Whiz: Phantom Eagle
Fly Like an Eagle
Not all heroes are given the praise due them. That much is true in the case of Mickey Malone, alias the Phantom Eagle, a former aviator hero whose best years are now behind him. But as the enthusiasm of his daughter proves, there’s always time for one more flight! Guest starring Captain Marvel!
Captain Marvel had just returned from his fight with the misguided Master Man. (*) The hero was ashamed to realized that had never thought much about who had kept law and order during the two decades that he, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior, Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, and all the others were trapped in Dr. Sivana’s Suspendium trap. Now that he had met Master Man and learned how, during those lost years between 1953 and 1972, Master Man had been one of several forgotten heroes active during that time. He wondered if any of the others were bitter toward him.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Marvel: Master Race.]
“Holy moley!” he said. “I wonder if Radar, Phantom Eagle, Devil’s Dagger, and all the others whose careers began after my time think I’m ungrateful to them for all they did!”
Captain Marvel decided to find out, beginning with the Phantom Eagle. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Phantom Eagle, Wow Comics #6 (July 15, 1942).]
In a small but cozy house in rural Virginia lived a remarkable man. His name was Mickey Malone, and though he had lived a life full of peril, excitement, and heroism, he now faced something that filled his heart with dread. He looked over the colorful banquet table and the brightly painted banner hanging across the door. He slipped on his reading glasses and read the crude but dynamically painted sign.
“Happy retirement, Mickey!” he read aloud. He rubbed a hand over his bald head and grinned. “I wonder if there really is such a thing as a happy retirement?”
Malone had operated a small garage for over thirty-five years, and though he had never become a rich man, he had enjoyed his work. He had been more of a hands-on mechanic than an office-dwelling boss. He was just naturally good with machines, engines, and how things worked. He had recently sold the small station to an employee, and he knew his little place and his loyal customers would be in good hands.
Having a small house in the country, his one indulgence was a barn. He was no farmer, but he had restored the old barn that had originally been so essential when his land had been a farm for previous owners. He used the barn as his home workshop, and what it contained was his pride and joy, after his wife and daughter, of course.
Malone walked away from the retirement dinner full of nerves and odd longings for things long past. While friends and employees waited within the house, he slipped off to the barn. He felt strange and didn’t want to face the warm sendoff. He just wanted to relive his past. Thus he entered the barn and closed the door seconds before a car drove up with one of the guests.
Whew! That was close, he thought. I want to avoid the party for some reason. Guess I hate to admit that my working days are over.
Pulling off a white cloth tarp, Malone revealed a stylish old plane beneath it that had been revolutionary in its time, since it was driven by rockets instead of by propeller. “Good old Cometplane! You and I have seen better days.”
He heard his wife Jerry calling his name. It figured that the woman with whom he had enjoyed thirty years of wedded bliss would have known him well enough to anticipate where he had hidden.
She entered the barn and smiled the same sweet smile that had created love at first sight in him when they had both been fifteen years old, when her name was Jerry Sloane. “Some women are football widows,” she said. “I guess I’m a plane widow!” It was something she had said often enough before.
“You designed her. She’s your Frankenstein!” he replied as he held his wife’s hand.
Jerry was rather plump now, but to his eyes she was still the fiery girl who had shared the best years of his life back when he had risked life and limb daily as the heroic Phantom Eagle.
“I know, honey. I designed the Cometplane, and you flew her, and we fought the Axis during the war and crooks of all kinds afterward,” she said. (*) “But you retired the Phantom Eagle identity years ago when the Marvels came back. You know I retired even earlier. Come into the party. The folks want to show how much they love you.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Cometplane, Airplane of Your Tomorrow,” Wow Comics #13 (May 7, 1943).]
“Sure, sure! I was just thinking about the past,” he said, following her inside their home with only one last look back at his beloved plane.
That night, as Malone’s wife snored peacefully beside him, he read his old book of poems. They helped him relax, and he turned as if by deliberate intent to one dog-eared page. It was a poem by Tennyson called Ulysses. It was about how the famed world voyager had found no contentment in the homecoming that had been delayed for twenty years of danger. Instead, the old hero had gathered together his old friends to “seek a newer world… to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” He sat up suddenly with a gleam in his eyes.
“Some work of noble note may yet be done!” he quoted. “I’ll do it! Even if it is for only one last time, the Phantom Eagle shall fly again!”
Malone tried to convince Jerry to join him, but she was aghast. “Mickey! You’re too old for that type of barnstorming, daredevil life! Why, our Micki is twenty years old!”
Their dark-eyed daughter came in, as if on cue, with grease smeared across her delicate features. “The garage game is slow, Pops,” she said. “I fixed the only car currently in our place. I wish we could expand. Too bad you had to sell out. Old Slim likes things nice and slow. This grease monkey would like a challenge.”
Mickey grinned at the brunette girl with short hair and her mom’s flashing eyes. “I taught you too well,” he said, beaming. “Micki was taking apart cars and planes when she was six!”
“Yes! She’s exactly like me… and you,” said Jerry. “We made her too much like us!”
“What’s going on, Pops?” asked Micki Malone.
“I want to take out the Cometplane for a trip to see some old friends,” he explained.
“Cool! May I come? I’d love to meet them, if they’re the ones I hope!” said Micki.
“Don’t go encouraging him!” warned Jerry.
“Please, Jer, let her,” he pleaded. “If you won’t come, then let me take Micki to see real heroes before it’s too late — before we all join poor old Sven.”
“Very well. Just promise me to take things slow. You are not a fifteen-year-old squadron leader anymore!” she warned.
Mickey Malone embraced her as Micki shouted, “Awesome! The Phoenix Squadron!”