Auld Lang Syne ’85
by Martin Maenza
Celebrate the last hours of 1985 in the Bar Sinister, where the costumed villains go to unwind and socialize!
“What gets bigger the more you take away from it?” asked a dark-haired man sitting on one of the stools. He wore a form-fitting green costume covered with black question marks, a purple mask, and matching purple gloves.
“Riddler, I just serve the drinks here,” the bartender said as he slid a tropical drink in front of the villain and popped in a little paper umbrella. “I’m not required to answer your brain-teasers.”
The Riddler frowned. “You’re no fun, Pinto,” he said, plucking the garnish out of the drink. “Hmmm, I wonder if Cobblepot collects these.” He rose from his seat and took off mumbling.
The bartender started to wipe out some of the clean beer mugs to put them away. New Year’s Eve always brought an interesting mix to the Bar Sinister, the floating establishment that catered to the costumed criminal clientele.
“Ah, don’t mind old Eddie,” a voice called from the end of the bar. It came from a man dressed all-black with orange stripes on his shirt. “He tends to get cranky when no one will play with him.”
Roy Pinto nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The man who addressed him motioned for the bartender to come over. “Hey, Pinto,” he said in a whisper, “any chance you want to swap some trade secrets? You used to mix it up with Aquaman as Electric Man, right? (*) We probably have a lot in common.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Menace of the Electric Man,” Adventure Comics #254 (November, 1958).]
“We probably do, Electrocutioner,” Pinto said, “but these days I’m just mixing cocktails. So, if you want to know what’s in a Long Island iced tea, I’m happy to oblige. Beyond that, I keep to my work here.”
“Your loss,” the costumed killer said.
At a small table in the corner, a man in red with a cape made out of large white squares sat alone staring into his beer. “Tragic… so tragic…” he mumbled to himself. “The sheer horror! To think… all those beauties left to the trash, discarded, unneeded. Sad… so sad…”
A man dressed in a wide-brimmed brown hat with a green cape slung over one shoulder stared at the man in the booth. “What’s that there fella’s problem?” the mustached cowpoke asked. “He looks like he plumb lost his best friend or somethin’.”
“Don’t mind him,” the Riddler said as he walked past Terra-Man. “Calendar Man always gets depressed on the last day of the year. He totally loses it over all the calendars that get thrown away on December 31st. But, not surprisingly, he perks up again after midnight when he realizes that new ones get put up and used.” The villain motioned with his glove to the side of his head in a slight circle. “A little crazy, if you ask me.”
“I reckon,” Terra-Man agreed.
The Riddler put his arm about the space cowboy’s shoulder. “Say, what moves on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the twilight?”
Across the way, a man in green with a long purple cape and full face mask was leaning in intently to a dark-haired woman in all purple with a high-collared green cape and a yellow face mask.
“C’mon, baby,” Blackrock said in his most suave voice. “If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.”
Two blips of light moved across the woman’s metal mask and glared at the villain. “If you don’t remove your hand from my knee in three seconds, I’ll show you how much damage my cybernetic armor can do to you!” Doctor Cyber growled.
A man dressed like a playing card, meanwhile, was making conversation with a tall beauty dressed in yellow. “So, tell me,” Jack of Spades said, eyeing the woman’s permed hair, “are you a natural redhead?”
Shimmer rolled her eyes. How many times had she heard that pick-up line before? She was contemplating whether to let it go or to transmute the man’s costume into oxygen, exposing him to the world, when a dark shadow fell upon them both.
“Is this creep bothering you, sister?” a booming voice asked.
Jack of Spades spun around to see a six-foot-five, three-hundred-pound red-haired man dressed in black with a yellow harness across his chest. The Royal Flush Gang member gulped when Mammoth cracked his knuckles beneath large yellow gloves.
“There is no trouble here, dear brother,” Shimmer said with a rather wicked smile. “This man was just offering to buy us both drinks. Isn’t that right, Jack?” She raised her eyebrow at the man who had been hitting on her; it was now his turn to squirm some.
“Uh, yeah,” Jack of Spades said, “right. Drinks. For you both. What’ll it be?”
“We prefer imports,” she said coolly. “The expensive kind.”
“Foster’s!” Mammoth roared. He then gave the card-motif villain a shove toward the bar.
Jack of Spades could hear the two laughing as he moved away. He felt like taking off but had a feeling the big guy would come after him if he didn’t get them their drinks. He grumbled to himself as he checked his wallet. “Great,” he said, realizing this would severely interfere with his cash flow. “The Gang better plan another gig soon.”
He began humming to himself a version of a pop song. “Just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, people know the part Jack’s playin’…” Motioning to the other bartender, he placed his order.
When the young man returned with the large beers, he noticed a group over in the corner. “I wonder what all that’s about,” Larry the bartender asked.
Jack of Spades glanced over at the group of men, recognizing a couple of them. “Oh, them?” he said. “Those are the Rogues. They tend to socialize a lot together. The guy I replaced in the Royal Flush Gang — Hi-Jack — worked with a couple of them in an organization a few years back.” He put his money down on the bar. “They’re kind of a strange group as far as costumed thieves go.”
The bartender let the comment go, considering the source.
Sitting around that table were five men. One wore a blue parka with white fur trim and square-shaped blue goggles. Another was dressed in black pants and a blue top with a bandoleer across his chest and a matching square blue hat. The third wore a green costume with a high collar and a green mask. The fourth was dressed in a bulky whitish-gray suit similar to those worn in radiation labs and orange goggles. The last one wore a colorful costume of yellow, orange, and blue stripes with a high-collared blue cape and a black mask.
“Hey, barkeep!” the one in the parka yelled. “How’s about two more pitchers? And make sure they’re ice cold!”
“Ah, mate, don’t hassle the help,” the brown-haired man in the hat said. “‘Sides, you can chill a glass faster than any liquor-lackey can, eh?”
Captain Cold threw his arm about Captain Boomerang’s shoulders. “Digger, you’re so right,” he said.
The Australian villain pushed the man back. “And you’re so drunk, Len!” he snapped. “Don’t get all slushy on me. I ain’t inta blokes!”
“That’s not what I read on the bathroom wall, Boomer,” the Trickster chuckled.
“Shut up, James!” Boomerang said. “Knowin’ you, you probably wrote it there yourself!”
“Who? Me?” the Trickster said with a mocking expression.
“I sense a storm brewing,” the Weather Wizard said.
“Me, too,” Heat Wave said. “Fellas, fellas, let’s remember why we’re here, OK?”
“That’s right,” Boomerang said as he raised his glass. “Come on, to our missin’ mates — Mirror Master and the Top!”
“Mirror Master and the Top!” the others chimed in loudly, raising their glasses. Then the five Rogues downed their drinks.
“Say, Len, where’s that sister of yours?” the Weather Wizard asked. “Weren’t she and Roscoe always getting cozy on those cold winter nights? She knew him better than any of us.”
Captain Cold poured the last drops of his beer into his mouth. “Yeah, they were close. I guess she’s not coming tonight.”
“Funny,” Boomerang said. “From what I hear, the Sheila’s done gone straight on us. Workin’ with a bunch of blokes from some government agency in exchange for a lighter sentence.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Suicide Mission.]
“Nothing wrong with avoiding jail time,” Heat Wave said absently.
“Really,” the Trickster agreed.
“If you ask me, I don’t like the way this ill wind is blowing,” Weather Wizard said. “Ever since we lost our Flash, you guys are dropping off the charts faster than a tornado in the Midwest. Ain’t you on the side of angels these days, James?”
Trickster smirked. “Hey, just trying to pay the bills with some honest work out in Hollywood,” he said. “Besides, who says I’m not still pulling jobs?” He glanced around the table. “Anyway, I haven’t read many headlines about any of your exploits lately. I’m not the only one who’s slacked off a bit since we lost our Flash.”
“Yeah,” Heat Wave said. “Its just not the same tussling with Kid Flash, even if he’s wearing the red costume now.”
“Sounds like you’ve all gotten cold feet, is all!” Captain Cold said as he bolted up. “I think you’ve all lost your edge!”
“Oh, please!” Captain Boomerang said. “You forget — a guy like me always rebounds back for more!”
“Yeah, Digger?” Cold said. “Then prove it!”
“Any time, mate!” Boomerang countered.
Trickster leaned his chair against the wall and flopped his blue shoes on the table. “Now the fun’s starting!”
“Really!” Weather Wizard agreed.
“Guys, guys!” Heat Wave said, jumping up and stepping between the two captains. “Come on, now! Ever since Mirror Master was killed, we’ve been at each other’s throats! You can’t tell me that he was the glue that held this group together.”
“Sam Scudder, the glue?” Boomerang scoffed. “No way.”
“Boomerbutt’s right,” Cold agreed with a smile. “Scudder was a spotlight hog. I think the only reason he even proposed forming the Rogues was so he could lord over us. Remember how he used to bang that gavel at our get-togethers?”
“Oh, yeah,” Weather Wizard said fondly. “He certainly did like to call all the shots. Why did we ever put up with that?”
“He was a born leader,” the Trickster said.
“Yeah,” Heat Wave said. The five were silent for a moment. “To Sam!” He started to raise his glass.
The others did, too, until most realized that their glasses were empty. “Barkeep!” Cold yelled out. “Where’s our pitchers?”
“Just a second,” the man behind the bar said.
On the television screen behind him, the annual countdown to the New Year was halted at forty-five seconds, as shown by the large digital clock that no longer was decrementing. Dick Clark was gesturing and pointing with surprise to the giant ball that was suspended above Times Square.
“What eez ‘e zaying?” the golden-domed Warp asked in his thick French accent. “Turn it up!”
The cameraman moved in a jerking fashion and pointed his lens to where the venerable and timeless host was pointing. The picture zoomed in as best it could. A green-and-yellow-costumed man hovered nearby on a flying sundial-shaped ship, gesturing. The audio couldn’t pick up his threats over the panicked cries of the partying crowd below.
“Hmmmph,” a woman with long red hair dressed in leafy green said. “Just like Chronos to pull something high-profile like this on New Year’s.” Poison Ivy picked up her gin and tonic and headed back to the pool room. She had seen enough.
The other patrons, however, watched intently at the screen as a man in black with goggles swooped in.
“Ten dollars on the Vigilante!” Jack of Spades announced loudly. “Who wants to take that bet?”
“I’m in!” Blackrock called.
“Me, too!” said the yellow-and-blue-clad Javelin.
Chronos pulled out one of his weapons, a gun that shot pointed clock-hands. The masked crime-fighter of Manhattan dodged the shot and reached for his own weapon, a revolver. Vigilante winged Chronos in the shoulder, causing him to flinch back. There was a mixed response from the bar patrons.
Someone glanced up at the clock in the corner of the bar. “Hey, it’s past midnight!” one of the customers at the end of the bar shouted.
“Happy New Year!” voices rang out.
Calendar Man looked up from his glass. “New Year?”
And the Rogues forgot about their empty glasses and the battle being shown on the television for a moment, long enough to break into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.