Two men, separated by geographical distance and opposing ideologies, each waited within their own hidden bases. The first man was calm, and while his eyes displayed palpable emotions for the most part, he could be said to be sorrowful and self-contained in his feelings. The other man paced and restlessly shouted, although he was alone.
The man in an African cavern carved beneath a vast mountainside that displayed a huge depiction of the occupant’s features contorted in anger was known by many names. However, he now used the colorful Doctor Mist as his given name. He was a handsome black man with a regal manner and a costume of green, red, and gold. He had a closely cropped beard, and his features were attractive, if given to a brooding demeanor.
Gazing into a fire, he shook his head in concern and regret. “And so it begins once more! I have lived for eons, and yet I still marvel at the pettiness of man. I have no cause to hold myself aloof from such scorn, since I have been all too selfish and cruel in my own time, but the passing of the ages has sparked hope within me that would fain to match the illuminating glow of the Spirit of Life. This has led me to ever hope that others who have traversed the ages and journeyed for as long or nearly as long as I have might also be above the baser emotions of hatred, greed, and the tools of violence and revenge.”
Doctor Mist stared into the flickering fires and said, “And yet, again I see one who could be called an immortal or an elder falling to the fulfillment of the most ruthless and benighted of desires. My own power has seduced me to the edges of humanity, and I have not waged a war within my own heart to lose the ground I have gained through restraint and moderation. Thus, I will not oppose this foolish being myself, but as I have done many times before will merely summon agents from around the globe to act in my stead.” He prepared to act upon his resolution within the hidden caverns that once dominated the ancient and forgotten empire of Kôr, an empire created in his own image and ruled by him for far too long.
Elsewhere, the other man opened and closed his fists as he ranted and raved, pacing in his own narrow place of confinement. This was one of the things that separated Doctor Mist from the man in question. While Mist’s home was clearly a sanctuary, the barren caverns in which the white man walked acted as a tomb or prison — a place of total confinement.
“I have survived the ages in this foul crypt of my own devising,” ranted the man. “I have outlived all my loved ones and all my enemies. I alone survive, and now I stir with emotions that threaten to consume me where the noxious death that claimed my race failed to touch me! My people are no more, and those who were conquered by death have only me to avenge them. They cry out to me from beyond the veil, and I respond with rage and passion and pain!
“While my race may be forgotten as merely one more conquered sect, I shall claim the name of the Conqueror, and I will achieve the complete and total domination of the weak and mewling masses that followed the destruction of my people to steal their own place of prominence. I will enslave the human race or I will slay them all. From out of this dusty grave shall emerge a colossus to crush mankind and teach humans the futility of their gross ambition and pride.”
The self-styled Conqueror wore a blue tunic and gleaming wrist bands along with a heavy medallion. His helmet was equally crested with jewels, and his ornately styled beard was threaded through with other small gems. As he looked around the cavern and his gaze lingered on certain shadowy devices, he smiled and began to act on his own dark and foreboding resolve.
In Star City, the problems of two isolated immortals carried little weight while the suffering of one family due to poverty and addiction preoccupied the mind and heart of a good man who walked the dark streets of that city, embodying much that was noble and uplifting in man. The Green Arrow had been busy that night. Oliver Queen’s crime-fighting efforts had resulted in the capture of a drug ring. Yet, for this man who could best be defined as one who cared too much, the victory was a pyrrhic one. The gang had been defeated, but one of their members had been a young man whose once-promising future was now shrouded in darkness.
Green Arrow had read about Nathan Jackson with interest and approval. The young high school student had been Star City’s best basketball player, and the promise of college scholarships and an NBA future had been real. However, Jackson’s hoop dreams had faded into a nightmare of white powder and street violence. The young man had not been able to provide for his mother or siblings with dreams for the future. Thus he had turned to crime and had joined the gang. Green Arrow had brought him down with his friends in the raid, and thus, while immortals pondered the nature of mankind, the hero in green brooded about the tragic loss of one young man’s future.
Carrying his anger and regret within his muscular frame, he longed for action. The night was fading into dawn, but he had not rested. He had patrolled the streets and waged an internal war that would have prevented him from truly finding slumber in any case. What good is it? he thought. What’s the point in fighting aliens and goons in fancy capes when real people with honest-to-goodness demons like hunger, ignorance, and prejudice are down here sinking with every passing moment?
He had raised his bow in one hand and had started to bring it down across his knee when his world changed, and he found himself staring wildly at Doctor Mist, who was and yet was not on the streets of Star City. “Far freakin’ out! I wanted to hit somebody, and this refugee from Pippin is just the joker to fit the bill!” he muttered.
But before he could touch Doctor Mist, the African mystic merely stared at him, and Green Arrow slowly lowered his arms and felt himself calm down. “You’re some kinda good vibration guru,” he said. “OK, Mike Love, so what’s your story? I can tell you’re not here to exchange blows or fashion tips.”
Doctor Mist smiled sadly and said, “Oliver Queen, you are needed to prevent the end of your world. I offer you a chance to combat a great evil. Will you accompany me? My powers will bring you to my home in the beat of one heart!”
Frowning, Green Arrow shrugged and said, “Yeah, lead on, MacDuff, but this better be good.”
Green Arrow’s keen mind had easily taken in the fact that the mysterious Doctor Mist’s awareness of his secret identity posed no likely threat or indicated any glaring breach in his own system of precautions. A guy with his kind of major mojo most likely spends his Fridays in front of a crystal ball or something! he thought. I’m not going to sweat it if he knows my secret, but I hope the guy’s not some kinda cosmic Peeping Tom!
He frowned as he saw other costumed figures step out of the shadows, and he noted that what had been Star City’s rough Eldridge district was at least very briefly also part of Gotham City, Metropolis, Washington, D.C., and New Venice. As the extra-dimensional portals faded, he recognized several of his allies in the Justice League of America. Green Arrow rubbed his eyes and then glared at Doctor Mist, tossing up his hands as he said, “Great! You brought in everybody! What’s wrong — couldn’t you locate the Boy Commandos and the Challengers of the Unknown?”
Superman smiled and gestured to where Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman stood. “Arrow, you sound as if you’re not happy to see us,” he said. “You did leave the courtroom in a bit of a huff when some of us were last together.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Times Past, 1983: Trial by Hellfire.]
Green Arrow shook his head and said, “Forget it. He just caught me on a bad night. I guess I should’ve figured that something global would make it necessary for him to round up a couple of us!”
“I suppose Doctor Mist, here, feels there is strength in numbers,” noted Batman. “Now that you’ve assembled us, what exactly is the nature of this threat? For that matter, why couldn’t you handle it yourself? You clearly possess an impressive array of powers.”
“I once ruled an empire that spanned the ancient world and reached glory over 11,000 years ago while the rest of the world’s cultures still wrestled with their birth pangs,” explained Doctor Mist. “This long pilgrimage has taught me to never rely upon my own powers, lest arrogance arise to tempt even me to acts of greed and ruthlessness. In short, Batman, I have ways to know what must be done, and in this case you heroes and certain others are needed to prevent the rise of another ancient being who seeks to assemble components required to activate an engine of incredible destruction. He has contacted and equipped villains from around the world, and he has ordered them to acquire the parts he needs. You and your allies, the Global Guardians, must stop them!”
Aquaman smiled and said, “Atlantis was thriving over 145,000 years ago, and I once ruled its modern-day remnants. I think you can rely on us to stop these criminals and their mysterious leader!”
Wonder Woman nodded and said, “The Amazon culture is also a proud and ancient one built not on traditions of war and hate, but upon the ideas of love and peace. You may trust us, Doctor Mist, as Hera guides us!”
Doctor Mist nodded and said, “Forgive me. I have lived long and seen much sorrow. It blinds me at times to the basic nobility of champions like you. You will do far more than I could do, and your allies will assist you! Each of you will be teleported to where a Global Guardian awaits you. I have informed them via mental telepathy of your roles and what is required!”
Green Arrow leaned over to Batman and said, “I don’t like being cast in the role as a human chess piece! This guy’s thinking is positively medieval!“
“I agree that he is keeping certain information from us,” said Batman, “but my instincts tell me to trust him. We’ve certainly given this kind of faith to the Phantom Stranger before, and he has never let us down.”
Green Arrow sighed and said, “Yeah, but I have had time to get used to old trenchcoat. This Doctor Mist bozo just stepped out of nowhere and started giving orders!”
But before they could continue their conversation, the heroes and their partners were teleported across the globe in the blink of an eye.