by Goose Gansler
“Sounds like a good plan to me.” The well-built Native American man was the first to speak in response. “I’m Jimmy Flying Stag, and I wouldn’t have known what to do without the Vigilante giving me some well-needed advice.” He fingered the chain that hung about his neck. Looking closely, one could see a bulge beneath his shirt that was likely attached the chain.
“I like the idea,” said the long-haired Native American nervously. “But I’m not sure about it. I mean, I don’t know any of you folks. I’ve been keen on keeping my identity a secret.”
“Aw, c’mon now, mate,” the caucasian man said with an accent of Australian tint. “It’s obvious that we’re all super-heroes here, and the Vigilante thought enough of each of us to take us under his wing. If we were good enough for him, I say we ought to be good enough for each other.” He opened the buttons of his shirt. “The name’s John Wainwright.” On the gray outfit underneath was a strange black bat-shaped emblem lined with yellow. “I go by the moniker Bat-Shaman.”
“Bat-Shaman?” Michael Carter piped up. “I remember hearing about you. You operate up in Dalton Corners, don’t you? Heart of the corn belt?”
“Yep, my family’s hometown,” Thomas said nodding. “Ever since I left our Australian exile to help Superman and Batman against the bat-god Gitchka.” (*) He smirked. “Of course, the name that goes with this sacred costume is ‘Bat-Man’ but Great-Grandfather didn’t copyright it. No sense trying to get it back from that guy in Gotham now.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thou Shalt Have No Other Batman Before Me,” World’s Finest Comics #255 (February-March, 1979).]
“Shaman. Gitchka,” the long-haired Native American muttered. “Those are our heritage, not yours.”
At the implied insult, Thomas pointed his finger at him. “Great-Grandfather was a full-blooded medicine man. It’s my heritage, too.” He turned toward the only female in the room. “You’ve been awful quiet there, birdie. Aren’t you going to chirp up?”
The woman stood up, removing the scarf from her head. “I’ll thank you to refrain from those bird comments.” The red atop her head looked more like plumage than hair. “I don’t understand why there is debate. Greg Sanders has made his wishes known. We are honor-bound to follow those wishes. That is what a true Vrandar would do.” She paused. “Or perhaps my newfound respect for the fairer sex was misguided. Perhaps Superman and the Vigilante are the only males on this planet worthy of my respect.”
“Whoa, whoa, there,” Michael said as he brought up his hands. “Let’s all cool down about this.” He tried to let the tension in the room dissipate a bit. “Now you’ve dropped some tantalizing hints there — Vrandar, we males as the fairer sex, Superman. What gives?”
She looked at the men gathered with an air of superiority. “I am Althera of Vrandar. For a short time, I had the love of Superman, but we were not to be. (*) My world was destroyed in the Crisis. Knowing not where to turn, I came to Earth — Superman’s world. But I could not face him; the pain ran too deep.” Her imperious appearance seemed for a moment to be marred by a tear. Whether it was for her world or for her lost love, no one could tell.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secrets of Superman’s Fortress,” Action Comics #395 (December, 1970).]
“All right,” Michael said calmly. “No offense was meant. If you were OK by my uncle, it’s good enough for me.”
“Very well,” Althera grumbled as the arms of her chair cracked under the pressure exerted by her hands. “This world is still strange to me, but I could… use some friends. Greg Sanders was a good one to me when I came to this world. He showed me I could… ‘do good for my fellow man.'” The last word was tinged with playful sarcasm.
“OK, then, since we’re bonding so well now,” Michael said with a smile, “I suppose I’m comfortable in letting you all know that I’m the Swashbuckler, resident hero of this city of Houston. I’ve never been one much for money. Just give me a chopper and a place to sleep, and I’m copacetic. I’m all for what Uncle Greg wants done. There’s bound to be some up-and-comers that need tutoring, and I don’t see any of the big-shots like the JLA stepping up to the plate. The Titans may be dealing with some kids, but that’s about it.”
“I like the idea as well,” the long-haired Native American stood up. “I am David Broken Spear when I am not wearing the costume of Mighty Eagle.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Jimmy’s Indian Super-Pal,” Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #81 (December, 1964).]
Jimmy Flying Stag pulled out the meteorite medal that hung at his chest. “I’ll chime in again. This stone lets me be, like my great ancestor before me, Super-Chief. (*) I would be honored to fulfill the Vigilante’s wish. With the surge of superhumans produced by those alien Dominator scientists during the Invasion, there’s a good number of potential super-heroes out there. They’ll need some guidance.”
[(*) Editor’s note: The original Super-Chief, who was a hero before Europeans set foot in North America, appeared in All-Star Western #117 (March, 1961).]
“But we can also serve those who just want to fight for justice, like the Vigilante, without special powers,” Michael added.
“Then it appears that all are agreed,” George Papp spoke up. During the fast-paced discussion, it seemed that everyone had forgotten his, the host’s, presence. As it was, events had turned out just as he had hoped. “Might I suggest that the money be re-pooled to establish a base of operations and for training?”
“Sounds like someone’s fixing on managing this operation,” John chuckled.
“I do have some experience in dealing with a multimillion-dollar operation, and I know a little bit of the heroic life,” George explained. “There will be lots of legal and financial aspects to deal with. I can be the public face, while you can do your deeds behind your masks.”
“But why?” Althera asked sharply. “Did not Greg Sanders provide for you, his trusted servant?”
“Greg liked to call me his partner,” George answered. “I saw what Greg did over the years, and I’d like it to continue. In the past, I provided the cover and the management so that Greg could simply do what he did best — sing as well as fight. Now I’d like to think that I could be a part of building something bigger, something lasting as a tribute to his memory.”
“Works for me.” John Wainwright took out a pen and signed the check. He handed it to George. “There’s my money. Start setting things up.”
The others signed their checks and handed them to George. “I’ll be sure to establish some dummy accounts so this money can’t be traced back to you. I already have your contact information, so I’ll let you know how things are progressing and when we can begin.”
David Broken Spear put his finger to his ear. “Maybe we’d better be beginning right now. My miniaturized radio received is picking up something on the police band. Sounds like there’s something going on downtown — a big explosion at the county jail.”
“A jailbreak? Sounds like something tailor-made for us.” Michael removed his dress-shirt, revealing the V-necked, leather, sleeveless brown shirt beneath. His suit pants gave way to red leather tights. He pulled out red gloves and brown boots from his briefcase. Finally, he donned a red mask that covered his all of this features save his eyes. “The Swashbuckler is ready.”
Jimmy Flying Stag held the strange meteoric rock that hung from his neck chain. He concentrated for a moment, and soon his features were covered by a buffalo-head mask. His only other clothing were black tights and boots with a similarly colored cloth hanging from his belt. “As is Super-Chief.”
Thomas Wainwright had donned a blue and gray costume reminiscent of the caped crusader of Gotham. However, there were slight differences. His face was shrouded in black, and the bat ears were even more authentic atop his cowl. His gloves and boots were gray as the rest of the suit. The bat emblem was more stylized, and he wore no apparent utility belt. “Bat-Shaman is ready for action.”
Broken Spear pressed a button on his belt, and a snow-white eagle costume expanded out of it. He quickly stepped into it, his arm wings at the ready. “Mighty Eagle stands ready.”
Althera pressed a button on her ornate wrist band. Her body was covered in a reddish glow. When it had subsided, the artifact from her homeworld had transformed her accoutrements into the battle armor of a Vrandaran warrior — silver breastplate, golden metallic shirt, golden boots, and helmet. “Ah, that feels better,” she sighed.
“We’re not too far from the county jail,” Swashbuckler announced, “but my work chopper is back at home.”
Super-Chief picked him up by the collar. “I can get us there. Bat-Shaman, do you fly?”
Seeing the negative nod, Super-Chief grabbed Bat-Shaman as well. Swashbuckler was barely able to get his collapsible quarterstaff out of his briefcase before Super-Chief rushed out the door and launched himself into the sky.
Mighty Eagle was about to follow in the flight suit of his own design when he heard the cry of “Stop!” behind him. He turned to see Althera there.
“Why? You’re obviously some type of avian alien.”
“One who cannot fly.” Althera’s face was a slight frown. All Vrandarans had asprired to the power of flight that their distant ancestors had possessed.
Mighty Eagle nodded. “Then take hold of my feet once I’m airborne.” He took to the air with Althera in tow.
Soon, all five heroes were on the scene of the disturbance. A massive hole had been produced in the outer wall of the Harris County Jail. Actually, most of the wall was a hole. There was barely enough structural support to keep that side of the building upright.
There were ever more police arriving at the scene, but the situation was one of chaos. There were lucky inmates attempting to scatter into the streets. Others were hanging precariously from what was left of the building.
Super-Chief dropped from the sky to the ground and discharged his passengers. Bat-Shaman and Swashbuckler immediately went to work tracking down escapees. Super-Chief took to the air again and began to snatch those inmates from the wreckage who were in the most immediate danger.
Althera let go of Mighty Eagle in midair. Her momentum carried her into the shell of the building. She put her prodigious strength to use on the top floor, shoring up a support beam to keep the roof from collapsing. Mighty Eagle then swooped in and carried out inmates in a flash of white.
“Oh, no!” one of the inmates shouted as Bat-Shaman chased him and others through the streets. “We got Batman on our tail!”
“What’s he doing down here in Houston?” another gasped between ragged breaths. “Gotham’s his turf.”
Another looked back and noted the features of Bat-Shaman’s costume. “Hey, the costume’s all wrong. He’s just some wanna-be.” He stopped and turned. “Come on. We can take him out. Maybe use him as a hostage if the coppers close in.” The inmate’s bravado emboldened the others, and they turned to face Bat-Shaman.
“You oughta get your money back from the rental shop. The costume’s screwed up, you feeb!” one of the criminals mocked.
“On the contrary, this costume is exactly what it is supposed to be — an instrument of justice against evil.” Bat-Shaman took out a bolo from a hidden compartment on his costume and whirled it at the felons. He snared two of them. Before the others could react, he was on top of them as he rained down punches.
Meanwhile, Swashbuckler was in pursuit of another fleeing group. The chase had gone on for a few blocks now. Sure wish I had my chopper, he thought as he closed in on them. I could have corralled them all by now. Still, he knew a little cardiovascular exercise would be good from this run. He wasn’t expecting much of a workout once he was within fighting distance.
The chase wound its way through the streets and alleys until its path took hunter and quarry into a dead end. Swashbuckler slid his staff off of the magnetic clamp on his back and began to twirl it like a baton. “OK,” he said, smiling behind his mask. “The hard way or the easy way?”
The criminals rushed him, believing in the superiority of their numbers. Swashbuckler’s staff swept the ground in front of the first, knocking the felon’s leading leg off-balance. A domino effect ensued, which Swashbuckler accentuated by pushing the butt of the staff into another inmate’s chin. He pulled the staff back and then used it to vault over the crowd.
Holding his staff like a baseball bat, he delivered a pounding blow to one’s midsection and then pinned the last felon against the wall by the neck.
He withdrew the staff, and the felon slipped to the ground, joining the others in the realm of unconsciousness. Swashbuckler slapped the staff onto his back again. “Thanks for choosing the easy way.”
After shoring up the roof support, Althera dissuaded a few of the inmates from any thoughts of escape. The haymakers she delivered sent a number of criminals flying across the floor, contradicting some of the colorful statements that said, in effect, that she was just ‘a mere girl.’ “You’ll be back in your rightful cages soon enough,” she hissed.
Mighty Eagle nabbed some escapees from the sky and then dropped them into the custody of the police on the scene. He also tossed some of his medicine man magic at a few of the criminals, ensnaring them in snakelike wrappings that appeared out of the dust that he threw.
The responding police officers pitched in as well as soon all of the inmates were accounted for. Paddy wagons were being called in to transport the prisoners to other facilities.
The heroes soon gathered around Police Captain Don Harrigan, who had been in command of the situation. “Well, thanks for the help, Swashbuckler. I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye on your vigilantism, but your and your friends’ assistance was certainly welcome. Can’t say that I recognize the rest of you, though.”
Introductions were made, and then Harrigan took of his cap, displaying his sweat-matted hair. “Pleasure to meet you all. So is this some kind of super-hero get-together, or are you folks some new team?”
“We’re a new team,” Swashbuckler declared. The obvious next question came to mind even before Captain Harrigan asked it.
“Your outfit got a name?” Garrison inquired.
Swashbuckler grinned sheepishly behind his mask. “We’ll have to get back to you on that.” He turned and started to walk away, and the other heroes followed quickly after.
“So what are we going to call ourselves?” Bat-Shaman asked.
“The obvious name is Vigilantes,” Mighty Eagle commented.
“How about Super-Power Team or the Super-Power Company?” Super-Chief suggested.
Swashbuckler chuckled. “I’m sure you’d like that link with your name, Super-Chief.” He looked around to the group. “What say we all mull it over until George gets into contact with us. Then we can put it to a vote. Sound OK?”
Everyone indicated their agreement at that point. After covertly returning to the mansion, they all resumed their civilian identities and took their leave. George Papp was already hard at work drafting plans for the new group — a group whose name, once it was decided, might go down in history.
He looked up to the sky and smiled. “I think this is gonna be OK, Greg.” He could almost feel the spirit of the Vigilante offering his agreement.