Her golden tresses are rivaled by thine own of midnight hue.”
Wonder Woman smiled. “I would say that was the ale talking, had I not heard that you are a changed man. Thor, I thank you for your praise. Sif’s beauty and valor are known even among the legends of my sisters on Paradise Island. We know of the Norse sagas through our Magic Sphere!”
“This Sphere sounds much like Bragi’s well of seeing,” said Thor. “I find the more I travel the more things in common do all cultures have. Tell me, Princess, what lessons do you have to teach? Thor would learn them most willingly in your care.”
Diana stepped back and said, “My husband has a love of Norse legends. He comes from Midwestern stock, and many of his ancestors came from Scandinavian lands where once your people were worshipped.”
Thor scowled and tossed back his mane of red hair. “Aye, Wonder Woman. Your meaning pierces me as swiftly as the fatal dart that fell good Balder. No more shall I pay suit to even one with your rare charms!”
At that moment, a red and blue figure smashed into the wall and faced them.
“Superman! What in Hera’s name–?” began Diana as her fellow Justice Society member stood among the pulped bricks and dangling wires as alarms sounded around them.
“Get away from that drunken lout! I have a bone to pick with our slumming thunder god, and I’d hate to see you get hurt!” said Superman as he charged toward Thor.
Thor frowned. “Superman, you and I have no strife betwixt us! Why dost thee act as one Berserk with the fury of Tyr himself?”
Superman slammed into the hulking Norseman, and they crashed to the floor. He rained blows down on the fallen Thor with relentless fury. Thor struggled, and his eyes glared out from beneath his shaggy brows.
“So be it!” he roared. “You think to best the scion of Asgard? You seek to cast aside bonds of comradeship forged in battle rare? I say thee nay!” Thor brought both arms down to pin Superman’s own muscular limbs until the Man of Steel’s eyes glowed red, and a fiery beam lanced out to strike Thor and break his hold.
Wonder Woman tossed her golden lasso, and it looped around Superman’s chest. “Superman, I order you to stop and explain yourself!” she commanded.
The golden fiber spun from the gleaming girdle of Aphrodite herself was powerful magic, and it exerted control on all those bound by its expanding bands. Still, Superman flexed his arms and flew higher as Diana pushed down her high-heeled boots and braced herself to withstand the Kryptonian’s flight.
Great Hera! He’s ignoring my commands! she thought. He should have been especially vulnerable to its magic!
Superman spun around like a whirlwind, and Diana gasped as his sudden effort swept even her powerful body off the ground to crash into the rising form of Thor. Superman smiled and slipped off her rope. “Sorry, Amazon. I need your boyfriend’s weapon. I suppose I’ll call this a fair trade!”
He hurled her lasso down and ripped the hammer of Thor out of the warrior’s raised hand. As Superman caught the hammer in his own grip of steel, he backhanded the bank of machinery around him and sent it cascading down to bury the pair below. He flew off and left the two recovering from the sudden and ruthless attack.
“Superman is mad!” roared Thor. “I shall not suffer this craven assault to go unchastized!”
Wonder Woman pushed free of the computers and metal debris and nodded. “That costumed powerhouse is indeed mad. Yet, from the manner in which he resisted my lasso’s command, I’d wager that that figure we just fought was not truly Superman at all!”
Thor frowned. “Seek not to protect your ally, Diana of Paradise Island! ‘Tis not enough for you to claim his purity e’en after I, too, saw his virtue and his valor!”
She shook her head. “Thor, only a non-living being like a robot could resist my magic lasso so easily. You see, that couldn’t have been Superman. I also insist that the real Superman would never attack any foe so wildly. Why would he want your hammer? That also needs answering.”
Thor said, “Verily, I shall follow your lead, shield maiden, but be warned that, if in truth Superman was my attacker, then no ties of friendship shall stay my vengeance!”
Wonder Woman jumped over the damaged equipment and began to work a computer. “That’s it! The robot gives off an energy signature that I can both read and track,” she said. “Athena guide me — I think I know where he is leading us!”
“Then come, and let us give chase to the foul automaton!” said Thor.
Wonder Woman summoned her robot plane, and off they flew in rapid pursuit of the fake Superman. The lovely Amazon princess frowned in concentration as she commanded her plane.
This confirms my fear about the robot’s flight path, she thought. It’s heading directly for a rocky mountainous area which has little, if any, occupation except for Superman’s Secret Citadel! Surely he did not command the robot to attack us? If so, I’m going to need the very speed of Mercury and strength of Heracles himself to keep Thor from harming him before I can get the reasons behind such an action!
Thor brooded as they drew nearer to the flying figure in red and blue. “Noble Hermod himself could not match the speed of this chariot,” he said. “Still, its transparent form gives one an uneasy sensation.”
Diana smiled. “Think of it as a goat cart led by invisible goats.”
Thor nodded. “Wond’rous Woman, in spite of my temper, I believe you when you say our foeman is not the mortal of steel. Do you believe one of his vile blood foes sought to bring down the raging wrath of Thor ‘pon the true Superman?”
“No,” said Diana. “Remember, as soon as he caught your hammer, he fled. He wants it for some purpose.”
“None save Thor may call down the fury of the storm with Mjolnir,” he replied.
Diana said, “True, but the science that created that robot could be capable of many things beyond either of our imaginations.”
They landed and stood before a golden door carved within the very base of the mountain. “Odin himself favored such lofty places and often pondered the ways of the Norns from atop his world seat,” said Thor.
“Superman liked having a place to himself,” she explained. “Few people could get here, even if they had the nerve to trespass on Superman’s sanctuary.”
“The portal be shut as tightly as the ebon gates of Helheim,” said Thor.
“Allow me!” said Wonder Woman, gripping the door and pushing until the massive doorway swung open to reveal the looming sanctuary within.
Thor smiled in appreciation. “Truly she is a worthy mistress for even one such as I!”
She turned and smiled calmly. “Come this way.” They entered the impressive structure and saw many exhibits and machines from Superman’s amazing career. “Alien science, supernatural relics, and mortal craft all line these walls. Superman has faced many threats that would fit well in the myths of either of our peoples!” she explained as she led Thor deeper into the Secret Citadel.
“Does this hallowed hall possess no guardian?” bellowed Thor.
Wonder Woman jumped forward and knocked Thor forward as her gleaming bracelets flashed with astonishing speed.
“Keep down! Those beams of pure energy could kill even you!” she called as she battled a computerized barrage of energy blasts that formed a gleaming red network of death that drew ever closer to her flashing arms.
“The thunder’s master should not lay like a beaten cur!” yelled Thor.
Wonder Woman ignored him and said, “Hera preserve me from male bravado!” She gracefully moved forward into the lightning-fast attack and continued to deflect the energy beams with an uncanny precision. She moved not only with courage and skill, but with a determined intent.
Diana smiled. “If I can just angle this next bracelet move, like so!” She twisted one wrist and deflected the fiery energy beam back along a certain angle, until it shattered a nozzle that arched above them. “I knew I could fuse the weapon if I hit it just so with its own energy,” she explained as Thor jumped to his feet.
“In truth, you are wond’rous! I should likely have charged onward into the inferno and met with perhaps a less-stunning victory,” he said with a shrug.
Wonder Woman smiled at his ever-present ego. He would not admit that a woman had displayed greater battle prowess than a Norse legend. “Superman has no such lethal defense system at his Citadel,” she said. “This proves that our foe is nothing more than an impostor. He wants something from this Citadel just like he desired your hammer.”
“Clever for a female!” said a mocking voice as a man with alien features and an inhumanly gaunt and narrow body walked out to face them. “I am Rak Durr from the 21st century. I have visited this time before, when I first battled Superman and Batman — a pair with legendary status in my era!” (*) The Superman robot stood next to the alien man as he addressed the Amazon princess and the thunder god, waiting for his master to give him his next order.
[(*) Editor’s note: Although a version of this story takes place on Earth-Two, the original story takes place on Earth-One, as seen in “Menace of the Future Man,” World’s Finest Comics #135 (August, 1963).]
“Be you future man or shade of the ancient past, Thor shall teach you the error of your perfidious ways!” said Thor.
Rak Durr laughed, “So you’re Thor, are you? During my earlier time trips, I met a Viking named Thor, who I assumed was the basis for the confused folk legend of Thor. He possessed a mighty hammer he’d carved from a meteor. It was for that hammer that I came to his sixth-century era. I used it along with an alien substance to create a powerful weapon!”
“The hammer you took during your last trip must have been similar to the ones used in the past by the fire ghosts, Fenton, and even Vulcanus!” said Wonder Woman.
Rak Durr nodded. “They were all of a kind. This one is even superior to them, allowing it to grant me great power! I noticed it when this lout appeared in your realm. I saw it on my time-scope and came here with my robotic ally to possess it.”
“You shall possess it not a moment more!” Smiling grimly, Thor ripped the hammer out of the alien’s hand.
“That ‘alien substance’ you sought to commingle with the hammer’s magic is something found here,” said Diana. “By Hera, you want kryptonite!”
Rak Durr nodded. “Exactly! I’ve learned that the mixture of this magical hammer and that dead world’s mineral might alter my metabolism until I may gain vitality and even eternal life!”
Wonder Woman danced forward to kick the Superman robot backward as Thor charged at the alien. She spun around gracefully and dodged the robot in her friend’s image until she led it deeper into the Secret Citadel. She prayed silently, Athena, let my memory be accurate!
She dropped down and hurled her tiara across the room in a wild arc. It missed the robot and sliced through a control panel with perfect precision. Lights gleamed as the tiara flipped up a switch.
The pseudo-Superman laughed. “Diana, you and I should not fight. I celebrate all that is best in Superman, and you could join me in that celebration!”
She smiled as he gasped in shock and slammed into a smooth circle on the wall. “Activating the electromagnet with my tiara was the easiest way to keep you out of my hair, my metal friend!” she laughed. She rushed forward and searched through lead boxes with the speed of Mercury.
Thor battled the alien with all his fury, yet the nimble future man countered the brute force with a protective field of his own. “My shield can hold you, even as it once kept Superman back,” he laughed. “You lack the keen mind of Batman to plan against my super-science!”
Wonder Woman caught Thor’s eye. “Thor, we must admit that when faced with such a foe, all we can do is follow the deeds of the brave bride of Thrymur.”
Thor frowned and then nodded. “So be it!”
Wonder Woman said, “We’ll stop him now!” They rushed the alien and fell as his energy-shield flashed out and dropped them with a cold light.
Rak Durr smiled. “They lacked Superman’s vitality. Now to find the kryptonite I need!” He picked up a lead box and read a label. He discarded it and selected another one. “Ah, perfect!” he said.
He opened the box and pressed a rock against the hammer he had recovered from the fallen Thor. As he pressed them together, he smiled. “The energy floods me thusly!” he cried. “By combining Thor’s magical hammer with kryptonite, I shall live forever!”
“Now!” cried Diana as she and Thor jumped forward and attacked. She looped her lasso around the startled Rak Durr as Thor belted him with all his might. The alien fell stunned, and the pair recovered the hammer and the rock.
“Princess, he dropped his force-field to drain the energy he desired,” said Thor. “That was why we were able to hurt him. That was why thou biddest me follow thine lead and deceive him by playing dead, as thee mortals call it. Thee knew from legend that I was Thrymur the giant’s bride when I tricked the monster into letting me get near him by dressing as a woman. Why did the rock and mine hammer not give him the protective power he thought they would? That was why he did not bring back yon energy shield.”
Wonder Woman smiled. “While you fought him, I switched the contents of the lead boxes. I placed a luminous but artificial kryptonite, once used by one of Superman’s foes, in the box where the real kryptonite was stored. Rak merely held a glowing rock, not the real energy source he needed.”
Thor laughed loudly, “Truly, a woman has taught Thor a lesson well worth the learning! What appeareth to be defeat may truly contain the seeds of eventual victory!”
To Be Continued…?