by Bradley Cobb and Doc Quantum
For the next three years, the Green Mask and Domino fought crime together. The Green Mask even joined the team known as the Mystery Men of America, an organization of costumed crime-fighters that had grown out of the earlier group known as the Big Three, which had consisted of the Blue Beetle, Samson, and the Flame. The Mystery Men were a team of eight of the greatest costumed mystery-men of the era. Besides the Green Mask, there was the Blue Beetle, the Phantom Lady, the Eagle, the Spider Queen, the Lynx (originally called the Moth), V-Man (originally called U.S. Jones), and the Black Fury. Although the Green Mask left the team in 1943 when he quit the mystery-man biz to join the armed forces, that team — with a lineup that changed often — remained the nation’s greatest bulwark of freedom until 1950, when it finally disbanded.
While Michael Shelby was in the army, Don continued to live with Professor Martin Lascomb until after the war, when he went off to college. Unlike Walter Green, Shelby decided not to pass on his costumed identity of the Green Mask to anyone before joining the army. But by some strange quirk of fate, as he later found out, Walter’s young son Johnny Green was able to somehow change into the adult Green Mask through an adrenaline rush whenever he became upset or angry. (*) He always wondered what the story was behind that bizarre transformation of the third Green Mask, and if it had anything to do with something from Walter’s past.
[(*) Editor’s note: See 1st story, The Green Mask #10 (August, 1944).]
But by the time the war was over, Michael Shelby had long since given up on his costumed identity and had seen no point in donning the costume and mask again. Instead, he chose to use his talents and crime-fighting experience in more socially acceptable ways by establishing a long-running business as a private investigator. Before he joined the army, Shelby had no career to speak of, instead managing the fortune that his senator father had left to him. But now that the war was over, and he had no intention of becoming the Green Mask again, he needed to find a job to keep him busy. Working as a private investigator was the closest thing to being a mystery-man again without having to deal with the mystery-man’s life. A private eye’s life was fun, but he still missed the action and challenges that being a real-life action-hero brought.
For the most part, Michael Shelby had failed to keep in touch with his old allies in the Mystery Men of America over the years. He continued to use his vita-ray super-powers, which were now permanent after Professor Lascomb perfected his vita-ray technique on him, but only when a case called for it, and then usually only in secret. Only once did one of his old teammates in the Mystery Men contact him in an attempt to bring him out of his retirement. It was 1966, and the former V-Man attempted to start a new team called the Action Heroes, inviting a number of new and old heroes to join. Shelby politely declined the offer but later heard with amusement an account of the disastrous meeting that occurred when the group of action-heroes met for the first time.
Those who attended the meeting were three new established heroes — the Son of Vulcan; Thunderbolt; and the second Blue Beetle, former sidekick to the original — and three new heroes who had once been kid sidekicks — Captain USA, the grown-up former leader of the V-Boys, sidekicks of V-Man; Superguy, the grown-up Lieutenant Hercules; and the Green Spider, the grown-up Johnny Green. According to rumor, few of these new heroes got along well, and the Action Heroes team idea fell through. But the Blue Beetle, Captain USA, Superguy, and the Green Spider decided to form a new team of their own anyways called the Big Four, modeled after the Big Three of the 1940s. Unfortunately, the second Blue Beetle then went missing and presumably died shortly after, so the idea fell through. A couple of years later, the remaining three teamed up as the Big Guys, a minor team whose exploits mostly consisted of fighting Sinistro, Boy Fiend. As far as Shelby could see, the Big Guys were considered the jokes of the action-hero community, pale shadows of the real action-hero teams of the day — the Sentinels of Justice and THUNDER. Shelby just continued on as a private eye, content to be away from the spotlight.
There was a very brief surge of interest in the Green Mask and Domino the Miracle Boy after Don “Domino” Mason published his memoirs in 1976. But fame was fleeting, and even publicly revealing the Green Mask’s secret identity — with his permission, of course — only brought private eye Michael Shelby a modest increase in clients for a short time.
He had been content with his chosen profession, or at least he was until he got a taste of being back in action again during the Crisis on Infinite Earths this last summer. He was afraid, even terrified — along with the rest of the world, thanks to a man from another world called the Psycho-Pirate — that the world was really about to end. (*) So, in order to cope with the fear, he donned his old costume for the first time in more than forty years. After the great terror passed, he remained in costume helping out wherever he could, even accompanying heroes from his own world and several others on a mission led by Stardust the Super-Wizard to rescue the Controllers, who had been attacked by the Anti-Monitor’s forces.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Three Earths, Three Deaths,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (September, 1985).]
Michael Shelby had been able to do all this and more, despite being in his sixties, because of his apparent immortality. Yes, he still looked as young as he had in 1939 thanks to his exposure long ago to Professor Lascomb’s vita-ray machine, allowing Shelby to retain his youth and vitality over the last forty years. Now, feeling as young and vital as ever, he felt the rush of vita-ray energy shooting through him once again, and he was ready to take on the world.
And he wasn’t the only one. His old sidekick Don, who had aged normally and had a family, now had a grown-up daughter named Donna Mason who had been born premature. Only an application of Professor Lascomb’s vita-ray machine as a baby had allowed her to thrive. Nobody could have predicted that she would gain the same super-powers as Michael Shelby had when she grew up. Martin Lascomb, now a very old man but still sprightly thanks to the vita-rays, speculated that Donna gained her powers because her father’s earlier exposure to the vita-ray machine combined with her own had imbued her DNA with super-vitality.
Now eighteen years old, Donna Mason was eager to take on the world herself and begged both her father and Shelby to let her become the new Domino. With Don’s permission, last month Shelby had begun training the young woman as his new partner, since he had decided to take up the identity of the Green Mask once more. It seemed that this old, eternally young mystery-man had a new lease on life.
Michael Shelby yawned as he slowly opened his eyes. It was a bit blurry at first, but then he clearly saw six men surrounding him with rifles.
The man in charge looked down at him and said, “Mr. Shelby…”
“That’s me, gents,” he interrupted.
The man was not thrilled with the rudeness. “Mr. Shelby,” he continued, “I am Chief of Police Hal Grilley. You are under arrest for the murder of Robert ‘Bulldog’ Harlow and for committing assault against Foxville Police Officer Jim Steele.”
“Run that by me again?” Shelby was a bit skeptical of their competency at this point.
“We have an eyewitness report that says you shot Mr. Harlow twice and then proceeded to injure Officer Steele with a hubcap. And to top it all off, you then set fire to the pizzeria.”
Michael Shelby began getting out of his bed, thankful that he had left Donna back in New York. This was a much bigger mess than he’d ever imagined, and the new Domino would be way over her head in this case.
“I’d recommend against entertaining any thoughts of fighting us, Mr. Shelby. We are each holding rifles, and you are unarmed. Come quietly, and we won’t have to hurt you.” The chief of police was enjoying himself. He had his scapegoat.
The Green Mask smirked as the vita-ray rush coursed through his veins, energizing his body and mind. He thought to himself, This might prove interesting.
The clock tower rang four o’clock A.M., even though it was barely even 3:42. It had a bad habit of running very quickly. Once a month, some poor, unlucky city worker had to climb the stairs to the top of the tower and hang over the edge to reset it.
“I’m telling you — number one, I didn’t shoot Bulldog, Steele did. And number two, I acted in self-defense when he shot at me. It’s his own fault he’s in a coma now, not mine.” The Green Mask knew he could easily escape or fight them all, but he played along. He preferred to hear the whole story before he gave himself away.
“And I told you, Mr. Shelby, that Officer Steele is the best marksman ever to serve as a Foxville Police officer,” sputtered Hal Grilley. “If he had shot at you, you would be dead right now!”
Shelby frowned. They really had no idea who he was. “Do you know who I am?” he asked the chief in a tone that made it sound like he was asking for special treatment.
“Yes,” said Grilley. “You are Michael Shelby, a private eye from New York. And you are soon to be the late Michael Shelby if you even blink wrong.”
The Green Mask looked around the room in his best nervous expression. Each man surrounding him wore top-of-the-line body armor and aimed a rifle at his head. “I’m hungry. Anyone got a Snickers?” he asked the crowd of would-be assassins. All the men exchanged confused looks with each other over his reaction to certain doom.
That was the moment he had been waiting for.
A swift kick caught Grilley between the legs, and the hero quickly grabbed the groaning chief and used his body to knock down four officers as some pulled on their triggers. A stray bullet hit one of them, while another shattered the ceiling light, plunging the room into darkness. It was at that point that one of the guards realized his gun was missing and was in the hands of the man they were sent to arrest. Shelby held the barrel of the gun against Mr. Grilley’s Adam’s apple.
With the chief held hostage and an officer down, the Green Mask only had four others to deal with in this darkness. He shook his head as he listened to the officer on the ground groaning from pain. Ricocheting bullets were a messy thing. Then another tried to fire at Shelby past Grilley’s ear. Instead, the Green Mask pushed the chief toward the officer and grabbed the barrels of two rifles, easily pulling them out of the officers’ hands and smashing them on the floor, before finally pulling Grilley back up as his shield. This all happened in less than a second in complete darkness.
When the lights came on, the men weren’t sure what to make of what had just happened or why the man they knew as Michael Shelby now had a green mask over his head.
Well, all but one. “It’s him… it really is him,” said a young officer.
The captive chief of police looked at the young officer. “What are you babbling about?” he demanded.
“Michael Shelby,” the officer said, wide-eyed. “I read all about him. He’s the Green Mask.”
“The what?” the chief screamed as a look of realization began to cross his face.
“Green Mask, the miracle man,” the man said, lowering his gun. “My dad bought me Sidekick: Memoirs of a Miracle Boy by Don Mason when I was a kid. I must’ve read that book a hundred times.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Action-Hero Team-Up: Blue Beetle and Green Mask: 1940: Anno Domino.]
“Kill him!” Grilley demanded, his voice having nervously risen a few octaves. “Kill him now!”
The young officer looked at his superior and said, “This is wrong.” He dropped his gun and looked into the eyes of his hero.
The Green Mask said, “It’s OK, son. Put the gun down and go ahead and leave. I won’t stop you.”
The officer did as he was told, and when he reached the door of the hotel room, he turned and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Shelby.”
The remaining officers weren’t sure what to do. They also hadn’t realized that, while they were confused over their departed comrade, the chief had been silenced into unconsciousness after Shelby used a chokehold on him.
The Green Mask threw Hal Grilley to the ground and stood, rifle in hand. “Here’s the way it’s going to be, boys. You’re going to drop the guns, and then you’re going to leave this town and never come back.” Even though he knew there was no way they’d do it, he said it anyway. He liked toying with the bad guys before he made them look helpless.
A few seconds of silence passed. A few more. And then a cry came from the shortest and scrawniest of the group: “Forget you!”
It was over in twelve seconds — twelve seconds only because Shelby tripped over the unconscious body of the chief of police. The remaining cops were out cold, laying flat on the floor, when the door came crashing open.
The Green Mask, along with the help of the policeman who had left earlier, dragged the bodies out of the shattered doorway. Six police cars and a squad of twenty cops were there to greet them. The hero and the young officer were escorted to the back of one of the squad cars and taken into custody. While in the back of the car, Shelby looked over at the young officer and asked, “What’s your name, son?”
The young cop looked into his hero’s eyes and said, “Nicholas, sir.”
“You got a last name, Nick?” the mystery-man asked.
“Charles, sir. Nick Charles.”
“Nick Charles, huh? I ought to introduce you to Nora sometime.”
“Huh?” said Nicholas.
“Haven’t you heard of The Thin Man, son?” When all he received was a blank stare, Shelby sighed and added, “Before your time, I guess.”
After giving his testimony along with that of other eyewitnesses, Michael Shelby was released with all charges against him dropped. His policeman friend Nick Charles, however, had a lot more to answer for. He admitted to his role in a corruption that went all the way to the office of the chief of police. He told stories of bribes, murders, kidnappings, and extortions. He explained how he was approached by Chief of Police Grilley on the first day he joined the force, and of the money he was offered if certain people were left alone. In exchange for his testimony, along with a good word from the Green Mask, Charles was given leniency, and he was only charged as an accessory to extort money. His sentence was thirty days in jail and two years probation.
The other members of Grilley’s Gang, as the newspaper called them, tried to deny the charges against them, but when evidence showed up from the late Bulldog Harlow’s office, they were all out of luck. Grilley tried to escape the law by calling in some of his political favors. The only problem was that some of the favors were part of a sting by FBI agents investigating the bribery scandal. Shelby had to testify in all the trials and therefore had to stay in Foxville for a few weeks more, forcing him to pause Donna Mason’s training.
As Nick Charles was leaving the courtroom to be escorted off to jail, Shelby looked at him and said, “I’ve got a job waiting for you when you get out, if you’re interested.”
Charles looked up, and for the first time in a long time, he smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Shelby.”
The Green Mask waved and said, “See you around, Nick.”
The thought ran through his head, I’m sure glad to get out of this place.
Michael Shelby drove away, sad that his friend Bulldog Harlow had died. But he also knew that justice had been served. All the members of Grilley’s Gang had been given life sentences without parole, except for Nick Charles.
Not only that, but his exploits had made front-page news all across the country. The Green Mask was becoming a marquee star again. And because of that, he was happy.