by Martin Maenza
In a small apartment on the second floor of an old brownstone in Brooklyn, New York, an older television screen was the only source of light in the living room. A younger man with brown hair lay on the couch, polishing off a large bag of chips as he flicked through channels on the remote. From his large size, one could conclude this was a typical evening activity for this man named Billy Batson.
Completely focused on the loud television, Billy couldn’t possibly have noticed the slight shimmering of the full-length mirror on the back of the hall closet door.
Billy stopped for a second on one channel. “Nightline News?” he said aloud. “Nah.” He clicked the remote a few more times. “Wonder who’s on with Johnny tonight?” He stopped on the Late Show. “Ooooh. It’s that Joan lady from the San Diego Zoo.”
Fascinated by the program, Billy failed to notice something slide across the floor behind the couch. “Oh, c’mon!” the fat man exclaimed as he watched the screen. The zoo woman was handing the show’s host a large reptile. “That snake looks so fak–” Billy couldn’t finish his sentence. A scaly golden glove had clasped tightly over his mouth. “Mmmmph! Mmphmmphmm!”
Billy’s eyes grew wild as he noticed that he was under attack in his own home. The glove belonged to a snake-costumed man whose elongated tail was now binding his legs. The man’s mask had a larger head with fangs. “Too sssslow, sssonny!” Copperhead hissed. Billy Batson struggled but couldn’t free either himself or his mouth. “Sssivana sssaid thisss one’d be easssy!”
“Maybe so,” another voice said. Billy turned and saw a man in orange and green. “But, to be on the safe side,” Mirror Master added, holding up a small mirrored device, “let’s do this!” A beam shot from the device directly into Billy’s wide eyes. The fat man then suddenly went stiff and ceased struggling.
“That paralysssisss one worksss great,” Copperhead commended.
Mirror Master tossed his partner a coil of rope. “Just in case, let’s tie him up now.” The reflective rogue then produced a gag and fitted it to “Fat Billy” Batson’s mouth. “Don’t want any unwelcome surprises.”
Copperhead laughed. “You know, Ssscudder, we work well together. Perhapsss we ssshould get sssomething going after thisss.”
“Perhaps,” Mirror Master said. “Perhaps.”
Meanwhile, in Nashville, Tennessee, a red-haired young man was leaving the stage exit of the Blue Bird Cafe with his guitar case slung over his shoulder. This young man, also named Billy Batson, had just finished his evening set. Glancing up at the sky, the clouds were clearing, and the stars were shining down. “Shore is a perty night,” Billy said aloud. “Been too stormy fer too long now.”
As Billy rounded the corner, he noticed a curious man standing there trying to light a cigarette in a long holder. The chunky man wore a black top hat and tails. Billy reached into his pocket and produced a lighter. “Here, let me,” he offered as he lit the cigarette.
“Much obliged,” the funny-dressed man said, taking a drag. “Say, you wouldn’t be Billy Batson, the country singer, would you?”
Billy smiled. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Though my style’s more hillbilly than country.”
The odd man smiled and reached for his umbrella that was leaning against the wall. “I caught your show,” the man said as he raised his umbrella up. “Thought it was a gas.” Suddenly, from the point of the umbrella, a red smoke shot out directly into Billy’s face.
“Hill Billy” Batson fell to the ground coughing before passing out unconscious. The other man laughed in an odd wak wak wak way. He then activated a small transmitter/receiver in the handle of his umbrella. “Penguin to home nest, Penguin to home nest. Ready for pick up!”
Shortly, on a small ranch in Texas outside of Amarillo, a tall young man with black hair carefully walked the edges of the cattle pens. With a flashlight in hand, this Billy Batson looked over the cows carefully, hoping to figure out why they were all unsettled. He shone the light in the eyes of one particular bovine. “Ah, Bessy, I wish ya could talk,” he said. “It’d make it easier to figure what’s got y’all spooked tonight.”
Suddenly, the cow let out a loud, distressed moo. The others began to moo as well and moved quickly to the other side of the pen. “Now what’s gotten inta you?” Billy said. He turned around, only for his flashlight beam to bounce off a large, hairy form. It looked like a bear or something rearing up on its hind legs. “Aaahhh!” Billy screamed out of reflex.
The creature snarled at him, its sharp teeth glistening in the moonlight. With a huge clawed hand, the brown furred beast swatted the flashlight clean out of his hands. Then the beast reared back with its other fist and knocked Billy across the pasture.
Billy tried to shake the clouds from his head as he started to rise from the ground. Whatever that is, he thought, it sure is strong. He knew he’d best get to the porch where he had his rifle, the quickest way to drive off the beast.
Suddenly, the beast leaped across the lawn and pounced on him. Billy realized that the gun wasn’t an option any longer. He had to rely on something he hadn’t used in a long time — the power of the ancient wizard. Billy began to invoke his name, “Shaz–”
The beast smacked him across the jaw, interrupting his word. “Can’t have any of that, sweetie!” the beast growled. It smacked him around a few more times until he slipped into unconsciousness.
Suddenly, a man in a golden costume appeared out of nowhere in a flash. “Was all zee roughness necessary, mademoiselle Hyena?” the bearded man asked in a French accent.
“He was about to change,” the Hyena replied. “I did what was needed to keep him quiet.” The beast woman leaned toward the other villain. “You just do your job, Warp, and I’ll do mine. Got it?”
“Oui,” Warp replied. “If we are through here, let us take our prize and go. The Penguin needs transport.”
The Hyena scooped up “Tall Billy” Batson from the ground and followed Warp through the hole in space that the villain just created. In a flash of light, they were gone.
Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman walked down the street in Fawcett City, the latter using his crutches to maneuver with ease. “I really enjoyed that movie,” the brown-haired girl said. “Thanks for suggesting it.”
“No problem,” replied the dark-haired young man. “I figure with all the craziness of the last few weeks, a good romantic comedy would be nice.”
“It was,” Mary said. They approached one of the buildings. “Well, here’s me.” She kind of smiled, then gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “I had fun.”
“Oh, how sickeningly sweet,” a voice snarled from the shadows.
“Who?” Freddy asked. Two figures stepped from the darkness. One was a brown-haired young man with round black glasses and an overbite. He wore a white lab smock and black pants. The other was a young girl, also with brown hair, similar glasses, and an overbite. She wore a white lab smock and a green-checkered skirt.
Both Freddy and Mary knew them instantly. “Sivana, Jr. and Georgia!” they exclaimed.
“Right you are, kiddies,” Georgia sneered. She and her brother had their father’s unique looks. “Looks like your fun’s over.” Both of them pulled out gun-like weapons.
“You two should have stayed in hiding,” Mary said. “Shazam!”
“Captain Marvel!” Freddy cried out.
Both expected magic lightning to crash down from the heavens to transform them into the World’s Mightiest Girl and Boy. Surprisingly, the bolts rumbled in the sky above but were diverted off.
“What the?” Freddy asked. They both cried out the names again, with similar results.
The Sivanas began to snicker. “Guess you’re out of juice!” Junior said. They fired their weapons at Mary and Freddy, striking them both down. The two hit the ground hard but were still breathing.
“Well played, brother dear,” Georgia said.
“Of course,” Sivana, Jr. replied cockily. “You’d expect less?”
“Don’t be so full of yourself,” Georgia scolded. “After all, we did have help.” As her brother bound and gagged their two victims, the girl waved to the rooftops above.
A man in blue robes and an odd blue hat waved back. “Looks like my spell worked,” Felix Faust said. “It was more than enough to redirect those magic lightning bolts.”
Standing across the way, Lightning Lord shook his head a bit to clear it. “Perhaps, sorcerer,” the white-haired villain said, “but it was I who absorbed the brunt of them. Without me, your plan would have failed!”
Felix Faust looked at the villain from the future with a critical eye. Obviously, he didn’t know who it was he was addressing.
Billy Batson, the radio reporter, had been working rather late at the WHIZ studios in Fawcett City, preparing a presentation for a future broadcast. Holy moley, he thought to himself, finding a way to present details about this Crisis and everything I’ve seen so far as Captain Marvel, without tipping off my secret identity, is proving harder than I thought. The young man with black hair and dressed in blue pants and a red sweater was about to get some coffee when the door burst open.
A chunky older man with sprigs of white hair and a white mustache burst into the room. “Billy! Thank heavens I found you!” the man exclaimed.
Billy Batson immediately recognized this person. “Uncle Dudley!” he said. “What’s wrong?”
Dudley grasped the boy. “Oh, it’s terrible. Terrible!” His grip was firm, almost to the point of hurting the boy. “They’re coming! They’re coming! To here, right here!”
“Uncle Dudley, you aren’t making any sense!” Billy said, breaking free of the man’s grasp. He went to the cooler in the corner, poured a glass of water, and gave it to the man. “Now, let’s try this again, and take it slow. Who’s coming?”
“See for yourself,” Dudley replied, pointing toward the window.
Billy Batson turned and headed toward the office window. He opened it and looked out. Down on the street, twenty stories below, he could see a large horde of figures moving toward the WHIZ building. They had weapons of sorts. Billy could make out blasts of energy being fired and saw things like cars and street signs and such being blasted apart or covered with ice. “Holy Moley! What’s all this?”
While Billy had been opening the window, Dudley threw aside the cup of water and positioned himself behind the boy. When Billy made his exclamation, Dudley raised his arms over his head and smiled wickedly. “It’s the end!” Dudley cried out. His hands transformed into two large mallets, which he promptly brought down hard on the back of Billy’s skull. The lad slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Dudley began to laugh as his form shimmered and changed. Gone was the appearance of the kindly older man, and in its place was the lumpy brown form of the shape-shifting Clayface. The villain produced a rope and gag and bound the lad up tight. “Time for you to join the others, Billy-boy,” Clayface said. “But we won’t be going too far.”
Clayface slung Billy’s body over his shoulder and prepared to join the other villains who were about to take the station under siege.
Sivana cackled with delight. He loved it when a plan came together. The team of villains from various Earths had easily taken Fawcett City hostage. The cursed Marvel Family had been ambushed and captured before any of them could use their powers.
Already the likes of T.O. Morrow, Doctor Cyber, and Hector Hammond were working with the others to retrofit the WHIZ broadcast tower with an insidious device. Using the knowledge of others like Captain Cold, Killer Frost, the Icicle, and the Weather Wizard, they were almost ready to bring their massive freeze ray online. Soon, the entire city and then the world would be one big ice ball.
The door to the main staging area opened, and a red-costumed man with a shiny mask stepped inside. He dragged behind him a large orange tiger with black stripes. The tiger wore a torn green suit. “Here you go, Sivana,” Deadshot announced. “One poached pussycat, tied up and tranquilized.”
Sivana smiled. Though Tawky Tawny was no major threat, he couldn’t stand the idea of him running around loose. The talking tiger could spoil his plans. “Excellent,” said Sivana. “Did he give you any trouble?”
“Nah,” Deadshot said. “Night and Fog helped make the chase a bit of a challenge. We had him pretty confused and running scared. I played with him a bit before finally dropping him.” The assassin rubbed the gun-like weapon mounted on his right forearm. “Deadshot never misses.”
“Fine,” Sivana said. “Put him in with the others.” He gestured toward the area where the four Billys, Mary, Freddy, and the real Uncle Dudley were kept bound and gagged. “Now that they’re all together, I’ll have Cold put them on ice.”
The Golden Glider approached Sivana. “Just got a report in from the field teams,” the blonde woman dressed in the golden skater’s costume announced. “Count Vertigo and Doctor Polaris had no trouble taking down Bulletman and Bulletgirl. Clock King reports that Minute Man’s time has run out, and Circe claims that she’s changed Ibis the Invicible into a cuddly bunny rabbit.”
Sivana smiled with his nasty teeth. “Excellent,” he said. “Have everyone stand by. As soon as we’re ready to go, things are going to get rather frigid around here!” And he began to laugh.