by Martin Maenza
With the flier parked in a hidden spot, the two trenchcoated villains crossed the waterfront district. The full moon reflected off the water’s surface, providing the only light in this particular area of town. “I thought Scudder said we were working together on this,” the tall Copperhead stated.
His diminutive partner hurried to keep up with the pace. “He did, he did,” Gizmo replied. “But he doesn’t want us walking into or out of the place together. By appearing to be by ourselves, he thinks it will be easier and less suspicious for us to gather the new recruits. You know how he likes to keep things secret these days.”
“Yeah.” Copperhead paused before reaching the corner. “And that’s another thing. Why are we are on a recruitment drive for muscle when we could easily get folks we’ve worked with in the past? You worked with Mammoth in the Fearsome Five, right? He’d certainly qualify as a strong guy.”
“I wondered that, too,” Gizmo admitted. “But the boss was pretty insistent that he didn’t want to involve anyone we already knew well. Must be to keep word from getting out or something.”
Copperhead’s tail swished out from under his coat. “Yeah, perhaps. I just don’t like not knowing all the details.” His partner nodded in agreement. They continued down a bit more until an old warehouse was in sight. This was their destination. “I’ll give you about five minutes, and then I’ll follow.”
The dwarf gave his friend a thumb’s-up sign. “Gotcha! Good luck, and we’ll meet back up later.” He trotted off toward the warehouse.
Copperhead slowly began to count the seconds.
Gizmo made his way around the back side of the building to a small entrance door. He knocked once, and then a small window near the top opened for a set of eyes to peer out. The eyes looked around, confused. “Down here,” the dwarf said as he stepped back in order to be seen.
“Password?” the rugged voice behind the eyes requested.
“Bad to the bone,” Gizmo replied. The window slammed shut. There was the muffled sound of locks being removed, and then the door opened wide enough for him to enter. The small villain hurried inside.
If he hadn’t been told about it from Mirror Master, Gizmo would never have considered a place like this existed. The Bar Sinister was a secret social hangout that catered to the costumed criminal element. It also changed locations often, to avoid any unwanted hero types from discovering the watering hole. Certainly, this was not a place the dwarf would frequent normally, but sometimes one had to branch out a bit and try new things.
Making his way through the crowd of colorfully clad crooks, he found a spot at the end of the bar. Because of his size, Gizmo needed to actually stand upon the stool to be seen.
The bartender finally made his way down to the brown-bearded man, frowning slightly at the fact that Gizmo was standing on the wooden seat. “What’ll it be, short stuff?” Roy Pinto asked.
“Got any Guinness?” the inventive villain asked. The bartender nodded. “Great, I’ll have a pint of that.” Gizmo snacked on a few peanuts while he waited for his beer to arrive. It allowed him the time to scope out the patrons a bit carefully.
Just as the beer arrived, two guys approached the end of the bar. Both men were dressed in matching skintight costumes, the shorter and stockier one in blue, and the taller one in green. The costumes had white stripes for trim with a white circle in the center of the chest. A dark G filled each white circle. “‘Scuse us,” the one in blue said. “You’re Gizmo, right? Of the Fearsome Five?”
The dwarf reached for his beer and said, “Yep. That’d be me.” He took a good, long drink, then continued to speak with the newcomers. “Who are you guys? You look like you’re some kind of team or something, with the matching suits.”
The man in green piped in. “I’m Kong, and this is Bulldozer.” He gestured to the man in blue, who nodded. “We two grew up together and were part of a team called the Gang. We went up against Supergirl once. (*) Held our own pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here,” Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #4 (February, 1983) and “Fear Times Four,” Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #5 (March, 1983).]
“Yeah, but our leader, Brains, she left us high and dry,” Bulldozer added. “Once we got out of jail, we figured we’d scout around for a new gig.”
Gizmo looked them up and down. “Oh, really? Do tell.” He couldn’t believe his luck. Barely in the place five minutes, and already he encountered some prospects. Still, there was criteria to be met. “So, guys, can I buy you a drink?” he asked.
“Sure,” Kong said.
“That’s mighty nice of you,” Bulldozer added.
Waiting for the bartender to return, the dwarf noticed Copperhead entering the bar. He didn’t linger on his partner too long; he didn’t want to tip anyone off to that fact that they knew one another. After getting their drinks ordered, Gizmo went into interrogation mode. “So, what exactly do you guys do? What’s your specialties?”
“We’re both pretty strong,” Kong answered first. “I can lift really heavy stuff, like cars and such.”
“Me, I like to bust stuff up by plowing into it,” Bulldozer said. “Hence, my name.”
Gizmo smiled. These two appeared to be exactly what the boss ordered. He figured he might as well converse with them a bit more just to be safe.
Copperhead, meanwhile, was checking out the patrons. The Firebug was lighting Quakemaster’s cigar; the latter man nodded to the serpentine villain. Copperhead nodded back but continued to move. Quakie ain’t got the strength we need, he thought to himself. Besides, he’s worked with us before, and Mirror Master insisted we bring in some new faces.
Bolt chatted up Mindboggler, a woman with a white mohawk in a ripped white T-shirt. The Weasel snarled menacingly at those who passed by. Copperhead shook his head as he walked backward with his tail swishing from side to side. Sheesh, must have picked a lousy night for this, he thought to himself. There ain’t anyone here who would qualify.
Suddenly, a loud voice from behind him boomed. “Hey, jerk face! Watch what you’re doin’!”
Copperhead whirled around and saw a large man in an all-white costume seated at a table with a spilled beer. The man, whose costume had a large spade symbol on the chest, rose to his feet; his eyes were filled with anger. “Hey, easssy there, fella,” Copperhead said.
“You’re gonna buy me two beers to replace the one you spilled!” Ace of Spades announced.
“Yeah, right,” Copperhead scoffed as he turned to walk away. Suddenly, he felt the tail of his costume jerk as the large man pulled him backward. “Hey, what gives?”
Ace pulled the serpentine villain into a bear hug by wrapping his large arms around the chest. “I’m serious, snake-breath!” the ex-member of the Royal Flush Gang said. “You either pony up the cash for the beers, or I’ll break you in two!”
“Oh, you’re good,” he hissed, “but I got two thingsss going for me.” Copperhead adjusted his arms slightly, then began to wriggle free of the strong man’s grasp. “One, I know all the insss and outsss of binding sssomeone, and, two, my cossstume’sss ssspecially coated to make me sssuper-ssslippery.” The serpentine villain slid out of Ace’s grasp and sprang to his feet. “I don’t respond to threats. Get yourself your own beer, bub!” He turned to walk away.
Ace grew more furious. “Why, you pipsqueak!” He started to lunge forward.
Suddenly, a voice from behind the card-themed crook said, “Hey, brother, why don’tcha let the man be?” A firm black hand grasped Ace on the left shoulder.
“Butt out, pal!” Ace said as he tried to push the hand aside. “This ain’t none of your business.”
The black man shook his head. “Nuh-uh, you wrong there! I’m makin’ it my business.” The man in yellow pants with blue boots, a blue shirt, and blue headband spun the other villain around. He then cocked back his fist and let a punch fly. It connected squarely with Ace’s jaw, sending the villain flying across the room. “When Power Fist says ‘leave a brother alone,’ you do it!”
The scuffle drew Copperhead’s attention. When Ace went sailing across the room, the serpentine villain smiled. “Impresssive,” he said to the man who came to his defense. “Did I hear you sssay your name wasss Power Fissst?”
The black man smiled, showing his pearly white teeth. “Yep, that’s me. Self-proclaimed villain-for-hire. I once worked for Tobias Whale back in Metropolis and had a run in with Black Lightning. (*) I’m between gigs right now.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Black Lightning: Times Past, 1982: Fist Raised in Anger.]
“Villain-for-hire, eh?” Copperhead said. “Hmm, I think I might be able to find you a job.”
Power Fist smiled. “Yeah? Cool.” Then he glanced across the room. “Uh, hold that thought for a sec’nd!”
Ace of Spades had gotten back up on his feet. He grabbed a large table, hoisted it over his head, and charged across the bar room. “I’ll smash you both!”
Patrons scurried in all directions to avoid the conflict. Gizmo and the former Gang members looked over in shock. Roy Pinto yelled out from behind the bar, “Hey! Break it up, you guys, or I’ll have to throw you all out!”
“Oh, I’ll break ’em up, all right!” Ace screamed.
Copperhead scurried back behind Power Fist, who merely planted his feet firmly and stood his ground. As Ace brought the table down hard, the black man shoved his fists into the air and shattered the piece of furniture. Wood splintered everywhere. “Now, what’d you have to go and do that for?” he said. “You done made a mess here.” He grabbed the Royal Flush Gang member by the front of the costume. “Now I’m gonna have to sweep it up — with your face!”
“Oh, yeah,” Ace sneered. “You and what army?” He swung his fist, connecting squarely at the base of Power Fist’s neck. The black man barely flinched.
“That’s it!” Roy Pinto exclaimed. He reached behind the bar and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. “You two have one minute to take it outside, or someone’s getting a brand-new butt hole!”
Sitting at the bar, the Trickster started to laugh. “You tell ’em, Roy!” he joked. “And if the gun don’t scare them, maybe that old lightning rod you used to wear on your head will. Ha-ha.”
Roy kept the gun aimed at Ace and Power Fist. “Shut up, James,” he said, “or I’ll be sticking that lightning rod where the sun don’t shine!” The Trickster merely blinked at the threat, grabbed his drink, and moved away silently.
“Hey, no need to escalate this further,” Copperhead began to say as he approached the bar.
Pinto swung the barrel briefly in his direction. “That goes for you, too, Copperhead! The way I see it, you instigated this mess. All three of you, out of here now!“
Copperhead, Ace of Spades, and Power Fist looked at one another. Power Fist released his grip on Ace’s costume, and the trio slowly made their way toward the door. The last thing any of them wanted was to be banned from the Bar Sinister permanently, which was probably the next thing Roy Pinto would threaten to do.
Gizmo shook his head in disgrace. As the place started to settle back down, he finished his beer and turned to his new acquaintances. “Say, guys, remember what were discussing before? About my knowing someone looking for some muscle?” Bulldozer and Kong nodded. “You two interested in the job?”
Bulldozer turned to his old friend. “I’m game if you are.”
Kong said. “Sure, why not? Beats unemployment.” The trio made their way toward the exit of the bar.