In the mansion housing the group called Revenge Inc., the black-masked Hood turned to pour some wine into a glass held by his friend the Weeper.
“I can’t say I’m sorry that that pretty viper, the Dark Angel, is no longer with us,” said the Weeper. “She may have been a match for Mister Scarlet, but she frightened me!” (*)
The Horned Hood laughed. “My friend, she excited me, but she also left me a bit unnerved. She did come close to slaying the man in red, though!”
“The Clown failed to kill Minute Man, too,” added the Weeper. (*) “What of Illyria?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Minute Man: Every Minute Counts, Chapter 1: Just Clowning Around.]
“She set her sights on Captain Marvel himself,” replied the Hood. “I dare say she may lose, but what a woman!”
“The Hawk is dead,” said the Weeper. “Doctor Death is dead or missing. Angel is injured and in hiding. What of the brilliant Rat?”
“He plans something for Mary Marvel,” said the Horned Hood. “The Black Pharaoh worries me, though. I took him for a super-criminal. However, he has used my funding to launch a scheme that concerns me. He seeks to manifest his patron Set on earth. I don’t want that to occur. I assumed he’d merely go after his ancient foe, Ibis the Invincible, but he has bigger plans this time.”
“I could cry,” said a sorrowful Weeper.
“Perhaps we’ll all have good reason for tears, my friend,” said a rueful Horned Hood.
My name is Susan Kent Barr. You’ll know me by the hot pants I wear as Bulletgirl! They are my fashion statement, along with the bullet-shaped helmet on my auburn curls. Not that I am too proud of what has come to be called the Conehead look since our return from suspended animation.
It could be worse, I suppose. The Saturday Night Live show character that could have reflected my costumed look could have ended up as the Little Girl played by Lorraine Newman! I can see crooks shiver as I charged in wearing a pinafore, ribbons, and Mary Janes. So, Conehead or not, I’m a crime-fighter, though that job description fails to cover some situations I find myself falling into.
Like this one: Jim (my police science hubby) and I were called in to look into weird energy manifestations across the coast. Most centered around museums, as if someone with super-powers was searching for a particular item.
So we flew down to investigate, and we did rather well. I am brilliant and gorgeous, you know (just teasing). We learned the energy pattern matched that used over forty years ago by a friend: “Diamond” Jack Lansing! He cleverly avoided costume problems like the one I mentioned by simply wearing his normal clothes to fight crime.
I can see me doing the same, but I need the costume for practical reasons. I wonder if I could have done it, anyway? “Wait, Dr. Sivana! Put down the deathray, I have a run in my hose!” Nah. Didn’t think so.
So Jim and I went to the last known address of Diamond Jim Lansing. We were greeted by the handsome, if aging hero, who welcomed us as follows:
“Jim, Susie, come on in!” he said, beaming. “It’s been a dog’s age since I last saw you!”
We entered and had tea, only to make small talk. He said his wife Linda was out, and then Jim broke the big question.
“Jim, do you still have the ring?” he asked. “Something like it has been traced to a series of robberies. Thought maybe a foe had stolen it or copied it.”
Diamond Jim stiffened. “You can’t take it away!” he suddenly ranted. “Linda stole it, but I’ll get it back! I’ve used it so long that now I can create shadows to a limited degree without it!”
Realizing he was no longer the hero we knew, Jim and I stood up, until Jim gasped and fell back into the chair. “Honey, drugged tea!” he choked.
My head began to swim, but being slightly stronger than my brainy spouse, I fought the effects and swung a right hook that caught Diamond Jim in the chin. He groaned, and as his eyes turned black, shadows crawled up my shapely legs and pinned me in a solid prison. I fought by flying desperately away at top speed.
I broke out of the prison as his range fell, but then I wondered how I could save my captured husband.
“Lorraine Newman should have such a day,” I mused.
The colorful form of Jack Weston, the Minute Man, could be seen even through the black night in which he battled a gang of thugs who refused to quit and made no reaction to his trademark banter. He had been on his way to pick up his new girlfriend Sandra Dee after closing his Minute Man Cafe when he had heard a police radio bulletin about the odd robbers.
Sighing, he had swung the car around to race to the site of the mysterious thefts at the local antique shop. He pulled in to see the black-clothed men carry out an ornate staff. They made no reaction when he charged them.
“Stiff guys in black,” he muttered. “This must be the Ed Sullivan lookalike convention, and me without my camera.”
Grabbing one thug, he spun him around to reveal eyes without pupils. Pure black darkness covered their clouded eyes.
“Whoa! You boys must watch too much TV!” he quipped as he ducked their clutching hands and belted the man. His foe reeled back, but did not fall. The others then grabbed for the darting Minute Man.
“It’s times like this I wish I had a loyal sidekick: Minute Maid? Ticker the Time Dog?” he joked, twisting free of them.
Minute Man knew they were not aware of him as normal humans would be. He knew their reactions were those of automatons or entranced men. He also knew that his stamina could not outlast men without the need to rest.
He figured trapping them or maybe trying a new ploy would work, so he kicked one hard enough to knock him down, then leaped into their midst and tore free the staff from the hands of the leader.
Vacant eyes stared at him as he rolled free and jumped in his car. “You boys want this cool staff? Then save your box tops and send them along with $3.50 to the Minute Man Retirement Fund,” he jeered. “Or, failing that, just try to catch me!”
They did chase him after piling into a van. Boy, mind-controlled drivers! he mused. That explains some of the traffic jams I’ve seen since getting out of that suspended animation trap. He drove for the desert and hoped for an idea.
Soon he got one. He jumped out of the car and hurled the staff down the banks of a sharp slope. The van raced past him and plunged over the bank. As it started to burn, the thugs jumped out and scrambled up the sides of the cliff.
“Come on, that’s the way! Good zombies!” he chimed.
They reached the top as the van exploded. Their bodies resisted the heat and impact as Minute Man had hoped they would, but the light from the explosion left them blinking and normal-eyed.
“What happened?” asked one timidly.
“That is a good question, pal,” said Minute Man.
Mary Batson Bromfield was a vision in pink chiffon as she made her way down the grand stairway leading into her luxurious ballroom in the family estate. She was a bit excited because of the sheer pleasure of dressing up, but she also had little interest in the older folks who were friends of her adoptive parents and had nothing in common with her. She smiled as she entered the room and heard an appreciative buzz as she passed by the guests. “Now I know what Vanna White feels like!” she laughed.
The young woman watched her parents greeting the assembled guests and listened intently as she became the object of inane small talk from several directions. She did her best to keep the conversations going, but polite attentiveness was the best she could do. Her thoughts were still on her new life at UCLA in California, where she now lived and went to school. Mary’s recent encounter with the demoness Blaze while on campus had frightened her terribly, but it also had the opposite effect that the demoness had intended, for it had forced her to start reconsidering her vow to quit being Mary Marvel altogether. (*) Perhaps she would be able to be a college student and a super-hero at the same time. Only time would be able to satisfactorily answer that question for her.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Mary Marvel: To Fight No More.]
The lull in the party and Mary’s introspection ended all at once when the evil Sabbac hurled a man through the glass windows onto the yard.
Running for cover, Mary shouted, “Shazam!” Without a moment’s thought, she had transformed into the world’s mightiest girl, Mary Marvel, and flew toward her old foe.
Sabbac was clutching a jewel from her father’s antique collection, so she surmised theft was the goal of the powerful and evil man. “That kind of behavior will get you tossed out of here!” she said, her hands defiantly on her hips. Her red and gold miniskirt and slippers were famous across the world and the centuries, so Sabbac certainly had no trouble recognizing her.
“You present me with no challenge, little girl!” said Sabbac. “Bring forth your leader, and I shall humble him.”
“We think he’s already humble, so I’ll just take you out right now!” she said.
Mary Marvel slugged Sabbac, and to his own disbelief, he crashed through the broken window and soared into the pool outside. Mary dropped into the pool after him, and they struggled in the water. She knew he was stronger, but she had more speed.
She ducked his blow and kicked him backward out of the pool, then sped after him and gripped his shirt. “Now, what were you saying about humbling someone?” she teased, her eyes dancing.
“I’ll let this speak for me!” he cried, placing the black jewel against her face.
Before she knew what was happening, Mary immediately went numb and then unconscious, and he tossed her over the yard and decided to take her with him.
“She may draw out her angry partner, and then I can kill him,” mused Sabbac as he carried the beautiful girl over one shoulder.