by Martin Maenza
In Dawn Granger’s apartment, the young woman and her friend Hank Hall sat on the couch with a large bowl of popcorn between them. The well-built young man took a handful of the snack and munched on it as they watched a movie on television.
“This part cracks me up every time,” Hank said between mouthfuls. “The point where the kid gets Phil Silvers to drive his car into the river is classic!”
Dawn smiled. It was good to see her friend laugh and have fun. Hank was so serious and intense all the time. “This is one of my favorite movies,” she said. “I rent it every few months for a good pick-me-up. I didn’t know it a favorite of yours, too.”
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Hank Hall said. “Loved it ever since I was a kid. We saw it with my parents when it was re-released in the theaters in 1970. We had such a good time that night. We all laughed so hard, even hours later after we got home. Don was so mad at us.”
“Why?” Dawn asked. Having met his brother’s spirit once last year, she was very interested to know more about him. And it was rare that Hank was so open to discuss Don, so she encouraged it.
“Well, you know how a lot of the comedy in the movie is slapstick, making fun of people’s misfortunes and stupidity and greed and all. Don kind of lectured Mom, Dad, and I about finding it that funny. We couldn’t help but laugh at his lecturing too, you know? Mom really tried to get us to stop, but she was having trouble herself.”
“Oh, poor Don,” Dawn said.
“Please,” Hank said. “I know he thought some of the movie was funny, too. I saw him grinning in the theater as we watched. I think he was just a bit bothered by us finding it so amusing as we thought about it afterwards. He really was such a peace-loving sort.”
“It must have been nice growing up in a semi-normal household with two parents and a sibling,” Dawn said. “There were times I wish I had that, you know?”
“Just you and your Mom, huh?” Hank asked.
Dawn nodded. “Yeah, just the two of us after she and Daddy divorced. Their careers and such moved them in opposite directions, so I stayed with my mother while he went off traveling the globe. I haven’t heard from him in a long time.” She started to look a bit sad.
Hank put his arm around Dawn and allowed her to snuggle up against him. “Hey, kiddo, perk up,” he said. “You know you’ve got me in your life now.”
She started to smile a bit.
“Think of me as the big brother you never had,” Hank continued. “If you ever need someone to bail you out, I’m your man.”
Dawn pushed away a bit and gave Hank a funny look. She was kind of bothered about what he said about being a brother figure, given her attraction to him, but she manifested her frustration another way. “Oh, so you think I can’t protect myself?” she asked, hands on her hips.
Hank threw up his hands defensively. “Whoa, girl!” he said. “I didn’t mean that! You can take care of yourself. I’ve seen it.”
She relaxed a bit and playfully punched his arm. “I knew that, you big lug,” Dawn said.
Hank relaxed. “Good, I’m glad we’re clear,” he said. “I’d hate for my big mouth to get me into trouble.”
“I think we can count on that,” she laughed.
They settled back in to watch the movie. After a few minutes, Hank then asked, “Oh, by the way, don’t you think you might have been a tad hard on Parker earlier?”
Dawn looked at him a bit surprised. “How so? I think dating relationships are rather complicated anyway without mixing it up with your super-hero identity. That’s just asking for trouble.”
Hank said, “I suppose. But, I know Parker’s had things hard. I just wanted him to have a little fun, maybe pick up his mood some. As long as Lisa’s happy dating the Golden Eagle, which she is, then where’s the harm?”
Dawn didn’t say a word. She didn’t have an answer for Hank’s question. She turned back to the movie.
Jonny Double managed to locate Chee Wu easily enough and spent the next couple of hours trailing him discreetly about Chinatown. The American detective was rather pleased with how things had been going so far. Obviously this Chee Wu isn’t so cautious, he thought to himself as he watched the Chinese man head down an alleyway. Now to find out what he’s involved in.
He slipped down the alleyway and arrived at a door. He cautiously tried the handle, but it was locked. Damn! he thought. Wu must be inside. I need to find another way in. He looked about the alleyway and noticed a fire escape ladder hanging down that lead-up to the building’s rooftop. Maybe I can find some luck up there.
The man moved a couple of wood crates over and positioned them beneath the ladder. Standing upon them, Jonny was able to jump up and grab the bottom rung of the metal ladder. “Ugh,” he groaned silently as he hoisted himself up. “This would’a been a lot easier years ago.” Still, the man managed to pull himself up so that he could climb the rest of the way to the roof of the small warehouse.
Once up top, Jonny found a small skylight window that he was able to open wide enough. This allowed him a view of what was going on inside as well as a way to overhear the conversation. Chee Wu was being questioned by a bald Chinese man with a mustache who sat in a wheelchair. The bald man spoke loudly, with some intensity to his voice. Jonny was able to decipher a good bit of the Chinese from the discussion.
“Are you certain of the Prime Minister’s location?” the bald man asked.
“Yes, master,” Chee Wu nodded. “She arrives at the British Consulate on Sansome within the hour.”
“Excellent,” the bald man said. “Then we shall have a surprise waiting for her!” The man clapped his hands once, and a figure joined them. It was a well-built Chinese man with a metallic suit of armor molded to his body. A star-like symbol in a circle was branded into the armor’s chest plate.
Chee Wu looked at the man in amazement. “So, this is one of the agents? I had heard whisperings of them, but never dreamed I would see one of them in person.”
The man in the wheelchair smiled proudly. “Yes, this is one of the new breed of Sino-Supermen!”
Chee Wu took a few steps around the figure from whose armor the light glinted. The warrior kept his eyes facing front with an unemotional look upon his face.
“It was believed by many that the movement’s plans were destroyed years ago in China, thanks to the interference of the American heroine Batgirl,” Chee Wu said.
The man in the wheelchair laughed. “We let the world believe our operations were dead because it suited us! That kept the accursed NSB off our trail. I paid a personal price that day.”
Wo Fong recalled the incident in China, where the American agent Tony Gordon burst into their secret headquarters just after the caped heroine had done so. Gordon sought to rescue his sister Barbara, whom Fong’s group had taken captive; the American Congresswoman was there on a diplomatic mission. Batgirl managed to free the hostages while Gordon stayed behind to settle a score with Fong. (*) “Since then, I have been bound to this wheelchair, but my great mind could not be bound.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Sino-Supermen,” Batman Family #19 (August-September, 1978), “A Slow Death in China,” Detective Comics #481 (December, 1978/January, 1979), “A Quick Death in China,” Detective Comics #482 (February-March, 1979).]
“Like a mythical phoenix, we have arisen again. We are stronger and more powerful. We must be to counter the likes of the Americans, the Soviets, and so forth. Soon, the world will know that Wo Fong is alive, and that the Sino-Supermen will once more bring glory to the People’s Republic!”
“To the Republic,” Chee Wu said.
Wo Fong turned to the costumed man. “Go quickly, my steel warrior! Slay your intended target, for you know the price of failure!”
The man in the armor bowed silently and began to depart. The other two men continued to talk.
Jonny Double pulled back from the skylight. The British Prime Minister is in danger! Jonny thought to himself. That armored agent they’ve dispatched to do the job looks like one serious threat. Gotta get to a phone fast and contact my friends at the SFPD! He scurried across the roof and headed for the fire escape.
He began to climb down with some urgency. “This Wo Fong could start an international incident if he’s successful! Gotta deal with that first, then come back for the head honcho!”
“Thanks so much for running me past the video store,” Dawn Granger said as she sat in the passenger seat of the car.
“No problem,” said Hank Hall. “Can’t have you getting a late fee.” He chuckled.
The lights at the other end of the intersection changed from green to yellow when a pair of police cars came barreling though the intersection; their lights were flashing red, and their sirens were blaring. “I wonder what that’s about,” Dawn said.
“Let’s find out!” The light changed green, allowing Hank Hall to make a left turn to follow the police.
Minutes later, at the British Consulate on Sansome Street, a steel-armored assassin easily leaped over the twenty-foot-high, wrought iron fence. “Halt!” an armed guard called out. “You are trespassing on private property. Leave immediately!” The Chinese man continued silently to advance upon the building.
“We’ve got no choice,” another guard said. The security detail began to open fire on the intruder. The bullets ricocheted off the back of the armored suit. The armored man continued unfazed. “No good!” He pulled out his radio that was clipped to his belt. “Intruder heading for consulate lobby!”
The Sino-Superman easily broke down the heavy wooden door with his mighty fists. He stepped onto the splintered wood and entered the marble floored lobby. His eyes darted around quickly, as if to orient himself to the surroundings. The eyes then focused on the stairwell that went upstairs.
As he began to move toward the steps, a number of men in suits rushed him. “Get him!”
“Take him down!”
As if he were swatting flies, the man pushed aside his attackers, throwing them across the way into the fine antique furniture that decorated the room. The man was a fighting machine, capable of handling ten men at once.
He started for the stairs once more.
“Not so fast, Charlie!” a voice called from the front entrance.
The Chinese man turned to see two figures: a male in white and red and a female in blue and white. For the first time, his stoic expression changed slightly as a weak smile crossed his lips. A challenge.
“Guess your English isn’t so good!” Hawk said as he jumped forward. “These folks are trying to tell you that you ain’t welcome here!” He let his right fist fly.
The Chinese man quickly brought up his own fist and caught the red-gloved punch before it reached him. The man pushed back hard, throwing the surprised hero off balance. He then followed with a left-hook punch, knocking the hero backward to the ground.
Hawk rubbed his chin where the punch connected. “Ooo, you’ve got some kick to you! Fine! Now that I know where we stand, I can really cut loose!” The hero started to rise from the floor.
Dove put her arm out. “Hold it, Hawk! We have to be careful; keep the property damage down to a minimum. Believe me, I can tell you that some of this stuff is priceless.”
Hawk gritted his teeth. “You know, you take all the fun out of this.” The hero turned back, but his attacker had already begun to take the stairs.
“Hey!” Hawk exclaimed as he went into pursuit. “Get back here!” He bound up the steps after the man.
At the top of the stairs, the Chinese agent grabbed the backside of a large armoire with one hand and gave it a shove toward the open landing. The heavy oaken piece began to topple down the stairs, with Hawk as its intended target.
“Great!” the hero said as he braced his feet and thrust his arms out in front of him. “I gotta play nice, but he doesn’t!” He caught the heavy armoire and kept it from crushing him or smashing into pieces. “Ugh!” The hero bent his knees, allowing the large piece to gently come to a rest against the wall.
Hawk slipped out from beneath it, grabbed onto the rail, and flipped up the steps beyond the blocked landing. “Wait’ll I get my hands on that guy!” he said, his anger beginning to grow.
As Hawk reached the top of the stairs, he looked around for a second. The hall extended in both directions. “Which way?” There was a loud crash to the right. “There’s my little playmate!” He ran down the hallway toward the suite near the end.
When Hawk arrived at the broken door, he saw a number of security men down on the floor hurt. Far across the way, the Prime Minister cowered behind an antique couch. In the middle of the room, the Chinese man in armor attempted to catch hold of Dove, who was leaping to and fro to avoid his grasp.
“Smart girl, Dove!” Hawk said. “Keeping Chatty Kathy here busy until the cavalry could arrive!” The hero lunged forward to tackle the villain.
The Chinese man sidestepped Hawk’s tackle with martial grace, something Hawk did not expect the big man to possess. With a spin on his left heel, the armored man kicked the hero with his right foot and sent him to the floor hard.
Dove maneuvered across the way and ushered the Prime Minister safely into the next room.
The Sino-Superman caught her actions out of the corner of his eye and made her his next target. With a guttural cry, the man charged for her, his fists flying.
Dove stood her ground, appearing to wait for the punch. At the last moment, she spun against the wall and rolled left. The man’s punch, however, was too far gone to be pulled. His armored fist plowed right through the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall.
The canister, now punctured, exploded its chemical contents outward. The foam stung the Chinese man’s eyes when his face got caught directly in the full spray’s path. The man screamed out once more, this time in anguish. He clawed at his face, trying to wipe the foam away so that he could see once more.
He never saw the punch with which Hawk nailed him. The Chinese man flew through the French doors out onto the balcony.
The two heroes immediately followed after him. “You set ’em up, I knock ’em down!” Hawk said.
Dove glanced back at the damaged door and shook her head. “At least the threat is neutralized,” she admitted.
Then, unexpectedly, there was a glow about their enemy. And then, the man vaporized right before their very eyes. The only thing left was the silvery helmet he wore on his head and a pile of ash.
“Oh, my God!” Dove exclaimed.
Hawk picked up the helmet and poked at the ashes. He took a sniff. “Some price for failure, huh?”
Five minutes later, after talking with the security and police, the two heroes were about to take off. As they stepped outside the consulate gates, a brown-haired man approached them. “Good job back there,” the man said.
“We don’t do it for the praise,” Hawk said. The man stepped into their path. “Hey, do you mind?”
“My name’s Jonny Double,” the man said. “I’m a private investigator. And I think you’ll be interested to know there’s more to this incident than meets the eye. Something big’s going down — real big. And I need your help.” The two heroes were intrigued by what the man had to say.