Part 6 of Revenge, Inc.
When Captain Marvel is attacked by a masked foe who is his very equal in might and power, he seeks guidance from the old wizard Shazam. But when he discovers that his foe is actually a forgotten hero, he vows to save him from the thrall of the Aryan villainess who controls him as her mad pawn! Reintroducing Master Man!
A blonde woman in black smiled affectionately at the tall, broad-shouldered man in front of her. “You truly are the embodiment of all that the Aryan race could be!” she said.
Waving her aside, he said, “I have no use for that kind of Nazi propaganda! I am what I am!”
She laughed. “So you’re quoting Lance O’Casey now?”
“No,” he said. “Someone else said that. Another sailor. It matters not. I have to claim my rightful place. If I have to, I’ll beat Captain Marvel to a pulp to do so!”
She smiled as he stalked off. “As I planned all along.”
Billy Batson was nervous. He hated to make a speech, even though he made his living speaking to the public as a television reporter. It was a weird dichotomy, but it was true. He had been told by his jocular Uncle Dudley to “just imagine them all in their underwear, my boy!” But considering that the gorgeous and potentially faint-inducing Beautia Sivana and the pretty and perky Cissie Sommerly were both prominently present before him, that only made the youth more nervous.
Holy moley! This is crazy. I’d better just say my piece and sit down, he thought as he presented the elegantly attired Sterling Morris, president of WHIZ Broadcasting, with a golden cup for his long years as a pioneer in both radio and television.
“Folks, I’d like to say that this man gave me my start in the business, just like he gave all of us wonderful entertainment via the mediums of radio and TV!” said Billy. “Mr. Sterling Morris, winner of the McMurray Broadcasting Lifetime Achievement Award!”
The old man smiled and handled himself like the pro he was. He worked the crowd for all he could. “Well, well, this honor makes me want to entertain you even more, so I’d better say something really funny!” he joked.
Beautia gasped and jumped up in her tight gold thigh-split gown and spike heels. “Billy, look out behind you!” she yelled. Cissie screamed demurely in her own pink party dress.
Billy whirled to see a hulking figure in red and blue. His blond hair was cut short and close to the scalp. His muscles rippled, and the mask that covered his face stopped at the hairline.
“Morris, my gripe is with you!” he shouted in a booming voice. “You glorified that egomaniac Captain Marvel for years, while forgetting that there have been other worthy heroes on this world!”
“Listen, sir,” said Morris, “I stand here and say no one can equal Captain Marvel in terms of heroism.”
The blond slammed his fists down, and the stage crumbled into dust.
Billy rolled off into the aisle and slipped beneath the curtain to shout “Shazam!” The magic lightning struck him, and he became the world’s mightiest mortal: Captain Marvel.
Gosh, it was swell of Mr. Morris to defend me like that! he thought as he flew beneath the tumbling presenters and caught them all at super-speed. Now to settle this guy’s hash!
“You! I owe you a beating from way back!” roared the tall blond man.
Captain Marvel frowned as he was struck at super-speed and with power equaling his own. He crashed into the tables and landed at Beautia’s spike heels. He gulped as he glimpsed her revealing dress and smiled as she cooed words of concern over his fallen form.
“Oh, my dear Captain! Are you hurt?” she said sympathetically.
“Not as much as he’s going to be!” said Captain Marvel. He charged toward the crewcut-wearing muscleman, only to be kicked below the belt and sent flying by his own cape.
“You fool! You may hog the limelight, but you don’t belong to the master race!” said the masked man.
Holy moley! This has to be Captain Nazi! he thought. All that power, the haircut, and that baloney about a master race!
Before the Captain could get up, his foe bounded off and yelled, “This is just the start, Marvel! You’ll rue the day you messed with a real hero!”
Captain Marvel frowned and stopped to support the roof as it shuddered from a final blow from the costumed man.
Captain Marvel spent the next few days dealing with normal day-to-day events — normal, that is, for the world’s mightiest mortal. He stopped a flood, put out a forest fire, saved a woman from her abusive spouse, and defeated the sentient robot-men of the planet Maxitron. However, in between these events, he worked as Billy Batson for station WHIZ and admittedly wondered how to track down Captain Nazi.
Sitting with his Uncle Dudley in a cozy diner for lunch, Billy explained his dilemma as the plump man poured mustard over a pair of hot dogs.
“Based on his power and his hairstyle, and his ranting about a master race, I figured he was my old foe Captain Nazi in a new costume,” said Billy as he reached for a french fry. “However, later, when I applied the wisdom of Solomon, I began to question that theory. I mean, he spoke of being a real hero and called Cap a glory hound.”
“Well, son, I suppose to the Germans, or, I should say, those Germans who were Hitler’s followers way back when, he was a champion,” said Uncle Dudley. “Luckily for the world and us all, not all Germans ever thought that way, and precious few do today!” Dropping his first hot dog on his lap, he frowned in dismay.
Billy handed him a napkin and said, “True enough, Unc, but I wonder if I’m not making a rash judgment.”
“Billy, my boy, as the CEO of the Marvel Family Corp., I have seen a lot in my day. I’d say this guy will resurface all too soon, and no doubt we’ll be there to take care of him!” replied Dudley as he bit into a hot dog.
Later, the red-and-blue-costumed powerhouse did appear again. He smashed through the Marvel Family Museum, leaving the nervous Sunny Sparkle to hold a rare pity party.
“I can’t believe he wrecked the place!” said the normally supernaturally cheerful young man. “I mean, look over there! Mary’s original boots from before she switched to her current slippers! A suit from the one and only Tawky Tawny! All in a real mess!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll help you fix things up, and then I’ll get this jerk,” said Captain Marvel. “What kind of conversation occurred? Did you hear anything that could help me find him?”
Sunny beamed. “Hey! Yeah! Lucky for us, I was here! He said that this place mocked real heroes, and that the world had forgotten those who fought the Marvel’s battles during their ‘vacation.'”
Captain Marvel frowned and thanked the perky blond boy. “See you, Sunny.”
Sunny saw the tattered remains of Sivana’s first killer robot. “I’ll be here all night!” he said, frowning. Then his usual smile returned. “Overtime!” he said, beaming.
Captain Marvel flew to the center of town, where he found the masked man. “You didn’t get very far!” he said.
“I wanted to be found,” he said, ripping off his red mask. “I want to tan your hide in front of the fickle masses who forgot me and rushed to cheer for you and your precious family when you got back from your little suspended-animation vacation!”
“Holy moley!” gasped Captain Marvel. “I remember you! You were Master Man!”
“I still am, you egotistical punk!” said the former hero. Master Man’s face was flushed and contorted with rage. “You and I started out around the same time. You overshadowed me, and I put up with it. I used my super-powers for good. We met once or twice, but again you got all the press. Well, I soldiered on, and since I don’t age, I fought the good fight right on through the 1940s and 1950s, though I did most of my work without being a gloryhound.
“Then, in 1953, when you and your little clique like Spy Smasher, Ibis, and Minute Man were trapped in Sivana’s Suspendium trap, I carried on the fight for justice. (*) Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was like the rest of the world, unaware back then of what had happened to you all. I would have risked my life to save you if I had known. So, with you all vanished into the mists, I fought on. I only retired when you returned and the world embraced you, while never even saying thank you to me. Heck, not even remembering me!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The World’s Wickedest Plan,” Shazam! #1 (February, 1973).]
“I did not mean to hog the limelight,” said Captain Marvel. “I guess I did have a pal in the press, but I sure never thought less of any of you fellows who fought for justice. You, Diamond Jack, Radar, Phantom Eagle, all did your part during the war and after. You know, I did wonder who had acted as the world’s heroes while so many of us were gone. I even knew you were active from old papers, but I guess I never got around to saying thanks.”
“You mean that?” said a suddenly contrite Master Man. “I’d figured you for a swellheaded jerk. You know, I… I’m sorry. I was wrong to go off on you like that.” He put one hand to his forehead and frowned as he tried to concentrate. “I-I don’t know what came over me.”
A blonde in leather approached. “I did! Now kill him, or step aside and let the favored mistress of Adolf Hitler do it for you!”
“Illyria!” said Captain Marvel.
“Listen, woman, I told you that what we have is personal, and I don’t believe in that Nazi trash you spew,” yelled Master Man. “How’d you ever seduce me to begin with?”
She smiled and said, “It’s all in the chemistry!”
Master Man screamed, and as Captain Marvel reached out to him, he slammed into the hero with all his force. “Arrrgh!” he roared with a face contorted again by pure rage.
“Nothing comes easy!” sighed Captain Marvel.
Master Man slugged Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel slugged Master Man. So it continued until the angry Master Man connected with one lucky punch that knocked Captain Marvel through a building.
“Holy moley! Got to hold up the roof again!” mused the Captain as office workers hurried to safety.
Once more, when Captain Marvel emerged from the ruined structure, Master Man and Illyria were both gone.
I need some advice, he realized. He found it soon afterward at the Rock of Eternity, where old Shazam appeared to answer his questions.
“Master Man is not evil,” explained old Shazam. “He is merely under the chemical control of the Nazi, Illyria. She let his resentment against you fuel the rage that she brought out with her drugs. I also am to blame.”
“But, great sir, how can you be to blame?” asked a puzzled Marvel.
“You recall when I gave birth to Captain Marvel and imparted my powers to you as Billy? Well, some years earlier, disguised as a wise old doctor, I gave a skinny, weak child named Ron Davis a bottle full of capsules of power, the vitacap. The capsules slowly made him strong, and the boy grew up to become Master Man. (*) He’d originally thought the pill was scientific in nature, when in fact it was powered by my magic. I created him to serve as a backup in case you failed, or became as flawed as mad Black Adam, and only revealed my true purposes to him shortly before I first met you. Master Man was created by me as Captain Marvel’s replacement, or insurance, so to speak.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Master Man, Master Comics #1 (March, 1940).]
Captain Marvel frowned. “Gosh, you thought I might go bad?”
Shazam reached forth a ghostly hand. “My son, I was merely being safe. You have never given me cause to doubt you or be less than proud of all you’ve done. I have been wrong in neglecting Master Man all these years. I should have brought him back into the fold long before.”
“Where could he be?” asked Captain Marvel.
Shazam clapped his hands. “Bring forth the Historama!”
A television screen of sorts appeared and showed the highest mountain peak on Earth, Mount Everest, where a huge fortress carved out of solid rock had been built into the huge mountain.
“That reminds me of the Rock of Eternity!” said Captain Marvel.
“Indeed! It has long been Master Man’s lair, and he did base it upon this place in some manner,” said Shazam. “Perhaps dreams of this place filtered through his sleeping mind when he did not know of the truth behind his powers.”
“Why, he also has a Historama!” gasped the Captain as he spotted within the fortress a huge television-like screen that showed scenes from all over the world.
“Yes, the Troublescope was my gift to Master Man when he agreed to be my back-up plan in case you failed,” said the old wizard. “It was indeed based on the Historama, but with the ability only to monitor things in real time, not view the past or the future.” Shazam paused for a moment, then added in a serious tone, “I ask you to save my lost son and bring him to me.”
Captain Marvel nodded. “I won’t fail you, great sir!”
Illyria crossed her legs and laughed with glee as Master Man’s rage died down.
“You evil temptress!” he said as he sat up and rubbed at his fevered brow. “You bewitched me with your chemicals. Your perfume drove me insane!”
Illyria walked over to him, and her black boots gleamed in the light. “You serve the glory of the fallen Reich,” she said, smiling. “When I force you to kill Captain Marvel, then I shall sire the future of the Aryan race with you.”
Master Man frowned. “Not if I kill you!” He raced at her, but fell flat at her feet.
She tossed back her white-blonde curls and said, “You are forbidden to strike me because of the pheromones with which I control you.”
Then Captain Marvel crashed through the wall and grabbed Master Man. “That’s all I needed to know!” he said as he wrapped both arms tightly around him and flew skyward at super-speed.
“What are you doing?” asked Master Man.
“I’m getting you into a space where air can’t carry her pheromones,” said Captain Marvel. “You’ll be free there, and you have someone to talk to as well.”
“I no longer feel the rage inside me. Thank you! You truly are the greatest hero this world has seen!” said Master Man before they reached the Rock of Eternity.
Leaving Master Man with Shazam, Captain Marvel hurtled back to earth in time to snatch Illyria from the ground and hold her kicking at arm’s length. Her own super-power was too weak to challenge him physically, and he was apparently immune to her pheromones.
“You can’t control me. I guess it’s the kid in me,” he said as he carried her to jail.
The old wizard and Master Man spoke long into the night, the first time they’d talked since 1939. There were things to resolve between them, but it was a start, and it was communication. That had to help.
Elsewhere, the Horned Hood sat at his table at Revenge, Inc. with the Weeper.
“All of our agents have failed,” said the Weeper, tears pouring down his face. “The Black Rat was beaten by Mary Marvel, and now Illyria has lost to Captain Marvel.”
The Horned Hood nodded soberly. “I expect that you and I must seriously reconsider our own plans. The heroes of this world have emerged in full force and are more victorious than ever.”