“Boss!” an excited voice boomed in a deep bass. “Boss! Boss!”
Sighing, the Mirror Master put down the latest edition of The Daily Mirror, which he had been reading. “What is it, Fist?” he said as the black man burst into his office.
“Have you heard? Superman’s in the hospital!” Power Fist cried, racing into the room.
Mirror Master cocked an eyebrow at his excited associate. “The hospital? Superman?”
“Well, at one of the STAR Labs,” Power Fist amended. “But he’s pretty much helpless!”
“And you’re telling me this because…?” Mirror Master prompted.
The villain in a bright blue shirt and yellow pants blinked at his leader. “Because? Because? Superman’s the man, Boss. Numero uno, the big one! Think of what’ll happen to the guys who finally manage take him out of the picture! We could own Metropolis for doing that, man! Sweet Arbor Day, this whole mother-lovin’ country!”
Mirror Master sighed. “And you don’t think Superman’s friends are going to be guarding him? The Justice League — maybe you’ve heard of them?”
Power Fist paused and looked down at his feet. “Hadn’t thought of them,” he said, scratching the back of his head.
“Somehow, I figured that,” Mirror Master said. “I’ve had my fill of fighting the League, thank you so much. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some plans to reflect upon. You know, thinking. Try it sometime, why don’t you, just for the novelty.” Mirror Master returned to his paper to read the latest exploits of Andy Capp.
“Enjoying your pizza, Ollie?” Black Canary asked slyly. Dr. Martin had left the room, so she felt free to use her fiancé’s real name.
“Stinks,” Green Arrow said, chewing. “Like cardboard with tomato sauce.”
“I would have been glad to go out again and get new sandwiches,” Aquaman offered.
“Naw, that’s OK,” Green Arrow said.
“Hey, pizza!” Zatanna said, entering the room. “Smells yummy!”
“Hey, Zee,” Black Canary said. “Where’ve you been?”
“I was just putting up a mystic shield around the building,” she said. “Ray and Katar’s gadget should keep scientific teleporters out, and this should stop sorcerers from magicking their way in.” The beautiful sorceress shrugged. “Of course, they could still walk in the front door.” Taking a piece of pizza, Zatanna walked over and leaned on the arm of the chair where Green Arrow sat. “Before that, I was at the United Nations, speaking to a special committee they’ve appointed.”
“A committee to do what, witch-woman?” Green Arrow asked.
“Establish a worldwide holiday in remembrance of those who gave their lives in the invasion,” Zatanna explained. “Meta-human and normal human alike. They wanted to know if a JLAer would speak at the ceremony; I told them of course.” She paused, taking a bite of pizza. “Ambassador Regal from Belgravia said to say hi.”
“Ambassador?” Green Arrow gasped. “Albert’s the ambassador now?”
“No, he said his name was Peter,” Zatanna said. “A real hunk, too!” she said, winking.
“Peter? Oh, man, do I feel old!” Green Arrow groaned. “Peter’s just a year or two older’n Roy!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Scarlet Bowmen,” Adventure Comics #226 (July, 1956).]
“How do you know the Belgravian ambassador, Ollie?” Black Canary asked.
“Tell you later,” Green Arrow said. “It’s almost my turn to relieve Nubia on outside watch.”
“You’ve got time for another slice,” Black Canary cooed, holding up the box.
“Funny,” Green Arrow said. “Fun-nee.”
“Disgusting,” said Nubia, the current Wonder Woman, as she flipped through the pages of a celebrity magazine. “These women, parading and prancing for the camera attired in such whorish costumes! Do they have no respect for their own gender? It is outrageous!”
The warrior-bred heroine did not really have such a problem with the actresses and models pictured in the magazine. She was merely venting her own frustration at the inaction, the boredom she was experiencing. Her turn guarding the front entrance of the laboratory facility, she sat in the lobby, thumbing through the magazines, wishing something would happen — anything. “Mars save me from this ennui!” she muttered under her breath, tossing the magazine back onto the stack on the table in front of him.
Suddenly, the double doors burst open in a shriek of rending metal and a crash of shattering glass. “Where is he?” a booming voice demanded. “Where is Superman?”
“My thanks, great Mars,” Wonder Woman prayed softly. She bolted up out of her chair and stared at the figure who had burst through the doors. Like the celebrities of whom Wonder Woman had complained, his outfit showed a lot of skin — a dark purple cowl and cloak, gloves, trunks and boots; nothing else. His barrel chest and muscular arms and legs were bare. He looked at Wonder Woman with a snarl.
“Take me to Superman, woman, and I will grant you a swift and painless death!” he growled.
Nubia did a double-take; she was not accustomed to being spoken to like that. “And who might you be, man of muscle?” she asked.
“My name is Elton Craig,” the powerful criminal declared. “I’m certain Superman has forgotten me; it has been years since he and that ridiculous bat-eared friend of his put me in prison! But they have not been idle years! It took me a long time to recreate the formula that gave me powers to rival Superman’s, a long, long time! But I succeeded, and now Superman will feel the wrath of Elton Craig!”
“I commend you on having the good sense not to select a ridiculous sobriquet, like so many of the costumed buffoons I have encountered since joining the Justice League,” Wonder Woman said. “But, of course, I will not let you pass.”
“Let me? Let me?” Craig repeated, venomously. “Woman, stand aside, or I shall put you swiftly in your place, where all of your weaker sex belong!”
Wonder Woman audibly gasped, and then a wicked smile slowly spread across her face. “There is a saying in this land,” she said as her fingers closed around the hilt of her sword. “How does it go, again? Oh, yes. You just said the secret word.” Wonder Woman drew her sword with a loud metallic ring.
“And that’s time,” Green Arrow said, glancing at the clock on the wall. “Don’t want to be late relieving Nubia. She’s got a temper worse’n Shayera’s. I’ll see you guys later.”
“We’ll let you know if Superman wakes up or anything, Ollie,” Black Canary said as Green Arrow walked toward her. As he passed her chair, he leaned in to give her a kiss, then went on his way. When he was out the door, Hawkman rose from his chair and walked toward the Flash and J’onn J’onzz.
“Now that Ollie’s gone,” Hawkman said, “I wanted to discuss with you two an idea I have for his bachelor party.” The three men walked off to a corner to conspire.
“Bachelor party,” Black Canary repeated, clucking her tongue. “Men and their silly rituals.”
“Which reminds me,” Zatanna said slyly. “We gals have a ritual, too, you know.”
Black Canary’s left eyebrow shot up to her hairline.
“Hey, Wonder Woman,” Green Arrow called as he stepped off the elevator. “Sorry I’m two minutes late. Had to stop at the men’s room; that awful pizza went throuooh! What the heck happened here?!”
The startled archer looked around. The lobby was a shambles — tables broken, chairs overturned, a large, vaguely man-shaped dent in the wall. A muscular form in a cloak and cowl lay on the floor, face down. Wonder Woman stood over him, her booted foot resting on the small of his back.
“Hello, Green Arrow,” she said, ramming her sword back into its scabbard with a metallic slam. “Are you late? I hadn’t noticed.”
“Um, yeah,” Green Arrow said. “Who’s the costume?”
“Someone who just gained a much greater respect for women,” Wonder Woman said proudly.
“I’ll just bet he has,” Green Arrow agreed.
“I don’t like it,” Batman said, watching his old friend through the glass window.
“I know what you mean,” Black Canary said. “The Daily Planet hasn’t even printed the story yet, and already we’ve had to fend off two would-be assassins.” The blonde bombshell shrugged. “Losers both, sure, but still–”
“That’s not what I mean,” Batman said, not taking his eyes off Superman’s still form. “He should be awake by now, at least. He’s been under that solar ray for six hours straight. Why isn’t he conscious?”
“Easy, Batman,” Hawkman said, placing a hand on his comrade’s shoulder. “I know you’re worried. You’re closer to Superman than any of us. But he’ll pull through. I know he will.”
“I wish I had your confidence,” Batman said grimly.
“How is he?” a familiar female voice, anxious with worry, cried from the door of the observation room. Batman turned to behold Superwoman entering the room. “I got here as quickly as I could! When I got the word I was in Kenya, helping rescue the citizens of a burning village! I-I wanted to come right away–”
“Clark would have finished the job first,” Batman said simply. “You did the right thing, of course.”
“Of course,” Superwoman agreed. “I know that! That doesn’t make it any easier! Oh, Clark, what have they done to you?” Superwoman raced to the window, pressing her face against the glass. On the other side, Superman remained in his bed, his chest rising and falling slowly, his eyes closed.
“That about does it,” Green Arrow said, putting the last chair into place.
“I think so,” the maintenance man in the gray coveralls said. “Thanks for giving me a hand cleaning the place up, Mr. Arrow.”
“Think nothing of it,” Green Arrow said. “Wonder Woman gets a little… enthusiastic sometimes. Tell you what, though, I’ve worked up an appetite. Cafeteria still open?”
“Afraid not; it closed at seven,” the maintenance man said. “There’s a vending machine on the second floor landing, though.”
“Vending machine? That’ll do,” Green Arrow said, heading for the stairs. “Bats’ll have to forgive me if I desert my post for a minute or two. Hope they have Kit Kat bars.” The green-clad archer walked to the stairway door and climbed the stairs to the second floor landing. He surveyed the clear plastic front of the vending machine. “Dang, no Kit Kat. Hm… Clark bar… Snickers…. Mars bar… Zagnut? They still make those?”
As the marksman pondered his snack selection, he heard the unmistakable sound of metal scraping softly on metal. He whirled on his heel to watch the landing window being slowly opened from the outside. Green Arrow watched as a pudgy body lowered itself in through the window, feet first.
“What are you doing so far south, Pengy?” Green Arrow asked. The master criminal jumped, startled at the voice.
“Green Arrow!” the Penguin snarled. “Blast you, you obnoxious arrowsmith! For a non- Gothamite, you get in my hair quite a lot, don’t you?”
“Seems so,” Green Arrow agreed. “This is what, the third time our paths have crossed? What brings you here, as if I didn’t know?”
“Don’t act disingenuous with me, you flippant fletcher,” Penguin sneered. “I plan to spirit the incapacitated Man of Steel out of this erudite establishment, then sell him to the highest bidder!”
“You realize I’m going to stop you, right?” Green Arrow asked.
“You’re welcome to try,” Penguin said, thrusting forth his umbrella. A metal gun barrel shot forth from the tip of the shaft.
“Batman!” Superwoman cried. “Batman, look!”
“What is it?” Batman demanded, racing to the window.
“Clark’s moving! He’s coming to!”
Batman pressed his hands and face against the glass, watching intently. Sure enough, Superman was beginning to stir. His head rolled from one side to the other on the pillow; his mightily muscled arms slowly lifted from his sides. A smile crept across Batman’s face.
“He’s conscious! He’s well! I knew it! I knew he would pull through!” Superwoman cried with joy. She grabbed Batman in a ferocious bear hug, squeezing her lover’s best friend tightly to her, sharing with him her joy at Superman’s impending recovery.
“Thank you,” the Darknight Detective whispered, glancing upward.
Green Arrow dived behind the vending machine as bullets from the Penguin’s umbrella slammed into it. As he pondered his next move, his JLA communicator flared to life.
“Ollie!” Black Canary’s voice cried from the device. “Superman’s waking up! He’s coming to!”
“That’s great, pretty bird,” Green Arrow said, “but I can’t really talk right now. I’m fighting the Penguin.”
“Oh,” Black Canary said, as though what the archer had said were the most natural thing in the world. “So I should call back in, what, ten minutes?”
“That should be good,” Green Arrow agreed. As the communicator went dead, Green Arrow selected an arrow from his quiver. “Hm, the steel-cocoon-arrow Sardath made for me. Good a time as any to test it!”
As the hail of bullets ceased, Green Arrow leaped from his hiding place. He found the Penguin’s umbrella open, the steel-reinforced silk protecting him, or so the villain thought. Green Arrow fired his shaft at the floor; it bounced up under the umbrella and struck the Penguin, steel bands springing out from it and wrapping around his body like a mummy.
“Sardath knows his stuff,” Green Arrow said, smiling. “Arrow worked like a–”
“Help!” the Penguin cried. “Get this blasted thing off me! I-I can’t breathe! It’s crushing me!”
“Uh-oh,” Green Arrow said, rushing to the Penguin’s side. The villain toppled to the floor on his back, the constricting steel bands crushing him tighter. “Sardath must have forgotten to allow for Terran physique. He set the torque too tight!”
“You bumble-headed bowman!” the Penguin spat. “I think my ribs are broken! This is foul! Unfair! You’re a deputized law enforcement officer, are you not? That makes this police brutality! Unnecessary use of violence! I’ll sue! I’ll take this to the highest court in the land!”
“Yeah, yeah. Get in line,” Green Arrow said, taking out an acetylene-torch-arrow to cut the steel bands.