The massive being known and feared the world over as the Shaggy Man stood around nine feet tall and was covered with thick, matted brown fur. Glaring at them with beady eyes that showed no intelligence, but only raw anger, it charged forward with surprising speed.
Nubia was faster, and she met him with her own speeding body as the magical sandals enabled Wonder Woman to fly. As she slammed into it, she stopped its charge but clearly had no other effect on it. In response, the Shaggy Man roared and slapped her through the air with one outstretched arm.
As she rolled to a safe landing in the muddy water, Wonder Woman removed her tiara and hurled it at the overhanging tree limbs. After it sliced through them, the tiara returned to her hand. The heavy tree limbs, meanwhile, crashed down on the monster, who grunted but made no attempt to retreat or avoid them.
Mark Desmond staggered backward. He was a genius, but was also very frail, and he was at a loss as to how his certainty that Solomon Grundy was in the area had been proven frighteningly wrong. “H-he isn’t Grundy, b-but something led me here — I p-promise!” he stammered.
As the Shaggy Man grabbed the Martian Manhunter in both massive paws, the fight resumed. Phasing out of his grasp, J’onn J’onzz elongated both arms into a punch that caused the brute to step back.
Nubia hurled the tiara again, but to her dismay, the Shaggy Man grabbed it and tossed it aside. By Hera, he learns from what he sees! she mused.
Meanwhile, Zook had darted forward and generated a wave of intense cold, but the beast seemed immune to temperature extremes and merely ignored the alien’s attack.
J’onn J’onzz probed his mind, but found nothing there. From JLA files, the Martian Manhunter knew that the original Shaggy Man had been created by a Professor Zagarian, who had sought an improved method of the creation of artificial parts for medical transplants. When an accident with its planned power source turned the synthetic substance into a raging monster, the heroes had actually created a second one to keep the first one occupied in an endless battle. (*) Since that time, they had encountered one or the other on different occasions. The Shaggy Man was not truly a living being, and thus had no need for food or air, but it was possessed of an animal-like savagery.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Super-Struggle Against Shaggy Man,” Justice League of America #45 (June, 1966).]
The artificial being had been constructed of plastalloy and was nearly indestructible by all accounts. The Justice League had battled beasts like this one before, but there was nothing to indicate if this was one of the originals or a new model.
It doesn’t respond to my command to sleep, nor am I having any influence upon it with my mind! thought J’onn as he reluctantly resumed a more direct physical assault by punching the creature.
Nubia grabbed her golden lasso, while Zook and Mark scrambled out of the way, then whirled the lasso and expertly looped the Shaggy Man’s arm before it could claw at J’onn. “I command you to surrender!” she shouted as she moved closer to the angry creature.
The Shaggy Man leaped directly at Wonder Woman, who valiantly stood her ground and brought her own sword up to smash into it. The impact was deafening, but in the aftermath of the collision, Nubia was left dazed. As for the monster, its own attack had not been slowed.
“Nubia needs help!” yelled Zook.
Although J’onn had already flown to his lover’s side, a sudden eruption of flame caught him by surprise, and he staggered to the edge of the murky waters to avoid the heat.
A tall woman with long blonde hair drawn into a ponytail stepped forward, brandishing a weird-looking rifle that had obviously discharged the flames. “So flames do weaken Martians!” she said, speaking in a haughty tone of voice. “I’d always heard as much, but how gratifying it is to see proof of one’s assumptions!”
Mark Desmond had watched helplessly. He was not merely confused; the young genius was almost incapable of decisive action for some reason.
The blonde woman laughed. “I understand your bewildered state,” she said. “You aren’t used to being manipulated like this. I lured you here by duplicating the sensation you had previously felt in the company of Grundy. I know all about you and your wish to help that latter-day Frankenstein’s Monster. He was never here. He was, in fact, merely a means to lure you here and, in turn, to get you to bring Wonder Woman here.”
Nubia climbed back to her feet and said, “Who are you?”
The woman glared at her. “Menace. You may simply call me Menace. Your sister was indirectly to blame for the death of my father, Professor Menace. (*) I can no longer get revenge on her, but you will serve nicely as a victim. I wanted to lure you here so you could die at the hands of my creation, the new Shaggy Man. I am every bit my father’s equal in the sciences, and I created my hairy pet, here, to destroy you in his memory!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Robot Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman #111 (January, 1960).]
Mark stared wide-eyed and said, “I do not understand. How did you convince me Grundy was here? How did you get me to ignore all logic to come here?”
Menace smiled coldly. “I played off your ego. You see, a little hypnotic compulsion was all it took to manipulate you into coming here and enlisting Nubia’s help. Do you really believe any scientist of my skill level couldn’t create a post-hypnotic compulsion in someone so self-absorbed and arrogant? I found you in West Virginia with your precious Macons and hypnotized you then! You never realized that all of your actions were dictated by me.”
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” gasped Mark in horror. “I didn’t even question what I felt. I was so sure of myself. I was so blind to anything beyond my own vanity!”
Nubia nodded at J’onn as he stepped closer to her. The couple moved in perfect unison as the shadows of night fell over Honey Island Swamp.
Retrieving her fallen tiara, Wonder Woman used it to slice through the startled Menace’s rifle as J’onn phased directly through the Shaggy Man, expanding his body until the creature roared with pain and finally stopped for a moment in its tracks.
Slapping Menace to the ground, Nubia said, “My sister did nothing but defend herself and society from your insane criminal father. He died seeking revenge. (*) Don’t allow yourself to be poisoned by the same venom. It may lead you to an equally sudden demise!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pawns of the Power Pirate.]
The Shaggy Man roared and then clawed at itself, trying to dislodge the Martian Manhunter. “I can do little against it,” J’onn said. “It seems as invulnerable from within as from the exterior! I fear there will be no peace on earth this night in this dismal battleground!”
Zook frowned, then reached into his backpack. Whispering something under his breath, he jumped forward to land directly in front of the hulking Shaggy Man.
Nubia and J’onn both shouted warnings and moved to try to protect the little alien, but Zook just shook his head and moved closer to them to confront the Shaggy Man. “Merry Christmas!” he said, and held up a small wrapped package.
The Shaggy Man did not know what the object was, nor had he ever heard of the concept of Christmas, nor the philosophical or theological message behind the sacred day. The creature didn’t even possess an appetite or need food to survive, but something about the kindness in the small alien’s demeanor and in his sincere offer of a box of Christmas candy made the artificial being stop his own rampage and stare at Zook.
Zook smiled and sat down. “I’m Zook. Have some candy. It is good!” he said merrily.
Lowering its massive body to the ground, the Shaggy Man almost tenderly took the wrapped box and swallowed it.
Zook laughed and clapped his small hands together. “He likes it! He isn’t a monster — he just needed a friend!” he announced.
As Wonder Woman lifted the stunned Menace out of the water, and the Martian Manhunter and Mark Desmond drew closer, a brilliant star gleamed in the sky overhead, and a calm filled the swamp.
“He did it,” said a shocked Nubia. “Somehow Zook tamed it!”
“Th-this is impossible,” stammered Mark. “Science can’t explain how an artificial being — barely more than a killing machine — could be made to sit and eat candy!”
Zook laughed and said, “You not know? Zook thought you were smart! It’s Christmas! That’s all! It’s Christmas!” He reached out and patted the Shaggy Man’s massive hand, and the creature seemed to purr in response. “Zook bring friend back to New Mars?” asked the little alien.
J’onn put his arm around Zook and bent down on one knee. “I think that might be a good idea,” he said. “He might even find a home and a useful life there with a good friend like you in his corner!”
Mark shook his head slowly. “I don’t understand,” he muttered incredulously. “This is like one of those Hostess snack ads from the old comics. It just doesn’t make sense!”
Wonder Woman gestured to where J’onn, Zook, and the Shaggy Man sat in a companionable silence, and the sound of carolers echoed from somewhere beyond the swamp. “It does not have to make sense,” she said with a smile. “The good heart of one gentle little being contains more wisdom than a thousand warriors or scientists!”
J’onn returned her smile. “Merry Christmas, beloved!”