Mary Batson smiled and waved as a sleek black car pulled away from a group of rustic cabins near a crystal blue lake. She inhaled deeply and turned to a pretty blonde girl who stood beside her and gazed around the compound with wide-eyed wonder.
“Wow, Mary, for a city girl like me, this place is a real change!” said Goldie Sparkle. “It is lovely here!”
Mary, a beautiful girl with long, straight brown hair and a warm smile, nodded and said, “Mother will be delighted! She was a bit reluctant to take on the role of patroness of Camp Mohegan, but her Art League pals talked her into it, and I think financing this summer camp for disadvantaged city kids will be very worthwhile!”
Goldie laughed merrily and said, “Totally, but I don’t think Jives liked the look of the place! His expression could have curdled milk!”
Mary grinned playfully and said, “Let’s just say he takes his duties as family butler seriously and disapproves of his Miss Mary roughing it!”
“That must be why he insisted that you pack three suitcases!” laughed Goldie.
Mary sighed and said, “He really is a dear, but he can be a bit overprotective! After all, why would anyone pack three taffeta ball gowns for a brief campout?”
“The former camp counselors weren’t kidding when they said we’d find plenty of things to work out, though,” said Goldie. “The scenic beauty is not equaled by the condition of the cabins!”
Mary nodded as she stepped gingerly over an old door that had fallen off of its hinges. “I suppose the reason the camp needed a sponsor was because of how many repairs need to be made before it can reopen,” she said. If Goldie wasn’t here, she thought, I could just say the magic word Shazam and use my super-powers as Mary Marvel to whip the place into shape in no time! Still, Goldie is so perky and fun to be around, that I couldn’t stand to turn her down when she volunteered to join me!
Coughing as a cloud of dust rose up from some old blankets she had pushed aside to enter a cabin, Mary said, “Goodness, this place does need a good cleaning!”
Goldie nodded and said, “We could check your bags. Maybe Jives packed a vacuum!”
Mary laughed and said, “We’ll just make do with cleaning this cabin and make some notes for what repairs will be required when Mother’s crew gets here next week!”
Later, as Goldie’s snores echoed within the cabin, Mary tiptoed outside and stretched luxuriously before moving away from the camp. “I think I’ll take a quick tour of the place from above while Goldie sleeps!” she said. “The way the poor thing snores, I won’t be getting any rest tonight, anyway!”
Finding a secluded place, she said, “Shazam!”
In response to Mary’s verbalizing the magical acronymic name of the old wizard, a clap of thunder and a flash of magical lightning transformed the lovely girl into the world’s mightiest girl, Mary Marvel.
The young woman still possessed the same wholesome beauty, but she now wore a red and gold minidress with gold slippers and a matching cape. In this costumed form, she was known across the universe itself as a superhuman champion, and in truth, Mary relished the role. She knew that, in spite of the wealth her adoptive parents had provided her with, she was not addicted to material comforts. She enjoyed helping others, and this family trait was one she shared with her twin brother Billy Batson, who made a comfortable wage as a TV newsman, but preferred to live a simple life when he was not fighting crime as Captain Marvel. Both Batson siblings owed their powers to the fact that they had been selected separately by a wise old wizard named Shazam to act as his chosen champions and to fight for all that was good and just.
Mary Marvel soared gracefully over the camp and playfully skimmed the surface of the waters with one hand as she gained speed and altitude.
A ghostly voice seemed to whisper her name as she circled the camp. She frowned and gazed down, but she could not detect any figures below. How very odd. I must be imagining things! she thought.
She started to fly over the woods when the same insistent whisper reached her ears.
She hovered in midair and frowned in concentration. “I definitely heard it that time! Someone is calling me! There’s no one in sight, so the voice must be coming from that cavern! Strange, I almost missed it in the dark when I first circled by. It’s like it wasn’t there a moment ago!”
Mary Marvel swooped inside the rocky cavern and gasped in surprise as her eyes became adjusted to the night, and she saw an ornately decorated chamber, where she had expected to find nothing more than an errant camper. “Oh, my! It’s like something out of Cooper!” she sighed as she saw Native American relics hanging from the walls and valuable carvings and art lining the room.
She also saw the source of the whispers as a withered and gaunt-looking old man stepped out of the shadows and stood before her.
“Mary Marvel!” he said. “My time has already passed, but you may still avert a great evil! I am Merokee, the last of the ancient Mohegan people, and I ask you for your help in the memory of that proud and now-vanished nation!”
Mary nodded slowly as she thought, He’s a spirit or ghost of some kind! Everything about him makes me think of wise old Shazam himself! This man shares his nobility of manner! Aloud she said, “I will help you, if I can! What may I do for you?”
“You must save my children, but to do so you must journey through both time and space!” said Merokee.
“I’ve done that before,” said Mary. “I’m willing to do so again!”
The old shaman nodded in benign approval and said, “My child, I thank you! Your heart is as pure and brave as the heart of my own daughter! That is fitting, for reasons you will soon comprehend. To reach your destination, follow one that is as fleet of foot as he is heedless!” He gestured to a small brown hare that emerged from the shadows and hopped by them to disappear into the recesses of the cavern.
Mary smiled and said, “I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland! Following a rabbit was what led her into her own adventures!” But she frowned as, when she turned around, she noticed that the Native American had vanished.
Flying after the hare, she felt air caress her face as the cavern faded from view, and she emerged into an open sky over a large city. A welcome sign loomed over the highway.
Holy moley! she thought. Metropolis? That’s the name of that dreamy Superman’s home, but I know for a fact that we can’t get to his alternate Earth since the Crisis! If Shazam himself said as much, then I know this Merokee, for all his obvious wisdom, couldn’t pierce the barriers!
Gazing down on the speeding cars below, she gently slapped her palm against her head. “Of course!” she said. “Based on the models of those cars below and the slow speed level, I’m in the past! Perhaps Merokee sent me back in time to a point before the Crisis. He may have sent me to the past before the barriers kept us from reaching the alternate Earths!”
Mary attracted numerous stares and whistles as she soared overhead, and she smiled knowingly. “Goodness!” she said. “I would have thought folks wouldn’t have expected to see a flying girl in this era, even on a world that would later have a Supergirl of its own!”
Could Superman himself be one of the children Merokee spoke of? she wondered. I thought his origin was connected to an alien heritage, but maybe that story isn’t exactly correct! After all, Shazam empowered Master Man by posing as an old man with scientific pills, when in truth the power came from his magic. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Superman also owed his power to a counterpart of Shazam’s on this world?
But before she could continue her musings, Mary heard a loud scream. She whirled around gracefully and zoomed down to get a closer look.
“If someone needs help, then I must find them!” she said. “That hare certainly vanished, along with the cavern, so I’m going to need to do some scouting around, anyway, if I want to help Merokee’s children!”
The world’s mightiest girl swooped down and gasped as she saw a weird scene. A lumbering mummy wrapped in yellowed fabric, looking like it had just jumped straight out of an old Universal movie, loomed into view and menaced a group of men and women outside a stately museum.
Mary Marvel dropped down between the monster and its victims and said, “I’ll resist making any number of bad puns if you’ll give up now!”
The Mummy scowled, and as it opened broken and decayed lips, a voice like rusty nails on a chalkboard seeped out. “By the dark majesty of Set, you have escaped!” he hissed. “No matter, since I will merely hasten your journey to the afterlife with my own hands!”
Mary ducked under his outstretched arms and spun around to deliver a stinging high kick that sent him staggering backward. My, but he’s strong! she thought. I suppose the magic that animates him gives him raw power!
She turned to the crowd and smiled warmly. “Folks, you can go on about your business! I’ll have this wrapped up in no time!” she quipped.
“Bless you, Mary Thunder!” cried an old woman.
Mary frowned and turned to face the elderly woman more directly. “Mary Thunder?” she said. “That’s not my name, but it is close enough to make me wonder who you are referring to.”
But she grunted in pain as the Mummy slammed into her with surprising speed and strength. Yellowed hands closed around her throat, and she felt a crushing pressure.
“Die! Die! Die!” cried the Mummy as a ghastly smile filled his face.
Mary brought both legs up and extended them to force the Mummy away from her. As he fell flat, she rubbed her neck and said, “You know, you have a real one-track mind, even for a Mummy! You’d think, after around a couple thousand years of existence, you would have broadened your perspective a bit!”
She flew into the creature as he rose up, and she pressed her fingers into its wrapping strands. After a super-swift flight in a tight circle, she had left the creature as a dazed skeleton. “Now to get down to bare bones, as Captain Marvel Junior might say!” she said.
Mary Marvel soared into the sky, then dived into the creature with smashing impact. As broken bones cascaded down around her, she dusted herself off and fluffed her hair back into place. “Since it was never truly alive, I had no qualms about smashing it,” she said. “Luckily, I was able to shatter the bones into tiny fragments that can’t be reassembled anytime soon, if ever!”
Cheers and applause rang out from the crowd, and Mary curtseyed in recognition.
“We love you, Mary Thunder!”
“You got the best legs since Grable!”
“You are all too kind!” she said. “I guess that thing came out of a sarcophagus in the museum. I know that kind of thing has happened before, in my experience!”
“No way, Miss Thunder!” said a burly guard. “You oughtta know about that monster! You and the Thunder Family fought him enough! Dracula raised him up and sent him here to steal some treasures that belonged to him back in the old country! I guess, since you and your brother and Captain Thunder Junior vanished a while back, he figured he’d have a clear shot at it!”
So this Metropolis is not Superman’s home on Earth-One, but another city of the same name, where the local heroes must be counterparts of the Marvel Family! thought Mary. That’s why they think they know me and keep calling me Mary Thunder! Perhaps Merokee empowered them like Shazam empowers us!
“Uh, fellas, can you please tell me where Captain Thunder is?” she said. “I’ve not seen him in a while!”
“No, Miss Thunder,” said the guard. “Of course, Station WHAM might be a good place to start. Young Willie Fawcett covers your cases all the time on the TV and radio!”
Mary thanked him and flew off toward the heart of the city. I spotted the TV building when I first arrived, but I didn’t notice the call letters! she thought. WHAM is certainly close to WHIZ, where Billy works on our Earth! If my theory is right, then this Captain Thunder is Willie’s alter ego! I know the cute Superman I met years ago was not the same one I met back during the war shortly after I gained my powers. (*) If there are two of him in the cosmos, then I suppose there could be multiple Marvels as well!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis in Tomorrow,” Justice League of America #137 (December, 1976) and “Thunder Over London,” All-Star Squadron #36 (August, 1984).]
Elsewhen, sinister eyes watched Mary from an unseen vantage point.
“She fell for my little ruse,” said a fat man in a green costume. “Now, if this world’s Monster League can slay her, I’ll have one less Marvel to impede my rightful conquest of all of time and space!”