“Join me, brothers and sisters,” Reverend Green shouted, “in praising glorious Nature for her gifts to us! Raise your hands in joyous praise to Nature!”
Reverend Green was a short man of slight build, clothed from neck to foot in long, flowing robes of dark, mossy green. His hair was long, stringy, and pure snowy white. He wore a purple medallion on a purple chain around his neck; this was his only adornment. Reverend Green held his service outdoors, surrounded by the Nature he claimed to represent; on the banks of a small stream, with two burning torches stuck into the ground on either side of him. The farm folk assembled for his service raised their hands and repeated his words of praise; you could tell there was no heart in the words, no belief in anything but the consequences of not praising.
“Is this a private church,” Green Arrow’s voice chimed in, “or can anyone sit in?”
Reverend Green gasped, staring at the four Justice Leaguers. It was obvious he was startled. But he recovered himself quickly. “Friends, we have guests this morning, and no less than the legendary Justice League of America! Of course you are welcome — come and worship with us!”
“Before that,” Green Lantern said, “we have some questions to ask you. About Tom and Sarah Steeger’s farm.”
Reverend Green hung his head. “Lost sheep,” he muttered. “The Steegers have strayed from the way of Nature. I weep for them.”
“Well, don’t weep for their barn,” Elongated Man said. “We saved that this morning.”
For a moment, Reverend Green glared at them; but once again, he quickly recovered himself. “You have my gratitude, sir, and that of the entire community. Saved it from what?”
“Oh, a dude about yay big,” Ralph said, stretching his right arm to a height of thirty feet. “Real hot-tempered fellow.”
“You don’t say,” Reverend Green said slyly.
“Yes, we do say!” Green Arrow barked, having had enough of the dance. “In case you don’t get CNN this far out in the sticks, Reverend, we’re the good guys! We don’t take kindly to extortion rackets, whether their tactics include bricks through storefront windows or flaming giants wrecking barns!”
“Extortion?” Reverend Green gasped. “Sir, you wound me! And I would remind you of the Constitutional right of freedom of worship–”
Green Arrow snorted loudly. “Never fails, does it?” he asked. “The first ones to complain about their rights are the ones who would take them away from others. Well, get me, whitey: we’re going to be on you like ugly on Gorilla Grodd until we can prove what you’re doing to these people! And then we’re going to put a stop to it! Capeesh?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Reverend Green said. “But I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” The Reverend raised his skinny arms high. All of a sudden, the waters of the stream roiled and lurched, resolving themselves into a twenty-foot high giant of water. The flames of the two torches did likewise, creating a fire-giant like the one the League had battled that morning. The ground at the heroes’ feet erupted in a geyser of soil and formed a humanoid giant of earth. A sudden whirlwind kicked up around them and twisted itself into a manlike giant of air. Reverend Green stood there grinning.
“It’s on,” the Flash muttered, grinning.
The farm people gasped as they saw what Reverend Green had done. They knew he had power, but this was something else.
Green Lantern took to the air, hovering at about the height of the earth-creature’s head. Ollie’s favorite tactic, poking a hornet’s nest with a stick! he thought ruefully. Got to take this malevolent mudpie out fast, so I can help the others. In a flash, four giant green jackhammers appeared, pummeling the earth-creature from all sides. In a matter of moments, it was reduced to dust.
Not bad, Green Lantern thought, dissolving the jackhammers. Now to–
But as the startled hero watched, the dust reshaped itself, flying back into the shape of a humanoid giant. In seconds, the earth-creature was just as it had been before.
Whoops, Green Lantern thought. Spoke too soon!
The Flash began running rings around the fire-creature, faster and faster.
History repeats itself, he thought to himself. Uncle Barry helped form the Justice League by defeating a fire-monster. Now I’m called on to do it, too! Well, hope you’re watching, Barry!
Faster and faster the Flash raced, creating a wind tunnel with the fire-creature at its center. Abruptly, the young hero switched direction, running faster and faster in the opposite direction. The abrupt change of direction of the whirlwind snuffed the fire-monster out like a candle. The Flash stopped on a dime and looked in Reverend Green’s direction. The little man only smiled as a second fire-monster formed from the flames of the torches.
The Elongated Man held his ground, his rubberized limbs anchored around trees and one large boulder as the air-monster whipped up a cyclone around him. The creature was made of pure air; it was only visible by the dust, leaves, and other debris whipping around inside its furious form.
Ralph Dibny ground his teeth as he fought the forces tugging at him. Good thing I had all those practice combat sessions with Red Tornado, he thought to himself, or I’d never know how to fight this! But how do you fight a thing made of air? Ralph managed to turn his head in the middle of the cyclone and saw Green Lantern fighting the earth-creature. He remembered something and thought of a gamble. He dared to release his right hand’s hold on the tree, then stretched his arm all the way back to their hidden car. Feeling by touch he found Hal’s suitcase, and his arm snapped back holding two aerosol spray-cans, one deodorant, one hairspray. He thrust both cans deep into the air-creature’s body, feeling the churning winds buffeting him.
Beats me, he thought, but maybe adding these sprays to the air-thing’s mix will give him indigestion! With a silent prayer, Ralph pressed both buttons on the cans and held them down. The entire contents of both cans emptied into the air-creature. As quickly as Reverend Green had summoned the whirlwinds, they stopped, leaving Ralph lying on the grass in a calm breeze.
“Well, blow me down!” Ralph exclaimed. “Never expected that to happen!”
Green Arrow ran as a watery fist slammed onto the ground, inches behind where he had been. He felt the spray splatter his back. Blazes! he thought. Where’s Aquaman when you need him? The water-giant took another swipe at Green Arrow. The archer leaped out of the way, rolled on the ground, and lifted three arrows from his quiver as the watery hand smacked down where he had been seconds ago. Green Arrow rolled up onto his knees and notched all three arrows to his bow at once.
Blasted thing moves too fast! the archer thought to himself. Got to slow it down. These arrows are filled with a special plastic powder; mixed with water, it turns to thick, gelatinous goo! Maybe that will put a fly in his ointment, or the other way around, or something. Gritting his teeth, Green Arrow let the shafts fly. All three sailed into the water-creature at once, burst into bright green powder, and mixed with the creature’s watery body. All of a sudden, the humanoid form collapsed into a pile of green plastic ooze.
Green Arrow goggled at the pile. “What the heck did I do?” he asked.
The Flash had seen what happened to Elongated Man and Green Arrow’s opponents. He stared at Reverend Green — who was even then forming new creatures — and suddenly gasped in revelation. “G.A.!” he shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth. “The medallion! Get the medallion!”
Green Arrow stared at the Flash for a single instant; then he acted. In a single fluid motion he pulled out an arrow, notched it to the bowstring, drew, and fired. Swift and accurate as a bullet, it whistled through the air. Reverend Green screamed in terror, thinking it heading for his head; he felt the pluck at his robe as the arrow snatched the medallion from his neck.
“Nooo!” he screamed, and ran off after the arrow.
Green Lantern watched as the elemental creatures collapsed into what they had been before. “Uh-uh-uh,” the emerald crusader cried, firing a beam from his power ring. Reverend Green was grabbed in a glowing green clamp around his arms and torso, holding him fast.
Green Arrow and Elongated Man ran to the struggling reverend. “OK, Reverend, now let’s get to the bottom of this!”
“Blast you, archer,” the green-robed man muttered.
“Here, G.A.,” Flash said. “Maybe this will help you recognize him.” In a twinkling, the scarlet speedster plucked the long white wig from the captive man’s head, revealing a close-cropped head of bright red hair. The villain squeaked in terror as Green Arrow’s face lit up.
“Well, well, well,” the archer said. “If it isn’t Mark Mandrill, the Matter Master! Long time, no see, Markie! Almost didn’t recognize you without the goatee.” Green Arrow made a show of clenching his fist. “I still owe you for that David Hedison number you pulled on me last time we met!” he growled, referring to the JLA case in which the Matter Master had given Green Arrow a fly’s head. (*) The villain cringed in his emerald bonds.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Kid Who Won Hawkman’s Wings,” Justice League of America #116 (March-April, 1975).]
“The Matter Master?!” Ralph said, impressed. “How’d you figure it out, Flash?”
“When you and Green Arrow changed the composition of your opponents,” the Flash explained, “Green lost control of them. That made me remember that the Matter Master can only affect matter in its natural state!”
“Through his Mentachem wand,” Green Lantern said, bringing the medallion to him in a power-ring bubble. “He must have altered its shape into this medallion!”
“One heck of a scam,” Green Arrow said. “Original, Mandrill, I’ll give it that!”
“Please don’t hit me,” Mandrill squeaked.
The people of the farm community were naturally quite grateful at being freed of Reverend Green’s influence. They insisted that the heroes stay for a huge feast thrown in their honor. Green Lantern danced with at least fourteen different farmers’ daughters; Green Arrow put away helpings of four different kinds of pie. To the Flash fell the duty of transferring custody of Mandrill when the local constabulary arrived.
Long after sunset, after allowing themselves to be thanked many more times, the heroes finally said their goodbyes to the grateful farmers. They headed off down the road to where they had left their car.
“We’ll stop off in those woods up there,” Hal said. “I’ll ring us up a quick change of clothes.”
“Don’t let me forget,” Ralph said, “I owe you a can of hairspray and a deodorant.”
“I won’t forget,” Hal said. “Do you know what that hairspray costs? I’m not even sure we can find a salon out here that carries it.”
As the three older men walked on, the Flash stood behind a little ways, looking back at the farm community they were leaving. He had saved the day this time. He, Wally West, the once and former Kid Flash. So why did he still feel like a little boy at Daddy’s poker game?
“Hey!” Green Arrow called back. “You coming, Patch?”
Wally whirled around, gaping. “What?”
“I said, are you coming?” Green Arrow said. Then he winked, and a broad grin spread on his face.
Wally’s grin outdid it by a good two feet. “Yeah, Ollie. I’m coming.”
“Well, get a move on!” the archer grumbled. “Fastest man alive, my foot…”