by Dan Swanson
Chapter 35 — Now’s the time to say good-bye… ####### CHAPTER 32
For the second time today, a crowd of heroes gathered at the Rock of Eternity. A smaller crowd than earlier, but the news on their missing comrades was good. Another threat to humanity had been averted; they had saved the world again!
It was time for Americon, the Barrs and the Thunders to return to their own world, but nobody wanted to break up this group. Especially when Shazam told them that cross-overs between the two Earths would have to be rare — it placed a great deal of strain on both Shazam and Merokee and the two wizards had decided to reserve future crossovers for world-threatening emergencies.
So it might be years before they had a chance to interact like this again — assuming, of course, that they were able to defuse the emergency that brought them together!
The other-Earth heroes talked it over and decided that they could probably stick around for a couple more hours — the other members of the Society of Justice could cover for them a little longer. They decided to have a barbecue. Jack had all the fixin’s back at his café, and talked Ibis into popping everything from there to here. It was a good time, and a happy time, and a sad time, all at once.
Cool Marvel made a point of talking with Captain Thunder before the other-Earth heroes departed.
“No offense, Big Red, but are all the super heroes in your world WASPs like they are in this one? Or did you just leave the brothers and sisters at home?”
“Actually, Cool, there are quite a few non-WASP heroes. It just happened that most of the Society of Justice, including our non-WASP members, were involved in other cases when Mary showed up to ask for help. Nothing but coincidence. I wish you could visit and meet some of them. I take it from the makeup of our group, and your question, that most of the heroes on this world are WASPs?”
“You got it, Red. My main man over there,” he pointed to Captain Marvel “says it’s ’cause there weren’t black heroes to serve as role models until recently. Why is your world different?”
Thunder thought about that one for a second (a long time, remember the Speed loaned to him by the Hare!). “I don’t know as much about history here as I should to give you a definitive answer, but I think it might have a lot to do with Doc Damage. Mary said she had never heard of Doc or anyone like him.”
Cool shook his head and looked puzzled. “Me neither.”
“Well, Doc was really the first ‘superhero’ on our world, though he didn’t have ‘real’ super powers. Except his almost superhuman intelligence — think Dr. Sivana, doubled, and dedicated to ‘Good’. He put together a group of heroic assistants, and they roamed the world, doing good deeds for no other reason than that it was right.” He smiled at the recollection. “Doc was one of my heroes, one of the reasons I accepted the Power of Merokee when it was offered to me.”
“Doc and his assistants came on the scene in the early 20s, and by 1930, almost everyone in the world knew who they were — and they were heroes to most of them. Then something horrible happened! Two of his assistants died during one of their adventures. The fact that two of them would die wasn’t so terrible — all six of them knew that they lived dangerous lives.” He lowered his voice, and Cool could tell that this event had affected him strongly.
“What was so awful was that they didn’t fall while battling the forces of evil or conquering adversity or exploring the hidden secrets of the universe — they died as a result of some idiotic practical joke one was trying to pull on the other!”
Cool didn’t quite see the point yet, but he sort of recognized Doc Damage and his assistants by now — they sounded a lot like some pulp hero stories he’d read when growing up. “I’ll bet it was Porkchop and Chimp!” he guessed.
Thunder looked startled. “Well, it was actually Hog and Gorilla. I thought you guys didn’t know anything about Doc Damage?”
“Don’t, man. I read stories ’bout a dude named Prof. Wildman, sounds just like this Doc Damage guy. But he wasn’t real, just fiction.”
Now, Cap was thoughtful. He’d thought about the concept of multiple Earths many times since he’d first met Superman, and now he had more data to add to his developing theories. But that was off the point. “Anyway, Doc replaced them with his cousin and a friend of hers. That’s relevant because his cousin was a female of African descent — I’m sorry, I don’t know the correct way to refer to her, here.”
Cool interrupted “You mean, she was a sister? You can say ‘black’ or ‘Afro-American’. But say, if she’s his cousin…” His eyes narrowed.
Thunder continued. “Yes, Doc Damage, the world famous heroic adventurer, known and revered by almost everyone on the planet, was half black. Of course, that’s not exactly the words that were used back then.” Thunder grimaced in distaste. Cool knew exactly which words the hero was talking about — he’d heard them himself, too often.
Thunder continued. “And just to rub a little more salt in the wound — the other new member was a full blooded Iroquois! A lot of people changed their minds about him overnight — even though he himself hadn’t changed, just their perceptions of him.”
“Doc and his group knew these people were ignorant, so they ignored them and kept on doing the right things — just because it was right. And some of those ignorant people — not all of them, and not right away — began to recognize their own ignorance about folks who were different. Yes, I think Doc Damage and his group made a big difference in our world.”
“And we in the Society of Justice like to think of ourselves as the successors to Doc Damage and his assistants — not just as doers of good deeds because they are right, but also as champions of social growth.”
Cool wished he could have had a role model like Doc Damage while he was growing up. “Dude, I would sure like to meet some of your other heroes. Say, is Willie B. a hero over there too?”
“Sorry, Cool, but if you have an analog in our world, I don’t know him. We don’t have any Lieutenant Thunders — the magic materials that make up our belts is very scarce — and I admit I don’t know all the younger heroes yet, so your analog Willie B., could be a hero. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he’s anything like you!” Cap decided to look up all the heroes he hadn’t met yet, to see if there were any analogues of the younger heroes he’d met on this Earth.
“Thanks, Capital T! It helps to know that somewhere, people like me went through the same kinda things I’m goin’ through — and came out winners.” He paused, surprised at what he was about to say. Sometime today, in the back of his mind, something had changed, but he wasn’t aware of it until right now.
“This world is changing, Big Red! My man over there,” he pointed again at Captain Marvel “says I’m gonna be a role model, regardless if I like it or not. Who would’a thunk it? Cool Willie B., role model and champion of change?” He smiled thoughtfully, realizing that he actually was looking forward to these challenges. “Can’t complain, I guess — might as well be me, huh?”
“Indeed, it might as well be you! You won’t need it, but good luck anyway!” Thunder smiled warmly. Cool lifted his hand and was pleased when Thunder recognized and returned a high five.
Carol and Sandy were talking with Sue (Bulletwoman) Barr and Suze (Lady Bolt) Barr Beck. Carol was commenting “Some of this is so weird. You two are kind of like sisters-in-law, except not really. I wonder how the ‘two of thems’ deal with it?”
Everyone looked at her funny, and she realized she was going to have to explain her private idiom. “Bulletman and Bolt are the same person. Captain Marvel and Captain Thunder, etc. That has to be even weirder that meeting a sister-in-law you never knew you had!”
“Well, it is even weirder than that, if you think about it!” Suze answered. “I’m married to Thunderman who is the same person as Captain Marvel Jr. What does that make me to him?”
“Wife-in-law?” Sandy hazarded.
Suze blinked, turned and slowly checked out Captain Marvel Jr., then shook her head. “MUCH too young!” The four women laughed.
“What about the two of us, Suze?” Sandy indicated herself and Carol. “Do we have doubles?”
Suze thought REALLY fast before she answered. “If you do, I don’t know them.”
She was hedging. She had known a woman she was sure was Carol’s analog. Bolt and Lady Bolt had worked together a lot before they both got married, and they had been known as ‘The Dashing Detectives’. In the early 50s they had worked on a couple of cases with a PI named Stan Square and his beautiful assistant Daryl Dews. The two had disappeared in the South Seas on a case a few years later and had never been heard from again.
And how could she tell Sandy that the body of the Wizzo analog in her world had escaped from prison in the middle 50s and a week later turned up dead in an alley in a small town, apparently ambushed and murdered by a used car salesman?
Sue recognized her new friend’s reluctance to continue, and she changed the subject. “I hope Jim’s not wondering what it’s like to be married to Mary Thunder, like your brother Jamie! She sure is a hottie!”
“You’re pretty hot yourself, sister!” Suze laughed. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Americon was talking with Thunderman and Captain Marvel Jr. They were discussing the powers Americon had gained from the magic lightning, and Americon’s reaction to them.
“I think I’ve figured out where your powers came from,” Freddy ventured. “You said ‘Shazam’ so you got your powers from the same patrons as mine – but you received different aspects of their powers. Here’s what I think:”
“That’s interesting, and it sounds right to me,” Americon agreed. “Now I need some advice.” The other two heroes turned their full attention to their elder – asking for advice wasn’t something they expected from him.
“I haven’t felt so good for years. It’s amazing. I keep myself in perfect condition, but it’s harder and harder every year, and it takes longer to recover from pains and injuries than ever before. I’ve actually been thinking about giving up the costumed identity.”
“But in this form all those aches and pains are gone! And, if I don’t change back, just think of the good I could do in the world. Instead of losing Americon, the world will be gaining another super-powered champion. So tell me, why should I change back?”
The younger heroes looked at each other. Americon was not the first person to ask them that question. Many of their friends had asked the same thing, and the truth was, they themselves had asked that very question thousands of times. Why bother to change back to the impaired forms of Otto and Freddy when the other option was to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe? If Freddy had to make an appearance somewhere, why couldn’t Cap Jr. just put on Freddy’s clothes over his costume, since, after all, their looks were identical!?
In the past, each had tried spending full time in his magical forms. And, for no reason they could point a finger at, both had given up the experiment. When it came time to change back, it just didn’t feel right to remain in the heroic identity. Why not? Neither knew, although Thunderman had his suspicions. Needing to spend significant time in their mortal forms was a significant weakness — could it be a precaution by the Wizards against a repeat of the Black Adam/Dark Zephram incident? These two could each remain in their super-powered forms indefinitely, and their powers had corrupted each of these former heroes.
On the other hand, Americon had so far not felt any compulsion to change back. Maybe this was another side effect of the fossil magic inside BattleWorld, or perhaps it just wasn’t time yet. Neither Thunderman nor Cap Jr. had any advice for him. Both suggested that Shazam and Merokee would step in if Jay was doing something contrary to their wishes.
“That makes sense to me. For the time being, I guess I won’t change back. But I’m going back to my own costume!” They all smiled at that.
Finally the other Earth heroes had to go. They left with the thanks of their new friends, and headed back to their normal lives on Earth-T. And the Earth-S heroes returned home from the Rock of Eternity, and the world was safe again, at least for now…