Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: In Search Of, Chapter 1: The Comic-Book Quest

by Libbylawrence

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Perry White knew Jimmy Olsen was a good reporter. He even had a bit of a fatherly affection for the impulsive and slightly brash younger man. But he also admitted that the red-headed pal of Superman knew how to push his buttons. He sometimes thought he lost his temper over something Jimmy did more than any other reason. So it was no surprise to receptionist Jennifer Owens when White bellowed out one afternoon in the following manner.

“Olsen, you’re giving my ulcers ulcers!” he yelled. “Where is that piece I wanted on the Outsiders and Cave Carson?” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Outsiders: Outsiders and Insiders.]

Jimmy blushed and smiled, while Perry grew redder. “Look, Chief!” he began. “The Outsiders are big news, but they’re kind of obvious, you know? I mean Batman, Black Lightning, that babe Looker — they’re media stars. It’s no story for a top investigative reporter like me. They don’t call me Mr. Action for nothing! Let me do a real story that allows me to use my skills and uncover the hidden story that no one else would think of, but everyone will want to read.”

White roared, “No one, and I mean no one this side of Julius Caesar’s late, great ghost calls you Mr. Action except for you! I’ll call you a few other choice titles, however, beginning with the printable one of unemployed ex-reporter, if you don’t deliver something worthwhile! Now get out of here!”

“Is that a yes? I’m on it,” he said, rushing out. He saluted Jennifer with a jaunty wave and hurried out of the Galaxy Communications Building, which housed the offices of the Daily Planet. “Forget the Outsiders! I’m gonna track down a few forgotten heroes,” he said, waving a battered comic-book in his hands.

***

Colonel Rick Flag smiled as he waved Adam Blake into his office at the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency. “Good news! It’s over.”

Captain Comet grinned back. “What’s over? The invasion? The Secret Society of Super-Villains? The discovery of yet another Supergirl look-a-like? Blossom’s search for an even smaller bikini?”

“No, the search for our long-sought PR agent,” replied Flag. “We’ve had no luck with Funky Flashman, and we haven’t managed to interest either Lana Lang or Cat Grant into leaving WGBS to take the position. But have I got a name for you. Ready? Lois Lane.”

Comet grimaced. “I’ve met her, and there’s no way she’d give up her career for us,” he said.

“Not that Lois Lane — not the Lois Lane, no,” said Flag, grinning. “I just couldn’t resist kidding you with the name, which is the real-deal, by the way. This Lois is a kid, barely in her twenties — blonde, perky, adorable, and good at media relations. She is a journalism student-turned-media expert. The real, or should I say the first Lois, is a mentor of sorts to this girl. (*) I think her skills and her famous name will be a real draw for us.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “We Lois Lanes Have Got to Stick Together,” Superman Family #219 (June, 1982).]

“You’ve been hanging around Funky Flashman too long,” said Comet.

“No, seriously, Adam,” said Flag, “our young blonde Lois will be perfect, and she’s not flying solo, either. I’ve hired her as a team at less pay than a bigger name like Lana Lang. Her partner is Stephanie Edge, a bright and saucy girl with journalism skills and attitude to match. She happens to be the niece of Morgan Edge, the GBS broadcast executive.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Fadeout for Lois,” Superman Family #175 (February-March, 1976).]

Captain Comet nodded as an attractive brunette with glasses and a short skirt entered along with a sweet-looking, blonde young woman who looked like the girl next door from a greeting card or a Jimmy Stewart movie.

“Stephanie, Lois — this is Captain Comet, the Rehab Squad’s team leader and the hero of the recent alien invasion, among other coups,” said Flag.

“Nice to meet you,” said Lois with a giggle.

“Isn’t that name a bit dated?” said the pushy Miss Edge. “I mean, Captain — really? It sounds so 1950s.”

“I’m from the 1950s,” stated Captain Comet.

“You should drop it and just call yourself the Comet — or maybe Cometman,” she continued.

“Call me old-fashioned, but I like it the way it is,” he said, backing out of the room rapidly. Rick Flag certainly seemed to be losing his grip lately by hiring these inexperienced beginners as the new PR agents for an entire government agency. Captain Comet briefly wondered about giving Flag a quick mind-sweep, but he decided against it based on the lack of any real suspicions.

***

Valor posed in front of a mirror in her room at the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency. The pretty blonde wore a solid blue minidress with a red cape and an S emblazoned on the chest. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in something of a 1960s Shelley Fabares hairdo.

“How adorable you look,” teased Debbie Domaine as she slipped into the room. “Are you going to the drive-in with Wally and the Beaver?”

Valor’s smile faded into a frown as she realized she was being mocked. “Very funny. I admit the look is dated. I just had to try this on a whim. Don’t tell anyone, please. I’m over that whole delusion about being Supergirl, and I’m just beginning to separate the memories of things I saw her do and experience when I was tracking her as an energy being from my own memories. I just… wanted to wear the outfit for fun. It’s never going to be seen outside this room. My pink and purple minidress is the Valor look. So… just promise you’ll keep this our little secret, huh?” By this time she was blushing with embarrassment.

Debbie smiled reassuringly. “You were just playing dress-up. Lighten up, girl. It doesn’t mean you’ve regressed or anything. You’re Valor, media darling and super-heroine extraordinaire. You are over your Supergirl delusion. It’s just playing. So break out the red hot pants and blue blouse if you have ’em. I won’t tell.”

Valor glanced toward her closet and smiled. “I even have the thigh boots and go-go belt version!” she said, laughing.

***

Dr. Will Magnus smiled quietly as the forgotten Earth-Two heroine called Robotgirl posed before a mirror in his laboratory. She was still a human brain in a robot body, but her clunky old robotic body from the early 1950s had been replaced by a copy of the slinky and sexy version of a female robot created by Magnus. “The Platinum look is wonderful!” she said in a newly feminine voice. “I feel like a woman again!”

The real Platinum of the Metal Men watched happily, if a bit disconcertedly, from the side. “You do look like me now. We could be metal twins,” she gushed.

“If they start singing the Patty Duke shoe theme, I’m out of here,” joked Golden Glider.

“It’s nothing,” said Dr. Magnus, smoking his signature pipe. “I’m glad I could help. But that Grayson was a genius. How I wish I could have journeyed to Earth-Two to meet him.”

“Chuck did the work, but he was using the notes of his friend and the man I love, Bob Crane,” said Robotgirl. “How I pray he is alive somewhere on Earth-Two. He disappeared decades ago, and when I was injured searching for him, his partner had to put my mind in a robot shell. Then that madman Atoman plucked me from the past of Earth-Two to this world and day.”

Platinum gazed at her sadly. “A lost love! How utterly romantic, isn’t it, Doc?” she cooed. He grunted and led her away.

“Maybe we can get you back to Earth-Two one of these days and get your memory loss cured,” said Glider. “We don’t even know your name.”

Robotgirl nodded. “I guess you can just call me Robotgirl, or maybe Tina — like the real Platinum.”

“Sounds good to me, Tina,” said Golden Glider.

***

In the years since he first became a cub reporter and later graduated into full-fledged reporter for the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen often succeeded remarkably on talent, wit, and amazing luck. The comic-book he held in his hand was ragged and yet precious to him, not just because of its value as a collectible from the golden age of comics, but because it contained some truth in its faded pages.

As he now met with his pal Superman, Jimmy explained to him, somewhat pedantically, “So super-heroes on Earth-Two, such as the JSA, appeared first in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and we only thought of ’em as comic-book characters on our world, since some guys at DC Comics were in tune with that world’s events — dreaming of their cases and publishing them as distorted but somewhat accurate adventures in the funny-books. That’s how Barry Allen, the late Flash, actually grew up reading comic-book adventures of his hero, the Flash from the JSA. Like everyone else on our world, he thought they were just stories until he actually crossed over from our dimension to that other one. Because of that, we now know that Earth-Two really had heroes like the ones we have in some old comics.”

Superman grinned as he listened, then replied, “Look, Jimmy, I’m the one who told you about all this, remember? I also told you that despite there being Earth-Two versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, there weren’t any comic-book adventures by those names published on Earth-One.”

“Yeah, but there were comic-book adventures of a guy called Ultra-Man, a character called Night Wizard, and another one called Madame Miracle who were just like the Earth-Two versions of you, Batman, and Wonder Woman,” said Jimmy. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Last Earth-Prime Story,” Superman #411 (September, 1985).]

“That’s true, but getting to the point — what can I do to help you with your secret mission?” Superman asked, somewhat impatiently.

“Sorry, Superman, I didn’t mean to sound like a know-it-all,” said Jimmy. “I guess talking it out just helps me plan a story.” He held up the tattered old comic-book in his hand. “This comic features a couple of super-heroes who were just like some Earth-One heroes who appeared almost twenty years after this comic was published, except under different names, just like Ultra-Man and the Night Wizard appeared before you and Batman first appeared. I mean, that’s what you told me before, if I remember correctly.”

“That’s right, Jimmy,” said Superman, taking the old comic-book into his hands.

It was Star Spangled Comics No. 22, which had a cover date of June, 1943. The cover depicted close-up five figures surrounding a drawing board upon which a sketch of a super-hero — called a mystery-man back then — was being drawn by the super-hero himself, one of the five figures. The other four were children, each with distinctive characteristics, smiling at their hero. On the sketch were written the following words: “To my fighting pals of the Paperboy Club.” This was followed by a signature that read, “The Protector.” The hero in question, the Protector, was clad in a typical heroic costume of blue and red. What was not as typical was the fact that this Protector wore a red helmet, somewhat like that of a soldier’s, and carried a red shield. Superman frowned as he began to realize why the Protector and the Paperboy Club seemed so familiar.

Opening it up, Superman found that the first story starred the group of boys called the Paperboy Club, who were guarded from criminals by the masked hero known as the Protector. As if to clinch his suspicions, they even lived in a bad neighborhood called Suicide Slum, which was strangely placed in New York City rather than in Metropolis, where that neighborhood actually was on Earth-One. The next story starred none other than the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, two real Earth-Two super-heroes that Superman had first met during a crossover case between the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America of Earth-Two. (*) Following that was a humor piece starring Penniless Palmer, and then a story starring Liberty Belle — another very real Earth-Two heroine. The next story starred a crime-fighting duo called Captain Blast and Detonator Don, while the last story in the comic starred a robotic hero called Automaton.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “And One of Us Must Die,” Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972).]

“See anything familiar?” asked Jimmy, grinning.

“I see that you may be on to something, Jimmy,” Superman said, returning the smile. “This Paperboy Club and the Protector seem an awful lot like–”

“The Newsboy Legion and the Guardian!” said Jimmy excitedly. “They’re almost exactly alike, in fact, right down to the name of their neighborhood — Suicide Slum! It’s the same kind of similarity between you and Ultra-Man, Batman and Night Wizard, and Wonder Woman and Madame Miracle.”

Superman nodded and said, “So? Perry White never seemed interested enough in the coincidences between me and Ultra-Man to publish anything about it. What makes you think he’ll want to talk about this Protector and the Guardian?”

“But that’s not what I’m interested in,” said Jimmy. “Didn’t you see the last story?”

“The one with Automaton?”

“No, not that Robotman look-a-like,” said Jimmy. “I mean the second-to-last one. The one starring Captain Blast and Detonator Don. Do you see anything familiar about them?”

“Come to think of it, I do,” said Superman, figuring out which Earth-One heroes he was talking about. “Those two fought crime about twenty years ago, but they ran into trouble when their powers went out of control. They’re still around now, but inactive — I think. It’s been a while since I’ve seen either of them.”

“Well, they’re my story, or at least my first try at finding out what happened to the forgotten heroes who were around back when you were Superboy,” said Jimmy. “This comic-book is really just what prompted me to think of them in the first place. Superman, I’m going in search of TNT and Dan the Dynamite.”

Superman sighed and explained, “Jim, Dan the Dynamite and TNT actually suffered a tragedy a while ago. Their powers suddenly began to be unstable when they came near one another, and they lost control of their powers. It became so bad that, a few years ago, I and a few other heroes were forced to capture them and find a way to keep them separated for their own good. I brought TNT to live in the bottle city of Kandor, back when it was still in my Fortress, while Aquaman took Dan to live in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Atomic Twosome,” Super Friends #12 (June-July, 1978) — although this series is not in continuity on Earth-1, some of the adventures in this series did happen on Earth-1 in similar ways.]

“Hmm. So can you help me at least find Dan?” asked Jimmy, aware that Kandor had been expanded to its full size on the other-dimensional planet called Rokyn, also known as New Krypton.

“Sure, I can do that, pal,” said Superman, and he sped off back to his Fortress of Solitude at super-speed. He was back within the blink of an eye, and he handed Jimmy a small bottle. “These pills from Professor Potter will do the trick. I sped off just now to acquire them. They’ll grant you the ability to breathe underwater and to survive the pressures of the ocean floor. Remember, though, they will cause illness if used for too long, so make this trip a quick one — for no more than a couple of days.”

At that, Superman picked Jimmy up and — wrapping him in his protective cape — carried him as he soared into the air and left Metropolis, traveling several miles in a matter of seconds. He settled down onto the busy streets of Washington, D.C.

“Thanks!” said Jimmy, immediately recognizing the city by its landmarks. “But why are we here in D.C.?

“This is where the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency is located,” explained Superman, “which is also the headquarters of Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad. His young aide, Dolphin, should make an ideal tour guide for you, Jimmy, since I’m already late for a JLA meeting. Remember, don’t stay down for more than two days.” He flew off with a wave.

“What a pal! He always comes through for me,” mused Jimmy. “And that Dolphin is a real babe! Hope Jennifer won’t be too jealous when I tell her about the trip.”

Jimmy entered the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency building and was directed inside by a receptionist. He soon approached Captain Comet’s office, and as he stepped in the door, he gasped, “Supergirl?!” Indeed, before him stood an exact double of Supergirl in every way, complete with the familiar costume she had adopted before her death.

“No, no, I’m Valor — don’t mind the costume; it’s really just for fun,” said the lovely blonde Kandorian. A second later, Lesla-Lar was attired in her pink and purple Valor costume after a quick use of her super-speed. “You’re Jimmy Olsen! I remember you well from, uh… from what I’ve seen in the Planet. How may I help you?”

Jimmy stared in awe. He knew of Valor from the news, but to see her up close made her remarkable resemblance to Supergirl uncanny. “I, uh, really need to see Dolphin. Is she in?” he asked.

“She’s shopping in the city right now. How about we go find her?” asked the blonde bombshell.

“Sounds good to me,” said an eager Jimmy. She scooped him up, and within seconds he was in the air again, this time in Valor’s arms. Jimmy smiled as he remembered the late Supergirl. She had been sweet, pretty, and at least as brave as her cousin. This Valor seemed to measure up to Kara rather well. They flew off toward a busy, crowded shopping district in Washington, D.C., at a slow enough speed that Jimmy wouldn’t need protection from the wind. “Are you using your x-ray vision to scan the city for her?” Jimmy asked her.

“No. I could, but I’m just homing in on the tracking device all Rehab Squad members have,” explained Lesla. “For those like Dolphin, who are actually heroines, it’s a safety measure and simply kept on their person, such as in a costume. For those who are unreformed super-criminals still working off their sentences, it’s a precautionary measure and inserted beneath the skin.”

Lesla-Lar’s mind whirled as they flew, desperately wanting Jimmy Olsen’s approval. She felt that Superman had granted her his official sanction and had forgiven her for the times when she had battled his late cousin during her madness when she believed herself to be the true Supergirl. Of course, to win approval from other friends of her twin and predecessor was important to her.

Below them loomed Lacy’s Department Store, and somewhere within was the lovely Dolphin — and danger.

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