The vault room of the Smallville Savings and Loan, Saturday, April 22, 1967, 10:17 P.M.:
As the storm raged outside, Jim Jeffries continued to run the flame of his acetylene torch over the last of the huge locking bolts of the giant metal door of the vault. He had been hard at work for the last fifteen minutes since secretly breaking into the back room of the Smallville Savings and Loan, and he wasn’t about to stop. Jim was nervous, with beads of sweat forming on his forehead, and not just from the anticipation of all that money that would soon be his, or even because he wasn’t sure if he had tripped the silent alarm that the bank was sure to have had. No, this was Smallville, the home of Superboy, the legendary Boy of Steel, and it was always dangerous to commit crimes in that kid’s hometown; he always seemed to be there right in the nick of time to haul crooks off to jail.
Jim paused in his welding for a moment to wipe his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. He had to move fast. The Smallville sensation could be here any minute to grab Jim by the scruff of his neck like he was a kid and drag him into the Smallville jail. Not a very pleasant thought. Jim knew exactly what that was like, since it had happened twice already during his time as a member of Vic Munster’s gang.
The first time was three or four years ago during a crime spree perpetrated by a criminal calling himself the Rainbow Raider. The Raider appeared to have the ability to cause people, even Superboy, to do anything he wanted. It seemed to come in pretty handy, since all the Rainbow Raider had to do was walk into a store, and the proprietor would just hand over all their money. Vic had thought adding the Rainbow Raider to the gang would be a great way to easily rob the town blind, but when the Raider refused to help him, Vic took him hostage, only to be apprehended by Superboy. As the gang had all found out much later on, the Rainbow Raider was merely a ploy employed by Superboy and the police to catch the entire gang. None of the “thefts” committed by the Raider were real, as all of the loot taken by Superboy’s assistant wearing the Rainbow Raider costume was returned after Vic and his gang, Jim included, were arrested. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rainbow Raider,” Superboy #84 (October, 1960).]
A year or so later, when Munster had finally gotten out of prison, he had hatched a plan to get revenge on Superboy by using the whole Rainbow Raider identity for himself and pick the town clean. Donning the costume, Vic had set about first robbing the Smallville Mystery-Costume Charity Ball, but yet again, Vic was apprehended by the Boy of Steel. Jim remembered telling Vic that this was a dangerous plan, and it would probably backfire on them, but as usual, Vic didn’t listen, and again, the entire gang got sent back to prison, where Vic still sat. (*) Jim was certainly not going to let that happen to himself again; iron bars, gray stone walls, and those awful striped jumpsuits just didn’t suit him. This time, Jim was going to do things small and quietly, and Vic could just go to hell. He would rob the Smallville Savings and Loan, and Superboy wouldn’t be the wiser.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Revolt of Ma Kent,” Superboy #164 (April, 1970).]
As the bluish flame from his torch finally cut through the last bit of the bolt lock, Jim breathed out a sigh of relief; he was only mere moments away from a fortune in cash. Switching off the torch and dropping it down on the cold tile floor, Jim stood up and slowly pulled the giant metal door open, trying not to make a sound as he did so. Once the vault was open enough, Jim pulled out his flashlight and switched it on, casting a wide beam of light into the darkened vault and onto the piles of cash just waiting to be taken. Jim’s heart raced as he caught sight of the money. He was giddy now, grinning from ear to ear as he stepped inside and began to fill the satchel he had slung over his shoulder. “Acapulco, here I come,” he said to himself.
It took Jim only a few minutes to fill his bag with the bundles of green goodness. Once he had filled his bag to the top, Jim stepped backward out of the vault ever so quietly and gently. All he had to do was slip out through the window he had used to enter the bank nearly a half-hour ago, run for his waiting sedan in the alley two blocks up, and he was home free.
“Ahem,” came a youthful voice from the darkness behind Jim. “What do you think you are doing?”
Jim knew that voice all too well. It was Superboy. He was so close to getting away, but just like Vic, Jim’s luck was now once again down the toilet, and he was about to go back to prison… again. He knew that pulling his piece was a waste of time, as bullets would just bounce off the kid’s chest. Slowly, Jim put his arms up in surrender, and he calmly said with a slight stutter, “I-I w-was just making a small withdrawal.”
The boy laughed at him. “And who told you that you could steal in my town?”
“Uhhh, nobody. I just figured that nobody would notice if I took a few hundred thousand and headed off for Mexico.”
“Uh-huh, right. Well, youse gotta pay the piper for trying to knock over the savings and loan. You know how tings is supposed to work around heres… you wanna rob the bank, you gotta make arrangements wit’ Boss Parker and cut the both of us in fer twenty percent o’ the take. Since you didn’t follow da rules, you don’t get squat.”
Now Jim was thoroughly confused. Boss Parker? Make arrangements? A twenty-percent cut? Just what in the heck was going on around here? And why was Superboy talking like a two-bit thug? Jim whirled around, shining his flashlight on the teenager.
Coming face to face with the intruder, Jim was shocked and dismayed by what he saw. The teenager who had been standing behind him was not, in fact, Superboy; he was different. Sure, he had Superboy’s face, but even that seemed, well, wrong. His hair was slicked back like a street thug, and he had a sneer on his face that gave off a palpable air of arrogance and self-importance. His costume, like the Boy of Steel’s, was red and blue with a flowing red cape, but it lacked the panache that the crimson trunks and yellow belt gave Superboy’s. His wrists were adorned with a pair of semi-metallic red bracers that went nearly halfway up his forearms, thus lending his arms a semi-gladiatorial flair. His crimson boots were square cut and flat, similar in style to those worn by the Nazis during World War II, but seemed to be more sinister in design, probably because of that deep reddish color. His crimson cape was similar, but not quite the same as Superboy’s, as it wasn’t tucked into his shirt at the collar, but rather attached to a blue epaulet that spanned the length of his chest from shoulder to shoulder. And finally, his chest symbol was the most unique of all — it was a stylized red letter U not affixed to a shield design of any sort; it stood alone like the boy himself.
“Wh-wh-wh-who are you?” Jim asked, pulling his gun from his belt as he began to shoot wildly at the teen’s chest. Intense laughter was the only response he uttered as the bullets bounced harmlessly off him and ricocheted around the two unequal combatants. Moving faster than the eye could follow at super-speed, the boy shot across the room, lifted Jim up by his collar, and disarmed him. Jim was scared, so scared, in fact, that as the teen lifted him off the ground, he wet himself. This reaction of Jim’s only seemed to give the super-bully more and more enjoyment as he began to laugh harder and more intensely.
“Who am I, little man? I’m your worst nightmare. I’m Ultraboy, and I’m taking all of the pilfered money in that satchel of yours.” With his free hand, Ultraboy grabbed the satchel from around Jim’s shoulder and threw it over his own. With one slight heave, he tossed Jim bodily into the wall next to the open vault door. As his body made contact with the wall, Jim heard two distinct, loud snaps, just as immense pain shot through his left arm and right leg; he screamed in pain, obviously knowing that his arm and his leg were now broken. As he slumped to the floor, Jim looked up to see the youth standing over him, smirking.
“Let that be a lesson to youse. You steal from Ultraboy and Boss Parker, you end up payin’ de price. Take care now. Buh-bye.” And with that, Ultraboy flew out the open window, disappearing from view in a blur of motion.
Jim just sat there; he couldn’t really move much with the two broken limbs, and he knew that the Smallville Police Department would be here soon enough to collect him. Once they got there, they were probably going to read him his rights, and then rush him in an ambulance off to County General so that he could be patched up from his ordeal. Once that was taken care of, they would probably take a statement from him and get him ready for his appearance before the judge.
This, however, was Jim’s wakeup call. No more thieving. No more robbing. No more breaking and entering. “That’s it,” he said, “I’m going straight.”