Captain Marvel Junior was flying in pursuit of his own Christmas project. He had flown to the address listed on Eric Smith’s resume, but he had not found the unemployed mechanic. Eric’s wife Dolly had greeted the hero with a mixture of admiration and concern. Two small children played loudly in the background of the small apartment.
“Captain Marvel Junior!” she said. “What brings you here? Eric’s not in trouble, is he? I know he’s determined to make a fresh start! You people can’t go around hounding him!”
The youthful hero shook his head firmly. “Mrs. Smith, I’m here to try to help your husband. I want to make sure he gets that fresh start he deserves. I care about more than just locking away criminals. I like to see people change for the better, too!”
Mrs. Smith picked up a small girl and said, “Thank you! He’s looking for work, but he has had nothing but bad luck. I’m a bit afraid of how the discouragement will affect him. He has been so disappointed since we moved here. No one will hire him!”
“I want to talk to him,” said Junior. “I’m hopeful that together we can work something out. My word carries a lot of weight, and I never want to use that influence carelessly, but I’d like to see if I could help Eric out! Do you have any idea where he is?”
Mrs. Smith sighed and said, “No. To be honest, I’m getting a bit worried. He likes the blues. He may be at the club three blocks over.”
The world’s mightiest boy smiled as he bent down to greet the little Smith boy, who waved a plastic action-figure in the air. “Hi, pal. I see you like super-heroes. I do, too! Which one is your favorite?” he asked.
Little Tommy Smith looked sternly at Captain Marvel Junior and said, “Minute Man!”
Junior laughed and said, “I like him, too!”
He flew off and soon came to a small blues club with a neon sign that identified that place as Satin’s. The thundering sounds of Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog echoed from within. Not exactly Blue Christmas, but I like it, he thought.
Whispering the words “Captain Marvel,” he changed back into Freddy Freeman. “I’ll attract slightly less attention if I go inside as plain old Freddy!” he mused.
As the young man entered the club, he glanced around the room and saw a few people sitting around nursing various drinks. He recognized Eric Smith from a photo he had glimpsed in the Smith apartment. The young mechanic was talking to three other men. Gosh, those are some rough customers he’s talking to, he thought. I even remember taking the bald guy in once for mugging!
He had approached too closely to turn around now, so he said, “Mr. Smith? I’m a friend of Red’s. He told me you were looking for a job!”
“What kind of job could a kid like you know about?” said Eric.
The bald man next to him took a swig of beer and said, “Buzz off, punk! Smith’s got work, if he’s got brains enough to take it!”
“Hold it,” said Eric. “There’s no need to talk to the boy like that. As for your offer, I’m having second thoughts.”
A bearded biker in a denim vest glared at him and said, “You might call what we talked about the kind of offer you can’t refuse. Either you’re in with us, or you’re in the hospital!”
Freddy frowned and said, “Mr. Smith, your family wouldn’t want you to get mixed up with thugs like these two. Come outside with me, and I’ll explain what I had in mind!”
The red-bearded biker grabbed Smith and knocked him across a table as the bald man grappled with Freddy.
Freddy had been prepared for trouble from the thugs he saw with Smith, but he was caught off-guard by a blow from behind. Apparently, the duo had a partner.
He staggered forward and crashed into a table. The room began to spin before his eyes, and he struggled to stay awake long enough to speak his magic words.
“If you’re lookin’ for trouble, then you’ve come to the right place!” said a deep-voiced man with slightly graying brown hair and dark glasses. “I don’t like to see nobody roughing up a boy like that! Try that with someone who can take care of business!” He assumed a karate pose and knocked the nearest thug flat with a swift blow.
“Hey, look at the lame Elvis wanna-be!” sneered the bald thug.
Freddy rolled under a table and spoke his magic words. In a flash of lightning, he was transformed into Captain Marvel Junior. He moved at super-speed and slapped the other two goons to the ground before anyone could realize that he had changed from the crippled newsboy.
“Captain Marvel Junior!” said Eric Smith. “You sure showed up in time! Those three were planning a robbery. They tried to get me to come in with them. I guess I changed my mind just in time. Thanks for the help!”
Junior smiled and said, “My friend Freddy Freeman brought me along. He heard about you from Red and told me all about you. Your wife told me you might be here. I got Freddy to safety just in time, too. Those goons played rough!”
The brown-haired man in dark shades said, “I’m Aaron Vernon. I own this club among other properties. I always loved the blues. I’m mighty pleased to meet you, Captain Marvel Junior. You’re a hero to me. You always have been!”
Junior stared at the man and said, “We have met before, and we both know that! I’m more than pleased to see you again! I little expected that would ever be possible!”
The man calling himself Vernon nodded and smiled a most familiar smile. He answered in a deep Southern drawl and said, “Come into my office a moment. Your pal will be fine. The boys will see to that!”
He gestured to a group of men who responded to his gesture and quickly led the beaten thugs out to a summoned police car, while Eric Smith was shown to the bar and offered a drink by another employee.
“I reckon you saw right through my story,” he said. “My middle name is Aaron. Vernon was my Daddy’s name. When things got a bit too much for me a few years ago, I figured I could create a secret identity of sorts and just enjoy the music and other things I loved without all the craziness that came with my real life. So, I got rid of the black hair dye I started usin’ when I went into the picture business. I just started spending time at places like this. I know I can trust you, since like I said, you’re a hero to me. You sure saved me back in ’53!”
Junior shook hands with the ex-singer and said, “I’ll keep your secret! By the way, meeting you again and learning you’re alive and well is a great Christmas present!”
Aaron grinned and said, “I don’t want nobody to have a blue Christmas!”
Captain Marvel Junior smiled and quickly flew Eric Smith away from the club where commoners and a king could be found.
Mary Marvel was flying through a world of white as snow blew all around her, and she sped through the icy wastelands of Antarctica to the South Pole. She wore her red and gold minidress with slippers, and she flew higher and higher as she tried to find some clue to the disappearance of John McGuire.
Mrs. McGuire told me that John was studying ozone depletion when he vanished. His fellow scientists were able to direct me to the South Pole itself, where John was last known to be heading. He was checking some of their monitoring equipment when he failed to either return to camp or radio in with a report!
“It’s ironic that a case would bring me to the South Pole this night,” said Mary, “since so much of Christmas lore centers around the North Pole and Santa’s workshop!”
Before the flying girl could do anything, a beam of concentrated force struck her from above. She fell into a snow bank and then jumped skyward and fought her way higher against the continuing pressure of the ray beam.
“I’m not sure who is taking potshots at me, but it will take more than this to stop me!” she vowed.
She forced her way directly into the beam of light and felt her body change to tiny particles of light, before it re-formed aboard a huge alien craft where small aliens with pointed ears and sharp features stood ready to face their latest guest.
“Goodness!” she said. “I’d think these were Santa’s elves if I didn’t know better!”
“You are unlike the others on this world! You are stronger, faster, smarter! You will make a better guide than the human we captured earlier.”
The words echoed in her mind as the aliens communicated with her via a form of telepathy.
“You abducted poor Mr. McGuire! Where is he?” demanded Mary. “Tell me, or I’ll have to demonstrate just how strong I am, and your crew won’t enjoy the experience!”
An alien appeared from below deck and brought out a slightly dazed-looking man. “This is human designated McGuire. We have not harmed him! We came here in search of something unique to Earth. In order to better understand it and experience it, we brought this human aboard.”
“Mary Marvel, are you ever a sight for sore eyes!” said Dr. McGuire. “These little aliens took me days ago! They keep asking me the same questions again and again!”
Mary sat down on both knees and looked at the nearest alien. “Tell me what brought you here,” she said. “Maybe I can take you to it or explain it to you.”
The alien thought, and Mary heard the words, “We came here to find what you Earthlings call Christmas!”
“Christmas? It’s a seasonal celebration with spiritual meaning and certain rituals and observances popularized by both custom and the media,” said the scientist. “I’ve told them that before!”
Mary smiled and looked at McGuire in amusement. “I think maybe instead of telling them in such a clinical but accurate way, it would be better to show them!” she said. “If you will follow me, I’ll try to show you Christmas!”
The little men gathered around her, and their thoughts almost stunned her with their eager intensity. “Indeed! Take us to Christmas! That will fulfill our mission!”
Captain Marvel and Santa Claus had reached the North Pole, and the world’s mightiest mortal frowned as he spotted a strange army of humanoid-sized toy soldiers. Each one stood still as if on sentry duty.
“Those things were never made by any of my Elves!” vowed Santa.
Captain Marvel moved as quickly as the magic lightning that enabled him to transform himself from Billy. He blocked a barrage of high-energy fire that came from the rapidly raised and fired rifles of the army of toy soldiers.
“I’m glad your elves didn’t whip up those lethal toys!” he said. “I can think of a lot of parents who would be pretty upset if their kid found one of these under the tree!”
Santa spread wide his arms and shrugged. “That’s the problem, son! I lost my powers and my home before I had completed this year’s toys. If we don’t get inside my workshop below and restore my powers before long, it will be too late for me to finish and deliver the toys!”
Cap nodded grimly. “I’m not going to let any Grinch stop Christmas!” he said.
He spun around and broke through the frozen ground until he had created a tunnel that led directly below the toy soldiers. Before they could fire at Santa again, Captain Marvel smashed them to scrap metal.
“This way!” he said. “I can almost smell the gingerbread!”
“I’ll never be so glad to see Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, and even Grover again!” said Santa.
Captain Marvel marched confidently forward and shoved open a door that was decorated with a red and green wreath. He pushed his way past another row of giant Jack-in-the-box toys that threatened to crush him between their enhanced coils. “You fellows can just stay in your box!” he said as he hammered them down with super-strength.
“What kind of fiend would turn toys into deadly weapons?” asked a disgusted Santa.
“That would be that jolly old elf me!” cried a voice as a little bald man emerged from behind a stuffed bear.
“Sivana! I should have known!” cried Santa Claus. “You’ve topped the naughty list since before the First World War!”
Captain Marvel rolled up his sleeves and said, “This will be my pleasure! I’ll giftwrap and deliver him to his customary cell!”
Santa grabbed Captain Marvel’s arm and said, “Wait! Look around you! He’s actually finished all the toys I had left undone! They are even loaded and ready to go in my magic sleigh!”
Thaddeus Bodog Sivana shook his head sadly and said, “I felt that stealing Santa’s powers would ruin Christmas and thus erase my past disgrace from winning the Nobel Peace Prize by accident years ago! I mean, what’s worse than stealing from old Saint Nick?”
“You sapped my Christmas magic with that big machine over there, didn’t you?” said Santa. “One good flip of the switch will restore me. I know a bit about inventions, too!” He flipped a switch on a huge green and gold machine and began to glow with twinkling energy.
“Ho, ho, ho! I’m back in business!” he said with a booming laugh.
Captain Marvel gripped Dr. Sivana by his collar and said, “After you took Santa’s Christmas magic with the machine, you accidentally absorbed some of it! That machine’s shielding is faulty due to the intense cold!”
Sivana shook his head sadly. “Right. Something made me want to make real toys and even improve some of the processes here at the North Pole workshop! I even started to–” He gulped. “–like people!” he finished with a look of horror.
“Thanks to Sivana’s work, I’ll be able to deliver all the toys after all!” said Santa.
Captain Marvel smiled broadly and said, “It just shows you that even Sivana’s evil heart was no match for the spirit of Christmas!”
“Bah! Humbug!” said Sivana. “I forgot to disable a few of those toy weapons outside, even after I got that sick warm feeling! How I wish one of them would have turned you into a big red holiday cheese ball!”
“I’ll just drop him off at his cell,” said Captain Marvel. “Merry Christmas, Santa!” He flew off with the bitter scientist and left Santa Claus to begin his rounds.
At the WHIZ Christmas party, a festive tree and colorful lights dominated the room where assembled staffers and guests enjoyed the annual Christmas Eve party.
Mary Marvel beamed with pleasure as she watched the reunion of the joyful McGuire family. Little Tina sat on her father’s lap while his wife held his hand.
Tina turned to Mary and said, “You did it! You and Santa really did bring my Daddy back home!”
Uncle Marvel smiled happily and gulped down some punch as he heard Tina’s words. Mary smiled and kissed the child as the aliens watched carefully.
“This sense of warmth and giving must be what they mean by Christmas!” thought one of them.
“Fellowship and friendship and love for others all make Christmas what it is!” said Mary. “It all comes down to the effects from the night God’s son was born into our world!”
The aliens munched on candy canes and projected thoughts of pleasure. “You’ve shown us what Christmas truly is!” thought one as he looked at the loving family and heard the carols in the background.
Captain Marvel Junior shook hands with station owner Sterling Morris as he agreed to give Eric Smith a job at the station based on Junior’s recommendation.
“We need someone here to keep the mobile news van running smoothly,” announced the older man. “You can start first thing Monday morning!”
“Thanks, sir!” said Eric Smith. “I’ll do a great job. Thank you, too, Captain Marvel Junior!”
“My pleasure,” Captain Marvel Junior said. “If I hadn’t gone looking for you, I might not have met an old friend like I did!”
Billy Batson rushed inside and smiled happily as he was greeted by his old pal Mr. Tawky Tawny, the talking tiger.
“Billy, good to see you!” said the jovial and dapper tiger.
“Happy holidays to you!” said Billy.
Seeing the McGuires, he noticed little Tina looking at the tree and presents. He caught Dr. McGuire’s eye and slipped him the wrapped gift he had bought for Cissie. “Tina should have something from her dad,” Billy said. “I know you didn’t get to shop, since the aliens took you days ago!”
Dr. McGuire thanked him warmly and gave the package to a thrilled Tina.
Mary had quietly slipped away and changed back to Mary Batson. She returned in time to see Billy’s kind act, and she sighed. “Billy, that was so sweet! But Cissie is here already, too. What will you give her?”
“I guess I’ll have to tell her the truth,” said Billy.
Cissie Sommerly rushed up then and kissed Billy warmly before he could speak.
“Holy moley! That was really something!” he said as he started to blush.
Cissie held up a piglet ornament and said, “I love it! You are so thoughtful!”
Billy smiled and said, “You’re welcome! I’m glad you like it!”
“I do!” said Cissie. “Let me get us some punch!” She walked over to the tables, and Billy turned to Mary in surprise.
“But I gave the ornament I bought for Cissie to Tina! How’d she get that one?” he asked.
“I think you have a friend in high places!” said Mary. She gestured to the roof, where the sound of sleigh bells could be heard along with jolly laughter.
“Thanks, Santa! I owe you one!” whispered Billy.
He raised the punch Cissie brought over, and in a loud voice he said, “Merry Christmas, folks!”