by Libbylawrence, partially adapted from Superman #276 by Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan
Oblivious to the unseen watcher who smugly observed her every move, Mary Marvel flew directly to the WHAM building and shook her head as she recognized the structure.
“Goodness! It looks a little different from the WHIZ building of 1953, but not by much!” she said. “I’d better prepare myself for more déjà vu!”
Swooping inside an open window, she quickly made her way to a particular floor. The world’s mightiest girl was greeted warmly, and she smiled sweetly in acknowledgment. Mary Thunder must be very popular here! she thought. It sure is swell to think that folks are as nice here as they are back home!
Spotting a cheerful blonde girl sitting behind a desk, Mary approached her slowly. She’s nearly an exact double for Billy’s secretary Joan Jameson! she realized. I have to remember that she may look like the Joan I know, but she isn’t the same woman! Her boss is Willie, not Billy!
“Mary, I’m sure glad to see you!” bellowed the secretary. “I knew you’d be OK!”
Mary hesitated, then replied, “Thank you! Is Willie in?”
The blonde frowned and said, “Nope. He has been missing ever since you Thunders vanished! But you know that. Say, something fishy is going on here. Your dress has a different emblem on the chest!”
Mary nodded and said, “I’m sorry. I thought posing as your Mary would be simpler than telling you the exact truth. I am not Mary Thunder. My name is Mary Marvel. I’m sort of her good double!”
“I’m Jane Jenson,” replied the secretary. “I know the Thunders pretty well, so I picked up that tiny costume difference quicker than most. Truth to tell, honey, I doubt most people ever look past those legs of yours! Plus, you’ve got a knockout face!”
“I have been moving pretty swiftly, too,” said Mary. “Can you tell me everything you know about what happened to the real Mary?”
“After working for Willie so long, I’m pretty much used to seeing odd things happen!” said Jane. “I believe you. You don’t look like butter would melt in your mouth!” She led Mary into an empty office that was decorated with many broadcasting awards and a few sports pennants.
My, but this looks like Billy’s office! thought Mary. I guess that’s reasonable!
Jane shut the door and said, “I know Willie is really Captain Thunder. You apparently do, too, since you are a twin to Mary Thunder!”
Mary nodded and said, “You are right. Now, please tell me what you know about the missing Thunder Family!”
“They were going to get some kind of honor,” said Jane. “Well, when they arrived at the town hall, magical energy swallowed them up! It looked like the kind of hoo-doo the Salem Witch used on them before. I got there late — broke a high heel on the subway.”
“Did other people vanish with them?” asked Mary. “Perhaps most of the crowd who arrived ahead of you?”
Jane nodded and said, “Right! One of them was the city’s D.A., Ryan Gable, who is really the mystery-man Mister Crimson. Plus other mystery-men were there, like Ankh the Amazing, Rocketman and Rocketwoman, Crime Smasher, Son of Liberty, and Rusty the Quiz Kid.”
Mary nodded and thought, Gable, alias Mister Crimson, must be this world’s Brian Butler, alias the first Mister Scarlet! Ankh the Amazing is an Ibis the Invincible counterpart, while the Rockets, Crime Smasher, Son of Liberty, and Rusty must be the counterparts of the Bullets, Spy Smasher, Minute Man, and Pinky the Whiz Kid! This whole scenario is this world’s version of our own Suspendium trap! We all were caught in a trap by Dr. Sivana in 1953 and only escaped twenty years later! (*) He used science, but on this world magic was used to snare the heroes and their friends! If I can find them and free them, I might be able to save this planet’s heroes from the fate that befell our own friends!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The World’s Wickedest Plan,” Shazam! #1 (February, 1973).]
Soon, Mary Marvel stood within an odd cavern near a lake that greatly resembled the cave near Camp Mohegan. She frowned as he realized that, unlike the cave on her world, this one was devoid of any sign of Native American relics or ornaments. I’d hoped that this world would have a cave like the one in which I met Merokee, she thought. I thought it might be a bit like our own subway tunnel, which led us to the Rock of Eternity where Shazam may be found!
Suddenly, a smiled brightened her face as she noticed a fallen piece of polished wood. She picked it up and ran one hand across it with her enhanced strength and speed. Sparks ignited, and she placed the torch within a crude hole in one wall.
A ghostly figure materialized before the girl’s eyes, and she nodded in approval as Merokee came forward. I’d hoped I could summon him in much the same way we summon the spirit of Shazam, she thought.
“My child who is not my own, you are a welcome sight!” he said. “I have been waiting for you. Gaze deeply into the fire!” He gestured to where a fire had suddenly erupted between them.
She peered into the rising smoke and experienced a vision of the world beyond the cave and of the past. It is almost like the Historama! she thought.
Mary watched as the smoke faded into a scene she watched with growing dismay. She saw three colorfully costumed beings waving to a cheering crowd.
The tallest was a handsome man with dark hair and a broad smile. He wore a red and gold costume with a golden sunburst in the center of his chest. Next to Captain Thunder — for he was obviously the head of the Thunder Family based on his resemblance to Captain Marvel — sat a lovely girl with brown hair and a red and gold minidress with gold slippers, who was almost identical to Mary herself. The third hero was a young man with a blue and gold costume and a boyish grin on his face.
“Junior’s double looks just like him!” she said. “Mary certainly looks like me, too! I think I can even detect doubles for civilian clothed versions of Jim and Susan Barr, Brian and Rob Butler, and Alan Armstrong! I guess this world has versions of all the heroes I know!”
As the heroes waved to the crowd, and a portly city official prepared to present them with various ribbons and awards, the sky turned black, and a high-pitched cackled echoed over the city hall. “Captain Thunder, you’ll never smile again!” shrieked a female voice as a sinister crone in black shot across the sky on a broom, and energy engulfed the crowd. “You and all of your infernal Thunder Family will never even see daylight again!”
In seconds they were all gone. However, a few startled people who had been at the rear of the crowd remained and gazed upward at the slowly clearing sky in shock or horror. A blonde who hobbled into view and clutched a broken high heel in one hand caught Mary’s eye. “There’s Jane! She did get there too late to be taken away!”
Mary frowned as the scene changed, and she saw a gloomy castle looming over a stark village beneath rugged mountains. “Transylvania? I’ve been there before on my world. I guess, when I heard the police officer refer to Dracula, I should have expected that dark land to be his lair!”
Merokee nodded and said, “Dracula and his Monster League of Evil took the heroes there, and the Salem Witch’s foul magic has robbed them of the powers I gave them! If you can free them, then you will have my gratitude!”
“I’ll go there right now!” said Mary.
The ancient Indian stopped her with one raised palm. “No, my child! First, witness how the Thunder Family came to be!”
Mary Marvel saw a new vision in the fire in which the cavern was now near a seasonal camp for orphans much like the one she was trying to restore back home. A young boy in a red shirt spotted an owl that seemed to want him to follow him, so the boy did so, running into the woods until he came to a hillside made of solid rock. Just as the owl was about to strike the wall, two doors of rock, not previously visible, opened inwardly. The boy, feeling absolutely no fear, ran inside after it, only to find a torchlit chamber and an old man within.
“That boy is Willie Fawcett,” Mary muttered.
Young Willie swiftly encountered the old shaman, who spoke in a stentorian tone of voice as he said, “Long has Merokee, last of the great medicine men of the Mohegan tribe, awaited your coming, Willie Fawcett! Come forward!” As Willie did so, the shaman placed his hand on the boy’s head and said, “Tribal legends foretold that one day a boy would come forth who was noble of spirit! He would be invested with great powers by the last of the great Mohegan shamans — Willie Fawcett, you are that boy!”
Merokee held up a blue belt with a golden buckle that had a lightning bolt insignia on it, and he said, “When you wear this magic belt-buckle you will have these seven spiritual powers!”
Willie gulped as he looked at an animal cloth on the wall with a legend apparently written in English that served as an explanation of the mysterious powers:
“Now… rub the buckle and say the magic word composed of the first letters of every name on this list!” said Merokee, giving the boy the belt. Willie took the belt and wore it around his waist.
“Yes, sir!” began Willie, rubbing the ornate belt-buckle as instructed. “They spell… THUNDER!”
A brilliant starburst flashed, and thunder boomed in the torchlit chamber, and when the brilliant light had faded, Willie Fawcett found that he had been transformed into the powerful adult form of Captain Thunder. “Creepies–!” cried the new hero, who was dressed in a costume nearly identical to Captain Marvel’s, except for a starburst emblem in place of a lightning bolt, as well as the addition of the blue belt with the golden buckle.
At that, the old shaman raised his arms and said, “My work here is done, O Great Spirit… your aged servant Merokee is prepared to pass on…”
Captain Thunder watched as the old man’s physical form began to slowly become transparent, and he rose into the air in flames, like a flickering spark. “The ceiling — opening up?!” he gasped as hole appeared in the ceiling just as the old man’s spirit met it. “Merokee! Wh-where are you going?!”
“I go now… to a far better place…” said the shaman in a ghostly voice, “…leaving you — Captain Thunder — to battle evil wherever it may appear!” At that, the ghost of Merokee was gone, and the vision in the flames ended. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Make Way for Captain Thunder,” Superman #276 (June, 1974).]
In the present, Merokee spoke once again. “He became my champion and has served me well for over a decade. His sister Mary soon followed him on the path to greatness and received a belt of her own. She became known as Mary Thunder. Finally, another worthy youth, Otto Beck, gained similar powers through my will and theirs. He became the heroic Captain Thunder Junior!”
Mary nodded and said, “An inspiring sight! It was almost like watching our own origins unfold! Seeing it was a real gift, but I’d say you wanted me to gain something more than a kind of déjà vu once removed!”
Merokee nodded and said, “What you have seen will aid you. Truly, the wisdom given you by Athena serves you well!”
“Thank you,” said Mary. “Now, I promise I’ll do my very best to save them!” She flew out of the cavern and began to formulate a plan. I can’t fail them! she thought. It would be like letting Billy and Freddy down, in a way!
Within the ancient castle in Transylvania, an eerie assembly of inhuman creatures looked on gleefully as their leader spoke in his heavily accented, guttural tones.
Count Dracula and his bride looked very much the way Hollywood’s Universal Studios had depicted them. As pale ghouls with fangs and compelling eyes that burned in the darkness, they lived off of human blood and found rest only during the daylight hours when they assumed a strange semblance of slumber.
Count Dracula smiled and said, “In the past, our numbers vere small due to the interference of the Thunder Family. Vell, since ve imprisoned them here, it is no exaggeration to say that our numbers now are truly legion!”
The Countess smiled in a sultry manner and said, “Our League has grown! As our progeny have spread our gift through the willages below, so have our numbers increased!”
The evil old crone known as the Salem Witch spat upon the floor and said, “Bah! Your vampiric army owes its very existence to me! It was my spell that enabled you to turn them all into vampiric pawns without truly slaying them or having to wait until after their deaths to revive them as your kind! It was also my magic that put the heroes who hunted your kind before down like so many curs!”
Dracula scowled and said, “Do not tempt me to break our pact. You speak to nobility, old witch, and I vill not allow anyone to treat me with such contempt!”
“You do not frighten me, nor does your hairy pet there!” said the Salem Witch. She gestured to where a snarling werewolf crouched at Dracula’s feet.
The Countess tossed back her long black hair and smiled seductively. “My dear, ve do not dispute that your talents captured the heroes,” she said. “Vhy, it is your spell that forced them back into their veak human forms!” She pointed to where three young people hung suspended in chains from the roof.
Willie Fawcett cried out bravely, “Creepies! You like to hear yourself talk!”
Next to the boy, his two friends Mary and Otto tried to remain calm as well. They were all heroes in any form and by any name. Still, without their belts, they could not resume their heroic forms, and thus all they could rely on was their innate courage and wit.
Dracula slapped the boy and said, “Now that spirit is vhy ve allow you three to vitness our triumph instead of leaving you to rot below with your gaudily clad heroic allies!”
Mary Marvel crashed into the room and bowled Dracula over with sheer force. “I’ve seen enough!” she cried. “Leave them alone!”
The Monster League of Evil sprang forward as one, and Mary only avoided the clawing Wolf Man by delivering a stunning high kick to his face that sent him crashing into Dracula’s Bride.
Mary twisted aside as Dracula hissed in rage and grabbed for her throat. “You’re going down for the count, Count!” she quipped as she rammed her elbow into his chest.
“Look into my eyes!” he cried.
Mary lowered her head and rammed it into the monster’s face without looking up. “Now that would be stupid!” she said, flying away as the vampires turned into bats and swooped after her.
Willie, Mary, and Otto watched her with looks of shock and hope.
“Mary, that’s you!” cried Otto. “I mean, she looks just like you!”
Mary Fawcett nodded and said, “It’s like a dream!”
Mary Marvel said, “Hold on, kids! Merokee sent me!” She flipped around in an incredible acrobatic move and gripped the werewolf by his long fur.
With her super-strength, she hurled him into the Salem Witch and deftly whirled to slam both palms down on the Countess as she flew too close in her bat form.
Dracula resumed human form and ignored his bride’s ordeal. “Get her, Monster!” he cried.
Before Mary could react, a giant being with yellow-green skin lumbered out of the shadows and grabbed her in a crushing embrace. “Frankenstein’s Monster!” she gasped as her air deserted her. She sank down limply in the creature’s arms, and he looked down upon her with something akin to pity.
“That impudent girl almost ruined my schemes!” yelled Dracula. He lifted her face by gripping her long brown hair, but to his consternation, his efforts only gained him a blow to the head that knocked him backward.
Mary rolled forward and kicked off against the Monster’s huge chest to free herself. “Playing victim works sometimes!” she said in a mocking way.
She ripped down one of the chains that held Willie, but his wide eyes and shouted warning failed to alert her in time. “Look out!” he cried as a bolt of magic struck her in the back.
Mary crumpled to her knees and looked up to see the League closing in on her. She also realized that the Salem Witch’s spell had somehow turned her back to Mary Batson. She cried out, “Shazam!” But there was no effect. The Salem Witch’s spell had cut her off from the magical lightning.