The next day, within a great laboratory, a curious experiment took place. A wise old scientist, whose actual name was Edgewood Smith, but who was better known by the fanciful name of Professor Edgewise, scratched his head as he turned a series of dials on a large and oddly cumbersome contraption that lined one entire wall of the lab.
“I’m not certain why this failed. I know I checked every detail!” he said with a look of dismay.
Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger said, “I hate to interrupt, but did you put the batteries in?”
The scientist frowned, then wiped at his glasses and pushed them back up on his nose. “My word!” he cried. “You are a genius! I didn’t replace them after I took out the old pair!”
Popping in a pair of batteries, he made a few more adjustments to the mechanism. A hum filled the room, and then brown liquid gushed out of a narrow tube into a cup below.
Professor Edgewise carefully picked up the cup and sipped from it. “Perfect!” he said. “That is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!”
“Congratulations, Professor Edgewise, but may I ask why you didn’t just buy one of the small coffee-making devices they sell at the stores?” asked Tawky Tawny.
“They have smaller machines that do the same thing?” said the professor. “My word, I’ve wasted a bit of time and space here! I do need to get out more!”
A gentle purr rang out, and Mr. Tawny said, “I think we have a visitor.” He moved around the machines and found a small white kitten. Picking up the little animal, he smiled broadly. “She must have wandered inside when we were bringing in the parts for the machine,” he said. “She is cute!”
“By all means, take her with you,” said Professor Edgewise. “I’m afraid the demands of science and all would make me forget to feed her!”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Tawny. “I’ve been thinking that I could use a bit of company around the house!”
But as he placed the kitten down, a greenish glow suddenly radiated from the little animal.
“My word! She seems to be glowing!” the scientist cried as they rushed over to get a closer look at the strangely glowing kitten. “One of the machines must have irradiated the poor dear! A man sets out to make some coffee, and he ends up blowing up a cat! Such is science!”
“She’s growing!” said Mr. Tawny. “I hope this isn’t going to end up like what happened to that Banner fellow on the TV the other night!”
They watched in amazement as the little kitten grew to the size of a petite woman who then assumed the same type of humanoid form and proportions that Mr. Tawny had acquired years before after exposure to a formula that had granted him human-level reasoning, speech, and mobility. Her white fur now assumed the rough form of a perky upswept hairdo that framed her expressive green eyes.
Mr. Tawny gulped and held a hastily grabbed blanket around her as she smiled and then said, “Thank you! How kind you are! What a gentleman! It is so rare to find a truly mannered man these days. Why, just the other day I was looking for some scraps in the alley… My! How the alleys have gone down around here! When I was talking to a perfectly dear angora the other night, and he said he remembered the days when this whole neighborhood was a showplace!” She continued talking rapidly as the two men exchanged startled glances.
“She’s as fully evolved as you!” gasped Edgewise.
Mr. Tawny nodded, even as he tried to keep up with her rapid talking. A rather gabby tabby, indeed! he thought.
Over the next few weeks, Mr. Tawny became increasingly smitten with his new female feline friend. She readily and vocally accepted the name Gabby Tabby, and from that moment on, the dapper tiger and the loquacious kitten were inseparable. Mr. Tawny found his somewhat lonely life enlivened and revitalized by the cheerful and rather loud presence of Gabby, and she delighted him with her incessant good humor and affection.
Meanwhile, even as Mr. Tawny’s luck was changing for the better, Captain Marvel’s was remaining rather grim. He had handled many cases since the strange execution of Slaughter Slade, but he had found no trace of the killer. He never believed that the odd green fire had killed him. The wisdom of Solomon and his own experiences over the years made that all too clear. Thus, the world’s mightiest mortal had devoted a good amount of time in searching for the elusive Slade.
“Holy moley! Even the Historama couldn’t find Slade,” he said. “I guess the same magic that spirited him away from prison is also capable of shielding him from that magical view-screen!”
As Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, he continued to perform his daily duties, and he readily approved of Mr. Tawny’s new friendship with the remarkable Gabby. However, he was still expecting trouble from Slaughter Slade, and it would appear in the unlikely form of a giant gorilla.
One day, as Billy was tidying up his desk at Station WHIZ, a scream rang out from his reception area, and he hurried outside to see the wildly kicking legs of Joan Jameson as they vanished through a shattered window.
“Holy moley! Something’s got Joan!” he cried. The young man yelled the name Shazam, and as magical lightning filled the empty area, the heroic form of Captain Marvel soared into action.
Captain Marvel started to fly out the shattered window when Mr. Morris entered the room in alarm. “Be careful of that glass, Mr. Morris,” warned the hero as he flew out the window. “Somebody could get cut!”
Mr. Morris nodded and smiled. “That Captain Marvel! He’s always thinking of others in the middle of some big crisis!”
Indeed, Captain Marvel’s mind was on his blonde secretary as he saw a struggling Joan clutched in the huge hand of a massive gorilla who was rapidly climbing up the side of the building. “This is like something out of the late show!” said Captain Marvel. “With Slade loose, I guess I should have expected to see mutated animals. He turned a gorilla into an educated genius once, so why shouldn’t he be able to create his own personal Kong?”
“Help, Captain Marvel!” screamed Joan. “This big ape thinks I’m his living doll!”
Captain Marvel gripped the gorilla’s huge fist and pried open the fingers to allow Joan to plunge out of her prison. She sighed in relief even as she plummeted toward the pavement. She had no doubt that her boss would rescue her. “Thank goodness! Ah, nuts!” she said as she assumed a pouting expression. “That gorilla put a run in my stocking!”
Using the speed of Mercury, Captain Marvel caught her and carried her to safety, even as the gorilla looked down in anger and roared a challenge.
“You meddlesome blackguard!” he said. “How dare you interfere with the amorous endeavors of a fair lady and her noble swain?”
Captain Marvel blinked in concern. “The gorilla talks!” he said. “Not only does he talk, but he sounds like somebody in a Edwardian novel!”
“Oh, how clever!” said the gorilla with a sneer. “When confronted with passion and higher sentiment, you fall back on the ribald buffoonery of a clown!”
Captain Marvel shook his head in amazement. “I’m being talked down to by a gorilla!” he muttered as he slammed into the giant gorilla.
The gorilla gasped in pain, then brought both fists together in a crushing embrace. The Captain vanished within the clutched fists and flexed his own muscles to emerge seconds later as he broke the grasp.
“Look, I can’t let you roam wild like this,” he said. “Tell me where Slade is, and maybe I can take you to some jungle or a place where you can live in peace!” He ducked as the gorilla tossed another punch, then he connected with a swinging blow of his own.
The gorilla folded up like a deck chair, and Captain Marvel caught it in midair. “I’ll be as good as my word and take him to some deserted isle,” he said. “That’s the best I can do for him for now. Knowing Slaughter Slade the way I do, this was far more meaningful than it seemed. To put it colorfully, this was nothing but a wild gorilla chase! He wanted to occupy me for some reason, and that reason can’t be good!”
Captain Marvel flew through the sky with the stunned gorilla.
What was Slaughter Slade up to? That would be obvious if one had the ability to peer inside the comfy home of Mr. Tawny. The tiger was whistling happily in his kitchen as he poured milk over a bowl of breakfast flakes.
“Gabby, you’ll love this cereal. It’s great!” he said.
When the normally talkative kitten failed to reply, Tawky Tawny stepped through the door and frowned as he saw her dress crumpled on the floor next to a small kitten. “Gabby!” he cried in alarm. “My word! She’s reverted to her original state! I better take her to Professor Edgewise at once!”
“That would be futile,” said a man who stepped out of the bedroom to confront a startled Mr. Tawny. “Edgewise had nothing to do with her evolution. I was responsible for her transformation. Indeed, I am responsible for her current state as well, and I am the only one who can restore her to her more humanoid state!”
“Who are you?” cried Mr. Tawny as he picked up the kitten and held her close to his jacket. “How’d you get in? What have you done to poor Gabby?”
“I am Slaughter Slade!” said the powerful and evil man who stepped closer to Mr. Tawny. “That name will become infamous in time, when I assume my proper role as ruler of this nation. For now, all you need to know is that I am the only one who can return your Gabby to her evolved state. I will do so if you obey me.”
“What is it you want from me?” said Mr. Tawny. “I don’t make a lot of money, but it is yours if you want it! Just fix poor Gabby!”
Slade shook his head and said, “You poor, pathetic man-beast. You seek to buy me with petty cash? Bah! How little your ambitions, and how small your imagination. All I want from you is a simple act of betrayal. I want you to lure your good friend Captain Marvel into a trap of my devising. You don’t have to harm him. All you have to do is trick him into coming here! I will do the rest!”
“You’re crazy!” said Mr. Tawny. “I can’t do that to Cap! He’s one of my closest friends!”
Slade smiled slightly and said, “That is the precise reason I wish for you to be the instrument of his defeat. Nothing would wound his simplistic morality as much as being betrayed by a… how do you put it? … pal!”
That evening, Captain Marvel swooped down to land on Mr. Tawny’s front porch. He pushed the doorbell and waited patiently until he heard the approaching tread of his old friend.
Mr. Tawny swung open the door and ushered the hero inside with a slightly nervous expression on his face. “Glad you could stop by!” he said. “I know how busy you get!”
Captain Marvel smiled broadly and said, “I always have time for a pal!”
As they moved deeper inside the house, Captain Marvel was struck by a sudden blaze of green fire. It engulfed him but did not burn anything else around him. “Holy moley! It feels like every dentist drill on Earth wrapped up into one!” he said. The hero fought to regain his footing as the relentless bursts of green magical fire cascaded over him again and again.
Slaughter Slade stepped into view from behind the door and said, “I told you once before on a memorable occasion that I would return. I have made good on that vow, and now, with your utter defeat, I will make another promise complete!”
Captain Marvel’s eyes widened with shock. “I’d expect an ambush from a rat like you!” he said through clenched teeth.
“I could have struck from any number of locations with the same results,” said Slade. “You could stand toe to toe with one who has my power, but even you must blanch before the dark magic of corruption itself!”
“Captain Marvel, I had to do it!” said Mr. Tawny. “He forced me! I’m sorry!”
“Don’t be sorry,” said Captain Marvel. “You’ve played your role perfectly.” He stood up and slowly made his way through the green waves of fire to confront the cold but mocking visage of Slaughter Slade.
The villain gasped and said, “Role? You dared to betray me? You alerted Marvel in spite of my threat? I will not allow myself to be made the object of such base and inane mockery!”
Captain Marvel said, “Now!”
A meek voice shouted, “Ibac!” even as Stanley Printwhistle entered the room from where he had been waiting in the shrubs outside. The green fire washed over him even as it also covered Slade.
In seconds, two things occurred with almost perfect precision. Stanley changed into the bestial Ibac and received a knockout blow from Captain Marvel the instant he assumed the monstrous form of his alter ego. And Slaughter Slade felt his infernal power fade from his body, and he became the elderly, white-haired figure he truly had always been.
Mr. Tawny sprang at him and knocked the old man cold with one powerful pounce. “Hope I wasn’t too rough on him!” he said. “I know in his youth he had super-strength, but a tiger still has many times the strength of a normal man!”
Captain Marvel stood over the stunned Ibac and said, “I couldn’t afford to pull my own punch. I knew the instant Stanley turned to Ibac, with the power he absorbed from the second Ibac by saying the magical name they shared, he would turn from our ally into a foe in his own right. When we get him back to normal, we’ll owe him a real thanks! He agreed to come here and risk a lot by saying his magic word again. He has no wish to become the evil Ibac again, so I had to do some real talking to get him to agree to help me sap the power taken from him by Slade. It’s funny, I would not have known the nature of Slade’s new power, had his talking gorilla not spilled the beans after I captured him. I guess you shouldn’t create a talking gorilla if you don’t want it to talk!”
“So we defeated the criminal, but we still lost,” said Mr. Tawny sadly. “I couldn’t betray you, even for Gabby, but I sure wish we could have helped her.”
“When you called me and tipped me off to Slade’s plan, I told you to just play along with him, and I’d have a surprise for you!” said Captain Marvel. “Well, the old wizard agreed to help us. His magic will restore Gabby to her talking and charming self! Remember, you are his friend, too!”
Mr. Tawny sniffed as he wiped at his eyes, and then he smiled. “You really are the best pal a guy could have!” he said.
Captain Marvel grinned and said, “You mean I’m a tiger’s best friend?”
They laughed happily as Captain Marvel quickly took the two villains to the Rock of Eternity, where the old wizard Shazam performed two similar ceremonies.
“It is done!” said the wise old wizard. “Stanley Printwhistle is free from the taint of Ibac, and Slade is now denied access to the infernal power. He may shout ‘Ibac’ until dawn’s coming without any change!”
Captain Marvel nodded in approval at his benefactor. Stanley stood meekly before them and said, “Thank you! I’ve waited for this day for far too long!”
“Stanley, it was always within you to be freed from this curse,” said Shazam, “but you had to first risk yourself for the cause of justice. You have done so this night, and the reward is yours!”
Captain Marvel looked at the scrawny, short man and said, “Stanley, you look troubled. Surely this is the happiest day of your life!”
“It is,” agreed Stanley, “but tomorrow I go back to being a street cleaner, and how I’ll hate to clean up after that giant gorilla you fought downtown!”
Captain Marvel smiled and said, “He’s on an isolated island with a collection of good books. He won’t trouble us again, either!”